Avengers: Endgame – A Youthworker’s Review

By Todd Pearage • New Hanover UMC • Gilbertsville, PA

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language. Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Paul Rudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson, and  Tom Holland

Well, it’s been a while since I have reviewed a film and I think it’s only fitting that the most entertaining movie I have seen in a long time is what brought us back together.

In full disclosure, I classify myself as a pseudo-comic book nerd. I can’t tell you who drew issue number 57 of the Amazing Spiderman, but I do know most of the characters and enjoy reading about their backstories. I have read a few comic books over the years and I have thoroughly enjoyed the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

I can remember walking out of the theater after seeing Iron Manand knew Marvel was onto something special. Now, ten years and 21 films later, it truly has been an amazing adventure.

So let’s talk a little bit about Endgame… without any spoilers! 

The first thing I’d love to talk about is the story. It’s smart, well-written, and very engaging. There are more than a handful of memorable scenes that caused the audience to erupt in cheers. Even with a runtime of over three hours, the pace and story keep moving from beginning to end. 

Get “ready to use” movie resources for 20+ movies!

Another strong feature of Endgameis the humor. I can’t even tell you how many times I laughed out loud. There are great sight gags and slapstick, but it’s the quick wit and perfect timing that makes the laughs flow freely.

There’s more than just humor in this film – there is an emotional element to it that surprised me. I wasn’t surprised that it was in there – it surprised me on how much it affected me. But that is the mark of a great story, right? 

Then there are the characters. And there are a LOT of characters. The MCU has flawlessly developed the characters over the last ten years so it is not surprising that many of them grab a hold of our hearts stronger than expected. Maybe it’s just me, but I found myself caring about them in an almost irrational way – but without regret. 

If you’re a fan of the Marvel films I’m willing to guarantee you’ll love Endgame. Like I said in the beginning, it was the most entertaining film I’ve seen in a long time.

WHAT YOUTH WORKERS/PARENTS SHOULD KNOW

There are no sex scenes or nudity in the film. 

There are a lot of “fighting scenes” but very little gore or blood. There is one scene where a character is beheaded and another when a few scenes where a character makes the ultimate sacrifice for others. 

There is some profanity in Endgame.  

The themes of family and sacrifice are woven throughout the film and here are a few questions to ask your student/child after the film:

  1. What can Endgame teach us about sacrifice?
  2. When was the last time you sacrificed something you wanted for someone else?
  3. Read Hebrews 13:16– Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. What are some ways you can live out this verse?
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3 Reasons I Am Grateful For The Marvel Films

By Sean McDowell • SeanMcDowell.org

My family went to see Endgame on opening night. Although it was not my favorite Marvel film, it was truly an epic ending to (arguably) the greatest movie franchise of all time. While people have been expressing their thanks through the Twitter hashtag #ThankYouAvengers, I wanted to write three specific reasons I am grateful for the Marvel films.

Reason #1: Memories with My Family.
My extended family has enjoyed the last decade of Marvel movies immensely. We watched all of them (and some many times), discussed them, debated them, and bought the merchandise. We eagerly waited for the next installment and regularly made predictions about how we thought it would go. My oldest son could barely sleep the night before Endgame! The Marvel films provided the same kind of joy for my kids that Star Wars did for my generation. The movies had some violence and mild language but were largely family friendly. Thanks for making family-friendly movies I could enjoy with with my kids!

Youth Leaders Only Members get tons of movie resources including clips and teaching sessions!

Reason #2: Making Movies That Are (largely) Non-Political.
Everything seems to be political today. Buying a chicken sandwich is considered a political action. Sporting events and commentary are intermixed with politics. While there were some political ideas woven into the Marvel films (such as immigration with Thor Ragnarok), the films are largely apolitical. It doesn’t feel like there is some hidden political or moral agenda, such as in the Supergirl TV series, which my atheist friend and I both stopped watching. Thank you Marvel for telling good stories without having an overt political agenda.

Reason #3: Offering A Grand Cultural Experience.
Our culture seems more fragmented than ever. What grand experiences, besides the Super Bowl, bonds people together? With smartphones and the Internet, people can live in their own isolated “worlds.” There used to be many more cultural experiences that bonded people across race, age, socioeconomic status, background, religion, and so on. Going to see Endgame felt like a rare experience in our time because it focused more on what we have in common than what divides us. Thanks for the conversations and common ground with strangers!

