|A Typical English Family|
It might be a British thing, or it might just be a Christian thing. It might even just be a British Christian thing, and possibly even a Christian British thing, but a thing it is and I intend fully to speak about it now.
Liturgies, Services, Acts of Worship, Praise Sessions - or whatever label you may wish to apply, have different stylings and those stylings tell the trained observer a great deal about what to expect.
They are also a euphemism.
A High Mass will be one of sacrament, music, vestments and choreographed ceremonial. Mattins is a non-sacramental service of hymns, readings and prayers, as distinct from Morning Prayer that is more rooted in reading and prayer (with the odd spoken song [canticle] interspersed). Evensong is likely to be in language older than your grandmother, a little singing and hymn-based mirth. Compline is not a slimming product but one of the Hours (that array of liturgies that those in the religious life did or still do throughout the day and night), typically observed in the late evening - a short and gentle act of worship rooted in Psalmody and Responsory. Get the idea? If you know the name, you know what to expect.
Then you get the Family Service. We who provide such things want them to be regarded as accessible, family friendly (read 'not boring to kids') that is perhaps a little shorter than the normal offering. We would want you be know that the music might be a little less 'specialist' (which is to say short, punchy and not according to the four-part harmony structure so loved by church choirs). With any luck, that is the message received bu the passer-by, the seeker, the enquirer. It is a liturgical styling not without its issues, however.
If the Family Service is for the young, the un-initiated perhaps, then the Sung Eucharist must surely deserve the title 'The Grown Up Child-free Specialist Not for Beginners Service for those Who Pay Their Subs and Are on The Electoral Roll Service'. No, of course not. To my mind, every act of worship in the church's life deserves the title 'Family Service'. We are, after all, family in Christ. This is partly the reason why in many churches (though not where I have worked or worshipped, gladly), on the other Sundays when there isn't a Family Service, children are little higher that vermin - a noise curse to be chased out of the building. No dear, you belong at the Family Service. This is partly the reason why in many churches (though not where I have worked or worshipped, gladly) the "main service" is a specialist affair where strangers fear to tread, or if they do they are gathered up, hidden in a darkened room and converted to within an inch of their lives (before they get a chance to escape). 'Family Services' have become Eucharist-Lite, theologically and qualitatively, or they have become Praise Service Dumbed Down, musically and spiritually. They are shorter in duration, because only true proper Christians can cope with a full-length service, surely.
The thing is, children are pure theologians. As early-speaking toddlers they are wrestling with the deepest truths of life and existence. As young school-age kids they are working out what life is in the context of death. They grasp the facts and the meaning of Good Friday all the while us adults euphemise and fret. They, like us all, want to be enlivened, not patronized and condescended to. Half of me wants to ban Family Services as a curse to all liturgy. The other half wants to ban all other liturgy and work on getting Family Services right for all people.