Of worship and picnics: 10 ideas for the great outdoors


of worships and picnics 
During the summer, St. John’s Lutheran Church,
Westminster, Md., holds a 9:30 a.m. worship
service outdoors.

As the summer heats up and worship attendance dwindles because of vacations, you may want to change up your weekly services. Here are 10 ideas for worship and the annual congregational picnic that put the cool back into summer.

1.    Take your congregation to a park on a warm day for worship and a picnic. Have members bring their own lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets. The congregation can provide the drinks or desserts. Worship planners may want to use an outdoor theme for the service -- perhaps worshiping the God of all creation.

2.    Beat the heat of summer and save on air-conditioning bills with a Sunday or Saturday evening series of worship under the stars during July and August. Invite guest preachers and musicians while your pastor, choir members and music director take a much needed vacation.

3.    Host a renaissance or medieval faire. You may be surprised by the talent in your congregation just waiting to be showcased. Is there someone who knows juggling or mime? Every congregation has a jester, just give them a costume and let them have at it. How about trying your hand at face painting? Do members of the congregation make jewelry or other crafts that would fit the theme? See if they would like to set up a small market. Provide period-appropriate food and drink, for instance "mead" could be made with apple cider topped with whipped cream. End the festivities with a Mystery or Miracle Play, which are medieval dramas that focus on the representation of Bible stories.

4.    Open your church parking lot for a farmers market. It's a great way to increase access to healthy fresh food and provides a market for local farmers. Your parish nurse could set up an information table on eating well and answer health-related questions. Open the market with a prayer and close the market with a blessing.

5.    Let the games begin with an Olympic-style picnic! Begin the day with a worship service that easily leads to an opening ceremony. After the blessing, light an "Olympic" torch or construct a fireless torch out of construction paper. Not much is needed to pull off these games, just a few easy-to-find props and some open space -- your church lawn or a picnic grove or park will do. Choose challenges that play to a variety of strengths and abilities. For the closing ceremony award simple ribbons and end with a prayer. Remember that you don't have to wait four years to do it again.

6.    With the slowdown in summer attendance, why not combine your weekly worship with other congregations in your area? Each week a different congregation acts as host with a worship service from their tradition. After the service take or lead a guided tour of the church building. This is a great way to meet others and learn about your neighbors' faith.

7.    Flip flop your traditional service and have a youth-led Sunday worship. The children's service becomes the main event with a short adult service before the homily -- "Will the adults please come down to the front for a brief lesson before the sermon?"

8.    Host a hymn-sing with short homilies, prayers and Bible readings between a variety of favorite hymns and songs. To do this outdoors all you need is a guitar or a portable keyboard. Of course we are Lutherans so it wouldn't be a surprise to be able to do this without the musical instruments. We are well-known for singing and breaking out into four-part harmony with or without accompaniment!

9.    Instead of holding your coffee hour in a stuffy room or dank basement, open your doors after the liturgy with a spirit of welcome and serve root-beer floats. You can't go wrong with an old fashioned Ice Cream Social.

10.    Pitch a tent and hold a revival meeting! Lutheran revival? Isn't that an oxymoron? Not really, there are deep Lutheran roots for a revival tradition. To explore what revival means in a Lutheran context, order the free DVD, "The Story of Lutheran Revival."

You might also want to read:
Hot town — summer in the inner city
On worship and summer vacation
Outdoor food safety

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