Ask Rooted: How Do You Incorporate Teenagers Into Corporate Worship?

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Intergenerational Integration is one of Rooted’s five pillars of youth ministry. We believe strongly that students are part of the Church—but sometimes including them in the life of our local churches is easier said than done. Here are some ideas from Rooted writers about how to get students involved in your churchs worship.

Kristen Hatton, Author, pastors wife, mom of teenagers, in Edmond, OK:

In our church, intergenerational worship is the norm. But one way we strive to make sure teenagers are integral to the body is by including them on various worship teams. Frequently we have teenagers using their gifts by singing or playing an instrument as well as teenagers assigned as Scripture readers. We also utilize teenagers to help prepare the Communion table, serve as greeters, and collect the offering plates. In all of this they are learning that everyone has a part to play in building up and serving the body. And they are just as important as adults.

Skyler Flowers, Student Ministry Director at Orlando Grace Church in Orlando, FL:

One of the key first steps in including students in the corporate worship of the church is by recognizing that they are, indeed, a part of the church. This can be as small and simple as praying corporately for the students, the student ministry, and the activities they do, like service opportunities, retreats, and camps. Our pastor intentionally reaches out to me and considers the implications the sermon text has for students. We also ensure that our student ministry shares the same vision as the rest of the church, helping students grow in Christ so that they may be sent out to bless our city. In these simple acts, the church is recognizing that students are in the room and that the gospel speaks to their complex spiritual and personal lives.

Clark Fobes, Worship Pastor at Sunset Church in San Francisco, CA:

We started incorporating our teenagers into our corporate worship about 5 years ago. There was a lot of resistance as Youth Sunday Worship was the norm; parents didnt want their kids to get “shortchanged;” students didnt want to sit in the boring “adult service.” Making the transition was difficult, but the payoffs far outweighed the obstacles — not only for the students, but also for the rest of our church. Since then, weve made a conscious effort to involve ours teenagers in our corporate worship in every way possible. We have students who play with our worship teams. We have students who run our projection and camera. We have students who read Scripture from the platform. Our lead pastor tries to make at least one direct application to students in each sermon. Not only are students there to learn what it looks like to worship Jesus beyond high school, theyre also there to remind us what following Jesus with a childlike and passionate faith should look like. Having our teens in worship has been as much an encouragement to me and my own response to the gospel as it has been for them and their longevity in walking with Jesus.

Mike McGarry, Youth Pastor at South Shore Baptist Church in Hingham, MA:

Everyone in the church believes their ministry is the most important ministry in the church—thats why they serve there! I think its important to look for ways to break down those ministry silos that are so easily constructed. Instead of always needing everything to be “youth” focused, look for ministries to enfold students into – prayer nights, fellowship events, mens/womens retreats, etc. Try to break down those barriers that divide the generations by reaching across the aisle to other ministry leaders and showing them youre all on the same team. This might mean you have more work to do (“Could you organize some youth to babysit/rake leaves/hand out bulletins?”), but its worth it because youre putting students and the adults in the church together and fostering connections that wouldnt otherwise exist. It wont happen on its own… you are the advocate for intergenerational ministry if its going to be a priority in your church. Look for an “easy win” and start there… who knows where it might lead?

Rebecca Lankford, Youth Minister at Church of the Advent in Birmingham, AL

In our church, youth are encouraged to attend worship with their families as early as first grade. We wanted them to begin to see faithful adults in worship as early as possible, as well as begin to learn some of the prayers that are common in our liturgy. In our youth group, however, one of my favorite ways we incorporate intergenerational integration is inviting students to help with childrens Sunday School. This not only gives them a sense of ownership and participation in serving the body, it also allows them to integrate with younger generations (the children) as well as older (the adult teachers). We have found that our students who serve this way are some of our most faithful and consistent youth group members throughout their high school years.

Chelsea Kingston Erickson, Pastor of Youth and Families at First Congregational Church in Hamilton, MA:

One of the things we’ve done to integrate the generations of our church is intentionally recognizing rites of passage for children and teenagers. Our children’s workers have always done a fantastic job affirming the different steps of faith kids take as they grow—like presenting them with Bibles when they begin to read and again when they transition from fifth grade into our youth ministry—but we realized much of this was hidden from the view of the church as a whole! So we established a Milestones initiative that brings these rites of passage to the platform on Sunday mornings (for example, we commission our graduating seniors, publishing a bio of each student with prayer requests for the coming year). In this way, we’ve invited our whole congregation to take an interest in the spiritual development of our students by praying for them and encouraging them to increasingly use their gifts. The church benefits from the gospel witness of children and teenagers as they begin to profess faith in Christ.

Check out these other Rooted Resources on Intergenerational Integration:

The Value of Intergenerational Relationships in the Church by Katie Polski

Church Planting and Youth Ministry: Three Steps to Help Teenagers Serve Your Church by Davis Lacey

Integrated! Getting Students into the Life of the Church by Dave Wright (2016 Conference Workshop)

Rooted Podcast: The Importance of Celebrating Milestones and Rites of Passage for Teens by Chelsea Kingston Erickson

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