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Leading Youth In Worship

Bethel's Young Saints youth group went from sitting on the sides and talking over worship to being fully present and engaged. Hear Josie, Mari, Peyton, and members of the Bright Ones and Young Saints worship teams offer hope as they share what they have learned leading youth in worship, and learn how to build trust, consistency, and …

Introductions to the Session and Youth Ministry - Time: 3:20-13:24

  • Mari came to Bethel’s youth group with Tom and Leslie Crandal fourteen years ago and “it was rough.” The teenagers were “super broken” and they didn’t trust Tom and his team as their new leadership. Mari remembers how, in the beginning, the youth would sit on the walls by the side of the stage “and talk over the sound system” while the worship team was “fully going.” Then Mari says, “Long story short, we just gave our lives to build trust with our teenagers and we believed God called us here, we believed there was a call on this group of young people. And now our worship services are awesome and they don’t talk over us . . .”

  • Mari encourages leaders that “it doesn’t happen overnight.” It took over nine years of investment for them. “Sometimes teenagers need to know that you love them before they follow you,” Mari says and she quotes Tom when she continues, “You need to show them how much you care before they ever really show that they care about you.” “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

  • “We don’t think teenagers are in the second class. It’s not a stepping stone for us. We actually love teenagers. We love young people, ‘cause I believe if we can teach them to lift their eyes at fourteen and fifteen, it’ll save them a lot of heartaches when they’re twenty and twenty-five.”

  • Are you building the house the Lord is building? Mari speaks to getting caught up by “this is what we should do, this is what works, this is a success.” Then she says, “But I feel like there’s this challenge of making sure you’re actually doing what the Lord’s calling you to do.” Mari says, “we might give you a lot of tips here today, but make sure you go home and know what the Holy Spirit’s telling you to do of the tips that we give.” “Don’t try to build something that He’s not building, ‘cause you’ll get very frustrated and it won’t last.” 

  • Then Mari takes time to honor each of the teenage worship leaders present, individually, and she says, “I think if we can switch our mindsets from coaches to mothers and fathers, we’ll see a lot more success in life.” A coach looks at someone according to what they can win for them, but a mother or father thinks about who they are becoming. “I think it’s really important as us as leaders to blow wind on their fires because if we can let them shine and become great around us, what a beautiful team.”


 “As a young adult, what are some tips or advice you can give to leading people who are the same age as you or in a similar season?” - Time: 13:25-19:27

  • “. . . you have to have a lot of confidence,” Austin says. He acknowledges the lie “why would they ever want to hear from me if I’m not further along than them?” and then he says, “I think an important thing to remember is if you’re leading, you have to be confident in the fact that you’ve been anointed to lead. So, if you’ve been anointed to lead, then that was God’s decision and not yours and at that point, your confidence isn’t even in yourself anyway.” Austin says this “takes the pressure off,” otherwise “you’ll spend the whole worship set wondering if people are listening to you and it’s actually not your responsibility in the first place.”

  • Austin says that for leading, whether others are in the same season or not, “you have to have a lot of compassion for people.” Especially for those who lead at the same church week after week, “it’s important to know the people that you lead. . . . it’s gonna give greater context to how you lead.” Austin shared about working through this at youth group when he was a worship leader but not a part of the youth team. He realized, “I have to actually get to know these people because it’s gonna change how I approach a worship set. If I’m pouring into these kids during the week and I’m finding out certain things that they’re going through, then I actually have a greater context for what they need to sing.” Austin sums it up when he says, “start to gain context through relationship and where people are at, ‘cause that’s how you can actually meet them there.”

  • “I think it can actually be super powerful to lead somebody in the same season as you,” Josie says. She explains that, while it is valuable to know people who are ahead of you, it “can also be a little bit intimidating sometimes.” “It feels really good to have somebody who is on the same page as you,” she continues.

