5 Moves to Help Go From Awesome To Transformative Worship

Jason Dunbar
September 2nd, 2020

Let’s face it. Student worship can be a game changer for the student experience. Whether it’s a regular weekly worship or a big event, worship is almost always a part of the student experience. Most youth pastors are not worship leaders, so we tend to rely heavily on one leader or team of volunteers to lead those experiences. Sometimes they knock it out of the park and sometimes it falls flat. It’s not always the leader’s fault, but either way, it creates stress and anxiety for the youth pastor.

The question shouldn’t be, “How do we create an awesome worship service?”

It should be, “How do we create transformative worship opportunities?”

I served as youth and worship pastor for 13 years, and I’ve been a part of some incredible worship services. But I’ve also led some worship services that completely flopped. What I’ve learned over the years is that while we should always strive for excellence, the focus should be on impacting people and providing transformative worship.

So, how do we do this in student worship? Let me share with you 5 tools to help curate a more transformative worship.

1. Be Real

Every youth ministry has limited resources, but some simply have access to more. It’s unrealistic to expect that a small youth ministry will be able to have a worship experience comparable to that of a mega church’s youth ministry. The quality is not in how much fog and lighting you can throw in; the quality is in the “real-ness” of the leaders.

Students can go to concerts almost any day of the week now. They can watch their favorite artists at any moment on their phones. They don’t need a “cool” worship service; they need a “real” worship experience. Whether it’s one person on guitar or a full band with all the works, just be real. It will go a long way.

2. Be Relevant

Know your audience. Just because the latest Christian hit is playing on loop in your AirPods doesn’t mean it will translate to your students in a worship service. You (or your leader) should choose songs that are relevant to your students, both in style and content. The more relevant, the more your students will connect.

3. Be Personal

One time I worked with a worship leader who was incredibly talented. He could play anything and sing like he was on the radio. The problem though, was every time he led, he came in like he was walking the red carpet, and he never connected with the students. His sound was awesome, but he couldn’t connect as well as one of our small group leaders who could “kinda play” guitar and sing.

If your leader(s) don’t get personal, your students will not connect with the actual worship experience.

4. Be Transparent

Students might not always be the best at Bible trivia, but when it comes to being fake, they can sniff out a poser like a bloodhound! Worship is so much more than singing and leading music. Worship includes scripture and prayer and moments of sharing.

Make sure those moments of sharing are appropriate, real and applicable. When you are transparent in these moments, it creates an immediate connection with the audience that leads to deeply transformative opportunities.

5. Be Approachable

It should go without saying, but here I am saying it, lol! Worship needs to be approachable in order to connect enough to transform. This is two-fold: First, the music itself needs to be approachable, meaning sing-ability and lyric comprehension. Make sure the songs are in keys and tempos people can sing or they’ll be distracted before they even begin. Then make sure the lyrics are appropriate for your audience.

If lyrics are not approachable for your students, choose another song. Second, the experience needs to be approachable, meaning the atmosphere is inviting and welcoming. If students don’t feel comfortable in an environment, they will immediately be distracted and disconnect. Make the entire experience approachable.

As youth workers, our ultimate goal is not to create the best event. Our ultimate goal is to prayerfully lead our students one step closer to their God. Worship can be one of the most impactful, transformative experiences in the life of a Christ-follower.

These tips aren’t exhaustive, but they will help you connect and curate a more transformative worship experience in your ministry.

Jason Dunbar

Jason Dunbar Jason has been a student pastor for almost 15 years. He is currently serving as youth and young adult pastor in Bowling Green, KY. His wife, Caitlin serves alongside him in ministry. They have two beautiful daughters, Charleston and Lucy. Instagram: @jasondunbar00

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.