Should High School Students Be Worship Leaders?

Savannah, age 18, from Covina, California submitted this question:

How do you feel about high school students leading worship, both in the high school ministry and in adult services?

Great question, and one that high school students who are interested in worship leading should be asking.

Likewise, worship ministries should establish a plan to train up young leaders.

I absolutely think high school students should be leading worship in youth ministry and when appropriate, in the adult service.

However, there should be a progression to how this happens. I’ll take you through the process that I went through starting as a high school worship leader, and how I’ve worked with high school students to lead worship for youth and adult services.

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Start Small as a Young Worship Leader

Worship leading is a spiritual gift, but also a skill developed over months and years.

As a young person who wants to lead worship, you should seek opportunities to increase skill in smaller settings. It’s a lose-lose situation if you try to start too big too fast.

Neither you nor the congregation benefits when you jump into a bigger role than you can handle.

I don’t know of any first-time driver who should drive a car on a 500 mile road trip as their first driving experience.

Fortunately, there are plenty of smaller opportunities in any church.

High school students can lead their peers in their youth group. But that’s not the only way to start.

You could lead worship for elementary and junior high students. Perhaps there’s a retirement home or adult seniors group in the church that would appreciate a student leading them in worship.

I started leading worship at age 15 in youth group. We had no worship team prior to that, but an influential youth leader took it upon himself to start one.

It was the definition of starting small. Many Wednesday nights it was just me and a piano. As time went on, we gained a drummer, guitarists, singers, a bassist, and so on.

We started to play for youth camps in addition to the regular youth group meeting.

From there I was invited to be a background singer for a Sunday service. Then I got to play piano for a Sunday. Eventually, the youth worship team was invited to start leading worship once per month for the adult service.

You’ve probably guessed my point by now. You must be faithful in the small things before you are worked up to larger opportunities.

Plus these beginning responsibilities build your skill and discipline as a worship leader.

Isaiah 28:10 says, For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (KJV).

In other words, there’s no shortcut to becoming a skilled, mature worship leader capable of providing leadership to an adult congregation.

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Co-leading in Adult Services

It’s true that young worship leaders should start small.

But many who start early can reach a high enough skill level to lead in adult services.

That was the case for a young worship leader in my church.

We started a youth worship team and, a student just 13 years old showed a lot of potential.

By age 14, she became the primary worship leader for the youth group. She showed up to practice, chose the worship list, and did many of those more tedious tasks relating to leading worship.

After leading in youth group for over a year, the natural next step was for her to start participating in adult services.

However, she was not ready to lead an entire adult worship time by herself – yet.

So I had her lead one or two songs on a Sunday when I was the primary leader.

We call this co-leading at my church. It’s a chance for a very young worship leader to get a taste of leading the adult congregation without having to lead the entire service.

There is so much more to leading a worship service than just singing. You must lead the worship team, create the worship set, create transitions, hear what the Spirit is saying, gauge the audience, and so much more!

This is a lot for a younger worship leader, hence the value of co-leading with an experienced leader.

This is a unique experience for the older worship leader too. It’s a chance to mentor a young person in a real-world situation. Some of the best training I’ve given is during these co-leading services.

Perhaps co-leading isn’t the right model for every church, but it has worked for students at my church. Whether you are a high school worship leader or part of the worship leadership team, experiment with this method and see how it goes.

Should a High School Student Ever Be the Church’s Main Worship Leader?

There are some instances when high school students can and do lead the adult worship service and take on the role of lead worshiper.

This is totally fine. In fact, it’s great as long as the student has gained the skill and humility to do so.

Often this happens in smaller churches where the student is the most talented and anointed individual in the church. God has placed him or her there for that purpose.

We can’t forget that Daniel was a teenager when he stood up for God’s law in Babylon, risking his life

David had honed his worship abilities in the pasture lands and was anointed Israel’s lead worshiper at a very young age.

Don’t underestimate the purity and power a teenager can bring to worship. God doesn’t.

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Featured image: Kimberly Richards

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