Much more could be said about why I appreciate the films. For instance, while the films had sympathetic villains, such as Thanos and Killmonger, the Marvel films largely recognized that there is genuine good and evil. I appreciate that Marvel told stories reflecting the moral nature of reality. 

Nevertheless, my main point is to personally express thanks to the actors, writers, producers, and thousands of others who helped make these films possible.

I have no idea where the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) will go from here. But my hope is that they will at least be family-friendly, largely non-political, and aim to provide a broad culture experience that transcends our differences. If Marvel follows this simple script, I am confident the movies can have as much, or possibly even more, success going forward. 

This article first appeared here.

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Middle School Ministry: Are You Up For The Challenge?

By Mike Calhoun • 3rd Cord Ministries • Durham, NC • MikeCalhoun.org

Okay, let’s just say it…teaching Middle School students can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. They are not intentionally trying to be difficult, there is just a lot going on in their world. Consider a few or the battles they face:

  • Fluctuating hormones 
  • Living in a constant state of “partial attention”
  • Being wired for fun and activity 
  • Vacillating between childhood and adulthood
  • Tiddering on the edge of being capable yet inexperienced

As if that were not enough, our society has actually told them and us they cannot understand difficult concepts. As a result, we often feel the need to oversimplify or water down Biblical content so they can “get it.” If we fall into this trap, we do them a grave disservice. 

Get our “Middle School Ministry: Making Impressions While The Cement Is Wet” Resource and we will give you a FREE YLO Membership!

Middle School students are learning chemistry, grasping mathematical concepts and running their own YouTube businesses. This generation responds to a challenge and if they don’t find it at church, they will find it somewhere else.  

Middle School students do get it, are interested in and will listen to the Bible if we will put into practice a few appropriate insights. We can make the Word of God come alive for them if we:

  • Teach them from a platform of maturity. Remember, if you speak to them like children they will respond like children so speak to them appropriately. (Yes keep age appropriateness in mind)
  • Never water down the Message. Be creative with your presentation and use innovative methods. Keep in mind that students know if you are prepared. 
  • Remember their attention spans and keep the lesson to an appropriate length for the content being covered. It is always better to finish talking before your audience is done listening. 
  • Realize their propensity for loosing attention and therefore use media or group dynamics at appropriate times. 
  • Meet their need for a challenge by thinking through appropriate opportunities for applying what they learn.

So how have you met the challenge of communicating the Word to Middle School students in your ministry?

This article first appeared here.

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It’s GRAD Time! Tobymac, Lecrae, For KING & COUNTRY, NF, Lauren Daigle Have Music & Messages For The Class of 2019!

ConGRADulations! is the grad gift of choice of 25,000 youthworkers with 1.3 million grads receiving it over the past 2 decades. Tobymac, For KING & COUNTRY, Lecrae, NF, Lauren Daigle offer their songs and messages to help your grads make the biggest transition of their life. Here is an excerpt from the ConGRADulations! Class of 2019 Youthworker Guide.

It is the end of another beginning. Depending on whom you talk to, it is known as either “graduation”or “commencement.”The “graduation” crowd is mostly made up of the graduating Senior Class. They see this as the time that they finally come of age and bring to a close their childhood. At graduation, they tend to want to look back, to remember the fun things they did as children together.

Those who see this event as “commencement” tend to be parents, school officials, and youth leaders. We can see very clearly the future that looms just over the horizon for the Senior Class of 2019. We want our Grads to look ahead and make the wisest choices they can; choices that we adults know shape a person’s entire lifetime.

The surest way to see if a Senior is concentrating on “graduation” or “commencement” is to ask them a simple question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Upon hearing that question, some students will look a little sheepish, smile self-consciously, and innocently shrug their shoulders. Others will stammer out something that makes little sense, but sounds suspiciously like something their parents would like them to say.

No matter how much your Grads want to focus on the past, their minds unwillingly sneak past graduation and look into the misty fog of the future. They wonder if they are doing the right things with their life. They question the directions they are headed. They hope everything will fall into place and work out well. That’s the reason behind the ConGRADulations! Youthworker Guide resource.

