The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2: Prayers and Worship Services for Youth Ministryby Steven L. Case, Mark Oestreicher, Tony Jones
The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2 extends the tools offered in The Book of Uncommon Prayer by providing more experiences that bring students into a deeper awareness of God. This collection of scripted services, blessings, rites, and prayers meets the growing desire of young people to step outside the “noise” of their lives and linger in a slower, quieter
The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2 extends the tools offered in The Book of Uncommon Prayer by providing more experiences that bring students into a deeper awareness of God. This collection of scripted services, blessings, rites, and prayers meets the growing desire of young people to step outside the “noise” of their lives and linger in a slower, quieter place. Inside you’ll find: • A service to start the new school year • Blessings for a new youth room • A modified Seder meal • Hard Communion • Many blessings for everyone from babies to waiters • Lots of prayers for Advent, politics, sunsets, and more • A comprehensive guide for engaging the five senses in worship The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2 is an essential resource that can provide you with step-by-step instructions for meaningful services while also providing you an indexed reference for prayers and blessings that can be accessed at the drop of a hat. Geared toward all denominations and all levels of ministry involvement, The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2 creates an accessible, essential set of worship and prayer experiences that will draw your students to the still, quiet, love of Christ.
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The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2Prayers and Worship Services for Youth Ministry
By Steven L. Case
ZondervanCopyright © 2006 Steven L. Case
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Ways of Worship
One of the problems with many worship services is that we tend to think of the congregation as the "audience." Worshipers think they are there to be entertained-and if they're not, they grow bored and disconnected. But it's important to remember that the congregation-be it one thousand people gathered in the sanctuary on Sunday morning or six teens in the back of your minivan-is not the audience. By teaching students that they are as much a part of the worship service as the choir and the pastor-and that it is God who is the audience (not them)-we can help them have a much more fulfilling experience.
One way to emphasize this is by making our worship services more experiential. We need to encourage youth to immerse themselves in worship. Let them know they can get their hands dirty with it. They can put all five senses into the experience.
Using All Five Senses in Worship
In many large congregations, the sanctuary feels more like a theater, and the worship feels a lot like a rock concert. People leave a worship service with the same "buzz" you get when you leave a show byyour favorite band or performer. It's a wonderful lift. Usually, it can hold you through until the next week.
But as worship has become something you do in a stadium, we've lost something: intimacy.
Think about the worship experiences you most remember. Maybe you've had great concert experiences, but the worship experiences most of us tend to remember are the ones where fewer than 20 people were in the room. The most meaningful services in my own life have been the ones involving six people around a campfire or a small group sitting in the youth room with a guitar, a candle, and a Bible.
There's another reason campfire worship experiences work-and it's not just because we've all had too little sleep in the tent the night before. It's because we are using all five of our senses to connect to God. We smell the smoke, we hear the music and the fire, we watch the dying embers, and we feel the warmth of the flames as a cold breeze blows on our backs. We taste the bread and the wine of communion. Even standing there inhaling, we get a smoky taste in our mouths. God has given us five senses. Why do we usually use only two of them when we worship?
Let's talk about using all our senses in worship.
What Does Worship Smell Like?
Years ago I met a man who told me he had attended his first funeral-that of his grandmother-when he was about five. The funeral home in that little town was also the residence of the funeral director and his family. They lived in an upstairs apartment, and the business was downstairs. The guy I met told me that during the service, the wife of the funeral director began baking sugar cookies for the luncheon afterward. To this day, he cannot smell sugar cookies without thinking of his grandmother's funeral.
When I was in college, I worked for four years as a church custodian. It was a great gig. Part of my job was to unlock the church doors every night for evening meetings and then lock them when all the meetings were done. I could do some cleaning during the meetings and get paid for that time, or I could find a quiet office and study. (I got paid for an hour's work if all I did was lock and unlock.) If I were short on money, I'd clean the restrooms. There was a bottle of thick pink liquid I would pour into the toilet bowls after cleaning, to disinfect them. The pink stuff had a very powerful wintergreen smell. Before I started that job, I used to love wintergreen Lifesavers. But I can't eat them anymore because it makes me think of cleaning toilets. One of my students gave me a wintergreen Altoid a few years ago, and I had to spit it out.
Our sense of smell is often overlooked, yet it is one of our most powerful senses when it comes to triggering memories and imagination. What if I asked you right now to think of the smell of your grandmother's house on Thanksgiving Day, or the smell of your local coffee shop when the muffins are warm? Can you see how vivid our sense of smell is?
The Holocaust Museum uses smell very effectively on its tours. At the beginning of the tour, you can smell freshly baked bread. As the tour leads you into the camps, you begin to smell a dank, sour mold smell that is almost overpowering. The creators of the museum understood smells can be a major part of the experience.
So how can we incorporate our sense of smell into worship? Be creative!
If you are planning a communion service, you can bake your own bread.
If you are preaching on heaven, why not bake chocolate chip cookies?
