Free to Worship: Creating a No "Shushing" Environment
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” Psalm 98:4
Have you ever been in a church service with your child when suddenly they begin to shout? Or how about sitting in a prayer time with your adult child who has special needs and they have an outburst? How do you feel? How do the people around you respond? If you are like most people then YES, this has happened and probably on more than one occasion! Most people feel a variety of things from embarrassment to shame when they are in a “reverent” setting and your child is suddenly “irreverent”. It can also be incredibly isolating when it appears that all the other parents in the room seem able to keep their children quiet. Do these outbursts tempt you to stay home instead of heading out the door to attend your local worship service? At Vineyard Columbus, we were hearing from many families that they were indeed hesitant to attend church because it seemed their child didn’t have a place where they could worship God freely. This is how Joyful Noise worship service was born!
Joyful Noise worship service enables the entire family to worship God just as they are in a “no shushing” environment. The service includes live music, prayer and a short teaching, all adapted for participants to experience a “joyful” and rich relationship with God. It was born out of a desire to worship God and a need being seen. We believe that everyone should have access to Jesus and have an opportunity to worship Him in a meaningful way.
One of the most beautiful and unique aspects of individuals with special needs is the heightened sense of what truly matters. For someone like me who is neuro-typical it seems important to maintain social norms and avoid standing out. I may be in church worshipping God and feel led to share a testimony of God’s goodness, but be too timid to tell anyone about it. I may desire to lift my hands in worship, or I may feel emotion but be afraid to show it. If you have ever had an experience with the Holy Spirit then you know the Holy Spirit also doesn’t care about what looks good or about keeping up appearances! The Holy Spirit is there to bring glory to the Lord. At Joyful Noise, if someone wants to get up on stage and share a Scripture they have the freedom to do so. If someone spontaneously decides they want to march around the room, they can. If someone wants to twirl a ribbon or hit a tambourine, they can! If someone has an outburst no one is bothered by it. It is truly a place to worship the Lord and feel completely free to be yourself.
We set up the space like a typical church sanctuary with a stage. The stage is complete with a drum set, several microphones, guitars, and a keyboard. At Joyful Noise we offer a bag of instruments that anyone can use! In the bag we have several tambourines, ribbons, noise makers, maracas and other non-descript and small musical items. Anyone can grab one! This allows the service to be more interactive and inclusive. We want all attendees to be active participants. The bag is left up near the stage and people can feel free to take what they want and use it for the duration of the service. We feel it important to not have musical instruments that people put their mouths on for sanitary purposes. We also set up a microphone on the stage that a worship leader is not using. We try and have a clear path to get on stage, free from cords, etc.
“I tell you,” he replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” Luke 19:40
One of our most faithful attenders is a young woman named Faith. Here is a quote from Faith’s mom, Barb Scubovius:
“Faith is 21 & has Down Syndrome & LOVES Worship & therefore LOVES Joyful Noise. Even if I have forgotten to note it on the wall calendar, she will remind me as she knows it's routinely the 2nd Sunday of each month. Whenever asked what her favorite things are, Faith always includes Joyful Noise. Faith is naturally very social but I can see how beneficial these services are for those who are not so social. I love watching this community worship freely without inhibition. And I love their transparency, as they interrupt to ask appropriate questions & genuine concern as they request prayers most often for others, not themselves! We both look forward to seeing our "Friends" & always enjoy this sweet fellowship.”
The Joyful Noise worship service is held at Vineyard Columbus from 5:30-6:30 on the second Sunday of each month in our Community Center. Rhema Christian Center also hosts a Joyful Noise service on the fourth Saturday of each month at 6 pm, as does Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church. If you are interested in attending please visit the following links:
Come as you are, you’ll be loved!
Written by: Amanda Fessehazion, Special Needs Ministry Coordinator at Vineyard Columbus.
I have been serving in this ministry for 4 years, and doing it as my job for a year and a half. It is truly my dream job and I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is doing! Please feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org