I took the above picture the other week during our third worship hour, one typically that sees so few teens I can generally count them on one hand. The picture isn’t all the teens in the room; there were actually many more – I was struck that four of them are filming/photographing Thomas while he shared with the congregation about his experiences in Nicaragua.
Here’s the thing, youth ministry is a great investment in a teen’s present faith. But getting them into the corporate worship service is a massive investment in their spiritual future. But the challenge is in getting them there. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but there are a couple things that I think are vital to bringing teens in:
One is using language throughout the worship hour that includes them. Too often the language is from up front communicates that the intended audience is adults. Referencing application to school, sports and friends, in addition to work, home, community, is one way to change the language. Finding illustrations young people can identify with is important as well.
But the biggest way to get teens into a worship service? Get them on stage. Reading scripture, sharing a testimony, doing a solo, participating in worship, doing a drama. Whatever it is, get them on stage. Because once a kid is on stage, their friends come to see them. Drawing one kid up front lands five to ten teens in the pews. Getting a group of teens up front? The other month when students led worship, I was shocked at the turnout of teens in all three services, but particularly the traditional hour – there were 30 or so in the room when normally there are only a few. On our missions report Sunday? We had two different teens each of our three hours, and a room full of teen all three hours. Some of them sat through multiple worship services to support their different friends, and I learned of at least one teen who left her family at the beach to support her friend!
It’s a big deal to be in front of large groups of people, and adolescents are excited when they or their friends are invited to do so. Getting a teen up front isn’t just connecting that young person (and their family – it’s a huge win for parents when their child is allowed to shine in front of the church), it connects their entire circle of influence. I firmly believe that a church that has a habit of involving young people in the worship service in different capacities is a church that sends a loud message to adolescents that they are very much a valued and desired part of the church.