Reshaping the Church

Dance ministry moves audiences, teachers and students

Posted June 10, 2024

by Heidi Mosher

Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise His name with dancing…” Photo by Quinn Dunton for YWAM

Dance delivers impact, especially when fueled by faith. Whether performing on stage, teaching in a village overseas or practicing in a studio, dancers can incorporate their gift and skill into God-glorifying ministry.

Monica Lefmann understands dance as ministry for the audience, the instructor and even for the dancer. She moves as a performer and teacher and has been moved herself through the art form.

Lefmann was first enrolled in a jazz class at age 5 due to her energy level, she said in an interview with Koinesúnē. That was over 25 years ago and she has been performing ever since.

“I was constantly drawn to the stage,” Lefmann said.

Lefmann trained in modern, ballet, contemporary and jazz at a Christian performing arts studio and has been teaching for the past six years, she said.

Dance as Missions

Lefmann said she joined Youth With A Mission at 19, where she first understood how to use her gift as a tool for ministry.

“Dance became bigger than me just dancing for praise or entertainment,” Lefmann said.

With a group of YWAM dancers equipped with the tool of dance to share the gospel, Lefmann said she traveled overseas. Since art draws attention, the group accomplished outreach through dance performances leading to opportunities for sharing testimonies.

“When I have felt lost or broken, dance has been a way to express what words cannot,” Lefmann said.

She now feels called to disciple others to share the gospel through movement. Currently, Lefmann leads a YWAM dance ministry that trains and sends dancers into ministry and short-term missions.

“Dance is a language of our hearts, a shared language,” Lefmann said. “When there are no words, movement can be used to connect with people.”

Lefmann illustrated the power of dance in a missions experience she witnessed at a safehouse for young women. Although in a country that prohibited sharing the gospel, Lefmann worked to build a relationship of trust and friendship with these women. They knew Lefmann was a Christian and a dancer, but the women had only experienced the broken side of dance, which led some to the safehouse.

“One day it was pouring rain outside, and I felt, at that moment, the Lord guiding me to go outside and dance,” Lefmann recalled. “I was very hesitant at first as it was raining and cold! Eventually, when I was obedient, I went outside and began to dance.”

One of the girls living in the safehouse watched from the doorway, then after encouragement from Lefmann, joined her outside.

“We began to jump and dance in the rain,” Lefmann said. “The laughter and joy that came out of her was the first time she experienced joy through dance.”

Lefmann said her companion was completely freed in Christ from the pain and suffering that dance previously brought.

From Psalm 30:11 “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing…” Pictured are Monica Lefmann, Kyla Praetzel and Saige Wichael. Photo by Quinn Dunton for YWAM

Ministry as a Teacher

Dance can be redeemed in the classroom too.

“While I teach every class, whether in a Christian setting or not, I always invite the Lord in,” Lefmann said.

Though dance can be beautiful art, it can also come with brokenness. Experiences in a studio or a company sometimes leave artists feeling empty and striving to be the best.

As a teacher, Lefmann strives to create a place of healing for her students, free from body-image struggles, she said. She wants dancers to know that comparison has no place in the studio.

While dancers strive for excellence and challenge themselves, perfection is not possible, Lefmann said.

“My heart is to show dancers that they are created in the image of God,” Lefmann said. “I want them to experience freedom through movement and to encounter the Holy Spirit — even in a technique class. The most important thing I want any dancer to know is that you could be the best, most technical dancer, but before you are a dancer, you are a child of God.”

Opportunities for Dance Ministry

Many Christian dance companies, like Arrows International, Ad Deum Dance Company and YWAM School of Dance Ministries, where Lefmann serves, train in technique and dance ministry.

Dancers who do not have access to such organizations can still use dance for ministry, Lefmann said.

“Are there people who you could teach dance to?” Lefmann encouraged. "Is there an opportunity to share a dance based on your testimony? Begin to create movement, expressions of who God is through dance. Continue to work on your technique, but allow the Lord to grow you.”

“When we have a deeper understanding of who the Lord is and a Biblical foundation, we can create out of that.” She noted that heart posture is most important and should be the same when dancing alone or in front of hundreds of people. “Our art will reflect where our heart is,” she added.

From Psalm 95:6: “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!” Photo by Quinn Dunton for YWAM

Lefmann said that any form of dance — ballet, hip hop, modern — can be used for worship to physically display praise in an outward expression.

“Dance is one of the most vulnerable and beautiful forms of worship when we aren't dancing for ourselves or for others,” Leffman said, “but for the Lord.”

Heidi Mosher finds joy and rest knowing that every single day is a day that the Lord has made. She strives to point readers to the delights of beauty and mercy. Heidi writes from Michigan with eyes on the promise of a heavenly home.