Published on January 25, 2016 by Eric Mathis  

In a post last week, I offered ten observations on teenagers and worship. I also vowed to say more about those ten observations in upcoming posts. So, here’s a bit more to unpack the first observation: Worship gatherings that teenagers participate in are the product of adult planning and leadership.

At first glance, this observation doesn’t seem that profound. It’s logical that adults would preside and lead over teenagers. Most teens aren’t able to assume the pastoral roles worship planning and leading requires. Even when they do assume those roles – leading music, speaking, or serving in some other leadership role – teens remain under the influence of the adults who mentor them and bear responsibility for their actions.

Many adult leaders include teenagers in the planning and leadership process with adults. An equal or greater number leave teens out of the worship process. This isn’t intentional; it’s an accident. Church leaders don’t consciously decide, “We’re not going to think about teenagers when we plan worship.” At the same time, not enough adults plan worship asking, “What prayer (or song or word or fill-in-the-blank) might we offer on behalf of our teenagers this week?”

Teens are “left out” of worship because they worship in communities where adults are the majority and they are the minority. Like any minority, teens become the product of worship services that are empty or forced from their perspective, and worship fails. It doesn’t accomplish what adults intend as far as teens are concerned. It doesn’t accomplish what God intends as far as anyone is concerned. When worship fails teenagers, it fails the whole faith community.

What’s the solution? There’s not a single answer, but we can take our cues from a few adults who plan and lead worship weekly with teenagers in mind.

One leader includes two teenagers on her worship planning team: a junior and senior in high school.

Another leader asks a teenager (and a child and three adults) to complete a quick worship feedback form once a month. He reviews these and implements change based on the input from teens each month.
A third leader makes sure a teenager is visibly involved in leadership at least two times a month. One of the teens in his church said, “I feel like I matter when I read scripture or see one of my friends pray.”
Those in the majority bear responsibility for including, not excluding, the minority. That’s the way it works in the kingdom of God.

What prayer might you offer on behalf of your teenagers this week?