Is NextGen Worship Getting Too Professional?

I have two young men in my youth group that are in the process of learning how to lead worship. Each of them led one of the past two Wednesdays. Coming away from their respective services, each young man was unhappy. Having been a young man in the midst of learning to lead worship once, and now being a less young man in the midst of learning to lead worship, I know what they were feeling.

Failure. Disappointment. Frustration. Possibly even embarrassment.

But why? Why would these young men feel this way? It is because their service didn’t match their expectations? In a world of Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and Elevation Worship, a stigma has been introduced to the worship setting. Young musicians now have “rock stars” to look up to. You know what? That’s fine! Having worship leaders and teams that inspire us to dig in harder and dive in deeper are an incredible asset! The problem comes when our young worship leaders become discouraged instead of encouraged by the awesomeness that they so often wish to emulate.

After our youth service was over, I pulled my worship leaders-in-training aside. I wanted to clearly communicate my expectations to them. I told them that (paraphrased):

Honestly, I don’t care about the quality of music you produce. This is a youth group. We will have a continuous cycle of new musicians joining the group each week and they will all be green. We’ll have to teach them new chords and how songs work. It’s not going to be “pretty”. If “pretty” is our goal, we will always be disappointed. Musical excellence will come with time, practice and repetition. Drawing people out of themselves and into the awareness of the presence of God is paramount. That must be our goal. All I expect you to do is meet with God and encourage others to join you.

If that’s all you ever do here, I’ll be happy. I want you to come here and feel free. I want you to be able to experiment, I want you to be able to fail. This is a safe place for you to find out what kind of worship leader God has called you to become. So try, experiment, fail, but above all, meet with God and invite others in our group to join you.

There are enough pressures in this world that push our students to try to be “perfect”. I hope that I never create that type of space. I’m not trying to breed professional worship leaders in our meetings. I’m just trying to introduce the NextGen to a Father that loves them, a Brother that died for them, and a Spirit that screams from their insides to draw them all together.


How do you encourage your students to grow in the midst of the torrent of Christian professionalism? Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comment’s section. Seriously! We’re all in this together.