Scenario 1: An unemployed worship pastor confided in me recently. He had just candidated with a church and it seemed like a perfect fit. But after a successful interview process where he led worship at the Sunday morning services, the elders pulled him aside for a private conversation. “You’re perfect,” they confided. “But frankly, we’re looking for someone younger.”
Scenario 2: He arrived a little late to our monthly meeting of local worship pastors and leaders, but it didn’t stop him from urgently sharing something. “I’ve got an issue, and I want your opinions,” he interrupted. “I’ve had an influx of musicians in my church lately. They’re really good, and they want to join my worship team.”
“Sounds great. What’s the problem?,” we queried.
His reply caught us off guard, “They’re coming from another church in our area. They said that their church doesn’t want to use them anymore, because they look too old.”
Scenario 3: I’m on a speaking tour of the Pacific Northwest, and a hipster worship leading guitarist I just met is explaining his church’s worship team philosophy to me. “It’s an issue of branding,” he declared matter-of-factly. “We’re trying to reach twenty-somethings, so it’s really important to sound just like what people hear on the radio.” His implication is clear: You can’t do that with old people.
Scenario 4: I’m speaking at a worship conference, and I decide to take some time between talks to slip into a session on worship songwriting. Dozens of young, aspiring, guitar-toting, white males in skinny jeans wait for an opportunity for their song to be heard by a panel of worship industry experts. As one song after another is played, it is obvious that they are talented, driven, focused—and quite cookie-cutter.
I’m witnessing a growing trend in some churches these days. And that is to quietly retire older worship leaders and musicians in favor of younger, more hip-looking equivalents. And let me be clear on this: I don’t have anything against young leadership, and I strongly believe it is an extremely important part of ministry to disciple and empower young men and women to serve and lead worship in our congregations. They bring a fresh, creative, and necessary expression to the church. The issue is that I am seeing—more and more—wise, talented, heart-driven, mature worship musicians and leaders, both vocational and volunteer, being “retired” from ministry.
Obviously, there are a myriad of complex factors involved—from clashes in leadership style and church vision to personalities and salaries (yes, more experienced worship pastors get paid more than less-experienced ones). And those with artistic temperaments can be quirky and free-spirited and set in their ways, which seems less acceptable the older one gets. So the issues are larger than simple age discrimination. Still, it is disheartening to see the church acting so much like the world.
Maybe my twenty years in vocational ministry have made me overly sensitive to these issues. And maybe I’ve just seen too many good men and women get passed over. I’ve personally heard the stories of worship pastors and leaders deeply hurt and spiritually broken by the churches they served. But personal feelings aside, perhaps it is more. Perhaps at the heart of it, it may be an issue of ecclesiology. In other words, what is your definition of church?
If your primary definition of church is something that happens on a Sunday morning, then it makes sense that the resources and programming and personnel would be event-oriented, and what is presented during the services—from countdown to smoke machines and laser lights, from presentation technology to message, from songs to worship leaders—would cater to attracting certain people and creating memorable experiences in those services. Creating your brand becomes an important part of an event-oriented ecclesiology, and it only makes sense to use a demographically homogenous worship team (e.g., young hipsters or modern rockers) to further inculcate your brand.
But if your primary definition of church is a community of people who love and follow Jesus, then it is less about the programming and more about creating a community of disciples. Not that the service doesn’t matter—because it certainly does—but the focus of the service would be very different. Your service would be more a reflection of the community that is already there. And your worship team may be more a reflection of your church family, with senior citizens playing alongside teens and thirty-somethings. It certainly isn’t as sexy looking. But perhaps it would look more like the Church.
The dirty little secret is that, in an effort to create more attractive services, some churches are actually looking more and more like the high school cafeteria. There is the Cool table, the Nerd table, the Jock table. No one wants the uncool guy or gal sitting at their table. At least, not on the worship team table.
What are we modeling when only “cool” people lead worship? What are we really valuing when we quietly retire those “mature” musicians? And what are we saying to the ever-growing older segments of our congregation when we put an unspoken age limit on those on stage? Are we valuing and serving and empowering them? Where do we model generational relationships and mentoring? How are we loving the people who are already in our midst? What are we really gaining when a church stops looking like the Church?
A caveat this blog by saying “some churches.” This is certainly not true across the board. But I do think that it is happening more and more in a lot of larger, influential churches, the kind that many other churches take their cues from.
This is what my worship teams look like: Older and younger guitarists sharing the songs of their generation with one another. Older drummers willing to learn modern styles, and younger drummers willing to learn Old School. Older and younger choir members hanging out together. Team members praying with and caring for and loving one another. Young men and women being empowered to lead the congregation. People of different ages, genders, ethnicities, and stylistic preferences gathering together to make great music for our Great God—both on stage and in the pews. The great diversity of the Bride of Christ worshiping the Author of Diversity.
Have you experienced this in your church? Are you in a church who exercises these practices? Are you a young or mature worship leader? What are your thoughts?
[NOTE: Since writing this blog, I’ve had hundreds of responses and thousands of reposts, prompting me to write a response which is available here. Also, I encourage you to check out my book, Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist.]
327 thoughts on “The Issue of Age in Modern Worship”
I have not personally experienced worship leaders being replaced due to age, but I can easily (and unfortunately) visualize that situation occurring. What I have experienced is aspiring worship leaders being discouraged and even blocked from leading worship because the were too young. These situations were largely motivated by the music styles being too “young”, not simply reduced to appearances. I do believe, however, young musicians being shunned for pushing the envelope with their musical style is a motivating factor for desiring a young worship team. Age is stereotyped with traditionalism, which communicates adversity to young ideas. If your worship team is young, the assumption is your ministry is open-minded.
This all plays back into the concept of branding, but what is ‘branding’ apart from a marketing tool used by advertisers to sell a product to the public? Left unchecked, the “brand” a church could be presenting is just short of anarchy, rebellion against the projected oppression of our elders. As the church, we are not selling a product, we are freely sharing the Gospel by emulating Jesus and teaching others to do the same.
What we are ultimately talking about is not an issue of age, but an issue of being sinfully judgmental. Being judgmental is not the act of assigning the status of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ to an object or idea, that’s just stating your worldview. The judgmental attitude the Bible speaks against is the act of assigning motives to another’s actions. He did ‘A’ to me, so he must think ‘B’. Church leadership who are making these decisions based on age and branding are passing judgement on the mentality of their attendees, assuming they will judge the church as being unwelcoming to young ideas based upon the age of their musicians. Young people who assume older worship leaders must also embrace older, traditional worship styles are also in the wrong. Decisions based on assumptions from age and outward appearance are nothing short of discrimination and directly opposed to the Gospel. God desires for us to build relationships with people because they are people, only then can we catch a glimpse of another’s heart.
I really appreciate your response. Indeed, age discrimination works both ways, and unfortunately the establishment (often times older people) will resist change (often led by younger people). Ironically, everyone starts out young and ends up old. It is the way of life. You would think we would know better.
