Kids Church at Reservoir Church

Written by: Dan Archibold and Aubrie Hills

Pre-K Kids Church 

Our Godly Play program for babies through kindergarteners is designed to welcome children into a beautiful and inviting space that is just for them. There is nothing on the shelves or in the space that is “off-limits” to them. When they enter their classroom community, they are greeted by the volunteers who know them by name and ask them curiously if they are “ready” to enter. This readiness is an invitation to check in with their little bodies and minds and get prepared to be with friends, listen to and wonder with a story, and work and play together.  

One of the central aspects of the storytelling circle includes laying out tangible, tactile play materials on the ground, right at the eye level of the children. As they surround the storyteller, they hear language that naturally invites them to find the parts of the story that they are curious about or take favor to. They are never instructed, but offered lots of wondering questions, followed by an opportunity to play with the materials themselves. Sometimes, this looks like moving little figures through the desert bag as the people of God wander through this dangerous place, pretending together. 

The rest of the room is set up with story shelves, open art materials shelves, and some other invitations to work with puzzles or blocks. The children can access any of the materials they would like and respond to the story of the day, or create their own work. 

Another area of the room invites them to rest, listen to calming nature sounds or music, reflect on scripture or art, and quiet their bodies with sensory tools. 

Elementary Kids Church

Most Sundays at Reservoir Church you can find the elementary-aged kids downstairs in the Multi-Purpose Room taking part in what we call Kids Church. I’m glad that we call it that instead of Sunday School. While I do love teaching—my training is in Elementary Education, not ministry—it’s not what’s most important when it comes to helping kids make a connection with God and with the church community. A while ago we came up with a tagline for our Kids Church program that I really love: “Worship. Wonder. Play. Find yourself in God’s story.” And that’s what we do!


We worship together every Sunday that we meet. In our context, that means that the first half of our large group time includes some songs or movements to give kids space to connect with God, and some time where we pray together. For anyone who wants to, that is! I don’t think there’s ever been a Sunday where all the kids were standing up, never mind singing. But enough always sing to make a beautiful noise together! And some weeks when I invite kids to pray or lift something up for us to pray for together, there aren’t any takers. Other weeks, though, we get to hear from enough of the kids that I start to worry we won’t ever be able to get to our story of the day!


The central focus of our program is stories, and almost every Sunday, our morning is based around a Bible story. So I was surprised several years ago when a parent let me know that he was interested in finding a more “Bible-based” kids program for his family. On reflection, though, I think I know what he meant. Because we don’t do a lot of “teaching” about the Bible. No memorizing verses or the order of the books, and no moral lessons that we expect all the kids to absorb. Instead, we present—every week—a story from the Bible as it is, and invite the kids to wonder what it means to them at that moment. And we share our thoughts and questions in small groups. Sometimes kids don’t want to share, and that’s okay; but when I’m leading the discussion, before I let them off the hook, I sometimes remind them that I love hearing their thoughts because we’re all working to discover new, living meaning in the story for that particular moment. 

The kids who do want to share say some pretty interesting stuff! I feel like every week they make connections between stories that I wouldn’t have made, bring a more literal take to the story, or a more abstract one. Sometimes they take the discussion in a completely different direction that lets us reflect on what we’re even doing in this church space together.

Earlier this year we were talking about the man and woman in the Garden of Eden who ate that fruit they weren’t supposed to eat, and a fifth-grader asked, “Isn’t this story just an excuse to say bad things about women?” Yes, historically it definitely has been that! But we can talk about what else the story might mean, and about what we can do today to react to those historical bad takes. We’ve grappled with awesome questions from “Was Jesus being mean in that story?” to “Why aren’t there dinosaurs in the Bible’s account of Creation?” And through it all, we each have the chance to understand a little more about what God is like.


I love sharing stories and worship, but for lots of the kids, the best part of Kids Church comes in the last part of the morning. We call it “work time”, and it’s a chance for the kids to think about and process what we’ve talked about over the previous half hour. Sometimes that might involve illustrating a moment from the story, but to be honest, most of the time the kids want to play board games together or play with building toys. Sometimes they want to make designs with fuse beads (that’s probably the most popular activity). There are moments when I wonder if that’s ok. Shouldn’t they be doing something more… churchy? Are we wasting our valuable instructional time together?!

Of course not. Community is a huge part of the church experience, and it’s one of the three strands we focus on in Kids Church, along with Bible stories and faith practices. Besides “the Gift of Community”, playing together also gives the kids a chance to access “the Joy of Living”—something you can tell from the volume in the room during work time!

