6 Ways to Worship During Recognition Season

By: William D. Shiell

In the church, Ascension Sunday, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday usually collide with many other special “recognition Sundays.” In May and June we always discussed how to recognize Senior Adults, Veterans, Mothers, Fathers, Graduates, and Babies. And sometimes all on the same Sunday! The worship team spends a few hours debating slide shows of seniors, songs about patriotism, and memories of the past—all with a good dose of “What did we do last year?” If you serve a church with more than 25 years of history, you’re going to run into a few traditions and expectations. One year, in the name of worship, I made the mistake of trying to cancel the “senior high school slide show” on graduate recognition day. That only happened once. My attempts at getting things just right were more of a distraction to worship than just showing the slides.

These days are so important because they represent the lives of real people who are the church. They’re not to be ignored lightly or simply replicated for fear of offending 2-3 people. But worship of the risen Christ compels us to elevate the conversation and the focus of the day. Church worship should be more than a memorial service in a public park. Christ calls us together to be the church and commissions us to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”

The apostles faced a similar quandary in Acts. As good Jewish believers, they recognized that the festivals– particularly Pentecost in Acts 2– held deep meaning to the people. They weren’t about to tell people to stop remembering the day God’s law was given at Sinai. In Acts 2, instead of ignoring their memories, they lived into them. The Spirit replaced the old fire that fell from Sinai with a new experience in an upstairs room. Peter spoke into their nostalgia for a bygone day in the wilderness and challenged them to repent and believe for “Today is the day of Salvation.” Here are several ways we can take a congregation’s expectations and turn them into today’s opportunities.

  1. Commission high school graduates. Through sermon and song, treat high schoolers as church missionaries. See them as the ones the church is sending this summer, and on whom the Spirit is falling. Bless the teachers and parents who have taught them not only how to make better grades, but more importantly how to be measured by God’s grace and wisdom.

  3. Share testimonies of veterans. Invite military chaplains to speak about their experiences of faith and their personal encounters on the battlefield. While thanking those who serve in the armed forces, pray for your enemies. Take an offering for those working with refugees and for those who have been permanently wounded.

  5. Send the congregation on mission in the summer. Invite people to share their travel plans, especially the ones that involve summer camps, mission trips, and Vacation Bible School. Place a map in the foyer or fellowship hall, and mark their locations where they’re sharing faith. Invite people to pray for those who are “on mission” somewhere this summer.

  7. Interview families who have adopted children. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are difficult for anyone who has problems in their biological families. Celebrate those who have tried to break the cycle of neglect and abuse. Discuss openly those who have adopted or fostered children by inviting them to share their journey.

  9. Live locally. Just as we send people far away this summer, the greatest opportunities are right in front of us. Encourage people to look around for moving trucks in their apartments and homes. Watch in the office for opportunities to invite new employees to church.

  11. Report back. At the end of the summer, schedule a service where people can report back what they have “heard and seen.” Someone might get an idea for the fall or the following summer.  The pictures they take will make great images…for the next slide show.


May 11, 2016

William D. Shiell

President, Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching

ABOUT William

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