The Skinny on Students in Adult Worship

March 21, 2012     Josh Read    

 

For years, I’ve heard pastors, parents, and church goers directly or indirectly talk down forms of youth ministry that don’t include combining parents and students on Sunday morning. The argument is that students need to be around adults for intergenerational relationship development. While this CAN be true, I tend to think it’s a dream we believe but that doesn’t really translate into reality.

I want to take a moment and really get to the core of this thought. Do students actually develop relationships with adults better on Sunday morning during worship services? I’m not against intergenerational ministry, but I think a lot of what people are talking about are good intentions without acutal success. Look at these points with me:

1. Just because students are sitting in “big church” doesn’t mean they are developing relationships. Do your students just sit with other students? When was the last time students sat with older people that weren’t their grandparents?

2. Churches that preach to the 30+ target group can go over students’ heads. Topics matter. Our church had a “target” group. Targets aren’t bad. However, if students are stuck in adult worship and they aren’t a part of the “target,” what does that mean?

3. What about series that have nothing to do with students because of their life stage? You say they’ll learn anyway, but I think (and have seen) they tune out.

So what’s the answer?

Inttentional mentorship. Just becuase we throw adults and students into the same room doesn’t mean they’ll grow together or even at all. The key is intentionality.

What if we:

1. Have adults volunteer in youth ministry. Our ministry typically got a ton of college age/young adult volunteers. That was great and I love those people, but what I really wanted were parents and elders. Imagine a youth volunteer group of seasoned spiritual leaders? Yes please!

2. Ask your eldership or board to stop teaching elderly classes full of spiritually mature Christians. Tell them that it’s the young in Christ (or not even at all) that need their leadership, wisdom, and friendship.

3. What if pastors preached about youth topics during Sunday services a couple times a year?

4. What if students preached a couple times a year on Sunday morning? What if they co-preached with the senior pastor? What if they preached about adult topics instead of youth topics?

5. What if….your thoughts?

Categories: blog, Discipleship, Youth Worship
Comments

0 thoughts on “The Skinny on Students in Adult Worship”

  1. Ronnie Raines

    I appreciate what you are saying Nick, but I thought that is why we have youth worship on Sunday or Wednesday nights. I want my students in with the adults on Sunday mornings 1. The adults do enjoy seeing them (at least here in our church ūüôā ) 2. Our pastor is an amazing teacher/preacher of the Word and I believe the kids greatly benefit from hearing from him. 3. Don’t just sit back and wait for adults to interact with students, get your students to take action. I’m all for youth worship, but I feel really strongly about a unified worship. Unity is huge and we need to involve the kids in everything we can. They are, after-all, the church. One body-Many parts. God bless you brother.

    1. Nick Farr

      Great thoughts Ronnie! We had student worship DURING normal Sunday morning times because our kids wouldn’t come to anything in the evening other than Sunday night (when we did small groups.) So, for us, moving away from having our own Sunday morning worship would mean that we would only have small groups left.¬†

      I’m all about connecting generations, but I think the burden for doing that lay with the more spiritually mature in the congregation. Great conversation brother!

  2. Ronnie Raines

    I appreciate what you are saying Nick, but I thought that is why we have youth worship on Sunday or Wednesday nights. I want my students in with the adults on Sunday mornings 1. The adults do enjoy seeing them (at least here in our church ūüôā ) 2. Our pastor is an amazing teacher/preacher of the Word and I believe the kids greatly benefit from hearing from him. 3. Don’t just sit back and wait for adults to interact with students, get your students to take action. I’m all for youth worship, but I feel really strongly about a unified worship. Unity is huge and we need to involve the kids in everything we can. They are, after-all, the church. One body-Many parts. God bless you brother.

    1. Nick Farr

      Great thoughts Ronnie! We had student worship DURING normal Sunday morning times because our kids wouldn’t come to anything in the evening other than Sunday night (when we did small groups.) So, for us, moving away from having our own Sunday morning worship would mean that we would only have small groups left.¬†

      I’m all about connecting generations, but I think the burden for doing that lay with the more spiritually mature in the congregation. Great conversation brother!

  3. Benjer McVeigh

    Great and thought-provoking approach. We’ve been working very hard to get our high school students into worship. However, just telling kids to go to church is NOT a family-based ministry strategy. I agree that if a church has students in the worship service, that’s not a reason to tout it as especially inter-generational or family-based. There has to be intentionality, as you put it. And I see no reason that a solid preacher can’t do a great job preaching to adults AND teenagers. Our pastor does a pretty good job at that…probably because he also volunteers in our high school ministry as a small group leader.

    Here’s my what if: What if in our desire to develop inter-generational relationships among students and adults in our churches, we stopped asking students to go to the adults and the adults cared about teenagers enough to come to the them?

