Developing Mature Worshippers: Part 1

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When my sister was 5 years old, she went through a stage where she refused to eat much else besides Chicken McNuggets. When we climbed into the car, she’d ask/cry/demand that we stop by McDonald’s. This presented my parents with a dilemma: either they could cave to my sister’s demands – probably with disastrous long-term consequences for her – or they could patiently (and sometimes painfully) train her to enjoy a healthy diet for her long-term good.

My parents chose the hard path. Good parents know they’re called to think for the long-term spiritual, physical, and emotional health of their children. They’ve been entrusted by God to train their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).

So too, we as worship leaders must think for the long-term good of our students. We are entrusted with training students how to worship God and follow after Him for a lifetime. We are called to point them to the beauty, majesty, and faithfulness of our Savior. We are to teach them about their Lord and tell them the wondrous gospel story again and again. 

Therefore, we cannot settle on what is “easiest” and hope that somehow our students grow up to be healthy worshippers. Worship leaders, like pastors, have been entrusted by God to “feed” God’s sheep. We must ask ourselves what we’re feeding those sheep and whether what we’re feeding them is preparing them to live a healthy Christian life.

In order to provide a “healthy diet” for our students, we should begin by prayerfully asking the Lord, others and ourselves: If a student came through this youth group and only remembered the songs we sang, would they see Jesus for who he is?  Would they be people who worship God in Spirit and in Truth, through the person and work of Jesus Christ? What would they know about the Christian life? This foundational question and a few following questions serve to provide a good framework for worship leaders seeking to develop maturity in their youth’s worship.

 Where are our students now?

Do our students know and follow Jesus? What do they presently know and believe theologically, and what do they practice? These questions will also challenge us to push beyond the bounds of songs that are currently popular in order to teach, over the course of time, a more complete picture of who God is, what He’s done, and what a godly response should be. Uncovering where our students are now logically leads us to the next question.

 Where do we prayerfully hope they will be?

The Apostle Paul states in Colossians 1:28 that it is his goal to “present everyone mature in Christ.” The question, for us, then arises: what does a mature worshipper look like? What do they know, believe, and do? How are they being transformed by the work of Jesus into the likeness of Jesus? Among other things, they would know and treasure the gospel; they would praise the Triune God as He is revealed in His Word; they would know how to worship the Lord in joy and in sorrow, with dancing and with meditation, and so much more. Worship leader, search the Scriptures, ask the Lord, and seek wise counsel to develop as clear of a picture of a mature worshipper as you can. With this in mind, we must ask one more question.

 What’s the next step?

Aaron Keyes once told me to imagine that I’m driving a bus full of passengers. Our exit is a mile ahead and suddenly it occurs to me that I’m in the far left-hand lane. I have two choices: (a) I can whip the bus hard to the right and attempt to cross all the lanes at once or (b) I can slowly, almost imperceptibly, change lanes to get us over where we need to be. Option B is how we should think about our youth.

We should not think that all of these changes we are praying for can or should happen all at once. We should pray expectantly and purposefully, but ultimately trust God who alone gives growth (1 Corinthians 3:7) to transform our students into mature worshippers.

Praying and laboring towards that end, we can begin to develop a long-term plan for our worship sets, incorporating the Word, prayer, and, of course, singing.

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