Rooted 2021 Sneak Peek: Incorporating Worship Into Youth Group
I love worship, and one of my greatest weekly joys is singing with our congregation. This wasn’t always the case, however. Particularly during the sometimes awkward, adolescent years, I wasn’t a big fan of singing in public. In fact, I distinctly remember one school chapel sometime around 5th grade that put the nail in the corporate singing coffin.
We all stood for a song, but I jumped the gun, and my voice rang out. Self-conscious, I felt like my solo reached every corner of the broad sanctuary walls while all eyes turned to look at me. The snickers solidified my suspicions. Though I’m sure reality was different from my memory of it, this brief moment left an imprint. During most of junior high, I kept my singing voice hidden in my back pocket.
My attitude toward worship changed dramatically through the years, and it was really during my high school youth group days that I begin to find joy in worship and singing. My love for corporate worship sprouted by the time I was a senior.
Why Incorporate Worship in Youth Ministry?
Worship is certainly not limited to singing. Our praises are lifted to the Lord through prayer, liturgies, Scripture reading, and yes, song. In fact, “sing!” is the second most common command in Scripture.
But why include these elements in our youth groups? Because incorporating the different parts of worship is one of the most effective forms of discipleship for our young people.
My husband loves U2 – he has for a long time. When he was a youth pastor, his excitement for the band spread far and wide. While ministering to students who, by God’s grace, became followers of Jesus, he was also instrumental in creating a group that became huge U2 fans. Why? Because what you love as leaders can greatly influence the lives of your students.
Do you teach about worship with enthusiasm and excitement? If, as leaders in the church, we believe that worship is an essential element to the Christian life, then we should be passing on that passion to the next generation, teaching them that worship is not reserved for Sunday alone.
The various aspects of worship – including singing – are some of the greatest ways for young people to hear the gospel story. It’s a training ground for students to better understand the person and work of Jesus Christ.
We don’t want our kids to have the mindset that church is boring, but youth group is fun. To combat this, it’s important to integrate into youth time the elements of worship that are included in the larger church body. Teach and include prayer, liturgy, Scripture reading, and sing together! We have an opportunity in youth ministry to disciple these future worshippers, church leaders, and church music directors.
I am the fruit of that discipleship, and I am eternally grateful for it.
How to Incorporate Worship in Youth Ministry
Sometimes this is easier said than done, I recognize that. But almost every good outcome starts with great effort, and by the grace of God, the fruit of your labor will be far-reaching.
The ways in which these elements are integrated into your meeting time are going to look different depending on the size and make-up of your group, but here are a few practical suggestions:
The first time I attended high school youth group, I was taken back by the vigorous singing, and it didn’t take long to unveil that hidden voice I packed away as a younger child. But this group’s singing didn’t start with this kind of energy, it was cultivated over time.
Early on, the group included youth volunteers who were not ashamed to sing out with sincere worship, exemplifying for us as students the importance of offering our voice in song. After several years of acapella singing, the group formed a youth band. I was a part of this, and it was my first experience “leading” worship. We were rough, let me be honest, but the youth leaders met with us, discipled us, and gave us ownership over the singing time, and I loved it.
If you have a larger group, find the students who are musically inclined, and get them involved! And if you don’t have an instrumentalist, there are so many options now for accompany tracks – have a strong vocalist lead with one of these. As you teach the importance of singing, exemplify it, and then give the kids the opportunity to do it.
If you’re a smaller church, pick a song to play during your time together. It may be that you’re the only one singing along at first, but your sincere worship is such an example for these kids. And if you have a strong voice, consider leading a couple of songs acapella.
To be clear, you don’t have to have a good voice to sing to Jesus. In fact, what a lesson for our students that genuine worship isn’t about perfect pitches, but if we can talk, we can sing, and that’s significant for our students to understand.
Scripture Reading, Prayer, and Liturgy:
It’s important that we’re including these elements of worship as well. If you’re teaching through a book of the Bible, have a student stand and read the passage. Remind them that reading Scripture out loud is not just for adults.
And include liturgies that can be read corporately, by a leader, or by a student. One of the best resources I’ve found for liturgies is Doug McElvey’s, “Every Moment Holy.” It’s a beautiful book filled with liturgy for daily life, and it helps our students better understand the purpose of this in everyday living as well the importance of liturgy in our larger church settings.
Lastly, pray together often. Students who grow up with prayer as something “normal” in their routine easily forget how incredibly precious it is that we can talk intimately to the Creator of the universe. And for those who are new to prayer, it may be uncomfortable at first. So, teach them why we pray, how we pray, and consider including longer times of corporate prayer with your students.
Your job, youth leader, is not only important, it’s essential. I am one of many parents grateful for your work. As you continue to lead leaning into the grace and strength of Christ, ask Him to reveal how you can disciple your students toward a love and appreciation for worship. The Lord will provide, and He is glorified as we offer up our praise to Him.
Please join Rooted Steering Committee member Katie Polski for her workshop “Come and Worship! How to Incorporate Worship in the Home and in Your Youth Groups.” She’ll be speaking to youth pastors and parents about practical ways to worship with teenagers. See you in Birmingham October 7-9!