Find Yourself In God’s Story

Kids have plenty of people telling them what to do and how to think. Sometimes that’s helpful and appropriate. But in a church context, it’s not always the best way for young people to develop a life-long feeling of connection with God. In Kids Church at Reservoir, we aim to immerse kids in stories of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and give them an opportunity to see how they want to integrate those stories into their own life. They then know how to integrate themselves into what God is doing in the world (plus have some fun along the way)!

Visit Reservoir Church Today!

Our Kids Church meets almost every Sunday during the 9:30 a.m. service. We welcome everyone without exception; whatever your race, gender, sexual orientation, or background. You will always have a place here. Please feel free to drop in for a visit or connect with us!

How to Build an Inclusive Church

The Christian faith has some pretty outrageous visions for what’s possible in the world. Peaceful nap times for predators and prey, weapons of war melted down into farming tools, sumptuous feasts with more than enough for all people, and trees with leaves that can heal our nations are all part of its poetic vocabulary of a one-day restored creation. Again and again, these dreamy visions hope to include all people, all nations, speakers of all tongues. It’s a vision of abundance and inclusion that gave rise to what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Beloved Community.

On these hopes, the Christian church has more often than not disappointed. 

In terms of race, the Christian church in America has been a mostly segregated space. In terms of gender, it’s mostly been a space where women have been limited or even silent in their leadership. And in terms of gender identity and orientation, the church has mostly been an unsafe and even homophobic space for LGBTQ peoples. 

Some of us, though, still hold out for the dream of church as a place of beloved community. We think that faith spaces go best for us all when they are truly shared spaces of belonging for all people.

In this spirit, we offer seven steps toward making an inclusive church a space belonging for all people.

1. Read The Bible

Maybe this seems like an odd place to start. The Bible is an ancient and diverse set of ancient texts. You wouldn’t think it would have much to say about how communities hold diversity of race, language, politics, or sexual identity and orientation. When it comes to the details, sometimes that’s true. 

But to shape a beautifully equitable, diverse, and inclusive faith-based community, it helps to have a deep set of spiritual and moral reasons for doing so. It helps to have a story that guides you.

For Christians, parts of that story emerge from our sacred text. 

I think of the early church, as it figured out how to share the message and life story of a crucified Jewish rabbi with people throughout the Roman Empire. Awkward encounters occurred across differences. The recipients of the message sometimes had as much to teach the messengers as the other way around. Changes were made. Everyone experienced God and truth and one another anew. 

I remember Jesus himself, as he moved beyond the ideas and people of his rural, Jewish childhood and offered healing, liberating ideas and touch and relationship to all he encountered. 

I think of the whole arc of the Hebrew scriptures and prophecy that shaped Jesus, as it moves from the tale of a single founding family to the vision of all people through the earth feasting and worshiping together. 

All these stories ground me, guide me, and give me hope. 

2. Change What’s Happening at the Center Stage

I’m a lifelong resident of Greater Boston. I once visited a church in my city that was full of transplants from other cities. But there was one guy there playing a small role in the service who wasn’t just from Boston, he was like the Hollywood caricature of all things Boston – Red Sox cap, Irish features, thick accent. He seemed like the token local guy, added to the side of the show, in hopes that other locals would feel welcome. 

Diversity window dressing doesn’t work, though. America’s colleges and universities are famous for pictures of happy, diverse gatherings of beautiful students on their glossy brochures and websites. But if you spend time in those schools, you may not always find that reality matches the advertisements. 

Churches too. It’s hard to find a church that says all people are welcome there. Church people have hopes for what the church can be. They may want all people to feel welcome. They may want the community to look diverse. but they may not be willing to change anything about their worship or culture or beliefs or practices to make this so. 

If you want an inclusive church, you have to want to be different. An inclusive church that doesn’t just host other people until they become like you. It changes to reflect the gifts of presence of its participants.
An inclusive church doesn’t just center one culture’s story and sample from others around the edges. It welcomes everyone at center stage.

3. Representation

An inclusive church pays attention to who is leading, making sure that as much of the community as possible is represented at the top. 

When we think about who is on staff at the church, who’s preaching, who’s on the Board, who is leading our groups, we want to make sure that as much of the community as possible sees part of their story and identity in our leadership. For instance, we’re a multiracial church in a predominantly white region of the country, and we have a white senior pastor. So we make sure that our Board is half or majority people of color.

It’s not just fair and effective, it’s wise and even biblical.

4. Don’t Center Politics, but Don’t Run From It Either.

Some churches are partisan hot spots that push politics all the time. Others try to run away from it, afraid of taking any stands that might offend parts of their community. 

An inclusive church doesn’t need to center politics, but when they matter to the well-being of members of their community, they can’t avoid them.

I remember Christmas of 2014. Our church at the time was probably around 15% Black. In the wake of the murder of Trayon Martin and the unrest in Ferguson, a movement to uplift the sacred dignity and worth of Black lives had begun. It mattered to our community, and it mattered to me. 

