We will continue looking at worship this week with an intriguing question…….
“How do you assist with creative worship aspects that involve youth?”
Chris Cherry is an ordained minister who received his Masters of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology. He enjoys foosball and skittles, but doesn’t particularly care for static electricity.
Note: Chris wrote these words during a time of transition but they are wise in all situations.
I’m not sure what the rules are here, but I’m going to choose to look at this question from two angles: worship opportunities designed specifically for youth and youth participating in church-wide worship.
One of the beautiful things about Worship is it doesn’t fit in a box. Worship is singing, praying, and preaching, yes, but worship is also fellowship, exploration, and being active. When we create worship opportunities for youth, our goal is to engage as many of the sense as possible. “What do the youth see and hear?” is a standard question. We also want real answers to, “What do they taste?” “What do they feel?” “What do they smell?”
When the senses are engaged in worship, it becomes a full body experience. It’s more than sitting or standing, and includes things like movement, art, getting messy, eating food, discussion, oils and incense, and much more. We’ve done everything from making our own clay bowls to writing our own songs to sitting in candlelight. Soon we even have plans to plant a tree during youth worship.
It’s also become important for us to remember to identify worshipful moments that happen outside of a traditional worship setting. When we’re all laughing around a table playing Apples to Apples, it’s important to point out we’re worshipping. When we finish a game of wiffleball on the beach, it’s important to point out we’re worshipping. When we get an adrenaline rush from a roller coaster, it’s important to point out we’re worshipping. Worship exists outside the box. So should we.
The more difficult thing, in my experience, is getting youth plugged into church-wide worship on a regular basis. When people have standard roles, there simply isn’t a lot of room in most services and some folks are resistant to the idea all together. My general approach is to do it anyway. Ask for forgiveness later, right? At our church, youth pray in the service several times a year. Our youth have written prayers, litanies, and verses of hymns together that were used in services. Our youth choir sings. Our youth band plays. Our youth interpretive movement ensemble performs. For a while, we had a youth play the trumpet during choral pieces. And, of course, we have Youth Sunday, College Sunday, and Graduate Recognition Sunday—all of which involve students and young people in aspects of worship.
One of the dreams I have for youth and worship is finding a way to empower them to take a leadership role in planning worship—both youth worship and church-wide worship. By adding their fingerprints to things behind the scenes, youth and their natural creativity will have an impact on everything the church does.
Youth are full members of our churches, too. We should act like it and let them participate, make suggestions, and grow with us. Adding youth voices to worship isn’t just for them, it’s for all of us.
Felicia Fox is the Associate Pastor of Students & Families at First Baptist Mount Olive. She is a graduate of the M. Christopher White School of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University. She enjoys helping young people see God in their everyday lives, painting, and playing with her three dogs.
Worship is an important part of each church. It serves as a time when the body of Christ can be together focused solely on God. For some churches it may be the only time all different ages are together. Therefore, it is important that all ages feel welcomed and are able to connect with and be part of the worship experience. As a youth minister there are a few things I can do to help the youth be creative in worship.
First, it is important that youth understand what worship is and is not. This learning often takes place away from worship. I love to use Soren Kierkegarrd’s idea of worship with my students. I find they connect with this idea of God being the audience. Invite the youth to engage this idea of worship in a creative way. They could create a piece of art, perform a skit, or write a song about the notion that God is the audience and we are all invited to take part in pleasing God in worship. Once youth begin to understand that worship is truly about God they can really start engaging in the worship service. Maybe they could even share the song, art, or skit they worked on during worship with the congregation. Many adults need to be reminded of this lesson. Let the youth be teachers.
Another way youth ministers can aid youth in creative worship is by knowing the talents of their youth. If you have youth in your group who take part in drama, dance, art, or music lessons invite them to use those gifts in worship. I’ve given a group of dance students a song that went with the theme for worship and invited them to choreography a dance to share. If you understand your students’ talents you can guide them to think of ways to share them in worship. Worship is about giving our all to God. Teaching our youth that includes their talents is a great lesson they need to hear.
Sometimes as youth ministers we can see things in our students they don’t yet recognize. Like a student who is great at writing or a student who has a gift to minister with children. Part of helping students grow and find their place in our churches is to help them discover these hidden talents. We can do this by asking them to help use these undiscovered gifts in worship. Invite a student who likes to write to write a litany for worship. The student who wants to be a teacher could lead children’s sermon one week. Sometimes giving a youth permission to plug into the normal worship elements your church already has established can help them share their creative natures without reinventing the worship wheel.
Being part of a community that worships together is important for youth. As congregation members they have a lot to offer to the community and God. Always be faithful in reminding the youth what worship is really about, encourage them to use their gifts, and then worship beside them.