I’ll admit it: Experiencing meaningful worship with a small youth group can be hard. Unless one of your teenagers is a future Chris Tomlin, the whole worship thing can feel awkward. So some youth workers just give up trying to incorporate a worship time into their regular group time and go back to playing Capture the Flag—throw in a few snacks and they call it a night. It’s hard to compete with the glitz and glamour of worship in a larger group.
So don’t compete. Be who you are. Take what you have and create your own worship feel. Just don’t give up. Jesus said to worship him—he never mentioned anything about a quorum. There are things a smaller group can do for worship that larger groups can’t. Let me throw these ideas at you:
• Create an intimate worship space.
In my small church we have a large sanctuary—10 kids are lost in that type of setting. So to set the mood for worship, find ways to make larger spaces small. Use portable partitions or furniture or even large pillows to enclose your group in a circle. Change the lighting by using candles. Focus kids’ attention by setting up an altar table with imagery that ties into the night’s message. Another tip: Don’t worship in the same place you play games.
• Use current music, even if you don’t sing.
Every summer when I serve at a Group Workcamp (groupworkcamps.com), I can always pick out the smaller groups when the singing begins: They don’t know the songs everyone else seems to know. Singing is often the first worship practice sacrificed in a small group. So grab a few good worship CDs, or Napster your own mix. Start your kids off slowly—try playing the worship CDs in the background. In a few weeks you can move to joining in on a CD.
• Create (and do) the service together.
If your group isn’t used to worship experiences and you suddenly introduce them, it will go badly. Avoid that pothole by bringing them in from the beginning—get buy-in. Find and assign readings together. Ask kids to pick music that fits the environment. Teach them to find Scriptures that fit your topic. Involve everyone—it’s one of the advantages you have. As you go, you’re quietly teaching them about worship.
Believe me, these tips come from the worship school of “what in the world was I thinking?” I’ll never forget how upset I got the first time I whipped out my cool guitar at a new church…and the kids wouldn’t sing. What a knucklehead! Give my tips a try; then email me and let me know how it goes: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stephanie has been working with children, youth, and adults for more than 27 years. She’s on Group’s presenter team, and she’s a frequent contributor to both group and Rev! Magazines. She lives in Florida.