Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Youth Sunday(s)

Before I was a member there, my home church used to do an annual Youth Sunday - a Sunday in which the music, leadership, readings, sermon, greeting and ushering were all taken over by the high school students. It was the one Sunday a year that many of these roles would be filled by a teenager. When the congregation called a youth pastor, one of the first things he did was put an end to this tradition. For the next few years, whenever anyone asked him why such a drastic change was made, he would say, "The youth should feel free to participate as leaders all year long. Every Sunday should be Youth Sunday."

As I've reflected on this liturgical anecdote over the last few years, I've consistently agreed with Pastor Aaron's intentions. It is possible that when we focus all that the youth have to offer into a single Sunday, we may feel like that's the best (if not only) time for them to participate as leaders in worship. On the contrary, every Sunday the leadership of the worship service - from greeters to musicians to assisting ministers - should reflect the diversity of the congregation. I've held strong to the idea that all chancel guild members do not have to be women, all ushers do not have to be men, and all acolytes do not need to be confirmation students.

But, as it is wont to do, my internship experience is once again challenging my theoretical ideals. This past Sunday was, in fact, Youth Sunday at Good Shepherd. There was a jazz band comprised of high school brass players, a young women's chorus, a string quartet, an Old Testament reading arranged for three lectors, and a chancel drama (written by yours truly) for the sermon. All of this was done by the High School students. They also acted as greeters, worship leaders, organists, communion assistants, and ushers. In all, there were 55 high school youth actively participating in the service. It was one of the most moving worship services I've seen at Good Shepherd, simply due to the massive amount of dedication and sincere desire to be a part of the liturgy from all those teenage children of God. And, it was an amazing expression of faith for the adults of the congregation, who were able to witness God's love through the special leadership on Sunday.

I'm still against the idea that youth can only participate in certain aspects of worship on one chosen Sunday a year; however, I learned this week that a marker-Sunday - to show how one section of the population is vital to the congregation's life - can be a positive means to create more diverse leadership on the other 51 Sundays. The string quartet is already planning their next chance to lead the congregational music, and the brass group will probably return soon, too.

So, now I'm thinking we need to have a Grandmother's Sunday next. Who knows what talents the Holy Spirit will shine her light on in that vital portion of the church's population?

1 comment:

  1. I agree on both assertions. Youth should absolutely be involved regularly and consistently in worship leadership - not only as an inclusion piece but as a culture within the church where all are asked to contribute their gifts. We have youth sunday this coming weekend, and I also concur with your conclusion - a "set apart" day gives them also a chance to try on some other roles and grow in their understanding of worship than might normally be on anyone's radar. My conclusion is this - regular participation as part of the community, set apart participation as leadership development. And hey, skits sometimes drive the gospel home in great ways too. Thanks for the reflection, and blessings on your ministry. Pastor Geoff T. Sinbaldo, St. Michael's Lutheran Church, New Canaan, CT.