In your career working with youth, inevitably someone (whether it is your Head of Staff or the Youth Committee or a well-meaning church matriarch) will suggest: “Hey, why don’t the youth lead a service?” I entitled my workshop at the upcoming ARW conference, “So You’ve Decided to Plan a Youth Sunday,” because such a thing isn’t for the faint of heart.
Before you retreat to the corner of your office and rock back and forth or make a youth-worker sized hole in the wall Kool-Aid Man style, take a deep breath. It’s all going to be ok.
Planning a Youth Sunday doesn’t have to be stressful. I’m going to offer you a few hacks to get your blood pressure back to normal. (For the full pro-tip/hack list, come to my workshop at ARW!)
Hack #1: Don’t try to write it all yourself. You are the facilitator, you are there to guide. So make sure you set your youth up for success. If you write it, it will sound like you wrote it. You want to make sure it sounds like the youth wrote it. And the youth can write it. I’ve done it for many years at different congregations -- it is possible. Your youth group doesn’t have to be full of theologians to write a great service, just give them a few resources and room to be creative. At my workshop, I’ll detail just how to facilitate the process and make it as smooth as possible.
Hack #2: Things won’t be perfect. We live in a messy world, and our liturgy will undoubtedly reflect that. Don’t worry if someone forgets a prayer or if the microphones go out or if that rogue five-year-old up front steals the show. You are there to show a different way to worship and to help the youth use their gifts to lead.
Hack #3: Keep your eyes and ears open. Be ready for the Holy Spirit to move as you plan and prepare. Oh, and come to ARW to learn more, meet fellow youth workers, and discuss new ideas with your colleagues.
Sarah Leer is Director of Youth and Their Families at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. Sarah is a graduate of Wake Forest University, Columbia Theological Seminary (where she earned a Master of Arts in Theological Studies and a Master of Theology), and the Clinton School of Public Service. She is currently working on her Doctorate in Educational Ministry at Columbia Seminary. Sarah enjoys singing Broadway songs in her car, geeking out over pop culture, hanging out with her family, traveling, watching college football, and attending youth conferences that include energizers.