One of the most common questions I get asked as a youth advisor is how do you help young people engage in worship? It’s an important question and one that we need to take time to consider carefully. It always delights me when I get asked this question because it means the questioner is thinking about how they help young people engage with God. Engagement is vital. Young people need to experience God. Christianity is a relationship not a set of facts and so we have to show teenagers how they can build this relationship for themselves.
How do you engage young people in worship in your youth group setting? We are often good at teaching about God, helping young people understand more about our faith but how do we help them to develop this relationship with him, to learn what it means to worship?
I think that every youth group meeting we hold, which is a discipleship group, must have a worship experience in it. It is important because it puts Jesus at the centre of the meeting. It demonstrates that we know we need Jesus more than anyone or anything else. It models reliance on God to the young people. I think it is important too to keep our worship as varied as possible, so that we inspire young people to worship God more and to worship in private on their own as well as corporately at church. That’s why I try as far as I can to offer worship times which a teenager can replicate at home, day to day.
Here’s the good news, by the way! Worship does not have to be singing. It is extremely hard, though not impossible, to get a bunch of teenagers singing, especially if there are only five or six people there. Leaders can often mistake what we mean by worship for singing songs of worship together, and if we can’t do that we don’t bother with any worship. I want to encourage us to think of worship not as merely singing, but relationship building with our heavenly father.
Here are ten ways that you can help your youth group to worship:
1. Use art
Getting creative is a great way to worship and connect with God. This could be getting people to draw things that they are thankful for, or to take a Bible verse and to draw what it means to them. Art doesn’t just have to be paper and pens either. You could use plastercine or play dough. You could allow people to use design programs on a computer or tablet (which is great for those who don’t feel naturally ‘arty’).
2. Word games
There are lots of different word games where you have to think of words which relate to a topic. One I like is to write out the letters which spell “JESUS CHRIST” and to ask them to come up with words for each letter, where the words must be all to do with Jesus eg. “Joy’, ‘Everlasting’, ‘Saviour’ etc
Someone I used to work with once described nature as “God’s picture book”. There is something about nature which helps us reconnect with God. One week, get outside and go for a nature walk around your area. Even if you are in the heart of a city, get outside and look for where God’s creation naturally lies. Encourage the group to look at what God is doing and to take time to observe what’s around them and to use their five senses as they walk.
4. Lights and candles
Lights and candles are great tools to use to change the atmosphere of a room. They help people to focus as well as to consider how they are doing when it comes to walking in the light (1 John 1:7). You could encourage people to light candles for people they are praying for, for a specific area of their life they need more of God’s Holy Spirit in, or to put on a map of their community to pray for more of God’s light in their area.
5. Listen to God for each other
A simple, but challenging way of worshipping is to get into threes and to take time to listen to God for what he might want to say to each other. This can push people outside their comfort zones but when they do it, they are encouraged that God might actually speak through them. In their groups, ask them to pray for each other in turn, and each time ask God what he wants to say to the person being prayed for. Have some time of quiet while people listen, then share with the person what they think God might have said.
6. Bible verse meditation
Print off lots of Bible verses and encourage people to take one and to meditate on it. They could find some space to sit, kneel or lie down and allow the verse to soak in and encourage them to memorise it. They may like to draw or write down anything that strikes them as important.
7. Prayer wall
I’ve often used this in youth services where you set up a wall with lining paper on and people are encouraged to write down things to thank God for or prayers they may have. It is a great way of getting people interacting with God and allowing their prayers to inspire others.
Give a couple of questions for them to reflect on such as ‘what would you ask God to do today if he was sitting opposite you?’ or ‘what difference would you like to see God make in your school?’. Then give them space to reflect alone on these questions and maybe get into pairs after to share their ideas.
9. Video meditations
There are lots of good quality video clips available online and on YouTube which you can use to help people worship. There are some particularly where they take a worship song and put images to it. There are also some good ones which focus on a particular Bible passage. For further ideas, check out our ‘Video Clips’ section on our Media Illustrations page.
I don’t want to dismiss sung worship. The Bible tells us to ‘sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth’ (Psalm 96:1) and there is something special when we sing songs of worship together. Encourage any musicians in your group to lead the singing. It may be awkward at first, but persist with it and allow them to get creative in their music.
These are just a few ideas to help you get started. I am sure you can think of others. When you do, it would be great if you could share them with others, perhaps by commenting on this blog post. You can also find more ideas on our worship ideas page.