Week 50: "Why don’t more children come to Wednesday testimony services?"

Response 1: David Stevens

Thinking about this question, one might point to the impact of sports and other extra curricular activities, lack of interest on the parents’ part, family logistics, and more. All of these reasons either obscure or mistake the value, and promise of the Wednesday night service. Those of us who attend can continue to cherish the value and promise of Wednesday evening testimony services for young people.

I love these opportunities to hear the word of God together and to share with one another the practical inspiration and healing impact of Christian Science. The readings are fresh inspirations about God as infinite Love, all good, here, now. They always include our status as God’s own children and how knowing that brings freedom, harmony, health, ability, and joy to our lives. They turn us back to Christ Jesus’ forever relevant example. The testimonies of healing are present proofs of “God with us” and our status as “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). All over the world children and adults are experiencing God’s higher law right where some other law tries to say, “you are hurt, sick, stuck, limited.” There’s got to be a venue for sharing this meaningful news and thanks to Mrs. Eddy’s listening, there is!

In 6th grade I sat in a Wednesday service, worried about a relationship problem at school. The message that we are children of God and therefore good came through the readings, the hymns, and the testimonies. I suddenly knew what to think and do. I could identify myself and the other boy this way. The problem was solved. In college I sat in a testimony meeting, frustrated by a nagging football injury. Somehow, hobbling out of that service I knew that healing was possible at that moment. I called a Christian Science practitioner and was completely and permanently free from the injury the next day.

It’s hard to think of a more practical dialogue of Love, available to all, affirming the worth and divine rights of every person. Every child deserves to feel this, and every child who visits these services will feel this.

Response 2: Shelly Richardson

I remember years ago when I first started bringing my girls to Wednesday night testimony meetings. Someone asked me if I was worried if bringing him or her would eventually turn them away from Christian Science. They wondered if attending two services a week was too much?

Around that time, three of their girlfriends were attending classes for their Bat Mitzvah. It was a monumental commitment over several years to learn Hebrew and study the Torah. I started asking myself what limitations I was putting on youth and their natural desire to learn about God. Did I believe that the structure of church that Mary Baker Eddy established was for members of all ages? Did I really believe that there was nothing more important for my children’s well being than learning about the Science of the Christ? Did I believe that children and youth were integral to our vision of Church?

As my thoughts about church changed, it was normal and natural for my kids to attend Wednesday testimony meetings. Now I see those meetings as the perfect bridge between Sunday School and church whether kids go once a month or every week. It’s a time for the congregation to celebrate together, humbly learn from each other, and cherish every fresh and seasoned idea of God.

Sure, kids have homework, sports, and rehearsals and we all want our kids to have healthy structure in their lives, but as I grew to see that church was “the structure of Truth and Love,” (see Science and Health, p. 583) all the other activities fell into place.

Our family has visited lots of Christian Science churches that have young people attending on Wednesdays. You can feel the mutual commitment on the part of the membership that both Testimony meetings and youth are vital. That prayerful commitment melts all obstacles.

  1. I love this question, and the responses. A few weeks ago my response probably would have been "Great if kids can attend, but with homework and bedtime, not always possible." That was certainly the case when I was a kid. But I recently heard about a church that had a growing Sunday School and students who really wanted to attend Wednesday services. So the church moved their services to an earlier time and had a potluck meal afterwards. I'm sure it wouldn't be the right solution for every church, but it made me pause for a moment and appreciate how being willing to think outside of the box (i.e. Wednesday church must be in the evenings after dinner) can bring about really inspired solutions that meet the need of a congregation. Look forward to hearing how others are thinking about this question!

  2. There are hundreds of kids and teens who have gone to weekly testimony meetings at summer camps for Christian Scientists. Why stop when camps close? They've seen testimony meetings as a regular and normal activity. At home they know their parents have busy schedules; and as they see their folks gladly making time for church, they'll want to come too. They can understand the testimony meeting as a "thank-you meeting" which they can take part in. Divine Mind has an answer for every objection mortal mind can concoct. Oh, and it surely doesn't hurt to stop for ice cream afterwards. Who can't relate to the Wednesday night dilemma: butter brickle or maple walnut?

  3. Yes, homework, school and after school commitments make church attendance impractical. We invited some students to Wed service and did the same as IBS; we ordered in pizzas and drinks to have after the 6:30 service. It was lots of fun but not very practical on a regular basis.

