Praise-U! camp incorporates music and worship for teens

Peace Lutheran Church (PLC) in Coon Rapids gave teenagers the chance to explore music and worship through Praise-U! camp from July 30 to Aug. 3.

Praise-U! campers rehearse, with camper Keandre Mack on drums, Coach Mark Tobler on electric guitar, director of Praise-U! Doug Ness on keyboard and camper Ben DeGroat on saxophone. Photo courtesy of Doug Ness

Praise-U! campers rehearse, with camper Keandre Mack on drums, Coach Mark Tobler on electric guitar, director of Praise-U! Doug Ness on keyboard and camper Ben DeGroat on saxophone. Photo courtesy of Doug Ness

Praise-U! was specifically designed for teenagers who desire to participate in contemporary praise and worship bands.

PLC ReNew! Ministries Director Doug Ness said the six teens of Praise-U! met from 6 to 9 p.m. each day and began with a time of worship led by professional musicians and teachers. Afterwards, each teen was paired with a musician that taught their respective instrument and were coached on the music they were learning for 45 minutes. The group would then join together for full-band practice as well as discussions about worship. Ness said they discussed what worship is, how music is important for worship and what their role is as musical leaders in a worship environment.

“We’re trying to do more than teach them to play music; you can go anywhere and do that. What we’re trying to do is help them learn about the things that are important for doing music as worship,” he said.

For Praise-U!, Ness said he uses the term worship leader in a more general sense, rather than the strict meaning of the one or two individuals that lead a congregation in a worship service.

“Some of them will blossom to be worship leaders in a strict sense, but for the rest of them they’re still filling a real important role, which is helping the congregation enter into worship. That’s part of what we’re trying to teach them,” he said.

During Praise-U!, teens also worked with PLC Senior Pastor Rev. Nancy Bence to coordinate the chosen songs for a Sunday service Aug. 5.

Most of the Praise-U! teens have been playing their instrument for three to four years and have experience performing in an ensemble. This is an appropriate level for teens to quickly learn the material and have fun, according to Ness. Several Praise-U! teens are also participants in PLC’s Praise 365 youth band.

Praise-U! was not limited to teens from PLC, but was open to all musicians entering ninth- through 12th-grade this fall.

Samuel Kropacek, 14, does not attend PLC but said he signed up for Praise-U! because he enjoys having the chance to play trombone in an ensemble.

The camp was originally scheduled as a day camp, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day instead of in the evening. Ness said they changed the time as teens expressed difficulty with fitting an entire week of Praise-U into their summer schedule.

Although he said there’s much more the camp could cover than could be fitted into three hours a night, Ness admitted the quick format could be beneficial.

“In the three-hour format it moves quickly, so we go from idea to idea, and that’s kind of good for young folks too because it keeps things fresh and fun,” Ness said.

Praise-U had a different schedule on Wednesday, halfway through the camp. Vocal Coach Judy Porter led teens in a time focused solely on singing and vocal tips before they worked to plan the service and rehearse.

Porter is the worship leader for the 11 a.m. ReNew! service featuring contemporary gospel music. While voice was not the main instrument for most of the teens, several of them do sing or play another instrument in addition to the one they brought to camp.

Porter also taught teens how to develop a correct singing posture and find the harmony in a song.

The cost of the camp per student was $200. This is the first year PLC has offered Praise-U! and Ness said it hopes to expand the camp in the future.

“The goal ultimately is to expand this program so we can help other churches and other youth learn to play contemporary Christian music in ensembles and bands… it’s fun, it’s a good thing,” he said.

Bethany Kemming is at bethany.kemming@ecm-inc.com

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