By Tyler Ingram
Corporate worship is one of the most important elements in the life of the church. It is a time for love, devotion, fellowship, grief, praise and so much more which happens on Sunday and beyond.
It is no doubt that every church (especially in autonomous Baptist life) worships differently in some shape or form. This is not just related to the music or instruments used, but rather are concerning a church’s “theology of worship” and what worship means to a congregation.
How do we worship? What do we like about worship? Who gets to be a part of worship? Is worship a passive or active opportunity? Although many detailed essays can be written addressing so many of these thoughts, the focus of this article is about incorporating all generations into worship and the questions or issues that may arise from this important act of worship.
How do we include children and youth in worship without it seeming like a ‘performance’?
This idea of worship as a “performance” is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of music ministry, no matter the age group. In all other avenues of music, (schools, community groups, professional organizations, etc.) people come together to rehearse music in preparation for a performance where others come and listen to what has been presented.
Although music is prepared in a similar manner in the church, what does it take to teach people that it is not another performance which happens to occur in a sanctuary or other worship space?
I would suggest that music in worship in fact can be an act of performing, however, in its own right. The task then becomes understanding who the audience is. Performing in worship should be a presentation of one’s spiritual gifts that are shared with the body of the church, but most importantly it is using those gifts to honor God for all that has been given to us. Work must be done from an early age explaining to children and youth that being involved in a leadership role in worship is giving back to God what was given to us.
What are other non-musical opportunities that include all ages in worship?
“My child is not musically inclined. Does this mean they can never be involved in leading worship?” It breaks my heart to think this question is asked, but unfortunately this perception is all too common.
Finding ways for people to be included in creative ways is vital to the children’s and youth ministry families’ involvement in worship. One opportunity is to have a wonderful speaker or reader present the scripture or a prayer in worship in a creative way. As technology is becoming more and more involved in worship, begin to teach young people how to use cameras, microphones, or other equipment that is vital to your church’s worship. Include a variety of the arts and allow people to decorate for seasons in the church such as advent that can be shared in worship. This is simply a snapshot of the endless ways people can be creative in worship preparation and leadership.
How many times a year should we include youth and children in worship?
This question can be quite troublesome in ministry because worship involvement should not feel like we are “checking off the boxes.” Instead, intergenerational opportunities should be a core value and must be a major part of the identity of church.
Counting the amount of times a children’s choir sings in worship may be a good start if they have never done this in the past. However, once this happens once or twice it may fall into the trap of the “standard operating procedure,” which leads to static and dull worship.
Specific worship days dedicated to certain age groups or ministries are wonderful! But, if that is the only time throughout the year a 3rd grader has helped lead worship, then an intergenerational problem is running rampant in a church.
Worship is an amazing opportunity for all people to share their gifts and talents in front of a congregation, but must be directed toward God. The church should find innovative paths of worship involvement throughout the entire year and continue to teach a congregation that the entire body of Christ can lead others to experience the presence of God in worship.
Tyler Ingram serves as the Assistant Minister of Music at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. He currently is a 3rd year student at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, N.C., pursuing a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Church Music and Worship.