In the past few weeks I have had the pleasure to be a part of two XLT worship events. The first was at my own parish as we kicked off a new Semester, and the other was hosted by the Diocese of Phoenix and Life Teen International. If you are not familiar with XLT, it is a Praise and Worship event that begins with high-energy music followed by a powerful talk and concluding with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It’s amazing to see young people drawn to the Eucharist through this powerful means of fellowship, prayer and thanksgiving.
Being a musician, it is amazing to see so many young people entering in to a worship experience fully, consciously and actively. Music can really draw teens in to the experience of meeting the living God face to face in the Eucharist. Some musicians and youth Ministers have inquired as to what makes an XLT run smoothly in regards to music, so here are a few tips that I can offer:
- Have a good, spirit-filled Worship Leader/Worship Band
Usually XLT has a full band consisting of a worship leader, guitar, keys, bass and drums. It is so important that the Worship Leader/Worship Band aren’t performing, but leading the teens into prayer through the worshipfulness of the music. The song selection of a good majority of songs that the teens know is key to the success of full and active participation by the youth. Adding in a new song or two is great, but too many new songs can hinder the participation of the teens.
- Make sure the A/V is quality
As always, we need to do our best to make our music sound as good as it can and a big part of that is having the proper PA equipment as well as good visual projection of lyrics for worship songs that can be easily seen by all. The music can be executed really well, but a poor sound system or an inexperienced sound tech who doesn’t know the songs or song order can make it uncomfortable and not as effective in reaching the teens.
- Dynamics are key to leading worship at XLT
The music has an ebb and flow with seamless transitions from one song to the next using dynamics to better draw teens into worship. At the beginning of the night the music is high energy for a few songs and then ramps down after four or five songs into a more “middle of the road” worship song to draw the teens into deeper prayer. One suggestion is to have your set list planned out ahead of time and have one instrument continue to play after each song is over as a layer to begin the next song.
For example, if the first song is in the key of “G Major” and the second song you pick can be done in the same key, having one instrument, like a keyboard pad, hold out and continue to play while the guitarist starts the tempo of the next song right over it, this helps to remove “dead space” and keeps the prayer moving seamlessly from one song to the next. If the key of the song changes, which more often than not it will, the keyboard pad or guitar can transition into the next key and then the rest of the band can join in after the first part of the song is sung. Short, spoken prayers offered by the worship leader to refocus the teens between songs during the transition time can really help the prayer as well.
- Change the feel of the music for Adoration
After the speaker inspires the teens with a challenging talk, the musicians lead a time of adoration that consists of a Eucharistic song as the Blessed Sacrament is processed in by a Priest or Deacon. There is also a time of silence to allow the Lord to speak to the teens’ hearts in the still presence of the Blessed Sacrament. The music that is used in adoration has a different character and feel than the music use at the beginning of the night, leading the teens deeper and deeper into prayer. The band will play a lot less than they do at the start of the night and some members, such as the drummer and bassist, may “lay out” completely of several songs.
Some may say, why not just have silent adoration throughout this time of prayer? It is vital to remember that teens are being introduced to adoration and the prayerfulness of the music leads them to focus their full attention on the Eucharist, while still respecting a time of silence. The Adoration usually ends chanting the Tantum Ergo in Latin and singing the Divine Praises. Matt Maher has a great setting of the Divine Praises that medley’s into the refrain of Third Day’s “King of Glory.”
- Ramp up the energy at the closing of the night
After the Blessed Sacrament is processed out or reposed, another high-energy song or two is led by the music group. My experience has always been that this is a great time of exultation and joy. Pull out all the stops and encourage the teens to enter in with a spirit of zeal and wonder of the Sacrament that we just worshipped and adored – our God, truly present in His most Holy Body and Blood! What a gift, so let’s celebrate Him!
We need to do our best to offer young people experiences of God that will ultimately lead them closer to Christ and his Church, and most especially, the Eucharist.