Planning Your First Youth Takeover Service

In June we had the opportunity to run our first ever Youth Takeover Service! It was the BEST. If you’re not familiar with a Youth Takeover Service, basically it is the Youth taking over church for a day and running the service. Every aspect of the service from the welcome to worship, preaching to café, is done by your students.

If you’ve never run a Sunday like this before I highly recommend doing it! It is a great opportunity for your students to ‘own’ church, to step up and do something that might be out of their comfort zone, and also share what God is speaking and revealing to them. And it’s also a great opportunity for the church to see what your students are capable of and cheer them on.

There’s a few things to think about when planning a takeover service. In this post I want to share how we approached it and hopefully make it easy for you to give it a go too! I’ve made a basic planning worksheet to help you get started.. Find it in our library when you subscribe. (Seriously, you will LOVE it! Start your planning now!)

Getting started:

Gather a team.

We gathered two teams- one of adults and one of students. The adults helped us take care of big-picture things as well as the little details we might not have thought of (like who was doing the count that day). They also covered us in prayer in the weeks leading up to the service. Our student team helped plan the actual service- who was going to do what.

Start planning with the essentials.

Check in with your Senior Pastors about this one. Is there anything specific they’d like you to include? A particular song to do? A theme to speak on? Once you’ve got that information you can work the rest of your planning around it.

Our service start time is 10am, and we generally finish up around 11:30. We have a ’60 second frenzy’ every service (literally one minute where we all say hi to someone). The kids would all be staying in for the Youth service too. These were the parameters we were working with, in a sense.

Decide roughly what you’d like to do and communicate with your teams so they can prepare.

Planning the details:

The roles (who does what).

To figure out which students would be involved in which aspects of the Youth Takeover Service we wrote down who we thought would be a good fit for each role. We then gathered our student leaders and asked them what they wanted to do. If there were any roles left over we asked those we’d written down previously if they would be interested in it. Using this system we had all the roles filled quickly!


Our Youth worship band is entirely student-led and driven (with adult backing). Two months before the Youth Takeover Service we told our band leader that it was coming up and to start thinking about the songs to include in the worship set. She then rallied the rest of the team, chose the songs, worked out a rehearsal schedule, and kept us up to date with her progress.


We have about 3 students that are on our regular preaching team for Youth, so we asked each of them to prepare something on our topic of Heart for the House. We also had another student volunteer to do the offering message. They had about 6 weeks to prepare and sent through their drafts to us the week before the service.

One thing we didn’t do to help our students in their preparations was to run a Preacher Training session. We are planning with our Senior Pastor to do this sometime, but I wish we had thought of it earlier to take out any ambiguity there may have been for our students.


Our boys student-led connect group ended up being our Welcome Team. Many of them had done this before on Sundays so they already knew the ropes. The way our church is set up means the Welcome Team also collects up the offering, so the boys group did this too.


The girls student-led connect group was our café team, and again many of them had already been doing rostered on Sundays for this. Our student barista is also our Youth worship team leader, so we had an adult fill in for her to free her up for worship. Our church also has a home baking roster for the café which we just left as is.


Our church has a role called Service Facilitator, which is basically someone who runs around checking all the little things have been done and that people know what they’re supposed to be doing. Some of our students are rostered on for this on Sundays anyway.

We also needed some ‘muscle’ during the service to set up for games, so our boys connect group did this too.

The runsheet (order of service).

Our usual Sunday runsheet has worship songs spread throughout. We decided to simplify the runsheet for our Youth Takeover Service by breaking it down into 3 main blocks: Worship, Notices & Games, and Preaching. That way it made it easier for everyone involved to remember what was up next and when they were needed.


The worship set was 20 minutes long and contained 4 songs. Some of these songs we had never played in church before, so the weeks leading up to the service we arranged to have them playing in the foyer before and after church, just to help familiarise people with them. We also used one of these songs as the backing track for the notices video that week.

