Worship "Sneakers"

i have two points to offer on conversations i've had concerning worship.  they don't necessarily make sense together, but i'm putting them into one post anyway as they're fresh on my mind!

1)  as we've kicked off our Student Ministries program, i've found myself involved in many a conversation on the subject of worship.  over the past two years, the the worship life of our Stu Min program has matured with the dedication of volunteers and student leaders; this year, with the addition of a full-time pastoral intern dedicated to worship and student ministries, students are being encouraged to participate at an even higher level.

as i've met with leaders to plan and dream dreams about how we will encourage and lead students in worship this year, i'm struck by how often the conversations revolve around what songs we'll sing and what musicians we have available to lead said songs.  let me tell you, i'm one of the first to say, "worship is more than music," but as much as i remind myself and others of this truth, it's much easier to plan a 3 song set than to try and incorporate other elements of Christian worship into a youth ministry setting.

in one of my conversations, a leader said something that blew my mind and helped me develop a new appreciation for the task of worship leading.  he said, "the worship leader is responsible for putting words into people's mouths."  think about that for a moment.  when songs are chosen for a particular worship experience, the worship leader is choosing to put the lyrics of those songs into the mouths of the worship participants.  this statement has caused me to consider anew the songs we sing at youth group, and to reflect more closely on the songs we sing on Sunday mornings as well.  are these the words that make sense for us - for this particular group of Christians gathered in this time and place?

2)  i read this short essay/article posted in Scot McKnight's (Jesus Creed blog) "Weekly Meanderings" post from last Saturday.  the article is called, "Sneaking Into Worship," and it's worth your read.  i resonate and deeply identify with the group of people described in this article.  one particular section stood out:
They’ve grown up being urged, “Now, everyone can just worship God however you might want.  Just let the Holy Spirit move you.  We are all different.”  So now some are seeking worship where the implied advice is, “Now, everyone leave your hyper-individuality at the door.  Let’s say words together.  Let’s make gestures together.  Stand together.  Kneel together.  Let’s listen to the wisdom the Holy Spirit has given over the centuries."
this is what i want to be about when it comes to worship.  that is, i long to check my personal preferences, or my "hyper-individuality," at the door and melt into the body of believers gathered to worship the Living God together.  i long for a time and place where conversations in the church about musical preferences are no more, where organs can stand alongside drum kits, and where young and old worship together in spite of generational differences.


What is Hope?

like every other Youth Ministry out there, we are about to kickoff our Fall programming.  there has been so much momentum created through Summer trips and events; there is a lot to anticipate!

this year our theme for our weekly Youth Group meetings is, "Agents of Hope," or something like that.  as i listened to students share their stories after one of our major summer youth trips, i was struck by the number of kids whose lives have been changed because they found HOPE in Jesus.  when they didn't have friends, didn't want to live any longer, or were looking for fulfillment in destructive behaviors, they found HOPE in Jesus.  they found that Jesus could offer them what all these other things could not - a bright HOPE for tomorrow!  what a concept?!  Jesus offers hopes to the hopeless and help to the helpless.  we see this in his ministry as described in the Gospels, and know that his ministry continues today, 2000 years later.
my question, before i give away our whole "curriculum" for the year:
What is hope, and why do you have it?
i ask this question because 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

well, what's your reason for HOPE?  are you prepared to give an answer?  because i'm asking!

i'm concerned that we aren't ready.  i'm concerned that i haven't thought this through enough.  i know i have hope in Christ, but why?  what experiences have given me hope?  how has Jesus been my hope in times where i've needed him?  

why do you have hope?  what's your story?


i remember the first time i met one of my brother-in-laws.  he was dating my wife's sister and they were in college.  we all met at a Pizza Hut.  when he introduced himself i asked, "So what's your story?"  it was sort of funny.  it was sort of rude.  but it was honest.  who are you?  where are you from?  what gives you life?  where are your hopes; your values; your priorities?  

what's your story?  what gives you hope?  how do you define hope?