The bell rings for lunch, and the students stream out of their classrooms. As I make my way from my office to the staff lunch room, I am stopped by a student who asks, “When can I be in chapel again?” I chat with the student for a while, and continue on. Ten steps later, another student stops me. “I have a great song that I would love to sing in chapel.” I get the information from the student and continue to the lunch room. Although this scenario doesn’t happen every day, it happens far more times than I ever imagined. Students are excited to be involved in worship!
I expect most Christian educators would agree that worship plays a formative role in the faith development of our young people. In the book Shaped by God, Robbie Castleman writes, “Life is liturgy. Life has patterns that shape us more and for a lot longer than we ever realize. It is no wonder that liturgy – the pattern of corporate worship – shapes our faith formation more than we ever realize” (Keeley 72).
But what impact does worship have within our Christian schools, and do we have a vision for the role of corporate worship in our school communities? What are the implications of having students involved in leading worship and the time commitment involved? Is it worth the time, the money, and the effort?
At Unity Christian High School, maintaining a culture of worship is a significant part of our overall vision. Worship plays an important role in the faith formation of our students and we see firsthand that worship forms our school community. This has helped us affirm our commitment to worship. At our school, we meet for chapel four mornings a week—Monday through Thursday. Chapel is considered to be the second class period of our day. This daily schedule allows worship to be a part of the natural rhythm of our day. It is a healthy daily habit that shapes our lives and our school. More importantly, we have found that having students lead each other in corporate worship has proved to be enormously effective in maintaining a culture of worship in our school. Allowing and encouraging students to participate in leadership roles of worship has blessed our school and engaged our students in a way that has been transformative.
Recently, one of our Bible teachers conducted an informal survey with our junior class. Students were asked if they would like to have chapel less often during the week. Overwhelmingly, the students responded that they preferred to meet for chapel daily. One of the biggest challenges of my job as chapel coordinator is to incorporate all the students who want to be involved. I also keep a file of the notes I have received from students over the years expressing appreciation for our worship and the impact chapel has had on student’s lives. This is further affirmation of the effect of corporate, student-led worship in the lives of our students.
Often we associate student involvement in worship with a praise band—playing the piano, guitar, or drums. While this is an excellent way to involve students in worship, our goal is to allow students to participate actively in all aspects of worship. Consider the worship experience in our churches. When we come together as God’s people, we listen to a call to worship, we praise, we confess, and we are given God’s assurance of forgiveness. We hear the word of the Lord spoken, and we respond to that word. We also receive God’s blessing. In our school, all of these aspects of worship are conducted by students. This has created a culture of worship where students are excited to come to chapel and to take on leadership responsibilities.
In order to enable students to be successful in these leadership roles, our school teaches our students about worship, including why we worship, how we worship, and the purpose of worship.