Giving leadership to your students (Part 1)
At YouthCUE, we very much believe in involving our students — lots of students — in the regular, ongoing leadership of worship. We all say we believe in it, but the question is: do we actually do it? Do we, on a regular basis, do what it takes to keep students engaged in sharing their emerging talents with the faith community in worship? Most of us “believe in it” more than we actually get the job done.
To be sure, having the student choir sing from time to time is one way students can become good leaders in worship. But what about those whose talents are growing as instrumentalists, pianists, organists, speakers, dancers, readers, actors?
The key to any teenager becoming an effective worship leader is proper preparation. For instance, the average (or even extra-bright) student pulled out of a crowd and asked on the spot to read scripture for worship will probably do a poor job. He or she will approach the pulpit very tentatively, probably mumble through the passage, and then make an awkward exit. There are a few students who possess the ability to pull off such a task without advance preparation, but not many. However, most “average” students can and will respond to proper preparation and instruction in doing a good job (their first time) with their part in worship. There needs to be an ongoing system of leadership preparation rather than random requests coming from us to “lead” something.
We have also discovered that, just because a student may be a prodigy on his/her musical instrument, this student may have significant trouble figuring out when she is supposed to move to the chancel, when to move her music stand into place, or how to gracefully exit the scene once her musical entrée is completed. A gorgeous musical offering may be surrounded by fiascos of getting into place and “making the escape.” And, if for some reason, the music does not turn out very well, the departure may imitate running from the scene of a crime!
Truth is, the sheer presence of “youth” leading worship can create a warm, fuzzy feeling, that is, IF those in the pew can relax and know that the kid is not going to have a bad experience leading them. This is probably our greatest fear … that it will turn disastrous and the student will never want to try THAT again.
I recall a Sunday morning in our church when a junior in high school, walked confidently (minus any hint of arrogance) to the pulpit during the singing of The Doxology. As soon as the Amen was sung, Mike met the welcoming gaze of the congregation and announced clearly, “Let us pray.” He delivered a thoughtful, well-crafted prayer (it mattered not to us whether it was written out or not … it was obvious that it was his verbiage and was heartfelt), announced clearly the scripture reading, and delivered the passage as well as any adult could do – in fact better than the average adult.
You could feel the warmth and the glow emanating from the chancel toward the congregation and back. There were gentle smiles of affirmation and admiration throughout the congregation. Mike had led us in worship, and it was an even richer experience when accomplished by a sixteen-year-old. That one time in front of the congregation has permanently established Mike as a leader in the minds of all who were present and led by him. Blossoming leadership is a beautiful thing to behold.
Founder & President, YouthCUE & Minister of Music & Worship at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio, TX
Prior to devoting his full-time efforts to YouthCUE beginning in 2005, Randy served for more than thirty years as minister of music at First Baptist Church San Antonio, First Baptist Church Shreveport, Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio and currently at Woodland Baptist Church in San Antonio. He served as Chorusmaster of the Shreveport Opera Company from 1991-1999.
He has composed twenty-one published choral anthems and has authored the most comprehensive textbook to date on youth choir ministry, entitled, Revealing Riches and Building Lives: Youth Choir Ministry in the New Millennium. With more than six hundred articles published in over thirty publications, Randy Edwards is one of the premiere specialists in youth choir ministry today. He is sought widely as a conductor, clinician, consultant, and teacher.