Insights from Worship Symposium 2017


Every year, a few Granite Springs staff have the gift of being able to attend the Worship Symposium hosted by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the Center for Excellence in Preaching in Grand Rapids Michigan.

This year Granite Springs Staff members – Marrissa Sork (Children’s Ministry Director), Chris Ivens (Resident Pastor), and Marissa Walters (Junior High Director) attended the conference at the end of January. This blog post shares a little more about their time at the Worship Symposium, what they brought home with them, and issues they encountered that people from churches around the world are thinking about.

What was one of the most enlightening sessions at the Symposium for you?

Marrissa S. – I went to a session called “Faith Formation from Birth to Age 20” which was especially fascinating to me as a Children’s Director because it covered the different spiritual development stages from newborn all the way to young adults. The speaker talked about how babies need to experience fellow humans as loving and they themselves as lovable or they will likely have a hard time experiencing God’s love and grace. This was a crucial reminder for me that children need to feel loved early on so they can relate to God as someone who loves them.

Chris – One of the sessions I attended was an evening worship service led by Luke Powery who is currently the chaplain of Duke University. Stylistically, the service included soulful singing, dramatic readings, and audience-interactive teaching. All of these things were elements of a worship service that are not often found in your average Christian Reformed Church service and it was refreshing to see the leaders embrace and celebrate different styles of worship.

Marissa W. – I attended a session on the ways in which psychology’s focus on brain development and our Christian faith are inter-linked. This helped me understand how I can best be teaching middle schoolers as a Junior High Director and why that age group responds and ask questions in a certain way.

How do you plan on practically applying the things you learned at Symposium directly to your position in the church?

Chris – A big focus of my ministry is working with others to see the Bible as a big picture narrative arc with stories that stretch into our lives. In one of the plenary sessions, Dr. N.T. Wright laid out a vision of the biblical narrative-arc and explained the nature and importance of it because it allows us to experience the scriptures as something beyond a repository of principles. I hope I can encourage others to see the Bible more in this way through the way I preach and work with our youth and kid’s ministries.

Marrissa S. One very practical thing I learned at one of the workshops I attended was that young children have limited working memory, meaning they can only hold one or two things in their mind at once. When I am teaching Sunday school, I want to remember to focus on the main point of the lesson with children and review that main point several times throughout the Bible lesson. Keeping the lesson simple and to the point will help them remember the main idea and not lose sight of what the Bible story is all about.

What message did you hear at the Symposium that you think is most important for churches all around the world to be thinking about?

Marissa W. – I think N.T. Wright had a great challenge for the global church to hold high the weight of scripture. He said that often we read scripture like it’s in addition to what the pastor is going to preach, rather than take it as the authoritative word of God. He also addressed our tendency to ready the Bible in little snippets, so in response many congregations do not understand the whole story arc God is weaving together. He encouraged us to collectively read scripture and to regularly read whole books of the Bible on our own to remind ourselves of the grand story.

Marrissa S. – On Friday night, I attended a worship service led by an African American choir with people who had come from all over the world to the Worship Symposium. It was exciting to see so many people from different churches around the globe coming together to worship the all Powerful Mighty God in harmony! I could feel the presences of the Holy Spirit and a sense of unity among everyone. It served as a great reminder for all of us that different churches may have their own ways they worship God, yet we can all still agree that our God is an Awesome God and deserves to be praised.

It is such a beautiful gift to be able to witness the Holy Spirit at work globally and in the lives of three of our church staff members. We are so thankful that God speaks to us in a multitude of ways, and for opportunities to engage with our larger church community. Thank you Marissa, Marrissa, and Chris for sharing your reflections!

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