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By Wade Huggins

Many times, the first venue for a new worship leader is at a youth gathering. What’s next? How do you best invite these students to join you in worship? I’ve had this conversation with many youth pastors, bands, and worship leaders. We all agree, students are not the easiest to lead in worship. Let’s be honest there is a lot to compete with in the lives of the average student today.

If you’ve ever felt discouraged after leading a youth gathering, you are not alone. So how do we best direct their attention away from so many competing interests and guide them towards fixing their eyes on Jesus? Here are a few things to keep in mind next time you step in front of a youth group to lead worship.

  • Meet them where they are and be in that moment with them. I can’t stress how important this is. I remember an evening not long ago the students looked worn out. It turned out that most of them had just finished a long day of standardized testing. I knew that there was going to be no way to get them going and energized. They needed rest. It was a great opportunity to lead them to a place of rest in the presence of God. Then there are the nights where the students have all seemingly consumed two 12oz Red Bulls and are bouncing off of the walls. You may not have any chance of knowing where they are at until twenty minutes before things start. So plan for this. If you’ve planned and rehearsed for an energetic start to the night, but notice they need some rest, be willing to change your planned direction to best meet the students where they are.
  • Give them direction. Some worship leaders like to think that if they just get up there and sing through the song, God will do the rest. There is both truth and myth at work in this philosophy. While you have to allow the Spirit to break through and guide the hearts and minds of students into worship, consider that it is through you that the Holy Spirit is doing that work. Be prayerful about the worship set. Find ways to give guidance in the spaces between songs. Use transitions to guide the student’s hearts and minds in worship. This can be as simple as guiding them to repeat a small phrase of scripture with you, or it can be a devotional thought, or it can be a simple scripture reading. Remember that you are taking a part in raising up the next generation of worshippers. Teach them how to unleash their spirit to worship God. Talk about why we sometimes raise our hands in worship. Talk about why we bow down. Talk about why we worship. Aaron Keyes has some great thoughts on the Hebrew words for worship and praise. Share some of these thoughts with the students. I have found them to be incredibly helpful and think you will as well.
  • Don’t treat them like children. – This seems self-explanatory but the fastest way to lose a group of students is to treat them like they are kids. You would be surprised by how the phrase, “Hey kids!” causes them to immediately disconnect. Respect them by not treating them as children and they will be more willing to follow you where you lead them.
  • Know why they may feel uncomfortable In a room of students ranging from 6th graders to seniors in high school, honestly, you are going to have some who are very uncomfortable singing. I’ve found this to be especially true with middle school boys. Their voices are changing and some are embarrassed to sing. We need to be careful not to lead them to think that loud singing equals worship. That misses the mark. Instead of encouraging them to sing louder, try encouraging them to find words in the song that are really speaking to them. Give them direction to worship silently if they wish. The singing will come as their heart grows in worship for God.
  • Invest in the lives of the students you are leading. – Be more to them than the guy or gal up there on the stage singing songs. Be their friend. Recognize that you are in a position of influence and use that influence to point them to Christ.
  • Be Yourself – Students today see right through the façade. Authentically worship God as you lead. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. You are not Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, or Hillsong – don’t try to be. Be yourself and allow God to use you to lead the students in worship.
  • Lead Familiar Songs – They want to sing songs they know and are more likely to engage in worship when they feel they know the songs. Sometimes it takes singing something over and over to really allow the words to be written on our hearts. Help them embody the songs through leading songs they are familiar with. Find two or three songs that the students really enjoy singing and try to sing one of them every week.

Now, go out there, be yourself, and lead the next generation of worshippers!

Wade serves as the Worship Pastor at First Baptist in Athens, TX. His primary hub for leading is the local church but he also leads worship at camps and other student events. He is in the process of completing a masters degree at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. Wade loves The Lord, Kristin (his wife of three years), the church, the Texas Rangers, and a delicious sandwich every now and again.

Hit me up on on Twitter and Instagram @wadehuggins.


Several weeks ago, our pastor said he wants our church to be a singing church. Considering the plethora of articles and blogs written about getting the congregation to sing, the sentiment is a common one: How do we engage the congregation and lead them to worship together as a family with one voice raised in worship? I’m not going to address worship leaders, but rather, everyone else on stage. One thing that we can do to help the congregation engage in worship is remember, the rest of us are also worship leaders. But what does that look like?

Know the words….and sing them!

