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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Pray! Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Remember the goal is always unity.
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.
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.
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.
Do not interrupt. This can be difficult if you’re feeling attacked. Let them finish.
Paraphrase as you go along. “What I hear you saying is…,” or ask questions to provide clarity.
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.
Be humble and full of grace, even if they are very angry.
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.
By Dr. Brian Reichenbach, Assistant Professor of Trumpet, Lee University
YES, of course they do! Sadly, though, when I ask many Christian band and orchestra students if they have ever played in church the answer is most often “no.” I see this as a huge missed opportunity for connecting what our kids do outside of church with what happens on Sunday morning. Plus, student instrumentalists can add so much musical variety to our gathered worship. This series offers some practical ideas for getting them involved while addressing the unique challenges that often discourage both worship leaders and students.
Beginning to Engage Young Instrumentalists in Worship It is challenging and time consuming to find a place for amateur musicians to actually serve congregational worship. Students’ skills are modest, and worship leaders may not be comfortable navigating the complexities of various instruments. We want the best quality music in our services. Yet, if we genuinely want to nurture an intergenerational community that uses their gifts to serve one another, it is important to find ways to engage with these young musicians.
Here are some great places to start and a few guiding principles:
Start with ensembles. Young players are not likely to be ready to play a solo in church. Find others like them and create a group to make music at their level. It doesn’t need to be a full symphony orchestra. Perhaps it is just a brass ensemble or a string ensemble or a balanced variety of instruments. Strive to make sure there is more than one player on each part, especially for the newest players.
Pair them up with adults. My wife and I grew up sitting next to both adult musicians (professionals and amateurs) in church ensembles. Occasionally in the ensembles I have led, parents and their own kids have even played together. What an amazing intergenerational opportunity!
Be mindful of their literacy. By literacy, I mean not only how well they can read music, but how well they can play by ear or improvise (“aural literacy”). A young Suzuki-trained string player, for example, might come with amazing technique and ear playing skills, but has not yet developing their reading skills. On the other hand, a student from school band may have strong note-reading skills, but has never learned by listening to a recording and may never have seen a leadsheet. Being attentive to this will help guide you to the right tools for success (more on this later).
Don’t start too early. Players within the first two years or so of playing an instrument are probably not ready to play in a church ensemble. This doesn’t have to be a point of discouragement. In fact, when older students lead the way, the younger ones can look forward to the time when they are ready to begin playing in church.
Make it positive. The biggest reason not to start too early is that it is absolutely essential that kids have a positive first experience doing this. In the next post, we’ll look at a few ways to begin plugging instrumental students into the gathered worship service.
Dr. Brian Reichenbach was recently appointed Assistant Professor of Trumpet at Lee University School of Music in Cleveland, Tennessee. Previously, he served in various roles as a teacher and conductor at Trinity International University, Olivet Nazarene University, Wheaton College, and College of DuPage, directing wind ensembles and teaching classes in music theory, aural skills, and brass techniques.