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How Do You “Train-Up” Musicians in Worship?

From Tom Williams, serving in Powell, TN

Question: I lead the singing in a fairly new (2 year-old) contemporary service at a small (250 member) traditional United Methodist church. We have 30 to 60 attendees at our 9 am contemporary service. Our only instruments are an organ and a piano. Although we’ve had a couple of guitarists and a keyboard player/percussionist help us out from time to time, we currently have to use canned music (MP3, split trax, MIDIs) as our primary accompaniment. In a way, this is great because I can select a wide variety of music without having to teach it to a band or worry about the quality of the music. But… I think for us to attract a lot of seekers, we are going to need live music.

My questions are 1 ) what do you do with talented players who don’t read music, 2) how do you gain long-term commitment from musicians, and (3) is it wise to allow non-believers (or seekers) to form a majority of a praise band?

1) Sincerity and authenticity are more important than production to seekers. Building a band with the aid of technology is great. Knowing when to be simple is important also. What do you do with talented players who don’t read music? First, thank God for them! A lot of churches would love to have professional players. At Saddleback, we write chord charts with rhythm notation for the band. Players who can’t read are encouraged to try to follow the charts. It is amazing how they learn to read the charts with practice. I give out demo tapes to musicians who need them.

2) How do you gain long-term commitment from musicians? At Saddleback, we build on God’s purposes for the church. I think there are two things that keep musicians around the most: they know they are making a difference with their talents, and the Fellowship. I present and represent the vision often, putting it in front of them on a regular basis. . . “we are not here for ourselves but for God and his kingdom. The reason we do what we do is love and obedience to God AND we love to see lives changed.” Not only are we making a difference in God’s kingdom, but we are part of a family together. “More than Music we are a family!” has been our music team slogan from the beginning.

(3) Is it wise to allow non-believers (or seekers) to form a majority of a praise band? I think it is great to have non-believers, or maybe better said not-yet-believers, in the band. At Saddleback, we have found that these non-believers become believers in time. One of our current staff members became a believer in exactly this way. I would not have a majority of non-Christians in the band because the non-Christians need to be around believers to “get the idea”. I would not put non-believers in leadership positions in the band. I would certainly include non-believers in the band if given the opportunity. The musician’s talents come from the Lord, whether they know it or not, and their talents can be a blessing to your team and congregation. The music ministry is not just a place to lead the congregation in singing praises to the Lord, but also a place for relationship and ministry between the musicians themselves.


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