I have found that, as I have aged, I lock into things I used to do and enjoyed when I was younger. When younger, I thought I would always keep up-to-date with current music and trends. Now older, I have discovered that I tend to listen to music that harkens back to my years in high school and college. I wonder if people in church are any different. We enjoy the music we grew up singing and lock that in. Then we oppose any who want to ‘change’ worship (as if our preferred way was wrong).
I wonder if younger leaders in church see the older generations as outdated in style and music who must be tolerated but brought along.
In the end, I believe we miss out on worship can be – time with our Lord . . . corporately. I believe it takes an act of conscious effort to work past our preferences and get to a proper state of mind. I know I need to work on this.
I see you your viewpoint, but it takes two to tango. Both sides think they are right and come to the table ready to win. Both lose whatever blessing God had in store for all.
The issue is arrogance. The fact that we have decided to pander to an age group, a look, a certain sound means that we are a retail operation with all glitz and no content. It is not surprising to me as we have adopted a marketing strategy to grow membership as opposed to serving God. We are so in love with our own images that we have forgotten what God looks like in a broken world. The experience and wisdom being lost in the process will result in new types of groups gathering of experienced creative people who will be age, color, and gender blind.
I must add that this is also being “taught” at church conferences run by people whose egos are bigger than their faith in most cases. The church that is not intergenerational is one that is formed with the Mall of America concept.
And, those who are disenfranchised in that age group should start their own faith gathering. God Bless us everyone.
Harvey, I agree with the above but while catering to the younger crowd, we must remember that the older members do not want to give up familier hymns, songs, and choruses which they cherish. Isn’t there a way we can have it both ways???
You hit it on the head, one church I help start began as a passionate group of people on fire for Jesus and just using a tape recorder with some music. As we grew our focus changed and the church became more like the retail store you talked about and the pastor worrying about numbers. Finally after 11 years I sat down and had a discussion and asked where are we headed as a church? After his reply I told him that was not where God was taking me and had left. Much of the music as we grew changed to appeal to the younger group and I had no issue with that, life is always changing as we grow. My issue was the worship was not passionate or heartfelt, but as you say the cookie cutter just to appeal to people. I think churches have lost their passion to hear God’s heart and have become nothing more than people pleasing.
Your “retail operation” phrase got my attention. I don’t like how somber the worship service is in my church–led by no one under 40. However, the “hip” churches I’ve visited have the music so loud that the audience could not possibly hear whether they, themselves are on pitch or not (it’s that loud) and the musicians are jammin’ away, oblivious to everyone around them. It’s performers on a stage; not worship leaders in a church. And it’s an audience, not a congregation.
Linda — that is the situation at our church. Cannot hear ourselves sing, or anyone around us. We could just lip sync and nobody would know the difference, least of all the worship leaders on the stage. Audience and performers, just like you said.
Good comments Harvey, thanks.
These days it’s getting harder and harder to get organised Christianity looking like Jesus’ version of it; the more we follow the world, the more we emulate it, the further we get from Him.
Marvelously said. I expect that since God is timeless, so should his people be…
I was thirty five when I joined the choir,seventeen years later I told not to show up up for choir practice they decided to just have a”praise team yes they were much younger,Sunday mornings became painful to just sit in the pew not being utilize ,not even a thank you for faithful service( I was also choir Secretary) ,I stayed another year making it 20 years at a church where I got saved and my miracle (Lilly !my daughter at the of 45) it was time to go,my spirit was quenched,I have since forgiven and visit on occassional,and we know all things work together for good.
In the past 15 years I have watched this happen in several churches in different areas—music, youth, teaching, and pastors. I believe we must work together as this article so clearly points out. None of us have cornered the market. We can and must learn from each other if we desire the body of Christ to be lifted up in our churches.
This conversation has taken place from the beginning inside a box. That box is the whole idea of having a worship leader that sings and plays “great music” from the stage. If one brought a psalm or hymn or song or something then we’d all have something to eat and to share. As long as we have Sunday meetings coming from a theater type perspective then all these ridiculous issues will be issues.
I totally agree with Michael Reese
Michael.. I have seen this over and over. Recently I visited a church with one person on the stage area …. at the keyboard.. leading music that most of I the congregation did not know. There was no praise team, no choir, no other instruments.. and few people singing. We lost some powerful praise singing that Sunday,, because …. I’m not sure why. I know worship is not just about the music… but some of us miss those anthems that blessed our hearts.
Exactly Michael Reese, exactly.
I fully affirm your findings, Manuel. Unfortunately, it isn’t only with worship pastors–all of us in ministry face the “age barrier” in many ways. The concept of age and wisdom, depth of spirituality or a breadth of experience hasn’t any credence in most churches (especially in the U.S.). Thank you for highlighting this issue. I really appreciate your suggestions. Bless you.
I love your comment, Diane. Agreed.
Very true. I am a former church staff member of a staff that was “restructured.” Now all but one of that group of experienced people is gone. We were innovative and creative, but because we were not young our ideas were not valued.
Sadly, my ministry, my passion, God’s perfect will in my life and my lifelong friends were destroyed because of a pastor’s desire to be like the ‘SUCCESSFUL”. 1800 people had joined and the choir was ministering with a special anointing, a blended worship which reached all people, BUT in two minutes, years of friendship, trust and a wonderful relationship all went down the tubes because of age, not lack of ability and anointing, but just wanting to be “mega church”. The “no reasons why” keep popping in my head, but I am so glad that God NEVER throws away His servants and ministry and the wisdom of age never is cast down by the One who chose us for service. Because I quietly walked away and pastor got cold feet on his new idea, nothing has changed except my life and the trust of those in the congregation who know the truth of the matter. Including the teenagers into my choir was building a bridge, and they loved it, but satan knows just how to topple something that is bringing people of all ages to Him. Keep praying precious people of ALL ages that together we can remember it is ALL ABOUT HIM!
This sounds like my church–don’t know if it is. We hired a new pastor who fired our entire staff with the exception of one pastor and one janitor. Then proceeded to tell hundreds of people who were the core people in the church “you would probably be happier in another church” . If anyone expressed any concern about the way the church was going, they were told to leave. A new, younger music pastor was hired, who promptly dismissed the choir and orchestra and announced we would no longer be using vocalists or instrumentalists in any specials. We had historically been blessed with many extremely talented musicians and as a congregation we were weekly led to the throne of God in worship as these musicians obeyed the call of God on their lives to use their talents for Him. They all left our church. Why would they stay when they were told they would not be allowed to use their God-given gifts anymore. In their place was put a plethora of guitars! Loud guitars. Our church was a healthy thriving church that was a leader in our community. Now we stand and watch the show that is taking place on the platform. Very few people sing. For most of the people left, worship is absent. Leaving the church with a headache and ringing ears is a reminder that I didn’t manage to worship much during that service. Just tolerating it until it is over is the prevailing feeling. It is heartbreaking. And it is scary. We have experienced a hostile takeover. And it is happening all over our country. God help the church. We are emulating the world so closely we have very little to offer any new people who might be attracted by our new “progressive worship” .
