I think every Minister of Music or Worship Leader/Pastor should get outside the church and spend some time with students each year. Why? Because you need to see that students are not only our future worship leaders and participants, but they are the church of NOW!
I just spent last week with several hundred music students (12 from our church) from across the state of Georgia at our music camp sponsored by the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. From choirs, orchestras, praise teams, vocal ensembles, handbells, drama, audio/video instruction, these students have opportunities to hone their gifts for service in their local churches and beyond.
Each year I’m amazed at the passion and excitement I see from these students. The quality of training they receive is stellar. Some of the best in our field give of their time (mostly uncompensated) to invest in our next generations. I’ve had the privilege of serving on the faculty for several years now and I can say I’m encouraged each and every year by the talent and potential of so many of the students. In fact I believe that given the opportunity, many of these students could (and should) be used at this moment in their local churches.
My question to you Worship Pastor/Minister of Music: what are YOU doing to integrate these students into worship leadership at your church? Sure, it’s great to have graded choirs and youth choirs, but some of the more “gifted” students in your ministry should be playing piano and/or accompanying for a group in your church. The student with the great voice could sing on one of your praise teams, or the talented students who are interested in audio/visual ministry could serve in some way. What are you doing to ensure this happens?
Because intergenerational philosophy is so crucial to our mission, I seek to find ways to use our students every chance I get. We have student accompanists, use students for vocal teams/solos, and students for audio/visual ministry. I’m convinced that their involvement in our ministry as young people impress on their hearts the need to serve beyond their high school years. Truthfully, isn’t it worth it to invest in even a few students if someone gets plugged in for life? If not, the church of tomorrow will be severely lacking musicians. I don’t want to get into a debate about style of worship or musical styles because I believe there is room in our churches for varying expressions of music, but doesn’t it make sense to provide opportunities for the greatest number of students to participate? Certainly extremely talented musicians should have greater responsibility as needed, but don’t forget the moderate level musician in your church, my friend! We need all kinds in the body of Christ, and that extends to music ministry also.
At our church, we aim to involve as many students in worship leadership. For us, that means that we use choir and orchestra and graded choirs, etc. to fulfill the intergenerational philosophy we hold dear. This doesn’t mean that churches that don’t mimic our structure can’t invest in students, but I’ve found this is an excellent way to integrate the most people in our fellowship. I want to foster an environment that seeks to honor the giftedness of all and make a logic way for them to serve.
The pressure, worship leader, is undoubtedly high in your church to produce an excellent “product” each week. Taking a “training” approach to music ministry, like I have, takes guts and a supportive staff (my pastor is my biggest fan). The beginning product might not be awesome, but keep plugging away, training, investing, and praying for God to move and the quality will continue to rise if you raise the bar high and encourage along the way.
I often tell people, I’ve had/have key people in my life that invest/invested in me. They saw something in me that needed to be utilized for the building of the Kingdom. I think of them often and remind them of their specific encouragement and “risk” they took letting me accompany or sing when I didn’t even think I was ready. Because of their investment in me, I’m able to invest in our next generations. One generation to the next…
Psalm 145:4-6 (ESV)
4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.