Empowering young people into worship

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Young people have much to offer in worship. How can they be sensitively and pastorally incorporated into Church worship groups?

Copyright Automania (creative commons)

So. You've worked hard with your band to improve your musicianship, teamwork and Biblical theology of worship. You're all set. But then comes the moment you've dreaded. Yep, it's the 13 year-old who always wants to play your guitar after church every week, driving your Fulltone overdrive to wig-blasting levels towards your elders. This mysterious teen speaks to you this week, rather than the usual mumbled grunt. They've made a decision. They want to play in the worship band (they've been having lessons with their Uncle Bob). Your mouth drops as a new reality dawns. You're going to have to work with... Teenagers. (Cue scary music).

Our heart must be to see young people trained, empowered and supported. Not only are they the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today. We need to encourage them and let them unleash their energy and passion for Jesus to freshen our worship. Most of the time, we don't need to inspire them to take up an instrument or vocals (although they are watching you as you play and lead!), but we do need to stand alongside them, train them – and yes, learn from them.

"But hang on!" you cry, "I'm no youth worker... What do I do? Do I call for the youth worker, even though he's tone deaf and thinks a bridge is something you drive over?!" Nope – although building a rapport with the youth workers will help! Let's kick off with 4 starting tips...

1. Invest and train

If you're not a youth worker, then just think how encouraging it is that a young person wants to be involved in worship. They're keen to learn and be listened to but they also need to be trained. When one young person always appeared after a service, I knew the question was going to be, 'when are we playing this week?' There was no 'are we playing?' It was always 'when'! We quickly established that we'd practice every 2 weeks. But he was enthusiastic – something we need to harness, and your investment of love and time is key. I remember that as a teenager, a Christian lead guitarist gave me his signature after an event. It was such a small thing from him – yet such a big moment and so inspiring for me.

2. Have fun

If you're working with a young band, try and have fun with them. Our ways of having fun have ranged from very surreal games, to eating fish & chips, to having stones thrown at the building we were in during practice and playing mini worship sessions. It all adds to the sense of belonging and being together, which is an essential skill they'll need when playing. 

3. Know the parents

If possible (and if you don't already) it's good to build relationships with the young people's parents in the church – and those outside if possible. They will mostly be so encouraged that someone is taking an interest in their son or daughter – apart from those parents whose son practices his Hillsong solos at midnight, and the drummer driving her parents insane with crashes, fills and patterns off the latest Musicademy drum workout DVD.. Christian parents will be happy their child is involved in Kingdom work. 

4. Pray and be real

Keep praying for and with these guys. Let the Word of God, prayer and worship do its work. As you are real and model Godly integrity, you will see God transform them from musicians to worshippers.

5. Enthusiasm is often higher than musicality

There is often a desire to get 'worshipping' or 'playing' but often the musical skills don't match the passion. One young person I worked with would stand in front of a mirror while playing, as he elevated himself to rock god status. Unfortunately, his playing and tuning didn't match what he saw and heard in the mirror. Another guitarist was well versed in his scales, but was unable to match the key he was playing in, with the key a song was in. Time spent correcting them (in love) is well worth doing, without breaking the relationship. 

6. Band dynamics

The fundamentals of a band and how it operates need to be communicated constantly. I know a worship leader that struggles to play with a band simply because he has always played alone and it's been a challenge to understand the dynamics, use and register of different instruments. When we come to working with less experienced musicians and young people, the issue is the same. With one younger guitarist, the idea that he shouldn't always be thrashing away was quite a heartbreaking moment, but he quickly learned. =

7. The cult of fame and being up-front

One of the hardest things to handle in our Christian life can be success. It's good to be confident and let your light shine, but all that we have comes from God – worship is reflecting back what he's done in and through us. For younger musicians, this can be an issue. Model humility and thanks in accepting praise and criticism. God is more interested in our character than our gifting!

8. Constant encouragement and support

Teenage emotions can go up and down, feelings can predominate (can't they with all of us...) I've had times where individuals are in a very dark place. Other times, they want to be somewhere else (like at home on their Xbox...) You need to learn people management skills and how to negotiate with and between individuals. Often the question from young people is, 'how much do you really love me?' Jesus believed in the disciples, despite who they were. We need to show that same belief and love.

9. Start off with a small number of songs

In time, play more songs and with wider traditions / musical challenges. With a band I'm currently working with, we initially had a pool of just 10 songs. All these were ones they knew and liked – making it much more enjoyable and easier to learn! Where they didn't know the song well, we got the original CD, played the song and listened to it individually and together in the car. Over time, the band expressed the desire to learn more songs and ones that would challenge us a bit more musically. 

10. Gradually release them

This should go without saying, but generally speaking, don't unleash a young band or individual musician onto the main Sunday worship service initially! There are many other options for them.

Written by Musicademy who specialise in resourcing church based musicians. Their acclaimed range of worship tuition DVDs cover guitar, bass, drums, keys, vocals and orchestral instruments at levels from beginner to advanced player. You can find out more at the Musicademy website or view their range of Musicademy training DVDs.

10th September

September 10th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Musicademy

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