My thoughts...Wisdom from over the years

Are You Actually A “Beginner”?

Posted in: Uncategorized ♦ Tuesday, October 20th, 2015, 7:35 pm ♦ No Comments on Are You Actually A “Beginner”?

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I recently returned from Virginia where I had the pleasure of teaching at The National Worship Leader Conference. I love teaching at conferences in large part because of the wonderful people I have the privilege of meeting and teaching. This conference was no different. Although, as the title indicates, this conference appeals largely to Worship Leaders (often in full time positions) there is something that connects the participants in that conference to every other conference I’ve ever taught at; most of the attendees have had little to no formal vocal training, thereby making them “beginners” in one very real sense. This is often underscored in a class I teach called “Harmony and Improv” where I emphasize the importance of learning to listen to ourselves and each other while singing in a group as well as learning some of the “simple” aspects of singing like minor ear training and interval singing. Often folks walk away from that class hopefully inspired but also recognizing their need to grow as vocalists.

We have inadvertently fostered a very interesting environment in many of our churches, one that encourages folks to discover their musical gifts but at the same time shies away from encouraging real training. Nowhere is this more evident than in the vocal department. We are often so “desperate” for folks to help lead the music, that we will often encourage people to step up to leadership roles when, in reality, they simply lack the skills to do an effective job. All over the country—even in other parts of the world—I see this. In fairness, often what church leaders are looking for is people with a heart to worship Jesus and serve their local church Body as their top qualifications, and musical prowess is much farther down on the list. Even our Christian colleges and universities, until very recently, have not offered quality training and education for those who want to serve in a Worship Leader/Music Ministry capacity, often only offering a smattering of classical music choices. This has contributed to the fact that often our music leadership is sorely lacking in necessary and applicable music skills.

 

What should we do about this?

I, for one, would love to see more emphasis placed on music directors/worship leaders having the necessary vocal training to lead a group of volunteers. The music directors in our local churches are largely volunteers. They are put in charge of other volunteers and most of the time NONE of them have any sufficient vocal training. This is one of the reasons I do what I do. I love serving these wonderful, sacrificial servants of God. But I wish there was more for them. People come to hear me teach and I whet their appetite and they hunger for more. They would LOVE to be better at singing and to know more about singing but many things prohibit them.

Proper Training

It’s astounding to me how many churches have music directors in place who have virtually NO vocal training, and yet these folks are in charge of everything musical in their churches from the worship team to the choirs. Vocal damage is rampant in our churches and although there are many reasons for this, first and foremost is ignorance. Knowledge can help protect and guide our vocalists and this is what they need. We don’t need great guitar players (or other instrumentalists) in charge of singers. We need great vocal coaches in charge of singers. I know many churches can’t afford to hire both, so the other option is to provide training.

 

Provide Continuing Education

Since most people serving in the music ministry at roughly 90% of our churches are not paid this leaves very little time and often no money for those leaders to go out and get extra training. Why is this not a priority in the church though? We choose our priorities and we pay for the things that are important to us. I recall many years ago, when serving in my first church position, I became slightly overwhelmed. I was handling the services on Sunday, 4 choirs, a coffeehouse outreach, a traveling “Ladies Trio”, a children’s musical drama program that also traveled AND I was homeschooling my children and trying to keep up my private vocal coaching at home. In addition to this, I was offering FREE vocal coaching to anyone in my choirs. At one point I went to my church leadership and asked if they could consider adding my position as a part-time employee (with pay, since I was currently serving as a volunteer working @32 hours a week) so that I could cut back on the private coaching I was doing to supplement our family income. Their response to me was this:”Yes you do sound overworked, perhaps you should simply cut back”. That was it.   At that time, around 1988, they were paying a church secretary $40,000 a year. I actually had quite a decent budget for my music ministry-about $15,000 a year. But they refused to acknowledge that a person in the music ministry was something that needed to be paid for.

This is my point. I believe that we need to make provision for our music leadership. Every year I meet thousands of musical servants who take time off work and pay their own way to go to a conference, workshop or master class. They often have to pay for their own travel and lodging expenses. Why/how has music been so denigrated as to not be deemed worthy of support from their leadership to get this very necessary training? Scripture is replete with verses that encourage us to provide for our leadership as well as verses that show us how important the music ministry has been historically to the worship of our heavenly Father.

Support Our Singers! (SOS!)

Let’s start a campaign! Our vocalists need help, support and proper training. Who is going to give it to them? We ask them to serve week after week and yet we don’t offer to take care of their most basic needs. Let’s start asking for the help and support that is needed. Let’s pray that our leadership will see the need and step up to the plate. It’s encouraging to see that there are churches that make it a great priority and colleges that are beginning to offer Music/Worship majors that include vital training—but we need more. We’ll do a carwash and a bake sale for Youth Group’s mission trip—how about for the Worship Leader’s vocal training? J

Can I help YOU? Please don’t hesitate to use me as a resource. I often offer help to those serving in the trenches-and there are many services I can offer for free. Please don’t hesitate to get the help and training you need. Be a leader-not a beginner. God bless you as you serve Him.

 

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