    1. Nick Farr

      I agree..I believe that preachers are more than¬†capable¬†to preach to adults and students. However, my question is this…how many preaching pastors do that? Do they think about students during their prep or only their main target group? I would guess that they don’t think about that nearly enough.¬†

      I LOVE the idea of the Senior Pastor being involved with the student ministry. However, I think it’s easy for the Senior Pastor to be overwhelmed with adult ministry and make that the pressing matter. Let’s get the Elders¬†involved!

  4. Benjer McVeigh

    Great and thought-provoking approach. We’ve been working very hard to get our high school students into worship. However, just telling kids to go to church is NOT a family-based ministry strategy. I agree that if a church has students in the worship service, that’s not a reason to tout it as especially inter-generational or family-based. There has to be intentionality, as you put it. And I see no reason that a solid preacher can’t do a great job preaching to adults AND teenagers. Our pastor does a pretty good job at that…probably because he also volunteers in our high school ministry as a small group leader.

    Here’s my what if: What if in our desire to develop inter-generational relationships among students and adults in our churches, we stopped asking students to go to the adults and the adults cared about teenagers enough to come to the them?

    1. Nick Farr

      I agree..I believe that preachers are more than¬†capable¬†to preach to adults and students. However, my question is this…how many preaching pastors do that? Do they think about students during their prep or only their main target group? I would guess that they don’t think about that nearly enough.¬†

      I LOVE the idea of the Senior Pastor being involved with the student ministry. However, I think it’s easy for the Senior Pastor to be overwhelmed with adult ministry and make that the pressing matter. Let’s get the Elders¬†involved!

  5. Steve

    I like a lot of your ideas, but I will say a few things about our church/ministry. To start with, our students don’t usually sit together for Sunday morning worship. They typically sit with their families, and that is not something we have pushed. Also, we mainly have parents working as volunteers in both our kids and student ministries. They aren’t dominated by college students at all. In fact, we only have one youth leader under 28 years old right now.

    With that being said, I do think we should include students more on Sunday mornings, and even having them up front or sermons more connected with their life situations. However, I don’t think we really alienate our students that much on Sunday mornings. I can only remember one series in he past 5 years that could fall into that category.

    Maybe we are just doing a good job?? Although I am sure we have areas to improve, like keeping students involved in serving on stage. But that is happening more and more.

    1. Nick Farr

      Great stuff man! Have you polled your students to get their opinion of how well they are being ministered to by adults? That would be interesting. 

  6. Steve

    I like a lot of your ideas, but I will say a few things about our church/ministry. To start with, our students don’t usually sit together for Sunday morning worship. They typically sit with their families, and that is not something we have pushed. Also, we mainly have parents working as volunteers in both our kids and student ministries. They aren’t dominated by college students at all. In fact, we only have one youth leader under 28 years old right now.

    With that being said, I do think we should include students more on Sunday mornings, and even having them up front or sermons more connected with their life situations. However, I don’t think we really alienate our students that much on Sunday mornings. I can only remember one series in he past 5 years that could fall into that category.

    Maybe we are just doing a good job?? Although I am sure we have areas to improve, like keeping students involved in serving on stage. But that is happening more and more.

    1. Nick Farr

      Great stuff man! Have you polled your students to get their opinion of how well they are being ministered to by adults? That would be interesting. 

  7. Brett Hetherington

    I like where you are coming from with these thoughts. For the past 6 years I serve with churches that interacted most with teens from broken and unchurched homes, where it was nearly impossibly to connect with parents (unless their teen got into trouble an then they wanted to get in touch with me in the hopes I could get their teen out of trouble). In my current ministry I see a good amount of inter-generational ministry going on:

    1. Our Sunday worship team is comprised of teens, young adults, adults with young children and adults who have grandchildren. The musical styles represent this group pretty well.
    2. We have made an effort to connect widows in our church with the girls in our ministry. In fact, a few of those widows requested to join us at a rock concert a couple months ago in order to continue building relationships with the girls.
    3. We have parents of teens serving as small group leaders in our ministry.
    4. We have parents of our teens serving as Sunday School teachers.
    5. Our preaching tends to be geared toward a broad audience. Our pastor will take a book from Scripture and will preach/teach through it from beginning to end, regardless of the content. He tends to lean more toward older life experience, but even then our teens get something out of it.

