"Help! It’s the All Age Slot"- Book Review

"Help! It’s the All Age Slot"

by Rebecca Parkinson

The cry for help in the title will resonate with many who feel unsure teaching or engaging with children in church – as it may for some who have the experience with children but wonder how to include adults in the same presentation.  Others may wonder if it’s actually possible.

Rebecca Parkinson’s book could be an answer to your cry.  In the words of its subtitle, it presents 52 ‘instant’ talk outlines for church services.  They have all been road-tested.  But they are more than talks.  They recognise the need for learning through a range of senses and activities.  So these talks involve a variety of props, activities and ways of involving listeners (and not just the children).

As the number 52 implies, there is something for each week of a typical liturgical year, which provides a breadth of themes and helps to ensure that the medium does not lead the message.  (Not, of course, that any of us has ever allowed an irresistible aid to determine our choice of subject!)

The word ‘instant’ on the cover may give a false sense of assurance to those whose cry for help is at 11 pm on the night before.  Some of the objects required for the presentation may take a little finding (though you may have stowed away somewhere a variety of teddy bears, or a helium balloon, or a simnel cake, or a wedding dress).  But with just a little advance planning most of the objects will be obtainable from someone in the church or family.  Some of the activities will also need thinking ahead to involve others (you may need to have someone dressed as a postal worker or sitting in a large box or acting the part of a wolf!)

Some may question if such ‘off-the-shelf’ talks or presentations really are transferable.  That will depend to some extent on the user and each speaker will need to make them their own.  There is still room for creativity and adapting – even improving – by the speaker.  And you will need to decide if a particular the talk would work in your setting.  But the underlying value of these talks is in helping to break through initial mental blocks and model different ways of thinking.

But isn’t it really just for the children?  That may depend on whether the adults are willing to join in the fun – and whether they have ears to hear.  The talks all have an aim and an application, including a challenge for the following week, that relate to all times of life.  The application may be spelt out more for the children but adults will usually be able to make their own connections.

The book modestly aims to cater only for an all-age ‘slot’.  All-age services are a bigger challenge.  But if that prospect evokes a louder cry for help then this book will still prove a helpful primer on the way.

Canon Peter Rainford

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