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Ready-to-use Worship: How would Jesus lead Worship? Part 2: A Leader with Authority
Getting young people involved in worship is a great way to include and involve them in church life. But it does mean that they are up at the front - and therefore seen as ‘leaders’ - at a young age, and when they may not have grown much in maturity and spirituality.
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Therefore, it is really important to discuss with young worship teams the responsibility that comes with being ‘leaders’ of worship (or leaders in any capacity). It may be that you start by looking at Paul’s instructions to the young leader Timothy (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
Jesus takes leadership very seriously, and reserves his harshest criticism to those who misuse their leadership positions (see, for example, Luke 11:37-54). The good news, however, is that he also provides the best role model for leaders to follow and aim to replicate. Although the Gospels do not mention Jesus having to take leadership decisions such as ‘a hymn or a chorus to open the service?’, or, ‘can the drummer who just moved in with his girlfriend still be in the worship team?’, there is much that worship leaders can learn from him! Here are two examples:
Jesus had authority and was under authority
We don’t like the word ‘authority’ much these days; it may bring to mind abuse of power or harsh rules. Yet, Jesus’ listeners and followers were wowed by what they termed his ‘authority’, so perhaps we need to reassess our understanding of the word.
Take a look at Luke 4:31-36. Here the people are amazed at Jesus’ teaching, because his words have authority, but it is not just what he says, it is also what he does - people were healed and transformed, and demons were cast out. There was a spiritual reality to back up the fine teaching. This authority of Jesus, of course, came from God the father (Luke 10:22). He wasn’t ultimately reliant on proving himself, or getting human approval: he knew he was called by God and he worked out of that confidence. Talk to your young leaders about what it means to be under God’s authority. How is that releasing for them? How should leaders act if they are under his authority?
Although being under God’s authority is the most important consideration, he has also set up human leadership structures that he calls us to honour. Look, for example, at Hebrews 13:17. Here we are called to submit to our leaders, and do so that their work might be a joy. How do you and your group respond to the leaders in your church - pastors, elders, PCC, etc.? What happens if the service leader requests certain songs you don’t like, cuts the sung worship set down by half, or asks you to turn the volume down? Discuss how you can honour your leaders and grow in relationship with them.
Jesus was directive
Sometimes when Christian leaders try to be humble or take the focus off themselves, they can end up failing to lead at all. Have you ever been in a time of worship where the leader spends the whole time with their eyes closed, apparently lost in the moment, and paying no attention to the congregation? They may intend this to be a posture of humility, but it makes you wonder if the leader would be happier if everyone just left them to their private encounter with the Lord!
By contrast, Jesus was very aware of what was going on around him and was not afraid to give straight directions. ‘Put out into deep water and let down your nets’, ‘Tell the people to sit on the ground in groups of 50’, ‘Find the donkey that has never been ridden and bring it here’ are some examples (Luke 5:4, 9:14, 19:30).
Although no one wants a worship leader who speaks for longer than the preacher, or nags the congregation (‘get those hands up in the air!’), there is a time and a place for instructions and explanations. Good examples of this include making an invitation to sit or stand, reading a piece of scripture which moves the flow of worship along, encouraging an open time of prayer, and so on.
Ask your group - how can you lead the congregation clearly, without bringing all the attention back on to yourself? Perhaps use the example of a guide who shows you around a museum but brings all the attention to the exhibits, not themselves, or a host at a party who makes everyone feel welcome, and points them towards the person who is being celebrated.
Young worship leaders can feel nervous about the vocal aspects of leadership. We have worked with potential leaders and tried to help them grow in their confidence about things like giving a verbal cue, reading a scripture over music and praying a prayer. We have done this in smaller groups, so that the young person can ‘practise’ speaking in public - perhaps acoustically at first, but then getting experience of using a microphone.
It may be that if the young person is really nervous they will do better by scripting a link or cue. Encourage them to write one or two lines which link one song to the next, or a short prayer which leads people into a time of worship. Give them plenty of encouragement, and perhaps one aspect to work on. Young leaders often need to learn to slow their speaking voices down, and be encouraged to look up and catch the eyes of people in the congregation.
You could base a worship experience around the themes of leadership. On a sheet, get the group to write down the names of leaders they respect - church leaders, teachers, etc. - with markers, and some words which sum up an aspect of their leadership. This could be followed by a time of thanks, through music or other ways, for those leaders.
You could then focus on national and international leaders - put up a series of pictures on a screen of different politicians, celebrities and others who have influence in the wider world. Encourage the young people to pray for them as the pictures cycle around.
Next, encourage the group to think about their own leadership. One expert has said ‘leadership is influence’ - the young people could consider how their lifestyle influences others around them. This could lead to a time of confession where they hand over to God the times when they have not influenced others positively. This could be done creatively by writing in sand and erasing, or writing on paper then shredding it.
Finally, look at Jesus the leader. You could encourage the young people to look up some verses which show how Jesus led. This could lead into some prayers of commitment, asking that God would help us be more Christlike in our lives, with appropriate songs and perhaps a symbolic action, such as drawing a cross on the back of your hand to remind you to follow the way of Jesus daily.