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.