So I started the Christmas season preaching in a Black Lives Matter T-shirt. I wore a shirt. Hardly a radical act in my mind. But a number of our African-American members took selfies with me that day. It was an important gesture of solidarity they saw in their white pastor. And sadly, not most but a few of our white members were upset. They thought I was bringing politics into the pulpit. In a sense, I was. Politics originally refers to the public – the public issues and concerns of the people. 

If you want an inclusive church, you need to care about and speak up for the concerns of the people, including people who are especially underrepresented in your community.

5. Stop Shaming and Harming LGBTQ People and Those That Love Them

There’s been a movement of LGBTQ rights in this country for fifty years. Same sex marriage has been legal throughout the country for years, and most Americans are glad this is so. The church has had a hard time keeping up, though. In fact, both American and global Christianity has been one of the biggest sources of violence and hate toward LGBTQ peoples. An inclusive church can do much better. 

Historically, most Christians have not held welcoming or affirming views on diversity of sexual identity and orientation. But Christians have managed to change their minds and update their views on many other things over the centuries. 

There’s now a wide body of literature and thinking that can help churches be faithful to their tradition and sacred texts while also doing right by people too long stigmatized and rejected by the church. The path to dignified, joyful, full inclusion of queer Christians and spiritual seekers is available. For me – a cisgender, straight follower of Jesus – this path has enriched my faith and made me a better friend, family member, neighbor, and pastor. For our siblings in the LGBTQ community, their participation and sometimes their very lives depends on it. 

6. Be Ready to Lose People.

Those people offended by my solidarity with Black Lives Matter – some of them left the church. When people are threatened or angry or disapproving, that’s what they do sometimes. During the period of time when our church became fully inclusive and affirming of LGBTQ people, almost half of the church left. Some left over that specific issue. Others left because it was a period of so much transition in our church in general. Things were a little chaotic. We could have managed the change better of course. 

But churches that become more inclusive usually start losing some people before they gain others. That’s been our story. It’s been the story of just about every other church I know of that got more committed to racial justice or LGBTQ inclusion than it had been before. 

Loss is sad. There are costs to pay. But what you get on the other side in this case is very much worth it. 

7. Celebrate, Enjoy and Keep LEARNING!

I love our inclusive church! I love the depth of experiences and perspectives and relationships it offers to our community. I love the stories of safety and belonging people share. I love that Reservoir is known in our region as the kind of church where an interracial family, a gay couple, a trans child, or a woman preacher can feel at home. 

Building an inclusive church results in communities people enjoy being part of, with great stories to share with the world at large. 

But they’re never static. People come and go, and the vision and hope which guides the journey needs to be refreshed. People make mistakes – hurtful things are said, our commitments to everyone’s full seat at the table get broken. And we need to make apologies, make things right, and keep learning. 

Inclusive communities are messy sometimes. The best things in life aren’t simple and neat. But they’re worth what it takes to find and keep. 

Visit Reservoir Church Today!

At Reservoir Church, we put Jesus at the center of everything we do, from our Sunday services to our various programs. We welcome everyone without exception; whatever your race, gender, sexual orientation or background. You will always have a place here.

If you’ve been looking for an inclusive and welcoming church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we would love to have you join us at a Sunday service. Click here to connect with us by subscribing to our email list or by exploring our service opportunities. 

What Is the Difference Between Contemporary vs. Traditional Churches?

Christianity today takes many different forms, from the ritualistic liturgical styles of Catholicism and Orthodoxy to the more freeform worship found in contemporary churches. With so much diversity, you have options when deciding what kind of church might be right for you.

Many churches blend tradition and contemporary elements, and at Reservoir Church you’d find this to be true. Many churches on each end of the spectrum usually share a few common characteristics.

What Is a Contemporary Church?

Essentially, a contemporary church’s mission is to create a space of worship that is open and accessible to everyone.

Most contemporary churches are:

  • Independent: Not part of a larger organizational structure
  • Nondenominational: Not affiliated with a larger network of churches within a specific faith tradition 

Instead, they focus on the core message of Jesus and Scripture. That’s why contemporary churches often describe their theology as “Jesus-centered” or “Christ-centered.” 

What Is a Traditional Church?

Tradition is defined as passing on beliefs, practices and customs to new generations. A traditional church usually has roots in an established faith tradition that has been passed down for centuries — this is why most traditional Protestant churches belong to specific denominations like Lutheranism or Episcopalianism.

Often, these churches place a high value on structures and rituals like baptism, Holy Communion and the traditional liturgical calendar. While many contemporary churches also practice these rituals and believe them to be important, they place less emphasis on them.

