I’d like to offer some thoughts and ideas to David’s post, “How Do You Engage A Younger Generation In Worship?”
“Older worship leader, they don’t hate you. They just have a hard time with your music. … How does a 45-60 year old worship leader engage a 14 year old in worship? Is it even possible?”
Good question – When are you too old to lead worship?
For this article, let’s discuss how it is possible to engage that 14 year old in worship. I believe it begins with a pastoral approach to youth worship ministry.
Not so long ago I passed 51. I’m no longer in youth worship as my primary ministry. However, I still connect often with teenagers, most recently this past summer leading the School of Rock Worship for students 11-17, then teaching on the mission field with teens in Romania, Serbia and Hungary.
How to Pastor Youth In Worship
I certainly don’t claim to be an “expert” in this field, but I do have many years of experience with youth worship. I hope some lessons I’ve learned will be helpful for you.
1. Teach them what the bible says about worship
Show them where the scriptures say to sing, clap, raise your hands, dance, shout, play an instrument, and bow down. Help them understand what worship is all about. This is even better if the youth pastor teaches about and models worship.
2. More is caught than taught. Be the message.
Model what you want to see. Worship passionately and fearlessly. You lead them, don’t let them lead you. Also, coach your adult leaders to set a good example of actively participating in worship.
3. Encourage a worshiping culture
Back in the day with our youth group, a passionate worship culture just seemed to be in the kids DNA, but it wasn’t always that way, and it didn’t always stay that way.
You have to be intentional. Share your heart. Teach your flock to be sensitive and love the presence of God.
Connect with the kids who have a heart for worship. Be a “good-finder”. Affirm the kids publicly when they worship expressively. “That was such a blessing to see you guys really engaged in worship …”
4. Build the youth worship team primarily with youth. This has a several benefits.
- The most effective life impact for young people is by hands on doing not just attending services. Actively involving youth in the worship team empowers them as leaders today, not tomorrow, and builds the Kingdom.
- It encourages youth when they see their peers leading them. It may even motivate them to get involved, learn an instrument, and join the team.
- Teens will often feel more comfortable relating to adults closer to their age. Try to involve younger adults to help lead the youth worship ministry.
- Finally, I recommend having a qualified adult oversee and/or lead the team for reasons of accountability, mentoring and quality control. Include other adults as guest subs or mentors, but not too many. Usually no more than 2 grown-ups.
5. Listen to the kids
Be a student of your students. Respect their input on songs and musical styles. Be aware that teenagers taste in music is not monolithic – their preferences are widely varied and they often do not agree among themselves what they like.
For example, I’ve had groups of kids who really liked Sufjan Stevens, and others who really did not like Hillsong United.
6. Encourage participation in other expressions of worship
Not everybody is into music. Offer to let kids do other art forms during “worship time” like drawing, painting, art, journaling, and poetry. Have adult leaders oversee this to offer instruction, encouragement and make sure that it’s not abused.
7. Help them connect with their roots
This always surprises me but I have teenagers saying, “We want hymns,” or “We want to use the book of common prayer.” They even appreciate the creeds. Today’s teenagers may be the smartest generation. Help them experience depth and historical connection in worship.
These ideas have been primarily about leading youth in a youth ministry context. The challenges of pastoring and leading teenagers are unique.
My experience is that these ideas work no matter what musical style is en vogue.
However, the “next generation” is a much larger demographic than just teenagers.
The challenges of connecting with 20-somethings is a different situation altogether. How do you do that? That may be another post. Let the conversation continue.
Question: What are some other ways we can effectively lead the next generation in worship? You can leave a comment by clicking here.