  4. When I read this Weeks's Question, I tried to think back to the early to mid 1950's (when I was in high school). I don't remember that I ever regularly attended Wednesday evening meetings. Perhaps occasionally, but never on a regular basis. I don't think anyone from my Sunday School ever attended the Wednesday evening meetings on a regular basis. It was kind of an "adult thing" and that was that.

    The nature of the CS services (both Wednesday and Sunday) being a "read format", it is difficult for me to imagine that many young people (Sunday School age) are going to be drawn to that type of service. (Of course, there are exceptions.)

    I recall, back in one of the earlier This Week's Questions, the issue was raised as to why more of the CS young people do not make the transition between Sunday School and church after they turn 20. I believe that the answer is quite simple. The young people go from a very open type format in the Sunday School class to a very controlled and "rigid" format in the church service. One of my long-time friends has remarked to me many times that when he was a student in the CS Sunday School in the Mother Church (back in the 1950's), he had had a wonderful time as a student of John Peterson (in later years, President of the Mother Church), who taught one of the senior classes. My friend had been searching for a new type of church experience, and he found it in the CS Sunday School. After he turned 20, he tried attending the Mother Church services, but he simply could not make the transition to the more formal type of service. If the CS church allowed more latitude in the type of service format, perhaps this kind of problem could be remedied.

    I love what IBS said in her post. The idea of having the Wednesday service at an earlier time, followed by a potluck supper, is excellent. The CS branch churches need more of this type of "out of the box" approach. Perhaps if this were the rule, rather than the exception, they would be more successful.

  5. I think I have to object to the suggestion that it is impractical, because of school and after school activities for young people to attend Wednesday eveing services.

    Prayer is powerful. Here's one example. A large group of the students in our Sunday School were involved in ballet. As the idea that kids could naturally attend Wednesday evening services, opened up, the ballet school actully moved to just a few blocks from our church. Guess what!! That actully helped attendance. Class got out at 7:15 and kids would meander to church afterward. 5 or 6 kids help make a very informal meeting. including testimonies with chuckles.

    pot lucks, sure, ice cream-- YES. But even more so, it is natural for youth to love God above all else.

  6. Maybe have a testimony meeting in Sunday school once a month. Just for SS students. Gather all the students together in a circle to participate. I bet that would be a big hit.

  7. I like what MW says "there are hundreds of kids & teens who have gone to weekly testimony meetings at summer camps for christian scientists.Why stop when camps close?"
    I think one of the main reason for this is that they are really good fluid meetings and well attended, this does encourage young people to go.however the same cannot be always be said for local meetings at branch churches, i've visited a number of different churches on a wednesday meeting and as a fairly young person i've not been that impressed with the service.but some of the testimonys i've heard at different meetings have been good.
    one thing that could be done is to make members more aware
    of times dates etc.. we had a long standing member say to us what time is the testimony meeting!!i've never been
    At my mates church a different domination, the church elders proper get on your case if you don't go, sending emails, txt, giving you 3rd degree etc..but they love wot they teach and want young people to come learn about the bible.works for them.

  8. What a great question with insightful comments. Thanks! I think it's natural for children to want to come to Weds. church because I'm one who did! I used to "beg" my parents to let me come and it was always a highlight for me to hear all the testimonies. This was such an important foundation for me to see Church in action, the Christ touching and transforming lives and bringing healing. It was key to making Christian Science my own, eventually blossoming into my becoming a Christian Science nurse for over 25 years (still counting!), actively continuing to support and expect healing, as well as the joy of witnessing healing unfold. What a gift these services are, and continue to be.

  9. Why not more children? How about why not more adults? In our branch church, membership around 80, (yes I know we're not supposed to count)we're lucky if barely a fourth turn out. I personnaly feel it would be a big help is the format were changed. People popping up standing stiff as posts, the listeners sitting like statues...I find it unnerving to speak in that atmosphere. A round table would be so much more convivial and relaxed, and would perhaps allow for some interaction, even though this was not provided for initially.

  10. I have been reading the responses to This Week's Question with interest. MW (#2) asks why young people don't go to the Wednesday night meetings since many of them have gotten used to going when they were at CS summer camps. I think the answer to that question should be fairly obvious. While at summer CS camp, the young people are surrounded by their peers at the Wednesday night meetings. When they return to their homes, it is a completely different situation when they attend the Wednesday night service. In the unlikely event that they do go to the meeting, they will almost certainly be surrounded, not by other young people their own age, but rather with people who are mostly the age of their grandparents. Quite a different scenario! No disrespect meant towards the older generation, since I am one of them myself, but I believe that this is a realistic appraisal of the situation.