Traditional vs. Contemporary Church

Both traditional and modern churches have the aim of preparing their congregations to hear and respond to God, though the ways in which they accomplish this goal differ. Here are some of the most notable differences between traditional and contemporary churches.


For many, the music is one of the biggest differences between traditional and contemporary churches. A service in a traditional church usually involves singing along to hymns from the 18th to the early 20th centuries with the accompaniment of a choir, an organ or both. 

More contemporary churches will use newer worship music that resembles the cultural styles of the congregation (i.e., drums, guitars). It’s not uncommon to have a praise and worship band playing throughout the service, and there are often screens near the front of the church that display the lyrics so the congregation can follow along. 

On that note, you’ll almost always find people in traditional churches using physical Bibles or hymnals to follow along with the service. Many contemporary churches use digital versions to save paper, such as displaying the relevant passages from screens or providing the congregation with QR codes.


Appearance is one of the most easily noticeable differences between modern versus traditional churches. While you may find many contemporary churches holding services in traditional-looking buildings, and many traditional churches look pretty modern, there are some distinct stylistic differences between the two.

Newly constructed contemporary church buildings tend to have simple interiors with minimal decorations. While some are in buildings with experimental architectural styles, many hold services wherever they can find space — some examples include school gyms, theaters and hotels. Logistically, there is little possibility for permanence, which is why a minimalistic style is so practical.

Traditional churches tend to use older architectural styles. Inside, they’ll often have more elaborate decorations, like enormous stained glass windows and murals depicting the life of Jesus. Some contemporary churches are in traditional-looking buildings with modern additions, like TV screens in front of the congregation.

However, architecture tends to vary widely between churches, so it’s important to remember that every church is more than just the building. 


You may find members of a more traditional church tend to come to services dressed in their “Sunday best.” Ministers wear specific vestments, or robes, to show reverence to God and to reflect the sacredness of the service.

At a contemporary church, the atmosphere is usually a little more laid-back. People are welcome to come as they are, whether they’re in their best dress or their work uniform after a long shift. This reflects God’s undying love for all of us as our most authentic selves.


Another difference between contemporary and traditional churches is the approach they take to their community. 

Contemporary churches are often described as more “community-driven,” focusing sermons and programming around the immediate needs of their local communities or centered in issues of social justice or action-driven faith. You might hear sermons on how the Gospel relates to the political and social issues surrounding us today, and you might find that many different people have the chance to lead. 

Traditional churches are also very community-driven, just in a different way. They tend to emphasize the universal truths of our faith — God’s everlasting love, Jesus’s teachings and the importance of staying faithful even in our chaotic world. You’ll usually find a variety of ministries available to church members as well as community service opportunities.

Elements at the Core of Both Contemporary and Traditional Churches

Whether you attend a more traditional church or a contemporary one, there are some core elements one can engage with. Here are some ways you can participate more fully in the life of the church:

  • Community: Don’t go it alone. Do it with others in the community.  
  • Pray: Whether you belong to a traditional church or a more modern one, prayer is at the heart of every Christian’s life. During the service, take time to meditate on the teachings you hear and pray for guidance.
  • Scripture: Understanding the meaning of Scripture can be challenging, which is why we make room for unpacking essential concepts like religious history and translation differences. Taking some time to read in preparation can help you understand the passage’s messages on a deeper level and connect to our loving God one-on-one.
  • Spiritual practice: Church services are meant to teach you actionable spiritual practices you can take with you into every area of your life — in your work place, in the greater community and with the people you love.
  • Volunteer: Participating in the life of the church is a great way to practice the Christian tradition of loving your neighbor. Most churches offer opportunities for community service.

Our Mission at Reservoir Church

At Reservoir Church, we believe the teaching, practice and person of Jesus are vital for guiding us to the divine. We put Jesus at the center of everything we do, from our Sunday services to our children’s programming. 

We are inclusive, which means we welcome everyone without exception. Whatever your race, gender, sexual orientation or background, you have a place here.

We understand that everyone is in a different place on their faith journey, and we strive to create an emotionally, physically and spiritually safe space for people to meet God where they are. An honest exploration of faith is more important to us than conforming to any specific dogma or doctrine because we believe that the Holy Spirit will guide all to the truth.

Come Join Us in Worship!

If you’ve been looking for a welcoming church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we humbly invite you to join us at a Sunday service. We offer in-person and online services, and everyone is always welcome — no exceptions. Click here to connect with us by subscribing to our email list or by exploring our service opportunities.

Need a little more information before you come by? Our Frequently Asked Questions page can help you get a better feel for who we are and what we stand for. You can also watch a recording of a past sermon to get an idea of what to expect on Sunday morning.