Why Worship Is A Strategic Part Of Youth Ministry
Andy Harrison • Worship Leader • Planetshakers Church • Melbourne, Austrailia
Eighteen years in youth ministry leadership has convinced me that worship is a strategic and necessary part of reaching and discipling the next generation.
No matter what church you’re from and what program you run, some key strategic questions we should consider are:
- How are we reaching young people?
- How are we connecting with the young people we’ve reached?
- How do we keep those we’ve drawn in?
I believe that at least part of the answer to all three of those questions is worship.
More specifically, I am referring to the inclusion of a genuine and powerful worship time within our youth services and programs. We all have a different expression of what that might look or sound like, but I’d like to suggest that whatever it is – it needs to be relevant, real, raw, and spiritually powerful. It doesn’t have to be polished and professional, it just needs to be genuinely all about Jesus to shift their attention onto Him while speaking the ‘generational language’ in order to connect them with Him.
Perhaps we may not think of worship as being a strategic key for reaching and drawing students into our programs, but I’m convinced that it is! I believe the young people of this generation are genuinely seeking that which is authentic. We shouldn’t patronize them or do them the disservice of assuming they just want to be entertained or to socialize with their friends. Of course, it should be fun, but it needs to be more than that!
Reflecting on my experience over the years, I genuinely cannot remember a time when a new person told me that they had come to our youth ministry because of the games. However, I know of stories over and over again of young people coming because their friends told them it was powerful and they wanted to see for themselves.
Generally speaking, I see that in our Western societies, young people are so spiritually deprived that it actually results in a genuine intrigue of the supernatural, unexplainable, and ‘un-experienced.’ Also, young people are always moved by the passion and devotion of others their age. To give this an expression and provide an opportunity for it to be displayed is one of the best possible draw cards for young people who have not yet encountered the reality of God for themselves. “Come and see what I have seen” still works!
Of course, in order to use worship strategically in reaching young people, we need to take into consideration the capacity and maturity of those we’re trying to draw in. We have made the worship time shorter or longer, changed its position in the service, or chosen specific songs all with this in mind. However, it has always been a non-negotiable part of the strategy.
Youth Leaders Only, in its 39th 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! The theme of the upcoming YLO which includes Andy’s Blog, the new Planetshakers Album and great worship resources is “Strategic Ministry- Because You Don’t Have Time To Waste” Click here to get it!
Worship is also a strategic key for connecting and discipling young people within our programs. I don’t know what the vision is for your youth ministry, but I am assuming we’d all agree that we’re in this to see young people encounter God for themselves, to see their personal faith in Him come alive, and for them to be empowered to build on that foundation for the rest of their lives. There’s no doubt in my mind that an atmosphere of worship expedites that process and is one of the best ways to facilitate it.
Worship changes the atmosphere and the focus of a service. We’re practicing together what we want them to live out in their lives: that Jesus is number one and every other thought is secondary to Him. This positions people to encounter Him personally and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to them. It’s one of the most effective and efficient tools for discipleship because it opens the door for the Holy Spirit to move en mass, pin-pointing individual things in each heart as He does. To use your imagination, it’s like gathering the whole crowd under a cloud as it rains and hundreds of thousands of little drops are falling on them. Some may have been ready for it and others not so keen, but everyone is going to be impacted by the experience of what is happening above them. God loves to pour out His manifest presence as we worship and those present are always impacted in the process!
No matter what your strategy for reaching and discipling young people is, I believe worship should be a key part of it! The students that have never stepped foot into your church yet were already born with worship as their purpose. Let’s give them an opportunity to discover it while they’re with us!