The student worship service has changed quite a bit over the years. Different churches offer different types of student worship, and there can be many ways to create a great service for students. As always, the context of your student ministry and the mission of your church should drive your programming. And this is no different when it comes to student worship. If your church currently has a student worship service, there are a few ways you can see some big gains in both the health and growth of this vital ministry. Before we look at the gains, it is important to note here that health and growth are not separate components. Healthy churches typically grow, but growing churches can often be far from healthy. So as we take a look at some ways we can see gains in these areas, keep in mind that the two elements cannot operate in isolation.
How healthy student worship brings big gains:
- Healthy student worship is driven by the gospel. Unhealthy student worship is driven by attendance, or performance, or ego, or even laziness. Rather than trying to get more students in a room, or show off what a great communicator you are, or have that “Me” moment you don’t get anywhere else, or simply provide a babysitting option for adults who meet at the same time, let the gospel be the driving factor for your student worship. If you do, you will see the following big gain:
- Growth: As a result of the focus on the gospel, gimmicks are less of a big deal. Giveaways, theme nights, prizes, special guests, props, food, and every other mechanism to drive student to a student worship time is made less important; perhaps even unneeded. The beauty of gospel-driven student worship is that students focus on attending and bringing friends out of a desire to spread the gospel. When students have the burden to see their friends impacted by the good news only the gospel provides, they will live out the evangelistic lifestyle that can result in bringing others to student worship services and similar events. But the real win here is that students see the student worship experience as it ought to be: a time to allow Jesus to do what only He can do. Rather than growing tired of the gimmicks and growth tricks, they see their life and the lives of their friends truly impacted by Jesus. Gospel-driven student worship will result in the big gain of spiritual and numerical growth.
- Healthy student worship is geared towards all kinds of students. There was a time when student leaders believed that attracting the popular kids and the “successful” kids (read that as someone who excels at sports) would blow up their student worship service. The theory is simple enough, get the popular kids and you get all their friends and all the unpopular kids who want to be like them. My hope is that you don’t really need to elaborate on why this is such a terrible idea (if you do, read the Beatitudes to start…). Instead, let’s look at what happens when you gear your student worship toward all kinds of students.
- Wide Reach: Imagine a student worship that is choosing to be healthy, opening its arms to all types of students. Where the nerds, jocks, and…well the whole cast of the Breakfast Club, feels welcome. Rather than the outsiders seeing you lift up the popular kids like every other organization they know does, they instead see the Jesus way, leaving the 99 to pursue the 1. They believe that you truly want to be all things to all people, not just the ones that can return the favor. It is this kind of ministry that has a wide net that will provide a wide reach into the community. The irony is that this kind of ministry is also where all those popular and “successful” students end up because they are searching for authenticity too, believe it or not. A student worship geared to all kinds of students will result in the big gain of wider reach into the community.
- Healthy student worship has Christ at the center. It really can be a challenge to keep Christ at the center of student worship. While it’s probably never the intention of a leader to shift away from centering everything on Christ, it can happen. Budgets change things, goals shape ideas, people come and go, life simply gets in the way. This isn’t just a problem for student worship, those who follow Jesus are in a constant state of repenting and returning to Him. This is the Christian life. And student worship is no different. But when we do ensure that Christ is at the center of our student worship we get to be a part of something really special, something that only God can do.
- True Worship. When Jesus is at the center of our student worship, students experience real worship. We can get so caught up in worshiping so many other things in life like our stuff, our morals, or even ourselves. None of these things is what God asks for. We are to worship God alone. It is critical that we ensure our student worship is centered on the only thing worthy of our worship — God. A student worship that is Christ-centered will result in the big gain of students experiencing true worship.
The big gains that can be had in student worship are a result of focusing on the health and growth of that ministry. While there are a multitude of ways in which student worship can happen, there are some key elements that lead to healthy growth both spiritually and numerically. Examine your student worship and determine if anything needs to change in order to experience these big gains. Or perhaps you have an additional tip for seeing God impact students through student worship? If so, I’d love to see your thoughts. Reply below.
This post was written by Chris Swain, Director of Lifeway Student Ministry Publishing