Time to Rethink Our Youth Ministry Worship Time…

This week we have been discussing worship in our youth ministries. Today, let me share my own recent experience and what I am learning practically and philosophically.

Recently I’ve really been wrestling with this idea of worship, and by that, I’m referring to the music part of worship we have every Wednesday night for 15-20 minutes. In my ministry context, we have a solid band led by 2 adults and compromised of a bunch of students and a couple other adults. They do a great job at scheduling the band, planning the set, and leading students into that time of worship. But there’s some struggles we are facing…

Youth Ministry Worship

But lately, I’ve heard a few comments from different students who have essentially been “critiquing” the worship of others around them, or lack thereof. I’ve heard a few students and leaders make comments like, “Why aren’t these kids worshipping? Do they realize who they are worshipping to?” as well as “it doesn’t seem like students are really worshipping the way they should!” Just to defend myself before you start jumping to conclusions, I did nicely calm these people down and reminded them that if every kid in our building had their hands raised in genuine worship, then we probably need to get out and reach more students IN the community.

Now, I’m not sure if this is something you’ve ever come across in your context, but for me it kind of left me wondering about the purpose of this whole musical worship thing.

It has caused me to rethink our approach on our Wednesday night ministry setting, and ask some questions. I don’t have time/space to write down all of our thoughts, but her are some of the questions I have been asking:

  • What is a “win” for worship on a Wednesday night?
  • What are we trying to move students towards in worship?
  • What can we do BETTER in order so that we’re accomplishing these wins?

For me, it’s been a fun little challenge as I’ve met with my band leaders and really thought through our vision and process. Because of these students and leaders who brought this to my attention, it has allowed me to think through and hopefully improve the future of our ministry and how it pertains to musical worship.

One thing I am reminded of is this: every youth group has the potential to become a place where the music in here sounds good, it looks good, everyone feels good, but it makes NO DIFFERENCE outside of these walls. What God calls us to is something more! Where we take the transformation that occurs in here, and move it outside of these walls.

In fact, I’d much rather see somebody sit in the back row with their hands in their pockets who is showing love to their neighbors and BEING Jesus to this world, than have somebody with their hands in the air for one minute, then cussing out someone at school the next day.

And, I believe that’s what God desires as well.  To see students transformed on the inside and making an impact with their lives on the outside.

But it’s a good conversation. What do you think about all of this?


photo credit: via

  • http://twitter.com/jeremyatcamp Jeremy Linsley

    It is interesting that even in the article you present what we often think of as “good worship”… a solid band, they schedule it well, they practice, it sounds good, it looks good…

    If our concept of good worship is centered on the band itself then are we encouraging worship of the band or maybe just worship of the experience of singing passionately?

    I know that band lead worship is standard and any good youth group should have a good band. But maybe we are missing the mark here. Maybe we are caving to a cultural norm that we have created and missing out on the beautiful purpose and opportunity to use our voice to worship God in all His amazingness.

    Maybe it is time for simplicity. Back to a guy and a guitar and the room filled with the sound of the kids singing. I know… that isn’t the style of music we are used to. But maybe that is a good thing.

    I for sure don’t claim to have this figured out. (you’ll notice the plethora of “maybe” in my comment :) . And I don’t have anything against any style myself. We (at Camp Barakel) have plenty of weekends where the music doesn’t work… But our most precious times of singing together with teens is often with less musicians and more lyrically solid songs that point us all to the wonder of God’s attributes and His Gospel.

    So to answer the questions…
    A “win” is when those attending get a glimpse of the glory of God and are lead to use their voice in worshiping Him in song.
    We want to move students to an understanding of who God is and a position of wanting to worship Him in song.
    What can we do better? Be intentional in song choice (choosing lyrics above catchiness – or finding songs with both!). Plan out the order of songs and the things said in between. Use scripture wisely and abundantly.

    Thanks for this conversation.
    Keep thinking and praying…

    Jeremy Linsley
    Camp Barakel

  • Guest

    Thanks for the insight, Jeremy! It’s definitely

  • http://www.facebook.com/kyle.daubenmeyer Kyle Daubenmeyer

    Hey Jeremy! Thanks a lot for your insight. You know, when these “concerns” were brought to my attention, it really caught me off guard and made me have to think through a lot of this and pray about what my response should be…

    I am all for the “simplicity” like you mentioned above, and I wonder what it would look like to keep it that simple for a few weeks (in my ministry context) and see how the students respond? In fact, I may try that, so thanks for your idea!!!

    You mentioned something in your second paragraph about worship of the band, or worship of the worship. I agree too that this can be a stumbling block for students if they have expectations of what the bound should sound like, look like, etc. But on the flip side, I do encourage my band leaders to continually try to progress as a band, even technically… The reason is that I don’t want any part of the program to be a distraction to a student who is hearing a message about Jesus for the first time. I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to move in a students heart during that time of worship, and so if that time is clouded with distractions, bad transitions, confusion from the band, I think we may be shooting ourselves in the foot, so to say :) Now, that’s not to say that the Spirit can’t move despite our shortcomings, but I think that we should strive to lead students (and PREPARE accordingly) in a time of worship that is done well.

  • philbell

    Jeremy! My Barakel friend!!! Great hear your thoughts!!! Did you see posts from Darren and Leneita this week? We’ve been sharing our challenges and struggles as process how to help students come back to the heart of worship. Would love to hear your thoughts on their posts too.

    I really liked what Kyle said, “One thing I am reminded of is this: every youth group has the potential to become a place where the music in here sounds good, it looks good, everyone feels good, but it makes NO DIFFERENCE outside of these walls.” It’s so important that we help students to discover a life of worship as opposed to seeing it as an event or worship service.

    Great discussion here!

    Phil <

  • http://twitter.com/jeremyatcamp Jeremy Linsley

    Kyle – well said…

    quality of music and program is very important and poor quality and chaotic transitions can be very distracting! I know this from experience here. We work with all volunteer staff and finding quality musicians that work well together is a big challenge. And the more instruments/personalities you add in, the harder it is to maintain a good level of professionalism.

    Also, I know that I struggle with my own pride anytime I take a microphone in my hand. I want to serve God by using my voice (whether I’m preaching, praying or leading games), but I can quickly slide into a performance mode where I’m performing for my own glory. I’ve been in ministry 10 years. I’ve been a Christian for 28 years and God has been working on my understanding of my pride for a long time. So if I’m still struggling with that, is it fair to put a teen on a stage performing in front of his peers and expect/hope that he performs for God’s glory?

    They are in such a precious and precarious stage of discovering who they are as a person and who they are in the eyes of God. And a stage has so many dangers to a soul. Especially in light of the cultural worship of those who are on a stage… just watch American Idol or The Voice or any other talent show on TV. Or just go to a concert.

    You can see this quickly when someone messes up on stage. Embarrassment has pride intwined all through it.

    I’m not saying all youth bands are bad and only those over 26 should be on a stage. I just want to be careful and thoughtful about these things.

    So… all of that doesn’t answer any questions of what to do about worship time. :) It just poses more questions.

    Thanks for continuing the discussion.

    So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. – 1 Cor 10:31