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Erin DeYoung on Young Musicians Leading Worship

Erin DeYoung teaches orchestra at Calvin Christian High School in Grandville, Michigan. In this edited conversation, she shares her students’ experiences of helping to lead music at the 2013 Calvin Symposium on Worship.

Erin DeYoung teaches orchestra at Calvin Christian High School in Grandville, Michigan. In this edited conversation, she shares her students’ experiences of helping to lead music at the 2013 Calvin Symposium on Worship.

How many of your orchestra students were involved at the worship symposium, and what did they do there?

Calvin Christian High has one orchestra. All 42 kids, freshmen through seniors, played at a worship service held on Friday morning and repeated on Saturday morning. They accompanied congregational singing, along with an organist and other instrumentalists.

Other than rehearsing songs, how did you prepare your orchestra to play at the symposium?

We didn’t know all that far in advance that we’d be playing so we were in a tight window to prepare. I didn’t see the students at all the week of the symposium because they were in exams. Although we looked at the symposium website together, I wish I’d taken more time beforehand to talk with them about the specific worship functions of the songs we’d be leading. We talked about the symposium experience afterwards in class, and they also filled out surveys.

What struck you about their comments?

I was surprised and delighted by their joy in leading and participating in worship. It’s asking a lot to require teens to be any place at 7 a.m., especially on a Saturday. I expected gripes and complaints. That it didn’t happen probably means I underestimated them. They felt so appreciated by the worshiping body because so many people came up to thank them. One girl said —about ten times—“I met someone from Kenya!”

What did students say surprised them?

  • I expected to be bored out of my skull by such a formal service, but the speaker was phenomenal. Even after listening to the same sermon twice, I was still completely drawn in. Nathan Piersma
  • The overall mood was laid back and casual. Everyone was so happy to be there. Kelsey Kooistra
  • I didn’t think there would be that many people there. They came from all over the world. Carley Sikkema
  • I was not expecting to feel so moved when we sang “One Generation”….or so calm while I was playing. Emily Cooke

What did they enjoy?

  • It was great to get out of our comfort zone and play in a different setting. I loved playing while the congregation was singing. Sarah Scholten
  • I loved seeing and hearing so many Christians in one place worshiping….and meeting people from other countries. Abel DeVries
  • I felt more needed since we were helping lead people in worship, instead of playing for just our parents and siblings. Kaylee Geels

Did the worship symposium influence their view of worship?

  • My view of worship was changed through how much the congregation was able to participate in the service. Ally DeYoung
  • Now I feel worship needs to have a more inclusive feel. It needs to pull all different kinds of people together. Luke Harkema
  • It showed me that you don’t have to be from the same place, or even speak the same language, to worship with someone. Lauren Wallis
  • I was on the stage and could look out and see everyone. It was very powerful to see so many people in one room singing in praise and worship to the same God. Now I see why some churches have worship services consisting of only singing. Meagan DeGraaf

Did you or your orchestra students attend any symposium sessions?

A number of students and I stayed to hear Kenneth Bailey and thought he was outstanding. He has such an understanding of Middle Eastern cultures and perspectives and how that plays into the meaning of Scripture. High school students aren’t often exposed to that level of teaching. It was encouraging for them to see they could catch on.

Some of us also went to the session on the new Lift Up Your Hearts (LUYH) hymnal. They were really interested in hearing the history of hymnals and enjoyed flipping through the LUYH sampler. They felt a little out of place as high school students, but the others there were all very friendly.

Would you recommend that other Christian high school orchestras, bands, or choirs consider playing during worship at future symposia?

Yes! It would be great to give this opportunity. High school students are so passionate. They are idealistic and have deep convictions. The opportunity to fully invest in leading worship is so valuable in faith formation. Churches can do more to include high school students in leading worship too.

Watch Calvin Christian High orchestra students play during this 2013 Calvin Symposium on Worship service. See for yourself why so many students said they enjoyed hearing Luke Powery preach the same sermon twice. Consider Erin DeYoung’s suggestions for teaching worship in Christian high school music classes.