The GRAD Youthworker Guide
Use this material to plan an event or series for your graduating Seniors that will encourage them to celebrate their past, to reinforce the core values of a Christian, and to provide them with some skills they will need in their near future. Through the three sessions and the Grads-only experiences you provide, your graduating Seniors will reaffirm their unique position, and resolutely determine to pursue the dream that God has for them.

Using the music and interactive elements of ConGRADulations to reinforce the Biblical message makes sense. Most youth leaders are aware that teenagers listen to a lot of music. From the time they wake up in the morning until they fall asleep at night, music is the soundtrack of their lives. Its impact is undeniable. By making use of this ConGRADulations resource you will be tying into the power of music in the lifestyles of your grads. By getting the ConGRADulations playlist onto their phones, you’ll be achieving the much-sought-after double-whammyeffect: they discover the truth during your sessions, and then that truth is reinforced every time they listen to the playlist.

Get The ConGRADulations! Resources. Give ConGRADulations! To Your Seniors!

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Disciples Worship and Worship Disciples

By Elias Dummer • Worship Leader/Artist • The City Harmonic • Nashville, Tennessee

There I was at the age of 19, on the phone with a mentor of mine, and he had a fantastic problem. I had worked with him as an intern through InterVarsity, helping to run Christian groups in local high schools. One of those schools was my own high school.

The group that I had started with two friends five years earlier was now meeting on the street corner.

According to a new school principal, the group was no longer allowed to pray together inside the school. So, they gathered to pray and worship together outside the school, in the cold Canadian winter.

The principal’s attempt to quietly shut down the group backfired. Only a dozen or so strong before, the group had exploded. Suddenly, at our high school, being a Christian was kind of punk rock, and kids flocked to the corner to learn about this love that was worth freezing for.

“I get it,” he said. “When faith is little more than some quaint ideas about the afterlife, it isn’t a problem to anyone. But when faith bleeds into other areas of our lives, when it impacts the way we live – that sort of love challenges the status quo.”

Get Elias’ new album, music video, chord charts and complete youth group session!

As those kids gathered to worship on the street corner, they experienced genuine discipleship. They saw that their newfound love for God was more important than their comfort. God stopped being a set of abstract ideas, and became the object of their desire. Many of those kids would go on to pastor and plant churches. After all, the Great Commission is to make disciples. We’re called to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, right?

But, does it ever seem to you that conversations around discipleship focus mostly on believing things about God? Here’s the problem: that can be accomplished without love. Discipleship has to be about more than knowing things about God. Instead, we must recognize that worship is learning to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

That’s why I’ve come to believe that disciples worship and worship disciples.

Throughout Scripture, people who see God respond in worship. If we’re seeing Jesus, and He is who He says He is, then worship is the only thing that makes sense! So, if we intend to be a disciple of Jesus, we’d sure better seek to see and know Him for who He is.

What’s more, the rhythms of worship – prayer, song, table, Scripture – offer an incredibly powerful way for us to grow in love. Worship is like a gym for the heart that trains us to love and desire God above all else.

Get Elias’ new album, music video, chord charts and complete youth group session!

In fact, studies show that singing together increases trust, goodwill, and altruism in participants. It is also said that “they that sing, pray twice.” At its best, corporate worship has the potential to engage and transform our whole selves, teaching us not to just know about, but love God.

Worship and discipleship are a beautifully reciprocal thing. If we’re serious about discipleship we must be serious about worship, and vice versa. One can’t exist without the other. As you prepare to lead worship, know that you’re not just singing songs. You’re living out the Great Commission as you help your people learn to love God with everything they’ve got – heart, soul, mind, and strength.

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The Evolution Of The Youth Room

Does the experience shape the room, or does the room shape the experience?

041416_Youth-Rooms

By Mandy Kyes / RPM Youth / Galt, California

(This is the next in our series of Feature Articles from Youth Leaders Only 114 – which has the theme of TECHNOLOGY: Doing Ministry in the 21st Century.)

It was an open room with a boom box, a podium, and metal folding chairs that would always sting a little if you wore shorts. There wasn’t a projector, or pool table – but somehow, we were always able to have a great time.

What was this magical space that seemed to have very little but everything at the same time? It was my youth room growing up.

That was years ago when MTV actually played music videos. But times have changed, and so have our youth rooms. What makes a youth room “click” with students? Does the room shape the experience, or does the experience shape the room? Perhaps it’s both.

