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youth-led worship
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Youth-led Worship Service: Celebrating Pentecost

by Steve Case
What better way to celebrate the birth of the church than with a youth-led worship experience? This isn’t a long service—you won’t want to build an evening around it. The purpose is to capture the spirit of Pentecost (literally), and it can be incorporated into a regular morning worship service. It also makes a nice sunrise event if you’re willing to try it.

This service can be planned for your sanctuary, but you may get a few complaints from your custodian or property committee. Consider holding it in your fellowship hall after a potluck lunch on Pentecost Sunday, or as part of your church’s regular worship service.

What You’ll Need:
You’ll need time and many helping hands to prepare for this service. Even though it’s short, it packs a big impact.
• Supplies to make “flames”—You’ll need to make a hand-held “flame-fan” for each participant in the service. Use tongue depressors with red and orange construction-paper flames glued to them (see the example below).
• Create your own bubble soap—Here’s a recipe for the world’s greatest bubble solution (make it at least 24 hours in advance to give it time to “gel”): Gently mix together one gallon of water with two cups of Ultra Dawn dish soap and three tablespoons of glycerin. You’ll need to pour the bubbly mixture into four large containers—one at the front and back of your worship location and one for each side.
• Bubble hoops—You’ll need “hoop” type objects; the larger the better. You could create them by running about three feet of kite string thorough two drinking straws. Tie the ends of the string and hold the straws on either side of the loop. Dip this into your bubble solution and carefully spread the straws. Now, using your whole body, gently “throw” a bubble—you should be able to get bubbles about two or three feet wide. You and your group will want to practice this before the service.
• Leaf blowers—If you think you can get away with it, borrow a couple of leaf blowers from congregation members.

Music Suggestions:
The song “Two Step” from the Dave Matthews Band album Crash works great for the “flames and bubbles” portion of the service. If you don’t like that choice, try:
• Anything from Lost and Found’s album Speedwood Hymns—it has all your favorite church hymns played at a speed guaranteed to short out any pacemaker you have in the congregation.
• “Here Is Our King” from the David Crowder Band’s A Collision album.
• “Sweet in the Mornin’ “ from Bobby McFerrin’s album Medicine Music.
The Service:
Have your kids pass out a stick-and-construction-paper “flame-fan” to each person attending the service as they walk in. Keep the bubble solution and hoops hidden on tables at the back and front and on both sides of the worship area.
To open the service, ask a teenager to pray something like this: Father God, so much has happened. We can’t begin to put it all into words. We feel like we’re standing with our game pieces on the “Go” space. We’re waiting for someone to spin the spinner or roll the dice. We’re ready for it all to start. The anticipation is killing us. We’re your servants, God. We’ve promised to do what you want us to do. Now give us the capacity to be patient as we wait for you to tell us what to do next. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Ask two student volunteers to read aloud the following versions of Psalm 98 and Psalm 149, one after the other.
Say: Psalm 98. I’m on the stage. My guitar is plugged in. The speakers are just the beginning. I am plugged into the world. The oceans. The mountains. The creatures that fly. Walk. Swim. Crawl. I am plugged in. Feel the hum? The planet vibrates. I’m going to hit a chord that the universe itself will hear. A blast that will shatter the rings of Saturn. I’m ready. When God says, “Now,” I will play. Amen.

Say: Psalm 149. Gather the musicians together. This is going to be loud. Get the Cleveland Symphony. Get the high school marching band. Get the children’s choir. Get Bono and U2. And dancers; don’t forget dancers. We’re going to play a new song. All of us. Everyone. This song is written for God. Not for the pop charts.
Not for ticket sales. No critics allowed. No reviewers. This isn’t for them. Their words will be turned against them. This is for God. The creator. The almighty. Hallelujah!

Then have a teenager say something like: When Jesus went to the cross he told his disciples to gather together and wait for him. We don’t wait very well in our culture. (At this point pull a couple of volunteers from your congregation and ask them to demonstrate how to wait.) We get  upset if our computers take 45 seconds to
boot up instead of 15. We’re perturbed when there’s a delay in bringing our food to the table in a restaurant. We’re steamed when we’re forced to listen to music while we’re on hold. We don’t wait very well. Jesus told his disciples to wait. He didn’t tell them what for; he just said “wait.” They knew something wonderful was going to happen, so they waited. So let us do that now. Let’s wait.

Have a teenager read aloud Acts 2:1-2.

Afterward, let the whole room sit in silence. If you’re brave, wait for three minutes—otherwise, 60 seconds is plenty. Then start your selected music low and bring it up to a volume that makes the windows rattle. Have your teenagers stationed on the sides, back, and front of your worship area start making giant-size bubbles—floating them over the congregation. Have a teenager quickly tell the congregation that they should try to keep the bubbles in the air with their flame-fans. You’ll need lots and lots of bubbles. Get as many kids as possible making them and blowing them into the air above the congregation.

As this is happening, have another teenager read aloud Acts 2:3-13, speaking at a high volume so he or she can be heard over the music.

Then, once the air is full of bubbles and the song is getting close to the end, pull out the leaf blowers and have kids blow the bubbles from different sides of your worship area. As the music starts to fade, turn off the leaf blowers and tell your kids to stop blowing bubbles.

Have another teenager read aloud Acts 2:14-24.

Pause for a moment of quiet; then have a teenager close the service by praying something like this: God, we feel your presence. Show us how to maintain the connection we feel with you right now and carry it screaming into a world that is bored stiff by life. Give us the strength and determination to keep it going. Help us to run with it, to run with you. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Steve Case is a longtime youth minister and a contributing editor for group. He authored God Is Here: Connecting With Him in Everyday Life (Relevant Books). He lives in Florida.

This worship experience was originally published in Group Magazine.

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Youth-led Worship Service: Celebratin...

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