The Vital Need for Ritual

My shampoo bottle says lather, rinse, and repeat. That is some great advice for ministry.

My wife and I celebrated our first Thanksgiving together at her parent’s home a year before we married. It was great, but didn’t feel exactly like Thanksgiving. They didn’t have mashed potatoes. The following year we journeyed to my parents place for Thanksgiving and my wife shared similar sentiments as the meal did not include macaroni and cheese which she had become so accustomed to. Ceremony, Ritual, and Tradition. These should be included in your ministry.

In ministry with youth, a sense of ceremony or ritual is vital to create a safe place for the youth to grow and explore their faith. As a disclaimer, it’s great to ‘change things up’ every now and then, but that very phrase implies that there is a consistent routine or a rhythm that is an underlying norm. Examine your youth night or ministry program and you’ll find that rituals already exist. When polishing or improving a ministry, perfecting these staples can have a profound effect.

Ritual in your ministry allows participants to be able to anticipate, prepare, and participate.

Knowing what occurs next lowers anxiety and allows greater openness. This remains true even if it is an undesirable activity for the participant. Preparation occurs during this time as well as in the midst of the activity itself. Our prayer time typically involves singing. When we start to transition to prayer, many teens clear their thoughts so they can better participate. Familiarity allows fuller participation. This can be seen in a variety of ways, whether its lyrics or melody for worship, expectations of a response, silence, or interaction with a presentation, or simply moving together toward a common known destination.

Here are a few tips to use ritual in your ministry

  • Opening and Closing (should be consistent, welcoming and loving)
    • In opening, foster some brief interaction with the audience, this creates a connection. Be sure that your main goal is to welcome the youth and create a safe place. Positivity and warmth are two moods you want to foster.
    • In closing, be concise, caring, and empowering. Youth should walk away feeling loved and equipped to live out the message.
  • Prayer Times
    • Alter the atmosphere in some way before entering into a time of prayer. Light a candle, dim the lights, or move to a sacred space.
  • Small Groups
    • Each small group should have its own rituals. This could include: opening or closing prayer, weekly check in, sharing expectations, or sending forth.

A friend of mine took an entire year and ended every gathering with the following routine. They would sing “Lord I Need You” by Matt Maher, the theme they chose to focus on for the year. Then he would let the teens know that they are loved and send them forth. Over time the effects of this ritual bore much fruit. Perfect or create a ritual for the youth in your program.

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