By Jim Murphy | Forest Lake, Minnesota
There’s nothing that’s quite as exciting for kids as the idea of being in a band. To strap on that sweet cherry-red Strat and make it wail, drive out a slick new beat on the drums, slap the bass to a funky new groove and everyone making a loud noise of some sort – maybe it’s music, maybe not – but to them it’s great.
The thought of beltin’ out a joyful song of praise, leading a throng of other kids in the jump-head nod-hand wave, or whatever other crazy actions you can come up with is deeply inspiring and giddy. For youth pastors – wow! To have a youth worship band – how cool is that? The kids in the band love playing! The kids in the youth group love singing! The youth pastor loves to see it all happening for God’s glory!
On the other hand, forming a youth worship band and creating a musically worshipful experience is not as easy as strapping on a guitar, hittin’ the drums, or throwing a couple of singers on stage. It’s a long, intentional, and Spirit-led process that requires prayer, leadership that combines great humility with certain confidence, and a ton of mercy and perseverance.
I’ve been leading worship music with students for a while now and I’m only just beginning to really catch a glimpse of what forming a good worship band requires. I’ve also learned a few things along the way and would like to share some of them with you. These thoughts are in no particular order of importance.
There are a lot of musically talented kids out there. Don’t underestimate their abilities because of their age. Furthermore, don’t underestimate God’s plans for your group.
Kids are very passionate about their music. Though they may not be as refined in their presentation as mature adults might be, it all comes from the heart – and you know what God thinks of that! Some kids take the responsibility of being on a team well; others don’t. Be prepared for both.
The band needs a mature, experienced leader to guide them both spiritually and musically. Letting the kids just form their own band and take over at youth group meetings is tempting, especially for the non-musical youth leader. But having an adult be the leader is important.
The drummer has to be really good! Timing, tempo, volume, and rhythm are all dependent on the drummer. If he/she can’t do well with them, then it’s better not to have a drummer at all.
Vocals always have to be heard above the instruments; even kids who like to have their music really loud want to hear the singer(s). People want to hear what’s being sung, how it’s being sung, the rhythm of the words, the timing, etc. Vocals are one part of the music that everyone can be a part of. If people can’t hear the vocals enough to know what to do, they’ll be lost!
Moral and spiritual character really does matter. We all make the automatic connection that if someone is up in front on the stage, they must be a leader. But if we see them being morally questionable outside that setting, we see hypocrisy. Never mind consideration of how new a Christian that kid is, or that he’s growing and requires great mercy on our part. The simple fact is that moral character matters for anyone who is in an up-front position.
Practice, practice, practice! Youcan never practice too much! Meet together as often as schedules permit. If schedules do not allow practice, then perhaps participation needs to be reconsidered. Make rehearsal tapes and CD’s far in advance (if you have a CCLI license) – be sure to collect the tapes/CD’s once they’re learned.
Be prepared. If you use presentation software to project the words of the songs, take care to have the order of the slides prepared in advance. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to sing a great song of praise to God but the slides keep jumping around to the wrong part of the song. What about being Spirit-led? Well, first priority is being prepared (which should be Spirit-led anyway). Set up the slides in the exact order you’ll be singing them, complete with the repeats, multiple versesand tags. The slide operator should be able to use one button forthe entire presentation: forward. Then,if you feel Spirit-led to go in a different direction, give gentle instructions from the mic letting everyone, even the kids or the congregation, know what’s happening and give them time to follow you.
Tardiness is of the devil! There are few issues more detrimental to a band or a team’s cohesion than tardiness. Being late causes stress, deprives your band of much-needed rehearsal, and in the end makes for a lesser worship experience. I say it’s of the devil somewhat facetiously but with a hint of seriousness. Tardiness is most often caused by laziness or lack of concern to be responsible. The Bible speaks often against this situation, and we should be ready to address it and not to tolerate it.