halloween: a service of fear: A YOUTH-LED WORSHIP SERVICE

Case, Steve

At Halloween we joke about scary things that go bump in the night. We joke because that diverts our attention from the stuff that really scares us. And there’s plenty of that to go around. The world is a scary place.

This youth-led service is designed to help young people and adults face those fears, then leave them at God’s altar. This is a quiet service-not creepy, but still dark and contemplative. The goal is to leave people with a deep sense that God is near to us in the midst of our fears.


* A large pulpit Bible on a stand.

* A boombox or built-in music system.

* Lots and lots of candles.

* Blank white Halloween masks-a couple of dozen. You can typically find these at your local craft store. But if you can’t find them, you can easily make your own using white card stock and rubber bands. On 10 of the masks write (in heavy black marker) the following words across the forehead: Others, For Others, Death, Insects, Closed Places, Rats, Snakes, Deformity, Squishy Things, Dark. You’ll need 10 young people to wear these masks-they’ll serve as readers for the service. Before the service ask your kids to come up with 10 or 20 more things they fear. These should be more “life applicable,” such as: Alone, Rejection, Pain, Suffering, Poverty, Failure, and so on. Write these words (in heavy black marker) on the forehead space of the remaining masks.


Use these suggestions for music throughout the service.

Opening Music-You need an appropriate “deathbed” hymn for the opener. There’s an excellent version of “Softly and Tenderly” by Johnny Cash on his album My Mother’s Hymn Book (Lost Highway). Or use a “funeral” song that your congregation knows well.

Closing Music-I think U2’s “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” from the How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (lnterscope) album makes a great closer. Or try “Ground” from the Lost and Found album Something (Limb) or “Baby” from their album This.


Prior to the service place lots of unlit candles along the walls and front of your sanctuary or worship area.

To kick off the service have a young person (wearing no mask) stand up at the front and say something like: Stephen King made a list once. It was a list of the top 10 things that Mr. King felt that most people were afraid of…at least a little. This is Mr. King’s list. (As the teenager reads each item, have your King’s Top 10 mask students walk in, one by one, and stand in a line at the front of the sanctuary.) Fear of others (pause). Fear for others (pause). Death (pause). Insects (pause). Closed-in places (pause). Rats (pause). Snakes (pause). Deformity (pause). Squishy things (pause). The dark (pause). Some of us may be brave around insects but not so good on squishy things. Some of us may not experience fear at all until someone we love is hurting. There are so many things that could scare us that it’s easy to let fear rule our lives.

Play the opening music suggestion, or one of your own choosing. As the song plays have the rest of your group come in wearing their Everyday Fears masks and light the candles all around the room. Have them walk in with heads held high so people can see what’s written on their masks as they light the candles. When the candles are lit, have the group spread out through the congregation and sit down, saying nothing and staring straight ahead.

Then have your student leader read this responsive litany.

Say: Please respond with: “God we’re afraid.”

God, sometimes the world seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. (God, we’re afraid.)

We’re at war in far-off countries. (God, we’re afraid.)

We’re at war right here at home. (God, we’re afraid.)

Sometimes we’re at war in our own homes. (God, we’re afraid.)

Our children grow up too fast. (God, we’re afraid.)

We don’t understand the technology. (God, we’re afraid.)

We don’t understand each other. (God, we’re afraid.)

We’re dying on the inside and on the outside. (God, we’re afraid.)

We don’t want to live this way anymore. (God, we’re afraid.)

Can’t you hear us? (God, we’re afraid.) Amen.

Have one of your King’s Top 10 students walk to the pulpit Bible, slowly remove his or her mask and read aloud Psalm 4. After reading the psalm the reader should place his or her mask on the altar and take a seat in the congregation.

Have the next King’s Top 10 teenager walk to the pulpit Bible, remove his or her mask and read aloud Psalm 13. After reading the psalm the reader should place his or her mask on the altar and take a seat in the congregation.

Repeat this process for the rest of the King’s Top 10 students. Have them read aloud the psalms in the exact order they’re listed below-they get progressively “brighter,” and you don’t want to end on a downer.

1st Reader: Psalm 4

2nd Reader: Psalm 13

3rd Reader: Psalm 22

4th Reader: Psalm 39

5th Reader: Psalm 49

6th Reader: Psalm 55

7th Reader: Psalm 62

8th Reader: Psalm 92

9th Reader: Psalm 95

10th Reader: Psalm 149

After the 10th reader places his or her mask on the altar, play one of the closing song suggestions or one of your own choosing.

At the end of the song have the student leader who opened the service say something like: God never promised to solve all our problems for us, but he did promise to be here with us-in the midst of our fears. He told us we don’t have to be afraid. Let’s close this service tonight by reading the 23rd Psalm. Before we do, I want you to picture yourself in a mask like the ones you see around you. What’s written on your mask? Close your eyes and picture that mask as we recite this psalm. When we’re done I’ll ask you to remove your mask. Don’t feel silly. Pretend to reach up and take the mask from your face. Then give it to God by holding it above you. Repeat after me.

The Lord is my shepherd. (Repeat)

I have all that I need. (Repeat)

He makes lie down in quiet places. (Repeat)

He leads me beside cool streams. (Repeat)

It’s a dark world and it’s full of scary people. (Repeat)

I will not be afraid. (Repeat)

I will not be afraid. (Repeat)

I will not be afraid. (Repeat)

(Shouting) I will not be afraid! (Repeat)

MY God is with me. (Repeat)

The creator of the universe is by my side. (Repeat)

Nothing can harm me. (Repeat)

God plans a party for me. (Repeat)

And all those who laughed at me will have to stand outside and watch. (Repeat)

My glass will never be empty. (Repeat)

God is with me every move that I make. (Repeat)

I will live in God’s house forever. (Repeat)


After the student leader recites this psalm, the remaining mask-wearing group members who are seated with the congregation should remove their masks. The leader should “mime” removing his or her mask at the same time.

Then the leader should say something like: Let’s pray. God, we leave here tonight knowing that our problems still exist. But we go out of this place and into the night knowing we don’t have to be afraid of them. You are with us. When you are beside us there is nothing we can’t face. Enable us to feel your presence behind us, beneath us, beside us, above us, and all around us. We are not afraid, God. Not anymore. Amen.

STEVE CASE is a veteran youth minister and a contributing editor for group. He recently authored The Youth Worker’s Big Book of case Studies (Youth Specialties/ Zondervan). He lives in Florida.

Copyright Group Publishing, Inc. Sep/Oct 2005

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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