This is in response to a former article I wrote on DIY Student Ministry. This is the seventh of ten areas that I’m covering in this series.
I’d be the first to say that I’m not a musician. I know some scales, a few chords on the guitar and have a singing voice that would scare young children. While I was in 7th grade, the best thing my youth pastor ever told me was, “Chris, you can’t sing – let’s find another area for you to serve.” I never again took the stage as a musician. Let’s face it, you have room full of students, who like me, want to be a part of something great like a worship band but should never make the cut. On the other hand, gifted and talented musicians are out there…perhaps they are students or maybe adults. Let’s explore some options together and weigh the pros & cons of arranging a band for your ministry.
The student band – When it comes down to strictly students you are in for a treat, potential student leadership, some drama and little bit of everything else. I have eye-witnessed amazing student bands that understand the heart of worship but lack musical ability. The opposite can also be true, amazing musical talent with a lack of reverence and understanding who we are singing to, these are the crowd pleasers. The turn over rate in a student band is almost unreasonable…students are graduating each year, a new sports season comes along, a student gets a job. There is always a position that needs to be filled, thus a tryout process is always being discussed. Some student pastors do their best to provide leadership or ownership in this area – it takes a lot of time, patience and can be distracting from the big picture of the program or ministry overall.
The student/adult band – This tends to be the most preferred and economical model for the student pastor and the church. You may still be dealing with some of the things same things from the ‘student band’ model mentioned above, but now you have an adult or a few adults involved as well – which are hopefully a bit more matured in their thinking and musicianship. Recruiting an adult volunteer(s) for this position get help maintain order, bring better organization, and overall develop better consistency for your students and your program. They may play/sing with the students or simply be there for practices and programs. This role can be a huge encourager for students and will allow the student pastor to be more hands off, giving attention and detail to other areas of the program and ministry. This is my current model.
The professional band – Make it a paid position. I was a bit uneasy when first hearing about this model, but then I saw the product and the results. Recently visiting NorthPoint church in Atlanta I discovered that they pay a group of rotating professional musicians to come and lead the music element of the program for both HS and MS students. They are never late, rarely cancel, and deliver an A+ performance for students and leaders. Two things happen here. One, the student’s primary aim is to participate by bringing their friends to a dynamic and engaging program. Secondly, you don’t have to worry about uneasy transitions, teen band drama, and wonder what the band will sound like this week. Perhaps you can’t afford to pay a whole band each week, but how about a few rotating lead vocalists?
If you aren’t musically gifted, surround yourself with people that are. If you are musically gifted, still – surround yourself with people who are also musically gifted. Get away from DIY student ministry by recruiting and budgeting for great musicians to better your program.
- Help your students understand the aim, that its more than performance, they are playing for Jesus.
- If the student or adult is not the grade musician you are looking for…be honest.
- If your current band sounds bad to you, it sounds bad to others.
- Partner with your worship/creative arts team at church, get their opinions.
- Rotations are good! Get different people playing on a regular basis if you can. This prevents fallout.