In youth ministry, we only have the attention of our teens for a short time each youth service or youth night. So we have to make that hour count. I don’t know about you, but my goal is not to just entertain them. I want to reach them, touch them, change them, all within one hour. Or, more correctly: I want to do everything I can so God can reach them, touch them, and change them in that hour. Every time we have a youth service, I want them to leave transformed. How do we do that? By creating special moments.
Too many kids still find church boring, even youth services. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. Services should be meaningful, special, an hour of meeting God and being changed in His presence. And while we may not be able to realize that every singe service, we can sure try. By creating special moments.
Nancy Beach in her book An Hour on Sunday calls them transcendent moments. It’s those moments in which we meet God, when our soul is quieted, when our hearts are engaged and not just our heads. It’s those moments when we are moved, when God is at work in us. It’s those special moments that cause us to leave church a changed person.
The biggest challenge in my opinion, is to come up with something creative that touches, that leads people to that special moment. Often, it has something to do with arts. It may be a drama piece that completely fits the message and that touches people. It may be a solo of a piece of music that sums it all up. Think of short movie fragments or a special made video, even a Powerpoint presentation can work. It may be a moment of quiet, the lighting of a candle. I’ll give some examples that have worked for my youth group in the past in another post.
How to find something? Think of your central message for the service, what do you want people to do? What should they remember, feel or know? Then come up with something to lead them there.
I’m definitely not the most creative person on this planet, so in coming up with these special moments, I’ve always had a lot of help. I’ve worked with a girl in my team who was a constant source of great, out-of-the-box ideas. She came up with the most crazy stuff and not all of it was usable (as is often the case with the really creative types) but her ideas have fueled some really special services.
Of course, brainstorming techniques can be quite effective as well to come up with ideas, both individually and as a group. I have also used the internet a lot, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use something someone else has developed and tested (unless there’s copyright involved of course). Don’t forget the specially made things you can buy. I’ve bought drama pieces for instance and they were excellent, better than anything we could have come up with. I also get ideas from youth ministry sites, magazines, and such. You don’t always have to copy and paste literally, but it might inspire your adaption of an idea.
When you have come up with a special moment that you and your team are passionate about and that first the central theme of the service, be sure to look at it from all sides. Are you sure no one will be offended? Is there anything in it that may be misinterpreted, that is controversial? That doesn’t mean you can’t use it, but you should make the conscious decision to use it anyway if you feel that’s the best way. Especially with song lyrics and movie fragments, you have to be extremely careful. Ask an ‘outsider’ for a second opinion if you have any doubts and be sure to check it with your pastor if there’s any controversy.
One last remark: be sure to offer freedom in whatever you’re doing. People shouldn’t feel forced to participate. I’ve been in a service once where the preacher wanted everyone to stand and repeat a certain prayer after him. I felt forced and it made me angry. Choosing to obey God should be exactly that, a choice. Don’t make people feel forced or obligated to take action and make sure they don’t feel guilty for not participating either. Especially with teenagers, you have to be careful with peer pressure.
What is the most ‘special moment’ you have ever experienced in a service? What made it work?