Reflections from Youth Track

After our first-ever Annual Celebration Youth Track, what lessons have we learned from the RMC’s youth?

Months ago, Rev. Erin Gilmore invited me to work on bringing back the Youth Track. She shared that she is often asked by local pastors about how to engage youth in worship. As someone who has worked in youth ministry for the better part of the last decade, I know that our gracefully aging congregations deeply desire to see young people engaging in church with love, care, and enthusiasm, as modeled by our wise sages. 

In forming this year’s Youth Track, we had one primary question in mind: what does the next generation need to see from the church? We reached out to congregations across the conference and invited high school students who are deeply engaged in their local church and have expressed vision and hope for the church’s future. 

There were three major “focus times” throughout the weekend: 

  1. We participated in the opening worship service and then spent a long time debriefing that particular service and discussing general experiences of meaningful worship. 
  2. We engaged in some of the offerings for the adults during the Annual Celebration, which allowed the youth to learn directly from other leaders in our conference. It also allowed the adult leaders to learn from these youth leaders. 
  3. We crafted, rehearsed, and led the closing worship based on all the learning and discussions we experienced. 

Working with the youth during this year’s Annual Celebration was SO fun. Our conference was represented by students from the Intermountain, Metro Denver, Southeast, and Platte Valley associations! I know we all enjoyed the worship service they put together, and I want to share with you the notes I took down from the discussions we had throughout the weekend. These are their own words, and I hope we will hear them and learn well from them. 

What our youth want to teach the generations that came before them: 

  • The elders of the church don’t have to do everything. They can give themselves permission to take a step back and invite us to leadership. 
  • We understand what you all are saying, and we understand it on a different level. This generation is brilliant – we hear what is being said. But the world we live in is so different that we have to apply and contextualize our experiences in a totally new and different way. 
  • Stop talking like old wise trees. We want sermons to feel like a TED Talk or a podcast. Give it to us straight. 
  • Don’t assume that all the traditional elements, hymns, and language are familiar. 
  • We value connection over tradition, particularly in the worship space. Events and fellowship are important, but we want to see that same connection being fostered during rituals and moments throughout the worship service. 
  • Welcome contemporary culture into the worship space. 
  • We want to show up and be welcomed as we are. 
  • We want more community events that are focused on fun and fellowship. 
  • We think it is so beautiful to enter into historic spaces, and it is especially beautiful to introduce new practices into those old spaces. 
  • Church should be a space for rest – an invitation to a simpler life. 

What our youth want to see from worship: 

  • Meaningful worship is fresh, intentional, and relevant. 
  • Meaningful worship encourages us to be more intentional and conscious. 
  • Meaningful worship leans into the holiness of the space and the rituals. 
  • We want to break down barriers and connect with each other. 
  • We want sermons that make us feel fulfilled, give us something to think about and take away. 
  • Church should be the place where we can come and have honest, vulnerable, and difficult conversations. We want to be seen and heard. We want to be known. 
  • We want worship to focus on the collective experience of the body of Christ more than the individual experience.
  • The Bible’s riddles allow us to find meaning for ourselves. 
  • We love themes and structure and spaciousness. 

Some final thoughts from the youth on “welcoming the future” in worship: 

  • Accept everybody – for real. 
  • Live music (with more instruments than the organ or piano). 
  • Make it conversational, inviting people into ideating and sharing. 

Our youth have SO much wisdom to share, and we should be learning from them every chance we get. I also want to thank Rev. Kimberly Salico-Diehl for unleashing their creativity and helping us craft our worship service. And I want to shout out soon-to-be Rev. Josh Rumple, Rev. Logan Bennett, and Rev. Samantha Bronson for their work in creating the space that empowered our youth to lead. 

Much love,

Brooklyn McBride

2 responses to “Reflections from Youth Track”

  1. Tricia Avatar

    Brooklyn, I love the responses! As one now labeled as a “wise sage”, I agree with all of the responses and can’t wait to see them implimented.

  2. Linda trantow Avatar

    I plan on sharing this with Mayflower Church. It is so important that our congregations hear this Good New

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