Using the five Key Tools within your service
You have a powerful opportunity in each service to model the key tools to your congregation. This can be a way of introducing them and give inspiration and ideas of how they can use them in their own lives.
This may also be useful for thinking about how you can use the key tools in children’s or youth groups too.
If you’re not familiar with the five Key Tools, which are at the heart of Parenting for Faith, it’s worth getting an overview of them here first. There are hundreds of different ways you could use them but here are some ideas to get you started:
How can you create space for people to share or show how they do life with God?
- Some churches have a testimony or sharing slot where people do this. Encourage them to keep it brief (hang onto the microphone) and ask them to quickly share what the situation was, how they connected with God and what He did for them. If you have the situation where you know a lot of people will want to share, or there’s often the same people sharing, or you have a particular theme, you might want to consider asking for stories in advance,. This gives you the opportunity to manage which stories are shared.
- Others have opportunities to share something with the person sitting next to them. Could you ask people to create a window for their neighbour into how God helped them this week or a way that they connected with him? Be mindful of internal processors or people who haven’t had a particular experience with God that week who will not always find this very comfortable. Give people warning and a way to opt out: for example, ‘It’s great when we can share stories of the everyday ways God helps us. If you’ve got a story like that from this week, feel free to share it with your neighbours’.
- Could you drop in examples from people you’ve been talking to in your sermon or introduction, for example ‘I spoke to Jill this week and she shared how she’s been praying for her swollen foot for weeks as she sits in her garden surrounded by God’s creation. She said she felt a real peace as she asked God to come close to her and set time aside to just be with him’. Make sure that you have their permission to share and anonymise if needed.
- Could you use an example from your own life, for example ‘I find it really hard to sit down and read the Bible so listen to it in the car instead. Even though I’ve heard it before, this passage really stood out to me as I was driving to work. It felt like God especially wanted to remind me of that this week’.
- There’s more on the sort of stories to share and how to do that here.
- Could you invite people into a section or area of the service that they don’t normally see? Perhaps parents could join in with a chat and catch time in the kids’ groups one week to see how they connect with God that way or could you specifically invite a family who don’t normally come to a pre-service prayer meeting one week so that they can see how the leaders pray for the congregation before they even get there.
- If there’s been something going on people weren’t aware of (for example, the leadership making a big decision), as you tell people about it, include the part God played in it.
Some framing, or explaining, will happen as a result of creating windows: often, when you show people a peek of a person’s relationship with God, explaining naturally becomes part of that. But what else could you point out and draw people’s attention to? What could you explain to help people understand more? How could you make space for people to ask and explore questions together? Try not to think of this just in terms of age. Whether someone is 4 or 40 they may need some help to understand what’s going on. Avoid jargon and ‘Christianese’ and try to explain things in a way that as many people as possible can understand. Here are some ideas others have used:
- Look around the room during your service and see if there are things you could explain, when you next have a chance to speak, for example ‘during those songs some of us were really going for it shouting and singing, others were sat quietly and resting with God. It’s great that God can meet each of us in exactly the way that we need this morning’.
- Before you read the Bible or tell the story can you explain what has happened leading up this point or a bit about the context that the passage was written in.
- In the sermon or talk, when you are talking about a Bible story, it can be a great opportunity to draw people’s attention to where God was in the story and what he might have been doing (for more about this see session 2 of the course). For example, for the story of Jesus at the temple (Luke 2), you could ask: I wonder what God was doing when his parents set off home without Jesus? Or ‘I wonder how God felt when he saw Jesus in the temple astonishing the teachers’. The aim isn’t to get a right answer, but to encourage people to think more widely about how God interacts with people and so how he might interact with us.
- Demonstrate the ‘questions tool’ from the front when you are considering big questions. This could be a great interactive exercise for the congregation too. .
- Can you explain the why as well as the what? For example ‘Jenny is raising money to make care packages for the homeless. As she was walking along one day, God really prompted her that he cared for these people and that He had a part for her to play in helping them. We’d love to join with her by praying for her and giving money to this’.
In a service context, this is often less about spotting individuals having an unbalanced view of God and more about making sure that through the Bible passages we use and the stories we tell we are sharing a balanced view of God as well as ensuring people hear the whole story of the Bible. For example:
- Give balance to the story: if you are reading a passage that really focuses on the wrath of God, remind people that he is merciful too.
- If someone shares an amazing story of healing, share God’s heart and compassion for people who aren’t healed too.
- Spot when your service points to one view of God and find ways to offer some balance. It may also be worth looking at if your sermon series or year plan provided a balanced view of God over time.
- For more on sharing the whole gospel see this article.
Chat and catch
I love doing some chat and catch as part of a response to a sermon or just a pause to connect with God in another part of the service. It works well with just adults as well as in an all age service.
- To avoid patronising people or being too prescriptive I will often say something like ‘We’re going to have some space to individually connect with God now. Feel free to do that in a way that you know works for you and just tune me out, but if it’s helpful, I’m going to give you some ideas of some things to share with God and some questions to ask him’.
- Then offer some prompts of some things to chat to God about and space to catch.
- Remember to explain the different ways that people can catch from God (more on this here). People may catch things from God for others so you might want to leave space for those to be shared. Here is an example of doing this in an all age service.
Surfing the waves
There are a couple of ways that you can use this tool in a service.
- If you spot a wave is rising up within the congregation, are there are ways that you can support and enable that? This might be with a few individuals or a large group. For example, is there a group really passionate about social action, could you pray for them in the service and share their wave?
- You can also surf the wave of what’s happening within the service, for example if you sense that people are really engaging with worship in a new way today or if you sense that God is releasing healing in a particular area. Where you have the time and flexibility to do this, take a moment to frame what just happened and give people ideas for next steps. You could use the six stage circle to think through some next steps for those people (equipping them, creating boundaries etc).
- The six stage circle is a helpful tool to help you create a teaching programme if you want to introduce or embed a particular value or skill in your congregation. There’s an example of what this might look like in this article here.