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

Youth Ministry Topics Developing Student Praise and Worship

Training Students to Lead in Worship 1

Paul Guffey

(EDITOR?S NOTE: Although you?ll notice some overlap with "How to Lead Students in Worship," this article views worship from the angle of training students to lead.)

Preliminary Remarks

I have a deep conviction that we can help students to understand that God is raising them up to lead a generation in worship. He is calling them to step forward and lead in ways that they've never dreamed of. This article will help your students gain a biblical understanding of the type of worship leader the Lord is seeking. Instead of focusing on worship styles and the trends of the day, I prefer to help students see just what biblical worship looks like. This will help them understand God's plan for the talent he gave them and also build a foundation for their worship ministry to their friends. With this in mind much of what you'll hear centers around the heart of a student worshiper. These concepts have been around for a long time and will greatly aid them in leading worship.

You'll also be interested to know that I write a monthly column on-line at www.crosswalk.com that deals with the subject of student worship. Your comments are suggestions are very important to me. My e-mail address is paul@worshiphim.com or your could also reach me through our web site at www.worshiphim.com .

Let?s begin with prayer:

Father, we know that You are on the throne. I confess my dependence on You now and humble myself before my brothers and sisters as I pray that You will speak to them. I ask that our hearts would focus on pleasing you as we explore ways to lead students to a place where they will be drawn to You. We ask that you would use students in this generation to impact other students. Father, be with us now and bless our time. In Christ?s name we pray. Amen.

Key Quotes and How I Use Them

When we talk about this concept of developing student led worship it really comes down to you finding that one kid in your group that has a little bit of talent and has a real desire for God.

That's really as simple as it is. And it may be that in your group it comes down to that one student who has a lot of desire and not a lot of talent. And that's okay. The biblical principles I present here will work for both the talented and non-talented student. These principles will free up your students. They will also free you up to think creatively, to ask, "Who do I have in my group that might just be waiting in the wings and ready, but just need a little encouragement, a few resources or tools, and just a little bit of the understanding of what God's looking for in a student worshiper?"

So here are some quotes that I think are good. Students seem to respond to quotes sometimes better than teaching. As I teach the worship leaders in my church, I find that they remember a short quote better than a big long sentence. So here?s the first one:

The key to leading worship is to worship as you lead.

That thought has helped me develop one of the guys in my worship team. For him, the key to leading worship was to wear all the right clothes, to have the hair sticking out every which way, just to kind of have that funky, groovy look. He was just trying to impress everybody.

He was a good guitar player, but he was really working the image. And I have no problem with his outward appearance. Years ago I had hair that was longer than a lot of your hair. I?ve been there. I'm not into the image or exterior thing. I think that's great. I would still wear my hair long, but I just don't have the time.

Nothing that I say is about the exterior. And that's what you want to teach these students. That's one of the hardest things. It's not about the external. I have other kids who have five, six earrings on one side and I love these kids. Bring them in. You want to use whatever talent God brings you. So don't ever put any emphasis on the exterior, the way they look. That's not a problem. You want to impact them with the concept that the key to their leading worship is that they learn how to worship as they lead.


It's about expression not impression.

That's a good one for one of my guitar guys who's an incredible guitarist, but man has he got an attitude. He's a great guitarist and he knows it. I don't know if you have anybody like that. He's got great talent. And I've got a girl who has a beautiful voice, great talent, and she knows it. That drives everybody else away. I have to be very careful about how I use her in leadership roles because I've noticed that a lot of students are turned off when she gets up. For her it's about impression.

So, keep this thought: it's about expression, not impression. If you're leading worship, just express your love and devotion to God. That's what it's about. It's not about trying to impress your neighbor or trying to impress your peers.

I say this to my youth choir all the time.

It's not about singing, it's about serving.

That's the easiest way to free up your students. Here?s how my conversation may go with a potential singer:

"Hey dude, why don't you come hang out with us in choir?"

"No way man. Bunch of geeks."

"Let me ask you something. You're a Christian, aren't you?"


"Well what does it mean to be a Christian?

"Well?serving God."

"Ok, it's not about singing it?s about serving."

This approach always connects with the kids, if they are Christians. It's not to say that you're always going to get them in choir. Yet, they make the connection in their heart that this is really about serving. And that's what we're about as Christians. Saying that really frees kids up.

