Worship Planning with Children and Youth

In the early summer of 2020, God called me to work with youth and children in a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation. Seminary training and ten years of lay and vocational ministry did not prepare me for the challenges and delights of serving the church during a pandemic.

A few months into my call, I was tasked with leading and crafting the annual worship service for children and youth. I generally live by the motto “Go big or go home,” and the pandemic was not going to change that. So rather than just having kids participate in the liturgy, I thought, “Why can’t the kids design and write the liturgy?” I put out a call to our children and youth. One twelve-year-old and one thirteen-year-old offered to write.

I identified the parts of the liturgy that the youth volunteers and I would work on together: the call to worship, call to confession, prayer of confession, assurance of pardon, prayer of illumination, prayers of the people, and offering call. After that, I reviewed my notes from my seminary worship class and created age- and stage-appropriate mini-lessons for each element. 

Every week for eight weeks, the two youth volunteers and I met over Zoom for an hour and a half. I shared my screen so they could see my notes. Our first class was an age-appropriate introduction asking the question “What is worship?” After that, we delved into a new liturgical element every week. 

A Catechism for Worship Education

What follows is an example that can be adapted and extended for your context.

Q. What is worship?
A. Worship is having an encounter with God in which God speaks and we respond. It can happen in a church building or outside of it. For our purposes, it’s what happens in the building on Sunday mornings. It’s a service of Word and sacrament. 

Q. What should worship in a church look like? 
A. It should be a conversation between God and us. 
It should name the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 
It should be welcoming.
It should be biblical. 

Q. What is a liturgy?
A. It’s the actions and words that worshipers do and say in a worship service. 

Q. What’s our job as worship planners? 
A. Ours is the holy task of writing or finding the words that people will follow as the Holy Spirit facilitates their encounter with God. 

Q. Where do we begin? 
A. We begin with God’s invitation to come and worship—a call to worship. 

We always started with prayer. Then I would ask the youth what they thought a particular part of the worship service meant and how it functioned. Next, we would discuss the purpose of that element in the liturgy. We looked at different examples of how the liturgy could be constructed. At that point, the volunteers would start generating ideas. 

In some instances they combined the examples I’d shown them to create something new that had their fingerprints on it. Other times their own unique words and ideas bubbled forth from the meditations of their hearts. They bounced ideas and words off each other with the ease of trained dancers improvising. As they played with word choice and word placement, I acted as their scribe, typing on a Word document that was shared over Zoom so they could see the changes in real time. At the end of our many weeks together, we had a beautiful, God-honoring liturgy.

Seeing these two young people craft the liturgy was something to behold. I never doubted that they could do it; neither did our senior pastor, who was fully supportive. Though it was time-consuming and stretched my pedagogical creativity, it was well worth it. It was one of my biggest honors in ministry to guide them in the process and see their minds and hearts at work. The worship service ended up being a beautiful time of worship crafted entirely by a couple of young people who wanted to use their gifts and talents to serve God. 

I never imagined doing ministry during a pandemic, and I never imagined how God could use me and the youth I serve. God was with us, inspiring and guiding us throughout the process. Was it hard at times? Yes. Did it take a long time? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. 

The Service


Opening Hymn

Chiming of the Hour and Welcoming the Light


Call to Worship

Today we are worshiping the Triune God!
Let us worship our Creator,
the God who connects us all:
different peoples, different lives, different histories.
Let us worship God.

We give you thanks for your diverse creation,
and the diversity evident in this church.

We will give thanks to the Lord with our whole heart;
we will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
We will be glad and exult in you;
we will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Let us praise God.

Call to Confession

Though our sins are like darkness, they shall be like light. “Though (our) sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Though they are like shadows, they shall be illuminated. We show gratitude toward you, gracious God.

Prayer of Confession

[Read Psalm 51:1–12 as a prayer and then allow for a time of silence for personal confession before concluding the prayer.]

Merciful God, forgive our sins and empower us to strive anew to make our world a place in which your loving peace abounds. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Hear the Good News! Do not fear, says the Lord, for I have redeemed you. You are renewed. You are loved. You are embraced. You are forgiven. Believe this gospel and go forth to live in peace in the sure hope of God’s promise. Thanks be to God. Amen.


Children’s Sermon

Prayer for Illumination

Choral Anthem

Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:15–22

Sermon: “Giving What Is Due”


Prayers of the People

[Worship Leader: Let us unite our hearts in prayer. I will conclude each request with the words “Merciful God,” to which you are invited to respond, “hear our prayer.”]

God, we pray for our church.
We pray for [names], who are away in the military.
May you be with them and keep them safe.
Merciful God, hear our prayer.

We give thanks to you
for the strong fellowship we have online,
but look forward to when we can get together again.

God, we pray for the local community.
We pray for [include specific requests for your community].
Merciful God, hear our prayer.

We pray that you will be with the kids and teachers
who must adapt and be patient while trying to do school online.
Merciful God, hear our prayer.

God, we pray for all in the world.
May you help them seek a better perspective,
a perspective that shows everyone as equal,
and may we embrace the differences we have.
Merciful God, hear our prayer.

God, we pray that you will be with those
living with illnesses
and that you will watch over them.
Keep us all safe and healthy.
Merciful God, hear our prayer.

God, we pray that you will help those
experiencing natural disasters
and be with us as we go through the hurricane season.
Merciful God, hear our prayer.

Make your presence known through our loving
and caring acts as we support others in their need,
so that no one feels alone or unloved.
We pray all this in the name of Christ,
who taught us to pray in this manner:

[conclude with the Lord’s Prayer]


Invitation to Give Tithes and Offerings




Charge and Blessing

Closing Hymn

Anna Rosas serves as a Christian educator at a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation in Miami, Florida.

Reformed Worship 144 © June 2022 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church. Used by permission.