  • “I think the number one thing that I’ve learned when leading people in the same season as me is a vulnerability,” Peyton shares. “I think it’s really easy, as a worship leader, to feel like you have to be perfect and feel that people can’t see your imperfections because you’re leading them and you want to have integrity while you’re leading a room. But I’ve found there’s so much power in being vulnerable actually up there because then it’s something that they can connect with you on a way deeper level than being perfect.”


“How do you balance being a youth attendee and being a leader, keeping it light but also being responsible?” - Time: 19:30-25:35

  • “For me,” Tea says, “my number one priority for myself is that I’m not going to be two-faced.” She explains that this requires integrity when she is off the stage.

  • “I think it’s really fun to kinda do both,” Josie answers, “. . . it’s kind of nice to just be able to take the pressure off and just be able to have grace on myself.” Josie talks about being able to be a student and learn. “I don’t have to go up there and kind of put on this mask of like ‘okay, now I’m a worship leader, now I’m an adult.’ . . . I’m going up there as a youth kid, I’m going up there as a student.”

  • When Peyton shares that he just doesn’t let it get to him, Mari says, “I think sometimes we [as leaders] put too much pressure on the stage and I think we exalt the stage higher than it is.” Mari shares that she does not want her students to feel like “I’m leading worship, now I have to be perfect! Put it together!” Mari continues to say, “I expect them to have bad days, I expect them to have a hard time, I expect them to go through rough seasons because we’re all human.”

  • “. . . I think we need to not be so scared of putting a teenager on a stage because I think you can do it well as long as you’re disciplining them and you’re walking with them. . . . I think we’re so afraid if we put them on a stage, we’ll exalt them too high and then they can make a mess and then what are we going to do? ... but I think if we walk with them, they make a mess, who cares? You clean it up. God’s not afraid of our mess. Why should we, as leaders, be afraid of theirs?” Mari brought it back to “as a mom or a dad, we’re concerned with who they’re gonna be in ten years, not what they can do for us right now.”

  • “We’re not necessarily in the business of developing worship leaders, per se,” Austin adds, “we’re in the business of developing people.” Austin says, “whenever I talk to any of them, I rarely even think about the fact that they lead worship in our environment. I think about the fact that they are in our environment as teenagers. . . . if you’re teaching people just how to love Jesus, like the overflow of that kind of heart is gratitude, it’s worship. So, their giftings are something that God has given them, but we have the privilege of developing them as people.”


“How do we grow our youngest musicians and how do you give them this hunger for learning more?” - Time: 25:37-26:48

  • Because Tom “does want it at certain excellence” on Wednesday nights, Mari has a “side group” that she meets with a least once a month. This group jams together and learn chords, song arrangements, “get confidence on a stage,” and so on. “‘Cause I would never want to throw someone up on the stage and for them to walk off feeling like they failed. That would crush me.”


“With a group of youth that is running and building together, how do you incorporate new believers into the fold?” - Time: 26:57-27:52

  • Mari explains that at Young Saints they have “house groups.” She says small groups are “would probably be the best way to get new believers plugged in.” The goal is to have a “less intimidating” way to welcome kids and let them know that they are not “just another person in our seat.”


“I think teenagers need fun.” - Time: 28:18-29:29

  • “I think people make fun all hype and it’s not good, but I don’t think hype has to be bad,” Mari continues. “I don’t think a fast praise song is necessarily hype, if you ask me.” 

  • Mari also says, “. . . sometimes we think that fun is shallow, but actually sometimes fun brings the most connection.”

  • “I think we need fun. I think kids need fun. They need to know God is good and He’s happy. And He’s not just there for the serious moments.”


“The students I get to lead in worship have just gotten back from their summer youth camp and are on fire. How do we, as worship leaders, strive to keep that fire going?” - Time: 29:30-37:36

  • “Let them take control,” Peyton says. He uses Young Saints coming back from The Send in Florida as an example. They had testimony time before worship started and then they “went the direction they were looking.” 

  • “I think it’s important to teach them how to keep that up on their own, without needing some big event to stir them up,” Josie adds. She mentions that it is also the time in the secret place that fans the flame. “The same things that happened at The Send can also just happen on a normal youth group night.”

