Thursday, November 19, 2020

Youth Empowered - Worship Empower Team


This week’s post is a continuation of our series that is exploring the digital side of student-led youth ministry, where we are releasing a new chapter of Youth Empowered for free, right here on Focusing on Jesus! Tune in each week to read a new portion of the chapter as we explore Empower Teams through a digital lens.

Worship Empower Team
In recent weeks, our nation has begun to witness an increase in Covid-19 cases, prompting communities to start returning to a fully virtual format. As our churches recalibrate and adjust, youth ministries will once again be tasked to find creative ways to lead worship within the digital realm. But what does it mean to have meaningful worship within a student-led youth ministry? Author Melva Wilson Costen explains in her book African American Christian Worship that “in order for corporate worship to be authentic and empowering, it must be psychologically relevant to worshipers and commensurate with their lived experiences.” While such a perspective is of course applicable within any discussion surrounding worship, it becomes even more pertinent within the context of a youth ministry that serves Gen Z’ers (a generation that inherently expects a high level of relevancy in order to participate and engage).

Through my years in youth ministry, I would oftentimes hear a student say that they were interested in learning how to deepen their relationship with Christ. Naturally, a youth pastor can encourage their students to pray and read more Scripture (which they should) while also encouraging their students to participate in corporate worship (which of course is an excellent suggestion). However, simply ticking these actions off of a checklist doesn’t always mean that the student is doing them with a worshiping heart. What is just as important (possibly even more important) is the ability to prepare our hearts so that we willingly receive Jesus in our lives. True, the Holy Spirit is already there in the room, even if we attend service online. But God being in the room doesn’t always mean that He’s actively working in our students’ hearts. If we don’t first ensure that our students understand how to invite Him in, then we may be promoting a less-than-ideal behavior that our teens may carry with them into college: confusing God’s spiritual proximity with God’s active presence.

In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren says that “the heart of worship is surrender” and that the “three barriers that block our total surrender to God are fear, confusion, and pride.” It is here where a Worship Empower Team can assist in the facilitation of a level of surrender that directly addresses these three barriers. At its foundation, a Worship Empower Team is a group of students that are able to not only help their peers better understand the importance of worship, but also to lead the youth ministry in reverent praise of the Lord. The songs that the Worship Empower team leads everyone in can work towards accomplishing three key strategies: to trust in God, to choose to obey God, and to understand where one’s abilities end (and where God’s abilities begin). Extremely fitting for the year of 2020, these three strategies directly address the three aforementioned barriers that may be preventing someone from wholly surrendering.

Beyond the selection of songs can lay some additional tactics that the Worship Empower Team can put into practice. If your youth ministry meets while using an app that allows students to show their video feed, encourage them to turn it off during corporate worship so that attendees don’t have to think about the others who are watching them sing. If students are shy about letting others hear their perfect pitch singing voices, then suggest the use of the mute button (After all, our praise is meant for an audience of 1!). To minimize the number of possible distractions, perhaps the team can suggest for attendees to move to a quiet room in the house or to turn down the lights. In between songs, a testimony shared from a student on the Worship Empower Team can help amplify the importance of one of the three previously noted barrier breakers. In the end, to help sustain the required level of relevancy that Costen refers to in her book, a Worship Empower Team is called to help its youth ministry redirect its attention away from the fleshly desires of the self and more towards God. By empowering students to be the forefront leaders of this initiative, other students can see themselves in a similar light for their own faith journey, wholly surrendering themselves to God so that He might receive His due glory (even in the midst of a pandemic).

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