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Student Worship: 5 Steps for Building a Youth Praise Team

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I’ll never forget the first time I attended the Purpose Driven Youth Ministry Conference and saw the Saddleback Church student worship band perform. They were professional and effective, conducting youth-led worship at a high level. At the time, our church didn’t have much of a student band. In fact, it wasn’t a band at all. The lead worship guy from the adult services simply volunteered his time for the teen service. He was good, and kids enjoyed his music. But something needed to change.

If your youth ministry can have a student worship band or youth praise team, it will powerfully impact the way teens worship and connect with God. Youth led worship sets a model for peers and gives kids ownership in the ministry.

Starting a student worship band isn’t always easy. In fact, maybe you’ve tried before to assemble a youth praise team, a choir or even just a soloist now and then. Sometimes recruiting can be a challenge; other times, kids are inconsistent about showing up. And talent can vary widely. Building a high-quality student worship team is a process, but with the right approach you can eventually hit all the right notes (or most of them, at least).

Use these five steps to create a powerful student worship team:

1. Define its purpose.

First, consider the reason and role for your student worship leaders. Do you want a youth praise team to lead the entire service or just set the mood at the beginning? One reason worship bands tend to “disband” is a lack of vision. To create one, ask yourself, “How will this take our ministry to the next level?” If you can’t answer that question, then you aren’t ready to start putting together a student worship group.

2. Budget for the youth praise team.

If you want a student worship band, you need to prioritize it in your budget. Expenses include quality equipment (i.e., microphones, drum set) as well as a worship leader. You might be fortunate and receive donated equipment. You also might find someone who’s willing to commit a huge chunk of time to train, recruit and prepare teen musicians. But that’s not always realistic, and equipment will break. Plus, by financially investing in a leader, you create an accountability system that expects excellence.

3. Outsource the leader.

I can play guitar and piano, but as a youth minister my focus is on too many things. No matter your ministry’s size, if you can stipend a volunteer or hire someone, then it takes a huge burden off your back. This person can host tryouts and practices and select music. Find someone who loves God, likes teens and is focused on growing musicians and disciples of Christ simultaneously. Although it would be beneficial to budget for a leader, you don’t have to pay a lot…just enough to show appreciation. No matter the pay, treat the position like a job. Interview the person and make sure the fit is right for your ministry.

4. Publicize the student worship team. 

The next step is to promote the youth worship band or team like crazy. If you host tryouts, announce them at all the services, send emails to parents and kids, and post an ad on your web page. Give the worship leader permission to plug and promote the band each time your ministry meets. Create buzz so you can recruit students who want to play and learn how to worship through music. No matter what, be persistent. In the beginning, you might not get much response. But the more you plug away, the more momentum will build.

5. Create a commitment.

Teens belong to so many clubs that you’ll face competition for their time. After tryouts, ask kids to sign a commitment similar to one they might sign for a sports team. Be sure to set out your expectations for practice, attendance and even conduct. And remember: You don’t have to recruit teens who are Christians. In fact, the student worship band might be an effective evangelization tool. Just set and enforce a moral code, because kids are leading their peers. Committing to a student worship team holds kids accountable.

Again, forming a student worship band isn’t easy and doesn’t happen overnight. Starting one takes time and money; however, your labor will yield fruit. Through a student worship band, our ministry has grown. It also prepares teens for the message and their small groups. And we’re excited to see how it continues to grow young disciples.

What solutions have you discovered for “orchestrating” student worship? Please share them in the comments below!

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Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met his wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, he was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.