Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO.
Wild hare ideas are my friends. They seemingly show up out of nowhere and beckon you to chase them down a rabbit hole. ROCK’N U was one of those wild hare ideas.
As the Pastor of a church that, from the start, embraced fully modern (think Rock-based) music as our worship medium, seeing young people slouching around our tiny stage amongst the litter of guitar cases, cords, pedals, and assorted sound gear was not unusual. But one day, surveying the wreckage, I realized a few undisputable facts:
- The medium of Rock Music had won the day. The “worship wars” of the early ’90’s were over—guitars and amps were now as ubiquitous on most every church stage as pianos and organs once were.
- Everyone pretty much liked music built on simple chord progressions and the verse/chorus/verse of Rock music. Even the old guys—the Baby Boomers—were raised on Rock music. As far as music goes, it was our native language.
- For someone who likes to play rock music, getting all the backline gear (amps, monitors, mics, etc.) was an expensive proposition, especially if you were young and poor. But low and behold, there on every church stage was all that equipment sitting idle most of the week.
- Finding a place to practice is a pain in the neck for amplified music, but here at church was a big hall ready to use 24/7 with no set up—or tear down needed in order to get the car back in the garage.
- Every band wants to play for an audience as much as they can and they want their audience to want them to play. If they create original music, they want that to be celebrated. Playing to a crowd on Sunday morning that responds to each song is the ultimate home team audience.
- A ton of kids want to play music but don’t have the skill, the mentors, the gear, or the opportunity to hone their craft, especially playing with others.
With those facts rumbling around in my head, it became apparent that the church was a rock musician’s best friend and we somehow needed to became a patron of this new opportunity to touch people via music.
Thus, the idea of a weekend devoted to helping teens sharpen or discover their music skills, explore creativity, learn how to be part of a band, understand the sacredness of using the tool of music for Kingdom purposes ,and having fun was born and christened “ROCK’N U.”
That was over ten years ago. The idea has grown, mutated, replicated, spawned, and been a pipeline to send a whole bunch of young new musicians onto the stage on Sunday morning as well as being a terrific outreach tool in our community. (60% of those who come to our ROCK’N U weekend do not come from Christian families).
ROCK’N U has also animated our adult musical community, who quickly volunteer their services and mentoring skills for the weekend. In addition, our local music stores have been extremely generous in giving us gear to use for this event, knowing that it will produce future lifetime customers.
Probably the biggest joy that following this wild hare idea down the rabbit hole has produced, at least for me, is the reaction of the church seeing a stage full of young worship leaders banging out songs of worship on the Sunday morning that ROCK’N U wraps up. From their response, you would think that U2 was on the stage
ROCK’N U – Ten Years After
“JeMarketer” JeMarc Boliver
Volunteer @ gFREE Church, Philipsburg, Pennsylvania
ROCK’N U provides an outreach opportunity to invite people to church, and to hear about the love of God.
Max Crain was first introduced to ROCK’N U at a Creation concert event about five years ago. ROCK’N U is a teaching program (created by interlínc, who was at Creation) that is designed to help people learn the basics of playing in a band. If you’re not familiar with “Creation,” it is a GIANT, Christian music festival at Agape Farms in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania.
Starting with the ideas from ROCK’N U, Max tweaked the lessons to meet the needs of his church and the students who showed interest. Most of the students were “youth” (6th – 12th grade), and Max developed a 7-hour crash-course that he calls “1st Semester.” The students get to pick up an instrument for the first time ever (guitar, bass, or drums), and will actually perform a song on stage (as a band) by the end of the day. The “2nd Semester” builds on that foundation, and encourages further participation and consistent involvement with music.
Max saw a need within his church for a “culture of music” since sometimes musicians were there, but no musicians at other times. He wanted to create a training ground for musicians, to develop their God-given talents, and to have a steady stream of musicians cycling through at various levels.
Max never played an instrument, until he encountered ROCK’N U at the age of 35. He was trained to operate the sound equipment (mixing board) for the church, and he learned about music from behind the scenes. His son was learning Bass through the ROCK’N U curriculum, and Max sat through the practices to make sure his son could be there. Max then learned drums as well, through watching his son have drum lessons, and by listening to the instructor(s) teach his son. Max has even learned guitar, too! He set up a recording studio space in his home, and has played numerous band events. ROCK’N U gave Max a foundation to build on, and God has produced lots of fruit and growth as a result of his faithfulness and stewardship of the gift of music.
By now, Max has been involved with ministry for roughly ten years, and felt called to the music ministry (even before knowing how to play an instrument). He’s passionate about serving God through music and helping others develop their musical gifts.
The response and turnout for the ROCK’N U events has been awesome. Four different churches have gotten involved with he ROCK’N U ministry at gFREE Church (previously called the Gearhartville Free Methodist Church), and some students from ROCK’N U have started their own bands. The “Christ First” band, located in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, is one example—the ROCK’N U student in this band is only about ten years old! One ROCK’N U student is currently touring Europe with a band right now (2015).
The church has provided all of the ROCK’N U musical equipment—grants have been given for the instruments—but students can bring their own instrument if they want. All that’s required is to show up and be ready to learn. The youngest person to attend ROCK’N U has been about eight years old, and the oldest have been in their 50’s. The program is for anyone interested in learning music. ROCK’N U provides an outreach opportunity to invite people to church, and to hear about the love of God.
Max is excited about this year for ROCK’N U as he develops online music training videos to help students practice at home. He sees the internet as an opportunity to serve beyond the local area. Come join the online community of learning musicians, and post your questions or comments to let Max know what will help your journey into Christian music/worship.