One of the most critical aspects of youth ministry is the development of a permanent attitude of worship within the student body. Humanity is geared to worship, and it seems that we are all too eager to give worship to a lot of people and things that aren’t deserving of that honor. Athletes and musicians and actors can make millions because their fans are willing to worship and adore them in a society that consistently gives time and money to watch them do their thing and tell everyone else how great they did.
In the church, we’ve countered that propensity to misplace worship by designating the first day of the week to go to worship (at least the first morning of the first day, anyway). All over the world, people head out on Sunday morning for a time of worship with their church friends and families. On the surface, this sounds like a Biblical idea. God was constantly reminding the Israelites to keep the Sabbath holy by setting that day aside for Him. And just as the Jews had met together weekly in synagogues all over the known world for instruction in the Torah, and the Prophets, and Writings, so too the early church met together for mutual encouragement, and teaching, and provision for one another. But through the centuries, that weekly meeting may have left us with an inadequate picture of worship.
I’m not belittling the act of getting together on Sunday morning with like minded believers. I don’t want to make light of the historic practice of doing that on Sunday morning. [Just for the record, I do hate how we call it “going to church.” Maybe it’s just a pet peeve but that phrase harbors a terribly corrosive mentality about what the church really is.] For the church in our nation to move forward, we need to get past the idea that what happens in church building on Sunday mornings is what worship is. Worship is not a sing-a-long and a well crafted speech explaining a Biblical text; it’s what I do with my life.
In Romans 12, Paul urged the early Christians “to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” He wanted them to allow God to transform them, to renew their minds by giving themselves in sacrifice to God. In Colossians 3, he taught another set of early believers “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Their daily work was service to Christ. That was their worship. And so it is today. We need to help our students understand that worship is what they do in math class and on the football field and in the stockroom and break rooms and basements… We worship when we give our best in every situation because we live in the knowledge that we are not living for ourselves.
So how, then, do we teach our students to have this permanent attitude of worship?
- We model it. God is great and deserves everything I am and everything I can give for Him in every situation. No circumstance or frustration I face can change His mercy. In light of what He’s done for me, how can I be anything but a living sacrifice given to Him.
- We foster it. In our slate of ministry events and activities, do our students find opportunities to pour their gifts and abilities into service for their King? (Not just the musical ones.) It’s great to have fun together and develop meaningful friendships within our students, but if we’re not helping them identify how God has crafted them and how they can put their unique mix of aptitudes on the altar, we’re missing the point.
- We connect the dots. We need to creatively explore our students’ life stories together with them and help them see what God may be doing. How is he working through the triumphs and difficulties they’ve walked through? As we begin to see what He’s doing, we discover more and more points of entry for joining Him in that work.
I don’t mean to present this as a 3 step process to revolutionize the way we worship. But I do think these 3 actions can go a long way toward developing a permanent attitude of worship among our students ~ an attitude that will permeate the church with individuals collectively given in living sacrifice to our great, deserving God.
How else have you seen this attitude of worship being developed in young people?
Here are the links to the rest of the Foundations of Youth Ministry series. Check out the other posts and be sure to use the subscribe field at the top to get new content via e-mail: