Reflections from Reel Fest-North. Investing in our Next Generation

Psalm 78: 5-7

For [God] established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children that the generation to come, might now, even the children yet to be born, that they might arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God but keep his commandments.

This past Friday and Saturday, twenty of us from Ivy Creek Baptist made the trip down to Snellville for Reel Fest. Reel Fest is a two-day youth choir and orchestra event sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board Worship and Music Ministries. It’s a jam-packed 24 hours of singing, playing, fellowshiping, and sweet times of worship. Our youth had a blast! Many of our students also go to GA Baptist sponsored music camps in the summer, so seeing many familiar faces made it even more special for our students.

Over the course of the weekend, I thought about several things that that struck me during the weekend. I wanted to share those in this post, because I think they are worth sharing and remembering:

  1. I am surprised there aren’t more churches represented from the north part of our state in this event. A church doesn’t even have to have a youth choir or youth orchestra to participate. This event is a great way to get musically talented teens in your church energized to lead in worship.
  2. If we believe that it is important for our youth and children to lead in musical worship, we need to give them tools and excellent experiences to demonstrate what these worship experiences look like. As the psalmist says in the opening verse, it is our responsibility to teach to the present and coming generations the truth of the Word, which includes giving glory to God in song.
  3. Not all students are singers and thankfully there is a place for them to serve. When I was growing up (not THAT long ago), youth choir was an important part of many churches. In fact while many churches were starting to use youth praise bands to some degree, they were used in conjunction with (not instead of) youth choirs. However, in my experience (and I was part of church worshiping over 1000 each week) there were few opportunities for players of band and orchestra instruments in worship leadership. Here at our church, we make sure every student with instrumental ability gets an opportunity to play. Half of our students attending Reel Fest this past weekend were players. I know I wouldn’t have had as many participate had they only allowed singers to participate.
  4. It is important to work hard to build relationships with the youth in your church. Share your convicitions of the purpose of youth in worship leadership with your staff and especially your youth pastor. Work hard to find time to invest in youth so they also feel valued.
  5. If you feel like you’re too strapped thin to add another group to your plate, at least invite talented youth to participate in adult choir, praise team, or orchestra. Invest where you can; you never know who God might be calling to make a life-long commitment to vocational music ministry. Invest in the next generation; disciple and multiple yourself.

In full disclosure, I haven’t always had youth choirs during my 22 years in ministry, although I have in most. When I haven’t, I’ve used every excuse in the book…and yes, I felt a little like a fraud calling myself a “champion” of intergenerational worship although I made sure that all interested youth were plugged into some part of music ministry. Nevertheless, God has reminded me over the past few years of the importance of doing what I can to empower young people to lead in worship. I guarantee you, your musically-inclined youth want to be used in worship leadership if given a place to serve. They are starving to make a difference in this world. Make it exciting…cast vision…strive for excellence and build the Kingdom. What a JOY it is to hear comments from our youth about how much God is doing in their lives because they are SERVING in worship. I encourage all of my music and worship colleagues to be an advocate for future worship leaders by investing in our younger generations.

Warning ⚠️ Shameless Dad moment: I’m especially grateful for my own children who served so well in the orchestra at Reel Fest. Tyler even had a small clarinet solo in the orchestra prelude.

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