"Especially when teaching inter-generational groups, or communities with widely varying levels of education, grounding a discussion in something as concrete and relatable as what we do on Sunday mornings is incredibly unifying."
Forming Faith Through Worship
When doing any kind of Christian formation – be it with children, youth, or adults – I start with the Sunday liturgy as the framework. Sunday worship is what we have in common. Regardless of whether we have any theological training or know the names of all the parts of the service, the liturgy is accessible to all of us.
Consider the following: How do the majority of us encounter Scripture? We hear it read in church. How do we learn about theology? We make inferences based on the words and actions we experience around us every Sunday. How do we form a Christian moral compass? Hopefully the sermons we hear guide us in the right direction. For the vast majority of us, liturgy is where we learn about our faith.
So what if the way we did Christian formation in our congregations followed this same pattern? What if we taught Scripture, theology, and ethics using the Eucharistic liturgy as a framework? Especially when teaching inter-generational groups, or communities with varying levels of education, grounding a discussion in something as concrete as what we do on Sunday mornings is incredibly unifying.
6 Fresh Ideas for Teaching Liturgy
In my own experience of teaching youth confirmation, I have been frustrated by how few resources most curricula include for teaching liturgy – therefore I have had to create some ideas myself. These resources work well either as supplements to a formal confirmation curriculum or as stand-alone activities for a youth group.
1. Turn Your Youth into Investigators
Before I start teaching anything, I want to see what youth already know and how they experience worship. I do this by giving them a liturgy evaluation to fill out during the service. Using questions like, “What did I like? What did I not like? What questions did I have?” I invite commentary on everything from the sermon, to the music, to the general vibe.
The feedback from this exercise is astounding and has changed the way we do liturgy. This exercise is a great way to get people to see Sunday worship in a new way, and to move them from a place of “this is boring,” to a place of informed engagement.
2. Don’t Start with an Instructed Eucharist
In my confirmation classes, I devote about four weeks to taking apart the liturgy before doing a full instructed Eucharist. Only after doing all that do I take people up into the sanctuary for an instructed Eucharist. I find it makes the experience much more meaningful and helps them ask more focused questions.
3. Take it Apart and Put it Together
I begin by having the youth name as many parts of the service as they can off the top of their heads. Then, we see if they can put them in order. From there, I use the Liturgy of the Word to teach Scripture, the Creed to teach basic theology, etc.
4. Nicene Creed Madlib
Some of my favorite teaching tools are the silliest. The more out there it seems, the higher the chances of the lesson being memorable and the material sticking. A Nicene Creed mad-lib has been a smash hit with every class I’ve ever taught.
5. Sanctuary Scavenger Hunt
I familiarize youth with liturgical space and seasons via sanctuary scavenger hunts. They love it, if for no other reason than that they get to use their phones to take pictures!
6. Emoji Stories
I teach the days of Holy Week by having youth text me emoji stories. To learn more, check out the Building Faith post on Emoji Theology.
Resources for These Ideas
Want specifics? All the materials mentioned above are downloadable on Kristin's Website.
Kristin Saylor is an Episcopal priest and breathwork practitioner based in New York City. Her vocation is to bridge the gaps between mind and body, sacred and mundane, church and city. She currently serves at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Port Chester, NY. Learn more at kristinsaylor.com.