Question: Experimenting with Service Structure


Today’s post is more of a question than an article, but I will share our experience to get the ball rolling.

I am an overseer for all of our “family” ministries at what some would consider a mega-church. Although I would classify SSCC as just a large church, we technically fall into the very bottom of the “mega” category.

Because of our size, we have the opportunity to do several services based on age range. Our family ministries encompass 5 separate services: (pre-k, lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school, and high school). These all fall under my oversight.

In our middle and high school ministries we began to experiment with the “when” of our time of musical worship during the service. Our goal was to create a better environment for response and engagement. This school year we moved away from the typical “game-worship-message-response” format to a “game-message-worship/response” flow.

In our middle school services, the apparent engagement seems not to have changed at all. Our kids seem to struggle to find freedom in worship. Either they are “too cool for school” or they just aren’t comfortable singing and expressing worship musically. This doesn’t surprise us, as it IS an awkward age.

We do incorporate very brief teaching moments where we talk about worship and outward worship participation and expression. This doesn’t seem to move the needle at all.

In our high school services, this school year has been a departure from past years. Our high schoolers typically are more engaged than our middle schoolers. The change in format has seemed to create even more engagement.

Coming out of our talks and message times, we land on a slow, worshipful song that allows a lot of response and contemplation. Then maybe a bigger worship anthem that gets pretty big, and moves the setlist toward our 2 closing songs, which are more celebratory and “fun” in nature. Songs like “Happy Day” or “Wake” are current favorites.

The high schoolers engage. They sing out loud. They dance and have fun during the upbeat songs. Before we changed to this structure, they seemed to be unengaged like the middle school group. This change seems to have worked for our older students, but not for our younger middle schoolers.

Have you experienced any measure of “success” in creating engaging environments by moving service elements around?

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Russ Hutto is the Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church, where he mentors, oversees and helps lead Family and Student worship environments. He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community and at