It doesn’t take long to realize teenage drama is a huge part of youth ministry. Teens are hurting and that hurt can be caused by sins that they’ve been holding onto for way to long. As youth ministers we need to help them find that release. The question is, “How are you doing that?”
As a Catholic youth minister we promote the Sacrament of Reconciliation (the practice of private confession of sins to a priest and the receiving of absolution). While that might not apply to every denomination giving your students an experience where they can learn to and even release their sins is important. So, how does it work?
Create a Reconciliation Service. A basic plan for this service would include:
INTRODUCING THE IDEA
Whether you incorporate a Reconciliation Service into your regular worship time slot or create a separate event you want to make sure you walk people through the process. Spend the first couple of minutes explaining what’s going to occur. Explain to them some of the feeling and emotions they might experience. Let them know what to do if they need to step out for a minute.
No matter the plan make sure it’s clearly explained before you begin. It’s not because anything crazy will happen, the reason you need to layout the plan is because it’s something different and you want them fully engaged.
SETTING THE MOOD
Teens have a lot on their mind and that’s why you have to help them focus. To do that make sure you have the right environments. Do you want teens standing, sitting or kneeling? Try to provide a video or song about forgiveness that can help them thinking about the need to let go.
You’ll probably want to make sure your environments cut down any tension they might be feeling and eliminate any distractions. The more you put into your surroundings the better the experience for your teenagers.
TEACHING ABOUT IT’S POWER
Confession is more than just a feeling, it’s also understanding the why. The reason a lot of teenagers hold back from confessing their sins is because they want to why it should matter. During your service talk about it’s power through a testimony (Either your own or a peer) and point to scripture:
- 1 John 1:19
- Jame 5:16
- Proverbs 28:13
While you want to provide them with an experience you also need to give them the Truth that will help them to choose God’s forgiveness.
PROVIDING TANGIBLE EXPERIENCE OF LETTING GO
It’s one thing to think it, but to actually let go of your sins can be intense. A Reconciliation Service should not only provide the why but the how. Again, each denomination will practice this differently and that’s okay. In the service you want to make sure teens do something tangible. Two tangible steps I’ve found successful is through:
STEP 1: Writing it Down and Offering it Up
You can have the students write down their sins and then have them:
- Nail it to a cross.
- Place it in a bonfire/firepit.
- Shred them.
No matter how you choose to do an offering make sure it shows them that God takes the sins and wipes them away.
STEP 2: Accountability Partners
If your denomination promotes private confession invite some clergy to be a part of the experience and allow students time to confess their sins. If you don’t have those guidelines then partner them up with their peers or an adult volunteer who can pray with them and over them. Either way make sure they are getting in the habit of confessing their sins aloud. Promoting accountability is going to help them see the power of the church.
ENDING WITH A CELEBRATION
When sins are forgiven we should rejoice. We see this is the Parable of the Prodigal Son and we should share that with our students. At the end of the night celebrate with games, ice cream or whatever you would deem as fun. The point of confession is not to remind them of their guilt but to show them that the love of God sets them free.
If you want your students to learn how to love God and others than confession is an important part of that path. While that can be taught in a textbook or small group setting don’t be afraid to go big. Create a worship experience where they are learning the why and the how to hand their sins over to the one that can handle them all.
Have you ever planned a Reconciliation Service? If so what points or components do you try to hit?