In the Old Testament, King David, in spite of his failures, grew to be a great man, a man after God’s own heart. Over the course of his life, David’s driving passion was to praise God. David praised God when he faced danger and hardship (even hardships of his own design). He praised God when he enjoyed safety and prosperity. Whether in despair or reveling in joy, even when he felt abandoned to the depths, David offered up praise. He recognized that God is God. He understood God’s divine sovereignty, grace, wrath, and love.
Many of the Psalms describe worship in the congregation of the saints. Such praise involved singing, dancing, shouting, drums, horns, cymbals, and harps. (Psalm 150, 108, 57, etc.) In many of the most vivid Psalms, David sings praise to God in a very personal way. “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God I will praise His Word, In God I have put my trust…” (Psalm 56:3-4) Praise was important for David. No matter what the setting–whether he was in his room alone or dancing for all he was worth–David praised God. Whether deeply contrite, reverent or subdued, loud, vociferous and musical, David’s praise directed to an AUDIENCE OF ONE. Not for his own fun, or purpose, or relevance, or contemporary motivation, or traditional connection, but because God is God and as such demands the fear of those who worship Him.
PRAISING an AUDIENCE of ONE is what POWERHOUSE is all about.
In January of 2004, after twelve months of planning, recruitment, and training, POWERHOUSE began. POWERHOUSE is best described as an innovative praise and celebration service designed for young people at Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Charles, MO. POWERHOUSE is not designed to replace divine worship. POWERHOUSE seeks to shatter the “church is for grown-ups” stereotype and facilitates youth in celebrating God’s presence and honoring Him with their gifts and talents. Taking on a variety of styles, from contemporary to liturgical, high Church to “campy,” POWERHOUSE is designed to teach youth what it means to praise God in all things.
What distinguishes POWERHOUSE from a typical youth meeting is its purely vertical focus. Youth meetings generally abound in horizontal aspects: games, crowd breakers, Bible studies, and small group discussions. These aspects bring young people together for a chance to get to know one another, to learn together, to build a sense of community. POWERHOUSE directs participants’ attention to higher things, to the true source, to God.
Each POWERHOUSE is based on a biblical theme and contains four different forms of praise: celebration, reflection, symbolic action, and declaration. “Celebration” usually involves music and focuses on joyful expressions of praise. “Reflection” focuses on the inner experience of contemplation and consideration of one’s daily life and choices when confronted by the Word, and uses silence, readings, dramas, videos, and other thought provoking experiences. “Symbolic Action” involves rituals that focus on symbols of Christian faith. These rituals might include re-enacting biblical events or creating symbols that remind participants of the Word and Sacraments, the promises and commandments of God. “Declaration” focuses on making bold statements of faith or committing to obey God’s Word in daily life and praying for direction in sanctified living.
Even though each POWERHOUSE service contains all of these elements, each service does not look alike. Some services have several activities, while others have only a few. Sometimes, the four elements are addressed separately, other times they are combined in creative ways. The result? Each POWERHOUSE service is unique, providing young people a powerful opportunity to praise God in creative and meaningful ways.
POWERHOUSE meets once a month and involves over forty young people and adults in different leadership roles. Each POWERHOUSE service requires 10-20 hours of preparation, planning, and implementation.
POWERHOUSE happens through the efforts and service of five leadership teams: the Tech-Team, Drama-Team, Music-Team, Prayer-Team, and Connect-Team. Each team has an adult leader who serves as a guide for the group of young people. Youth involvement on these teams varies in its commitment and role.
The TECH-TEAM is responsible for all things technical: audio set-up, lighting, video work, and PowerPoint presentations.
The DRAMA-TEAM seeks to proclaim God’s Word with dramatic flare: skits, miming, one-acts, reader’s theatre, and dance.
The MUSIC-TEAM is made up of our POWERHOUSE band (bass guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums, and piano) and POWERHOUSE singers (typically a group of 4-5 youth). The music team rehearses twice a month and meets two hours before each POWERHOUSE for a sound check with the tech team and a final run-through.
The PRAYER-TEAM prays without ceasing! (At least, that is their goal.) They pray for the planning, the participants, and the leaders involved in POWERHOUSE. On occasion, this team also writes prayers for use during the service.
The CONNECT-TEAM helps participants feel welcomed and valued. This is a fundamental role because, as studies have demonstrated, a young person is more likely to become theologically aware of God’s love if he/she feels included in the experience of the group. The connect-team creatively greets worshipers, encourages student interaction, and helps provide visitors and new students with appropriate information and intentional connection to others in the crowd.
The youth and leaders involved in POWERHOUSE have one focus: PRAISING an AUDIENCE of ONE.
And God has blessed it. When POWERHOUSE was first created, it was designed specifically for teenagers. God had bigger plans. God has revealed that POWERHOUSE can be an intergenerational ministry. The worshipping community at a POWERHOUSE service is comprised of more than simply teenagers; it includes parents, grandparents, friends, and children. As such, it is not a stand-alone youth experience, but a shared experience that further engages Immanuel’s young people to use their gifts and talents in serving the whole of the congregation. By God’s direction, POWERHOUSE is connecting youth and families together in innovative praise and celebration directed at an AUDIENCE of ONE.
thESource is published on the Web by LCMS District and Congregational Services–Youth Ministry. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295; 1-800-248-1930; www.lcms.org. Editor: Gretchen M. Jameson; Assistant Editor: Dawn Cornelius-Gaunt; Layout: Gretchen M. Jameson. VOL. 2 NO. 5 March 2005.