and still more on the worship discussion

After all the thoughts we have shared I saved some of mine for now. These comments all also resonate with much of the evaluations I read over last year from student leaders on the Believe tour.

Johnny says . . .

• I would also rather cut three slow songs to talk about one so students can connect with it in a more meaningful way. I think it is okay to plant seeds with songs in student’s minds to ‘marinate’ as Brandon said; but it needs to start from something concrete and also have an immediate win. For instance, I don’t think students understand the shortness of life and the depth of it’s “valley of the shadow of death” scripture reference in Matt Redman’s “You Never Let Go”. Nor do I think they can grasp the concept of death being sweet when we sing of an “end to these troubles” as I do at 31 years old . . .er young. I do however see that they know pain in their life and it is just as real to them as it is me. They do seek a father who will never let go of them. That is an immediate win they understand that is grounded in the scripture that will grow with them on their faith Journey.

• Marko’s comments are the same things he was challenging me with during last year’s tour at times. It was good. I think we become familiar with songs and our students so much that we fail to invite (not guilt!!!) them to participate in worship (physically and contemplatively). The phrase ‘suggest to students’ is key. Jr high students are at a place developmentally where they no longer are satisfied with going through the motions at church because the adults ask them to (churched and unchurched students). I think we should encourage this. Help them realize what they are struggling with without perhaps even knowing it. I’m finding students more engaged when they are told that this worship time is theirs to use to connect with God. Telling them that they DON’T HAVE to sing if they feel the need to just sit and listen for God. Or giving them the permission to go to the sides or back of the room to kneel are concrete ways that communicate we are only providing another way for them to worship God.

• Also, one practice I have recently adopted is to take the text of every song in a given evening of programming and put it in one word document without any of the chord chart information. I then read through that message. Many times we pick songs on the ebb and flow or ‘feel’ we are going for. When it comes time for a transition into a slower set we then really think about the words. This practice opened my eyes in a different way to our overarching message on any given night.

• This is a small thing that we do but I see big results. I put medium hand clapping songs up front in sets saving the songs that my students are likely to celebrate in active ways on in the three and four spot. People in general like to warm up to an experience. An invitation to jump around doesn’t seem as intrusive after I have warmed up my vocal cords, moved my hands, looked around the room, watched the band for a song, gave someone a high five during a meet and greet time and acclimated somewhat into this cooperate identity. If you blow your best participation songs up front because you just want to come out swinging you will have no steam when the students are up to your speed fasty! They haven’t been at Church all day waiting around. Along the same lines I see a direct correlation between high levels of activity/participation during songs of celebration and involvement in small group questions (or other program elements). The rational here being: if this is a safe place to jump around and let my cool guard down a little bit then it might also be a safe place to share feelings, and so on.

• To me the ‘hook’ in songs are the tipping point on weather or not we’ll do it after the filter of: “does it say what we need to say tonight in an age appropriate way”. I want to have kids walk out humming the unforgettable parts of songs or see an upbeat song become a rally point for a small group. There are so many people writing incredible songs that have scripture in them that I just won’t settle for a song I can’t remember the melody too. We should be melody snobs for our kids! For instance, “You Never Let Go” by Matt Redman is a song that seems to strike a deep (and many times painful) cord with many students the very first time when it is set up well. It has an incredible tag that my two year old loves, scripture, hope in light of past hurt but I think this is all delivered effectively because the ‘melodic hook’ is so strong. We are all talking about this because the Spirit works through music, I think that the Spirit, being an artist, is a melody snob too 

Some more songs:

• Steve Fee’s “We Shine” (you can lead the students in scream/chanting the chorus really cool on this one with your fist in the air . . . that never gets old)
• “Your Love Endures Forever” by Tree 63 . . . hmm might be By the tree. I always get those two tree bands mixed up. Easy Chords/playability for youth bands
• And yes, anything by United HillSongs, like “Take it All”

Jr High Believe’s 2007 – 2008 Connect Tour Set List:

Believe Connect Sets Draft
Believe Connect Se...
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