Suzybower's Blog

Creative ideas for church and youth ministry.

Archive for alternative service

Christmas service in a stable

It’s that time of year again…

Time to dig out last year’s fairy lights (what they take away in authenticity, they more than make up for in aesthetics),

Dress up in excessive layers of clothing,

And last but not least heat up the hot spiced apple, and mince pies,

then trek over to a nearby farm for an advent service in a stable.


The service plan was pretty similar to last years but with more carols (and more people!) added this time. Check it out here.

Many thanks go the horses who made the whole thing possible by being willing to sacrifice their stable for the evening. We couldn’t have done it without you.

Baggage: creative worship

This idea popped into my head the other day whilst I was trying to focus on doing my expenses. The illustration or creative worship session is themed around the idea of baggage and burdens (but I haven’t actually used the idea yet, so the plan is fairly loose).

As people arrive there are loads of different bags in the centre of the room which people sit round (suitcase, tesco bag, backpack etc.). At some point people have to choose a bag to represent the burdens they are carrying. They could perhaps walk around with it for some of the session/service. Then at some point they place their baggage down at the foot of the cross and leave it there:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7 (and Psalm 55:22)

I spoke to someone else about this the other day, and they said it could be quite powerful if some people’s bags were too heavy to carry and others had to share the load. This could add more of a corporate element to the time. But I guess that if you’re loading the bags up with bricks or something, you may just have to make a short health and safety announcement – you don’t want people putting their backs out!

Let me know if you have any further thoughts or reflections on this idea as I would like to put it into practice sometime.

Book Recommendations

Here are some great books packed full of creative ideas for prayer, worship and meditation:

Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength: 50 Creative Worship Ideas for Youth Groups – by Jenny Baker.

This book is full of loads of excellent ready to use ideas for creative worship. Available from the book section of Proost.

Be. Live. Pray. – by Becca Dean.

This book is aimed at 14-18 year olds as a resource to inspire them to pray. There are activities within the book which could easily be used within a youth group setting. It’s available from Amazon.

Osmosis – by Suzi Stock.

I had never attempted leading my young people in christian meditation before I came across this book. I must say, I was fairly dubious about if young people could be quite for that long. But Suzi convinced me to give it a go, and the young people actually loved it! This book has about 5 different sessions in it where the group are led through a meditation, listen to songs, and fill out worksheets. The song suggestions are a bit outdated now, but it is easy to replace them with more modern equivalents. Apart from that there is fairly little prep needed for the sessions. The book is available from Kevin Mayhew.

Pixilated Jesus: creative corporate worship

This is a corporate worship idea which involves everyone doing a little bit of painting. Everyone gets a little slip of paper which looks something like this, and has a code on the back (e.g. A1):

They paint what they see onto a piece of A4 card. The code on the back is then used to put the finished paintings in order, onto a grid on the floor. As people add their pictures, it slowly becomes clear that what they have painted is a small section of a picture of Jesus. When everyone has added their painting there will be a giant montage of Jesus.

Here are some possible themes and reflections you could draw from this experience:

– Body of Christ: That individually we make up different parts of the same body (1 Cor 12).

– Creation: At the end of most days in the creation story God said ‘it was good’. But when creation was finished with everything together God said that ‘it was very good’. We were also created in the image of a trinitarian God, and we are therefore intrinsically relational. We were made not just to bring glory to God on our own, but instead called to worship God together. The combined effect of the finished mural was far greater than the individual parts.

– Sometimes we can’t see the point of what God is doing at the time, but looking back it becomes clear He knows where He’s going with it all. He’s got the big picture in his mind.

So here’s the detail of how to get it all ready…

– Find a detailed picture of Jesus. Either a close up of his face (like the one used for the Passion publicity), or one of him on the cross would work well.

– Make the picture greyscale, and perhaps increase the contrast so that it is easier to distinguish the grey areas.

– Split the picture up into a grid and blow it up.

– Print it out, cut it up, and write the code on the back:

Thanks go to Kat Orr who used this idea at Leading Edge a few years ago.

Creative Communion: idea & service plan

On Easter Sunday evening we were due to have a communion service. There was some debate as to whether it was appropriate to have communion which focussing on the cross, on a day when we are supposed to be remembering the resurrection. In the end we decided we would do a service based around living in the hope and light of the resurrection which is possible through the cross.

