How To Run Family Worship Night

It’s Orange Week! Our team here at absolutely loves the Orange philosophy, their crew, their conference, and curriculum. A few of us were asked to focus this week on aspects of Orange, and we love participating every year in Orange week!

Over the past few years, our ministry has hosted a Family Worship Night every year. The purpose for the night is to give parents opportunities to engage with their students on a spiritual level and give them some form of takeaway that night to impact and encourage spiritual conversations moving forward.  Each campus has approached this in a different way, depending on the context of our community!

As student pastors/ministers/directors/volunteers/leaders, Orange hits the nail on the head…we only get a fraction of the time with students their families get.  We cannot be the primary discipleship avenue in a student’s life!  Sometimes, the family isn’t in the picture, and that’s a reality we encounter regularly, but in an ideal situation we assist the parents.  So a large part of our job needs to be focused on encouraging these types of discussions and dynamics with families – hence Family Worship Night.

I want to give you a couple things to think through when hosting your own Family Worship Night, a couple ways you could approach it, and finally, a free download to use in your own ministry!


  • Typically, we’ve hosted ours when we already have worship services.  For us, that means we pick a Wednesday night that is not a week our numbers are typically down. You know the ebb and flow of your own ministry and community, so think through the implications of WHEN to do your service.
  • Do you want to provide food? One of our campuses brings in a dinner for families to share together (each family member pays at the door). Our campus does not have space to do this, so we choose not to include food. If we could, we probably would….but we can’t…so we don’t!
  • Make sure your leaders know in advance. Our small group leaders are not a part of our weekly worship services (for a lot of reasons), but on Family Worship Night, they’re there in force! It’s a HUGE opportunity for them to connect with parents, and typically our leaders stand-in for parents when students show up without someone.
  • What is your goal for the night? I’ll unpack two options below.
  • Don’t be afraid of getting face time. Odds are, many parents won’t be very familiar with you, so make sure in the beginning of the night you introduce yourself and let them get to know you a little bit. They’re sending their student to you weekly, so make sure they see you.
  • PUBLICIZE THE EVENT!  Make sure parents know about the evening. Whether you do a mailer, make phone calls, have small group leaders call the parents in their group, send out an email, whatever you need to do, make sure you are letting parents know about 3 weeks before the night!
  • Pray. Pray like crazy. You will have students show up without parents. You’ll have parents show up out of obligation. Lord willing, you’ll have parents show up who know nothing about Jesus. The opportunities are literally endless, so pray for the Holy Spirit to move through the night!  Do not wait until an hour before doors open to ask God to bless what you’ve already built.  Soak it. Bathe it. Cover it. Pray it up.



  • PURPOSE: Show parents a glimpse of what their students experience each week.
  • Keep the program structure changes minimal.
  • If your ministry does games, do a game that will engage families together. I’ve done games like an adaptation of the Newlywed Game or Pictionary. If you need game ideas, head over to Fun Ninja. As you are finding a game, keep asking yourself, “What can I do that will give a family a memory….without including a hospital visit.”
  • The service itself is not one that lends itself to fostering spiritual conversations, so I try and have give-aways and resources available for parents to see in the lobby.
  • In years past, I’ve given away and/or sold copies of 30 Days by Richard RossParenting Beyond Your Capacity99 Thoughts For Parents of Teenagers, and this year, I’ll give away a copy of Playing for Keeps. You can have drawings, give them as game prizes, or simply have them available for sale.
  • Tailor messages to include families, not just students, but don’t change the way you would normally program a service.
  • When I’ve done this in our ministry, it’s usually in the middle of a series. I want the parents to see how we’re teaching, unpacking, and connecting concepts in the context of a series.