One of the biggest lessons I like to share with youth is that we don’t have to “get better” before we meet Jesus. The thing about Jesus is that we don’t have to meet Him “half way.” Rather, He meets us where we are, faults and all. Taking that concept to heart, it seems as if many of our youth rooms are made to do the same. Today’s youth are driven by technology. To meet students where they are, we oftentimes tweak little things over the years that add up over time. We fill youth rooms with video games systems, Apex Legends posters, loud music, and televisions.

Youth rooms have shifted to become more of a place of physical comfort as well as emotional comfort. Couches have replaced the metal folding chairs, bean bags have replaced the benches, and even a comfy rug is an acceptable place of seating (or laying). The question many youth workers and even church members ask is, “Does it really matter?” Does providing Super Smash Brothers, the latest FIFA game, or plush seating area equate to an improvement – or are we feeding into this illusion that the more you have, the better?

That’s not a question one can simply answer in general. The more important question is, “Does our youth room invite people in, and is the message of Christ being delivered?” Being able to answer, “Yes” to both parts of that question is the biggest thing. Youth rooms will always be changing, but the part that should never change is that Jesus is always at the heart of it all. It may seem like a “Switzerland” answer, but it’s true. Is the room facilitating authentic relationships among youth, or is it hindering them from interacting? Do they feel safe? Are they comfortable physically, yet challenged spiritually? These are all individualized questions that will be different for each group.

What I do know is that some youth rooms still have those metal chairs, and students still meet in small rooms without projectors and/or sound systems, but guess what—they still feel that they have it all. Some of my most treasured memories of my spiritual walk were made in that small southern church where I learned it’s not what you have but who you have that matters.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

So, which is it? Does the experience shape the room, or does the room shape the experience? It’s both and neither at the same time. Just make sure the walls of the room don’t replace the walls of the heart.

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The Evil Social Media

…Or Is It?

By Doug Ranck • Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, California

“Nobody talks face-to-face anymore. It’s easier just to comment on Instagram.”

“I don’t do social media. It takes too much time and it is relationally worthless.”

“Give me the good ole’ phone any day. And, by the way, I still have a
flip phone.”

Full disclosure: I am a 60-year-old youth pastor who started in ministry before there were answering machines. I actually hand wrote letters to kids or their parents. I used a Dict-a-Phone (yeah, go “Google” it) for my secretary to type the letters. I called a student’s house and hoped somebody would eventually answer. I wasn’t afraid to use tin cans with strings — okay, not really. 

Now some of my peers are those who sip coffee and complain about the destructive forces of social media and smart phones. They choose to see all that is wrong in the Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. world. If one wants to find the downside of these mediums, it can readily be found and one would expect my generation to be looking for it. 

Interestingly enough I am connecting with younger youth leaders who also subscribe to the same philosophy. They call out the evils of the social media world and are proud of their “permanent fast” from it.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

Much of what is wrong with the social media neighborhood I can appreciate. There are some broken pieces, limitations, and challenges. I freely acknowledge them. Youth and adults get obsessed with their smartphones buzzing with notifications about media updates. Trying to lock eyes with an entire group for an engaging discussion is almost always impacted by someone checking a device. Many are infected by the dreaded condition of FOMO (fear of missing out).

However, I declare my love for social media and all the advantages it gives me in pastoring – yes I said, “pastoring” – youth and their families. Taking one step further, it seems those who completely opt out of these formats are actually isolating themselves and cutting off additional connections they could be having. 

Here are a few advantages I have identified and a “game plan” toward developing your social media ministry.

Advantages

Entering the social media world strategically gives me a little peek into the life of a teenager and even their parents. There are times I find out more things than I want to know, and there are times I see great things I never would have known. It’s only a peek, but a helpful one. 

We gain a few more access points of communication for encouragement and affirmation. I still write post cards, I text, I email, I even call – but social media gives me another way to connect and more talking points for deeper conversation.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

Youth and parents can easily communicate with me. A good shepherd knows his or her flock. I have worked hard to learn the best connecting points for youth and their parents. The spectrum of these points is vast – everything from voice-to-voice calls to Facebook messaging to Twitter DM’ing to… you get it. 