Agreed. We have a young pastor (38) w/ wife and 3 kids 6 and under. He surrounds himself (inner circle) with those around his age or younger. The older saints are good for carpentry, ushering, painting and doing other projects…but preaching? Forget about it! Youth is only promoted more than their inexperience to a FAULT! This is a major blind spot which is why we do NOT see our numbers escalate. He changes formats so often, it is starting to look like Wendy’s.
Yep. It is kind of misrepresenting the person of Christ by being age biased. In my church, only 20 somethings are given the room to grow and the position to be mentored. For us older ones, its like too bad so sad you were not born thirty years later so that you could have had a valid ministry for today. How perverted is that. I am not going to sit in my rocking chair and watch as others live out the dreams I was born with. No, my authority comes from heaven, not from systems of man. In His kingdom, it is the ones called, at any age, to serve Him. Do not fall into that trap church leaders.
I was called by the Lord at the age of 48. I felt like a young man again, and for the first time in my life I felt I had a purpose. I’ve always felt that I had a better than average singing voice, but never used or pursued music. After coming to the Lord, I was attracted to the more modern worship songs as opposed to the older hymnals. I am 53 years old now, 5 years young in the Lord and my hearts desire is to praise him, to lift up my voice and give him honor and glory. I have felt led to the worship side of ministry since being baptized. When ever people hear me sing they say “you should be in the worship team” (note: these are unsolicited responses). So I went in for a try out at a Church we were attending and was told “you have a great voice, but we are looking for a younger face on our worship staff”. Folks… that hurt me. Badly. I was told I could serve on the parking team or as a greeter, usher or as one of the janitors… So I was faced with the reality that it didn’t matter what gift the Lord had given me, if I wasn’t young or one of the “pretty people”, I couldn’t serve as God had called me to. I did have a conversation with the Pastor of that building, with him echoing the same thing I had been told by the worship leader. Rejected and wounded, I left. 4 years have past and I have not tried out for a worship team since… But recently, I was invited to become part of a worship team again. I pray I don’t have a similar experience. God knows that I don’t think I could stand another wound like the first one.
How is it possible to genuinely “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness; tremble before him, all the earth” when the process of worship is reduced to marketing a product that depends on appearance and cultural trends? I am no longer involved in this type of ministry, and do not feel qualified to speak about it except to say that the very notion that ones age (youth), has any bearing on decisions made about who should lead (in any area of ministry) goes directly against the very grain of scripture. “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” I believe this trend has occurred because the church (little “c”) often functions more like a business. Marketing principals should never be the crux of a God-directed local body concerned with helping people truly grow in faith. Ironically, my adult kids (in their 20’s-30’s) have no interest in the hip, rock band, trendy music approach to worship that so many churches place such an emphasis on these days. They have instead embraced a more sober, liturgical and sacred vehicle of worship and are actually put off by the rock concert experience (Jesus is my boyfriend) style of worship. I appreciate the fellowship where I am attending because the leaders don’t filter people who serve based on age, looks or trends. The “worship team” consists of teenagers to people who are in their 60’s – of varying musical talent and skill level. I believe this is a demonstration of wisdom that creates a healthy worship environment because it depends on the response of individual hearts, not the musicians on stage or the music itself. One might argue that not having a significant number of young people in a church makes the church unsustainable. I would argue that focusing on bringing in droves of young people to fill the seats and growing the church in number is only sustainable if you’re willing to throw out wisdom in lieu of selling a rock concert experience – labelled worship. Like I said, not my area of expertise … just my two cents.
My husband, a former successful worship leader, and I switched to liturgy, too.
Penni, you two-cents worth was a fortune to my ears and made me feel not alone as I feel the same way, and sometimes I feel like a grumpy old man for what I say.
When you said rock concert you expressed exactly what I have been talking to my wife about. The apparent need to pump people up has worn me out. I have taken a decibel meter to services and they border dangerously high in the red zone. There is even an earplug dispenser in the back of the church. My wife has significant hearing loss, and I have to remind her to plug her ears and take out her hearing aid. We sit in the back, but the base guitar feels like it is hammering my chest. The worship service seems like a theater with jumbotron-like TV’s running mini-commercials of “what is happening” before the service begins like previews in a theater while waiting for the main attraction. Personally, I like a quiet reflective environment to read the scripture being used for the lesson
The teaching is good, and I can watch that live on the Internet. Between that and a small group I almost no need to drive in on Sunday morning for the show. I’m not against change, but then again maybe I’m just getting old.
Thanks Manuel. Great article. I find myself in the same boat. My position is being “cut” because of finances & no one wants to hire the old guy so I have no choice but to leave ministry for work to support my family. Not having any luck so far .
This was me. Fifteen years as a pastor, full-time ministry. Fired. I was replaced by the recent winner of The Voice Brazil. He’s a great young man and having met him can attest to his kind spirit. He’s a brother so no axe to grind. Three things in the article come to light. WORSHIP INDUSTRY. The fact that these words were even written scares me. BRANDING. Each community will express itself differently but branding reeks of corporate models and are not found in 1st century Christianity. Why is it part of our vocabulary now? EXPRESSION OF THE CHURCH. In the first century church, each and every member had a God-given right and were expected to participate in their public meetings. They were encouraged to reveal Christ and speak to each other in spiritual hymns and songs. Paid professionals are such a far cry from the New Testament expression of the church. Worship is part of the DNA of the body of Christ. It was never intended to be what we’ve made it in to. It’s not evil or wrong but perhaps what I’ll call second best. Its what I knew on my Christian walk for years and even career-wise for fifteen years. Lets re-read the NT and get an understanding of what the first century church looked like and we may all wonder why we go to the God box, look at the back of someone’s head for an hour and watch the ones that made the audition cut on stage, er, platform. :-)
I have been involved in “worship leading” in our previous church, and see the value of the older hymns mixed with the newer worship choruses, singers with good harmony as well as boldness to sing out, on the platform encouraging participation from those sitting in the auditorium. We need to strive for a First Corinthians 14 thinking of ministry in all facets of worship. Yet, we do need leadership, and sometimes the young have the energy and insight to keep the sounds fresh. So, somehow, we need to heed one another and not replace worship leaders for youthful appearance, but instead strive for unity of agreement in worship.
Excellent statements Bob!
Many International churches abroad are looking for worship leaders to be sent out to the mission field. These high turnover churches rarely can support a pastor or other staff. They need missionaries sent from their home churches or who raise support with friends. A worship leader is just as important to these small communities as a pastor or evangelist. But for some reason, US churches and missions organizations have been slow to realize it.
Good insight, John Mullen.
We are blessed to have both young and not as young…I agree we must have both!
