In their book, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, Powell and Clark found that students crave affirmation and relationships with adults in their community of faith.[i] It makes them feel valued. They want to get connected to the church, to serve, to invest in others. Powell and Clark go on to say that students who invest in younger kids are more likely to be connected and committed to their local church.[ii] Students want to feel valued and appreciated for what they can bring to the community of faith.[iii]
Church Leader: what are you doing to integrate these students into the leadership of your church? For the worship leader specifically: How will you not only train future worship leaders, but how will you allow them to serve the body of Christ? Yes, it’s great to have graded choirs and youth choirs, but some of the more talented students in your ministry should be playing piano, guitar, or other musical instruments for another group in your church. The student with the great voice could sing on one of your worship service praise teams. The student who has a heart for working with children’s worship or children’s choir may be just the ministry he or she needs to stay connected to the church, or the students who are interested in audio/visual ministry could serve in various ways all over the church. What opportunities are you creating for this to happen in your church, leader? How will you ensure this happens?
You must seek creative ways to use your students every chance you can because if they don’t get connected during their youth, it’s likely they’ll never get plugged in as an adult. They crave relationships with adults who value what talents and ideas they bring to the table. They need validation and affirmation along the way. They are the future of the church and we must find ways for them to learn, grow, serve, and invest in others themselves.
Here a just a few ways you as a leader can invest and allow students and children the opportunity to grow and serve in the intergenerational church:
- Develop student accompanists
- Allow them to sing in the Sunday morning choir
- Use students on praise teams or solos
- Allow students to play their instruments in an instrumental ensembles or praise band
- Allow students to serve in children’s worship, drama, or children’s choir ministry
- Train and equip students for audio/visual ministry
- Allow students and children to have a voice in the worship ministry
Children and students must have the opportunity to develop their skills as they learn what it means to lead in worship. You never know who God is calling to not only vocational ministry, but who He’s calling to serve the church after you are gone. Truthfully, isn’t it worth it to invest in even a few students if someone gets plugged in for life? If not, the church of tomorrow will be severely lacking musicians.
No matter what size church you have or what your style of musical worship is, find many outlets for your students to serve. It just makes sense to provide opportunities for the greatest number of students to participate. Certainly, extremely talented musicians should have greater responsibility as needed, but don’t forget the moderate level musician in your church. We need all kinds in the body of Christ, and that extends also to music ministry also. We must foster an environment that seeks to honor the giftedness of all and provides avenues for them to serve.
I get it; the pressure, worship leader, is undoubtedly high in your church to produce a quality worship experience each week. Taking a “training” approach to music ministry takes guts and a solid plan. The beginning product might not be awesome, but keep plugging away, training, investing, and praying for God to move and the quality will continue to rise if you raise the bar high and encourage along the way.
I tell people often I’ve had key people in my life that invested in me. They saw something in me that needed to be utilized for the building of the Kingdom. I think of them often and remind them of their specific encouragement and risk they took letting me accompany or sing when I didn’t even think I was ready. Because of their investment in me, I’m able to invest in our next generations.
Who are investing in?
[i] Powell and Clark, 98-99.
[ii] Ibid, 98
[iii] For further reading, I commend to you the great book, Growing Young, by Powell, Mulder, and Griffin (Baker: Grand Rapids, 2016). These authors highlight the fact that a warm community is essential for keeping young people connected to a local community of faith.