I confess that I have found myself so immersed in creating tracks, practicing parts, and dialing in the perfect guitar tone that I sometimes forget to listen to the words during the week. We need to pray through and meditate on the lyrics of the songs throughout the week, preparing our hearts to lead on Sunday. Then during the worship time, no matter what instrument we are playing, sing along! We can’t pretend everyone is only looking to the worship leader. We aren’t invisible. I love visiting a church and seeing a drummer singing his heart out when no one can hear him but God. How can we lead the congregation in worship as a church family if only one or two people on stage are singing while the rest of us stare intently at our charts or fingers? Which brings us to the next challenge…

Memorize the music

I know this may seem daunting, especially for volunteers with full time jobs and kids, but like anything else, memorization is a skill that takes practice, and over time it gets easier. We should eliminate anything that distracts someone from worshiping, and few things are more distracting than a player who doesn’t know the song. When the songs become second nature, we free ourselves to focus and reflect upon the lyrics and to engage the congregation in worship. On engagement….

Open Your Eyes!

Have you ever had a conversation with someone who never looked at you? It’s awkward! There will be times that our posture on stage is inward reflection or upward in praise, but our primary posture should be outward to the congregation. We are there to serve and guide them. People come into church with baggage and heavy hearts and we need to invite them into worship. Our facial expressions and stage presence need to communicate that we are excited to be there, that we are excited to see them there, that we welcome them to worship our Savior and God together. Singing with eyes closed the entire service isn’t very inviting and can work against our invitation to worship.

One of my favorite quotes I heard at a Seeds Conference ( is that the level of engagement and response in worship in the congregation will rarely exceed what is on stage. So let’s sing with hands lifted high and invite everyone into worship with us.

Andy Walker is a producer based in Nashville, TN. Andy has had the opportunity to play with several bands & worship artists, including Tim Hughes, Ben Cantelon and Luke Hellebronth. He’s played at countless churches & was a music director at one for two years. As a producer & writer, he’s had song placements on MTV and continues to work with indie artists, as a producer, mixer, or musician as well as creating resources for worship leaders. He lives with his wife and two kids south of Nashville.

(image credit: Christy Wilson:



Join us for a night of worship
with Vertical Church BandJon Guerra and The Royal Royal.

There will be a pre-concert event called The Worship Workshop. Read details below and consider attending!

Doors for the show open at 6:30 p.m. That night we will be taking a Love Offering to help pay for the event. The suggested donation is $15.

VCB Worship Workshop
for Worship Leaders, Song Writers and Worship Team Members.

Behind the scenes of Vertical Church Band on the road is a team committed to their home church. Every week we’re leading worship, planning services, training volunteers and leaders, and writing songs for over 14,000 people across 7 campuses in Chicago. This is a huge part of who we are as a team and what we do in ministry. That’s why we’re now offering a Worship Workshop for you and your team. Come and join us for an afternoon of training from the band and leaders from our band and church ministry.

Cost of Event:
Individual Ticket: Sign yourself up for $20
Group Ticket: Bring your whole group for $50 (up to 10 people)

2:30pm – Opening Worship & Prayer.

2:45pm – Session 1 Vertical Church Worship Leadership – led by Andi Rozier and Eddie Hoagland [Our Worship Pastor and Band leader discusses the role of the Worship Leader and their team, Pastoring volunteers and Creative service planning]

3:45pm – Session 2 – Vertical Church Songwriting – Tyler Miller and Jon Guerra
[Dig into the process of our songwriting philosophy and process of writing, re-writing, testing and recording song with Tyler Miller - writer of 'Rock Won't Move’ & 'I'm Going Free’ - and Sony/Provident recording artist Jon Guerra - writer of ‘Only Jesus Can’ & ‘I will follow']

4:45pm – 15min break

5:00pm – Session 3 – Using Loops and MultiTracks in Worship – Matt McCoy (Certified Ableton trainer /
[Using tracks and click in worship can seem intimidating, but it doesn't need to be. It's an easy way to make your band sound HUGE and professional. In this workshop, you will learn practical steps you need to take to implement them into your worship service this weekend! We will build a worship set together from scratch and you will leave the room feeling confident that you can do this at YOUR church!]

6:00pm – session 4 – Q&A / Meet&Greet – Vertical Church Band, Jon Guerra and The Royal Royal 
[this is your time to ask questions and talk with band members one-on-one. We're here to answer any questions you have about worship leadership and ministry. this is also a great opportunity to build community with other people from your local area.]

6:45pm – session ends – reserved seating for you at the event

7:30pm -Concert Starts
– there will be a 10-15min break between each session