Hannah Huisman on Teens Planning and Leading Church Worship

Hannah Huisman is a senior at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, Michigan. As a member of the school’s spiritual life committee, she helps plan and lead chapels. In the edited conversation below, she explains how teens at her church, Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, have begun planning and leading one worship service per month.

Hannah Huisman is a senior at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, Michigan. As a member of the school’s spiritual life committee, she helps plan and lead chapels. In the edited conversation below, she explains how teens at her church, Immanuel Christian Reformed Church, have begun planning and leading one worship service per month.

 

 

 

Youth have a big role in planning and leading chapels at your high school. Do you see the same opportunities at local churches?

A lot of high school kids don’t feel involved in their church, so they leave. They “graduate” from church because they have no voice in the church. So I’d like to say to churches, “Never underestimate your students.”

What first steps could a congregation take to better use the gifts of its youth?

One of the church's jobs is to discover and utilize the gifts of the youth. Often, it feels that youth are considered to be no asset to the church until they've graduated from high school. But this is a faulty outlook. The youth are the church too; we can make a difference if given the chance. What the church needs to do is provide opportunities for the youth to get involved. Invite them to join your praise teams. Have service projects that youth and adults work on side-by-side. Let them take initiative. If you've got a planner, let them plan. Ask them what visions they have for the church. Make them feel that their voice is heard and that it matters.

At my church we have an "Every Member in Ministry" plan that we renew each year. This allows for every member, whether 8 or 80, to sign up for all the different committees in the church and show interest in areas that are still developing. For example, there’s a knitting ministry at my church which is mostly compiled of adult women, but there are several young girls involved and even a 14-year-old boy. Strange, you might say, but that boy loves to knit, and the church is allowing him to use that gift. Our church also has a monthly youth night service.

Do just youth attend that, or does the whole congregation come, in place of the evening service?

Originally, the Crossroads youth service (now renamed Encounter) was designed to allow the high schoolers to have their own worship service, where they could lead worship and have the message time be more of a discussion time. Recently, however, we started inviting the middle schoolers to join us. The vision is to get the youth excited about planning and leading a worship service and to show them that this is a safe place where they can have a voice.  

Now we have opened up the service to the entire church. That’s part of the reason for the new name, because, really, it is no longer a "youth" service. A "regular" church service happens in the sanctuary while we lead worship in our multi-purpose room / gym. Many families come to see their kids in the service, but there’s a growing number of parents who come with their kids. The vision for Encounter is to provide a different type of atmosphere to encounter God and to allow the youth to use their voices and visions and to raise up young leaders in the church.  

How does planning, leading, or participating in an Encounter service seem different or the same compared to planning, leading, or participating in school chapels?

Actually, the similarities between planning a youth service seem to outweigh the differences. However, when we are planning a youth service, we generally have a lot more freedom. And by that I mean there is less of an outlined structure and more of a  "this is how the Spirit leads us" attitude. I think this difference in attitude arises from the fact that there is only one youth service in a month in comparison with 16 chapels every month. Also, the youth service has youth coming together who are all much closer in their faith walks than the 800 students at Unity Christian. Chapels have to be designed to not isolate students, whereas our youth service doesn't have to worry about that nearly as much.  

Do you have a favorite story of how getting involved in worship has helped a young person discover unexpected gifts?

There is a girl from my church who is very quiet; respectful, but very quiet. Two weeks ago, she showed up at youth service practice, and last week she was one of our speakers. This was so awesome to see, because it is a great representation of the fact that youth have things to say. She gave part of her personal testimony, and it was one of the most powerful things of the night. I love this story because it shows that, when given the chance, kids who you would never expect rise to the top and are capable of doing things previously thought to be only adult roles in the church. And now that she's had that chance, I doubt that she'll ever go back to being that quiet girl she once was. There is a fire in her that won't be put out easily. 

Read a feature story about increasing participation in chapel services at Christian high schools.

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