Empowering young people into worship – part 1

Empowering young people into worship – part 1

So. You’ve worked hard with your band to improve your musicianship, teamwork and Biblical theology of worship. You’re all set. But then comes the moment you’ve dreaded. Yep, it’s the 13 year-old who always wants to play your guitar after church every week, driving your Fulltone overdrive to wig-blasting levels towards your elders. This mysterious teen speaks to you this week, rather than the usual mumbled grunt. They’ve made a decision. They want to play in the worship band (they’ve been having lessons with their Uncle Bob). Your mouth drops as a new reality dawns. You’re going to have to work with… Teenagers. (Cue scary music).

Our heart must be to see young people trained, empowered and supported. Not only are they the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today. We need to encourage them and let them unleash their energy and passion for Jesus to freshen our worship. Most of the time, we don’t need to inspire them to take up an instrument or vocals (although they are watching you as you play and lead!), but we do need to stand alongside them, train them – and yes, learn from them.

“But hang on!” you cry, “I’m no youth worker… What do I do? Do I call for the youth worker, even though he’s tone deaf and thinks a bridge is something you drive over?!” Nope – although building a rapport with the youth workers will help! Let’s kick off with 4 starting tips…

If you’re not a youth worker, then just think how encouraging it is that a young person wants to be involved in worship. They’re keen to learn and be listened to but they also need to be trained. When one young person always appeared after a service, I knew the question was going to be, ‘when are we playing this week?’ There was no ‘are we playing?’ It was always ‘when’! We quickly established that we’d practice every 2 weeks. But he was enthusiastic – something we need to harness, and your investment of love and time is key. I remember that as a teenager, a Christian lead guitarist gave me his signature after an event. It was such a small thing from him – yet such a big moment and so inspiring for me.

If you’re working with a young band, try and have fun with them. Our ways of having fun have ranged from very surreal games, to eating fish & chips, to having stones thrown at the building we were in during practice and playing mini worship sessions. It all adds to the sense of belonging and being together, which is an essential skill they’ll need when playing. In youth work, the ‘main’ things we do are often only a key to the ‘God moments’ with individuals – sitting around after an event, driving back in a car, chatting around the camp fire. In these moments, relationships are built. I naturally build these kinds of spaces into band practices. So we’ll sit around on the sofas, drink coffee, laugh at my singing and eat the church’s supply of biscuits…

If possible (and if you don’t already), it’s good to build relationships with the young people’s parents in the church – and those outside if possible. They will mostly be so encouraged that someone is taking an interest in their son or daughter – apart from those parents whose son practices his Hillsong solos at midnight, and the drummer driving her parents insane with crashes, fills and patterns off the latest Musicademy drum workout DVD.. Christian parents will be happy their child is involved in Kingdom work. If parents know you’re interested in helping their son or daughter, they will often reciprocate; for example I’ve had chocolate, invites for lunch, food and a lot of thanks.

Keep praying for and with these guys. Let the Word of God, prayer and worship do its work. As you are real and model Godly integrity, you will see God transform them from musicians to worshippers.

Congratulations. Your journey with young people and bands is beginning. It will be hard work, there will be lifts to be organised, you’ll often wonder if you’re getting anywhere. But believe me, you are. Around four years ago, one of the lads decided he wanted to be a youth worker and a worship leader. We had a little band together with 3 other teenage lads. It was tough going at times. But we watched worship DVDs together, chilled out and talked worship, he taught me riffs and the band had opportunities to play. He’s now a worship leader in his own right, leads at Summer camps for young people, has empowered others and has played at various churches and events. He’s just one person who God has transformed and is using. We play our small part, God will do the rest.

Steve Hayes is a worship leader at City Community Church in Exeter (UK) as well as a school youth worker. He has also created a website packed with great youth work resources at myfishbites.com.

Other posts you might find helpful

Worship team dynamics – the phases every team goes through

The conscious competence learning model

Communication skills for worship teams

Rehearsing tips and ideas for worship musicians

Ask the expert – How do I tell someone in my worship team that we won’t be using her anymore?