Preparing the Next Generation of Musicians

Where do the next generation of musicians in the church come from? One option is to hope and pray that young musicians will get trained in the world, get saved, and use their gifts in the church. That certainly happens frequently enough.

A more faithful option is to figure out what we can do to influence, inspire, and train the young people in our church to develop and use their gifts to serve the church for the glory of God. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in a church of 50, 500, or 5000, we can begin to think about how we can pass on what we’ve learned.

I’ve been talking about that for years at Covenant Life, and we’ve offered various seminars and workshops to help train future band members. But in the past few years the right people have come in to the right positions to make something happen on a more systematic basis, especially for more “traditional” instruments. Ken Boer, who oversees the music and worship at Covenant Life, is married to Rachael Boer, who got her degree in violin performance from Julliard. Along with a few other committed musicians (like Ben & Nancy Chouinard and Shelley Reinhart), they’ve been investing in the next generation, through private instruction and larger ensembles. Two concerts, one in the spring and one in December, serve as focal points for what they’re teaching.

This past Sunday we experienced the fruit of their labors more directly as about 45 string players joined the band in leading the congregation in song. We sang two songs with an older group of string players, and then members of the beginning and intermediate string ensembles joined us.

As they came up, I wanted to highlight that this was more than a display of musical skill and cute kids. So I said something to this effect:

When we gather together on Sunday mornings we can easily forget that we stand on the shoulders of saints in the past who have been worshiping God in song for thousands of years. We’re the beneficiaries of musicians who have trained future generations to use their musical gifts to serve God’s people. Probably one of the best examples we have is Asaph. David appointed him as a worship leader at the temple, and he had a musical legacy that lasted literally hundreds of years. He wrote these words in Ps. 78:1-4:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

As a church, we recognize the responsibility and privilege of telling our children the glorious deeds of the Lord. We’re committed to training musicians of all types – vocalists, guitarists, keyboardists, bass players, drummers, and yes — string players — to proclaim the wonders God has done, and to use music as one way of expressing them. These string players, as young as six years old, are being taught to study music not to bring glory to themselves, but to Jesus Christ. As they accompany us, may our hearts be moved not only by the beautiful sound, but by the beauty of the God who sent his only Son to die in our place, showing us grace that truly is amazing.

At that point the younger group played a verse of Amazing Grace as we listened. We then sang the hymn (six verse of it), and finished with The Gospel Song.

We still have a long way to go when it comes to faithfully passing on to the next generation a Christ-exalting way of doing music, but this past Sunday shows that we’ve taken some steps in that direction. And I thank God for his faithfulness.

I’d be interested to know what practical steps you’re taking, plan to take, or have already taken, to impart a desire to pursue skillful musicianship for God’s glory to the next generation.

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17 Responses to Preparing the Next Generation of Musicians

  1. David Santistevan October 23, 2008 at 4:35 PM #

    I have done a couple ‘groove’ workshops where I brought together a number of bass players and drummers to work on playing together. This involved committed team members and those interested in playing. It was very beneficial but needs to happen more frequently to probably be effective. I’d like to hear what others are doing.

  2. Lindele October 23, 2008 at 8:18 PM #

    Several years ago when our church was bigger, I directed a recorder ensemble that included kids and adults. No one knew how to play recorder and hardly anyone knew how to read music, so I started with soprano recorders and three notes. After a couple of years we had soprano, alto and tenor recorders and played several times a year during the service. As people moved out of the area the group dwindled down and eventually we disbanded, but for awhile it was an important aspect of our church. I do know that one of my early students went on to study bagpipes!

  3. Ruth Burge October 24, 2008 at 10:07 AM #

    At our church we have a children’s choir program. I am the junior choir director for kids in 3rd-7th grade. The children learn anthems which they sing in our services and in special services at Christmas and in the spring. They also minister in nursing homes a couple of times year. In conjunction with learning music, we have a 5 year curriculum plan, which is reinforced with a short game after each choir practice. Usually this is a PowerPoint Jeopardy game with teams. The curriculum list is below, but needs more explanation.