  • Tea highlights the importance of kids sharing testimonies so that what God is doing is not only something that adults experience but something that is relatable to teenagers as well.

  • “You have to know, as a leader, what you’re actually responsible for and what you’re not,” Austin says. “We’re not responsible for the fire to fall, we’re just responsible to provide the sacrifice.” “I feel like our goal, even at Young Saints, is like to equip kids with the tools to provide an environment for God to come.”

  • “There’s no way you can keep your kids’ fire going without doing life on life with them,” Mari concludes. She mentions the importance of seasons and says “the way you can help a teenager understand that is you walk with them. . . . And so I think if we can remove ourselves from being leaders up here [on stage] and being leaders down there [with the kids], I think a lot of our issues will be solved.”


“How do I, being a youth just attending youth group and not in leadership, help to call my friends to a higher standard of living, purity, the pursuit of God, etc. without it coming across overly spiritual?” - Time: 37:37-42:06

  • Together, Tea and Josie talk about being constant and showing friends what there “is to be excited for” in a Christ-like life, instead of “preaching at them.” Josie says, “I think personal growth and pursuing God on your own will show to the people around you if you’re being faithful to that.” Your friends will want what you have.

  • “The last thing a teenager wants,” Peyton says, “is to be preached at and especially by their own friends because then it just feels like a sneak attack.” He continues, “there’s something so powerful about just showing them the love of Jesus, by showing them love like Jesus would show them love. Also, prayer is powerful and it’s a real thing. . . . praying for people actually is just as important as, you know, loving on them because it’s something that’s in the behind the scenes that God sees that they don’t see . . . their life starts improving bit by bit because of prayer.”


“What are any tips for a young adult tasked with reviving or even starting a youth or young adult group, even if only two people come? And how do I encourage young adults to engage in worship when it seems like all they do is stare at you with their arms closed?” - Time: 42:10-52:59

  • “I actually love leading for teenagers ‘cause they will not lie to you,” Mari says. “So I have become a very confident person. . . . I cannot afford to be swayed by the room.”

  • Mari told of the time that Halloween was on Wednesday night and only five of the approximately one hundred junior high students came. Mari had planned “a full-blown worship team” and they didn’t change the plan, even though only five came. “Just look at it like they get private access to an amazing worship set. . . . I don’t think you should lead any different. I think you start with what you have and you build the wall in front of you and you be faithful with your two people. And if you can make them great, eventually they will bring other people that are great with them.”

  • “It’s okay if the reaction of what someone is doing isn’t what you’re expecting. So don’t always look at outward experience and expression as results,” Mari says. Mari points out that whether or not a student is raising their hands does not indicate whether or not God is working in them.

  • Mari mentions that “teenagers need a lot of coaching” and leading worship includes “pastoring the room,” not just standing up and sing a song. Mari encourages leaders to connect with the Holy Spirit, asking “Hey, Holy Spirit, what should I do to gather this room right now?” At Young Saints, Mari has a variety of exhortations to engage the students including everyone sitting, everyone gathering at the front, everyone spreading out, etc. “There is that balance if you’re not swayed by the room, but you also want the room to come with you.” Mari also mentions speaking in youth group on worship, saying, “they need to know theology too,” highlighting the importance of “building a culture of worship.”

  • Josie points out that sometimes the youth that seems disengaged “don’t really know what else to be doing.” Josie says that asking everyone to do one act of worship “opens the doors for them to have an encounter because now it’s like they’re given something to do and they’re given something practical that can actually help them and lead them into something that they wouldn’t have done before.” Mari sums it up when she says, “You give them permission to do the thing that could lead to their breakthrough.”

  • Austin points out the importance of consistency, including a leader’s attitude, and building trust. “So,” he says, “each time that you lead, lead with a really strong measure of consistency. The same level of confidence that you walk in with on your good days, find out a way to conjure that up for your bad days and lead well all the time. Prepare your heart well.” Austin speaks to not putting “your confidence in response” and he walks into youth with the mindset “man, if nobody else is going to, I’m going to have a lot of fun.”

