#Hope4Tomorrow: Youth Worship Planning Materials During COVID-19 in 2020

We know that you (worship planners) are doing everything you can to be innovative and to connect online, and that you are discovering new ways of meaningfully worshiping together during this time of social and physical distancing as a result of the COVID-19 virus. Many churches have traditionally offered a “Youth Sunday” or “Youth-Led Worship” in the spring. It is our hope that local church, annual conference, and general church leaders in youth ministry will advocate for young voices in online worship. We have organized a simple set of planning resources to support planning. We encourage you to take these suggestions and make them your own. Whether you help youth lead worship in May 2020 or beyond, please use the hashtag #Hope4Tomorrow and share photos, videos, or scripts of your worship experiences with Young People’s Ministries by posting at https://www.facebook.com/umcyoungpeople or emailing them to ypm@umcdiscipleship.org.

Youth worship is a tremendous opportunity to have youth share testimonies about how they have grown as disciples because of the congregation and to celebrate friendships and mentors on their path to spiritual maturity in the church. Additionally, this worship service can give the preacher a weekend for self-care!

Pray as you prepare space for young voices in worship.

Kaye Wolfinger, Director of Young People’s Ministries, East Ohio Annual Conference
Chastity Opphile, Coordinator of Youth and Missions, Newcomerstown UMC, Noewcomerstown, Ohio
Chris Lynch, Congregational Specialist (Rock Hill and Spartanburg Districts) and South Carolina Ministries with Young People, South Carolina Annual Conference
Tim Beck, Director of Student Ministries, Wadsworth UMC, Wadsworth, Ohio
Chris Wilterdink, Director of Young People’s Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, Nashville, TN


Theme: Hope for Tomorrow

Verse: Hebrews 6:19

Hashtag: #Hope4Tomorrow

Worship Experience Suggestions

Interactive worship tends to be more meaningful for everyone. We encourage you to find ways to make virtual worship an interactive experience, engaging different learning styles and preferences.

  • If you want people to do a craft or journal while in worship, provide a supply list in advance.
  • If supplies are needed, choose simple things that most people probably already have at home.
  • Communicate in advance if people will need time to gather supplies when you advertise the worship experience.
  • If possible, consider ordering and putting together supply kits and delivering them to church members’ homes (if allowed within local travel restrictions) along with personal notes.
  • Chatting, texting, and messaging/photo challenges during worship can add an entirely new layer to the experience. Church members can be encouraged to be on their phones during worship!
  • Consider inviting youth (and anyone) to send in video prayer requests, pictures, or stories about their quarantine experience. These can easily be added to streamed worship services.

You can be creative in the ways you make your virtual worship interactive. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking!

General things you can try

  • Contemplative prayer practices such as lectio divina, praying the scriptures, the examen, and so on.
  • Reflective response prompts (such as journaling or reflecting on a question).
  • Hands-on responses that encourage worshipers to physically do something in response to the message.
  • Interactive prayer (like a prayer station you find in a prayer room).

A few ideas specific to the theme of “hope”

  • Where Do You Need Hope- Reflection Activity:
    • Have viewers make a list of all the areas in their lives where they feel hopeless/in need of hope.
    • Then either encourage them to spend some time in prayer asking God to bring hope to those areas, or have the person leading the worship say a prayer over all of them.
  • Notes of Hope:
  • Say something like: “As followers of Jesus, we are called to be the light of the world; part of that can be bringing hope and encouragement to others who are feeling hopeless and lost.”
  • In response to today’s worship, spend some time writing encouraging notes to a few people you think could use some hope. Mail the notes sometime the next week.
  • Anchor Reflective Activity:
  • This activity can be done after the worship experience as a response/ reflection activity.
    • Provide an outline of an anchor, either via email or social media, that can be printed out by viewers. Provide these instructions with the anchor:

“Our hope is anchored in God. In the space around the anchor, write some ways that you have put your hope in God and God has carried you through a situation. It is so important to remember the ways we have seen God at work in our lives, so that we can be reminded that God can and will do it again! Once you have finished, color in the anchor. As you color, spend time in prayer, asking God to work in the different areas in your life where you could use hope.”

Student Testimony/Witness/Sermonette Guide

Story matters. If you can tell a story well, you can move people to do something.