Youth and parents can know more about my life. While I post a lot of ministry stuff, I also occasionally add appropriate posts about my personal life so youth and parents can take a peek into my life, without overly self-promoting (that’s a whole other discussion!). People like to know we are human too. 

Game Plan

Choose a few strategic media platforms. According to studies, youth seem to be leaving Facebook. So what? I still have some on there and their parents/grandparents are all over it. I’m not leaving. I also like Twitter and Instagram. Some leaders are on Snapchat or Vine. 

Affirm birthdays, accomplishments, etc. When you see something good, acknowledge it both on media and in person. Youth and parents love it that you are taking note. 

Don’t be “one of those people.” You know what I’m talking about: the ones who over-post, constantly invite you to something, want to engage you in games, or write the “I-want-to-see-who-reading-this-post” post. Ugh!

Post above reproach. You have opinions about hot topics or politics. Keep them to conversations with real people where you can see each other and understand. Your rants and radical political posts may get a lot of comments but they are also alienating those to whom God has called you to care. Be a listener first and one who loves all of God’s people, unconditionally. 

Balance media and face. I ran into one lady, even older than me, who said her high school reunion had the highest attendance ever. Why? Many had connected on social media. Your presence on the media makes the face-to-face connections even more meaningful.

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Okay, You Have An iPad. Now What?

By Tom Hammel • SoCal Network Assemblies of God • Irvine, California

If you are anything like me, you love technology! But, figuring out how to make it work beyond watching Netflix and playing Candy Crush can sometimes be a bit perplexing. So, my mission is to figure out how to make technology serve me! Here are just a few of the ways I use my iPad to help streamline and hopefully be more effective in youth ministry.

Keep Your Student Database Up To The Minute

I have found an amazing tool called MinHub Youth App. There are so many cool features that are useful, but a few of my favorites are:

Cost – Unless you want to sync your MinHub database across several devices (like your leaders’ phones), there are no ongoing subscription fees, (which is important for the youth ministry budget!) 

Fun – While it takes a bit of time for the initial set up, I love the “selfie” check-in process they have set up for students. The moment something is fun for kids to do they will be more consistent in doing it. 

Messaging – You can send something out to your whole database, or just to your leaders, or however you want to group your people. 

I know that there are other tools out there, but this is a simple and economical one that syncs to Dropbox so you can have multiple devices running the same database.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and articles!

Write And Deliver Your Talk From Your iPad, Complete With Slideshow

This is a huge part of what we do as youth pastors, and there are lots of options for displaying your presentations with Keynote, PowerPoint, or ProPresenter.

Using JUST your iPad and the built-in Pages app, you can build an efficient and simple collection of sermon notes. Start with the page formatting. I like to set the margins to 0.12” on both sides and 0.49” for the top and bottom – which fills the entire page with the notes. Then, use a large font size (I use 23) and build your sermon with color coding for Scriptures, quotes, comments, announcements, and what your audience will see on the screens. Then export that document as a PDF into iBooks so that when you are presenting, you have a simple page-by-page view. Finally, iBooks keeps an archive on my bookshelf in case I need to, um… be ready in season and out! 

Stay on Time

Some time ago I found a simple but powerful tool to help me stay within my time targets, an application called Presentation Clock. It gives you the capabilities of setting whatever time length you want and the countdown timer changes colors at intervals of your choosing, which I have used for transitions or as ques to remind me where I should be in my talk/message to keep me on pace. 

And Finally, Social Media

Even in a world full of communication and connection, announcements still can’t seem to make it home! Social Media, with all of its trappings, can be a very powerful tool. You can connect with parents, leaders, students, and the list goes on and on. I recommend finding some apps that will help you consolidate all of the Social Media options that are out there. I love the app Hootsuite. They have different paid versions to accommodate your needs and budget. They support all of the major feeds right in one spot –which is invaluable when you need to remind parents to send their students with that camp deposit, or those forms are due, or those moments when band practice is canceled.

The new Youth Leaders Only theme is TECHNOLOGY: DOING YOUTH MINISTRY IN THE 21ST CENTURY! Get all the new music and article

These are just a couple of simple ways that I have used this amazing tool to be more effective at what I do. There are so many other things you could do – like, devotionals, study tools, worship set list, and many more!

