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    United Methodists of Upper New YorkLiving the Gospel. Being God's Love.

    news article

    Youth speak truth

    June 1, 2022 / By Kitty Dates

    Editor's Note: This article was originally published in teh 2022 Issue I of the Advocate, which focused  on children and youth. Click here to access the Advocate. 

    Sometimes, congregations showing up to worship in the local church have a magical idea of how it all happens. There is a whole process of planning, learning, researching, and praying that goes into the preparation of every worship service. Generally, this task falls to the pastor, and sometimes if a pastor is lucky, a highly involved Worship Committee or talented musician. Usually, congregations don’t know how worship planning happens, and they are happy to show up and receive a bulletin and follow along.

    The youth group at Red Creek Westbury United Methodist Church (RCW) has been leading worship once a month for the past year and has gained more than a glimpse behind the veil of what happens in the worship planning process. It started as an idea from Pastor Ann Brown and became an iteration of what was normally the Sunday school time - worship planning once a month.

    The youth gather around the scripture, read it with one another, and discuss it. What could these words mean? Is there a theme from these scriptures? How would we lead the congregation in worship and song and preaching with these scriptures? It is more than a Bible study - it is the engagement of meaning within the Bible and making theological decisions about how to present that information worshipfully to the congregation.

    Questions arise about the order of worship–Should we have a call to worship for this service? Should it be call and response? Or song? The youth engage topics about how best to present the scriptures. One reader? Or two? Or a drama? And of course, in good worship the music will thematically and theologically support the scripture and preaching. What hymns should we choose? How does one even use a hymnal? How are the songs arranged in it?

    The learning process in piecing together a worship service is difficult to overstate. It takes deep spiritual questioning of the scripture and surrender to the movement of the Holy Spirit. And of course, it takes courage. More than one worship planning process with the youth has ended up with them asking the question - “How would our congregation respond to this scripture? Will they be ok with us presenting it this way? Will they be angry if we preach about this?”

    The youth at Red Creek Westbury are involved in all of this. As Danielle Doll (Co- Christian Ed. Leader with Kitty Dates) says, “Our youth are an integral part of the church. They are musically involved, have the energy and enthusiasm to serve and organize fellowship events, as well as creatively lead our worship services. It’s important for them to be involved with their own worship experiences and it gives them practice speaking to and leading others. It is a blessing all around.”

    The youth at RCW are ages 8 to 17 years and they always bring their gifts and their life experiences with God to the worship service. When asked about their experience leading worship they said the following:

    • “I like the music part and making the songs fit with the message.”
    • “I like that our church lets the kids speak.”
    • “It’s easier to talk in front of others in school because I’ve had practice in church.”
    • “Acting and puppet shows were the most fun.”
    • “I like the music part and making the songs fit with the message.”
    • “Sometimes planning was brain racking, but when we came together, it came together.”
    • “This made Sunday School classes more interesting.”
    • “With God: Youth speak Truth.”

    If any church is having trouble with knowing how to engage young people, they will find the process of assigning one Sunday (once a month or quarterly) to the youth of the congregation a journey. And it will increase their engagement. If you are ready to hand something over to them for their responsibility, you will be amazed at the creativity and the candor with which young people come to the scriptures, and the ways that they are ready to engage with the church if someone is willing to step out of the way and give them the autonomy.

    Give it a go – we at Red Creek Westbury United Methodist Church are glad that Pastor Ann encouraged our youth to step out with God!

    TAGGED / Advocate

    With more than 100,000 members, United Methodists of Upper New York comprises of more than 675 local churches and New Faith Communities in 12 districts, covering 48,000 square miles in 49 of the 62 counties in New York state. Our vision is to “live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God’s love with our neighbors in all places."