    I view this all as training worshipers, not just choir members, though that happens also to a degree. Children who learn to sing in their youth and are able to express themselves musically can more freely enter into worship as an expression of their hearts the rest of their lives. That is a priceless blessing. We also talk a lot about the Gospel and the heart issues of worship as we work together. I give free singing lessons to kids who are not able to carry a tune and have had much success with that.

    1st Semester 2nd Semester
    Year 1 General Music, Handel listening, Music in the Bible
    Year 2 Vocal Production, Vivaldi listening, Hymns
    Year 3 General Music, Conducting, Rhythm
    Year 4 Psalms
    Year 5 Sight Singing

  4. Monica October 24, 2008 at 1:26 PM #

    One-on-one mentoring and training! I helped a teen drummer who wasn’t quite ready or comfortable for the worship team. Just as with discipleship in general, one-on-one is a great way to encourage the next generation of musicians, in the hopes that they, too, will come alongside someone in the generation after them.

  5. lisa October 24, 2008 at 1:30 PM #

    Thanks for asking this question. This is an area I’ve been burdened for in our church as well.

    Because we seem to have alot of piano students in our church, the most intentional thing we’ve done is held a one-week keyboard workshop in the summer, where young piano students who are already taking lessons are introduced to some of the skills needed to serve in the church – namely, reading & improvising off chord sheets, serving up an effective background for communion, and accompanying hymns. Then throughout the summer (and less often during the year) we’ll try to integrate those pianists into the service. The first day is always a, why are we doing this (for God’s glory, not our own)session, and that concept is reinforced frequently throughout. We also address the issues of musical preferences, & preparation vs. perfectionism, which seem to be two frequent struggles in a church context. We also incorporate youth string, wind & brass ensembles at Christmas & Easter, and children’s choirs.

    I would be interested to know how you (or anyone else) approached raising up the next generation before you had the staff to do what you’re doing now. Given limited time and resources, are there certain priorities we would be wise to focus on?

  6. Mike Littrell October 24, 2008 at 1:32 PM #

    Ruth,

    Can you email me with particulars on your curriculum? (Wow, that’s a mouthful!) molittr@gmail.com
    We have a lot of adult musicians that are wonderful. Now we need to bring up our children into the worship.

  7. Troy October 24, 2008 at 4:33 PM #

    Hey Bob,

    This has been on my heart for a while, too. I encourage it in a couple of ways at our church, where everyone is a volunteer except the senior pastor and a very small office staff.

    1) Each member of the band knows I think of them as a worship leader also. As such, they plug into the vision and equipping along with me. It’s nice, and necessary, for us all to be equally committed to the goals of our worship ministry. Part of this includes teaching classes, sharing tips, etc.

    2) We bring the kids along during rehearsals. Our team leads worship once per month, but rehearses once per week. Everyone is committed to learning the music and practicing their instrument on their own time. So these times together are for arranging, rehearsing transitions, and helping the newbies. Kids or adults who are interested in serving in worship ministries are invited to join us at rehearsals. They play along and are helped by the senior members. The week before we lead, I ask the new folks to sit out and just listen, so we can get a feel for how it will really sound when we’re up front.

    Having so many at rehearsals can be a pain, but it’s a blessing in disguise. It really makes us learn to play less…and the kids learn that along with us, at the very beginning of their experience.

    We’re a bit short on drummers, but we have lots of guitarists, singers, bassists, and a spare keyboard player or two because of this approach. PTL!

  8. Bob Kauflin October 24, 2008 at 4:45 PM #

    Troy,

    Thanks for modeling faithfulness in passing on what you know and teaching others to do the same.

  9. Don Fields October 25, 2008 at 9:59 AM #

    We’ve been mostly trying to encourage our teens to be involved in the worship of the church. We do that by having the Youth Band play one service a month by themselves as well as have teens regularly involved in the adult choir, band and praise team. Since we are a smaller church we can include the teens and although the quality sometimes is less it isn’t enough to be a problem. We are intentionally trying to break down the barrier between the youth and the church at large. We want teens to be involved in the ministry of the church now so that they don’t feel that disconnect that many young adults have when they try to transition from youth to adult. We are also working hard at having similar music in the youth ministry that we have in our church services so that the teens don’t get the idea that church and youth ministry are something miles apart.

