Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although Youth Sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.
May is filled with lots of celebrations: Mother’s Day, grade-level Graduations, and senior celebrations. Many churches have Youth Sundays on those days. Which got me thinking, how do you do Youth Sunday during a pandemic?
The most important thing is to plan ahead. If you have been helping with online/digital worship at your church, then you know it takes more time than doing it in person. You will not be able to practice on Saturday and then have kids work out the kinks between Saturday and Sunday morning. You will need to record things in advance and be able to get them to your IT team (which I know is now many of you) so that everything runs smoothly during the digital service.
As you think about engaging youth in the elements of worship, remember that good is good enough. Even the best Youth Sunday sermons are just good compared to a great preacher. Youth’s solos are often only good when compared to the best singer in the choir. Youth often read the scripture too fast. None of that matters because the point of youth being involved in worship is that they are involved in worship. God is honored through their leadership which makes their good plenty good enough. Youth also receive grace from the congregation, who is thrilled to see them in leadership. Help them do their best, but don’t stress because good is good enough.
Creativity is welcome on Youth Sunday. One year, our youth fake kidnapped our pastor and we showed a video at the beginning of the service saying youth were taking over. Another time, we interviewed a homeless member of the community, who many of us passed on the way to church. The youth asked about what it felt like to be passed by on the other side. Youth Sunday gives space to try something new. Don’t let the pandemic stop you. What ideas do they have about how to enhance digital worship? Try them out.
Video makes so many things possible. Most of the suggestions below involve using video to capture youth leading various elements of the worship service in advance. What can’t you do this way? If you have figured out how to switch between live and recorded video during your service you will be good to go. If not, check out this article to see how.
You can gather video while still following social distancing guidelines. Always get permission from parents and follow child protection policies. You can have youth meet you somewhere including outside in an open space where you can spread out or in the church building to shoot the video. You can have them shoot the video themselves. Families can help each other and all be involved together. Be safe and keep them safe, but you can find ways to do all these things. Make sure you provide them with helpful tips, like: film in a place with good lighting and no audible or visual distractions. Leave a little bit of room at the start and end of the recording in case you have someone editing the recordings and piecing them together who needs extra space that for transitions. If they record with their phones, make sure they know how to hold the phone for recording and capturing the right angles.
Let them do it. Going with the good is good enough. Let them record it themselves. Let them put the Powerpoint or Keynote presentation together (my 4th grader does this for school). Trust that the Holy Spirit can use their offering to inspire worship in others.
Please add comments with your own ideas but, here are some ideas for how youth might enhance any service or a digital Youth Sunday specifically:
Call to Worship, Affirmation of Faith, Scripture Reading:
- Put together a video of multiple youth reading individual lines
- Record a Zoom screen of multiple people saying the people parts
- Film or have youth film at locations that represent the reading
- Film in a meaningful location (what if the affirmation of faith was filmed in a graveyard and you recognize that you’re affirming your faith with the saints or have youth film in front of their school – the place where they live out their own faith, during non-pandemic times of course!)
- Children or Youth create art in a slideshow that could serve as the background or as a worship element themselves:
- Instead of just reading the affirmation, show artwork of the students after each phrase.
- Example: I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Followed by artwork that represents that phrase.
- Have a family share in the reading and record it
When thinking about using youth’s musical gifts to enliven worship, remember that you don’t have to piece together one of those viral videos of multiple parts being played in multiple locations. Youth can lead music live on the worship service just as well as adults. They can also record themselves at home playing and singing a solo or maybe playing the piano for the offertory.
One of my favorite online worship moments so far has been a guided prayer on Zoom where folks were using the comment feature to post their concerns. The comments became a beautiful representation of the prayers of the people. I’m not sure if your technology will allow for it, but you might think about how you can incorporate an interactive prayer
Sermon or Testimony:
Again, youth can lead this live just like they would on a Youth Sunday or you can record them in advance. Speaking in front of an empty room to a camera is challenging as you know, so set them up for success. If they are going to do it live, have them come practice like you would for a normal Youth Sunday.
What can’t you do? Nothing. Just like any Youth Sunday these things take time and planning, but you can still accomplish these essential youth ministry goals:
- Empowering young people
- Ensuring youth are seen as vital to the church
- Allowing youth to use their gifts for the glory of God, and
- Reminding the congregation of what it feels like to be growing in your faith.
To see an example of online Youth Sunday done during this Pandemic, check this one out from the Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville where Meggie Anderson, a CYMT alum, is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. What a great example of youth in leadership using their gifts!
If you don’t have a Youth Sunday coming up, then volunteer to implement one of these ideas during this unusual time of digital worship. People will love it. Your pastor will appreciate it. And maybe when we can go back to worship, they will continue to allow youth to be an integral part of worship leadership in the congregation.
Please add your ideas below and post links to your youth in action. May God be glorified!
How do we continue to care for the spiritual well-being of students in the time of crisis and pandemic?
This is a great resource to use with your students in either a Bible Study or Small Group discussion type format. We’ve created a 6 week devotional series of Ephesians specifically to be used in the home. It’s written to be used online as a group. However, we know that many have students with limited technology options, so we’ve made the lessons editable, and you can easily adapt them to meet your students’ needs. Continue Reading and Download the 6 Week Series Here.