Very thoughtful and well-written article. I share your concern, though it’s not one I’ve personally seen or experienced. I happen to play on the worship team of a church which is, I think, ‘doing it right’. We have myself (guitarist, pushing 60), plus a leader who is in his 40’s, right down to a 16-year old kid on guitar. Half our team is under 20. As a former professional musician, and someone who has played intensively for his whole life, I know I bring something to the table which can benefit the youth, but I also know I have to keep learning from and listening to the new music and musicians.
We bring young musicians or vocalists on the team, not because they are great ‘yet’, but because we want to mentor them along and raise them up into the musicians they CAN be. Two of our best team members started singing with us when they were 7 and 8 years old respectively. Our whole church strongly values the fact that we create places for children as well as youth on the team, and allow them to function as valued members of the team.
However, we have experienced another challenge on our teams: A former worship director liked to include everyone who wanted to be on the team, whether they were gifted or not, whether they were needed musically or not. So at times we had many singers, but most were not really strong, and sometimes we simply had too many musicians and the mix was turning out to be a mush. Yes, we want to make room for those whose gifts musically might be less than stunning, but at the same time we need a core with a certain amount of strength so that things don’t fall apart. Personally, I like to see us limited to one ‘developing’ musician at a time, and one or two ‘developing’ vocalists at a time.
Overall, my sense is that I’m grateful to be part of this experience in which I feel so much is being done right.
Doug – your comments are awesome there. One idea you mentioned there…”However, we have experienced another challenge on our teams: A former worship director liked to include everyone who wanted to be on the team, whether they were gifted or not, whether they were needed musically or not. So at times we had many singers, but most were not really strong, and sometimes we simply had too many musicians and the mix was turning out to be a mush.”
I have been concerned in the past with the idea of letting anybody join the musicians leading worship as well, especially if they actually do not have musical abilities. (Or they maybe think they do but in reality – they don’t). Makes me want to question their motives initially. I mean why do people believe God is calling them to serve the church as a vocalist or musician when they lack skill and ability musically? Seems odd. Not trying to be exclusive or snobby here! LOL
Just saying that each one in the body has a calling from God and He has created each one with skills, abilities, and spiritual gifts. Those who are called to play instruments (vocalists as well) in worship and lead the body “know” they are called. They invest years at their musical craft – practicing and learning and also yielding their hearts to the Holy Spirit so He can flow through them as they play and sing. Makes me question why someone with no musical understanding is included and put that position with the other musicians. Doesn’t make sense to me.
Would like to hear other people’s thoughts on that actually! Again – not being exclusive or arrogant here! I take the call to ministry in music very seriously and rely on the Holy Spirit’s leading in all areas. But I have seen churches where the leadership is “all inclusive” regardless if someone has musical ability or not … doesn’t make sense. Any thoughts! :-)
I love working with younger musicians and encouraging their development. In the past, congregations that I was privileged to serve were understanding and patient with sometimes-less-than-proficient bands – but they encouraged the younger musicians/singers and gave them room to improve (and they did).
What’s the other option? (Sarcasm Alert for next paragraph) :)
“Sorry, but you’re not proficient enough to play on a worship team. Go out and play in bar bands until your skills are honed enough to play at church. Oh, but if you get sucked into a worldly lifestyle and addictions, we don’t want you back. Good luck and God bless!”
On the other hand, there are sometimes people who really DON’T have much musical talent, and nobody likes to say that to a dear brother or sister in Christ. (Sucks to be the leader when you have to have that conversation!)
Larry Norman once said “Just because you love Jesus and can play three chords doesn’t mean you’re ‘called’ to music ministry.” :)
I’m a worship leader at my church. I’m 50-mumble years of age. I began leading worship (we didn’t call it that at the time) as a high school student at the Wednesday night high school bible study, then various groups during college and after, then at my own church after we made the transition from hymns only, to blended, now to 90% contemporary. My call is to serve, and this is how I do it best. I’m acutely aware of my limitations (I’ve been heard to remark that my best ability is my availability) and another thing that’s pretty obvious: if there were more skilled people around my church, I’d be doing something else. I’d be gently steered in other directions. As it is, I’m one of two main sound guys (we have about 3 total), one of maybe 5 multimedia operators, and one of 3 worship planner/leaders. I work very hard to learn new songs, to encourage the other folks on my team to pick up new skills, to keep it fresh. I try hard to understand the thrust of the sermon for the morning and use music and secondary texts that support it. But the folks on my worship team are all post-50, except my main bass player is 20-something and my backup bass guy is a high school student. I need to tell you: This blog post scares me, and the topic has been a little scary for me for years. A sudden influx of really skilled players and singers might just lead someone to excuse me from what I consider my primary ministry. I check myself regularly, and nope, my reason for doing what I do hasn’t diminished: I’m still called to sing praises to God, in front of the congregation of the Lord, and hopefully help to foster the atmosphere and attitudes most conducive to true worship. So I do the only thing I know how to do: Keep on keepin’ on, keep checking back with the Holy Spirit, and try to keep my attitude right. I encourage you to pray for all worship leaders everywhere to do the same. God Bless,
Awesome thoughts. As an old AV guy, I see this played out weekly; and decision making by well intentioned spiritual leaders increasingly follows the cafeteria formula. But one has to wonder if ecclesiology is not “event” or “community” but the body of Christ. Not WWJD, but what is Christ actually doing in this body of believers? How is His Spirit guiding our actions? And how does our worship of the Head of our body reflect His Glory in those actions? Worship as “event”, or as “community” is most often performance – not worship. Sounds judgmental doesn’t it; but I find fewer people arguing with that assessment these days. Just last Sunday our young worship leader came back to the sound booth and I offered: “sounds good” and he responded: “the people are dead.”
I hope the discussion will be less about which formula to use in creating “worship” and more about churches actively and actually worshiping our Lord.
Louis, when I refer to “community” I am referring to Biblical community, i.e., the body of believers of Jesus: “a community of people who love and follow Jesus.” I don’t know how that equates to performance.
Thank you Manuel – I may have been trying to save too many words. And thank you for the clarification on community – you have said it very well in your reply.
My concern has been that churches would work hard to be relevant to young people only and instead of “leading worship” the talented people up front would be giving a “performance.”
Your comments and the discussion you’ve prompted are obviously valuable. Thank you again.
So I completely agree with you, but here’s what I think is happening. Culturally, through globalization and media, society is changing so rapidly. I once heard a futurist describe a generation now being 6 years. 6! The reason why churches are opting for younger worship leaders is affinity. It’s like hiring a missionary that speaks Spanish to serve their local Hispanic population. These young musicians, wrong or right, speak the right language…and not just through their words: through their image, other non-verbals, and music style. This is actually just a microcosm of a larger issue of how we stay a unified church in a very diverse culture.
I think the answer to “how do we stay a unified church in a very diverse culture” is to stop looking at each other and to start looking at Jesus. Think of worship as pleasing HIM instead of pleasing target audiences A, B and C, and how can you go wrong?
