Why I Love/Hate Youth Sunday

I'm the Youth Director and I have a love/hate relationship with Youth Sunday. Do I have your attention? Every year our youth have the task of taking over all three worship services for one Sunday in the fall. This past Sunday, October 16 was the 2016 Youth Sunday. We had over 50 students participating leading the services last Sunday, doing every piece of the service from the Welcome & Announcements, the Pastoral Prayer, Special Music, Offertory, the Message, the Benediction and more. I know I'm biased but they did a great job. If you missed any of the services you can check out a replay of them on Facebook.

Watch the 8:30 service
Watch the 9:00 service
Watch the 11:00 service

We have gotten dozens of compliments about how well the youth did and how good the services were, and I've encouraged congregation members to share their praise with the students. So, if the students did a good job, if things went well, if the congregation liked the service why do I have a love/hate relationship with Youth Sunday?

I love, that Youth Sunday puts our students into leadership roles within the church.

I love, that Youth Sunday allows us to get so many students involved in worship. 

I love, that Youth Sunday gives students an opportunity to share their faith perspectives with the congregation through the sermon.

I love, that the congregation appreciates and supports the hard work and effort that our students put into leading worship.

I love, that for we get to dream up and plan every element of the service from special music, to our cool interview video with Pixie Hocker this year.

But,

I hate that Youth Sunday happens once a year. I hate that it gives the church an opportunity to pat itself on the back without pausing for reflection about how much the students should be involved in worship. I hate that having one Sunday a year where students lead in worship is considered valuing students. 

Youth Sunday should not be the only Sunday that youth are in front of the congregation. There is an old tag line that says "Youth are the future of the church" and there is an old cliche that says "no, youth are the church now," but seldom do churches mean that. Although youth are the most active demographic in churches today, they are often segregated from the rest of the congregation. When Youth Sunday is the only Sunday that youth are involved in leading the church, what kind of message does that send students the other 51 Sundays out of the year? If youth truly are "the church now," then they should have a part in the church's most crucial element, worship.

I know this isn't easy. I know involving youth in worship takes risk. It's much easier to do things the way we have always done them. It's much easier to let the same people do the same parts of worship each week. To let the ministers lead the prayers, to let the same people sing, to let the same people read, to let the same people preach. I know it's easy, and with everything the church does it can be tempting to do the easy and safe thing, what we have always done. 

I know I've used some strong language and perhaps it was to the extent of hyperbole but it is to cause you to pause and think, what are we teaching our students about worship the other 51 Sundays a year? How would our church change if students, and children, and lay people participated in leading worship every week? What would it say about my church if students were a regular presence on the stage on Sunday morning? What if instead of students leading every aspect of worship one Sunday, they lead in different aspects of worship every Sunday?

I love Youth Sunday for the ways it allows students to lead in and experience worship, I hope you do to.