We’re so in the weeds with Healthy Plate Discipleship right now! (If you didn’t laugh at that sentence, watch more SNL). This week’s topic was “worship” — arguably the thing that is the easiest way to define us as Christians. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about balcony worship, what it’s meant to me and to our students, and that is a crucial piece of what we offer for worship as a youth ministry. But to avoid redundancy, I want to tell y’all a little about youth worship.
Because we know some of our kids don’t wind up going to other services (and frankly, because we like doing it), we lead some worship every Sunday morning at the beginning of our Sunday School time. The band has varied over time, as kids graduate and move, and new ones join the group. Erin sang last week, and I have been known to occasionally make a pass at it, but there are two people on that stage, week after week after week: Andrew and Jacob.
Jacob is in ninth grade and is here an hour before Sunday School every week to practice (and is generally roped into other responsibilities including, but not limited to, taste-testing lemonade and helping me fill planters with potting soil for a creative, if overwrought, object lesson I put together). He’s kind, funny, and very talented, but a little reserved . . . or at least I thought he was.
But on Sunday morning, he stood on the Justin stage and led a flawless solo edition of the rap from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. It was a blast, and he crushed it. We were all laughing, rapping along, and Jacob got about the most enthusiastic applause I’ve ever seen anyone get from that stage. I’m sure when Jacob joined the worship band as a pianist he didn’t imagine that his role would evolve into including 90s TV theme song raps. But here we are.
And that’s why we do youth worship — not so we can get away with doing ridiculous songs, but because when you give people the stage, when you share in the creating of worship, when you make it something we do together, not a service we put on, it can truly move people. Leading worship has been part of what makes the Justin a place where Jacob knows he belongs, and matters. Worship at its base level is just the act of glorifying God, and if Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is the demonstration of the fact that we are in a space where teenagers feel safe enough in their friendships and how loved they are to willingly rap in front of 40 of their peers, maybe it is worship after all.