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Gaining Wisdom and Understanding - Proverbs 4

The second service plan in a series entitled "Chapters of Life." The theme of this service is God's urgent call to adolescents to acquire wisdom and understanding so they will be able to make decisions and choices that reflect God's will.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

The Chapters of Life

This series of worship services explores how children and adults can participate together with integrity to give honor to God while paying credit to the significance of each age level.

Theme of the Service

Review the explanation offered last week about the series of services and sermons on "The Chapters of Life." This week we address the second chapter of life-those teen years often called adolescence. Adolescence is a time of great adventure, exploration and formation.

The theme of this service is God's urgent call to adolescents to acquire wisdom and understanding so they will be able to make decisions and choices in life that reflect God's will. Growing physically, selecting a profession and career, becoming successful, and many other seemingly major decisions are all secondary to the acquisition of wisdom and understanding.

"Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)


Prelude: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," Behnke, Manz, Webber [organ or organ with solo instrument]; McChesney [handbell choir]; or Wilhelmi [piano]

The Call to Worship

*Song: "We Come, O Christ, to You" (st. 1, 3, 4) PsH 238, TH 181, TWC 86

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Response: "We Come, O Christ, to You" (st. 5)


The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of God's Pardon

Song of Dedication: "Cry of My Heart" SNC 81

Our Testimonies of Thanks and Faith


*Series Song: "O God, Your Constant Care and Love" (st. 1-3) PsH 592
or "I Was There to Hear Your Borning Cry" WOV 770

Reading of Proverbs 4:1-27
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Prayer for Illumination:
Lord God,
may your Word be a lamp to our feet
and a light to our path
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
(from Psalm 119:105)

Sung Prayer for Illumination: "Thy Word" RN 94, SNC 86, UMH 601

Sermon: "Gaining Wisdom and Understanding" (The Teen Years)
(The Chapters of Life - #2)


Song: "Faith Begins by Letting Go" SNC 172

Our Intercessory Prayers

  • for teens
  • for parents

Expressing Our Commitments
Song: "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" (st. 1-2) PsH 286, RL 68, TWC 565
Reading of Proverbs 4:10-27 (from The Message)
Song: "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" (st. 3-4)
Reading of 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Song: "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise (st. 5)

Ministry of Music: "Here I Am, Lord," Courtney (or SNC 268)


A Christian Service Report

The Offertory Prayer

Offertory: "Here I Am Lord," Carter [piano] or Sherman [handbell choir]
or "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light," Wold [organ]


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Benediction/My Friends, May You Grow in Grace" SNC 288

Postlude: "Marche en Rondeau," Charpentier [organ]

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

It could be very helpful in this service for the entire congregation to spend some time in the sermon at trying to understand the teen world and the kinds of concerns teens are living with. In our preparation for this service, a group of teens from the church were gathered for a breakfast discussion on the topic. We asked them, "If you had a chance to tell a preacher what he should say in a sermon that would help to guide teenagers to a good life, what would you tell him?" Listen carefully and take note of their responses, and then aim to serve as a conduit to the congregation to help them understand the concerns of teens. (Their comments were very insightful and candid!)

From there the message can turn to the advice that Solomon gives his "sons" in Proverbs 4. "Run after Wisdom" is the theme of the chapter. You may want to consider setting its message before the congregation in these six guidelines:

  1. Remember that God shapes us through imperfect people. All parents are imperfect, yet they are God's servants to shape us in our adolescent years.
  2. We must open ourselves up to be "teachable." Solomon fears that his "sons" will refuse to learn and cause themselves great harm (see Proverbs 4:1, 10, 13, 20 and 5:1).
  3. We must settle our relationship with God. The "fear of the Lord" (Prov. 1:7) is where it all starts.
  4. We should welcome discipline (Proverbs 3:11-12). It's painful, to be sure, but those who despise it will never learn the lessons of life and are left to repeat their mistakes over and over. Through discipline we learn internal (self-) discipline. (See Proverbs 4:14-17.)
  5. Have the courage to make hard choices. In Proverbs 4:14-15, 25-27, Solomon comes back again and again to the critical importance of hard choices made well.
  6. Watch out for who is shaping you. Solomon draws the line between "good shapers" and "bad shapers" (Proverbs 1:8-9, 10, 15; 4:1, 20, 14-15; summarized in 13:20).

