Praise and Worship in Youth Ministry

Praise and Worship in Youth Ministry
By Mike Burn

So you got an awesome band and a kickin’ sound system. You purchased Media Shout and you have the words with video on the screen. Your praise and worship time even has mood lighting and candles. Your lead singer is terrific – not only does he play guitar but he knows all the latest songs, not to mention that the girls love him. So let me ask you a question, “Do the students in your youth group sing and, more importantly, do they worship God?”

Over the past year, I have been around a number of youth groups, some small and some large, and I have been noticing that as praise and worship time has gotten more progressive and slick, it’s also lost what made it awesome – students lifting their voices to God. Having a great band is important and all the special effects that go with it can make it enticing for students, but let’s remember to keep it focused on the One we are praising.

Here are a couple of good reminders:

1. Students must hear themselves over the sound system

When the music is too loud and students can’t hear themselves studies show that they stop singing. The experience becomes one of entertainment not participation in worship. When students can hear their voices they since that they are part of corporate worship and they experience the power of community as they worship. Turn the sound down and watch the participation level go up.

2. Students must engage with God

I think students are starting to think that worshiping God means signing their favorite songs. So much of so-called worship today pleases the mind but never engages the heart. The truth is the best worship leaders can lead their followers into the presence of God in many engaging ways. Prayer, scripture reading, insights, and poetry are all powerful tools for setting the stage for worship. Don’t think that all your students want is lights and sounds. Give them a real encounter with the living God and the light show will be greater than you could ever imagine.

3. Students must own it

Ten years ago only adults led worship. Often students where included in the band but not at the mic. Now everything has become about students leading. The power of students leading their peers before the presence of God is one of the most influential things I have ever seen. As one of my friends likes to say, “It’s a little look into the window of heaven”. Give your students ownership while teaching them about excellence. It will give you many teachable moments and a chance for your students to understand the privilege of leading others before Christ.

Being at some of the youth ministry conferences, I can understand how easy it is to lose focus on what true worship should be. We get sidetracked on what youth group worship should look like, but remember it’s still about students encountering God in a powerful and fresh way. Keep the focus on the One we are worshiping.

This article by Mike Burn is excerpted from the introduction to the songbook for Family Worship 3 – Fire & Rain