Living Stones – The all-age programme for Common Worship
Susan Sayers, Kevin Mayhew Ltd, 1998

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Overview

What does it say on the tin?

Living Stones is the complete and inspiring all-age, all-stage resource designed to help make the most of Common Worship. Written by the country’s leading liturgical writer. Susan Sayers, the Complete Resource Book explores the texts appointed for the Principle Service each week and includes ideas, outlines, intercessions and mini-dramas based on the meaning and opportunities found within them.

For every Sunday the Complete Resource Book provides:

  • A thought for the day.
  • An extensive reflection on the readings.
  • Discussion starters.
  • Background material for an all-age talk.
  • All-age ideas.
  • A complete set of intercessions.
  • Suggested music.
  • Fully worked-out programmes for pre-school children, older children and young people.

What do you get?

A year’s worth of all-age worship sessions to use for Sunday services. The Complete Resource Book includes all instructions for running Sunday services as an all-age experience, while the Pebbles, Rocks and Boulders books include resources for children when they split off from the main service. All available from the Kevin Mayhew website.

There are currently three volumes available: A, B and C. This review focuses on volume A.

Who is it for?

Living Stones is an all-age programme for Sunday worship services. Although it is all-age for children and adults, there are separate counter parts for children’s groups which coincide with the all-age material. Pebbles – resource for pre-school age children, Rocks – for 6-10year olds and Boulders – 11-14 year olds. Whole programme suitable for all ages.

Cost?

Complete Resource Book – £21.99
Pebbles, Rocks, Boulders – £15.99 (each)
Prayers of Intercession – £11.99

Review

  • What is the overall quality of material presentation?

    Good. Glossy paperback thick books which outline a year's worth of Sunday worship services. Sub-headings and an ordered text layout make reading the material easy.

    How clear are its aims and outcomes?

    Explicitly written for sections aimed at children in all books of this volume. The all-age instructions substitute the aim for a ‘Thought for the day'.

    How accessible are the leader's notes?

    The complete resource book outlines some core principles for using the resource and explains the approach which has been taken in creating the sessions. The notes are quite extensive, and the leader should make sure they have allocated adequate time to figure out how they want to run their Sunday service, i.e. it needs to be decided whether the whole service will be all-age, or if it is preferable to ask children to have separate study time with the children's material. Both are accommodated for, but will take time to decide on and pick out the best bits to use for the service.

    Who could lead it?

    Experienced church leaders and children's workers. This resource is designed for all-age worship so requires a collaboration of experienced church workers with the same goals. The resource aims to make the most of common worship lectionary so should be guided by someone familiar with this. Children's group leaders should be equally as comfortable with the lectionary, and able to link in the children's sections with the main service.

    How helpful are the participants' resources?

    Photocopiable activity sheets for children's sessions are both age-appropriate and require minimal preparation time. Starter activities are fun and relevant to the theme.

    How good is any digital material?

    Not applicable.

    How much prep will I have to do?

    Preparation can be quite extensive as the children's leader will need to be fully linked in with the leader of the all-age service/adult parts too to understand how the services all link together. All information and preparation for children sections can be found in the individual age specific books (eg Pebbles). Activity sheets are easy to copy and incorporate. Starter activities require the leader to make sure they have everything they need in advance, e.g. pens, paper, glue, crafts etc. Leader's should be familiar with the sessions prior to running them, this should not take too much time as there is one set layout for each section and the leader does not need to choose what to include/exclude.

    Is there website support? Links?

    Not applicable.

    Is it dated?

    Year A is based on the teachings of Matthew so should not be dated in it's interpretation of the passages, however, as this resource was published in 1998, leader's will need to be able to apply the teachings to modern issues/make contemporary comparisons to keep the material relevant. Children's activities are still fun and universal with all children, however leader's may also want to incorporate digital material to aid children's learning further. As a side note, Prayers of Intercession sections are brilliant, but again do not accommodate for contemporary challenges so would need additional material added if appropriate for the church audience. Suggested worship comes from hymn books which may be a little dated now, leaders can choose alternative worship.