Story is the heartbeat of our lives. Our souls thrive on stories. Think about how much we consume stories: reading, writing, watching, and telling them. Stories carry us through difficult times. Especially now, in the middle of a pandemic, we’re chewing up stories in bulk. We are binge-watching a new series, watching movies, listening to stories of sorrow and survival on the news, and commiserating in our uncertainty. Stories are delicately intertwined into our lives and are ever-present during the COVID-19 outbreak. Our students are deeply rooted in stories as well. They thrive on them and embrace them on levels we can’t understand. What’s the purpose of Snapchat? To tell stories. They are literally called “stories.” Instagram, too. Their favorite celebrities and musicians are broadcasting their stories daily, and our students are eating it up. Why? Because stories bring normalcy to life in uncertain times. We need stories. They are a matter of survival.

What about Jesus? Why did Jesus spend so much time telling parables? Stories? Because stories connect us, bind us together. They unite us and inspire us. Jesus captured people’s attention and their hearts through the power of his stories—stories of God, stories of hope, stories of upside-down kingdoms, and new ways to be human.

Our stories do not have to be perfect; the more imperfect, the better. Proof? Look at the scripture stories of Moses. Ruth and Naomi, David, Elijah, Peter and Paul, Timothy and Titus. Imperfect people whose stories of transformation, through the good and the bad, are full of heartache and rejuvenation. These stories point us to the gospel. These stories point us to Jesus.

At the heart of any transformation story is witness. When we bear witness to the restorative nature of God, who, through his son, Jesus, offers life to in the fullest (John 10:10), doused with pardon and purpose, we become witnesses to the new way. And what do witnesses do? They testify. How can we help our young people testify to the life-changing love of God? Easy. We give them a voice and a platform.

Students have a unique perspective on the good news. Students often see God’s light shining through the kaleidoscope of brokenness with fresh eyes. They should not be looked down on because of their youth; instead, they should be given a platform to tell the stories of how God’s love has shaped them, is shaping them, and will continue to shape them for years to come. We know that students who come to a saving relationship with Christ during their teen years are more likely to maintain a life of faith. It is such a formative time in their lives, so why not give them an outlet to tell their stories? Think of how it might inspire a congregation.

How can we as leaders provide a safe platform where young people can be vulnerable and real in the middle of difficulty? How can we as adult leaders legitimize the value of our students and their stories of truth? We must honor them, thank them, listen to them, and walk beside them. We must assure them that they are not alone, especially now. We can empathize with them as their school year has been disrupted. We can comfort them with compassionate, virtual connections, assuring them that they are not alone and that the church needs them and values their voices and their witness.

These stories do not have to be perfect stories. No one has to wait to come to God until after they have reached perfection. No. The process of transformation is riddled with imperfect moments. How can we let students know that they are not alone in their imperfections? All have access to God’s love, and the church has an opportunity to allow young people to share their transformation stories in creative ways.

Consider inviting and using:

  • Video vignettes
  • Short clips
  • TiKTok, Instagram, or Snapchat stories, captured and shared to the masses (the simpler, the better)
  • A collage of stories compiled for Youth Sunday

What would students bear witness to?

Ask simple questions

  • Where do you see God at work in your life?
  • Where do you see God at work in the lives of others around you? Peers, Mentors, Leaders, Friends?
  • How can we, as leaders, help our students become more aware of God’s presence in their lives? How can we give them a platform to share it with others?

Other questions

  • What gives you hope? Especially in uncertain times, where do you find hope?
  • How have you wrestled with hope lately?
  • What questions have entered your mind?
  • How can hope bring peace in the mist of the storm?
  • How does hope in Jesus keep you grounded during a pandemic?
  • How is hope shaping you?

Keep it short and sweet. There is no need to belabor it. Young folks are used to instant stories in small doses. These kinds of stories could easily be gathered and compiled for some sort of Youth Sunday service.

Youth Community Connection

TikTok Challenge

Encourage teens to create a TikTok video using the pre-set sound, “Rise Up” by Andra Day and use #Hope4Tomorrow. Hold a Zoom call to brainstorm ideas and have them work together virtually or with their families. Create as many TikTok videos as you have willing teens. These can be shared beyond the TikTok App. Please have teens at least share on Facebook using the hashtag, so all the videos can be captured.

