I come from a community where student leadership in youth ministry is encouraged and expected. This naturally causes students to lead, play and help plan worship experiences every week. I want to set out and start a dialogue to better serve our churches youth ministries by having student leaders. This means asking and answering some questions like:
“Why is it important to involve students in leading worship for their ministry?”
“How can students become a worship team? How can they be encouraged and retained as leaders?”
“What is the best way to audition new musicians?”
“How can you encourage students to connect with the church as a larger community?”
There’s a lot of questions to tackle so my observations will be brief.
Students in a youth ministry, specifically high school, need to feel connected to the community they’re a part of by serving. They can connect in other ways like attending services, events or outreaches, but when a student serves they take ownership in their community. They become the face of their church. Students are the center of youth ministry so why not have them in the center?
How can students become a team and stay connected as leaders?
Getting a team of students is simple. Announce you’re forming a band, hold auditions, group students together and start planning. If you only have a few students to choose from, focus on their strengths. Have the strongest drummer or singer with the guitar player who is new to playing with others. The most challenging thing is having musicians who don’t play well with others, so get them together and play with them to encourage listening and attentiveness toward others. After all, they are becoming a team and it’s important to be the catalyst for their interconnectedness.
Keeping students interested starts with getting to know them. They have their favorite bands, songs, styles, but these things don’t always fit into worship so be creative. Take suggestions from each student when you’re planning experiences for months down the road. The more time you have to work on it the more creative you can be with each song. We regularly mash up popular songs with old worship standards like “How Great Is Our God” to give ourselves a challenge. It keeps the students interested, and if they suggested the song/mashup they’ll love playing it. Make it fun for them and for you as the worship leader. It’s about connecting with God so inspire, “make space,” invite, whatever kind of language you want to put on it, just do worship with students and they’ll love it.
It’s up to you and your personality/musical experience to conduct helpful and measurable auditions. I ask students to prepare something that shows me their strengths.
They come in play/sing. I take notes.
They get nervous as I keep writing…
I ask them to sing/play something new that I’m showing them.
This helps me see how fast they can pick something up, where their strengths are and their areas for improvement.
Then we work on playing together. Harmonize, play with them, whatever it takes to get them to listen, and to work together as a band. From here I pair them with other musicians who they always play with to grow together with.
CONNECTING STUDENTS TO THE LARGER CHURCH
Everything about youth ministry is connecting. Connecting students to each other, to the church, to God and to opportunities to serve. If your community is anything like mine students have no shortage of events to attend. These places are great for you, the Youth/Student Worship Leader, to connect with them, but the students who do sound, play in the band and help plan worship experiences can be encouraged a lot more.
Musicians need teachers so we have workshops for our student musicians to connect with other musicians who are more experienced. They talk gear, technique and what it means to be a part of a worship team.
Many churches do Team Nights now and these look like any number of things: having a night of worship, doing a stage re-design, a creative speaker, prayer nights, going to a concert, jam sessions or just hanging out. Scheduling a Team Night once a month or every quarter is a vital way to give students more ownership in their youth group.