Our effort to develop mature worshippers requires that we seek the Lord in prayer, asking for His insight into how our students presently worship, what a mature worshipper would look like, and what the next progressive step would be. With this knowledge as our background, we can now discuss what it would look like to choose worship songs “with the end in mind.”
How should we choose our songs?
Each Christian is charged to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). As worship leaders we are called to faithfully lead our students to sing all three.
We sing Psalms. We sing songs that are straight from Scripture, because Scripture transforms us. As Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” We sing Scripture because we want our students to learn, memorize, and meditate upon God’s Word.
We sing hymns. Hymns tend to be theologically rich, teaching us the deep things of God. They also help to connect us to untold generations of believers throughout the ages, and they help guard us against our culture’s blind spots. Hymns typically allow us to feast upon their words, preparing us for lives with God.
For example, there are three hymns that I consciously over-play so that our students will have their words impressed upon their hearts, so that they will have their deep truths at their disposal when they inevitably need them. I sing “Jesus Paid It All,” to remind them that their debt has been fully paid by Christ, “Before the Throne,” so when they are tempted to despair over their sin, they would fix their eyes on Christ, the author and perfecter of their faith (Hebrews 12:2), and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” so when tragedy or suffering comes, they will be reminded that God is in control and that He loves, even if they cannot understand His ways.
We sing spiritual songs. There is something beautiful about singing simple biblical truths with childlike trust, until those truths ring true to our hearts as they are true in our minds. What hope is found when we sing that “the riches of Your love will always be enough!” What joy I have in confessing “for all Your goodness, I will keep on singing, ten thousand reasons for my heart to find!” Spiritual songs are key to developing the hearts of our young worshippers.
However, if all we sing are the simplest of truths, we won’t do justice to the whole counsel of God. If we take our balanced diet analogy further, a meal of meat and potatoes is made more complete with a side salad and a slice of delicious key lime pie, but a series of meals consisting of key lime pie with a side of something healthy is likely to leave you in bad shape, right?
No matter whether we plan extensively or don’t plan at all, we must remember that we are training students to be worshippers. Let us lead in spirit, freedom, and truth. Let us lead from an overflow of our own joy in Christ. Let us remember that the Lord is more desirous of and committed to our students’ growth than we ever could be. Let us remember that these changes we’re praying for and working towards won’t happen over night, but, by God’s grace, they will happen. Let us together humbly seek the Lord to train our students as wisely and as winsomely as we can.