Music, Gifts, and Talents

  • Talented youth always need places where they can express themselves. Think creatively about how the gifts, talents, and skills of youth in the life of your congregation might be shared during a Youth Sunday worship online.
  • Youth with special musical talents, whether vocal or instrumental, can be a tremendous gift to an online worship experience. Youth could record, perform a song live, or edit together a video montage to create a choir experience. Other talents such as dance, acting, or even magic could make for engaging messages during worship. With any song, make sure that you have the proper licensing. You can avoid this hurdle by asking youth to sing or perform songs and hymns that are classified as “public domain.” Of course, making space for original songs or works of art is encouraged, and that gets you around any licensing issues at all.
  • If your church or youth have the technological capabilities, have youth tape themselves painting or drawing during the worship service; then have that appear several times or even as a picture-in-picture during the sermons and songs. Those youth could share why they were inspired to draw or paint those images based on the service.
  • Have youth staff the comment and chat feeds during worship. This is an awesome chance for them to engage in a medium they are comfortable with! If you have youth who are comfortable creating memes, encourage them to have some fun creating and sharing memes about your church and congregation (in loving ways, of course).

Baptismal and Confirmation Vows to Consider in Planning Youth Sunday During COVID-19

As you help youth to plan Youth Sunday Worship during the COVID-19 pandemic, ask them to reflect on their baptisms, their membership vows, and the promises that the congregation makes as a part of baptism and confirmation services.

A Youth Sunday is an excellent chance to give voice to young people and have them reflect on their discipleship journey and how they have grown because of their relationships within the congregation and community of faith. Expect testimonies and faith stories, support them as they name formative mentors, friends, adults, experiences, and messages that have shaped them as world-transforming disciples.

  • Encourage youth to read the membership vows of The United Methodist Church and reflect on how those vows give them hope for tomorrow during social and physical distancing.
  • Prepare youth to share how they are acting on their membership vows in new ways because of quarantine, lockdown, or social distancing.
  • Invite youth who have completed confirmation to share how they are active as members of the church and living out the “congregational response” from either the baptismal or confirmation worship services.

Membership Vows of The United Methodist Church

  1. To renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of their sin;
  2. To accept the freedom and power God gives them to resist evil, injustice, and oppression;
  3. To confess Jesus Christ as Savior, put their whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as their Lord;
  4. To remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world;
  5. To be loyal to Christ through The United Methodist Church and do all in their power to strengthen its ministries;
  6. To faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service, and their witness;
  7. To receive and profess the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

Paragraph 217, The United Methodist Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016. Copyright © 2016 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

*Detailed notes and reflections on these vows are available free at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/our-membership-vows-in-the-united-methodist-church

Confirmation Questions

Pastor to youth: On behalf of the whole Church, I ask you:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?

Respondent: I do.

Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?

Respondent: I do.

Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior,
put your whole trust in his grace,
and promise to serve him as your Lord,
in union with the Church which Christ has opened
to people of all ages, nations, and races?

Respondent: I do.

*The pastor addresses parents or other sponsors of candidates not able to answer for themselves:

Will you nurture these children (persons)
in Christ's holy Church,
that by your teaching and example they may be guided
to accept God's grace for themselves,
to profess their faith openly,
and to lead a Christian life?

Respondent: I will.

*The pastor addresses candidates who can answer for themselves:

According to the grace given to you,
will you remain faithful members of Christ's holy Church
and serve as Christ's representatives in the world?

Respondent: I will.

The pastor addresses the sponsors:

Will you who sponsor these candidates
support and encourage them in their Christian life?

Respondent: I will.

The pastor addresses the congregation, and the congregation responds:

Do you, as Christ's body, the Church,
reaffirm both your rejection of sin
and your commitment to Christ?

Respondents: We do.

Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life
and include these persons now before you in your care?

Respondents:

With God's help we will proclaim the good news
and live according to the example of Christ.
We will surround these persons
with a community of love and forgiveness,
that they may grow in their trust of God,
and be found faithful in their service to others.
We will pray for them,
that they may be true disciples
who walk in the way that leads to life.

Pastor to Confirmands: As members of this congregation,
will you faithfully participate in its ministries
by your prayers, your presence,
your gifts, your service
and your witness?

Confirmand: I will.

COMMENDATION AND WELCOME

16The pastor addresses the congregation:

Members of the household of God,
I commend these persons to your love and care.
Do all in your power to increase their faith,
confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.

The congregation responds:

We give thanks for all that God has already given you
and we welcome you in Christian love.
As members together with you
in the body of Christ
and in this congregation
of The United Methodist Church,
we renew our covenant
faithfully to participate
in the ministries of the Church
by our prayers, our presence,
our gifts, our service, and our witness,
that in everything God may be glorified

through Jesus Christ.

The Services of the Baptismal Covenant of The United Methodist Church as Revised to Align with the 2008 Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions, Copyright ©1976, 1980, 1985, 1989, 2009 The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.

*The Order of Worship for a Baptismal Service can be found in its entirety, for free, at: https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/book-of-worship/the-baptismal-covenant-i