All posts by Dr. Will Whittaker

About Dr. Will Whittaker

I'm a local church Minister of Music from the Atlanta area with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Church Music with specializations in worship and hymnology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Contact me at drwillwhittaker@gmail.com

Technology Tutorials- Young People Helping Older Adults

Lest you think that only adults can invest in children and students– think again. One of the main areas where children and students seem to be more proficient is technology. While there are doubtless many more areas of life children and students are capable of helping adults, there is no greater gap than in technology. Even I, as a Gen Xer, remember what it was like not to have a computer in my home, let alone the internet in the palm of my hand at any given moment. There are times I rely on my own children to help me navigate certain aspects of technology unfamiliar to me…and that’s totally okay.

I constantly hear from older adults in my church that tell me that their grandchild has helped them set up their phone or computer. It got me to thinking: I wonder if there are others in our church that might need the help from someone younger and more technologically savvy. I bet there are. Regularly offer opportunities or time frames for adults in your church who need technological help to get the help they need. While many adults are frustrated with technology that doesn’t seem to make sense to them, many young people don’t remember a world without technology at their fingertips and can help easily. It’s interesting to watch young people work with older adults when they know more than they do. Many young people don’t understand an older adult’s frustration and need to be coached on how to be patient and thorough when working with older adults on training them how to use their technology. Most of the time the result is a very grateful older person who is thrilled to be able to use their phone or computer and a young person who feels validated from helping someone. It’s a win-win.

Action Steps:

  1. Recruit willing technology helpers (can be all ages, so look for variety of ages).
  2. Decide what technology helps you might offer (help with phones or tablets or even computers. Could even be training to run audio, visuals, or lighting in your church.
  3. Publicize a time for technology training for older adults (or anyone who needs help).
  4. Prepare the trainers to ask specific questions not only about the problems they have with technology but other engagement questions to build relationships. For instance, where did you grow up? When did you come to faith? What is your favorite worship song? The list is endless…get creative.
  5. Make sure the trainers and trainees exchange contact information on a card that also includes at lease one prayer request for each person.
  6. Follow up

This is just one example of how young(er) people can serve older adults with some intentional steps to foster relationships between old and young in a very practical way. In fact I regularly depend on young people in my own church to train all ages with certain audio, visual, and lighting throughout our church campus. Young people want to serve; give them opportunities. The church of all ages seeks ways to promote ways that all people can serve each other through their own strengths.

Band and Orchestra Kids Go to Church (Part Two)

Practical Ways to Use Band and Orchestra Instruments in Church
Dr. Brian Reichenbach

For many churches, a real challenge to engaging band and orchestra instrumentalists is the contemporary style. How do we find a place for string and wind players in services that most often only include guitars, keys, and drums? Whether or not this is the style of music in your church, here are a few great ways to engage young instrumentalists:

  1. Prelude, postlude, or offertory. Instrumental music is perfect for these reflective or celebratory moments. These may or may not be part of your typical Sunday morning worship, but why not try something different every once in a while?
  2. Special seasons. Advent or Christmas are particularly good times to involve band and orchestra kids for several reasons: 1) The traditional, hymn-like genre is typically more accessible to traditionally trained musicians, 2) The music is super familiar to even the kids, 3) They love to practice these familiar songs, and 4) They might even be working on something in school that fits your service perfectly. Try taking a break from the usual worship band-led service and sing carols with instruments. The congregation will love the richness and variety this brings to their singing.
  3. Hymn services. Whatever time of year it is, go retro and sing a service or part of a service with classic hymns. Choose familiar ones, but also find hymns that are easily sung that are rich in theology and particularly fitting for the service.
  4. Youth services. Rather than just having the youth group band lead the service, why not also involve the band and orchestra kids? In fact, if you have a youth group band it would be great to develop worship leading skills of students who play band or orchestra instruments alongside the other instrumentalists and vocalists.
  5. In the worship band. Band and orchestra instruments add amazing color to contemporary worship ensembles—and I’m not just talking about a violin or cello that is often heard in some worship recordings. In the next post, I’ll discuss ways to help young instrumentalists add to the contemporary worship ensemble.

Navigating Conflict in Worship Ministry

Conflict- a difference of opinion involving strong emotions

Dealing with personal conflict is something all church leaders must navigate throughout their ministry. Conflict resolution begins with your own self-awareness and how you, as the leader, can control their behavior when conflict happens. It begins with a humble attitude. 

If you’re like me, my instincts are to respond as quickly as possible to someone who confronts me personally or through electronic means. This is not always wise, friends. No conflicts are ever won through electronic means. You must stop, pray, and calm down. However, sometimes people confront you personally, and you must learn not to react aggressively. My friend Jane Bishop is a Professional Coach for businesses and individuals. She has developed a valuable technique called SSR for helping leaders learn to respond rather than react. I challenge you to practice this technique when your emotions are triggered to RESPOND rather than REACT.

STOP – take a breath, do not speak, quiet your brain

SHIFT – make a physical shift. i.e., if you are standing, sit. Move your hand, wiggle a finger, etc.

RESPOND – in the split seconds that you have stopped your brain and made a physical shift, you have created space to respond rather than react. At times, the response may be to simply walk away. [i]

Music and worship style are often a hot topic in many churches as music tends to be an emotional subject for many. Since music is such a large part of what is altered during a merger of multiple styles of worship, you can expect to have to do more than just educate people on the merits of intergenerationality. There will be skeptics, and there will be those who are vehemently opposed to change. Some will send you emails or confront you personally. How you respond is crucial.

When I’ve had conflict that wasn’t immediate confrontation, I’ve asked myself a few questions first:

1) What is the root of the conflict?

2) Is the issue at hand really just an outgrowth of a deeper issue with them?

3) If the issue is an attack on the music I’ve picked or the people I’ve chosen to use in worship or any other decision I’ve made, how do I separate my personal feelings of offense or embarrassment that someone doesn’t like what I’ve done from the root of the actual issue?

4) If the problem is a personal attack on me or my family, how do I respond with grace and humility without getting angry? 5) How do I navigate this conflict so it’s a win-win for both sides?

Here’s what I suggest doing when confronted with conflict:

  1. Pray! Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Remember the goal is always unity.
  2. If the confrontation happens through electronic or written means, ask to meet personally with them and another person on your staff or leader. Meet in a neutral place and sit comfortably and relaxed. Your body language is important.
  3. If the point of conflict is clear, begin looking at it from their point of view. Seek to understand the root of the problem and why it means so much to them. Always remember to attack the problem, not the person.
  4. Do your homework. If you’ve made a change, you better know why you did and be able to justify it in humility. You need to be able to share calmly that you considered every possible angle you could before making the change. If things seem to be going well regarding the change, you can highlight that as well.
  5. Do not interrupt. This can be difficult if you’re feeling attacked. Let them finish.
  6. Paraphrase as you go along. “What I hear you saying is…,” or ask questions to provide clarity.
  7. Be open to suggestions. Often people who confront you just want to be heard. Seek to understand before being understood. They may bring some suggestions or points that you had not considered when making a change that affects them or a group of people. As the leader, you may decide that you need to modify something you’ve set in place.
  8. Be humble and full of grace, even if they are very angry.
  9. Try to end on a positive note. Be aware though, some people cannot be educated enough, heard enough, or pacified enough for you to make any real difference in their opinions. You must thank them for sharing with you and tell them again why you made the change and leave it alone.

[i] Jane Bishop, Leadership Coach, Take the Next Step, “SSR Technique,” 2010.