For Youth Workers Post

Worship 101

Craig Mitchell


“I grew up in the church, so I experienced church worship from an early age. At that time, it seemed formal, serious, and distant. When I claimed Christian faith as my own, worship took on a different character. My friends and I hungered for communion with God. I was drawn into soulful praise through music and spontaneous prayer. In the Bible, God had a word for me. I have seen this transformation happen with young people time and time again. Worship not only results from but also brings about a reorientation of the spirit, a lifelong conversion to Christ. Vital worship is at the heart of youth ministry, as it is at the heart of the church.” —Craig


devozine Craig Mitchell2Craig Mitchell is a youth minister from South Australia who has been involved in planning and leading worship with young people for over 25 years. He currently experiments with participatory, multi-sensory, and multimedia worship experiences for youth and for families with younger children. You can learn more about his worship experiments on his blog. You can also download worship resources from his blog site; look for them in the far right column. And be sure to check out “Multimedia in Ministry,” a social networking site that Craig facilitates.


  • Before the session, invite people to bring a recording of music that helps them to worship God or to be at peace. Bring some of your favorites as well. Have available a CD player or something to plug an iPod, MP3 player, or phone into.
  • symbols of worship: a candle, a cross, an image of Jesus, a bowl of water, red fabric (for Pentecost)
  • postcard-sized images of worship — Print images that might help people to praise and worship God. They may have something to do with church worship (cross, chalice, music, prayer); but also include images of creation, beauty, peace, and so on. Here are some sources for images:

            >  wallpapers from National Geographic
            >  images from the Hubble space telescope
            >  stock photographs from stock.xchng
            >  links to a lot of multimedia resources, some free, some commercial


  • Calvin Institute of Christian Worship” offers a good general overview of Christian worship.
  • Jonny Baker, from the UK, collects worship ideas, which he calls “Worship Tricks.” Find the link in the right hand column of his blog site.
  • Cheryl Lawrie from Melbourne, Australia, writes remarkable poems, prayers, and worship resources, often dealing with issues such as doubt, despair, hope, grief. Find her work on “Hold This Space.”
  • Proost: Inspiring Resources that Fuel Faith” is an excellent source of inexpensive multimedia and downloadable books of “pocket liturgies.”
  • Music can often lead us into worship. “Simeon Baker Roads” is a video of a young guy from Adelaide, South Australia, where I live, playing an amazing guitar instrumental.


Ask people to tell the group how their week has been. Explain that you will read several words, each describing a feeling. After each one, invite group members to respond with one word that tells when or where they experienced that feeling during the week. Then read aloud the words below, one at a time. Feel free to add or to change the words.

  • tired
  • hungry
  • peaceful
  • anxious
  • happy
  • afraid


Introduce the theme of worship. If possible show the video clip, “Worship.”

Place around the room both the symbols and the images of worship you have gathered. Be sure they are clearly visible. Explain that you will play one of the worship songs that people brought (choose a more reflective, slower song if possible). Invite people to visit each of the images and symbols and to reflect while the music plays. Ask them to be open to the wonder of God.

Afterward, ask group members to stand next to an image or a symbol that gave them a sense of the wonder of God. Invite them to talk about the experience with the two or three people who are standing closest to them.
       In what way did you have a sense of worshiping God?

The Bible says a lot about worship. We read in the Old Testament about the Hebrew people’s sense of God’s presence on mountaintops, in mighty wind, in fire. We are perhaps puzzled by their sacrifices of animals on altars. Then the people built an ark and carried it through the desert. They made a special tent and gradually developed rituals and customs surrounding their worship of God. When they settled in Palestine, they built a temple and wrote Psalms. Later, when they were in exile in Babylon, they worshiped God (and rejected foreign idols) to remind themselves of who they were. Jesus and his followers faithfully worshiped in the local synagogue. At his death, the curtain in the temple was symbolically torn; and on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit was poured out on all believers. In the early church, worship was a Spirit-filled experience, but not without difficulties and debates. Whatever its form, worship always takes place where the Spirit connects with our lives and our world. Worship today is also shaped by 2000 years of changing church practices.

How does worship today connect to biblical worship? Here are some elements of Christian worship. (It will help to display the whole list. You may need to clarify some of these elements of worship.)

Ask people to form small groups. Assign each group one or more elements of worship, and ask groups to read the related scripture passages and to discuss these questions:
       In what ways have you experienced this aspect of worship at church?
       How important is this aspect of worship in your church?
       How important is this aspect of worship for you personally?
       If you were planning worship for a group, how would you choose to express this aspect of worship (in words, images, music, movement)?

Provide magnetic poetry words. Invite each person to choose one aspect of worship and to use the magnetic poetry words to write a prayer or poem that expresses this element of worship. Ask people to keep their prayer or poem in tact so that they can read it to the group later in the session.


Invite people to choose one of the worship images or symbols from around the room and to place it alongside their prayer or poem.

Play a worship song. Then read aloud Romans 12:1–2.

Invite people to read their prayers or poems in the order of the list of worship elements above. They may, if they wish, say something about why they chose the particular image or symbol. If no one has a prayer or poem about a particular item, you may read alone or with the group the designated Bible passages (listed above).

When you get to “Word,” read Micah 6:6–8. Invite people to reflect briefly in silence on the scripture. Then invite them to complete this sentence: “True worship is . . .” Then, depending on time, feel free to play (or invite the group to sing) another worship song.

When you get to “Sacrament,” say, “Today we are not celebrating Holy Communion, but we share bread to remind us that Christ is with us.” Pass the loaf of bread around the group, and invite each person to take and eat a piece. [Note: You are encouraged to check with your pastor first if you think there will be any problems with this.]

Play or sing another song. Then conclude the worship by having people read the prayers or poems they wrote for the elements “Blessing” and “Benediction.”

If you have time, invite people to reflect on their experiences during the exercise above.


This week, take time to reflect on how the young people in your group understand and experience worship. How could their understanding and experience be deepened? Perhaps invite your pastor or another church leader to visit the group and to answer questions. Go to your denominational website and see what you can find. Ask someone to do a tour of your church’s sanctuary or worship space to explain what symbols are present and why the church worships as it does.

—from devozine In the Habit (July/August 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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