It's like you're inside my braaaiiiin...
I've got to get that fixed.
I carry a Medicare card and I am still discovering parts of me that I am reluctant to discuss.
I just had a performance review, and there were some low marks in some places. I chuckled to myself, then immediately wondered if the vice-principal sharing the review with me wondered if I were snickering at my boss. Actually, I was just chuckling at the irony of a situation; but when I finished reading, he asked me if I had any comment, I really wanted to comment, but my mouth said, "No, everything looks OK."
Sometimes during worship my mind wanders, and I'm supposed to be LEADING. In any church service, the total percentage of focus-on-the-Lord is less than 100%, likely way less; but also we tend to judge focus-on-the-Lord percentage not on the actual worship presented but on whether or not the people are responding to what WE are doing.
Jesus enjoyed two really different acts of worship -- one a lady dropping two coins in a box, plink, plink; the other a sinful man begging God for mercy. Neither one of these even qualified as a worshiper in the minds of most of those present.
If your regular church service is full of worshipers I would take them in there to mix with the rest of the congregation. Another idea is maybe ditch the format and go for a full on worship session until they follow along. Sometimes I have seen the schedule stifle true worship.
To be honest, you should be pleased to have a group of 14-17 year olds turning up. My advice? Talk to them. Get to know them. But don't expect them to do things the way you want them to, or expect them to. It's not all about singing, or raised hands, or closed eyes, or that stuff. It is about discipling them, so that they are still around when they get to 25, or 35, or 65. Most kids just need someone to talk to, and to listen to them. They need older role models. If you want them to follow where you lead, then they need to respect you first, and they won't respect you until they know you.
Don't sweat it.
Some people don't access/partake of music like us musicians do. Some folk get a lot from listening to worship music, but have a panic attack at the thought of singing along. It's kind of like my reaction to dancing at weddings. It's just not happening.
There's no reason you HAVE to worship through music, so celebrate their diversity, explore new ways to explore that aspect of their faith (if they have any). Why not break down some of the barriers by doing some games that involve decoding some of the worship buzz words. Look at what they mean and get them to explore how it applies to them, or if it doesn't.
Why not play a game where they have to decode a Psalm, get them to work in groups decoding what it would mean in todays language, translate it to something locally, personally even. By making the words mean something you can help them to relate to the songs. So even if they won't sing, they can agree in their minds and hearts.
let the group own the worship time, i.e.- invite members of the group to find a song that they have heard or like on CD. Perhaps a parents worship CD or a kids worship song they liked growing up. Get them to say what they liked about it and what it means to them. By the young person owning the process you will get less resistance, and more ownership.
just some thoughts....
Taking them to a large worship event could be a good thing but it depends on the dynamics of the group and the leadership.
I don't know these kids so I can't judge their hearts, nor do I want to. That being said, since worship is an outpouring of our response to God, perhaps they just don't experientially understand what it means to be in an intimate fellowship with God. It sounds harsher than I meant it. For me, it happened when I went to Russia on a short terms mission trip and saw some pretty amazing things and made me realize how much God truly cared for me despite how insignificant I was. For others it could be a loss of a loved one, a near death experience, seeing someone do a 180 degree turn after becoming saved, or a turning point where they have to make a hard decision. It doesn't have to be a drastic event, just experiences that cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up because you just know that God had a hand in either orchestrating something that occurred, or preventing something else from happening. These sorts of things can't be taught; they only happen out of life experiences. Well, that's not entirely true - it's those times when our core belief system becomes evident and we rely on it...teaching would be putting that in place long before it happens.
...Just to clarify...in no way do I equate participation in music with spirituality. Just because someone isn't singing, it doesn't mean they're not spiritual. On the other hand, people struggling with issues don't necessarily sing. I like what Daniel Read said above, "It is about discipling them, so that they are still around when they get to 25, or 35, or 65."
Alot of good ideas already but I would add to these, set a time of teaching on what Worship is, I mean the fulness of it, lifestyle praying singing all that is involved and that singing is just part of it. You say they are kind of a tight knit group, if you can get to one, they will all follow. Look to see who they gravitate to and focus on that one person, kind of a leader so to speak. I've seen this work in many situations not just youth, if they see someone they look up to doing it they will follow.
My son is on the Worship team both for adults and youth, he plays drums in the adult service and guitar for youth, many look to him because of his talent but he is able to use that to show them to join in. See if someone is willing to step out and join the Worship team and eventually get all youth doing worship, they are more likly to follow a youth worship team than an adult team, at least in my experience.
What is your operating definition of "worship" (in the context of a youth service)?
What do you look for that indicates worship? Their faces, their movements, their focused attention?
In what ways is it important to you that they step out of the "comfort zone" while worshiping God in music? Is there some reason that you emphasize this idea?
(I'm not trying to be belligerent, but I have a little "baggage" on this subject, having been subjected to youth leaders who would see people not moving very much and tells us we "weren't worshiping", and kept badgering us about it, while we only wanted them to keep quiet so we could worship God).
This is a good read on youth ministry and the young men in it...
Be sure and check out part two as well... Young men aren't necessarily drawn to long bouts of worship whereas some girls may be more inclined to enter in... I lead worship for 3 years (in a similar situation) in youth ministry and when I left the Teen Challenge Ministry Institute Bible College I just thought I'd play some songs on the guitar and sing and Revival would come. Teens are worried about being k0ol around each other. Don't push the issue just play 3 songs try to incorporate a song they might know from guitar hero to see if they respond to that.
Trust that God is moving even if we can't see people worshiping the way we'd expect. Sometimes in leading adult congregations I would run into a wall where I was trying to lead the people further in worship and for some reason they had their hearts made up (for whatever the reason) that we wouldn't go any further or worship any deeper. Sometimes there are just barriers.
Focus on good teaching, prayer, fun and games and a balanced solid ministry. Get to know the kids as best as you can.
What ever happened to the teenager who didn't care if he/she fit in? There were tons of us artsy-craftsies in the 60's that wouldn't wear sweatbands or bellbottoms or tiny-lens glasses, but we were just ourselves, and had no idea of what the Top 40 was. And we HATED the word "cool." Isn't there a parallel demographic today?
Perhaps the wrong place for this, but in reviewing the thread, and some other posts that discuss worship activities, some of you have expectations for your worship times that I've rarely seen in practice with adults, much less teens. If they sing out loud instead of glaring at me with their hands folded resolutely in their laps, that's a victory. Please don't assume that the absence of visuals equals the absence of the Holy Spirit. Unless of course that is your definition of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and that's a pretty small box.
Greg, you brought to mind what I observed some years ago. When we sang a yoodleboppy praise song, the youth, whom the youth pastored had corralled to sit by the window to the far front (now that I've been in the public school, I see this as a maneuver which prevents them from escaping), would be clapping and making faces that looked like singing (the music was too loud to hear actual singing). In the center, some of the righteous stood there with curled lip and folded arm. When we switched to a Hymn, instantly it switched. The Righteous in the center began to sing lustily, and the youth were restored to the traditional sullen glare with hands in pockets. When questioned about this scenario (sometimes I get up the chutzpah to question things), the Youth responded, "our music is sung TO God; theirs is merely ABOUT God." And the Righteous responded, "our music is sung TO God; many of these new songs have good words, but they are merely ABOUT God." And rarely has anyone supposed that a song can be both to and about God.