  • Josie adds, from a youth’s perspective, that sometimes on a Wednesday night she is “very tired” and she may seem to be just sitting there. She is worshiping and encountering God but she’s also tired.

  • Mari quotes Banning Liebscher when she says, “You got to remember not every one of your worship sets or youth services is a homerun. Sometimes you’re just getting to first base.”


“As youth leaders, how do I build a connection with my youth group and being part of their lives and caring, but having healthy boundaries and not having to include them in all areas of my life?” - Time: 53:08-57:57

  • Mari shares that she has two very young daughters and that this is a large part of her life. She doesn’t mind if youth students want to come to hang out with her and her girls, but her family comes first. “And you don’t always want to be pouring out.” At the same time, she says, “But Tom and Leslie brought me in like a daughter, honestly” and yet that place isn’t for everybody. Mari brings it down to following Holy Spirit in what it looks like to give your life “in this season.”

  • Austin says it “all stems from self-awareness” because “you’ve got to know yourself and know your limits.” He also talks about taking off the pressure that “for every time you hang out with a teenager that it has to be this long, deep, like over coffee conversation, like ideal, they pour their heart open.” “I feel like the fun is what sets it up for the deep,” Austin says. Austin also mentions keeping it “light” and “practical” by inviting teenagers into your everyday life, instead of feeling like it has to be a block of time set aside just for them.

  • Peyton adds, as a youth student, “I know I’m drawn to youth leaders who just want to hang out, who don’t put pressure on a relationship.” He points out that even small interactions on youth group night build this and “then you actually get the deep stuff more naturally, instead of trying to just push your way through to a kid’s heart too.”


“What’s the best way to have someone sit down on the team that is not living their life after Jesus after they’ve got accepted? What does pastoring them through that look like?” - Time: 58:04-59:46

  • “We are in it to maintain a connection,” Mari shares, “and it all depends on what happened.” Mari probably wouldn’t remove someone because of “a little mess up” Mari also shares about a team member “who was continually messing up to pornography and drugs” and they “pulled him off the stage.” Yet, they maintained a connection and walked with him until he was free and able to step back up on stage.

  • When it comes to students who cannot be on stage for a time, Mari says, “We still allow them to come to our meetings, we still allow them to feel involved, but there is some standard to being on the stage and being a leader because I think overflow will naturally happen. So, you got to be careful what you’re allowing to be overflowed.”


“How do you build worship teams? Are they all teenage musicians or do you allow adults from your main team?” and “How do you maintain quality of worship by giving kids room to fail as they grow?” - Time: 59:51-1:01:17

  • Mari says she believes in both: a team of both youth and adults. Mari explains that this brings “some covering on the stage and some experience” to back the teens’ risks and mistakes. “I am not afraid of a fail, I am not afraid of risk, ‘cause I know I could probably regather the room if they do.”

  • Young Saints does not “have very many teenage musicians because there is that standard of excellence. So I have those ‘brewing’ in my other group ‘over here.’ But I’m totally okay if they go for it and flop because I think ‘praise God they at least tried and maybe it’ll break open the room even though it’s not perfect,’” Mari explains

  • “And so I think there’s a beautiful synergy to having both leaders, adult leaders, and teenagers because they can lead their peers in ways that I can’t, but I can lead their peers in ways they can’t,” Mari says.



“Jesus, I just thank You for this amazing room of leaders. God, I ask that You would instill hope in the midst of discouragement, You would instill ideas so that when they go home they can take whatever we said and plant it into their world and see it come to life. God, I just pray for courage to be in every person’s heart. God, I thank You for this group of people that are leading our next generation. God, that You would give them life abundantly in this season, that You would bless their families, their friends, and everyone around them for the sacrifice they’re giving for this next generation. We love You so much, Jesus. Thank You for the privilege it is to lead Your young people. In Jesus’ name, amen.”