When it comes to leading kids in worship there is one question that changed everything.
I remember leading worship for a group of elementary students when one Sunday, the Kids Pastor asked me a question I couldn’t stop thinking about . . .
“Did you feel like you were in worship with the kids?”
I paused and thought back to the thirty minutes prior when I was on stage, jumping, clapping, and encouraging them to sing along with me. The room was actually relatively calm, and some faces were quite inexpressive, as it can sometimes be when leading kids during worship. Then my mind went immediately to the moments after when multiple kids came to me and said all sorts of things.
“Thank you so much!”
“I really like your sweater.”
“Where did you learn to sing?”
“Can I give you a hug?”
I replied honestly to the pastor and explained that even as a worship leader I was still trying to figure out what worship should feel like–especially in a kid’s environment.
What should worship look like in a kids environment?
It was then that I started recognizing the importance of those moments after worship. The student’s questions and comments weren’t about the lyrics we were singing or the key we were singing them in. Their questions and comments were about me. As I reflected on those moments, there was absolutely no room for an ounce of vanity. Instead, I felt an overwhelming amount of responsibility. A responsibility that you and I share.
As leaders, our sole purpose is to lead and disciple kids into a relationship with Jesus. And as the representatives of Jesus, we shouldn’t shun or think we’ve failed somehow if kids ask us questions or make comments about everything else besides Jesus. We should, instead, seize the opportunity to make ourselves that much more available to them! Because in actuality, we are the ones they see and hear on stage, so it’s no surprise that they will be curious to learn more about the people leading them.
Invest your attention.
Without realizing it, kids give us something very precious: their attention. They are open books for us to teach AND show them what faith looks like. Worship leaders must invest the same way. Invested attention is an imperative step to discipling kids in worship. It’s what bridges the gap between the stage and the rows (or circles). And it’s what makes the distinction between entertainment and relationship.
Though some kids may not be able to articulate it yet, they KNOW when someone cares about them. This care lays the foundation for them to receive anything we teach about Jesus during worship. No matter the size of your church, always seek the opportunity that proximity allows you to interact and give your attention to the kids you lead by investing quality time and attention. They’re interested in you! So, we must make ourselves available to them with sincerity and consistency.
Be intentional with your teaching.
It’s no secret that leading worship is also very technical, even in kids’ environments. We must be conscious of time, the weekly theme and corresponding song selections, sound, and remembering lyrics! But one of the most important technicalities is the words we share before and in between songs.
Even though most times you aren’t the speaker for the day, you still have the opportunity to explain and teach what the song means and how to relate it to God in that moment. (Which isn’t an easy feat in a limited amount of time!). It’s crucial to know exactly what message you need to relay to your kids in these few minutes–even seconds. Why? Because the words you use to set up the song will inspire their perception and interpretation.
The goal here is to always point to what Jesus wants them to know in the song. This is not the time to deliver a miniature sermon, but it is the time to teach! When we break down the meaning of the song, it makes an easy connection for kids to recall about Jesus whenever they hear the songs again. Being intentional about your words during this time is vital in discipling kids because it redirects their focus and attention from you to Jesus.
Take your partnership seriously.
“It takes a village” is a phrase that’s familiar to all, but as worship leaders, it’s key to keep this in mind. Your effectiveness as a leader flourishes when you are functioning well with the other ministry leaders. Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians 3:8a, “The one who plants and the one who waters are one.”
Your role as a worship leader is essential! As is the role of the speaker, small group leader, and every other leader who will impact kids. Imagine your time leading worship as more than just a set, but a block that builds on another block through another leader for kids to grasp more of who Jesus is. It’s this united strategy that will not only contribute to a smooth-running service, but more importantly, will influence your kids’ faith! This strategy is the unity of leaders that build a culture of discipleship. Never under or overestimate your part in this! It’s also important to partner with fellow worship leaders even outside of your ministry because widening your circle also widens your perspective in worship.
Reflect on Your Own Worship Leading Experience
Leading worship has never been the same for me after the pastor asked me that question. Each time I’ve led worship since then, I’ve become deliberate in asking myself a few questions:
Am I . . .
- investing genuine attention in the kids I lead?
- teaching the true meaning of the songs I lead?
- cooperating with and contributing to the leaders around me?
These questions heightened my awareness in such a way that I began seeing an immediate improvement in how kids interacted during worship. Leading worship is more about your leadership ability than your musical ability. Ultimately, it’s a matter of the heart, not only musical in nature.
Regardless of how it expresses itself in your church, you can fully support kids to experience God’s presence while they worship when you are intentional about leading. It’s no secret that the Next Gen has all sorts of access to various types of entertainment, but kids do not need more entertainment from us. Instead, they need tangible access to those guiding them to Jesus–on and off the stage.
We are not entertainers. We are leaders with the beautiful job of discipling kids in worship–and that takes more than just singing a song.