    Most CS branch churches have very small Sunday School enrollments, so I don't think we are talking about large numbers of young people. It is possible to gather a fairly large group of young CS's at a summer camp, but not usually in the local church community.

  11. Nancy, I agree that the overly formal nature of testimony meetings can be off-putting, but there's absolutely nothing saying that they have to be that way. There's no reason why a branch church can't decide to hold their meetings around a round table, or decide to sit instead of stand, or drop some of those speaking habits (the previous testifier, from the desk, etc). Is every church going to be open to doing it that way? Maybe not initially, but that's the benefit of a democratically governed church-- members get to drive these decisions and find solutions that work for them. Sometimes I think we're too quick to give up on church.

    And I'm not sure I buy that kids inherently don't like going to testimony meetings because its all older people and not as fun as camp. Sure, testimony meetings at camp are a lot of fun. But something that I've come to appreciate is the opportunity to get to know the older church members, to learn from their experiences, and vice versa. The more that church members reach out to young people and include them, the more that age divide will disappear. Same goes for young people reaching out to the older members. . .Different doesn't have to mean bad or unappealing, but it's up to each one of us to make our church experience what we want it to be.

  12. There are so many good reasons to bring children on Wednesday nights. As a parent I always brought my children to Wednesday Eve. Meetings - usually starting about 3rd grade. The exception was if they had a test the next day they could miss. Otherwise, it was just what we did. Sometimes they had to stay up a little later that night but it worked. They are now grown and both branch and Mother Church members. I felt that if they attended Wed. Eve. meetings they could not ever say when they were grown that Christian Science did not heal. What wonderful examples of healing they heard over the years and what good examples they shared. Like someone else has said, it is the perfect bridge between Sunday School and church. Also I have taught many high school Sunday School classes. Several times a year I would take them out for a pizza and then to Wed. church. I stressed to them the importance of Wed. in that it took Christian Science from theory to demonstration and consequently was necessary. Several Sunday School students began to attend on their own. One father who attends our church regularly now says that he started coming when his daughter was in my Sunday School class and asked him why he didn't go on Wed. For children it is nice because the readings are a little shorter than Sunday and it helps to keep their attention that different people are going to be getting up telling stories of healing after the readings are over. They become accustomed to being in the church and there is a natural visiting between the adults and the children especially because they get to know something about each other from the testimonies that have been given.

  13. As a child in a christian science family I did not attend the Wednesday evening testimony services very much at church though my father read Wednesday evening sermons at home that he saved from being a reader much earlier. Testimonies were from periodicals for these family meetings. Organizing myself to do homework and later a long drive to church affected this decision. Dial up Wednesday evening sermons will help if distance or a homework load is an issue.

  14. As in many church decisions these days, it's useful to re-think the purpose of testimony meetings, and perhaps make needed changes. Are we really serving our community? newcomers? Is the appointed time the best for them? for families? for members? for some who may prefer not to drive at night? (etc.)

    Since gratitude for healing is the focus, and is the experience of most members, what is it that keeps a percentage of them absent? If churches were attuned to the needs of all attendees, there might be active exploration of other approaches so eloquently described by responders.

  15. I guess there are many CSst who are bored with what they've always known and feel like it can't be good to the visitor? I'm pretty new at this. To me,Wed mtg is for the testimonies -- to illustrate how man is capable of proving all things and the power of prayer is the "tool" we use. Because we have this service and pray to know this is the one attraction, we hope to see many visitors who've felt our "invitation". That said, our service with the testimonies is proof that God is omnipotent and prayer to God is real, powerful, and effective. Doing that makes a "Church Alive", doesn't it? I haven't been in the CS church long. I still remember clearly going to my first Wed meeting and hearing the testimonies by people who matter of factly related stories that I'd never dreamed could be taken so for granted. I hear Scientists criticize the form things take and I can hardly bear it. The testimonies are all that matter! Just keep giving them -- as many as you can remember. Over and over. Who cares if you gave the same one already? Someone may hear it for the first time or with a different perspective. I used to live from Wed to Wed, just to hear the testimonies. That's all that's necessary to keep a visitor coming back. If the old-timers are bored with the services, that's a different issue entirely. A meeting with 8 or 9 testimonies will be judged "best" by anyone no matter how the chairs are arranged.