If you are preaching about the love of God going on forever, why not bring in evergreen branches?
Take your kids into a damp, musty basement to talk about how the early Christians had to worship in secret or they'd be arrested and put to death. For a Christmas service, bring in straw to evoke the smell of a barn where the baby was laid in a manger. (Better yet, why not have the service in a barn?)
It may not always work exactly as you'd planned. (Then again, what does?) I once led a Good Friday service where we tried to create the smell of a coffin by burning cedar chips. One of my adult volunteers had a potpourri burner. She brought it in, along with something she thought would smell like cedar chips, but it actually had a vague sort of marijuana smell. It wasn't the effect we were going for, but I suppose the smell was "evocative" for some of the people who seemed to recognize it.
There is something to be said for aromatherapy. Any shopping mall will have a store with candles in hundreds of different fragrances. Think about the theme of the worship experience you are planning, and choose an appropriate fragrance.
What Does Worship Sound Like?
My grandparents used to listen to a radio worship program every Sunday morning. The show opened every week with the tolling of the "ol' church bell" calling the faithful to worship. One year, my grandparents decided they would take a vacation and travel to the church where the radio program was recorded. They were eager to worship in that congregation, and were particularly looking forward to seeing and hearing the church bell in person. But as it turned out, the "bell" was actually a guy beating on the wheel rim of a car with a hammer.
Listen to any of the old radio horror stories, and you'll find many of those stories are far more frightening than any of the movies you can see today. The reason is the imagery takes place in your mind, which is capable of imagining scenes that are much scarier than what film directors could come up with. The sound-effects men of the early days of radio were auditory artists. Orson Welles knew all about the power of sound. With a microphone and a mason jar shoved into a toilet, his 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds convinced the country a spaceship was slowly opening up in Grovers Mill, New Jersey.
So what about sound in worship? Think about the sound of 30 pieces of silver jingling in a cloth bag. Think about what you might hear if you were trapped inside a whale's stomach.
One of my favorite sounds (and I have found it's a favorite sound of many other people) is the sound of rain on the roof. Few things relax me more as I read the paper on a Saturday morning on my back porch, or help me sleep better at night, than rain on the roof. But what did rain sound like to Noah and his family? Is it possible to have a volunteer spray a hose on the window of the youth room as you worship? Could that be the rain that drenched Jesus as he walked on the water?
When my youth led a Good Friday service (similar to the one on page XX), we thought the sound of a hammer hitting a nail would be a powerful reminder of the cross. As it turned out, a hammer hitting a nail didn't sound enough like a hammer hitting a nail to us, so we wound up taking two large crescent wrenches and banging them together next to a microphone.
It's not necessary to turn your worship service into a radio drama. But how much more effective would the story of Jesus' calming of the storm be if you actually heard the thunder?
What Does Worship Taste Like?
There are a lot of foods in the Bible. Here are just a few of them:
Milk Exodus 3:8; Proverbs 27:27
Butter Deuteronomy 32:14; 2 Samuel 17:29
Cheese 1 Samuel 17:18; Job 10:10
Bread 1 Samuel 17:17; Acts 20:7
Fish Matthew 7:10; Luke 24:42
Vegetables Proverbs 15:17; Daniel 1:12
Fruit 2 Samuel 16:2; Psalm 1:3
Honey Song of Solomon 5:1; Isaiah 7:15
Oil Deuteronomy 12:17; Proverbs 21:17; Ezekiel 16:13
Vinegar Numbers 6:3; Ruth 2:14
Wine Psalm 60:3; John 2:3
Incorporating these and other tastes into worship services can bring them to life. You can even use taste to suggest other senses and feelings. Later in the book you'll find a worship service that uses Pop Rocks candy to simulate an earthquake, an Atomic FireBall to simulate the anger of God, and Sierra Mist soda to cool us down with a gentle breeze.
Think of the ways you could use tastes in your worship services. Feed your group more than just communion bread. Pass around a plate of dried fruit. Let them dip bread into honey. Elsewhere in this book you will find a Passover Seder service that is modified from the traditional Jewish service. That service uses all sorts of tastes to help make the story of the exodus more vivid-salt water for tears, bitter herbs for the difficulty of life in the desert, and so on. The Jewish people had already been using tastes and smells as part of their worship for centuries by the time Jesus was born. We as Christians are too willing to reduce our sensory experience of worship to hearing the choir, watching the minister preach (oooh, look-hand gestures!), and tasting the Wonder Bread and Welch's once a month. It's time to change that.
What Does Worship Feel Like?
This one is a little trickier. Quick-what's the largest organ on a human being? (BUZZ, I'm sorry, that's incorrect. But thanks for playing our game.) The answer is: THE SKIN.
