"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Developing Student Praise and Worship

Adding Creative Elements (Part 3)

Techniques and Taboos

Steve Miller

Strive for Clear Communication

17. Teach your singers to enunciate clearly. Multiple singers must blend well.

18. Make sure the band doesn't overpower the singers. At a recent concert the singer's mic was turned down too low, ruining an otherwise powerful performance.

19. Make the lyrics visible. It totally amazes me how a visiting worship band can prepare diligently, perform flawlessly, yet have 90% of its impact ruined by not having the words available. Depending on the setting, use Power Point, overheads, or songbooks. "I don't use words because I want my students to memorize the words," some will complain. But what about those new people who don't know any of your songs? Won't they feel left out of your exclusively insider worship?

The words must be large enough to be seen, well positioned in the room. And if you use Power Point, PLEASE make sure that the technical person is thoroughly familiar with the order and flow of each song. Clicking around for the right verse is a major distraction.

I'm also for putting up the words of any special that a band performs. Even if the singers enunciate very clearly, the written word is simply another way to ensure good communication.

20. Use creative, appropriate scenes behind the words. When ascribing greatness to God, a majestic mountain scene gives us a visual reminder of His greatness in creation. Power Point makes this easy. I used to create a similar effect with slides, turning off all the lights except for small clip lights on the stands so that the musicians could see their music. This drew the worshipers away from the band to totally focus on the slides.

If the song is a teaching song, visuals could focus on the message taught. For example, a song exhorting toward ministry involvement might feature pictures of recent ministry events. The Old Testament often records God telling Israel to institute visual reminders of His dramatic works among them. Why not feature pictures of the recent mission trip or vacation bible school, or the regular tear down crew, set up crew and clean up crew doing their work for Jesus?

These pictures could appear behind the words to a congregational song, a special, or a recorded song (celebratory or exhorting to good works). Many churches tend to be so forward thinking that they neglect celebrating what God has done and is doing. Like the lepers that Jesus healed, most of us neglect returning to thank Him for His marvelous deeds.

21. Use choreography appropriately. Do choreographed singers accentuate worship, or hinder it? In our group, it would definitely distract, being perceived as artificial, too scripted. Another group may perceive it positively. On the other hand, I saw choreographed tamborine players with streamers that I felt enhanced worship among certain groups. It all depends on the target audience.

22. Consider using music in the background during other parts of the service. Before the original "Star Wars" came out in theaters, a select group of executives, financiers, etc. previewed it in a private showing. The only element not yet added was the sound track. The response? Some fell asleep. The general consensus was that the movie would flop. But the addition of the sound track brought the movie to life.

Background music, if done well, may be hardly noticed. At the conclusion of a movie, I'll often see an advertisement for the soundtrack. Then I'll think, "I don't remember any music in the movie." The music was subtle, adding excitement to the action scene or emotion to the romantic scene. In the same way, music might well accompany a skit or a video clip, or a slide show of last week's youth camp, greatly enhancing the impact.

Be Creative

23. Keep people guessing. In some areas of life, find a winning formula and stick with it. Don't do it with your worship. I remember one church that used the same order of service every week. The rut was so deep, that when a guest leader did something different, a group of people automatically stood up at the tradition point of the service, much to their embarrassment. When people can unthinkingly follow our established routine, they may go through the entire service without thinking, and thus without truly worshiping.

24. Mix up the positioning of the primary service elements. Especially when the message will be related to loving God, worshiping God, etc., position the spoken message toward the first of the meeting. The following praise time provides an opportunity to apply what was taught. One teen said of his former youth minister, "I always loved Mike's youth ministry, because we never knew what was going to happen until we got there." Besides keeping their attention, such variety teaches that music is more than just a warm-up to the message. It's significant in itself.

25. Occasionally add a new instrument or a new style. Always, always ask a representative group of youth whether or not it enhanced the worship and communication.

26. In some alternative Christian concerts, certain band members will face away from the audience. Try facing the worship leaders away from the audience on a song so see if this enhances everyone's feel that these are truly "lead worshipers."

Get the People Actively Worshiping

27. Experiment with celebration. In many Christian settings, we stifle true celebration. Reflect on a Deuteronomy 14:22-27 as an example of an annual, God ordained celebration. In brief, the Israelites were instructed to take their favorite foods and drinks ("whatever your heart desires") and rejoice before the Lord. No sacrifices. No fasts. Sounds like fun…spiritual fun!

Culturally relevant celebration in a Christian context is an alien concept to many youth. When youth celebrate in popular settings, they jump up and down, form trains and move around the room, clap, shout. Physical expressions such as dancing (Psalm 149:3) are well established in Scriptures.

The point of Scripture, as I understand it, is not that we MUST dance, any more than we MUST use a lyre (Ps. 149:3). Just use whatever is morally neutral among your people that is natural for them to express celebration. (Okay, so I'm pretty self-conscious about my own dancing.) If students get really happy in a celebratory atmosphere, you may have to warn against moshing and body surfing, if they would risk injury or otherwise take the focus off of God.

28. Allow different youth to participate from the front. Some may not be musically inclined, but could introduce a song or read a Scripture or do a drama.

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