  10. Bob Kauflin October 25, 2008 at 10:36 AM #

    Don,

    Great point about the music in the youth ministry and the main meetings being similar. So often churches unintentionally create a divide between generations by offering not only different musical styles, but completely different songs to different age groups. That can end up undermining our unity in the gospel.

  11. West Breedlove October 28, 2008 at 2:05 PM #

    Bob,
    The Covenant Life Music Academy provided a template for our music academy. You can see the details here: http://www.cspc.net/worship/academy/, or download a brochure here: http://www.cspc.net/userfiles/File/worshipMusic/brochure.pdf

    Providentially, less than a year ago I hired a talented young man to oversee the development of instrumental groups at our church. After talking about the academy idea, he contacted Covenant Life and a number of other churches with similar programs and developed our own music academy. With a special burden to minister to our larger community, we are finding ways to raise money to ease the financial burden of tuition.

  12. Andrew Gosden October 30, 2008 at 3:46 PM #

    We don’t do enough. But one thing we DO do occasionally is have what we call a family orchestra. It’s a brilliant way of getting many generations playing together – at one stage we had grandfather, daughter and 4 grandchildren playing for a service which was brilliant. We also have a service once a month on a Sunday evening called “The Gathering” which is more informal, uses the most recent contemporary music (e.g. from Soul Survivor which is very big in the UK where I live) and where we can use young people to play and sometimes to lead. Seems to work well!

    I have just discovered your site and am really enjoying your blog, your book which I am reading at the moment, your talk at the Desiring God conference which was very helpful – and your songs which again I have just discovered – hoping to use Oh the deep deep love quite soon at Church.

  13. Jadie Stiven October 31, 2008 at 7:30 PM #

    That is so good!
    I’m so pleased to see that happening.
    I hope that I will be able to encourage the youth in our church. I have to say – I feel very unqualified! But perhaps I can be used as a the mediator to point people in the direction of others who can help. And as you had mentioned, I pray that people will come to the church that are gifted in this area and take on this role!

    That is great!

  14. Jarrad November 5, 2008 at 1:16 AM #

    This topic is very meaningful to me. I started leading worship in the youth group at my church when I was 16. Now I’m 27 and through the guidance of a couple of specific leaders in our church I have been given the opportunity to be a worship leader for the entire congregation.
    I am currently trying to build the next group of youth worshipers in our church. I think it’s important for Christian leaders to essentially work themselves out of a job by investing in the next generation.
    One way I try to do this with the youth team is to encourage them to cultivate their own private worship lives. I think having a hunger for God is the first step in developing a lifestyle of excellence in musicianship. I’ve noticed that the kids who have that desire for God are the ones who practice the most, and come prepared for rehearsals.
    Another thing our church does is let the youth lead worship for the entire congregation for several services throughout the year. I think this both challenges them and lets them know that we as a church are invested in them and care about and respect what they are doing.

  15. Josh November 12, 2008 at 10:48 PM #

    Bob,
    This has been a burden on my heart, because I too stand on the shoulders of many. Nothing formal has been established at our church, but we are trying to identify and encourage kids as young as elementary school to take private lessons. Since we are a church-school, it is great to have teachers recommend those that not only have gifting, but are showing character. This year we started annual auditions for high school age and up, and we are keeping a database of talent to be used for special occasions.

    Troy,
    Great idea to bring the kids to rehearsal! Definitely an efficient way to pass on the privilege of serving.

  16. Jamie Fenton July 1, 2010 at 10:06 AM #

    I am so excited to see that you understand the need to invest in the next generation. As you read the Bible with this perspective in mind, you see how God emphasizes the need for us to think beyond ourselves and think about the generations following us.

    There are not enough who are doing this out there, especially for the young adults. I have personally noticed an emphasis on young children and teens but not enough investment into the college-age group, where an average of 80% of them are steering away from God by the time they go through college.

    I definitely appreciate out Senior Pastor and Worship Pastor who decided to create a worship school in Ft. Lauderdale to invest in the next generation of worship leaders and Christian artists. If you know of someone in your church who would like to spend 10 months investing in their musical gifts, send them to Ocean’s Edge School. I have personally seen them make a great impact.

    I hope that the Lord uses you greatly!

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