Listening to the Book We Love

Reproducible Pages for All Ages

Most churches recognize that children and youth benefit from support for engaging with a worship service. Some churches will print special children’s bulletins or provide quiet activity bags. For older children and adults some churches leave a small blank area on the service bulletin for notetaking, or they provide a fill-in-the-blank sermon outline. I recently heard of a congregation that gives teens a page of simple questions to use when listening to the sermon. Another congregation uses the sermon as the basis for the youth education class that takes place right after worship.  

As I was considering the varied ways churches offer support to youth during worship, I wondered: How might we help all those present in worship listen and participate better? Initially I thought of a series of reproducible age-based handouts. Then I started brainstorming other possibilities: “Hmm . . . We wouldn’t need anything for the youngest kids who aren’t reading yet because they can use any blank page to scribble on. . . . Wait—back up. Haven’t we in Reformed Worship been talking this last year about including all ages? How would the youngest kids feel if everyone else got a special paper and they didn’t? Phew! Glad I caught that.” I decided we would provide the pre-readers among us with a framed page to color on. As I continued to brainstorm both on my own and with colleagues, a series of four pages for sermon notes evolved—pages of varying complexity depending on the age of the user. 

But something still didn’t feel right. I thought of my teenage daughter, who always drew random things during worship but now takes out her phone and opens a coloring app. She listens better when she is coloring. I thought about my friend Dean Heetderks, who writes the “Come and See” column for Reformed Worship. In RW 138, Dean wrote, “As long as I can remember I’ve doodled or sketched or drawn,” even in worship. Both Dean and my daughter would probably prefer the page with the frame so they could draw as they listened to the message. Perhaps assigning different pages to specific age ranges is too limiting and closes the door to intergenerational connections. Can you imagine your child reaching for a copy of the “Listening through Drawings and Doodles” page at the same time as Mr. Heetderks? Imagine how validated your child would feel to know that their paper was something even big people use! 

We continued to revise these pages, removing age constraints and instead focusing on handouts that would appeal to all generations. This led us away from complexity and toward simplicity. The result is the two sheets printed below. Think of these as a special Pentecost present, given with the hope that the Holy Spirit will work through these tools to help congregants of all ages and learning styles listen more deeply to the Book we love and in so doing encounter our living God. 

We are grateful to our designer, Frank Gutbrod, for his work on creating these pages, and to Rev. Gary Brouwers, Dr. Mimi Larson, and Karen De Boer for their feedback. 

—Rev. Joyce Borger, Senior Editor


Ideas for Using These Sermon Note Pages

  • Make booklets with multiple copies of each version. These can be taken home or stored at church. 
  • Place pages on a table in the narthex so folks can easily find the ones they need.
  • Provide pens, pencils, crayons, washable markers, or colored pencils for congregants to use.
  • Print the pages on hole-punched paper and provide binders so people can add a new page each Sunday.
  • Use the pages as the basis for discussions in small groups or in church education classes held after worship.
Reformed Worship subscribers can find downloadable versions in the “Art and Visuals” section of Reformed Worship’s digital library. These pages are free to download and copy as long as the copyright line remains on the page. 
bulletins.pdf (257.38 KB)
Reformed Worship 147 © March 2023, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.