Guest Blog Post: Joe Ball, “Utilizing Students in Worship”

Here at Church Music Today, we have been fortunate to have several guest bloggers post on the site like: Mark Williams, John Cashion, Doug King, Matthew Deweese, Travis Doucette, Rod Ellis, Tim Hooper, and Steven Skaggs.  Today, we add to the long list of excellent writers with Joe Ball from the Kentucky Baptist Convention as he writes about utilizing students within worship.

One of the things that always amazes me as a youth minister is the amount of musical talent our students have.  From the oboist in the school band to the bass players in one of the local garage bands our students are teeming with musical talent. We have students that are All-state choir and All-District band, singing solos in the local talent contest and winning and yet we struggle with how to include them in our corporate worship services.

So let me offer a few suggestions on how we can better incorporate our students into our worship services at church:

Praise band members-I know it is a scary thought to turn a 15 year old boy loose on the churches drum set.  But that is just what we did at Edgewood.  Matt had been a percussionist all through middle school, but his high school days were filled with football practice and left no time to be in the band.  We needed a drummer and he needed a place to play. It was a great fit, but it did expedite the purchase of an electronic drum kit where our sound guy could control the volume.  Other students of ours played guitar, keyboards and filled on the vocals.  The goal was to have at least one student in the worship band every week.

Soloist-It may seem like the simplest of the ideas to pull off, and logistically it is.  But let me encourage you to give some wiggle room when it comes to musical style.  I know it may be hard to believe, but not all of our students go around listening to hymns and the Gaithers on their iPod.  If they’re listening to Christian music at all it could just as easily be Tomlin, Crowder, and Casting Crowns as it is Grits, Lecrae and Toby Mac.  One of the hardest conversations I had with some church members was after one of our students did a straight up hardcore rap piece for special music.  They let me know in no uncertain terms that there was NO PLACE for that in worship.  My answers was something about how that student listens twice a week every week to music you like, it is the least you can do to one Sunday night a year to let him worship in his heart language.

Offertory selections-The sound of an oboe, violin or flute with a piano makes for a wonderful background for contemplation and reflection (or at least it does for me). Including students as part of the offertory experience gives those students with some niche instruments a chance to use the gifts and skills in the worship setting.  It may not be the most polished performance you’ve ever heard, but if it is the best they can do, then it should be good enough.

Miscellaneous – Not all of our students are musical and there are some practical ways to incorporate those students into worship as well.  Have a student pray, read scripture, serve as usher or lead the children’s sermon.  Several students could do a dramatic reading of the scripture passage.  Others that are more behind the scenes can work sound, lights and power point/Media Shout.

None of these require us to radically overhaul what we are currently doing in worship. But it does allow for our students to feel like they have a place at the table, and that worship is something they participate in and not just observe.

Joe Ball is the Youth Ministries Department Director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.  He has his own blog at (http://www.despisingnone.com) and you can also follow him on twitter.  Thanks, Joe, for your contribution to the KBC and this blog!

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