Published on December 21, 2016 by Paul Ryan  

There are consequences to having student worship leaders. One day a leader makes an impulsive decision and asks everyone to dance in the pews. Another day a leader assumes that not preparing is Spirit-led worship. Still, another day a leader prays thanking the Father for dying on the cross.

Some experiences, like these, make us cringe. Despite our efforts, we can’t always control the consequences of student leadership. But sometimes – many times – the positive outcomes of their involvement extend far beyond our expectations. As I have mentored and coached student worship leaders at Calvin College, three wonderful consequences stand out to me.

The first is a feeling of belonging. When Mark came to college he struggled to form new relationships. High school friends were scattered across the country; his parents were miles away. But during his sophomore year he became a worship leader. As a leader, he met other students who shared a love for God and a passion for music. After just a couple weeks, Mark discovered new community and a deep sense of belonging.

The second is a sense of purpose. Janet became a worship leader her senior year. Janet was uncertain about her plans after college. Would she teach high school? Would she go to graduate school? Was ministry an option? While serving as a worship leader she discovered her talents for musical leadership and she aspired to pursue ministry. Her experience confirmed her gifts and provided her a new sense of purpose.

A third is sense of discipline. Jon struggled with the freedom of college. He was late to rise and late to go to bed. He said yes to everything, but failed to complete assignments. As a worship leader, however, he was forced to take responsibility. When he was unprepared, the service failed. And when the service failed, all his peers knew he was responsible. After a few missteps, Jon learned his lesson and began constructing discipline in his life. Through worship leadership Jon learned to succeed by setting clear boundaries.

Every year, I observe these consequences of worship leadership: belonging, purpose, and discipline. I delight in watching students, whose simple plan is to lead worship, discover so much more. The process of learning, planning, and leading worship results in life changing consequences.

I wonder if the same might be true for high school students. What if our churches and high schools mentored a few students a year in the art of leading worship? They might play instruments, read scripture, write prayers, or participate in planning. Imagine what the consequences might be.