Incorporating Youth Into Worship Leadership

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-14 (KJV)

When I was younger, I was part of a church that was thriving in a growing community. The youth ministry had just launched. It was building sustainability every year as more and more students began to buy into what the church was doing in the community and through the youth ministry. The church was a young church, meeting in a Boys and Girls Club gymnasium. Students, including myself, were passionate about helping to serve.

Each weekend, a group of students would come together to set up the chairs, the stage, and the sound equipment. This was our way of being a part of the mission of our local church—to be disciples that make disciples.

Worship plays a vital role in the weekly service for many churches. We come together as one body to give praise and adoration to God for who He is and what He is doing. Churches all around plan their worship with intentionality by selecting songs that connect with the congregation and fit the pastor’s sermon for that day. There is purpose with the audio and visuals of the service—creating announcement videos, setting up short bumper videos before the sermon, determining what graphics should be used as backgrounds in the songs, and creating an atmosphere with lighting and stage design.

How about the people that are leading the congregation into worship? How often are we just as intentional with the people that we choose? Are we incorporating youth into the worship leadership?

Why aren’t youth in worship leadership?

You may relate, but churches, all-around, are struggling to figure out how to get young people plugged into the church. Though I don’t have all the answers, I do know it has to go beyond door prizes, fun games, and giving them free food. There is something that students want—they want to be known. They want to be loved. They want to belong.

Churches that want to pour into teens must show that teens belong, not just in youth ministry, but in the church. Their leadership, voice, talents, and gifts are valued and needed to help build Christ’s church.

How can we empower youth in worship leadership?

One of the most empowering things a church can do for teens is giving them a chance to lead worship on Sunday mornings. I know churches will have “youth services” once a quarter. Those are great. Services that show off your youth ministry and how God works through students’ lives are important for the rest of the church to see.

However, what would it be like to intentionally incorporate youth into worship leadership alongside adults weekly?

When students lead, whether by playing guitar, playing drums, or singing, alongside adults, it shows that your church values their talents and gifts. It shows that your church is about bridging the gap between generations.

Youth Ministry Certification interest image

It’s not about playing the most hype and newest Hillsong Young & Free song. It’s about creating a culture where youth belong in the church. The church that models 1 Corinthians 12:12–26, I believe, will reach young people and families the most because they are operating as one body.

The church is one body.

Too many youth ministries operate as separate entities from their churches. There is the “big” church, and there is the youth ministry. If you are like me, I have a lot of students that attend my student ministry but do not attend church service.

When I first came on staff at my current church eight years ago, the youth ministry met on Sunday mornings during service. It sounds like a good idea for a lot of churches. We had a great turnout of students, and maybe you do too. However, I felt convicted that something needed to change.

We are teaching students that youth ministry is separate, possibly implying that church is boring. So come have fun with us in our youth ministry. We are keeping them from experiencing and worshipping WITH the church body.

When students graduate from high school, they are looking for a church. What are they going to look for? You’re right, they will be looking for an experience and environment that resembles their student ministry. This is why it’s so important to make it our mission as youth pastors to get students involved in the whole church.

They need to be needed in the church. So, church leaders, give them a chance.

Allow them to lead. Worship is a beautiful way for students to be used because they have so much talent. They have so much to offer. Empower them to use their gifts and let them own them. Use this as an opportunity to disciple them. Teach them the importance of leading with humility and integrity. Encourage them to embrace the value of practice and teamwork in a worship setting. Teach them to own their gifts and use them to bring glory to Jesus.

Go beyond the stage to put youth in leadership.

Lastly, I will challenge you to go beyond the stage. We should be incorporating youth into all kinds of worship leadership roles if you are willing to train them and use them. They can be used in audio, video, lighting, livestream, as greeters, ushers, coffee team, parking team, and many more. Use them because they belong.

Chris has served at First Church Coral Springs as the Director of Student Ministries for 8 years. He is a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary with his Masters in Christian Education and a Youth Ministry Institute Alumnus. He is passionate about discipling young people to become future leaders in the church.

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