The Diocese of Ely Education Directorate

Pupils as Collective Worship Leaders

In Church schools the school community gathers daily for an act of Christian collective worship.  Probably in most schools pupils are already involved this activity in a number of practical ways:

  • as “caretakers” – preparing the room for worship and clearing up afterwards
  • as “technicians” – working the projector and the CD player
  • as “welcomers” – holding open doors, lighting candles, speaking opening sentences.
  • as “props” – being called up by adults to take part in a drama,  lead actions to songs etc

but are they really involved in planning, delivering and evaluating collective worship?  Pupils are as much a part of the worshipping school community as are the staff, and can have an equally important role in leading the faith community.  Remember, Jesus welcomed children and used them as models of faith when speaking to his followers (Luke chp 18 vss 15-17)!

Of course, pupils may plan a section of worship e.g. by writing prayers, or move worship along by asking and answering questions, but many schools are now asking groups of pupils to plan and deliver whole acts of worship on a regular basis – if this is something your school wishes to introduce, then you may like to think about the following questions:

Should we form a pupil worship committee or ask a different group of pupils to lead each time?

There is no right answer to this question, but you need to be sure that the pupils are volunteers as worshipping God is personal and nobody should be forced into this role.  A group of no more than six or eight pupils is often best, and if you have decided to go for just one worship group (or one per term), think about succession planning and make sure it is made up of mixed age groups.

What about adult participation in the worship planning?

Best advice is to have one adult take this on as their responsibility, and this could be a TA, a Foundation Governor or someone from the local church community who works with the school.  The adult is there as an enabler or facilitator who may make suggestions out of their wider knowledge and keep the children on track, but is not there to organise the content of the worship to fit a predetermined idea .  Their first role will be to check that children understand the purpose of collective worship (i.e. that it is in some way God focussed) and the elements and structure which make up an act of worship (namely gathering, engaging, responding, sending), and what these look like.

What topics should children work on?

It always seems best not to make a fuss about the pupils leading worship, or think of it as a performance, but rather that it is a natural part of the worshipping life of the school – thus it is best to timetable the pupil led worship to occur regularly (anything from once a fortnight to once per half term) and to follow whatever the school’s worship theme is at that point.

What can pupils do in their worship?

The answer to this question is “whatever the adults can”!   Ideally a pupil worship group will plan the content of the worship in its entirety and deliver all of it without any adults taking on roles other than thanking them at the end:

  • Beginnings and endings – pupils can select or even write liturgical greetings to “top and tail” worship; these will be based on the school’s current practice, or children could introduce new ones, using a stimulus such as “Flippin’ Praise“.
  • Engaging – the core of the worship – often in the early stages it is best for pupils to re-tell Biblical or Christian stories in whichever way they want (drama, powepoint etc) with a summary of the moral or teaching they have drawn from it and how this links to the theme.  As pupils become more practised they will become more adventurous and learn from the ways that they see staff and church visitors putting together the acts of worship.
  • Responding- pupils are familiar with the idea of writing prayers for a purpose, but may need more help in thinking about selecting songs and hymns which clearly link with the theme, rather than their favourites.  The entry and exit music may also be used in this way.

You may like to use this planing document with pupils Pupil worship planning

Issues which may arise

Any worship leader can make mistakes when they lead worship, but experience tells the most common ones when pupils (and adults!) lead worship are:

  • inadequate voice projection – do you need microphones?
  • holding a conversation with a child in the front of the hall who answers a question in such a way that nobody else can hear – the technique of reporting back the answer given is an important one for all worship leaders
  • doing something “zany” for effect and losing sight of the message
  • timing
  • trying to fit too much in – one message reinforced in a variety of ways is better than something more complex.

Evaluating Collective Worship

In a Church school the foundation governors will already have a system of monitoring collective worship and pupils, who will see far more acts of worship than visiting governors, can have valuable input into this process.  This can be done in a number of ways, including governors meeting with the School Council or annual class questionnaires.  Pupils can also fill out simple evaluation grids of individual acts of worship on a more regular basis – these should be based on whatever the governors are using and be included in the governors’ monitoring file.  Alternatively, a simple proforma can be found here Pupil monitoring cw