  • PURPOSE: Helping parents engage with their students, break down “awkward barriers,” and give them a practical takeaway that will hopefully ripple effect into other areas of life.
  • Typically, I preach in a youth service. And by preach, I mean the past 5 times I’ve been up I’ve been closer to 40 minutes than I am to 20.  For a night like this, I shift my focus to facilitating conversations.
  • We still do games and worship like we would in Option 1.
  • During the “message” portion, families move chairs into circles, and I facilitate conversations where the parents and students are talking about various aspects of life and theology.
  • Think about what you want them to leave having said and gear your message and questions around that. Do you want them to open up about how they see God working in their student? Do you want them to have conversations about the poor decisions parents have made and how God came through? Do you want a dad to tell his son how proud he is of them?
  • I usually have some soft, reflective music in the booth ready to go (or have your worship leader pick at the guitar). This fills the awkward void and lets people feel like other families aren’t listening in.
  • PRO’s: A lot of parents want these conversations but don’t know how to initiate them.  You’re helping them open up and share their heart.  Students want their parents to share, but don’t know how to initiate it either!
  • CON’s: You will have students show up without parents.  Have small group leaders there and available to help process the topics with them. In the end, you can’t hit every student and every parent in one night. This is a shotgun night, not a sniper rifle night.  Your aim is the broad group.

Option 2 can feel daunting, so here’s what I want to do!  For the next week, you can download my manuscript from our last Family Worship Night at our campus! Keep in mind, you get what you pay for, but there is only one stipulation.  IF you use this, LET ME KNOW HOW IT GOES!  Even if you don’t want to use it, this could give you a more tangible idea of how I approached the night and help spawn some ideas that would better fit your ministry and your families.


If parent ministry or family ministry is a growing desire in your ministry, do not miss the opportunity to sign up for The Orange Conference on October 10th.  The people at Orange “get” families, students, kids, and ministry and do an incredible job at equipping churches for pouring into the family!

Guest Post: Why we chose to only do Youth Group on Sunday Mornings

About 6 years ago we made the decision to cancel our Wednesday night youth group for middle school students and move everything we did to Sunday mornings. For more info about what our Sunday morning program looks like click here. We also chose to cancel our Sunday morning and Sunday night gatherings for High School and move everything to Wednesday night. We saw both numerical growth and the quality of ministry increase immediately and here’s some reasons why…

1. It was a win for volunteers’ and families’ schedules. Instead of running students around to church 2 or 3 times a week (or even more), or asking volunteers to serve multiple times a week, we condensed it down to one time a week – and for middle school that was Sunday mornings. It works for us because we have 2 adult gatherings on Sunday mornings (9am and 11am) and we do the same for our middle school gatherings now. It allows volunteers to go to church at one service and serve at the other. And it’s a win for families because now they can spend their weeknights together now or engaged more in their community.

2. It was a win for our church. If we’re honest, we understand that parents will sometimes choose a church to attend based on what it offers for kids. A lot of parents tell me they heard about our children’s ministry or heard about our middle school ministry and decided to bring their family to check it out. This is especially true with unchurched families; families already engaged with our ministry now have another reason to invite their unchurched friends to get engaged – “you guys should check out of childrens/middle school programs, your kids will love it”, and mom and dad get to go to church at the same time. I believe having a quality middle school program on Sunday mornings really helps in attracting young families to engage with your church.

3. It increased our volunteer pool. Because we canceled our high school program on Sunday mornings, it opened the door for high school students to serve and invest in middle school students. High School students that can’t drive or are busy during the week now have a place to use their gifts and are engaged as greeters, cafe workers, security, and even leading a small group if they are mature enough.

It also increased our adult volunteer pool because they are already there at church – they don’t need to come back another day and time to serve. This has been huge for us and makes it easier to find quality volunteers that may be busy during the week.

4. It increased the quality of ministry to students. Because we as a staff can focus all of our attention on just one gathering a week, we have a lot more time to invest in volunteers, develop our small group environment, develop our worship environment, plan our games/fun stuff, and prepare our messages. When we were preparing for 2,3, or more events or gatherings a week, we had a lot less time and energy for each gathering and the overall quality of each one suffered. And because we include small groups in our Sunday morning program now, that means every student we are engaged with is automatically plugged into a small group. Each student that walks through our doors is connected to an adult that cares about them and a community of their peers that is on a journey of following Jesus with them.

As you can tell, for us less gatherings = better ministry opportunity. I realize every context is different and our structure isn’t the “right way” or anything, but I just wanted to share why we chose to do it the way we do.

What do you think?