Amen SL Hansen… A true worship leader is one who is truly worshiping the LORD from the 1st note sung or played. They are not focused on themselves, on their talent or ability. They are focused on WORSHIPING the Living God. My favorite worship leaders are the ones who disappear as they worship the LORD and take me right into the heavenly’s with them. I have sat under mediocre guitar players and singers, by the worlds standards, who have brought me into the presence of the LORD and to tears. And I have sat under the “Show band” so to speak. I’ll take the one who is genuinely worshiping the LORD every time. After all… It’s not about us.. It’s all about JESUS. I love the song that says “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, where it’s all about you, all about you JESUS. Just because someone it talented doesn’t mean they are called to lead worship. And believe me.. if as worship leaders we think we’re all that, God totally knows how to humble and remind us that without HIM we could not even breath.. So, no matter what all glory, honor and praise belongs to our GOD. I heard a Pastor recently say.. Stop talkin’ about your CHURCH… and start talkin’ about JESUS! I wholeheartedly agree!
I understand what you’re saying.
Imagine we switched worship teams unexpectedly in a church that sings strictly Gospel music (Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, etc.) with a team that sang only selections from artists like Hillsong and Chris Tomlin. This scenario, and the opposite, would make it difficult for worshipers to focus because there is nothing familiar. (Believe it or not, I have friends who had never heard Chris Tomlin/Hillsong until attending a largely White Christian university).
Similarly, it’s important to offer a variety so that all worshipers (not just the target age) can worship God through a means that is most comfortable to them. I know churchgoers are often self-centered about their desires of the church, and I don’t condone that mindset. However, I think this is legitimate.
I have been on the “old” end of this debate, and it took me by surprise. My church had nearly 100 musicians, and many of us had professional backgrounds. The church was growing, and the music was widely recognized as the best. Over a period of a couple of years, the church got rid of all but a couple of us, replaced by younger people. We didn’t fit the look, and the senior minister was not about to give us a chance to change our style. After all, as a musician (and a person!) the ONLY thing about yourself you can’t change is your age. You can lose weight, change your hair color, buy new clothes, learn a new style, but you can’t get any younger. And young, in my former church’s definition, was about 35.
The idea of church worship teams becoming what amounts to cover bands to project a “brand” is dangerous. Just as soon as the congregation figures out that the church down the street has a better band/more impressive lighting/cooler worship pastor, it will walk. Letting radio stations dictate the playlist is also dangerous. Radio stations play what sells, and what sells tends to be whatever is new, but strikingly similar to the last big hit. Songs, no matter how good, don’t last on radio playlists long enough to become old favorites; no one makes any money that way. If you examine the playlist from most modern churches and compare what is presented today, there will be little similarity from even 2 years ago.
The whole idea of attracting 20-somethings is also false. I’m a college professor, teaching future ministers. I can tell you that they value the opinions of older people, and they are far from blind when churches boot out mature members in favor of younger, hipper, cooler. The Millenials can smell phony a mile away, and they run–fast.
The church where I am now does not have a “cool” music program. I wish it did; I miss the band members I’d worked with for years. What we do have, though, is a program that lets anyone who wants to participate have a part. Not everyone gets to solo, but we have decided to love one another for the contributions they can make, whether they are the 80-year-old organist or the little ones singing “Jingle Bells” for the Christmas service. The side effect: the 20-somethings are flocking to our congregation, drawn not by music, but by excellent Bible teaching, and the Christlike love for one another modeled by older members.
Alice, I 100% agree with you. I love quality music, but I don’t need it to worship with my church. Often, though, I attribute the attrition rate of the church to poor music and programs. I know it isn’t nearly the problem I make it out to be, but you see churches with professional quality sound that are chock-full. Yet, numbers in this case doesn’t mean anything, particularly in a single moment in time. As a church, we need to do music together. I really appreciate the posts that have talked about intergenerational worship teams that mentor those who wish to serve in a musical capacity.
Sounds wonderful Alice. One aspect of “branding” that confuses me is the focus on attracting an age-group that is abandoning church. Not saying we don’t want to meet the needs of younger folks and their children, but people are living longer and remaining active longer. When people typically died at 60 it was different. It seems now that we are relegating an active, mature group of faithful folks to door greeters ( the group that is probably paying most of the bills ).
What a great blog, and a great reminder to all of us. I’ve been a Church Music Director for the past 25 years. I can relate on both ends of the spectrum. For me, I’ve found it necessary to change, to stay relevant (mainly because of the types of churches I have worked in). I’ve paid attention to main stream artists who are older than I, who have continued to reinvent themselves. I’ve always kept that model. I’m 46, and I hang out with a lot of 20 something artists, who are also on my team. I love these guys, and truthfully, I’ve learned so much from them. They keep me fresh. They have far more time than I do because of their season of life, to experiment, and spend hours working on new concepts, ideas, and the great thing… is they bring that to the table, and it’s good for all of us.
On the flip side, we have worked hard at our church to maintain a culture of learning from one another, and serving hand in hand with one another, regardless of age. What I love about our young guys, is that because I’ve shown respect to them, and listen, they show it right back. It’s fun putting on the mentor hat and pouring into these young lives, who will continue to carry the mantle of worship leadership, long after me.
I find that it is in fact harder for some of our older musicians to make certain adaptations. But I also find, that when they do, and to see a 50 something rocker playing his heart out on his electric guitar, next to one of our 18 year olds, it’s worth the effort of bringing these generations together. This is the body, the young, the old, people who are different from one another, but who have talent, and have a gift of music, all on one stage leading people in worship.
I think the easiest thing to do, is to stay in the box of “what we know” as we get older, or to even choose to cut off the older and go for all younger. I will say this, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves, and get a little messy, and bring all of it together, the pay off is AWESOME!
Thanks Manuel for your blog and for bringing attention to this. God Bless!
I have been a worship leader when I was much younger and now function as a team musician in a large church. I am 52 and have played the guitar for 40 years, always seriously, though not always at a professional level.
Our church is in the middle of a transition both in leaders and players, moving toward more professionalism in technical skill. Its a challenge and I hope I am up for it. I can say it is more of a challenge in my spirit, though it is also a challenge for aging hands and ears.
I am to take a lesson tomorrow from a much younger player who I know can help me with my guitar technique for the music we play. I welcome that, but at the same time am having to stifle the advice I want to blanch out on him about, of all things, his choice of dress and hair. Why in the world would that matter? I look out at our congregation, which is large and diverse and ask myself, “why would anyone leading this group of people in worship want to dress in a way that fairly screams, ‘I am not like you.'” Our pastor does not dress in a suit and tie because our congregation does not come in suit and ties. He identifies with the congregation in his mode of dress. If I cite specific examples I’m sure to come off as a “get off my lawn” old fogie. The apostle Paul went to the extreme of saying, “I’ll become anything to show you that God loves you.” Young leaders need to learn as we all do that “I gotta be me,” is not a grown up leader attitude. Dress like you are coming to work and coming to lead. Super form fitting jeans and peacock hair–I just don’t get it. As for “attracting” your congregation, I can only say that as a person who has worked with founding new churches and having many friends who have been in pastoral ministry, there is the congregation you set out to pastor and then there are the actual people that God gives you pastor.
