I’ve used responsive readings over the years in youth meetings, camps, etc. and found them to be powerful tools in helping students interact with God’s word.
The back and forth of scripture and response is better than the call and response method such as begging for an amen. Amen is a great word that means “so be it” but it’s overused and lacks intention.
The amen, in my opinion, builds the preacher rather than the participants. It feeds the ego of the speaker but leaves the congregation in the position of hype man rather than being thoughtfully engaged with the scripture; allowing the Holy Spirit to shed light on what is being said.
Let me offer five reasons you should use responsive readings in your youth ministry.
Whether you write the responsive reading yourself or find one on the internet, having students to proclaim powerful truths from God’s word reinforces the mission of the church and why students are in your meeting in the first place.
Consider the Psalm 100:5
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
This proclamation, repeated over and over, reinforces who God is, what he does, and His eternal commitment to those who are his. Over time, students move from “this is a new concept” to this is reality of my life.
According to aplnexted.com
Repetition is a key learning aid because it helps transition a skill from the conscious to the subconscious.
Growing up Catholic, I’m thankful for the prayers and creeds I repeated over and over because the Holy Spirit has brought them to my attention yeas later, not as rote memorization, but revelation.
I find Aristotle’s quote to be true,
“It is frequent repetition that produces a natural tendency.”
The more students proclaim God’s word, the more likely it becomes natural tendency to fall back to those when thinking about who God is to them.
Not only does each students proclaim the truth of God’s word, but they are saying it collectively, building up the body of Christ.
Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. I Corinthians 1:10
How can you unite your group in the same mind; by agreeing together through scripture.
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Amos 3:3
Binding hearts, minds and voices together whether as a part of the singing portion of worship, the opening to the message or as the closing to the message a leading creates agreement, as a whole. Yes, each heart must believe individually, but the truth is also easily received collectively.
I mentioned earlier how preachers prompt the congregation for amens and yes, some preachers do it for ego, but I think the vast majority of preachers do this just so he or she does not have to talk to the air. Speakers want the audience to participate.
The early church was built on participation,
What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. I Corinthians 14:25
Each of your students have something to offer. Some have musical talent, others are gifted in leadership or helps. There is no reason for you to do all the work.
Not every gift can be used every week, but allowing all the students to participate, to let each person lend their voice to the whole, regardless of their level of spiritual maturity, is a powerful way to say, “You belong and you can contribute.”
When you do a responsive reading, you are allowing students to affirm a biblical truth out loud and affirm what they have though but never said.
Let’s go back to Psalm 100:5
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Students want to affirm what they believe, out loud, They want to believe that
The Lord is good.
His love endures forever
His faithfulness continues to all generations.
In a deeper, more individual way, the student wants to know,
The Lord is good to me.
The Lord will love me forever.
The Lord will be faithful to me, even if I am unfaithful to him.
Responsive readings allow students to affirm their beliefs, out loud. One day these truths could become part of their spiritual DNA in times of worry, doubt and pain.
Yes, students can read back a line on the screen and it’s powerful for the reasons I have stated above; but, what if students accompanied an action into their reading? Actions reinforces the words being said.
In the Catholic service their is a part that asks the congregation to offer the sign of peace (shaking hands)
Priest: Peace be with you
Congregation: And also with you.
Priest: Let us now offer each other a sign of peace
at this point you turn to someone and shake their hand. This is more than saying a few words; this is acting on a spiritual principle.
Responsive readings do not need to be boring, rote and dry. They can have life and even be fun for students.
What if you added some action to the reading? Let me offer Psalm 100, again, as an example,
A psalm. For giving grateful praise.
You: Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Students: Shout your favorite thing about God
You: Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Students: Laugh out loud
You: Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his
people, the sheep of his pasture.
Students: We are sheep. We aren’t too bright and we stink. We need Jesus. Ba Ba Ba!
You: Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
Students: Shout something you are thankful for!
You: For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Students: Turn to someone and give them heart hands.
All Together: Wild applause to God
If you are looking to spice up your service, try doing some responsive readings and watch the dynamics of your meeting change from blank stares and begging for amens to whole-hearted participation with scripture and with each other.
You can grab this Psalm 100 response reading here by signing up for my Youth Ministry Round Up Newsletter. It comes with a traditional and the non-traditional readings as well as slides.