Youth worship – Is it all hype?
By Reginald Chan
MUSIC HAS THE ABILITY to access the human soul quicker than anything else. This has always been true. When Saul was in the depths of depression, he called upon David’s musical skills to soothe his spirit and give him a sense of hope and renewed joy.
We are now learning that exposure to music early in life helps to develop mental and emotional growth. But is there a new trend in this area?
People, especially those under 30, crave the “medicine” of music. The percentage of income spent on CDs and music downloads has risen dramatically in the last decade. It should not surprise us that God is harnessing music to tell people He loves them. That is why Contemporary Worship Music (CWM), a loosely defined genre of Christian music which has developed over the past 60 years, is stylistically similar to pop music, and is arguably the most common musical genre in churches – particularly in Protestant churches, denominational and independent.
The songs, frequently referred to as “praise songs” or “worship songs”, are typically led by a worship band, with a guitarist or keyboardist leading. Some contemporary worship songs are featured in even more traditional hymnals.
Walk into a youth worship service on a Sunday and you will hear the beat of drums, the strumming of guitars – acoustic, electric and bass – electronic keyboards, back-up vocalists and even a few worship leaders leading the congregation in an exuberant time of praise and worship. Gone are the days of projectors with worship songs projected from transparencies. Now, the setting in most of our youth ministry worship services is high-tech, multi-media, multi-sensory, computer and equipment-driven. Sometimes the music is LOUD with the worship team dishing out the latest “top 10 hits” from Hillsong United, Planet Shakers, Chris Tomlin, Delirious, Lincoln Brewster.
Is youth worship all hype then?
We must first recognise that worship is not just about hype and singing – it is an understanding that our lives are to be lived in order to reflect and celebrate God. I like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Romans 12:1-2 in The Message:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognise what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Worship is a lifestyle. It is to be lived out in our everyday lives, not just on Sundays. Singing is worship, but worship is not limited to just songs.
But if we don’t also foster a passion for the study of God’s Word, evangelism and ministry, we can breed a dependence on a worship experience. Our youth can become worship junkies, people happy only when they are caught up “in the Lord’s presence in worship”. They can very easily worship the act of worship instead of worshipping God. We need to teach our youth that they can also experience the presence of God in their everyday lives, not only during a Sunday worship service.
In my experience, the most effective songs of praise and worship are the ones that are extremely cutting edge and also hymns and some choruses that have stood the test of time. Please do not miss out on teaching a little history to our youths – that the old hymns were once the contemporary praise and worship songs of generations gone by, and that the organ was looked upon with the same dubiousness as a drum set in some churches today. Oldies are goodies too and we need to revive them!
Youth worship is a part of the entire Church’s worship unto the Lord. I believe that the Lord is looking for young men and women who will worship Him in spirit and in truth, a treasure that God has given to His Church.
Reginald Chan, a member of Wesley Methodist Church, is serving in the area of worship and music with TRAC Youth Ministries.