When we want to involve youth in worship, here’s what we usually do: First we finish the plan. Then we find places to plug in students. It could be with different music, or readings, or a short skit. Each church may have other elements that plug into the formula when students will contribute. Some churches let students take a part in all aspects of the service for occasional Sunday mornings. It’s great that students are involved. Is there another way to involve youth in worship services that is more than simply plugging them into the usual?
What if we engaged students as we are planning and creating our services? Consider these ideas:
- Planning together is discipleship. By having other voices, and especially youth voices, in the room when we are planning worship we have the opportunity to teach what worship is all about. Why do we always do things in this order? What is the greater journey and narrative we experience in worship? Involving students in the planning process will enrich their faith and experience of worship (and regular worship planners may find that they are reinvigorated too).
- Bringing a fresh set of eyes. . Once the groundwork is complete, then the rich conversation can begin with our young people., How do we bring the Word of God to life? What if we incorporated other elements of worship? If we let them, students will bring energy and creativity that engages everyone in our worship services.
- Being a part of the process. We rob students of the opportunity to take ownership of their own faith if all we are doing is plugging them into what we plan for adults. If our youth understand what is happening and take part in designing our experience together, they will participate more fully and passionately.Their parents and the rest of the worshiping community will also be more engaged when they know that students are involved.
- Taking risks. Certain liturgical elements in our churches have become unchangeable. Students might just mess all of that up. That’s ok. Congregations are much more forgiving of students than of pastors. If youth are involved, almost everyone in our churches is willing to try new things or do things differently. Say, “Let’s try it!” with enthusiasm when we plan worship with youth.
What would happen is our congregations if we took the above steps? How would that change our young people’s experiences? How would it change our congregations? Whether we have 50, 12 or 3 students in our congregation, we need them to be engaged for their numbers to grow.