I’m a worship Pastor in Canada, and I’ve got a large age range in my worship teams. Just wanted to say that your words are timely, and well-appreciated. There’s lots of different issues that weigh into this topic, but at the end of the day, your words gave me a pause for thought, to check my heart and what kind of Church we are creating. Appreciate you!
I can feel your pain my friend! I experienced something very similar. I pastored a small church and was “voted” out because the congregation felt I was too young. I was 42 at the time.
I’m 46 years old. I’ve been leading worship for more than 20 years now, and I too see this trend taking place. I’ve even dealt with it some as a staff member in a church where I served in the past. The church where I serve today is a very diverse congregation and it would be a huge mistake to simply adopt a formula from another church that targets a narrow audience. I’m blessed to serve with a pastor and team that understand this completely and value people in a profound way.
However, there is another issue here that I think should be brought up, namely the role of the “service”. In most large churches that adopt a young approach, the issue is not the definition of the church. We make a big mistake to discount an event-style approach to our gatherings as shallow or as forsaking the basic nature of the church. Instead, the crucial issue is the purpose of the church service. Like it or not, our culture is attracted and driven by presentation. Americans like a show. We like events. That’s why churches that focus on presentation are generally very effective at drawing a crowd. They understand how to reach our culture. In those churches, the weekend service is designed to reach people with the message of the gospel. It is not designed to foster community among believers. It is not generally designed to teach doctrine or deal with deeper issues.
In an outward focused church the main weekend service is designed to reach people with the message of Jesus in a way that relates to where they are. Churches who maintain an outward focus feel the pressure to constantly evaluate and measure their effectiveness in presenting the message of the gospel to their community. That’s not selling out, or being worldly. It can be, if you’re not focused on the right thing, but for many churches it serves as a very effective means of maintaining a focus on reaching unchurched people. Our natural tendency as human beings is to think of ourselves first, to turn inward. We value our own preferences above others. We turn opinions and traditions into essentials and it erodes our ability to accurately portray Jesus to the world.
This is the critical issue that is causing a disconnect for many aging worship leaders. We make the mistake of thinking that if our view of the service is the right one. We make the mistake of questioning the heart and motive of our leaders. That may be one of the biggest reasons aging worship leaders are finding it difficult to stay engaged in the changing church culture. We aren’t seeing that WE must change. We can’t keep doing what we did in the 80s. It doesn’t work today.
I’m happy to say that the church where I serve is a very healthy, Biblically functioning, God honoring, people loving, outward focused church. I’m doing my best to keep growing and changing so I will be able to add value here and be a part of what God is doing in my city.
Brad, I appreciate your comments, but you might want to expound on this statement of yours:
“Like it or not, our culture is attracted and driven by presentation. Americans like a show. We like events. That’s why churches that focus on presentation are generally very effective at drawing a crowd…It is not designed to foster community among believers. It is not generally designed to teach doctrine or deal with deeper issues.”
Your statement, taken at face value, does not reflect well on the modern church.
I am most concerned when the music for a church begins to feel like a rock concert (performers on stage doing various pyrotechnics, singing and playing loudly enough to be heard a block away from the event, and projecting a “look at me, watch me” mentality. Why have an amplifier belting out 110+ decibals in a room probably 40 to 50 feet square??
I am 62 and will resist any attempt to allow my ears to become accustomed to that much aural abuse! As a trained organist I value and protect my hearing! Church music should not hurt peoples’ ears regardless of the style being presented. It is important to worship Jesus, not the music, and not many churches seem inclined to do that. Rock concerts stifle honest participation by the listeners and (in my opinion) squelch true worship because one’s sense are so bombarded with sensory overload that interaction with God can not happen.
I concur with Brad’s point that church leaders should strive for cultural relevance, and would add that they need to work hard to maintain a high quality. “We’re looking for someone younger,” and, “We’re going in a different direction,” can be euphemistic for: “We don’t think you’re very good.”
That statement bothered me also, Manuel.
This is sad…it seems that church has become a entertainment event… instead of a Jesus worshiping hospital for spiritual needy people…Who just want to sing Christian songs and feel the presence of their Lord….really sad…
What are we keeping up? Can we sell the good news by making good music? Where is the bible in this whole story? We sing and make music to honor GOD and share His trueth right? Not attrackt people by performing well or being the best right? Is it not GOD Who gives faith and trust to people? We can’t confince, especialy not with performing according to the quality of worlds standarts.
My focus is to make music so we will not be distracted by the it’s style but ancourage to sing together about the Trueth and greatness of GOD. What He has done and will do and will accomplish instead of being modern. If it is real, from the heart it will reflect the Light of God. This is the purpose in all we are doing.
I love to make the best music as long as it serves the right goal.
God bless you
Doesn’t sound like it reflects on Christ at all. We’re not there for the Culture but the Christ.
OK. I see what you mean. I’ll be happy to clarify.
My point is that the Sunday morning service in many churches who are intentionally evangelistic is very often singularly focused on the presentation of the message of Jesus, the illumination of our need for him, and some sort of response to the message (some use an invitation, some do not). In this type of service, the musical presentation is solely designed to be a part of this effort. The other functions and priorities of the church, like spiritual formation and fostering community and even worship itself, are given priority in other settings, small groups, other gatherings, etc.
I’m not saying that everyone should do it this way, but, in the U.S., this model has proven to be a very effective way to reach large amounts of people with the message of Christ, and introduce them to faith. It may rub some people the wrong way, but to say it’s not a God-honoring method is just silly. To say that the people who come to Christ in these churches are not “true converts” is really very sad.
My larger point is that our resistance to embrace new methods and ideas may stand in the way of our ability to grow and change. Sometimes we’re so zealous for our own traditions and preferences we spiritualize them and turn them into non-negotiables. When we do that we run the risk of becoming a relic of the past. As I get older, I’m going to fight to keep that from happening in my heart. If my greying hair and wrinkles disqualify me from ministry, that’s one thing, but If it’s my own stubbornness and resistance to change that disqualify me, that’s tragic.
