Text Message Worship

Plugging Students into Holy Week

In our church, two very different things came together to form the idea of a text message worship experience.

First, my fellow high school youth group leaders and I noticed that we spend a lot of time “policing” cell phone use during youth group events. Kids are constantly texting each other, even when they’re sitting just a few feet from each other! Second, we wanted to try making the season of Lent—and particularly Holy Week—more of a focus for our students.

Combining those two elements, we decided to try a nightly text message worship service during Holy Week. The original idea came from an article in Group magazine, a publication devoted to junior high and high school youth groups. We adapted the basic worship outline to fit our particular needs and schedule.

A Simple Idea

A week before Holy Week, we distributed copies of the worship “script” to participants (members of our youth group as well as some members of the congregation). The script included all the Bible passages typed out, as well as the litanies and congregational responses. We also posted the script on our congregation’s website so anyone could download it and follow along.

During Holy Week, at a set time each evening (10 p.m.), the leader texted the opening call to worship, and participants responded.

Next the leader texted Scripture passages from both the Old and New Testaments, as well as a one-line “sermon” based on the Scriptures. We then took prayer requests and closed worship. The entire service took about seven or eight minutes each evening.

We assigned the task of “worship leader” to Kristen, one of our younger leaders who is more technologically savvy than the rest of us. We spent several weeks promoting the service and having students sign up through www.tatango.com, which allowed Kristin to type her responses on a keyboard instead of on her phone. (However, it still would have worked if she had chosen simply to send out each text message to a “group” instead of doing it through the Internet. Students can also make their own groups of fellow participants.)

This year was a learning process. The images we hoped to send out didn’t work as well as we planned due to a technological glitch. One night we had computer problems that prevented us from worshiping together. And, of course, each night there were some students who couldn’t participate.

Those who did worship nightly sensed a growing dread as the week progressed—from the beginning of the week with the Old Testament prophecies and Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem, to his burial on Friday night, and the sadness of his disciples on Saturday.

Our text message worship services provided a way for our students and leaders to focus on Jesus’ Passion using a form of communication that is familiar to them. We’re looking into doing something similar with Facebook next year.

Order of Worship

Leader texts: The Lord be with you.

Students text: And also with you.

Leader texts: Let us lift our hearts to God.

Students text: Amen.

[Leader sends an image related to that night’s theme. After the picture is texted, leader texts “Amen.” This step is optional.]

Leader texts: Let us offer the peace of God to all.

[Everyone texts the word “Peace” to all the other participants. If students have not set up a group list of participants, they may text the word “peace” to the leader.]

Leader texts: Psalm for the day (see sidebar)

[Students read the psalm either in their Bible or from the script.]

Students text: Amen.

Leader texts: Gospel text for the day (see sidebar)

[Students read the passage, either in their Bible or from the script.]

Students text: Amen.

Leader texts: A one-sentence summary from the psalm or gospel reading (see sidebar)

Students text: Amen.

Leader texts: Prayers of the people

Students text: short prayer requests (one or two words) to everyone on their list or to the leader.

[After an appropriate time, when everyone is finished, leader texts “Amen.”]

Leader texts: Lord, have mercy.

Students text: Christ, have mercy.

Leader texts: Go now to love and serve God.

Students text: Amen.

Scripture Readings

Sunday: Zechariah 9:9-13; Matt. 21:1-11

Monday: Psalm 22:1-11; Luke 9:44-45

Tuesday: Psalm 22:11-21; Matt. 21:12-17

Wednesday: Psalm 89:29-36; Matt. 26:14-18

Thursday: Psalm 109:21-31; Luke 22:14-20

Friday: Psalm 23; John 19:19-30

Saturday: Psalm 46; John 19:38-42

One-Sentence “Sermons”

Sunday: Jesus’ kingdom is not one of military might.

Monday: The Old Testament prophets foretell Jesus’ death.

Tuesday: The children praise Jesus when the religious leaders will not.

Wednesday: Jesus’ disciples prepare the Passover feast.

Thursday: Jesus invites his disciples to share his body and blood.

Friday: Jesus, the Lamb of God, dies in my place.

Saturday: Jesus is buried in a new tomb.

Valerie Van Kooten (vankootenv@central.edu) is a writer from Pella, Iowa, where she is a member of First Christian Reformed Church and is active in her congregation’s youth ministries.


Reformed Worship 94 © December 2009, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.