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The Power of Redemption

Rick Bundschuh, a member of interlínc’s WriteGroup and Team interlínc, recently posted this:

Every once in a while, I have to get something off my chest. I contributed this bit to our local paper’s OpEd page – and to my surprise, they printed it.

We thought you’d appreciate reading it!

Every few weeks there seems to be a new revelation unearthed about some past foible involving a politician, media star or some other public persona. 

That heralded nasty deed, human failure or simple stupid judgment becomes raw meat for pundits and an affirmation of all the worst imaginings about the hapless soul who has dirt from their past excavated.

In some cases, the deeds of a prior era actually are footprints to actions and twisted values of the present and should be exposed.  

But not in all cases. 

In some cases, the evils or foolishness now on display actually show the power of redemption.

I live and breathe in an atmosphere of redemption. Most of the people whom are my most trusted and loyal friends have shameful pasts. Some have been in prison, or should have been. Some have dealt with people as if they were pawns to abuse. Some have been thieves, liars, dealers, addicts and sexual predators. Some had a history of woefully foolish choices and created havoc in the lives of others.

But they are that no longer, they are new people, washed clean, unstained.

And they are humble. They understand the built-in gravity pull of all human beings towards evils of every kind and they also understand the severe gifts of guilt, shame and consequences that God uses to pull them back towards Himself.

Every one of my friends knows that there could be gathered a crowd of witnesses, some with damning evidence who could join in a chorus of condemnation about their past deeds. And they would, without excuse, agree with them but offer one caveat; “I was lost, but now I am found, I was blind but now I see”.

Two thousand years ago the self-righteous pundits of the day found a collection of the towns’ ill-reputed characters sharing a meal with a popular itinerate preacher and they too were outraged. 

Had they had cell phones they would have documented the travesty and the evening news would have been quick to connect the dots between slimy company and the self-proclaimed messianic figure that was now disgraced.

But the would have got it wrong. They would have failed to understand the power of redemption. In their own bent desire to destroy a reputation they would not have sensed that the air in that dining room wasn’t full of the putrid breath of foul men and women but rather the cleansing breath of redemption Himself. It was His whole point as He stated “I not here for the righteous, but for the sinners”.

In our over-heated accusing environment, perhaps we have forgotten that it is possible for people to be transformed, to become new people, to make a 180 degree turn.

Perhaps the attack mode of culture serves as a diversion so that we foam and froth over the past sins of other and don’t have to come to grips with our own smeared past.

Maybe we should join the former reprobates at the party and breathe some of the air of redemption ourselves. It just may slow down our cultural finger pointing.

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Helping Your Group Experience Worship

We’ve asked YLO’s editor Ken McCoy and his wife Jeannie (who’s the Modern Worship Director at their home church) to answer a group of questions about youth ministry and worship – questions that are fairly representative of the ones we get often here at interlínc.

“What’s happening around here?”

If you went to one of the many Christian Music Festivals around the country this summer, then you probably have experienced it. If you attended a Christian concert recently, you’ve likely been involved with it. Youth Rallies. “See You At The Pole” events. Camps. It’s a big part of all those events, and the momentum for it continues to grow.

It’s “worship” — which in the context of those events usually means “singing praise songs” — and it’s a movement that has been gaining momentum in youth ministry for several years. Kids all over the place are discovering the experience of praising God through music.

“Worship” is hot in today’s Christian culture. People don’t ask me, “Where do you go to church?” — they ask, “Where do you worship?” Everywhere I turn, I’m confronted with more and more “worship” opportunities, resources, albums, seminars, and gatherings.

However, there are many misunderstandings circulating in our Christian family concerning worship. In our zeal to connect with God we sometimes cross a line and give worship a place and power that God’s Word never intends it to occupy. Worship is not some magical experience that calls God out of Heaven and into our midst. “Worship” and “music” or “singing” are not synonyms. Worship is fulfilling the “first commandment” — to love God with all our heart, (contrary to popular belief, “heart” isn’t emotions, but our entire being or character), mind, soul, and strength. Worship is a thoughtful and emotional response to God.

Let us equip you all year long with “Equip Your Worship Band” articles like this one.

Worship is all about communicating. In a worship service we communicate with God, we communicate truth to others and to ourselves about God, and God communicates back to us. I have come to believe that the reason people are drawn to a church worship experience is that they are longing to connect with God. If they have tasted this connection just once in a worship service, they come back looking for it.

