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Holland College’s ‘Awakening’ Equips Youth in Worship Arts

Holland College’s ‘Awakening’ Equips Youth in Worship Arts
Awakening participants worshiping at Lake Michigan.
Photo by Jim De Boer

The Awakening Institute, a summer worship arts camp at Hope College in Holland, Mich., is helping shape young worship leaders. In June, 55 high school students, including 14 from Christian Reformed congregations, attended Awakening’s third annual session.

Over the course of six days, these students, hailing from five states, participated in a wide array of worship. Three area churches replicated their services especially for Awakening participants—a Reformed Church of America church with a liturgical style of worship, a Wesleyan church with a contemporary style, and a Roman Catholic church.

In workshops, students delved deeper into various worship-related topics including theology, preaching, music (from guitar to organ), visual arts, and dance. Highlights of the week included worshiping on the shores of Lake Michigan and the Festival of Worship, a student-led worship service at the end of the week for family and friends.

“One of the primary goals of Awakening is to have students understand and know the voice of God in their lives in the midst of cacophony of sounds and distractions that come around them, and to be able to listen to him,” said Jim De Boer, institute director. Other top goals, he said, are to nurture students’ gifts and “understand more deeply what worship means.” Participants often report increasing their worship leadership in their youth groups, churches, and schools after Awakening, De Boer said.

Johanna Boelema, 17, a member of Bauer CRC in Hudsonville, Mich., attended Awakening for the second time this June. She was attracted to Awakening specifically because it was “a worship-based camp and not a music-based camp.” She is looking forward to leading more school chapels, where she hopes to expose her fellow students to some of the different styles of worship that she learned about, “showing kids that there’s a multitude of ways to worship God,” she said.

In 2016, Hope College received a $500,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., to help fund the Awakening Institute. These funds will continue to support Awakening through 2019.

“This is about faith formation. This is training the next generation of worship leaders. That’s what gets me so excited,” said De Boer. “These kids are so on fire for God and are so loving what the church can be.”

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