The biggest Tragedy I see is how so many people miss what the Church is really about. We ARE the Church, how we worship is not the main Issue, I remember Jesus telling his followers to go Into All the World with His Message. Focussing on the presentation of supporting Artists is as Bad as Deifying the Preacher. Humble Servants are who we are called to be. In the house where I fellowship and Worship we have song leaders and Band members of all ages, our presentation would probably not pass muster in the Grand American Super-church but the Holy Spirit comes and anoints the humble and the congregation are blessed. The Youth and the Children get a few turns to lead worship each year and the Evening service is very Youth orientated. The Leadership is carried by a caring Deaconate and Two Elders who support the Pastor and generally administrate the Church. In some of the great Congregations of the world, people are meeting in Living rooms of houses with the risk of death just outside their doors, each believer Knows the price of being in Christ’s Church and we in the west need to be supporting them in Prayer and intercession. Great as it is to have the likes of Hillsong entertain us, we need to follow their and other ministries into the lands that persecute our Brethren… We need to get back to the RADICAL Church of ACTS and Do what Jesus sent us to do…
I love good musicianship, quality technical back-end, and polished production. I run the front of house and I’m a stickler for having the sound end up mixed to my satisfaction.
That said, when it really boils down to it, all our care in perfecting our various arts is supposed to be there to 1) Glorify God & 2) Lead people in worship.
If your “Branding” is something other than “Jesus” you’re selling a cheap imitation and selling your congregation short. I’ve been to plenty of churches that had less musical talent, terrible equipment and volunteers who didn’t really know what they were doing- but they led with a heart dedicated to God’s glory and to lead themselves and others in his worship.
I wonder if this is why I can’t get a job. Who’s knows. Been candidate 1B too many times. Though the landscape is significantly different up here in Canada.
Well, Curtis. You’re probably onto something.
I’ve been leading worship for over thirty years. I’m 46, but I listen to the stuff kids are listening to today. I’m a solid musician, and I keep up. But I’ve been between full-time pastoral ministry positions for nearly two years, and the “we’ve decided to go a different direction” line is getting a little tired. I’ve been reading this blog thread with great interest and an increasingly heavy heart. I am honored to serve on the worship team at my church. Pretty much every musician that serves is a paid, gigging pro, and most aren’t really connected to the church in any significant, relational way. We on the platform don’t represent the congregation. We are paid to make it sound like the radio. We do the songs in keys only Chris Tomlin or Lincoln Brewster can sing in, and it seems to be quite alright that people don’t really join in.
But the fact is, the professional product seems to put people in the seats. And that is hard to argue with when push comes to shove. I just can’t seem to connect the dots between a quality product and the worship-life of our community of believers.
So as I have been so very close to different ministry positions in my and other churches in the last couple of years, it seems that my age at some point always becomes a barrier. I hear the adage of “we’re trying to take the median age on the platform down a decade.” Marketability and branding simply don’t have room for a 46-year-old acoustic guitar worship leader. It’s just the way it is. My resume, education (MDiv), experience, references, recordings, and skillset would be quite hirable if I were 26 instead of 46. But reality is what it is. I’m not bitter or angry. But I am a little mistified that the Church could be so short-sighted on such a crucial issue. I think that the American Church’s confusion around issues of marketing, branding, dollars, and impact is seriously problematic when approached from a biblical perspective.
I’ve resolved myself to serve where I can and say, “Yes” to just about anything asked of me. I don’t know how this age/generation issue is going to be resolved. Is this just a trend/fad that will reverse itself at some point? Or is this the new permanent reality in the American Church? I don’t know. I just know God has gifted me, called me, prepared me, and empowered me to serve his Kingdom in this world. I’m his child, and that’s got to be enough. I can’t see a long path illuminated. I only see the step right before me, and I’m learning to trust and follow, wherever and whatever it may look like. The only things that are indisputable are that the Church is his, and that I’m not getting any younger.
I know I am out of my element here, as a layperson who is serving as an interim worship leader for my congregation. Forgive me for stating the obvious, but my “church” is still the members of our body, not the building where we gather for community worship. We find ourselves struggling to hire a new worship leader. Our recently departed leader left rather abruptly, because of a difference of foundational beliefs with our head pastor. He was an incredibly talented musician and man of God from whom I learned more than from anyone else in my life concerning God and His desires for me. He is greatly missed by myself and many of our body. I do not believe, however, that age played any part in his departure.
I believe our head pastor, who is soon to turn 30, is searching for a younger candidate to become our next worship leader. I am not so certain that age has a lot to do with it, more experience and beliefs. I strongly believe that our pastor is looking for someone that he can influence and mold in to the type of worship leader he wants.
We have a fantastic group of musicians who are used to help lead worship services for our body. They range in age from a 13 year old girl drummer to a 50 plus year old pianist. There are many young people who choose to share their talents with the body and they do an exceptional job. It is exciting to see a group of young people who choose to outwardly express their love for God by sharing the gifts that He gave them. However, the “older” folks on our team also make valuable contributions and would be difficult to replace. As I see it, age has little to do with your ability to lead the church body in worship. It comes down to obedience to God, love of God, and the desire to worship with your entire being.
The way I see it, God is still the one in control of everything. A true worship “leader” should be a man of God who uses his heart, mind, body, and soul to try to facilitate corporate worship for the members of His body, regardless of how old he may be.
The same goes on for Pastors. In my denomination 50 and 60 year olds are increasingly past over for younger clergy who have that hip/cool look.
I am currently right in the middle of a situation that is very close to what you have described in your article. The church appears to be moving to a more “hip” approach on music leadership in an effort to pull in the younger crowd. The next thing probably to come will be the removal of the “old” people from the team and some of us are already anticipating its arrival. This church has entered the “branding” world as well. I do not see it helping our church achieve its intended result which is to add growth. Rather, I see it contributing to an exodus of those that will be offended. I never saw it coming until about a year ago and even then, I was unaware of what was about to unfold. I really hate this is occurring because it’s going to be the end of a 14 year run for me and I believe a major mistake which will may cause the church to fall from within.
I’m updating my post from a year ago. I’m now no longer a part of the music team and neither are many that were a year ago. While I was not “told” to sit down, the conditions of serving became unbearable for many of us. The worship band is now a guitar-driven worship band with no horns. While I have nothing against guitar-driven worship, I personally believe this was the desire all along. What I do not appreciate is that many churches as we’ve seen by the responses are doing away with people just to fit the “mold” of what they think church should look and sound like. Church should look like you, me and those around us and should sound like your team’s combined abilities–not a cd! It’s not just a young, hip-looking team of leaders! It’s all of us combined. So what has been the result of the changes in my church? Increased attendance? No. Deeper, Christ-centered worship where people really press into the Throne more than ever before? No.
So, I can only speak of my situation but all I see is a church that has successfully alienated a group of people. These people are now searching for a new place to serve that accepts and appreciates what they have to offer. In time, it may pay off for those that want this change but at what cost? Will it be worth it? I think the answer has already been answered by many in this discussion.
I empathize with your pain and frustration, DJ. I encourage you, as you respond to people and circumstances, to make your foundational motivation love and grace, whatever your response might be. Blessings to you and those in your church.
Sadly, age or the fear of it is sending other pastoral staff on their way or at least moving them to the sidelines. While many churches have wonderful young, talented leaders with passion for the church and lost people, they would benefit from the wisdom and experience of the older leaders they often want replaced or refuse to add to their staff. They would be wiser to invite or keep some of those staff who have been up the trail before them and can keep them from dangerous falls or mistakes that could hurt them and the ministry.
