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Worship with Teenagers

Adolescent Spirituality and Congregational Practice

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Despite numerous research projects, books, articles, and resources that have been published about teenagers and about worship in recent years, the relationship between the two has been only peripherally addressed if not altogether overlooked. This book addresses the vital role of public Christian worship in adolescent spiritual formation and shows how important youth ministry and worship ministry are to each other.

Drawing on his extensive experience in worship ministry and youth ministry, Eric Mathis offers insights into the worship practices of teenagers, corrects common misperceptions about worship, and critically examines four prominent worship models in current practice. He invites youth pastors, worship leaders, ministerial students, and congregations to elevate the voices of young people in the worshiping community and enhance worship for all ages.


Foreword by Kenda Creasy Dean
Part 1: Cultural Perspectives
1. Almost Christian: What the Faith of America's Teenagers Is Telling Us about Our Worship
2. Lessons from the Past: What Our Worship Practices Have Told Our

3. Worship with Teenagers: Beginning with the End in Mind
Part 2: Liturgical Perspectives
4. Linking God's Story with Teenagers' Stories: The Role of Christian Worship
5. From Intergenerational to Adoptive Worship: Embracing Teenagers in the Church of All Ages
6. Worship and Culture: From the Sanctuary to the Soup Kitchen, from
the Mission Field to Summer Camp, and Back Home Again

Part 3: Pastoral Perspectives
7. Teenagers, Emotions, and Worship: Wisdom from Philosophy,
Sociology, and Anthropology

8. Congregational Worship with Teenagers: A Guide for Change
9. Youth Group Worship with Teenagers: Guide for Formation
Appendix 1: A Letter to Teenage Worship Leaders
Appendix 2: Worship Planning Toolbox: A Template for Planning
Worship with Teenagers



"Mathis has written a book unlike any I have read in youth ministry. He explores, with impressive depth and scope, the various ways young people worship and how these experiences both reflect and shape their faith and lives. . . . For as long as people have cared that young people have faith, youth have worshiped. Somehow Mathis manages to view everything we have learned to call youth ministry--from revivals to YMCAs to parachurch ministries to staid youth groups in church basements--through the aperture of worship, which, after all, is the point."

Kenda Creasy Dean (from the foreword)

"This is a thoughtful book. As thinkers have wrestled with the reductions of late modernity and the way it strips the world of enchanted ritual, many have pointed to the importance of returning to worship. Eric Mathis has done something powerful for us; he's picked up this worship sensibility and driven it into the center of youth ministry. This book is one all pastors and youth workers should read."

Andrew Root, Carrie Olson Baalson Professor of Youth and Family Ministry, Luther Seminary; author of The Congregation in a Secular Age

"A perceptive and thought-provoking invitation to reconsider typical approaches to both youth ministry and public worship in congregations, parachurch organizations, Christian schools, and campus ministries. Mathis writes with deep awareness of the pastoral riches of historic patterns of Christian worship and with deep gratitude for the gifts, insights, and capacities that God lavishes on teenagers. This book challenges simplistic limits that we too often impose on intergenerational communities and particular generational cohorts and invites us to a richer and deeper way of worshiping together. This is also an ideal book for parents, guardians, and grandparents to read to glimpse new possibilities for providing spiritual encouragement to their teenagers--and for learning from them and with them."

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Calvin University, and Calvin Theological Seminary

"While there are plentiful resources for youth ministry, worship scholar Eric Mathis perceptively observes that there is a serious lack of scholarship on adolescent spiritual formation. Having read Worship with Teenagers, I am impressed by the careful investigative work supporting Mathis's bold claim that 'when congregations choose to engage teenagers in the worship life of the church, all ages in the church are enriched, connected, encouraged, and strengthened for the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ.' Indeed, Mathis's book is essential reading for church leaders wanting to revitalize their congregation."

Lim Swee Hong (林瑞峰), Deer Park Associate Professor of Sacred Music, Emmanuel College, Victoria University, University of Toronto

"A vision like this--one that understands teenagers less as a demographic and more as disciples--is a glorious challenge for worship pastors like me. The church is prone to talk of teens one dimensionally. Thank God for this fresh invitation to three-dimensional ministry with our young disciples."

Zac Hicks, canon for liturgy and worship, Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, Alabama; author of The Worship Pastor

The Author

  1. Eric L. Mathis
    Todd Germany

    Eric L. Mathis

    Eric L. Mathis (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is associate pastor of faith formation, worship arts, and young adults at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington, DC. He previously served as associate dean, associate professor, and founding...

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