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Band and Orchestra Kids Go To Church (Part 3)

Tips for Adding Band and Orchestra Kids to the Worship Team
by Dr. Brian Reichenbach

Believe it or not, there are excellent ways to engage a variety of instruments in a contemporary style ensemble. But if you don’t have any experience with band or orchestra instruments, this can be be daunting, and making it accessible for young musicians can be even more challenging. What follows are some general guidelines and places to begin:

  1. Provide the right written tools. As I mentioned in the first post, we must be mindful of a young (or old) instrumentalist’s proficiency in reading written music or lead sheets. The most common challenge (and one that often stops band kids from even trying this) is transposition or clefs. For example, a clarinetist typically reads music transposed up a step and a violist typically reads alto clef. You may have to do a little bit of homework with the help of Google, a local music teacher, or music notation software.
  2. Ask them to do something within their ability. An acoustic wind or string instrument adds color unlike anything else in the typical worship band. For that reason, what they play does not need to be anything super technical. A simple lick adds a lot to the texture and prevents the student from becoming overwhelmed.
  3. Reimagine electric guitar, pads, or other lines. Oftentimes, these are simple and repetitive lines of music that can be easily played by a wind or string instrument. Also, a string instrument’s line on a recording might work for a different wind instrument. For example, a violin layer could work well on flute, or a cello pad could be covered by a good euphonium player.
  4. Find the jazz band kids. Once a jazz band student has learned the basics of improvisation with chord charts, a typical church leadsheet will be well within their ability.
  5. Don’t play all the time. My biggest pet peeve (and the reason string and wind instruments often sound bad when used in contemporary worship) is that they play too much. Use the colors of these instruments sparingly. Add the instruments just like any other layer and perhaps on only one or a few songs in a given Sunday morning. It’s okay if they don’t play a lot of notes. After all, it’s about serving the church not playing lot of notes, right?
  6. Add an instrumental verse. Many contemporary songs have very simple melodies. Be sure to select the key and range appropriately. And unless a student is accustomed to playing by ear, give them music written in their key to read at first.

A final word of caution: Avoid making much of the young people themselves in the worship service. Don’t stand up and say something like, “Aww, wasn’t that sweet?” Sure, before and after the service you can affirm their contribution to the worshipping community. But make it less about them and more about their giving of God’s gift back to Him and the congregation.

Involving more people and young people in whatever we are used to doing in our worship services can be hugely time consuming. But I believe it is worth it, not only for the students involved, but as a model for the entire congregation and an investment in the future of our churches.

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.