HOW DO I "MATURE" YOUNG PLAYERS?

A few days ago, we discussed the benefit of old - and young - players in worship ministry. This is the second article in a follow-up series. Previously, we talked about getting older players to play "younger." You can find that post here.

Making-young-people-more-mature is an age old problem. (Parents have been trying to figure it out for years!) But when it comes to music, there are some things worship leaders can do to help the next generation build some commitment into their musical endeavors.

VALUE EVERY TYPE OF PLAYER
The challenge for young players is that a lot of them have only played with other young players. As a leader, you've got to speak highly (and sincerely) of all your musicians. This helps teens and young adults to realize that playing in church is team effort. It takes a lot of different people, which means that showing up prepared is sign of respect to the rest of the team. When you value everybody on your team, young players will eventually rise to the challenge of honoring the rest of the team, too.

TALK ABOUT THE CONGREGATION - ALOT
We all can probably identify with the fact that, when you're a young musician, you often aren't concerned with the congregation. This is more about general human teenage self-obsession, but it can be harmful in a praise band. Use your time with the band to speak about the congregation - how what we do on the platform impacts how they respond. It even helps to go deeper and talk about the uniqueness of the congregation. Many young players will have only led for one or two congregations in their lives. It will help them to see that people worship in all different ways.

LET 'EM BE YOUNG
Give them opportunities to be their best. If that guitar player is awesome at guitar solos, find a way to give him one. If the singer can nail a Ingrid Michaelson vibe, find a song that'll make that happen. Find ways to let their energy invigorate the team within the bounds of your leadership. Because once they start thinking mature, their playing will get better and better.

HOW DO I GET MY TEAM TO PLAY "YOUNGER"

This post is a follow up to the IN DEFENSE OF OLD (AND YOUNG) PLAYERS article. It's the first of two spin-offs from that original piece. If you'd like more articles on leadership, click the archive button and find dozens of worship-leading posts!

Ageism is a very real, very dangerous threat to worship ministry these days. Do a quick Google search you'll find countless stories of gifted, sincere musicians who have been pushed out of worship ministry because of the grey in their hair.

To be fair, these horror-stories seem to happen at larger churches where "image" is a core value. Small-to-mid-size churches typically don't struggle with this as it's extremely difficult to recruit and maintain a solid volunteer base of musicians. Even if you wanted all young players (which you shouldn't) you probably don't have access to many!

But the worship music industry doesn't make it easy either. The breakneck-speed at which musical trends and styles change is overwhelming to even the most skilled singers and players and if you're trying to keep up, you may find your older team members may struggle with leaving their preferred styles behind. You may not have ever uttered 'how do I get my people to play younger?' out loud, but you've probably thought it. Here are some tips.

HAVE A GOOD REASON
If you're asking players to take some musical risks and step outside their comfort zones, have a motive for doing so. If older players are, in fact, more cynical than younger players, they may not feel that excited about trying something just because it's cool or current.

Maybe you need that drum rhythm to make space for the congregation to sing out or a scripture to be read. Maybe you want the electric to play that riff with a cleaner, more jangly patch to make room for the crescendo at the end of the song...remember that musicians don't always know the set like you do. Invite them in to what you're trying to build.

HAVE DIVERSE REFERENCES
This will kill musical boldness quicker than anything. If you want your keyboard player to play something like Taylor Swift but you're worried because he's an older guy and probably doesn't know Taylor Swift music that well, don't say "I want it to have a real Taylor Swift vibe." You're shooting yourself in the foot.

The beautiful thing about music is that it's been genius from the beginning. Believe it or not, something like that Taylor Swift piano line is probably found all through music. For example, if you've got players who like classic rock, find similar riffs and parts in that genre. Your players will identify much more clearly with what you're asking for if they've heard it (and appreciate it.) The challenge here is on you, though. You've got to do the hard work to find those references. But, let's be honest...what could be more important than spending a few hours to build a healthier relationship with your team?

PRIORITIZE
Church band isn't an easy gig. The set changes week-to-week, musicians have to rotate and it requires quite a few hours this week. As you think about "stretching" your band, make sure you know what's most important. Strive for excellence, but if you're team is struggling, maybe aim for three "modern" touches instead of 15. Eliminating needless style-choices will help your band succeed in what you're asking. Remember that in local church, slow and steady is usually the most effective means of growth.

IN DEFENSE OF OLD [AND] YOUNG PLAYERS

DISCLAIMER: I wrote a post about this years ago on another blog and couldn't find it for a repost. So, I'm rewriting it. Should you find the old blog and it's better, please let me know.

I have a running joke with my team at Bethel Bible.

"Every praise band in America is made up of 50yr old dudes who wanted to be in Led Zeppelin."

Yes, I know every all the famous worship teams have young people only, but here in the real world, local church teams are a diverse group of ages. And lots of churches even trend older when it comes to the band. Consider the list below - I hope it will help you appreciate both the gifts and challenges of players.

YOUNG PLAYERS - PROS/CONS

  • PRO - Young players take more risks. Wanna call an audible at last minute and launch into a song you didn't rehearse? Young singers and players are good to go. They'll follow you into the abyss.
  • PRO - Young players can combine references. Due to the algorithm-based listening experiences of Pandora and Spotify, young people "get" mashups. You can easily say, "it's like a blend between Coldplay and Jay-Z" and they can mentally get there. It's scary.
  • PRO - More free time. It's easier to meet them during the day for a run-through or stretch a rehearsal past 9pm.
  • CON - Unreliable. Young musicians don't have any qualms about calling you an hour before rehearsal because they got a better gig. It happens musically, too. Young players may be perfection during rehearsal but then try something completely different in the service that doesn't work.
  • CON - They're awkward. Whereas older players can more easily meet new musicians and make conversation, younger musicians sometimes don't know what to say. They can end up being the solitary soul tuning his guitar all morning without ever meeting anybody else.

OLD PLAYERS - PROS/CONS

  • PRO - Experienced players are ready. They don't need a lot of explanation. They've done enough sets and developed their musical ears to know where an arrangement is gonna' go.
  • PRO - They're more fun. Older players have a lot of responsibilities, which means music-making is something they look forward to. For many of us old guys, playing music is a break and we make the most of it!
  • PRO - Better gear. Sorry, kids, but old players have more reliable equipment. Heck, they even own their equipment. (Can't tell you how many young players have shown up to our rehearsals with a borrowed amp they've never used before...)
  • CON - Older players are cynical. They're suspicious of taking too many musical risks. They're (understandably) wary of gimmicks and that can sometimes color their willingness to try something new.
  • CON - Predictability. When not prepared, older players will quickly revert back to styles and flourishes from their youth (that they've noodled for years.) An unprepared older player will lean toward a more dated playing style.

At Bethel Bible, we've got a mix of both old and young players, and I'm grateful for that. I think it's really the best way to build a team. The variety of a broad age span makes for sets that are unique and skillful.

NEXT UP: In the next couple of posts, we'll talk about how you can lead a team that's less diverse. In other words, what do you do when your team is all older players? Or younger?

SONG / OUR GOD IS STRONGER

VERSE 1
When worry comes in like a flood
There are no answers to be found
There is a place where we are safe and sound

He is our anchor, He will not be moved
He is a shelter in the rain
A mighty tower where every heart is safe

CHORUS
Even when the hard winds blow
To this refuge we will go
Our God is stronger
No matter what may come our way
We will never be afraid
Our God is stronger

VERSE 2
Any moment we can call His name
He is ours and we are His
We are safe for we belong to Him

BRIDGE
Who can tame the Mighty One
Who can hold Him in their hand
None so worthy, none so strong
Our God alone will stand