I’m a “shoot straight” sort of a person. I’ve spent my life in the church. As a child of a kidmin leader, I had a front-row seat to see within the walls of the church for every day of my life I can remember. I have spent decades serving the local church as a worship leader.
My focus in my ministry has been specifically on serving the church with worship resources for children and families for the past fourteen years.
Every one of these experiences has formed my upcoming analysis. One of the most underdeveloped areas of discipleship in churches is worship. There I said it. In my experience, I’ve seen it. In the conversations I have with leaders, I’ve heard it as they’ve described the issues they have while asking me for help.
Having Vision for Worship
Many church leaders would disagree because—in almost every case—they have a time for worship in their services. Yes, that’s true. But just as I wouldn’t say the definition of success for a church is to have wooden pews and hymnals, I wouldn’t describe most local churches in our community as successful at nurturing a heart of worship in Christ followers just because they have a spot on their run sheet in Planning Center for three songs to be sung.
Just because you have and even do a worship time each week when you gather doesn’t mean you have a vision for it. Allotting minutes in your service to worship doesn’t mean you have leaders who have a revelation about the subject and passionately want to see people grow in their relationship with Jesus through worship.
Casting New Vision
Somewhere years ago, many of us lost our way. Maybe it was in the busyness of making it all happen in church services week after week. I mean, church does happen fifty-two weeks a year. I get it and please feel the virtual hug I’m sending to you right now for your hard work in making that happen. Maybe as we juggle all the areas of ministry we oversee and make happen, articulating our vision for worship somehow fell by the wayside. I truly believe there is more available to us than we are currently experiencing.
This is your invitation to lean back and just dream … and pray … and wrestle with how to instill the value of worship. What kind of adult worshippers do we want to have in our church? After their years children’s and student ministry, what do we want them to know? How do we want them to be engaged? What kind of posture do we hope Christian men and women will have as they stand in the sanctuary on Sundays? Let’s define our goals, and then let’s use the many years we have to lead them intentionally week by week.
This isn’t just about singing songs. It’s about forming a heart after God—the kind we see exemplified in Scripture by David. This should be our goal. It’s the type of discipleship that is often lacking. I would never stick a child on a bike and just tell them to “ride the bike.” You wouldn’t expect them to succeed without any help.
Yet pastors, leaders, and teachers way too often just say “now it’s time for us to sing in worship” without giving any instruction, help, and hands-on training. Are you getting more of a sense of what I mean when I say the most underdeveloped muscle of many Christ followers is the one that gives a sacrifice of praise? Too many don’t understand how to enter His courts with thanksgiving or bow down in reverence.
Intentionality in Worship
I define worship as our response to who God is and what He has done. When you have revelation and understanding of the greatness of God, you are inclined to respond to that with joy and celebration but also with awe and wonder.
Worship is a communication method we have with God, very much like prayer. As we sing song lyrics, we are often singing prayers and statements that are the cry of our hearts. We are learning how to articulate His goodness. We are learning how to express reverence and a heart of thanks.
So much of the mission of children’s ministry is to help kids experience Jesus and Scripture in the right bite-size piece for each phase of life. So many churches are doing that really well. Most would never think of watering down the truth of the gospel “because they’re kids.” Kidmin leaders make the bites smaller. We insert a bunch of fun. We intentionally choose our language, paint colors, and even small group leaders.
Worship for kids deserves the same intentionality. Let’s not water it down to make things easier. Let’s not rely on the songs that worked great five years ago so we don’t have to spend any budget on “singing a new song to the Lord” or investing the time it takes to learn and lead those new songs. And let’s not just stick kids on a bike without deciding to first be present. Let’s teach them elements of what worship is, why it matters, where we do it, when it’s a choice, and how it moves the heart of their Heavenly Father.
Your children’s ministry should be fun and engaging, but entertainment isn’t the main focus. I believe your goal is to help kids experience God at work in their lives. Worship is the perfect way to allow kids to encounter His presence. I am convinced if they can taste and see who He is they will hunger and thirst for more of Him.
Our worship time should be less about “songs” and more about “encounters.” Those encounters utilize a song to make the connection and create space for them to sit at His feet.
Sometimes that looks like being still. Sometimes that looks like teaching them about taking steps and learning why we can lift our hands. Yes, there are times worship looks like a party, and the whole room jumps up and down. It’s not one of those things. It’s all of them.
Your kids need all those things. Different students learn and experience things differently. Every one of those ways to engage will reach and connect with a different segment of your group. You need them all for the collective growth of your group.
I invite you to truly evaluate what kind of worship ministry your kids’ program has. Sit down with some other leaders to really articulate what you’ve been doing. What is lacking? What is working? Are there places where you could be more intentional? You know down deep that there could be more. Talking things through out loud with others will help you to more quickly identify the places that need modification to grow to a new level.
I challenge you to go to your church leadership. Senior Pastors, Worship Leader, Student Ministry Leader, all the team. Ask this question: What kind of adult worshippers do we want to have? This will help you define your goals. This will help you look for ways to not just sing songs each week but intentionally disciple those under your care to be the worshiper God created them to be.
I want to help them learn the heart of worship beginning as a preschooler, and on through elementary and preteen years. May they continue to develop in middle and high school and beyond. There are days coming in their lives—maybe next week, or when they’re getting ready to graduate, or having a mid-life crisis, or as a senior citizen—when they will need to run to the heart of God.
May it be said of our ministry that the place they first learned to do so was in (your program name). I use songs and times of worship to help kids fall more in love with Jesus. I believe it works. Will you join me?