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Rock of all Ages

Patty Smith

Preteens and Passion
Preteen worship is Yancy's passion. "It's important to me to communicate to preteens that God knows everything about them," she says. "He does have the answer for everything they'll ever face. He is relevant to their lives."

To create preteen worship that rocks, follow these pointers:

Help preteens understand why we worship. Yancy recommends starting with the Psalms, letting preteens dig into David's words and apply them to how preteens can worship God today. "If preteens understand the importance of worship by the time they graduate from our kids' programs," she says, "they help set the example and raise the bar of worship as they move into middle school ministry and beyond."

Choose relevant worship songs. Yancy's motto "No lame, no cheese" highlights the need to identify what's musically "cool" to today's preteens. She meets twice a year with a few kids in her ministry to review the current worship songs and preview new tunes to add to the roster. During get-togethers, kids reveal their favorite songs and identify tired ones.

"Anything that wears out its welcome weakens its impact," Yancy says. She suggests shelving worn-out songs and bringing them out once or twice a year so kids can savor them again. For great preteen worship songs, check out Yancy's Stars, Guitars and Megaphone Dreams.

Be a student of preteen culture. Survey the kids in your ministry about their favorites in a wide range of categories (TV shows, music, cartoon characters, magazines, clothing, online hangouts, and more). Tabulate the results and use the data to inform your music choices. Just remember that what's cool today may not be cool tomorrow, and your favorite songs and styles may not be theirs.

Let preteens see your heart in authentic ways. Communicate that leading worship isn't performing but rather responding to God's love through music and movement. Make eye contact with kids and use their names. Encourage participation by asking preteens to sing along. When leading a new or unfamiliar song, Yancy guides kids by shouting "Repeat after me" and then singing line by line. Kids follow her lead, singing, swaying, and moving to the music. "It's in these worshipful moments when God smiles," Yancy says.

Be bold! Leading preteens in powerful worship experiences requires leaders to step out of their comfort zones and into kids' world. Leaders need the determination to try new things, the courage to fail, and the humility to evaluate what's no longer relevant.

Know your audience. Good preteen worship leaders can read cues that signal when kids are getting it and when they aren't. Leaders also must know how to quickly respond with adjustments and redirection. To refocus a worship experience, Yancy asks a question, shares a Scripture, reminds kids about the purpose of worship, or gets kids interacting. These positive strategies allow preteens to make discoveries about faith, truth, and the God they serve.

As Yancy travels the globe performing concerts and leading worship for kids and families, she holds onto discoveries she made as a child. In her for-kids devotional Rock-n-Happy Heart, she writes:

"'On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.' Jesus, You are my Rock. My foundation. My hope is found in you. You heal the brokenhearted. You restore my joy and my strength. Your dreams for me are bigger than my own. Help me to love you more every day of my life so I can experience all that you have in store for me. The best is yet to come. I believe it."

We can help kids discover that same hope, joy, and strength in God through intentional worship experiences designed specifically for them. What are we waiting for? Let's get rockin'!

Patty Smith is the director of Children and Family Ministries in the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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