In 2011 Liverpool Cathedral launched Zone2. Each week, at the same time as the traditional service a second congregation meets informally, café style, with all ages worshipping together. The planting team for Zone2 consisted of nine adults and nine children. Within a year the congregation had more than doubled and it continues to thrive with attendance averaging around 45 each week.
So why have we gone for a congregation that is All Age, Café Style and meets every week?
Why All Age?
We don’t have any deep theological objections to children, youth and adults worshipping separately. In fact they seem to want and need that at times. But it has been wonderful to work to build a congregation in which the core worshipping community is all ages together. And genuinely “all age”. Too often worship with that label ends up being centred on primary school children, or perhaps nuclear families. We work very hard to try to ensure there is something in the worship for teenagers, young adults, those who come alone, etc.
It’s a challenge and we often get it wrong, but the core ethos is that this is church as “family” in the broadest sense. The encouragements when we get it at least partly right have been precious. Different age groups relate and learn together, and those who come alone feel that they are part of a big family.
“I learn so much more here than I used to learn in an adult service” was the comment from one grandmother, “it’s always understandable and the activities we do together help the talk make sense and sink in”.
There’s still plenty of need for youth groups, adult home groups, etc. But as the church faces the challenge of growth in a society that is incredibly busy, where families often only get Sundays to be together and where churches don’t have the leaders to offer a full range of groups for children and youth, there must be merit in embracing the challenge to build all age worship as core Christian community.
Why Cafe Style?
We don’t run a café throughout the service, we’ve simply found that welcoming people with a (decent) drink and a snack as they arrive and then being seated café style around tables creates an informal atmosphere where people get to know one another and talk together. We try put people at ease quickly through the way that the room is laid out, with round tables and tablecloths to create an informal atmosphere. Practical information about the service and location of toilets, etc. is on menu style leaflets on each table.
We love the variety of fresh expressions of worship that meet monthly or fortnightly. But having experienced a weekly service like this we’re completely sold on it. It should have been obvious, but we’ve been amazed how much more readily community grows and deepens in a weekly gathering.
- People don’t need to remember or be reminded when we meet.
- Many people can only make it to one out of every two or three services. With a monthly gathering, we only saw them every few months.
- It forces us to stay simple and keep growing the team with plenty of roles for people.
You’re very welcome to visit Zone 2, but don’t expect to be impressed! One of our key aims is to keep things simple. Doing so means it’s sustainable to meet every week. Our experience has been that committing from the start to a weekly service was essential. If we’d started monthly or fortnightly with a view to becoming more frequent we would have inevitably been too complicated and soon come to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible every week. (We did stop in main school holidays for the first year as the team grew.)
The Joy of Rotas
We’ve all heard jokes about church being like a helicopter where you need to avoid the rotas. But actually we’ve found rotas a fantastic way to involve lots of people and to avoid planning meetings. We still have a core team who meet fortnightly but their focus is prayer, pastoral and vision rather than planning services. For example having lots of people sign up to bring and serve food as people arrive gives a very accessible step into taking part and towards the worship for newcomers.
A Typical Service Outline
We’ve found it really helpful to have a standard structure which we use most of the time. It’s hard to re-invent the wheel every week and constant change can actually get in the way of creativity.
- Welcome and Catch Up on news
- Gathering And Confession
- Praise – (A couple of songs or a non-sung worship activity)
- Reading And Talk
- Prayer Stations or Table Based Activities
- Intercessions and Lord’s Prayer
- Communion (We have communion at Zone2 once a month)
We aim to fit the service into one hour or less.