Kids are the first to want to impress somebody. They say, "I've just got to do something for God. What can I do? What can I do. What can I do?" Sometimes I simply say to them that if they?re trying to impress fellow students or other youth groups in our area, why not just concentrate on serving people?

That's been a real key factor. And those three quotes I use as a basis for developing a worship team. Because if they learn to worship as they lead, they?ve got a great foundation. If they understand how to express rather than impress, their moving forward. And if they take on the attitude of a servant, giving their talent to God and using it freely for Him, God will be honored and people will respond to their leadership.

Building Blocks to Leading Worship

I want to start out with a working definition of worship. This is a simple definition that I guarantee you will work with your students. They will learn it and surprise you with their ability to retain it.

Worship is setting our mind's attention and our heart's affection on God and expressing our total love and devotion to Him daily.

Let's just break that down and start with the first part of it. Worship is setting my mind's attention and my heart's affection on God. That's what I taught my students first. I want my students to understand that when they hear the word "worship" that they think, "Worship is setting my mind's attention and my heart's affection on God." Build that definition into your students. Build into them the deep conviction that this is what it?s all about.

"Setting our mind's attention?" - Because their attention becomes focused on the Lord as the object of their worship, everything else falls right into place. That's why you won't hear me talk a lot about exterior stuff, like the right globe spinning from the ceiling and fog and smoke and lasers shooting. All that external stuff will constantly change. It changes with every generation and from culture to culture. Musical styles change. What works for me in Orlando might not work for you in Minneapolis. What works in Japan might not work in Australia. What we have to do is this: lean back on what God set up as His principles of worship. That's what God said and that's what we need to be successful.

"?and our heart's affection on God." If you can teach a student how to set his heart's affection on God, that student will become a godly kid. He?ll be a godly little warrior for Christ. He?ll begin to have a deep love for Christ. He?ll begin to have a deep devotion for the Lord and every area of his life will be transformed, not just his music and his worship. And that is so great! God knew what he was doing when he set these principles into action. He knew that if we help students recalibrate on what the Scripture says worship says, then He will be pleased. That's really our job as adults.

That?s so freeing. But let me free you up even more. Don't worry about having to impress the kids. Let go of that! You do not need to impress students at all. God is not looking for any type of service from us as adult leaders where students will look at us and go "man, you are really cool and hip and I like you because you're cool and hip."

Concentrate on developing a true love for students, what I like to call loving them more than Satan hates them.

Pure love for a student - that?s what will help them to become worshipers and worship leaders as they see you leading worship with a spirit of love, grace, gentleness and kindness. When you capture them with your arms and love on them, that will help them focus their attention back on "Mr. Guffey he really loves me. I've got braces and I'm kinda geeky but he really loves me and I want to love God the way he loves me." It's that expression of worship that all happens when we teach them how to set their mind's attention and their heart's affection on God.

"?expressing our total love and devotion to Him daily." That's a culmination of a lot of years of work. We can do the first part of that definition; "Worship is setting our mind's attention and our heart's affection on God." That can happen relatively quickly, perhaps within a month, six months or a year. But getting a kid to the point of total devotion, that sometimes takes years. Students live in such a peer driven, peer impressed society that a lot of them have learned to be good fakers.

We have a lot of fakers in our church. They come to church and act one way and they come to school and act a different way. And I?m even thinking of my leaders, my worship leaders. I've observed them, even with some covert action at their school. I?ve watched how they live there and listened to the way they talk. And I've listened to them when they?re on our facility grounds, outside the building. Like most students, they?re driven by whoever they're hanging out with.

So don't be discouraged if this concept of becoming fully devoted doesn?t catch on very quickly. That's something that we as adults must continually model. So that's our working definition for this article. Worship is setting my mind's attention and my heart's affection on God and expressing my total love and devotion to him daily. That's our goal.

To go to part two of this article, either CLICK HERE or click your back arrow to go back to the list of worship articles.


Paul Guffey has led large and small groups of youth in worship for over two decades in every setting imaginable. This message was transcribed and edited from a teaching tape by Paul Guffey that was originally recorded in July 1999 at a Music Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The cassette (entitled "How to Lead Students in Worship") and other resources are available from Paul?s web site at http://ww.worshiphim.com .


Used by permission of Paul Guffey.