So this got my brain ticking over about light, and I decided to make a light box type thing as part of communion:

I used hot cross buns for the communion bread (mainly because I had loads left over!), and shone a lamp from underneath the bread (The bread was placed on a cooling rack, but you could use a piece of glass or transparent plastic if it was on a larger scale). As people took the bread, the light shone through more strongly. I then spoke about God’s kingdom breaking through here on Earth.

For more creative ways to do communion, check out this amazing resource: ‘Tabled’

In case you’re interested in how the whole communion service fitted together, here was the plan (let me know if you want a copy of the service plan with all the verses, and also the little service booklets I made).

Service plan

SETTING AND INTRODUCTION: As people arrived I stood outside to welcomed them and give them a service booklet. I asked them to remain silent as they went in, and to reflect on the verses about light that were pinned up around the room, or just sit and be. The chairs were positioned around the outside with the light box thing in the middle. There was some plinky plonky music playing as background (Arvo Part, Spiegel im Spiegel).

– The room was in darkness as people arrived, apart from the light coming off a video clips of various sunrises.

– As the service progressed I lit more candles around the room so it physically got lighter, until the last song which we went outside for and watched the sunset whilst we were singing.

BEGINNING BIT: I lit the candle in the middle of the room (representing Jesus) and read out various verses about light.

FOCUSSING ON: I spoke briefly about the light imagery surrounding the resurrection (Matt 28:3, Mark 16:2, Luke 24:4) and explained the link we were making between light, communion and the resurrection.

SUNG WORSHIP: All Hail the Lamb, Our God is an awesome God interspersed with Our God reigns, Jesus is Lord.

CONFESSION AND FORGIVENESS: ‘Forbid it Lord that I might boast’, ‘All the vain things that charm me most’. Words from the next song. Reflect on these things that charm us, and that we are boastful of (give a few mins for confession in silence).

– ‘I sacrifice them to you all’. Spend a few momnets seeking forgiveness for those things.

– Ephesians 5:8 – once in darkness, now live as children of light.

SUNG WORSHIP: When I survey

TALK: About hope/light/resurrection/God’s kingdom breaking through here on Earth made possible through the cross.

COMMUNION: As described above.

– Jesus is the light of the world, and now we are also the light of the world (Matt 5:14)

PRAYERS: for those in need of God’s light.

SUNG WORSHIP: Light of the world. Everyone was given a tealight, and during this song one person lit their candle from the middle flame (which had been lit from the beginning, representing Jesus), then passed this on to others – representing that we need to take God’s light into dark situations.

– Thine be the glory: by this point the room was light with all the candles I had been lighting throughout, but we went outside for the final song and watched the sunset – it was truly glorious! When I’m leading a service, I usually find it difficult to focus on God rather than on the next item on the programme – but this moment was just amazing and I will remember it for quite a while I think. We then hung around after the service to polish off the hot cross buns. Perfect end to Easter day!

Let me know if you want a copy of the service plan with all the verses, and also the little service booklets I made.

Things needed:

– Verses about light printed out to be stuck around the room.

– Sunrise videos: youtube, search for sunrise time lapse.

– Plinky plonky music (e.g. Arvo Part, Spiegel im Spiegel)

– Light box thing with commuion on.

– A lot of candles – check with health and safety person first!

– Service sheets.

(Thanks go to Ben Bell who sparked off the idea of doing a service that gradually gets lighter – he does this for advent services, what a fab idea!)

Creative prayer idea: oragami game thing

I haven’t used this idea, and it’s not totally formed yet, but thought I’d share it with you anyway!

Who doesn’t remember making one of these oragami quiz/game things in boring lessons at school? I seem to remember them being particularly good for predicting who you would end up marrying, whilst at the same time being exceptionally excellent at getting that particular fact so very wrong…

Anyway, how about a bit of reclaiming of this old school time filler, as a creative prayer resource (click here for instructions on making/using it). You could either make them beforehand with prayer requests already inside them, or you could get people to make them during a session and fill in their own, or the groups prayer requests. People then play the game in twos and pray for the request they end up landing on. They then take it home with them and continue to use it for prayer during the following week.

Alternatively you could be used in a response time where people write their thoughts, or commitments to actions in the spaces e.g. people could write in things like: ask a random person if you can pray for them today, bless someone financially today, make someone laugh. Then each day they play the game and try to do the thing it lands on.

Or you could write Bible verses in them e.g. verses relating to our identity in God and do something with that.

Basically, you can use it however you like really in a variety of different setting. Let me know how you get on with it if you do use it, I’d be interested to know.