Twice a year, the youth at my church plan worship for two of our three services. During the years that I’ve served here, I’ve found these services to be incredibly creative and spirit-led expressions of the youth’s faiths. The youth have planned everything from writing the prayers to preparing the Sunday Message. In April, all youth attending the National Youth Gathering are leading worship based on the Gathering theme of “We Believe.”
With that in mind, below is a timeline that I use for planning, in case you were thinking of doing something like this as well. I’ve also included our order of worship from our last youth led that took place this past November. Have any questions? Leave it in the comments and I’ll get back to you!
*Take more time than you think you need! It takes longer for youth to decide/create components and need the extra time. We usually start planning our events in Sunday School starting two months out.
*Pick a time to meet when most of your students are meeting. Whether this is after your midweek program or during Sunday School, you’ll have more commitment if you pick a time that doesn’t add to teenager’s already busy schedules.
*Teach about the components of worship. If your church is fairly traditional, like ours, students may appreciate understanding the parts of worship and why we use them. If they’re creating worship from scratch, provide samples of worship services at your church.
*Involve your pastor. Ask him to provide input throughout the process.
*If your youth are leading the music, pick it early and practice even earlier.
*Have a worship practice the day before or week of the service so youth can practice using mikes, leading children’s message etc.
*Use resources. Some of my favorites: The Book of Uncommon Prayer I and II. The Humongous Book of Children’s Messages.
*Ask Questions: To get youth thinking about the service, I ask the following questions: If we could do anything we wanted for youth led worship, what would it be? If we were starting from scratch, what parts of the worship would you keep? Get rid of? What message do you want to tell? What message(s) do you think the congregation needs to hear? What is our biggest challenge with youth led worship? In our group? In our congregation? What are our biggest gifts in our group? What things do we need to do to keep our message clear? I don’t understand why we do the following things in worship…
Two Months Out: Pick Scripture and overall theme for worship. We start with the lectionary reading first for that particular Sunday. After that, we talk about other theme suggestions. Once Scripture and theme is picked, write objectives with youth so that they have a clear idea of the message they want to get across to the congregation. (Two weeks).
Six Weeks Out: Pick Music and begin writing skit/video: In the past, I’ve burned cds of music that fits the theme and had the students listen to them and come back the next week with their top choices. Begin practicing music.
Four Weeks Out: Lay out order of worship: Students have some creative ideas about worship and how to lead the different parts. In the past two youth led worships, our order of worship has been very different than the traditional, but it has still been liturgical. You may also want to assign groups of teens to use planning time to write the different components. Our youth write the children’s message, prayers, responsive readings, confession, so we take about 3 weeks to write everything, share with the group and edit. We also will assign youth to various parts of the worship. (3 weeks)
One Week Out: Practice! If you are using slides or a special bulletin, make sure those are done and proofread. Schedule a practice with the teens.
Download our order of worship here.