Of geese and bikes and Christian worship

Learning the apprentice way

by Ken Rummer for Presbyterians Today | Special to Presbyterian News Service

Photo by Cate Bligh via Unsplash

A meadowlark sings from a tall prairie stem, rabbits dart back into trailside grass, and six young geese, webbed feet churning, push across the pond.

They aren’t on their own. A parent goose leads the procession and another parent goose brings up the rear. The littles are on a training cruise. They are apprenticing to be grownup and independent Canada geese. And should the hawk swoop or the turtle bite, they have backup.

A little farther along the trail, voices come into range behind us. We hear, “On the left.” That’s the customary alert that faster trail traffic is wanting to pass. Soon a young cyclist pulls even and pushes ahead. Still a bit wobbly, she wears a determined look and keeps her legs pumping.

Her parents, also on bikes, follow close behind, now and then braking when she veers into their path. They are voicing instructions and encouragement and keeping an eye out for faster bikes and unvetted walkers. She has backup, too.

I flash back to a memory from my pastoring. At one point the congregation found itself with fewer children in worship and not many in Sunday school. How could we help the ones we had grown up in the faith? How could we, in the words of Proverbs, train our children in the right way (Proverbs 22:6)? Beyond the children’s time during worship, was there anything else we could do?

We came across a possible answer that drew on the way trades used to be passed on.

A child would be curious and come into the shop and watch the parent making something, say furniture. After a time, the child would want to try a tool, and the parent and the child would use it together until the child was using it safely and well. And then the child would graduate to doing that operation solo.

We began to employ this apprenticeship model with our church kids. They had watched the adults hand out bulletins hundreds of times. Now the greeter might invite one of the children to stand alongside and they would hand out bulletins together. Time to take up the offering? An usher might tap a youngster on the shoulder and they would pass the plate together.

At communion, a parent on the list to be a server that morning might bring their child to help hold the plate of bread. And a middle-schooler might assist the liturgist in reading the Scripture for the day.

The Rev. Ken Rummer blogs periodically for Presbyterians Today.

We noticed that the children liked the chance to do something important. And the adults enjoyed bringing the younger ones along.

The village was helping to raise the child. Promises made by the congregation at baptism were being kept. And worship was not just for grownups.

It was the apprentice way, and I think I’m seeing it again. In the family on bikes that just passed us on the trail. In the geese with their goslings, still pushing a wake across the pond.

Ken Rummer, a retired Presbyterian pastor, writes about faith and life from the middle of Iowa near the High Trestle Trail. His previous posts are available here.


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