Music has a unique ability to go past the head straight into the heart. God uses this special communication tool to get personal with people at the heart level in a way that almost nothing else does.

Although you can, and should, learn some “techniques” for putting a worship time together, there will always be a definite spiritual aspect to how it comes together – an feature of the planning that is almost impossible to define until you experience it. I have narrowed down what I want to accomplish in any worship service to this: My goal is for participants to feel at some point in the service as though they heard personally from God and felt connected to Him. This is done most effectively when the entire service — music, activities, and message — is communicating the same topic or focus.

“My kids sing GREAT at camp, but not at home. What can I do?”

A rub comes when you try to implement the “worship” experience (we use quote marks because we all realize that worship of God involves far more than merely singing) of a large event into your weekly youth ministry meetings. You might be able to gather a couple of guitar instrumentalists and put together a “worship team” — but you wonder why the singing doesn’t feel the same as it did at the big event. Here are a few ideas to get your group singing like they did at camp:

Work Into It— Many youth groups don’t plan for when the singing happens; they just put it at the front of the meeting and go from there. One reason that worship singing during a major concert is so powerful is that it’s such a change from the loud and rowdy show that precedes it. As with anything, you will want to plan what happens before you start singing, so that the group will be of a mind to get involved. Use games, skits, video clips and student testimonies to get your group thinking vertically if you’re making a point that emphasizes God’s character. Then sing songs about God’s character.

Emphasize Familiar Songs— There are so many great songs, with new ones coming along every day, that trying to learn too many too fast is an easy trap to fall into. Teach the group only one or two new songs a month, especially if the songs are used at a camp or concert so that the group has an experience they can tie to the song. Use available resources to familiarize your group with a song before you ever ask them to sing it.

Use Easy-To-Do Songs— Use songs that don’t need a professional band to be able to play them. The way to choose a song is to listen to a worship album and then see which song you end up humming to yourself during the day.

Take Advantage of Available Resources— The Chord Charts that are included in every issue of YLOare invaluable resources for your young musicians. Use the resources to encourage quality music leading from your kids.

What if you could give articles like this to your worship band each week? You can!

“What a great song! I want to use it in my group! How?”

All kinds of other songs can be used in youth ministry worship experiences, if…

…you realize that a recording isn’t like a youth meeting. Albums are well-produced efforts by extremely talented musicians. You can’t hope to reproduce the sound of an album with any worship band you might have. A lot of what we respond to when listening to an album is the excellent production of the music. The guitar tones, the equalization, the mix, the drum mic’ing, the effects, and much more are the result of hours and hours of work — and tons of expensive equipment. So, set your expectations according to the talent and resources you have available to you.

…you rework the arrangement for group use. With most worship-music albums, you need to chart the songs into their basic components: verse/chorus/verse/chorus, etc. Several recordings have a vocal and/or an instrumental solo in them – sections that make for awkward worship leading. Those solos need to be “removed” from the song to make the song work as a worship singalong. Many songs have verses that are designed for a lead vocal, verses that would be tough to pull off with a group singing them. In those cases, just sing the chorus. The key is to simplify what an album presents rather than try to recreate it.

…you can figure out the chords, or use the lead sheetsin YLO. You may not have the blessing we do — Jeannie has “Perfect Pitch” and can tell what the musical chords are just by listening to the song. Most of us have to work laboriously to figure out what the chords are before we can use the song with our groups. Another excellent resource is the Internet. Make sure you are within the copyright laws for anything you reproduce or download.

“My Group doesn’t like to sing. What should I do?”

Like any good answer, this one begins with, “Well, that depends.” What is causing the lack of enthusiasm for singing among your young friends? Here are a few causes that we have seen and some thoughts on what to do about them.

We four and no more. Singing as a group pretty much means you need a “group” to do it well. There’s a world of difference between four or five people singing together while sitting in a circle around a fire at the beach and four or five kids at church trying to sing together. The dynamics of group singing require that there be enough people so that no single voice is dominant. If your group is too small to have high-energy singing, you should consider cooperative worship experiences with other youth ministries in your area. Some cities are reviving the old “singspiration” monthly youth gatherings – maybe you can spearhead one where you are.

