Washington said students started showing an interest in developing their talents and thought it would be a good way to get more students involved in weekly worship services. He decided to post a sign-up sheet to get a list of those interested. He spoke with each student to discuss their motivations and level of commitment before beginning the weekly sessions.
Currently, five students are included in each group. The sessions start out with a prayer, and Washington said the group visits a particular scripture to get them focused and remind them of their reasons for their work. The scripture reads:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Timothy 4: 12-16
During the spoken word/rap session, Washington will have beats prepared for the group and they begin working together to create a song. Each student contributes lyrics to the song, whether through freestyling or through writing their lyrics during the session. Washington helps the students with stage presence, their delivery and articulation as well as how to hold a microphone and how to recover if you mess up.
For praise dance, Washington said one of the girls has stepped up to become a leader of the group by developing choreography and teaching the dance to the others. Washington oversees the group, leads practices and offers encouragement.
“The goal is for the youth to become a regular participant in the worship services,” Washington said. “I want to eventually get to a point where we can also do things in the community and minister to other youth groups and participate in concerts in the city.”
Washington said the experience has given the performers a level of accountability while also providing a good example to the other students in the worship services.
“It has had a two-fold affect,” he explained. “It is a blessing for the kids to see their peers living in the same type of situation going through similar things to express their faith. They enjoy it and are able to relate to them. And for the kids serving in worship service, they learn that it is more than just holding a mic. They have to look at the standards in which they live.”