    1. Nick Farr

      Our ministry had a lot of students from divorced families and you are totally right….they have no one to connect to during adult worship. Those students typically sat together. It’s a whole other game when you have students with no adult ties coming to your ministry.¬†

  8. Brett Hetherington

    I like where you are coming from with these thoughts. For the past 6 years I serve with churches that interacted most with teens from broken and unchurched homes, where it was nearly impossibly to connect with parents (unless their teen got into trouble an then they wanted to get in touch with me in the hopes I could get their teen out of trouble). In my current ministry I see a good amount of inter-generational ministry going on:

    1. Our Sunday worship team is comprised of teens, young adults, adults with young children and adults who have grandchildren. The musical styles represent this group pretty well.
    2. We have made an effort to connect widows in our church with the girls in our ministry. In fact, a few of those widows requested to join us at a rock concert a couple months ago in order to continue building relationships with the girls.
    3. We have parents of teens serving as small group leaders in our ministry.
    4. We have parents of our teens serving as Sunday School teachers.
    5. Our preaching tends to be geared toward a broad audience. Our pastor will take a book from Scripture and will preach/teach through it from beginning to end, regardless of the content. He tends to lean more toward older life experience, but even then our teens get something out of it.

    1. Nick Farr

      Our ministry had a lot of students from divorced families and you are totally right….they have no one to connect to during adult worship. Those students typically sat together. It’s a whole other game when you have students with no adult ties coming to your ministry.¬†

  9. Timothy Serrano

    This post hits home! ¬†We have our students sitting in with us during the “Adult” service. ¬†While I do think that some do check out during the service, most usually stay engaged. ¬†Thanks for the tips!

  10. Timothy Serrano

    This post hits home! ¬†We have our students sitting in with us during the “Adult” service. ¬†While I do think that some do check out during the service, most usually stay engaged. ¬†Thanks for the tips!

  11. Austin Mccann

    I really like the idea of having students preach. One of the ways God gave me a desire and passion to serve in full-time ministry was by my pastor allowing me to preach/teach in a few services and in some classes. Not only preaching, but we need to allow students to serve in other areas in the “big church.” Run sound, lights, help greet people, ushers, etc. are all ways students can help serve.

    1. Jonathan Pearson

      I have one of my students working on his first sermon for next week. He brought me his manuscript…it is 1 page long with the words THE END in about 24 pt. font at the bottom. Needless to say, I am working on a sermon for next week as well, just to finish the time. I’m trying to remember, but I’m pretty sure my first sermon was that long as well.

  12. Austin Mccann

    I really like the idea of having students preach. One of the ways God gave me a desire and passion to serve in full-time ministry was by my pastor allowing me to preach/teach in a few services and in some classes. Not only preaching, but we need to allow students to serve in other areas in the “big church.” Run sound, lights, help greet people, ushers, etc. are all ways students can help serve.

    1. Jonathan Pearson

      I have one of my students working on his first sermon for next week. He brought me his manuscript…it is 1 page long with the words THE END in about 24 pt. font at the bottom. Needless to say, I am working on a sermon for next week as well, just to finish the time. I’m trying to remember, but I’m pretty sure my first sermon was that long as well.

  13. Marcus Byrd

    Love this post Nick. I struggle getting our students to connect with anyone at my church. We have a gap in generations. There is a good bit of elder members and then very few members who are in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. I have a good relationship with my youth and will be pushing them to connect with some of the older members of the church. I also like the idea of polling the group to see what they think about our Sunday Morning Service. ¬†

  14. Marcus Byrd

    Love this post Nick. I struggle getting our students to connect with anyone at my church. We have a gap in generations. There is a good bit of elder members and then very few members who are in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s. I have a good relationship with my youth and will be pushing them to connect with some of the older members of the church. I also like the idea of polling the group to see what they think about our Sunday Morning Service. ¬†

  15. Andy Gill

    Not sure where I stand with students speaking on Sunday morning… I think, as we should with anyone (adult or student) be very careful who we put behind the “pulpit/music stand/whatever”. I’m not necessarily against it, but would be hesitant and have been very hesitant in giving students the role of “teaching from the stage… “If you’re preaching the gospel from the stage but yet not living the gospel off the stage, you’re not a preacher, you’re an actor…” -Jon Acuff

  16. Andy Gill

    Not sure where I stand with students speaking on Sunday morning… I think, as we should with anyone (adult or student) be very careful who we put behind the “pulpit/music stand/whatever”. I’m not necessarily against it, but would be hesitant and have been very hesitant in giving students the role of “teaching from the stage… “If you’re preaching the gospel from the stage but yet not living the gospel off the stage, you’re not a preacher, you’re an actor…” -Jon Acuff

    1. Nathaniel Hensley

      It’s important for young people to be up in front of the congregation and for some it’s important to get them speaking and even preaching but Sunday morning shouldn’t be their first “church” speaking engagement, they should build up to that and someone (youth minister/elder/minister) should give lots of guidance and then afterward followup/debrief with the student. Teens aren’t the future of the church, they are the church now. We can’t continue treating them as though they are going to get it in some far flung future. We need to treat them as brothers and sisters in the present and walk with them toward maturity rather than standing aloof until they reach some arbitrary point of adulthood.

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