We value you’re input and want to have discussion with you. How is your youth ministry structured? What are the pros and cons of how you do it and what would you recommend to others that has been successful to you?

Teaching the Gospel when notes go bad

If you are a Worship leader, this has happened to you at some point (unless you are Carmen, he never makes mistakes): you start a song, and something is terribly wrong. You know it, the band knows it, everyone in the congregation knows it, but everyone just keeps pretending they don’t notice, until, at some point you have to stop the whole song and just start over.

Well, this happened a few Wednesdays ago at my youth group. The students who make up the youth band right now are pretty young and green when it comes to the part of being a musician where you share your gifts with all the other people in a room.

Its so scary for a while, and even after you’ve been doing it for a long time, its still really daunting sometimes to be sharing what you love in a way that makes you so vulnerable. But this is part of the beauty of corporate worship: we come to God, all with differing skills and differing levels of maturity, yet all equals before Him, because all of us desperately need Him. This is why moments like these are such a great chance to teach the Gospel. Don’t miss them!

Here are three ways to react that will help your entire youth group(including you and your adults) grow in your understanding of Worship, and the Gospel.

Be Honest!

Duh! Admit that a mistake happened! Don’t try and get through that moment of mistake as fast as possible so you can act like you have it all together again, because none of us do. Your students need to know that the band is just like they are: broken people who need God!

The Gospel!

Remind everyone(and yes, I mean right then and there) that God doesn’t accept our worship because of how good we are at it. If He did, we would all be in a ton of trouble! He accepts our worship to Him because of what Jesus did, and continues to do as He intercedes for us (Romans 8)

Follow up!

Make sure that whoever it was that made the song stopping mistake doesn’t wallow in their mistake. Remember how unsure of yourself you were in High School? Well, that student is probably feeling pretty insecure, so make sure that you continue to build a relationship with them and continue to remind them of how important their role is to you, not just the youth ministry, but you personally. Practically speaking, whatever it was that they made the mistake on, help them to hone that skill! If its something that you cant personally help them with, find someone who can!

Of course, each situation is different, so your pastoral work in that situation should fit it, but if you can get your students to begin to see how the Gospel speaks into every part of their life, you will begin to see a student body whose relationships to God and to each other grow together in humility and maturity.

The Skinny on Students in Adult Worship

family ministry worship service


For years, I’ve heard pastors, parents, and church goers directly or indirectly talk down forms of youth ministry that don’t include combining parents and students on Sunday morning. The argument is that students need to be around adults for intergenerational relationship development. While this CAN be true, I tend to think it’s a dream we believe but that doesn’t really translate into reality.

I want to take a moment and really get to the core of this thought. Do students actually develop relationships with adults better on Sunday morning during worship services? I’m not against intergenerational ministry, but I think a lot of what people are talking about are good intentions without acutal success. Look at these points with me:

1. Just because students are sitting in “big church” doesn’t mean they are developing relationships. Do your students just sit with other students? When was the last time students sat with older people that weren’t their grandparents?

2. Churches that preach to the 30+ target group can go over students’ heads. Topics matter. Our church had a “target” group. Targets aren’t bad. However, if students are stuck in adult worship and they aren’t a part of the “target,” what does that mean?

3. What about series that have nothing to do with students because of their life stage? You say they’ll learn anyway, but I think (and have seen) they tune out.

So what’s the answer?

Inttentional mentorship. Just becuase we throw adults and students into the same room doesn’t mean they’ll grow together or even at all. The key is intentionality.

What if we:

1. Have adults volunteer in youth ministry. Our ministry typically got a ton of college age/young adult volunteers. That was great and I love those people, but what I really wanted were parents and elders. Imagine a youth volunteer group of seasoned spiritual leaders? Yes please!

2. Ask your eldership or board to stop teaching elderly classes full of spiritually mature Christians. Tell them that it’s the young in Christ (or not even at all) that need their leadership, wisdom, and friendship.

3. What if pastors preached about youth topics during Sunday services a couple times a year?

4. What if students preached a couple times a year on Sunday morning? What if they co-preached with the senior pastor? What if they preached about adult topics instead of youth topics?

5. What if….your thoughts?