Back in October, we told you about a Vital Worship Grant that Mustard Seed School received from the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship with funds from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. The grant funds a one-year program to shake things up in Middle School worship. Create some holy disruptions by exposing students to different styles of Christian worship, including worship from other cultures.
On Friday, January 20th, gospel artist Trey McLaughlin spent the day with over 100 Mustard Seed middle school students (grades four through eight), teachers, and friends from local churches/organizations. It was the best kind of disruption! Gospel music. Dancing. Worship. Snacks. Pizza. (Singing works up an appetite!)
With exuberance and humor, Mr. McLaughlin taught us songs in three-part harmony. Pushed us to move with the music. To worship with our bodies as well as our voices.
“I want students to leave with a new appreciation of the relationship between music, movement, and spirituality,” says McLaughlin. “They may be reluctant to move, but they’re open to it, even if they’re unsure.”
Throughout the day, he prodded us to do more, go bigger. He gave opportunities to take “praise breaks” during the music where we could free style. Improvise. Own the worship. It was a big challenge, but we took some risks and stepped out of our comfort zones! (See the “Let Praises Rise” video below.)
McLaughlin’s quotable quotes from the day (sometimes said in a compelling British accent) include:
- “Use your body for expression. If you think that you’re doing enough, you’re probably not. You have to go farther! Give me drama now! Just make it sincere.”
- “Feel it in your bodies. You’re gonna feel absolutely silly. Do it! It’s going to be great!”
- “One more time and I want you to give me a bit more!”
I’m posting two videos from the day, one from the first session and one from the third and final session. You can see how students became increasingly comfortable with taking risks the more they worked with Mr. McLaughlin. The second video includes a “praise break” so you even get to see us experiment a little.
Here we’re learning “Chasing” first thing in the morning.
And later in the day, learning “Let Praises Rise.”
At the end of the school day, we came together for Middle School worship. We lifted our voices with the new songs of the day. And Mr. McLaughlin told us a bit about his faith journey. How during a time of trial in his freshman year of college, he decided to use music as a means to express his feelings to God.
Now he’s encouraged us to do the same.
What do our students think?
“It’s been a breath of fresh air, to sing gospel music and to get to try new things.” (Liam, 8th grade)
“He’s telling us to move and I like to put emotion into it.” (Callum, 8th grade)
“It’s like eating soul food, but it’s singing.” (Sam, 8th grade)
“He’s teaching us to not be embarrassed with what we sound like, but to go with the flow and jump out of our comfort zone.” (Shannon, 5th grade)
“Awesome. Really awesome.” (Anna, 5th grade)
“I love hearing him sing and having him help us.” (Caitlin, 5th grade)
It was an unforgettable day.
We extend our thanks to the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship and the Lilly Endowment, Inc. for making it possible. We’ll keep singing and worshipping!