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People often ask me: “How did you get into ministry?"

I have to pause because it’s difficult to explain what it’s like to feel like I have always belonged in the worship life of the church (even from my earliest memories). My home church of 1st CRC in Denver, Colorado spoke into and invested into my calling to ministry from a young age. Before my feet hit could touch the floor, I was on the bench playing songs for offertories. I sang in Part 1 for the children’s choir and Soprano for the adult choir on the same Sunday. I accompanied evening worship with hands too small to play all four parts. There was never a moment I did not feel like I not only belonged there, but was invited to be an active participant in the worship life of the congregation. 

I recently had a wonderful conversation with Jim DeBoer, director of the Awakening Program at Hope College. Awakening is a week of learning, discerning, and growing for teens grades 9 to 12. High school students with worship interests and worship gifts arrive in West Michigan during the summer to not only grow their skills as worship leaders, but to engage in faith formative practices like prayer and personal devotions.

Mornings are spent on spiritual formation and afternoons are spent on practical, worship formation. Coming from diverse ecumenical backgrounds, students are introduced to various worship styles and encouraged to engage them in a “below the surface” way, beyond music styles and preference.

Throughout the week, students have ample opportunities to interact with mentors and teachers whose primary goal is to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ (with the secondary goal of developing gifts). DeBoer said their dream is that in years to come, denominations and churches see how this program raises up the next generation of worship leaders that serve not only with talent, but with heart. 

In 2021 and 2022, 16 of the 83 high schoolers were from Christian Reformed Churches. Awakening hopes to continue drawing in CRC youth for their event this summer in June. Scholarship funds are available with the application and spots are filling up quickly. The registration deadline is May 14. 

If you have high school students with gifts and an interest in worship, consider checking out this opportunity as a way to invest in them personally and invest in the long term worship life of the Church. This could be a unique opportunity for your congregation to start raising up young leaders and equipping them with the spiritual and practical skills they need to be lifelong worshipers.

If you want to learn more, check out the Awakening website or contact Jim DeBoer at [email protected].

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