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Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Future of Worship Leaders

Once upon a time in a land far, far away churches never had any problems getting a worship leader. In the center of the town was a magical tree, called the “Worship Leader Tree” and all a church had to do was go to the tree and say, “Oh Tree, we need a worship leader, please give us one!” Out from the tree came a young energetic worship leader, trained in singing, playing the guitar, leading groups, and knowledgeable of all the new songs and most of the old ones.

We all know that such a tree does not exist, yet if we are not careful we are acting as if it does by failing make the preparations necessary so that there will be men and women adequately trained to lead worship. Perhaps the biggest area of neglect lies in the lack of children’s choirs and those trained to lead them. Because public school music programs are generally one of the first targets of budget cuts, and many grade schools have no real music program whatsoever, churches have become the last stand for early music preparation. The development of learning to match pitch and sing with a melody are basic, yet the most crucial time in the life of an individual to learn these things is precisely when it is not available.

Lowell Mason, the composer of the melody for many hymns, including “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” was the first to start music in the public schools in Boston, and he did so to help the worship in churches. The singing and leadership in the churches at that time was deplorable to say the least. Mason knew that if he, as a director, would only be able to help one church, but if he could teach children in public schools, he would be able to have a much greater influence. School administrators were very hesitant at first, thinking that only a few people were gifted enough to be musicians and that singing was not for everyone. It wasn’t long after Mason’s experimental group proved otherwise that the movement exploded across the country. It is now hard to imagine a time when music was not a part of the fabric of a child’s growing years, but we are approaching that time.

With public school music on the decline and fewer churches providing opportunities for children to learn to sing, such as children’s choirs, we are growing a generation of believers that are being conditioned to just “listen,” but never learn to “sing,” much less “lead.” So much focus has been placed on one and two day workshops that “train” worship leaders, that many churches have completely overlooked where these future leaders are formed: children’s choirs. A wise ministry is one that has a planned process for leadership training from the children on up through adults. Teaching children how to sing and making it an enjoyable experience lays the groundwork for children to want to continue in a youth choir or an ensemble. As these children and youth learn how to lead in worship by sharing in the service with their songs, we lay the foundations for the worship leaders for the near future.

Large churches may have more resources for this ministry, but there are many more small congregations than large ones and even if we can begin with two or three children, we will be able to reach more children in more areas. Leaders spend a large amount of time with their choirs and praise teams, but rarely think of the long term consequences of not teaching children and youth. It is almost as if we believed that there were a “magical worship leader tree.” I am praying that God would raise up worship leaders with the vision of a ministry that is bigger than just what is visible with the group, but that is committed to raising up a new generation of believers who understand what biblical worship is and to teach it to children and youth. I am praying that God would move men and women past their comfort zones to seek the training necessary to help these children and youth and that from the youngest to the oldest we would be able to worship in Sprit and truth.

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