If you’re reading this article, you may likely have the high calling of leading the next generation of youth in worship. For us, having a faith based music school has been an incredible blessing, and our belief is that teaching them how to become a skilled musician or vocalist is just a small portion of our calling. Teaching them how to play, to write songs, make great arrangements, etc is important, but the largest portion of what we do in the realm of worship is discipling and mentoring our youth to maintain pure hearts, servant hearts, that are soft and open to God’s calling on their lives.
One thing we’ve found as our students get older and become more skilled in their playing, is that they want to have a very quick turn over of songs. And right now, since the youth worship band is their main outlet to play, they want to add new songs every single time they lead worship, not necessarily understanding how this affects the churches they serve. An example of this is that our school of music leads worship for 4 different churches around the valley on an average of once or twice per month. This means it might be 2 months between dates at a church. But this particular month, they’re leading worship at a different church every Sunday of the month. As we booked the dates, we considered each church’s style of worship, popular songs in their rotation, etc. We put together a great set list that met the needs of all the churches, and also added in a new popular song picked by the students. We decided to keep the same worship set for every church in order to have the students be able to master the songs and be very comfortable leading them. The students were really excited about it, but I received a call from one of their parents, with concerns over the song list being the same.
…repetition is definitely not a bad thing in their musical training, but a good thing. Repetition creates confidence in leading, and also excellence in playing…
She wondered why they couldn’t just change the set, and pick out different songs, or even learn new ones. She was afraid that her daughter would get bored doing the same songs over and over and not be challenged, which is totally understandable. But we explained to her that repetition is definitely not a bad thing in their musical training, but a good thing. Repetition creates confidence in leading, and also excellence in playing, and with them leading at a new church we wanted them to be as rehearsed and confident in leading as they could be. Even though the students would have to lead the same songs over and over, they would be leading those songs to 4 completely different congregations. And to help keep it fresh, we try to switch out musical parts with students, so that they’re always doing something slightly different with the songs. We might switch the piano player’s part to the keyboard/synth player – switch the lead and rhythm guitar player roles, change lead vocalists, etc.
After we had the conversation with the concerned parent, we sat down with each of our students, and helped them see that as worship leaders, they’re not learning and playing the songs for themselves, but they are serving the church and the pastors’ vision for his congregation. They will sometimes have to lead certain songs until they are personally tired of them, but to keep in mind the congregation can only really engage and sing along when they are familiar with the lyrics and melody. And a current trend that most churches are experiencing right now is that people only attend church 2 – 3 times per month, which should definitely be a consideration in selecting songs that make them engage. And while we do always have our students pick new songs and have a voice with worship sets, song rotation, etc, we want to mentor them to consider that there may be a very good reason why the songs for that Sunday’s worship set were chosen. The pastor may want the team to lead a particular song over and over for a few months, maybe because it fits his message series, or maybe it makes him personally worship before he delivers the message. Or he might feel that a particular song is really reaching his congregation. It could be a wide variety of reasons. As a musician, you’ll always be serving the people you’re playing for. For those of us who have played professional gigs, the audience loves to hear certain songs that, frankly, we may never want to play again in our lives. But in worship, we serve a much higher calling than entertaining people. We are serving His people.
May you be blessed as you pour into the next generation of worship leaders!