Worship, The Altar & Kids In Chaos
By Andy Harrison • Youth Pastor • Planetshakers Church • Melbourne, Australia
There’s so much that needs to change in the world around us and young people today are more aware of that than ever before. As worship teams, how and where do we lead young people in the midst of this chaos?
I have been reminded and encouraged lately that leading people is literally the process of taking them from one place to another and the place that we have the responsibility of taking them is the very presence of God! To transport them into a place of worship, connection with God, and awareness of His presence.
Now I know that God’s presence is not restricted to a place or building. He is everywhere (Psalm 139:7-8) and we also need to teach young people that God is with them, He will never leave them or forsake them (Hebrews 13:5). But I sure know from my own experience that there are times I am aware of His presence and times when I am not. I’m sure you could say the same. And Jesus also told us that when we gather in His name, He’s there amongst us. As a worship leader, I want to lead young people to an awareness of God’s presence and to a place of worship where His presence becomes manifest or revealed. A place where they can encounter Him.
God’s presence is the solution. There’s healing and transformation in His presence. Hearts soften and people change in His presence. Atmospheres shift and situations can turn around as we run into His presence. I really believe that right now in the state of the world, we desperately need worship teams and leaders who are focused on leading young people into an encounter with the presence of God.
In planetboom, we have seen the power of God’s presence minister to a generation in a way that no human strategy could. We’ve learned and we’re still learning to write and choose songs that will connect with young people, but in a way that a train carriage connects with the engine that pulls it at the front.
The connection is only as powerful as where it has the ability to take them. I used to preach about all the things happening in the world around us, but I noticed that then our young people just became more focused on those things. They became bigger and bigger and an awareness of God’s presence grew smaller. As our Pastor, Russell Evans, says, “What you focus on is what you get.”
Now, I’ve learned that in the worship and the Word – we just make the focus all about Him. This positions young people to encounter Him and paints a picture from the Bible that stirs their desire to know Him. Knowing God will change the way I see the things happening in the world around me. Even amid violence, viruses, anger, disunity, etc., our first focus is God and pointing people toward Him.
This article by planetboom leader, Andy Harrison, is one of 8 articles in the current Youth Leaders Only Digital Box themed “Troubled Kids/Hurting Kids: Youth Ministry & The Mental Health Crisis” Get all 8 articles by clicking here. Youth Leaders Only, in its 38th year, helps youthworkers in thousands of churches be aware of the music their students are listening to, use all forms of music in their ministries, and equip their students to make wise choices about the music & media they have in their earbuds 9 hours every day. A membership costs less than the price of a pizza each month!
In God’s presence, we’ve seen gang leaders at the altar giving their hearts to Jesus. We’ve seen ethnic groups come in carrying animosity toward another group only to have that tension melt in the presence of God’s overwhelming love. By the end of the meeting, we’ve seen those different groups worshipping and praying side by side with arms around each other. We’ve seen bullies and victims reconcile in God’s presence. We’ve had young people call their parents during worship to apologize for fighting earlier. These are things that happen in the presence of an Almighty, loving God. It’s all possible. Real change happens when we lead young people into the presence of God.
Then as this is happening, we want to encourage young people that they can be real in the presence of God. I don’t mean that we’re casual and careless in worship, I mean that God’s presence is a safe place to let our emotions out. Young people carry so much emotion. There’s hurt, fear, frustration, and passion bubbling away in there and part of leading young people in worship is giving them permission to pour that out before God.
King David got it (Psalm 55). Hannah did it (1 Samuel 1:12-16). Even Peter said to go cast our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
People’s hearts soften in God’s presence. The hard exterior shell begins to crack and the walls of defense start coming down. We need to remember that no matter how tough, damaged, or disinterested a young person may seem, beneath all that is a heart that was designed and crafted to respond to its Creator. That’s what human hearts do.
An amazing example of this is the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19. There’s an assumption that someone like him would be unchangeable or irredeemable. He’d sold his soul to the devil so to speak. He wasn’t even welcome in the gathering – remember he had to climb a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. And yet the presence of God in the person of Jesus stopped at his tree and called his name. One conversation with Jesus and Zaccheus started immediately displaying a change in his heart by stating he wanted to give back the money he’d stolen and to make things right. No one even told him at that moment that that’s what he should do. It was just a heart response to an encounter with Jesus.
This is still possible today. And it’s what young people desperately need. As a worship leader, I don’t know how to solve all of the problems young people are facing. I don’t even always know how to give them the right perspective on the issues in their world. But I can bring Jesus into their perspective and make Him the focus. I can position them to encounter His presence. Our world desperately needs some young people whose hearts have softened, healed, and changed in the presence of God. You and I can lead them there! You’re doing an amazing job, don’t quit now. It’s difficult to lead people to a place you’ve never been yourself. So, the best place to begin is to be worshippers who know how to encounter God ourselves. Then let’s lead our young people to that same opportunity!