Can the teenagers in your church tell you what the inside of the sanctuary looks like when there isn’t a dodge ball game going on?

Do they know what to do when the offering plate is passed their way?

When was the last time your students took communion with the rest of their church family?

Many students attend our youth service faithfully on Sunday mornings and yet come graduation they have still never stepped foot in “big church.”

As youth leaders, it is our job to make sure that our students are prepared for being involved in their church beyond the walls of their youth room. It may not be easy to encourage students to make this a priority in their lives, but it is certainly worth a little effort on our end to at least point them in that direction.

Claim a Section:

In the church I grew up in, the far left section of the sanctuary was where young people sat during “big church.” I remember the excitement and privilege I felt the first time I was allowed to venture away from my family and sit with my friends in that section.

In my last church, the youth all decided to claim the front row of all places. There was also a right of passage when it came time to take your place in that infamous front row that many of our younger students looked forward and aspired towards.

Give Youth a Role to Play:

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but teenagers are oddly capable of actually doing things. When you give them a role and a purpose, they are far more likely to engage. Students may not see the value in attending a service that is mostly geared towards adults.

If they are asked to be involved in the service in some way they realize that they have an important role to fill in the greater church body.

Students can volunteer in the sound booth, as ushers, in the worship team, on the prayer team, setting up chairs or passing the offering plate. These roles, and many others, allow them to see that they are a vital part of the church body and can contribute something valuable to the greater church community.

Cancel Sunday Morning Youth Service:

I know this may seem extreme to some, but rest assured that this doesn’t have to be as radical as it appears. More and more churches are finding it counter-productive to host a Sunday morning youth service congruent with their main Sunday services. Students have ample opportunities to spend time with their peers. What they are not getting are opportunities to engage with brothers and sisters of all ages in the church.

Maybe removing a Sunday morning youth service is not in the cards for various reasons. Try offering one Sunday a month, or a quarter where youth service is canceled and students are encouraged to join the greater church body in worship. A little exposure to “Big Church” is much better than none. Removing Sunday morning youth service, even occasionally, gives the students a chance to get to know what it looks like to be part of a church and not just a youth group. This is an experience that will be quite helpful when they inevitably age out in a few short years.


About The Author

Jessica is a wife, mother, pastor and teacher. She lives with her husband and daughter in Sacramento, California, where she also serves as an adjunct professor for William Jessup University. You can learn more about Jessica by visiting

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