As the summer ended, we in the youth ministry knew a bittersweet moment awaited us. Sadly, we’d be losing two graduating students, Andrew Butcher and Caroline Ring, who had served as our regular worship leaders for well over a year. Their leadership and example had been an encouragement to our younger youth, and we wanted to continue the tradition of involving students in leading worship. The challenge we faced was to raise up new leaders who could take Andrew and Caroline’s places when the new school year began.
Starting during the spring, we began including younger students in the worship leading mix by having them join our veterans up at the front during singing. By the time summer was drawing to a close, the decision was made to go all out and begin developing a youth praise team. Despite the fact that neither Aubrey nor Mitchell have any particular talent for teaching people how to sing better (and are only passable song leaders at best!) – we had one significant factor in our favor: we’ve got several kids that really love to sing and are willing to serve. With our Wednesday night gathering being the best context to give our kids the opportunity to showcase their leadership, we started pulling several kids (anyone who was interested, really) up to the front to lead songs along with one of the youth ministers. Not terribly worried about mastering four-part harmony or nailing every rhythm and lyric, the early goal was to establish a comfort with being up front. We knew we had kids who loved to engage in worship, but we wanted to see if we could get them to love setting an example for being engaged in worship.
Currently, our praise team is a collection of about ten kids and many of these can be found leading any given Wednesday. We’re hardly producing gold records, but the students really do seem to enjoy the experience. Every Wednesday, our group messaging app fills with conversation regarding the plan for worship that night. Our team is taking increasing ownership of the process, which is encouraging to see. We’ve even purchased additional microphones so more of them can participate at the same time!
A few weeks ago, we had a special singing night where we sang through some newer songs and even tried to learn a few we’ve never sung before. Ten students, a mix of Middle and High Schoolers, took position at the front of our room to help their peers better engage in the worship experience. Though we stumbled our way through a few of the songs (minister’s fault!), the overall experience was very uplifting to our youth group. A couple of High School girls later remarked that it was one of their favorite Wednesdays of the semester so far. Surely, much credit goes to the example set by a group of teens who simply wanted to share their joy for praising God through song.
It’s an incredible thing to watch what happens when we can pair students’ passions and talents with opportunities for them to use these things to serve the body of Christ. Though our youth praise team has a lot of room to grow, our early adopters are setting a precedent for unapologetic leadership that, if nurtured, will serve the youth ministry for years to come. Here’s a big “thank you” to Briggs, Caroline, Evan, Hannah, Katie, Kay, Lily D, Lily H, Maya, Patrick, Sophie, and others who are showing us what it means to step-up and lead. May their example be an encouragement to our youth to find ways to use what God has given them to praise the Lord.