How to find and develop kids’ worship leaders
I have a confession. I’m a big believer in music as a powerful tool to connect with kids. When we use music that’s relevant to a kid’s life, I believe it opens a door for us to share and teach them about the love of Jesus. I also know that there is power in kids worshipping God. Go check out Psalm 8:1-2 in the Message translation to fully understand the power that’s in a child worshipping God. Their sweet little voices singing God’s praises is truly the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. Nothing can make me tear up more (you know the Hallmark card commercial kind of emotion) than a group of kids singing their praises to our God!
I’ve been part of kids’ worship pretty much my whole life. I started on my church’s kids’ worship team when I was in elementary. In my teen years, I began leading kids in worship. I’ve led worship teams, bands, and directed music teams for a variety of age groups. It’s been a fun journey. In my opinion, leading kids in worship is easy. Sure, at times you may have some challenges, but at the core, kids naturally “get” worshipping God. They just need someone to coach and encourage them to jump in and participate. They need people who can model to them what worship looks like and how to do it. They need someone to help them understand why we worship. As worship leaders, that’s our job. A worship team isn’t there for the purpose of having a big group on stage … just to have people on stage. They are there to model and show others how they can participate in the worship times that happen in our classrooms. The good news is there are people in your church who can fill those roles.
Leading worship is more about your leadership ability than your musical ability. That’s right, I just said it. I’m not endorsing you give tone deaf people who can’t sing a microphone, but I do believe that the same qualities that make a great teacher a great teacher, or a great storyteller a great storyteller, are the same qualities that make a great worship leader a great worship leader. They have to be a leader who encourages people to follow. If no one is following them, then they are just singing a song. They have to understand how to teach and communicate effectively. Yes, musical ability is needed and a great plus, but there are people with amazing voices who aren’t very great at communicating with an audience and thus don’t make great worship leaders. They just know how to sing songs. The good part about this key ingredient is you potentially have what is needed to help coach and train people to be great kids’ worship leaders, simply because you understand communicating to kids. You know how to create energy and also tender moments. You understand being bold and commanding a room. Those are all key things that are needed in your potential worship leaders. You may not find someone in your church fully trained and ready to take over this area. But there are probably people ripe with talent who have a heart for kids and a passion to worship … people who want to help others show glory, honor and praise to our Savior.
So, where do you begin in creating a worship team for your kids’ ministry? I believe the first step is to have a vision for it. Did you catch that? The first step isn’t to recruit; it’s to define what you want it to look like. What’s your dream team look like? What’s the goal of worship in your kids’ ministry? Your goal should be greater than filling slots on a planning sheet or killing 15 minutes of the hour you have with the kids. I believe it’s important to define worship for the whole ministry. What this looks like in a preschool class is different from preteens, so break it down by class. People can’t run with a vision that isn’t cast to them.
In addition, what will your requirements be? When are rehearsals? When will they find out what songs will be sung each week? Do they have other responsibilities besides worship in the classroom? What lifestyle requirements does your church have? Figure out all this stuff and put it in writing before you recruit. That way, when you find the volunteers to help you in this area, you’ll be ready to get them plugged in and equipped to succeed. Rudy Guiliani said in his book Leadership that, “A leader must manage not only results but expectations.” I believe that to be true. How can anyone we recruit do the job we want done if we don’t communicate what we want done? On a week-to-week basis you can define the win. The win will be ever changing the more your team develops and grows. What the win is this week should be different from what it might be in six months or next year.
The next step is recruiting. Chris Tomlin and Darlene Zschech probably aren’t in your local church but a future version could be. The people who we hold in high regard wouldn’t be where they are today if there weren’t people in their lives who gave them opportunities to gain experience, learn, grow and develop. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today if there weren’t people who let me play keyboard in a worship band when I was musically green and learn to sing harmony when I really didn’t understand it. There were people along the way who coached me and gave me ideas of what I could say to lead the audience into worship as we transitioned from song to song. I am so grateful for those people who invested in a young girl who loved music and had some potential.
There are people in your church who have some potential, but even more than the amount of talent they have, they have a desire and a hunger to be a part of music. Those are the people you want to find to help you. They may not even know they want to lead kids in worship, but in most cases you can develop that desire in someone. Go talk to your student ministry pastor and find out who the kids are who want to be musicians or singers. They need opportunities to get on stage and overcome stage fright, or talk into a microphone to an audience. It’s experience that’s going to make them great. And guess what? You have an opportunity that can give them more of that experience.
For preschoolers, find some moms who used to be involved in music and hung it up to focus on their family. They would probably love the opportunity to sing a couple times a month. Or track down some musical theatre students. Preschool worship is about high-energy fun and a little over dramatic communication style. (Watch any preschool-focused TV show to see what I’m talking about.)
For elementary and preteen ages, look for high school students and young adults who have a heart for God and leading kids to Jesus. A 17-year-old guy on your praise team almost automatically possesses the “cool factor” to the kids. He can lead those 5th and 6th grade boys who are otherwise difficult to lead: “Oh, he’s lifting his hands in worship. Cool. I can do it, too.” Look for people who can impact whatever age group you have and be an example to them, not only in worship, but in life. 1 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” There are adults who can serve in these areas, too. Talk to your adult music pastor to identify people not currently being used who would love a musical opportunity to serve in.
Whoever you recruit, encourage them to become students of worship. We know that David was a man after God’s own heart. I find Psalms is the greatest book in the Bible for worship leaders to quote. David didn’t worship God because his life was perfect. David worshipped God because he understood God was His everything. God is a refuge and strength in times of trouble. God’s faithfulness continues from generation to generation. David praised God, not because of what was happening in his day, but rather who he knew God to be. Thousands of years have passed and yet we should be doing the same thing. We need to teach kids the importance of worship. It’s a key component, just like learning about giving, serving, and missions. God created us to worship Him and I know that volunteers can do an incredible job helping kids understand how to worship Jesus.