Church worship (of any denomination or tradition) is one of the the areas of church life that I am prone to comment on more than most. But lets face it, we have all come out of worship at some point and made both positive and negative comments about the experience we have just had. The Shed at Gloucester Rugby Club is renound as one of the most partisan stands in world rugby, and many is the saturday afternoon you can go and stand there to find out what the locals really think.
There are two sorts of people that attend a rugby match: those that are playing and those who watch from the terraces, and its the same in church worship. Some of us go to worship services and participate and some of us are just onlookers.
For me worship is about giving God back of the gifts he has given us, and this implies three things; That we as Christians are in relationship with God, that he is our provider and that we believe that God is sovereign and therefore worth worshipping. Infact the root of the word “worship” comes from the old English word “worthscipe” meaning worthiness.
So what does the Bible say? “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). We were called for the purpose of praising God, worshiping God. That is one of the job descriptions of a Christian. We should declare that God is worthy, worth more than everything else put together. But we cannot achieve this unless we take full participation in the act of worship. Now clearly there are practicalities in terms of the numbers of people who are able to be involved in the provision of worship, but we can all take a participative role.
For me though, one of the keys is that worship on a Sunday can not be the be all and end all, it must be about refreshing and reinvigourating each other to go out and be the Christians we are called to be throughout the rest of the week.
How does this affect youth ministry? In our church, young people do not neccesarily worship in ways that the rest of the congregation understand. It can be that the “belong, believe, behave” model is expected to be the other way round. Also young people do not neccesarily engage with the worship as it stands, partly i think through a lack of understanding and a lack of engagement in the provision of worship.
Speaking to a couple of friends about this during the week, I have realised that our response needs to be subversive. A large sea going tanker takes an age to turn because the rudder is so small. Engaging church leaders in conversations and training about youth culture is a really good starting point. Another is to work with youth groups talking about spirituality and exploring liturgy so that young people begin to understand the services they are taking part in.
Finally a word on when young people are asked to do the service themselves. Do not feel obliged to provide a show, but instead help young people to offer something that is trully their own.
Crticism is easy to do, but worship is not about what we get out of it, but far more about what we put in.