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Youth church: in support of a takeover

14 July 2023

In our occasional series of parish resources, Mark Charmley celebrates a service led by young people

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OUR church youth group, Ignite, took over the main morning services at both St Saviour’s and Torteval, Guernsey, earlier this year. To quote the start of Beattie’s sermon: “Since January, we have been working as a team at Ignite preparing the service for today. Mark gave us the theme — teamwork — and in our sessions we have been working on choosing the hymns, readings, and prayers.

“We’ve had many ideas, including a wheel of doom and a flash mob, but we finally settled on this service.”

The takeover is something that has happened a number of times over the ten years the group has been in existence, created as an opportunity for the young people to learn what goes into a service, have the chance of putting everything together, and then given the opportunity to lead. Who knows, we may be entertaining future LLMs or clergy unawares?

For our congregations, it is an opportunity to be inspired and challenged by our amazing group of youngsters. Seeing someone different leading makes us think, and maybe takes us out of our comfort zone — not a bad thing, sometimes.


THE youth-group leaders — Sue, Charlotte, and I — came up with the theme Working as a Team, which the young people (Flossie, Lara, Adam, Christine, Scarlett, Clemmie, Samantha, and Beattie) retitled “Team work makes the dream work.” At the group’s fortnightly Sunday-evening discussion sessions, 13 young people worked on the preparation of the service, although only eight were available on the day.

They started by looking at what goes into a service, the ingredients, comparing preparing a service to making a cake (we do eat a lot of it), and identified the ingredients needed to make up our family eucharist.

The leaders gave the young people a choice of three New Testament and three Gospel readings on the theme; once the choices were made, the group discussed the lessons that could be learned from the readings. Then, encouraged by our thespian, Charlotte, they created a sketch based on the readings, “The Great St Saviour’s/Torteval Bake Off”, emphasising the need for everyone in the church community to use their gifts.


ALL the thoughts and lessons written up on the flip-chart were kept, and then fed into Beattie’s sermon-writing, supported by me.

The group discussed intercessions, considering the importance of praying for the Church, the world, the community, the sick, and the bereaved; and then, working in pairs, they wrote the prayers for the service.

They looked at parts of the liturgy and, guided by the leaders, decided what should be included.

They chose the hymns, following the criteria of hymns that fitted the theme, were well-known, were liked, and were a good sing. Any hymn that was suggested was measured against all the criteria; so “One more step” made it in, but “The world is full of smelly feet” didn’t, even though it was a favourite.

Those who played instruments then took the music home to practise, as they were also forming the band to lead the worship; they really were doing as much as possible themselves.

Finally, the group decided who would be responsible for the different parts of the service, I wrote it all up so that the group could practise their lines, and Flossie agreed to produce the PowerPoint. (I say “finally”, but we also rehearsed and practised, wanting the cake to be not just well-balanced, but tasty.)


THE day came: the young people were excited and nervous. Most had done readings or prayers before, but none had ever preached, or led worship. This was their service: they were responsible, and the congregation, including family and friends, were looking to them.

The 9.30 a.m. service started at St Saviour’s. Lara led, and grew in confidence as the service went on. Adam read confidently from Romans 12.4-11, and Clemmie, Samantha, and Scarlett delivered a dramatic reading of the Gospel, Luke 5.1-11.

The band played well; the whole group took part in the sketch; and then Beattie preached. It was a thought-provoking sermon, based on the readings and the sketch, challenging the congregation to reflect on teamwork in the church and community, and brilliantly illustrated by eight members of the congregation, working together in two teams, in a skiing race down the aisles, cheered on raucously by the congregation.

Samantha, Flossie, Christine, and Scarlett led the intercessions, before I took over for the eucharist.


THEN it was a quick pack-up and rush off to Torteval for the 11 a.m. service, to repeat it all again, experiencing the life of a priest with responsibility for more than one church. This time, Christine led the service — she did excellently — and Lara took on Christine’s prayers.

When it was all over, there were smiles all round from the young people, who were tired but exhilarated from the experience, and thankful for the sugar rush from the excellent Torteval refreshments.

Later that Sunday evening, at the youth-group discussion, there was laughter and enthusiasm, and “When can we do it again?” Not for a while: the work in the background for the leaders was considerable. But do it again — yes, absolutely!

To conclude, the end of Beattie’s sermon: “And so for us today, what we should take forward into church life is this: that we all play our part in God’s story and the church community. And we must all work together, to blend our talents, to hold each other up, and to fish for people.”


The Revd Mark Charmley is Rector of St Saviour’s and Torteval, Guernsey.


Resources used:

Common Worship

Common Worship: Times and Seasons

NRSV Bible


Anglican Hymns Old and New

. . . and plenty of time and effort

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