Most student ministries have some element of musical worship in their program. It may be an adult leading worship with their acoustic guitar or a group of students in a band leading their peers. However you do it in your student ministry, the fact remains that we need to strive to pick good songs. Don’t just sing every new worship song that comes out in an effort to be trendy (by the way, most of our students don’t listen to worship music outside of church so singing the latest and greatest worship hit is not that big of deal to them). However, we need to be intentional and pick songs that effectively help our students connect with Jesus through music. How do we pick songs that do that? Let me suggest three things that should guide us when we are picking worship songs for our student ministry.
Theologically Sound and Rich. Music teaches. Even if we don’t realize it or not, the words we sing during worship are shaping our view of God. Music has a powerful way of pushing truths deep down into our hearts. This is a great thing, but when we sing songs that are not Biblically accurate than we are in trouble. It’s important to make sure the songs we pick for our students to sing are theologically sound. That they line up with what Scripture teaches about God. Don’t settle for singing songs that have poor theology. Pick songs that teach our students accurate theological truths about God. An important thing to mention in regards to this is the importance of Gospel-centered worship music. Everything we do should be Gospel-centered, but we need to pick songs that focus on what God has done for us through Jesus. Too many worship songs make us (the singer) the center when in reality Jesus (the Savior) should be the center. In their book The Deliberate Church, Mark Dever and Paul Alexander sums up this point very well: “We want to sing songs that raise our view of God, that present Him in all His glory and grace. We want to sing songs that put the details of Christ’s person and work front and center. We want to sing theologically textured songs that make us think about the depths of God’s character, the contours of His grace, and the implications of His Gospel; that teach us about the Biblical doctrine that saves and transforms” (page 118).
Easy to Sing. Getting teenagers to sing is not easy. Especially when they are in a room full of their peers and they desperately want to look cool and not do anything stupid. But some students do sing and one of the most exciting things in student ministry to see is students who abandon the idea of what their peers think and they worship God freely. No matter how foolish they may look or how bad they may actually song, they are singing out in worship to their Savior. That is awesome! However, sometimes I believe students are not singing because the songs we pick are just not easy to sing. We need to make sure we pick songs that are easy for our students to sing. It may be a good song, but if it’s hard for the average student to sing than it may not be worth doing. We want to make it easy for our students to sing and connect with Jesus.
Balance between student ministry songs and the songs the church does on weekends. Let me explain what I mean here. I think it is healthy to sing some of the songs your church may sing during weekend worship in your student ministry as well. At the same time, I think your student ministry needs to do songs that your church may not do during weekend services. For example, our student ministry does a lot of songs from the band Citizens. The style and feel of their songs fit well with our students. However, Citizens may not fit well during our weekend worship service. The style is a little different from what our worship band normally plays on Sundays. However, many of the songs the band does on Sundays we do in our student ministry as well. The whole idea is to create a balance so students don’t feel like it’s the student ministry worship vs. the weekend adult worship. We are one local body of believers and the student ministry is part of the larger local church. It’s finding unity, but also creating different environments for the different groups.
Those are just a few thoughts on picking worship songs for your student ministry. I love watching my students worship Jesus through music and it’s a privilege to partner with my student ministry worship leader to pick songs that help our students do just that. When you go about picking songs, make sure they are theologically rich, easy to sing, and there is a balance between your student ministry and the weekend worship.