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

  1. The prelude suggestions are all based on "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" [LOBE DEN HERREN] and can be found in the following sources:
    • "Five Preludes of Praise, set 4," an organ collection by John Behnke published by Concordia 97-7039 [2003] (E-M).
    • "God of Grace," an organ collection by Paul Manz published by Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (E-M).
    • "Trumpet Tune" by Walter Webber, published by Ashdown [1956] (E-M).
    The above three pieces can be played on organ alone or are easily adapted for use by solo instrument and organ. All three are accessible for the solo line to be played by a high school youth or young adult.
    • "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty," arranged for 2-3 octaves handbell choir by Kevin Mc Chesney and published by Agape 1499 [1991] (E-M), is also accessible for a youth choir.
    • "Hymns . . . Light Jazz Style," a piano collection by Theresa Wilhelmi, is published by Word 301 0136 315 [1997] (E-M).
  2. "Here I Am, Lord" could be sung by a soloist from the hymnal or in an anthem setting. Craig Courtney has published an SATB arrangement through Beckenhorst BP1403 [1993] (M). Encourage your youth to join your choir in preparing to sing this piece in worship. (An intergenerational group is always a good thing to encourage!)
  3. The offertory suggestion provides a setting where the congregation can offer themselves and their gifts while reflecting on the worship service and the service reports. The piano settings on "Here I Am, Lord" can be found in "Today's Hymns and Songs for Piano" (Hope 244 [1995], E-M) and "Contemporary Hymns and Songs for Piano/Four Hands" (Hope 8087 [2000], E-M), both by John Carter. The handbell suggestion on the same tune is by Arnold Sherman and is also published by Hope C5087 [2000] (E-M) for 3-5 octaves. An alternative suggestion, "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" [HOUSTON] arranged for organ by Wayne L. Wold, can be found in "Augsburg Organ Library-Epiphany," published by Augsburg Fortress 11-11073 [2001] (E-M).
  4. The organ postlude, "Marche en Rondeau" by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, was published by Boosey and Hawkes in 1958 (E-M).

Liturgy Notes:

We strongly encourage you to include teens in the planning and leading of this service as much as possible. We previously mentioned that a "listening" breakfast meeting can be a necessary prerequisite for speaking to and about them. They can also be involved in direct ways in the service:

  • Invite teens to lead many parts of the service such as readings, prayers, introducing songs, and so on.
  • Invite one or more teens to write the prayer of confession and read it in worship.
  • Have several teens select and read the promise of Scripture that is their favorite as the assurance of God's pardon.
  • Have several of the teens give their testimony of thanks and faith after the assurance of pardon. (It's good to be available as a resource and for editing what they have written . . . if they ask.)
  • Have a number of the teens report on their service or mission projects during the past year.
  • Ask one teen and one parent share the intercessory prayer. Let the teen pray for parents, and the parent pray for teens.
  • The Scripture reading from Proverbs 4 can be read by one teen, or divided among several. Let other teens read the Scripture passages after the sermon.
  • Draw your teenagers into providing the music for the service-the service music of prelude, offertory, and postlude as well as the ministry of music. Encourage their assistance in song leadership too.

To be sure, it involves more work to plan a service with many others involved, and it must be done sufficiently in advance so that participants can be contacted and can make adequate preparation. We encourage you to gather a wide range of youth for this service-from those in middle school and high school to those who are post-high, including those in the work force and those who are in college. More work . . . but well worth it!