  16. My branch church holds a special testimony meeting (we call it the Gratitude Meeting) once every three months, run completely by and for the Sunday School students. One of the older children is the Reader and chooses the readings themselves (shorter than the readings for a regular meeting). Those students who play instruments provide the music for the hymns. Children and adults are all welcome to come and give testimonies or just share their gratitude. Then there's time for refreshments afterwards before we hold the regular testimony meeting as normal. It's been happening for a number of years and is always greatly enjoyed. We do tend to have a fair number of young people (twenty-somethings) at the regular Wednesday meetings as well.

  17. Being First Reader on a Wednesday Testimony Meeting can be challenging, but when just one thirteen year old walks in, sits in the fourth row, and listens as if the Church were filled, singing hymns, looking very serious, I know that girl
    was hearing God's message.

  18. This is an excellent question and I've enjoyed all the comments. Our Society sits in a semi-circle and sit while sharing, after a mic has been passed to us. We say our name before speaking because so that the people teleconferencing and skyping in know who's speaking (and vice versa). This group is lively and the testimonies very profound and healing. If I had been a member of this church while my sons were growing up I would have definitely encouraged them to come. A lively meeting is indeed a bridge to church membership. When growing up I came occasionally, and as a college student, very regularly, due to my active involvement with the CS Organization on campus. When I turned 20 it was natural to join and I began teaching SS immediately.

    Another Society I've visited sits in a complete circle with really comfortable chairs. There is such a natural family feeling...a natural give and take sharing. No one thinks it's out of place for someone to comment a few different times during the testimony period.
    I love the idea of having the meeting earlier and having pizza, sandwiches or ice cream/dessert before or after. Kids love food, but sharing of bread, as did the early Christians, which includes getting to know one another, could forge strong ties between our youth and church members. This would strengthen us all!

  19. At my previous church, we always had young people on Wed. night and many gave good testimonies. Occasionally, the would have their own Wed. night service in Sunday School and all enjoyed it. It is up to us to see that they participate more and I think, then, they will love it. I always went on Wednesday night when I found C.S. in my late teens and loved the testimony meetings. Always someone
    would share something that would open the Bible lesson for the week to new ideas and views for me. They are complete, whole spiritual ideas and as such, are ready to learn more about their relationship to God.

  20. One of the most amazing testimonies I have heard was given by a child of about 8 at a wednesday evening testimony meeting. He had fallen out of a tree and was taken up unconscious. when he came to, the people around him asked if he wanted to go to the Dr. or hospital. He said, "No call my grandma, she's a practitioner". He was healed very quickly after his grandma prayed for him. He was so eager to give this testimony he kept popping up to talk, before the testimony period opened, and when it was his turn he spoke clearly and with conviction of God's healing power. I have never forgotten his testimony and his precious love for Christian Science.

  21. At a church I belonged to several years ago, six- and seven-year-olds who were being cared for in the children's room were brought into the Wednesday evening meeting in time for the second hymn and the testimonies. One of them started giving testimonies herself.

  22. I want to share what my church youth, north of the Philippines, have been and are doing. We have a good number of Sunday School children. It all started with an idea to have youth camps where they organized themselves into committees to do the cooking, cleaning of their camping area or house. But each morning activity has a Bible Lesson study too. There were church members who were invited to talk on topics of interest and it always included a testimony sharing where the youth participants who are mostly our Sunday School pupils practice to bravely share their testimonies of healing. Today each Sunday School class led by their teacher have schedules to attend the Wednesday testimony meetings. So our Sunday School prepares the children to see the value to support Wednesday testimony meetings as well as church membership.

  23. Oh, there are so many good ideas here! Thank you! For our area where kids have to catch a bus at 6:45 a.m. the Wed. evening services end too late! So accommodating this early start day for our younger ones with an earlier evening special testimony meeting for ALL every so often is a terrific concept. You know, one of those "why didn't we think of that before!"

  24. As I child in grade school, I attended Wednesday evening meetings with my Mom, and well remember how I was welcomed and received so warmly. The first time I stood up and gave a testimony, you'd think that I had hung the moon! So much happiness and appreciation expressed by all. A really good start to a life time of expressing my gratitude freely and often.

  25. Some great comments and thoughtful ideas here. Just wanted you all to know that two teenage boys came to our service Wednesday night and were all smiles about it, talking easily with adults afterwards. I also got a call from a college student (from our Sunday School) yesterday who happily reported that she had given a testimony at a Wednesday service in her college town. There's more where this comes from! I've been thinking about, "There is but one real attraction, that of Spirit." (S&H 102:9). The one real attraction is far from dull, dry, or too formal. It's fresh, nourishing, Life and Love affirming, practical, beautiful!

