Ideas for a Youth-Led Sunday Service

A congregation is clapping at church.
... IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

A youth-led Sunday church service allows teenagers to demonstrate leadership. Adult supervision in planning and executing these services is minimal, as students lay out the order of service, display their musical and artistic talents and serve the adults of the parish via preaching, teaching, greeting and managing tasks normally taken on by adults.

1 Choosing a Theme, Scripture and Message

Begin planning the service four to five weeks before the assigned date. Gather all your students and have an informal discussion during which they may share their personal faith experiences. As a leader, listen for recurring themes in the shared stories and draw the discussion back to those themes. Single out one or two ideas about which the students feel most passionate and use those ideas to begin organizing the order of service. Find passages from the Bible that address those themes, and have the students decide the one they wish to use as the thematic centerpiece of the service.

2 Gifts and Assignments

Based on the scriptural principle that everyone has a different but important role to play in the church, assign students to roles that make the best uses of their passions and talents. Find a reader to read the biblical passage from the pulpit. Have artists in the group meet and determine what kinds of art, if any, they wish to include in the service. This might include skits, music, interpretive dances or the showing of student-made videos. Ask adults with organizational and administrative gifts to oversee the various groups and ensure smooth planning and running of rehearsals in the weeks leading up to the service.

3 Preparations and Rehearsals

Meet up with the entire group two weeks and one week before the service to go over everyone's roles. During the second meeting, initiate a full rehearsal in which the team walks through the entire service from beginning to end. It's crucial adult leaders observe silently and refrain from intervening until after this rehearsal is over. This gives the teens confidence they can lead the service themselves without much adult interference. Once the rehearsal ends, meet up to encourage them and offer corrections and suggestions. On the day before the service, meet once more to have a final rehearsal. During this rehearsal, check sound and video equipment, use live microphones and mark off everyone's designated seats. Encourage students to bring their friends who don't normally attend church so they, too, may experience this unique event.

4 Executing the Service

At the beginning of the service, have the pastor or worship leader introduce the youth and explain to the congregation how and why this service departs from the traditional order of worship. Then have a few students lead the parishioners in two or three often-sung songs and a reading -- providing the young leaders with a sense of familiarity. This rhythm of songs and reading sets a flexible template for the rest of the service, which may be broken up periodically for skits and other artistic presentations and children's church. Position youth as greeters at the end of the service and assign students to roles outside the service, including taking roll call in Sunday school and leading specific classes.

Boze Herrington is a writer and blogger who lives in Kansas City, Mo. His work has been featured in Cracked and "The Atlantic."