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

Youth Ministry Topics Developing Student Praise and Worship

Training Students to Lead in Worship 3

Paul Guffey

Performance Issues

Make Sure Your Heart?s In Tune

Let's talk a little bit about performance. Here again God is not impressed when the heart is out of tune. Isaiah 59:1-2 is a great verse in relation to performance. If there is iniquity in your heart, he doesn't even hear you. I constantly remember that when I lead worship. I am constantly reminded that I've stood before people - adults as well as kids - and I've had some things in my heart that weren't right. I just went through the motions to get it over with and after it was over I realized I didn't worship.

Maybe God used it in some way to lead somebody else. But it?s very important to understand that God isn?t impressed if our hearts if our hearts are out of tune. If their hearts are in tune their voices don?t have to be. If you?re developing a team, pray and hope that God would at least bring you at least one student who can sing on pitch. But if he doesn't bring somebody like that, it's ok.

Although I told this story in my former article, I want to briefly repeat it in this context.. I know this concept and this principle to be true, because I had this opportunity to lead worship at a camp a few years back. And there was a deaf boy at the camp and he'd just put his ear to the speaker and as I was leading worship and the kids were just jamming, he was just in his own world. He could just feel the vibration. Since I used to work with the Louisiana School for the Deaf, I can sign. So I got into conversations with this guy. And we developed a friendship.

I asked him about his life and his walk with the Lord and he said "I love Jesus, I love Jesus." But he didn?t think Jesus loved him because he couldn't sing. And he was really hung up on this. So I said, "What are you doing when you're over at the speaker? Are you worshiping?" He said, "No I just like the music." And he signed, "God no love me. I no sing."

My heart was breaking because here I am the worship leader and I can't get through to this kid. It took Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and all day Thursday. I hung out with him every minute I had. We ate together, we goofed off together, we played ball together and I just kept saying, "Brian I've got to tell you God loves you. He really loves you."

And he just couldn't get it. I could see it in his face and in his eyes. And although he'd still enjoy sensing the music, it was like there was nothing there. Nothing was in his eyes.

On the last night of the camp mosquitoes covered the camp. It was like being in Africa. We're wearing "Skin so Soft" to keep them off. So get the picture: I?m in this outdoor tabernacle, trying to lead worship, mosquitoes are flying everywhere, 250 kids plus are rocking, everybody?s sweating, this kid?s over leaning on the speaker.

I'm praying, "God just please, please help me get through to this guy." And I realized that it was not going to happen because of Paul Guffey's ability at all. It would have to be the work of the Holy Spirit and a work of the Lord.

Then the most wonderful thing happened. We got a little bit into worship and a hush came over the building and even the mosquitoes started dissipating and that was really weird. And all of a sudden everything gets real quiet and I hear this noise?. I knew it was Brian. I knew that if I looked over it would draw attention. But I just had to look and this kid is signing this song. "Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but he is strong. Yes Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me.

I started singing it with him and I got the kids joining in. At that moment I realized that God had touched his heart and impressed on this kid that He is listening to the heart more than his voice.

I think about that one kid Brian and those other multiple kids that I have in my choir that can't sing. What do I say to that kid? To that worship leader? And I teach him to sing from his heart because if his heart's in tune, God is pleased with his worship.

That's how you free a kid up to become a worshiper leader. Let them realize that it is ok to be off pitch if their heart is in tune. That night on the bank of that river, as I saw a deaf child lead 250 kids in worship, I experienced the most powerful, moving thing that I have ever personally been involved with in over 20 years of leading worship.

In the church we tend to be vocal driven. If it doesn't sound great we think that God is not pleased. But I want us to be freed from that. I?d rather focus on helping kids to walk with Christ. I want to help them to be godly kids. If we do that, I can guarantee that you're going to raise up a tidal wave of students who will take over their schools and communities. I know it. I've seen it. I know where it's happening right now.

Learn to Enter God?s Presence

Let's talk a little bit about entering into the presence of God. What is that about? It is one thing to talk about it. This is the easiest way I know how to do it: don't be afraid of the silence. Don't let Satan intimidate you into constantly talking. Just be quiet. Scripture says "Be still and know that I am God."

This is coming from a guy who used to try to cover up all the dead moments because I was feared that if I were quite, the kids would take over. In a lot of groups that?s exactly what happens. My kids in Florida can't sit still for 10 seconds. They are the most fidgity kids I?ve ever seen. It's wacky, extremely difficult.

So I prayed, "Lord, how do I do this with these kids?" And He continually reminded me to be still. "Don't scream at them. Don't try to talk above them." And now my students know that if I simply stand before them and put my hands in my pockets and get quiet, they are to be quiet before the Lord. I don?t have to tell them.

It took a long time to get there. It took getting out on the road with them on missions trips. It took getting into their world, watching a ball game, finding that one rough kid who distracts the group and getting involved with his life to where we have a relationship. It took all of this to make the silence work. Now I?m not afraid of it.

Respond to His Leading

Worship is about responding, not performing.

Encourage your worship leaders to be sensitive to God and to respond to Him, as opposed to performing for God. That ties in with making an expression rather than an impression.


Prayer is critical for your worship leaders and your team. They've got to be a praying group. Monitor the prayers, lest they become, "Thanks God for the football team. Or, thanks for my date." Guide them to focus on the object of worship. Help them understand that this is a team and that everything we do focuses on honoring and worshiping the Lord. They must know that this is what will change the youth group. It's not a new hip track. It?s not a new hip video. It's not something new that you wear. In the end, all of the external stuff won?t change hearts. What will change them is to help them understand that the object of their worship is to please God. When that happens they want to be intimate with the Lord. But that won't happen unless we are so prayed up that God responds by blessing the worship time. He says, "I'm going to move right now because these kids, they're ready."

And I've seen it. I've been a part of such incredible worship that has been led by students. I remember two guys from a youth retreat. One guy plays guitar and the other sings. They were really bad. I mean they were terrible. But they had one thing going for them - they wanted to lead so badly. All the kids were laughing at them. One of the leaders would be so scared. They?d call him "Sloth Boy." We got people to change his name to "Sleuth Boy." After we changed his nickname, his personality began to come out. He became a worship leader. I kept getting them up before the group to lead.

On the next Sunday morning it was just like a butterfly had emerged. It was wonderful! God taught me all over again: it's about encouraging these kids to come out of that shell. I can remember being in the back of the room at the end of the retreat, watching them lead, and being touched in my heart. I was amazed.

Now one of those guys has gone on to become a worship leader in a college ministry. One had cancer but is now healed. God used both of them in wonderful ministry. Look around at the students in your ministry. The potential leaders are sitting right under your nose.

Lifestyle, Lifestyle, Lifestyle

You've got to teach students to walk their talk. Worshiping daily is about understanding Romans 12:1. This your spiritual service of worship. If you build these concepts into this worship team, it's going to be incredible. I love this scripture, "Why do you call me ?Lord, Lord? and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) These concepts will change your students as they begin to understand and internalize them.

Students are mostly trying to figure out how to stand before their fellow-students without getting laughed at. We're trying to get them past the very elemental things into these scriptural principles to give them confidence and courage until they're saying, "If this is what God?s looking for, I can do this. I don't have to be a great singer. I can do that. I just have to have a heart for God." That's how you train up godly student worship leaders.


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://www.worshiphim.com.


Used by permission of Paul Guffey.