  • How well does it encourage interaction with the group?

    Through interactive teachings, activities and messy crafts, children interact with one another and their leaders.

    How well does it cater for a variety of both learning and delivery styles?

    Children learn through doing, listening and seeing. Discussion is encouraged for the older age groups (Rocks and Boulders). The resources suggest various ways to help the children engage with the teachings, such as doing dramas, reading, walking the story themselves and many ore.

    How adaptable is it to my situation?

    Although the children's resources are for use with the all age services, they could also be used independently if needed. Sessions take around 20-60 minutes depending on if they are incorporated in to the main church session or held independently. Accommodates for ages 2-14years of age. Can be done with small or large groups and should not take too much time to gather materials needed. Can be run in small or large spaces, although the books do put emphasis on making sure the environment for children is safe and appealing in order to aid both learning and so the children feel comfortable. Some sessions do not include separate children's work as the whole service will be all-age on some Christian festivals.

    How well does it encourage people to work together in applying the material?

    For younger ages this is done subtly by completing worksheets, older ages can apply the material by discussion and prayer. In order to apply to the children's personal circumstances, leaders will need to incorporate their own material.

  • How much of the material is Bible-based?

    Specifically for the children's resource books, Pebbles - approx. 30% , Rocks - approx. 40%, Boulders - approx. 40% (all sessions are session dependent and may be more or less Bible-based if they are run as part of the all-age service.

    How well is the biblical material presented and used?

    Presented in ways which allow the children to take part and learn through doing. They may be asked to just listen to a story, but would be asked questions afterwards. Other material presentation includes role plays, using props, use of visual aids or props, craft making and making Bible stories relevant for today. Children usually have something to take away from the session to help them remember what they have learnt. Biblical material is also used by applying it to the weekly worksheets.

    How well does it apply biblical material to everyday life?

    Children mostly apply material to their lives by first learning who Jesus is, and then seeing why his love for us should change how we act and what we do. The approach used is not challenging, but informative and truthful.

    Is there a particular theological perspective?

    Each session includes an opportunity for prayers of intercession so churches should be comfortable with this both in an all-age setting and a small group setting. Liturgical prayers may also be more appropriate for certain denominations, e.g. Church of England.

  • How well does it inspire people towards whole-life discipleship?

    Throughout the yearly programme, certain sessions encourage young people to whole-life discipleship gently and age-appropriately. There are so many that it is not possible to list them, however, one example is ‘How our bodies can be used for God's work'.

    How well does it encourage and enable people to grow in their faith?

    Gently. By covering Matthew's gospel over the course of a year, this programme encourages young people to grow in their faith by learning how to apply what the Bible says about them and their lives. One example would be, ‘Why is good safe to give our worries to?'.

    How well does it stretch faith and vision of God and his purposes?

    Teaches children that God has a plan for their lives, and for His world which he has created. Introduces children to the idea that God is our Father, and that He knows all things. This is expanded on as the programme is rolled out, and children are encouraged to pray about what God wants for their lives.

    How well does it connect with real life issues?

    Links in life issues which are relevant for children, e.g. choosing whether to work for God or against Him and understanding how parables apply to the choices they make. Again,this is all done via fun mediums, with age-appropriate activities and real life references.

  • How well does it encourage personal evangelism?

    Done via specific sessions on working for God. For example, ‘How our bodies can be used for God's work' and looking at the parable of the seeds and encouraging the children to know we have a choice in how we use the Word of God.

    How well does it encourage local or network-based community involvement?

    Some sessions throughout the year's programme which touch on this, e.g. ‘Knowing we are to help one another live in God's way'.

    How well does it connect with global issues?

    Gently. Some sessions encourage children to think about passages in relation to issues outside their own world, for example by getting newspaper clippings and applying problems to Gods word. There is also a session which focusses on the Gospel being for all nations and that salvation is for everyone.

    How well does it encourage global mission?

    Not a huge focus.

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