On the set for the Arise music video

Getting in the Way

I was outside spending some time with God this morning. I love the mornings. Not the 4:30 or 5:00 mornings, but the 6:30 or 7:00 mornings. I love to get up before anyone else and get my Bible and go outside on our deck and sing and pray. It does something to my day…starts it better.

Well, this morning was one of those mornings. It was especially nice and beautiful outside and I brought my computer with me to listen to some awesome music. While I was singing, worshipping, lifting my hands to God, I noticed a shadow come over my face. I had blocked the sun with my outstretched arm. I felt like God said, “Make sure your worship of me doesn’t get in the way of Me shining on and through you.” Wow. Wow! How many times have I gotten caught up in the song, or the speaker, rather than the One I’m singing and speaking and preaching about?! How many times have you?

I want my worship to be only for my Creator, my Salvation-Giver, the only One worthy!!

Help me, Lord, to give You praise, honor and glory from a pure heart. Help me not to get caught up in doing. Help me to sit at Your feet and soak up what You are speaking, ever so softly. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

We just went to see the movie “Courageous” for the first time. I wept! There’s no other way to say it. If you have kids, you probably wept, too. I was so encouraged to see a movie that had such a powerful message, was produced well, and had no cheesy acting. I really had nothing negative to say. I saw the director’s ministry heart all the way through the movie. Not to spoil the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it, I want to say we came out of the theater with a renewed sense of our purpose and role in God’s plan as parents.

Sometimes, I know I can lose that sense of purpose when my day seems to be consumed with homework and refereeing. Our kids, Will and Sidney, go to a University Model School, which means they go to school on Tuesday and Thursday and are home on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We are with them often because of the nature of what we do as Christian Musicians. We are so thankful for that and often sit together for lunch and tell the children how nice it is to be able to have the time we have together. That being said, we, kids included, are together a lot! So we can sometimes forget the amazing privilege it is to have the time we have together. I guess that’s normal – to not take advantage of the time you have when you have it. I don’t think someone would think we’re bad parents for not realizing every moment that the time we have is such a gift.

But isn’t it good to be reminded, once in a while, how the people in our lives are gifts from God? Isn’t it good to sometimes be reminded that God has a purpose for us as parents, and children, to be the ‘gifts’ He created us to be? After all, He knows the plans He has for us and they aren’t to harm us. His plan is to give us hope and a future! (Jeremiah 29:11)

Thank You, Lord, for the little (and big) reminders You give us. Thank You for my kids, Will and Sidney. Please help Russell and me to be the parents You’ve created us to be. Help all of us as parents to be who You’ve called us to be and deny what this world says we’re to be. This is, after all, about You and Your plans. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Small Youth Group: Student Worship

I’ll cut to the chase: No matter how many people show up, no matter how much money is in your budget, or even how talented you may be . . . worship starts in the heart!

“Sing and make music to the Lord with your hearts.” Eph. 5:18-19

Don’t get me wrong. All those other things help support the worship time, but they don’t necessarily fuel it. For leaders who have a small group, I would like to approach this topic in two ways: first,  by encouraging you to build a culture of worship in the hearts of your group, and second,  by helping you create opportunities for students to respond in worship.

Building a culture of Worship begins with you. Do your students see you worship? As I lead worship I always try to help paint a picture of what worship is . . . and what it’s not. Because of the way our churches are historically setup, most people think Sunday is the only time we worship. We call them, “Sunday Worship Services.” We need to help students understand that Worship is a lifestyle. More than the hour on Sunday or the Student ministry gathering, it has to be a perpetual theme in our daily lives. Giving students biblical insights to all the different ways we may worship is key. Music is just one aspect. There’s also prayer, thanksgiving, tithing, reading scripture, painting, communion, interpretive movement, serving, and more. From my experience, students are eager to know more about Worship and what it means. Everything we do should be an act of worship.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

As you strive to build this Worship culture in your group there are some practical things that may help students respond:

In a more intimate worship setting, song selection is critical. Songs need to be singable. Don’t try and teach too many new songs at one time. People like to sing songs they know. You’ll soon see which tunes become your group’s favorites. Next, build your teaching times around a particular song and allow the students to sing the song at the end of the session with a new found understanding of what they are saying to God or about Him.

Allow your students to take ownership of the worship. Enlist students to pray, read scripture, or lead music.

Have your worship time in a completely different setting. Occasionally, change locations so it’s not always the same.

Give students a tangible way of responding in Worship (e.g., writing something down, laying something on the altar, bringing an offering, praying for each other). You can also encourage your group to come up with ways they can serve the community as an act of worship.

Ultimately, worship is to be our response to who God is and what He has done. Hopefully, we can all catch the vision of what Jesus was saying when He said that we should, “Worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24

Russell Johnson is a worship leader, singer, and song-writer. He and his wife Kristi lead worship across the United States and have just released their worship video, Arise. To find out more about Russell and his ministry, check out www.russellandkristi.com.  Also, check out SYG’s site for more student ministry insights.