  26. We always treated our kids as part of church. When they were in primary school I read the Golden Text with them each day as their Bible Lesson. By the end of the week they were familiar with the words and felt more a part of the the Sunday School exercises. By fifth grade we did the Responsive Reading too each morning. In High School we were doing three sections each day before school. I was cautioned by a church member that all that daily required CS would driving them away. It made me think of the statement, "familiarity breeds contempt." However, our Leaders says that nearness and not distance lends enchantment to this view! How could familiarity result in anything but dominion and appreciation. TOday they both love CS in different way. One relies on it for healing, but with help from others. The other does most of his own work, but still calls parents and practitioners for support occasionally.

    I know that when I read to my children or to a congregation that I needed to be full of the message and not just make word sounds. I imagine that I am reading to the whole world and not just CS members familiar with the text. All mankind is factory wired for spiritual understanding. How can Life, Truth and Love be anything but sought and taught and glow in all the grandeur of universal goodness!!

  27. thanks to everyone for their wonderful insightful comments on kids and Wed evening testimony meetings...good insight and fresh ideas, they'll take us all forward...CJR

  28. Great Question! wonderful responses and inspiring comments!
    I belong to a small Society in India and we are blessed to have many youngsters and Sunday school students in our testimony meetings. We pray and encourage them to give testimonies in Hindi language also. After that we encourage them to send their testimonies for publication and many times those are published also. For that their Sunday School Supdtt and teacher and practitioners work with them. They even bring their friends sometimes. One illiterate caretaker of a mentally retarded Sunday school student took help from a practitioner and expressed her desire to thank God. On her request Sunday school Teacher wrote the testimony and read it in the Wednesday Meeting.Her testimony with photograph has been published by The Mother Church in Heralds of 4 languages recently.
    Gratitude really does not need any expression.

    love,
    Poonam

  29. I grew up going occasionally to testimony meetings with my mom and always loved my Sunday School and testimony meeting experiences. I just thought that was the way it was in every church! When I was a young mom, I started attending a non-denominational Bible study group with a friend. There was a meeting for all of us, then we met in small groups. One week in the small group I shared gratitude for a harmonious trip and another time shared a physical healing. Soon after I received a phone call saying that these testimonies were bringing in the doctrine of my church and if I continued, I would be asked to leave the Bible study. What an eye-opener! Even though I had always loved the Wed meetings, I then realized how absolutely unique and precious they are in providing a place where one's heart could be opened, a testimony given (and believed!), and gratitude given by others for that heart-felt sharing, not to mention the gains of healing inspiration from each others' proofs of God's tender care and love. I rarely miss the opportunity to attend this treasure trove of healing and inspiration! Finding more ways to connect young people (and adults) to Wed meetings seems so loving and pertinent to our life experience! My ballet teacher always said that technique was only half of ballet ~ performance was the other half. So with Christian Science - our study is the technique and our testimonies the demonstration of what we have learned and proved as our own ~ to be shared and loved and appreciated by others. Bravo!

  30. There have been many times that I have been tempted not to go to church on Wednesday nights (too tired, not feeling well, too much homework, etc.) but I always go and afterwards I always feel so refreshed. I started taking my kids to the Wednesday service starting at 2nd and 3rd grade. They only go to the testimony part for now, but for me it is important that they see how practical CS is in the real world. The temptation could be that they are too young, the service is too late and will tired the next day, or they won't pay attention (inbetween testimonies they might draw, but when someone stands up they have to stop), sports, etc. But that is mortal mind speaking. Church is always a blessing and children needs to understand that we can use it in everyday life. At first my kids showed resistance but now they want to go and its part of our normal routine. They've never been to tired the following day. Having our kids come to the Wednesday service will help with that transition when they get older from going to SS to Sunday Church Service. The main thing is though CHURH IS A BLESSING TO EVERYONE INCLUDING OUR CHILDREN. Ask yourself, "Are we making gods out of sports, time, sleep, etc?" Are sports, homework, and sleep more important than God? Doesn't all our ability come from God. When we put God first, all good things come together.

  31. Thanks to everyone for sharing the experiences of including children and young people in Wednesday services. Last year a Sunday School student attended a service with her Sunday School teacher and gave her testimony that had been published in the periodicals. She was so happy to participate.
    We need to encourage and support more of this activity.

  32. "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.