We decided to wrap up the service with a worship song as well. On the day the church loved it so much they were chanting ‘we want more’ (such great encouragement for our students!) so they ended up playing a 5th song which they hadn’t prepared for, and they rocked it.

Notices & Games.

Since none of our students had MC’d a service before, we recruited adult help here. One of our small group leaders often does this on a Sunday so she was happy to help out here and guide one of our students through it too. The adult wrapped up the worship set and the student did the notices section.

We had two students running some games after this. Dead Cat was the first game we played (with 4 lives, however we only needed 2) and one student talked us through that. This was a great choice of game to get started with, as the kids and adults loved racing each other to the mic to answer.

While the last video was playing we had our boys connect group (the muscle) set up tables and cups for a round of Cup Flip. Another student ran this game, and we had 2 rounds of an adult vs. a student vs. a kid. The whole church got behind this game cheering on the contestants- it was so great!

One last game we played was called ‘Ha Ha Hiya!’ and involved a group of about 10 players. It was an elimination game, with the last two standing as the winners.

After this last game we did our 60 second frenzy. During this the boys group set up the stage for preaching.


We decided to have all our speakers up together. There were 5 of us all together- 3 students plus Charles and myself. We all sat on bar stools to one side of stage, then whoever was speaking got up to use the lectern. The student giving the offering message went first, followed by the 2 student preachers, and Charles and I wrapped it up.

Other important things to consider:

Accommodate the kids.

Since Kids Church wouldn’t be running during our Youth Takeover Service we needed to make allowance for that. We figured most of them would be fine to join in the 20 minute worship set. And we were pretty sure they’d love the games too! Other than that, there were two main things we did to accommodate the kids during the service:

  • We had a designated space where all the kids could sit together, if they wanted to. Church is better when you’re in community, and that’s the same for the kids as well!
  • We made up some activity packs which were given out at the start of the preaching set. These included a few colouring sheets and snacks, in a snaplock bag attached to a clipboard. We brought in the tins of coloured pencils from Kids Church and had them on a table at the back so the kids could help themselves. (Our girls connect group made up these packs during small groups the week before).

How will you finish?

It’s a good idea to decide in advance how you will finish the service. Will you give an altar call? Will the worship team get back up to lead a song? Make sure that everyone knows what the plan is!

As well as having a plan, be prepared that it might change. Charles and I had planned to have the church reach out to the Youth and pray for them, with everyone still in their seats. However on the day it made more sense to have the Youth up the front, and the church gather around them and pray for individuals. We then finished up with a couple of songs, and having the church all up the front gave it a great vibe to finish off!

Do a run through at Youth.

I definitely recommend doing a full run through at Youth before Sunday. We called this a dress rehearsal. We ran through the whole service, start to finish, without stops so that we could a) time it, and b) iron out any technical wrinkles. It also gave us a chance to feedback to our students (and them to us), and gave them more confidence on the Sunday for the ‘real’ thing.

Debrief immediately with the team.

I think this could be one of the most important parts of doing a Youth Takeover Service. We hadn’t planned to do this, but as we were packing up to leave church after the Youth Takeover Service Charles and I both said it’d feel really weird not to hang out with all the Youth that afternoon! So we invited everyone to come and hang out at our place after lunch, so we could debrief together.

We’d all just put in a huge effort to pull off the Youth Takeover Service together. So it felt right that we all celebrate it together, too. And the sooner the better, while we were all buzzing from it! If we’d waited until the next weekend to tell everyone ‘well done’, we’d have missed out on some significant moments. As a group we each shared our highlights from the morning, and complimented one other person on their efforts. After that we all hung out, snacked, played games, and had some good discussions! It was a great way to finish off.

Let’s talk:

  • What’s your experience with a Youth Takeover Service?
  • What advice would you give to someone planning their first one?

Don’t forget you can grab our basic planning worksheet in our library! Can’t access it? Sign up here.

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