Just Launched — The Ministry of Acolytes 3: Artifacts and Movement

Acolytes lead the procession on Palm Sunday.

We just launched The Ministry of Acolytes 3: Artifacts and Movement For Individuals and For Groups

In this third class in our Ministry of Acolytes series, Roger Speer talks about the best ways to engage acolytes in the ministry of serving at God’s altar. He emphasizes training acolytes through telling stories and utilizing games that involve kids in their own learning process. He also discusses the importance of establishing, communicating, and maintaining high standards for acolytes as they serve in this ministry.

We all have stories, and stories surround us. Churches have stories, and the items in the church tell that story. Even the shape of the building, the graveyard or columbarium, the windows in the church tell stories, and these stories come together to define that congregation and its history as a community. Roger emphasizes using the objects in church to tell acolytes the story of their church. The chalice they use for Communion isn’t just a chalice — it was made especially for the church by a potter who was a member of the congregation, and the potter said prayers as she created it. Letting the acolytes touch this chalice makes that part of the church’s history real to them. The baptismal font is a total immersion font, and once, about fifteen years ago, an over-enthusiastic baptismal candidate (age 4) jumped in before it was time and tried to baptize himself. Telling children these kinds of stories not only shows children what the objects in the church are and why they matter, but also incorporates the children’s lives and service into the church’s story.

Roger emphasizes game playing as part of acolyte training. Running around the church finding clues hidden in the lectern and letters to hidden codes on different pieces of the vestments might not seem like acolyte training in the traditional sense — but it engages children. Acolyte leaders should emphasize connecting the children to their ministry, and games connect them much better than lectures do.  The aim should be to ensure that each acolyte on the individual level has a meaningful, spiritual experience, and, more broadly, that we (re)establish the ministry of acolytes as, in Roger and Sharon’s words, a “ministry built upon a formative system of development that is changeless, consistent, powerful and transformative.”

This is the third class in our Ministry of Acolytes series. The other courses in this series are being launched through the summer of 2019. Participants who complete all five courses can earn a ChurchNext certificate in Acolyte Leadership.

This course is useful for anyone interested in serving in children’s ministries. If you’re interested in learning more about this class, view a preview here.

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Just Launched — The Ministry of Acolytes 2: How We Worship

All drawings and cartoons in this course were drawn by Roger Speer and published in the book he wrote with Sharon: I Serve At God’s Altar: The Ministry of Acolytes.

We just launched The Ministry of Acolytes 2: How We Worship For Individuals and For Groups

Anyone who works with children routinely, knows that most of them love mastering skills and information. They are proud of becoming proficient; they want to show that they too have something to contribute to their families, classrooms, and communities. At church, children generally take on the roles of sheep rather than shepherds. They are told what to do and where to sit and how to behave in church. It’s only natural — we are teaching them who Jesus is and what church is all about. But if we want to teach children to be active participants in Christian worship, it’s important to treat them as people who have something to contribute — not as people who will have something to contribute ten years from now, but as people whose energy and vitality are important in building our congregations today.

Active Christians participate in the ministries of their congregations, so if we want children to participate in worship, we should, as part of ministering to them, show them how to contribute and then to let them do so. Training children to serve as acolytes is one important way in which churches create space for children to contribute to worship.

Serving as acolytes gives children the opportunity to “master” the liturgy. They learn what to expect from the liturgy; why we do what we do at various points in the service; the tools we use; the space in which we worship. Mastering the liturgy allows them to do what they often want to do: contribute, as leaders, in a genuine way to their communities. Acolytes are important to the Episcopal liturgy. They set a tone of reverence, and they help worship proceed smoothly. Their role is a genuine contribution and an opportunity to lead.

Letting children give their service to the church is one of the most profound ways in which the church can minister to them, and this course teaches adults how to minister to children in this way.

The instructor for this course, Sharon Ely Pearson, is an editor at Church Publishing, Inc., an author and a Christian formation specialist who, along with Roger Speer, has written a book about training acolytes called I Serve at God’s Altar: The Ministry of Acolytes (2018), discusses the leadership role that acolytes take and how adults can mentor them in taking on this role. She offers suggestions for teaching children to understand the liturgy in terms of its structure, its space, its tools and activities. She discusses preparing children mentally and physically to serve, and she offers practical suggestions for training them in what they need to know in order to serve effectively as acolytes.

This is the second class in our Ministry of Acolytes series. The other courses in this series will be forthcoming through the summer of 2019. Participants who complete all five courses can earn a ChurchNext certificate in Acolyte Leadership.

This course is useful for anyone interested in serving in children’s ministries. If you’re interested in learning more about this class, view a preview here.

Just Launched: The Ministry of Acolytes 1: A New Order with Roger Speer and Sharon Ely Pearson

We just launched The Ministry of Acolytes 1: A New Order with Roger Speer and Sharon Ely Pearson For Individuals and For Groups.

Cate Christman, an acolyte at The Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, NC

People choose to become acolytes for many different reasons. For children, serving as acolytes can give them an active role in a liturgy that can otherwise feel like a long period of time alternating between sitting still and standing up. Cate Christman, a nine-year-old acolyte at The Church of the Holy Family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, says, “It’s not as boring as sitting. I kind of like walking and holding the gospel. I think it’s kind of fun.” As they become engaged with the service, participating as acolytes can also teach children about the liturgy. “I’m learning about what church is doing. What church does,” says Cate.

Both children and adults who serve as acolytes take a service role in the liturgy — one that allows them to participate and even lead without requiring them to draw much attention to themselves. They can learn, serve, and participate behind the scenes. In this class, Sharon Ely Pearson, a Christian Education specialist, discusses the history of acolytes in the church, explains what kinds of people choose to become acolytes and why people engage this ministry, and discusses how being an acolyte can help Christians discern their vocations in the church.

This is the first class in our Ministry of Acolytes series. The other four courses in this series will be forthcoming through the summer of 2019. Participants who you complete all five courses can earn a ChurchNext certificate in Acolyte Leadership.

This class is designed for people who wish to become acolytes, people who work with acolytes, and people who are simply interested in different kinds of church ministries. If you would like to watch a preview, please click here.