Camp equips students for worship leadership

IRVING, Texas ? With churches seeking staff members and leaders who have experience in a variety of ministry and worship styles, the need for a venue to train students in different ministry areas found its answer in a new leadership camp. Summer Worship University (SWU), the brain-child of SBTC Church Ministry Support Associate Ken Lasater, seeks to train students in the fields of music, worship and technology. This year, 32 youth from 13 churches enrolled in the first annual camp held at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, July 7-12.

“Agreatnumber ofchurches are looking for leaders to fill staff positions who have broad concepts of ministry and worship,” Lasater said. “Our vision was to provide avenues of training that would prepare students to return to their church with tools and skills to be used of the Lord in ministry at the end of the week.”

These tools, aimed at helping students discover their “reasonable service in worshipping the Lord,” include training in the areas of media and technology in the church, fellowship, recreation, vocal and instrumental music,and drama.

“For several months we have planned for SWUwith the understanding that the Lord would bring to this camp thosestudents that he is beginning to set aside for leadership. It was our responsibility to train them for service,” he added.

The theme of this year’s SWU was “Worship: It’s Not About You,”focusing on Micah 6:6-8, which urges believers to worship through righteousness, mercy and a humble spirit.

Lasater said daily quiet times, inspirational messages and energetic praise kept the focus ontwo things: 1) learning to recognize God’s desire for each student to be a church leader, and 2) preparing to be ready for use in whatever area God chooses.

Since the closing session of SWU, camp participant Sarah Stanridge of John Ralston United Baptist Church, Houston, has organizeda regular youth worship and Bible study time on Wednesday nights. Previously this time had been used mostly for open basketball and a short devotional. Stanridge also recruited friends to help write and perform a drama as a part of the church’s regular worship services on Sunday mornings.

Standridge’s mother, Debbie, who is also the wife of United’s pastor, stated that SWU made a “profound difference” in her daughter who has begun to impact the church’s youth department. “This new enthusiasm is spreading through our children and adults and is beginning a renewal of spirit to our entire church.”

Currently, Standridge is organizing a praise band and a puppet ministry.

“I am very proud of Sarah’s involvement in all this,” she said. “I understand, however, that this is the result of God’s leading and provision. God opened minds and made willing hearts to be receptive to these new ideas and ministries, and the preparation was given through your work at SWU.”

Acclaimed youth communicator Ronnie Hill served as the camp’s pastor and the Louisana-based worship group “Elijah’s Cry” led in worship throughout the week. Media Strategist Lee Miller, who coordinated much of the distribution of the Jesus Video Project in Texas and media coverage coordinator for NASA during the recent loss of the shuttle Columbia, provided training for media and technical equipment. Miller works with Media Services Group out of Lufkin, Texas.

Additionally,the duo drama team SKITZO led the drama students during the week, and helped them write and present several original skits and dramatic pieces, in addition to leading skits in SWU worship services. Bill Ballinger, on staff at First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., served as SWU’s orchestra director.

Next year, Lasater said SWU will include classes and labs on directing, song writing and worship planning.Students will be shown basic directing and then will be given the opportunity to direct the group to develop their skills. The students in the worship planning session will plan worship services, making connections and working with worship teamsduring the week.

“My hope is that therewill be some original music written at the beginning of the week that can be scored,distributed and learned – to be presented at the end of the week,” he said. “The student teamswill be placed in churches at the end of the week to leadthe servicesthatthey have planned. We expect that this will benefit the churches in which they are placed, but will also benefit their home churches in tremendous ways, as the students return home.”

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