Didn’t we just do this last week?Falling into a predictable pattern in our singing times is way too easy to do. In many instances, the group has become so accustomed to the routine that all the life has gone out of the singing. Read the “What makes a worship experience work?” section for concepts that will help you breathe fresh energy into your singing.

I me mine.Because of the me-centered society we live in, worship singing can easily become self-focused rather than God-centered. Even a lot of “worship” songs are thinly disguised songs about how great we feel, how blessed we are, or how cool it is to be us. Be careful of songs that have a lot of “I me mine” words. At the end of your singing session you want your young friends to be excited about God, not simply pleased about how they feel.

Yeah yeah yeah. Yadda yadda yadda.Many times a lukewarm opinion of singing God’s praises is an indication of a lukewarm spiritual condition. Psalm 63says clearly that our natural response to seeing God for who He is will be “with singing lips my mouth will praise You.”The cure for this condition is to build the spiritual strength of your group. You don’t do that through singing; you do it through teaching God’s Word and praying for His Spirit to work.

You can be a hero to your worship band with articles like this one!  Let us help you!

“What makes a worship experience work? Ours seem to be ‘average’.”

Here’s how I (Jeannie) plan a corporate worship experience. Although this is not the definitive way of going about this, I’ve learned that these are the basic issues to cover.

Sing two or three up-tempo and well-known songs.I have noticed that more often than not, people are not ready to sing from their heart when they first arrive — they are still reacting to their day and adjusting to this new situation. They need time to really “be” there.

Go smoothly and quickly from one song to another.Be prepared musically to keep things going; keep between-song talking and pauses minimal; the songs should speak for themselves. Have the group standing and clapping, like the worship leaders on stage. Bring some high-energy kids up front to help make this happen – they don’t have to be singers on mics, they just need to be enthusiastic and naturally energetic.

Introduce a new up-tempo song.By now the group is settling in and will be tracking with you. Teach them a new, fast song. The songleader should sing the verses alone, and then bring in the group on the easy-to-catch choruses. Read the “bridge” section* of the song after singing the first two verses and choruses. The band can continue to play softly while the leader reads. Then, sing the chorus again

*The “bridge” is usually a short “summary” section in a song, different sounding from the verses and choruses. It’s the “heart” of the song.

Transition the group to more thoughtful songs.Have the group sit down. Read some Scriptures that reinforce the topic of the meeting. A short personal example or word picture is a great way to get them to think about the songs that they are about to sing. This transition section should not last more than two or three minutes.

Sing two mellow songs. Choose a couple of songs that are familiar and fit with your topic. You need to use easy songs with few words at this point so that the group can focus on what is happening between them and God, rather than struggling with singing the song.

Finish the singing.Conclude this section with a song they know well rather than a new one. Rather than just going straight into the next item on your program’s schedule, end the worship singing with a heartfelt personal prayer that speaks for the entire group. 

Some Final Thoughts

An important point to remember is this: your youth worship service should not replace the “church” in the lives of your young people. Yes, you can do things in a worship service with kids that would never fly in “big church.” In many ways teenagers can enter into worship more fully when they’re with other young people. However, you don’t want your students to graduate right out of their faith when they graduate from high school. You want to build into their experience and expectation a love and desire for multi-generational worship too. So, you may need to throttle back on some of your worship efforts in order to encourage your kids to experience worship with the rest of the church.

Take time to go through what you have planned ahead of time and “feel” your way through the worship service. You may find that you will make changes to your plans according to how the songs will flow together. Be aware of where you are leading your group spiritually and through the emotional impact of the music/songs.

Transitions between songs are very important — practice your transitions.

Use Scripture to introduce a song. Many songs come from the Bible, and showing the group that the song is from God’s Word will have an impact. After all, God speaks to us through the Bible. Either read the verses aloud, or have several kids read them out loud, or have the words on a projector for all to read together.

Choose songs that are easy to sing. Too much syncopation and too many words combined with a tricky melody will hamper the success of any song.

Avoid songs that are too high or too low for the average person to sing comfortably.

Introduce a maximum of two new songs at a session. Any more will be frustrating to the group at large and hamper any chance of worship.

At the same time, don’t overuse songs. They will become redundant and meaningless.

Although not absolutely necessary, tying in the singing with the topic of the speaker is most effective. A song performed by your musicians or by watching a video can also accomplish such a tie-in.

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