Stew Elman – Youth pastor – The Bridge – Woodford
Worship should be a vital part of any God-centred youth ministry. I’m not sure that you’ll find too many who would argue with that sweeping statement. Our job as youth Pastors/leaders/*insert job title here* is to help cultivate an extreme love for Jesus in the young people that are entrusted to us, and times of congregational worship are fundamental to achieving this.
There’s nothing like time in His Presence; singing, dancing, bowing and flat out adoring Jesus to inspire your young people and set them alight.
Obviously it isn’t always that easy or straightforward to build a killer worship team. Not every youth ministry has the ability of the !Audacious or Hillsong bands. For many of us, the musicianship isn’t there just yet. In fact for some of you, you may only have three young people who can play instruments and they are the flute, oboe and banjo.
But if you want your young people to connect with God and learn about his love and all he has for them, you need to get them into His Presence. Some of the most incredible times of worship that I’ve been in have been just a few of us, a hunger for God, and a guitar. Or banjo. Ok, it’s never actually been a banjo but I’d totally back banjo worship.
If you know anything about worship, you’ll know that it’s completely different to what people expect. A true time of worship can be one of the most powerful experiences this side of eternity. It’s not the boring and irrelevant act that they’ve experienced in school assemblies or seen on Songs of Praise. Our job is to show them what it can really be.
And it’s not just about showing them, it’s also involving them. There’s few better ways for a young person to use their musical gifting than to join a worship team and serve God with it. I say few because God may be calling them to use their gifting in bands outside of the Church. Be ready for that.
I really believe that if you have the capability within your youth ministry to bring a group of passionate young people together to form a worship band, it would be criminal not to. Here’s four really basic tips that I’ve learnt over the years to help build a great youth worship team;
1. Keep the main thing the main thing
A worship team is never simply a band. Jesus must always remain the focus. I know how obvious this sounds but it’s quite possible, even easy to lose this focus amidst practicing, creating and performing. Regular times of worship, teaching and prayer in practice times will keep the team humble and focussed.
2. Character over ability
There can be a real temptation to throw talented young people into the team just because we need or want their ability. Something I’ve come to realise is that character is vastly more important than talent; we need young people who live lives of worship, not just the ability to shred a face-melting solo. Obviously, ability is important, but never at the price of character. High standards and good accountability help with this. Expect big of your young people, but remember to show grace when they don’t always attain to it.
3. Keep it fresh
Just because you loved singing ‘Jesus be the centre’ when you were younger, it doesn’t mean that you still need to be singing it now. Keep your playlist fresh. It keeps your worship team on their toes and helps prevent your worship times from being stagnant or repetitive. There’s nothing wrong with bringing back older songs occasionally, they still carry great anointing, but there’s a new sound coming from this generation, and like it or not, it’s not the same sound we had.
4. Have fun while you’re at it
Make your worship team a fun place to be. Have social times and never get too serious. Young people want responsibility but they won’t keep doing something if they don’t enjoy it.