This is part 2 of a series on Creating special moments. Let’s say we want a service that truly touches our teens. Creating special moments (and tomorrow we’ll go into more detail about what those are) in youth services requires planning. They don’t just happen. It means you have to carefully prepare the service both spiritually (prayer!) and practically. Three important things to focus on when preparing a youth service are your central message, the order of the service and your transitions.
Determine your central message
First, you need to think of a theme, a central message you want to communicate in the service. It needs to be something you can state in one sentence. For instance: ‘There’s no sin too big for God to forgive’. Now, sometimes this will come out of a message (sermon) that’s already prepared. I often worked the other way around and came up with a central idea first and then crafted the message (or asked whoever was speaking to stick to the theme). When you know your message, you can plan the rest of the service.
I often divide the central theme into two questions: what do I want people to know (heads) and what do I want them to do (heart). It’s great to know that no sin is so big it can’t be forgiven, but if people don’t actually confess their sins to God, it still doesn’t change anything. The challenge then, is to come up with something that makes them act, that propels them into actually doing something. That’s where that special moment often comes in. But it needs to be embedded in the whole service. So you have to carefully plan the whole service ahead.
Design service order to create flow
It’s crucial to design the order of the service such, that there’s a natural flow towards that special moment. This takes practice and careful examination of what happens to the atmosphere in a service. Slower worship songs may cause people to calm down, to prepare their hearts for the message. A silent prayer may bring peace to the room. You need to test ‘methods’ and see what works for your group.
Hopefully, you’ll have some sort of live music to lead worship. Be sure that this fits the central message. I’ve been in services where the theme was something like ‘depression’ and all the songs were happy songs about rejoicing in God. It made me cringe. Make sure your worship leader knows the message so he or she can find appropriate songs (and even styles).
One thing you should pay special attention to, are the transitions between each element of the service, from instance from worship to sermon or from sermon to drama. Especially the transitions around your ‘special moment’ are extremely important, for they can make or break the whole thing.
If done wrong, transitions can completely ‘break’ the carefully built atmosphere. Nancy Beach calls this a ‘violation of moment’. You can prevent this by planning your transitions, maybe even practice them. And don’t forget to communicate each transition to all involved, including what you want to accomplish at that point.
I had planned a (what I thought) good transition from my sermon into worship for a special service. The pianist would start playing when I started my last paragraph, then I would start to sing and the band would quickly join me. Great idea, right? Except we hadn’t practiced it and when the moment came, I had trouble finding the right key because the song turned out to be fairly ‘high’ for an alto like me. Lesson learned: practice.
And then it’s time for your special moment, that 5 minutes or so where you hope and pray hearts will be touched. After all the planning we do, we have to let go once the services starts. We have done our part, and now God will do the rest. We need to remember that He is sovereign and it’s all up to Him now. I’ve seen carefully prepared moments fall flat, but I’ve also seen meager executions from our part be transformed into powerful encounters with an almighty God. I will share some in the upcoming posts.
How do you prepare you youth services? Do you have any other tips?