by Jayna Leitze
Youth Sunday (yooth suhn-day)
Traditionally, a day during which the youth group of a church is in charge of the church service(s) on a particular Sunday of the year.
A crazy idea, meant to drive a youth minister insane, though it can be completely awesome. Or, it can crash and burn, but let’s be optimistic.
On Sundays at the church I serve, we have two services, a 9:00 a.m. service that is more contemporary and an 11:00 a.m. that is more traditional. We also have a casual Wednesday night service that is usually attended by church members who don’t necessarily come on a Sunday morning, a completely different audience.
Last fall we were given the opportunity to lead the Wednesday night service as kind of a “practice round” for our annual Youth Sunday. Because it was a practice round, my co-director and I chose the theme, basing it on the Sunday night series that we had just finished. We (the youth directors) laid out the framework of the service and had our students sign up for what they wanted to do. We had a brief run-through the Sunday previous, and right before the service on Wednesday. We coached them and answered their questions. Instead of having one person give the message, we had three girls who each spoke for a few minutes on our theme. They picked the scripture. They served communion.
Click here to download a PDF of our service to be adapted for use in your church.
The evening was phenomenal. Yes, it had its flaws. No, the songs didn’t perfectly line up with our theme; our praise band used songs already in their repertoire. Yes, it went about 10 minutes shorter than usual, but I was so proud of the students. They did it. With the exception of my co-director playing guitar with the youth praise band, we were hands off during the service. Our associate pastor blessed the elements for communion, but the students served it. They did it all.

Encouraging Their Capability

Now we are in middle of planning our upcoming Youth Sunday. In this instance, we asked our students what they wanted to do, how they see this service going, and what they want to convey to the congregation. Again, we are laying out the format and the blueprint for the service and having them sign up for what they want to do, but they are deciding what this service will look like. The praise band is deciding the songs. Again, we will have multiple students sharing their stories in place of a traditional sermon. The students came up with this for the last service and this service, and I think it’s awesome. It doesn’t put too much pressure on one student and it gives more opportunities for students to be in front of the congregation. We will no doubt be scrambling to get everything in order in the days and hours before Youth Sunday, but I can’t wait to see the finished product of what our students come up with.
From a “business” side of things, when you support a certain company by buying their products or services, it makes you feel good about supporting that company when you find out they have really good customer service and treat their employees well. Well, it’s kind of similar in the church. Physical support and monetary support comes from the congregation: your volunteers, regular budget, fundraising support, and more. Why should they give to the youth group? Youth Sunday, among other things, is a great way to show them what is being accomplished by their support. It might even spur them to give more or get more involved in what is going on in the life of the youth group. Get that extra volunteer!
Youth Sunday isn’t right for every church. In our church it is important. Our congregation is on the cusp of some new and exciting things, and we want the youth to be a part of it. We want them to be visible in the eyes of our congregation, to build relationships with those they may not know otherwise. We want to empower our students and help them realize that they are capable, they are wonderful, and they have something to offer our congregation.
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
Jayna Leitze serves as the co-director of youth ministries at West Memphis FUMC in West Memphis, Ark. She is a first-year graduate resident with the Center for Youth Ministry Training.