Music Ministry – Things They Didn’t
Teach In College or Seminary
Stephen M. Newman
If you are like me, you learned very little in college concerning teaching people to worship the Living God. We learned a lot about music, theory, singing and playing our instruments. I once even had a class on how to play a recorder, but never a class on how to teach and lead people in worship. My ability to plan a music service was excellent, but I knew very little about how to plan a worship service.
Many colleges are now teaching worship and how to prepare your congregation for worship, and I am grateful for the institutions that offer these much needed courses. I am speaking to those who have not had the pleasure of sitting under great men and women of God who are experienced in leading and teaching worship. Have you ever woken up on Sunday morning to lead a well-prepared service only to find the people didn’t respond the way you thought they would, or that they should have? This happened to me for the first six years of ministry. Each week I would prepare a “great” music service thinking it would help my people to worship better. It didn’t.
Nothing I attempted seemed to work. What was I doing wrong? Why weren’t they participating? All kinds of thoughts would race through my mind trying to find the reason as to why people were not worshiping God. I had to learn some very real lessons that I hope you can use.
First, I had to look inward. Was I worshiping or leading music? What was the perception of what I was doing on the platform? I decided to video myself leading worship one morning. I wanted to see what the people were seeing. You know what? I was leading music. I was doing what I had seen done for years and years. A man standing in front of a congregation leading music. I knew all the motions and patterns to every hymn and had become fairly proficient at it. I found I could keep things together musically and design a service that flowed fairly well. After viewing the tape, I saw why I had failed.
I was not worshiping. I was working hard to make sure things went well, that the instrumentalists were together, and that the key changes were just right. How could I worship when there was so much to worry about in a service? My mind was on the technical aspects and not on the Lord. That is partially what makes our position so difficult. We have to make sure everything goes well, and then we allow ourselves to worship if there is time left.
What was the solution? I had to become more proficient at preparing the service in order for the music to become second nature for me, I needed to commit the words to memory, and I had to know the service inside out so that I could spend less time worrying about the service and more time worshiping. When those elements changed, I found my worship became more meaningful. People began to comment about the worship services, and I began to see others attempting to worship and participate more. It was the first major step in helping others worship. I had to first become a worshiper myself.
The next step to helping people worship came from studying. Studying God’s word along with great authors who have an understanding of this thing called worship. I needed to become a student of not only music but of worship. In this site you can find titles of various books that will help you to become a better student of worship. Read all you can find on the subject. You may feel that you can’t gain anything from a person who comes from a different background than yourself but you will find that each author will have something that you can relate to. You will find information that you can use in your ministry. Become a student of worship and you will better be able to help your people become worshipers.
Second, what was I doing outside of planning the services to help our people better worship? What could I do outside of studying, preparing, learning new music to help teach worship? You know the answer. Prayer. I began to pray for the people. I would pray for each service that God’s spirit would move and be evident. I prayed for individuals to begin singing regardless of there singing ability. I prayed for our worship teams and leadership that we would all be used to help lead in worship. God is faithful and I began to notice that the more time I spent in prayer for the services, the better the service went. People began singing out. Others would lift their hands to the Lord. Some would clap, each expressing their worship to the Lord in a manner they felt best suited their personalities. Why do we rely so little of the greatest power we have here on earth. If you commit to pray for worship to happen in your church, it will.
It is important to understand that as your people begin to open up and worship, some will resist. Sadly many will never become visibly active worshipers. Which brings me to a very important point that every worshiper leader needs to understand. Be very careful in judging others in there worship because of their outward appearance. Don’t fall into the trap that because a person is not singing, clapping or lifting their hands that they are not worshiping. I used to get very frustrated when I didn’t see people participating in our worship times. It looked like they were just standing there with a sour look on their face. I just knew they were not worshiping. After the service they would share with me how moved they were, and what a great worship experience it was for them. Wow! Was I ever wrong. I have learned that how a person participates is not reflective of their worship experience.
We will deal with other issues of teaching worship under the titles listed on our main page. I hope that as you read these bits of helps that you will seek to be the worship leader that God has called you to be. You know as well as I that each church is different, and how you approach this topic will vary from church to church. There will be more to come on this page in the future. I pray that you will consider furthering your education in the area of Worship. There are several Universities that are offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in worship ministries. God be with you as you seek to be all that He would have you be.
This article “Music Ministry” “Things They Didn’t Teach In College or Seminary” by Stephen M. Newman was excerpted from: www.experiencingworship.com web site. February, 2009. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”