If you're preaching about Jesus calling the fishermen, have your whole group go stand with their feet in the ocean, or in a lake, or in a kiddy pool, if that's all you have. Pass around a real fish or let them hold an actual fishing net. If you're focusing on the baptism of Jesus, find a member of your congregation with a pool and let the group wade in up to their waists. If you are preaching about the crucifixion, let them hold a sledgehammer or a railroad spike.
A number of passages in the Bible talk about God's presence as a wind or a gentle breeze. I once worked with a group of people at a Youth Specialties convention and asked how we might illustrate this. One woman suggested putting large box fans around a darkened room. Each fan's cord would lead to a contact strip behind the youth minister. At the appropriate moment, the youth minister could reach behind him and flip the switch. Suddenly half a dozen fans would spin to life, and a hurricane would materialize in the room. I've incorporated this idea into the "Elijah in the Cave" service, but it has many other possibilities as well.
I took a trip to our local Salvation Army store and bought a few soft baby blankets and some rough wool sweaters. I cut these into swatches and passed them out to my students. As we read the portion of the exodus story where the people are complaining to Moses, I had them press the itchy wool sweater fabric between their hands and rub it on their faces. Later I passed out swatches of the baby blankets and read Psalm 23.
Go stand in your closet and carefully rub your face with the sleeve of each piece of clothing you own. What feels like the shroud they wrapped our Savior in? What feels like the robes of the wise men?
Go stand in the sandbox at the nearest playground (wait till the kids are done) and feel the sand between your toes. Is this what Jesus felt on his feet as he walked the beach? Would he feel the sand for 40 days in the desert?
Your hands are meant for more than holding the hymnal and doodling on the back of the bulletin during worship. They are tools for worship.
What Does Worship Look Like?
One of the greatest ways to change the sight of your worship service is to change the site of your worship service. In other words, get out of the building!
Every day, God creates these wonderful pieces of art called sunrises and sunsets. And they change every single day! Get your group outside to worship in the evening or early morning. What kind of roof does your church have? Can you stand your group on the roof and tell them about King David pacing the roof of the palace at night?
Early churches took generations to build. The "contractor" could spend his life on one project and die long before it was over. Early churches focused much more on an "awe factor"-with high ceilings that lifted the eyes up to heaven and statues of saints in the corners. Today many churches use large screens to project visual images during a worship service. Most churchgoers are so bombarded by visual images on a daily basis that just sitting and watching the minister isn't visually stimulating enough to keep their attention.
Perhaps we need to make worship a respite from the outside world. Imagine worship as a place where you can leave behind the need to constantly stimulate the brain and just let a person "be."
Don't forget darkness is an excellent visual. Cover the windows in the room; turn out the lights so the only thing your youth can see is the candle glowing in the middle of the circle. Load them into the back of a U-Haul. Blindfold them. Take away the sense of sight and see how quickly they pay attention to what else is going on around them.
The Colors of Liturgy
As we consider what worship looks like, the topic of color deserves a special mention. Advertisers and sales persons know the power of color. Many fast food restaurants are decked out in yellows and reds because those colors tend to keep you moving. More intimate restaurants (i.e., expensive and therefore not often populated by youth ministers) tend to be painted in calming hues-earth tones and deep blues and greens. The "blue plate special" at many diners used to be a cheaper meal that was literally served on a blue plate. Since blue is generally thought a less appetizing color, diner owners felt they could serve less food on the blue plate special.
Colors also have a long and rich history in worship. The altar guild changes the colors on the pulpit and altar for a reason, you know? Using various colors to differentiate liturgical seasons became common practice in the Western church somewhere during the fourth century. In the twelfth century, Pope Innocent III established a system using five colors: violet, white, black, red, and green. Some other churches added blue and gold.
With the Reformation, these traditional uses of color were minimized in some churches. Many churches still use different colors to mark the seasons, though few know the meaning behind the colors. Colors can be used in banners, vestments, altar cloths, and tapestries. I'm told there is a church in Florida that flies flags outside of the church and changes them depending on the time of year.
Generally, the following are the accepted liturgical colors, their meanings, and the time of year during which they are most appropriately used:
RED is the color of blood and thus is used to mark Holy Week and Jesus' crucifixion. It is also the color of fire, so red can be used on Pentecost Sunday along with yellow.
YELLOW or GOLD is generally seen as a color of joy and is used on celebration days like Easter, Epiphany, Christmas, and Pentecost.
GREEN is generally seen as the color of the Holy Ghost and a symbol of life eternal. It is often used after Easter and Epiphany, to mark the time when the early church was growing.
BLACK is seen as a color of mourning. Black is used on Good Friday to mark Jesus' crucifixion. It is also acceptable to remove all color from the sanctuary on Good Friday.
Excerpted from The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2 by Steven L. Case Copyright © 2006 by Steven L. Case. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Steven L. Case has been in youth ministry for more than 20 years. The author of several books, inlcuding The Book of Uncommon Prayer 1 & 2, Steve works at the United Church of Christ, in Windermere, Florida. He lives near Orlando with his wife, Becky.
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