[Editor’s Note: This guest post is by Adam Dolhanyk from Real World Worship Leading.]
Eight thoughts on bringing the next generation into your worship community.
1. IT’S NOT AN OPTION
The church has two main callings: 1. To preach the gospel 2. To make disciples. The discipleship process isn’t all spiritual, it’s also practical. Paul, Peter, Barnabas, and other major players in the early church always travelled with young men, letting them learn in a practical, hands on setting how to fulfill the ministry that was given to them (1 Timothy 4:14). The same is true for those of us who minister in music. I’m always looking for my replacement. Who’s the young man or woman that God is raising up in my church? Discipleship is not optional for the Christian; neither is making disciples. As worship leaders, music directors, and worship pastors, we need to have our eyes, ears, and hearts open to see who will lead the next generation in praise and worship of our King.
2. GIVE THEM SOME GRACE
One of the biggest things to stress when working with younger players is that they are young. You have to cut these guys some slack. They haven’t played that long. They might not have the discipline yet to really rehearse and practice well. They might not have the maturity to receive constructive critique.
Another way I think we show some grace is in our standards. I’m not suggesting we compromise, but it’s like I’ve written in the past, we just need to cut them a little slack. Maybe they’ll be late a little more often then we would like. Maybe we aren’t totally sure how solid or steady they are as a person (again see more thoughts on this HERE) but we give them some grace, and we let them know that we are cutting them some slack, and that it’s not permanent.
3. WATCH THEM CLOSER
As much as I’ll show a high school or college student some grace, I’ll also keep a close eye out. If there is sexual sin, substance abuse, etc, then they’re benched.
But it’s not just watching out so that we don’t have someone playing bass who posted pictures of themselves partying on Instagram. We should make it a point to pour into them. Talk to them about why we do things, and how you feel they are coming along. They are our charges in the Lord. We are charged with raising up the next generation of worship leaders, so we need to keep our eyes out for them.
4. BRING THEM ALONG
I’ve found the best way to bring along young band leaders is to co-lead with them. I ask them to give me one or two songs. Then I fit them into our set list. They get to lead the band, but all the pressure isn’t on them, and if things go south, it’s only one song.
For worship band members, I like to pair them off with more experienced players. The “youth band” may sound nice in theory, but it can often be the blind leading the blind. A very solid and seasoned bass player can be a great help to a younger drummer. An experienced vocalist can be a great guide to one just starting out. Discipleship isn’t done in a vacuum. It takes real people to bring the youth along. Far too often, the church will throw the young musicians into the fire, and then criticize them for making the natural mistakes that a more experienced band member would have corrected in the practice time before service.
5. WORK WITH THE YOUTH MINISTRY
It’s not something that’s talked about often but in many churches there is a tension between youth and worship ministries. Inevitably one will draw the younger players away from the other. I’ve found a good working relationship between youth minister and worship leader to be invaluable. They can give you a heads up on youth events that might take your bass player away, and you can work out a deal so that they don’t schedule all the good players all at once. Plus, if the youth pastor isn’t musical, he may be implementing practices and a culture that is counter productive to what you are doing, so it’s nice to be on the same page.
6. WE AREN’T MAKING CLONES
While I want to train and disciple, heaven forbid that I would ever attempt to forge a clone of myself. I believe the heartbeat of my worship ministry is the same as those who trained me, but the expression is very different. That’s the goal? We are passing on a message. The methods only stay the same when they have to.
I want to teach a young worship leader how to naturally work with tempo and key changes to make the set list “flow”. I want them to be biblical in the lyrics they sing and the songs they choose, but that doesn’t mean that their musical expression will sound anything like mine.
7. DON’T DEFINE MODERN FOR THEM
One of the greatest temptations that we have is to define what “modern” or a “modern sound” is for the next generation. Chris Tomlin may be more modern sounding than Don Moen or The Maranatha Singers, but to a 16 year old worship leader who listens to Macklemore or the Civil Wars, how is Chris Tomlin “modern”?
This isn’t me ripping on Chris Tomlin or Don Moen. I’m just saying that we can’t tell the next generation what’s young and hip. Contemporary Christian radio gears itself towards a demographic of women around the ages of 35-40 so if a 20 year old female worship leader (or a dude of any age) doesn’t gravitate towards the sounds that we have, we really can’t hold it against them.
8. THEY’RE GONNA SHAKE THINGS UP
If you want things to stay the same then ignore everything I’ve written so far. Bringing in and raising up the next generation will change the status quo by the very nature of what we are attempting. The fact that you are bringing in new band members of any age group means things are going to change. But since you are helping to foster the natural generational shift in the life of a church, it will be even more pronounced.
Embrace this. Expect push back. Respond firmly but with grace. Stay the course.