I know of a fellow worship leader (now in his mid 40s) who turned a worship “director” job down at a very large church because they wanted him to “oversee” everything. Which basically meant all the young, hip, cool worship leaders would be the “face” of the ministry and he would be the brains behind the operation. He was in his late 30s then.
I am the “director” of our family environments, which means I am responsible for our high-school, middle school, elementary, and even nursery to pre-k environments. Our church is a “large” church. We have music in all of those separate environments.
What we strive for is MULTI generational teams across all the environments. And in our main services we pull from those family ministries as well…meaning that occasionally we pull teenagers into our main service worship environments as well and older folks head into our “kids” environments, too.
It’s really neat. It creates a nice family atmosphere and not a too cool for school production…
Love this article and the discussion it can generate.
Great article. I know the church I was one in leading worship is all about the younger generation. Of course the pastor is 60+ and the associates are gaining in on it but it seems the younger is normally giving way to the old. IN the church where I currently serve as a 48 year old worship leader is a microcosm of the church at large. We planted it two years ago and gathered many people behind the vision that was presented. return to Acts, build HIS church and don’t even consider outlying factors such as age, ethnicity, etc. let it be organic and grow as it will by people who are challenged to pursue Christ. I told the pastor if you leave this course I’ll leave the church. Not because I have it all together but I we both feel that we can’t find a better model for growing God’s kingdom than any other that has been laid down by one simple word:GO. Live as missionaries in your communities. Create disciples who want to live challenged by the Word of God and example of Christ. The distortion comes when you make Sunday (one day a week, one hour a week.) the focus and not the lives of those who are not experiencing Christ and His gift of salvation. Lay down the show. Lay down the hype. Half the stuff we say anymore, all our sound bytes in our weekly services – most of them are not even in the Bible. You can have a blast and learn from generations upon generations because the older have walked through so much and have understood what it means to grow into a lifestyle of worship – not music – worship. in fact, in my own opinion as I see the New testament life of bringing other people to Christ, it’s not about even music in a church. There’s singing when they gather but who’s to say that’s a church service. it can be but it can be in your homes as well. beautiful hymns and rocking contemporary songs that God has poured through gifted artists. Go for it! I’ve always felt, let’s keep each other accountable in our daily lives, have weekly gatherings in our homes and meet once a month in a larger setting to receive a God breathed directive then go live it out for a month then come back together and tell stories of God’s power moving in people’s lives. Why weekly? Just rambling here. I pray we stop with the show return to GO.
As one who experienced this I can tell you it is devastating. I have spent 35 years leading worship and was 3 years a way from retirement and the church just decided they need someone younger. There are no words to describe the hurt and rejection but the worst part of it was people who told me they loved me and supported now treat me as if i was dead. This was not the church I loved and served, they would have never done that. The church now is run as a business like the world. To make matters worse No churches would even respond to my resume. For pastors to make it to retirement today is rare.
Reblogged this on theLetneys.com and commented:
I am working on writing a worship philosophy series called “The Performance-Minded Worshiper” later this month and into next month. But I stumbled upon this article, and it is a perfect prelude to a broad, yet deep look into something that has been quietly sneaking into our Western Church ecclesiology for years: The Performance mentality. Love it or hate it, this blogger is pretty spot on for many churches in our culture. I would love your thoughts as I prep this next round of fun. And yes, there will be more original music coming with this too!!
God bless you brother Michael. if your work is for True,God will lead you…………Amen
I’m a 55 year old female worship leader. I was the (part time) music director/worship leader for my church for 10 years. Our team was leading up to 3 services on each Sunday. Then the “we want to be a BIG church” bug hit our pastors. Many things started to change as they began to alter the “face” of our building, programs, ministry and staff. Before long the pastors turned their sights on the music. I led my team through more than 2 years of “wilderness”. We were serving prayerfully and faithfully in spite of being misunderstood, misaligned, undermined, disrespected and sometimes, frankly, lied to. I came to see the church leaders’ desire and search for “the young, male, charismatic music leader” as a kind of lusting. They pushed aside the dedicated, talented, experienced leaders in our ministry and lusted for some new, younger people to come in. A pastor actually told a mature, skilled musician to “get another talent and find another way to serve” if he wanted to help at the church. Bit by bit the worship team was picked apart. I was replaced by a 22 year old guitar-playing male. Surprised? I think not.
Your article is important. As our “baby boomer” generation ages there will be more and more of us struggling with these issues in our churches.
Finally, however, I must say that when I asked the Lord to show me what my response to this discrimination should be, He clearly and simply led me to Luke 6. Jesus’ words in this chapter are my marching orders. The “battle for the rights of the older worship leaders” will be led by others until my Lord tells me differently.
I fully understand what you are saying. I have always been active in the choir and led when I was needed or for special occasions. I also was a member of the worship team. All of this until a few years ago when our church leadership decided they didn’t want the “white hairs” (that’s a quote) to be part of those ministering in our now hip services. I have seen several talented people hurt by this and some actually quit attending church because of it. I have tried to go along with this thought process, mostly because I know everything has to change, but frankly, I feel invisible and left out now. I am no longer included in what I love and was given the talent to do. However, I am still allowed to serve in other areas where I am less visible, but needed. It just hurts a bit when you get pushed aside, and feel that you are being tolerated just to keep the numbers up. I love my church, but I love the Lord more, so until He moves me, I will stay there and exercise all of the humility I can, knowing it’s not about me, but about Him.
I have been thinking about this recently myself. I don’t consider myself old at 34, but when I look at some of the worship bands across the nation and globe, I feel old, outdated, and lacking in the hipster area.
I have an eclectic worship team and I love every one of them. The young adults, the older generation, and my middle generation. Everyone has something to offer.
I’ll never forget when the percussionist on our team thanked me for including him because he was afraid he was too old.
I actually told my pastor the other day that if he wants someone more trendy, I would understand. I was thankful when he said he loves what we have.
I think you’ve got on something very important here. And it’s more than age. Worship ministry shouldn’t be the survival of the youngest, fittest, prettiest, skinniest, and most trendy. It should be who is skilled and who has the right heart.
Thanks for the blog post!!
God bless you Amen Daval . You posted a blessed and powerful Testimony and Worship Experience……………..Amen
Oh, to be moved by a worship song, with an anointed voice of worship, aged and defined. Keep it in your heart for this is the worship our Lord is waiting on and dwells in.
I have been worshipping with my saxophone for almost 40 years (I’m 59), and have been involved in both traditional and contemporary churches in Oklahoma.
Three years ago I moved to New Mexico and began searching for my new church home. I had several friends refer me to one of the mega churches in town, being told I would fit it perfectly. After attending a few services, I could see why they tried to get there and began asking about joining the worship team which was made up of 20-30 year olds. All very talented, and all fitting the mold you describe in you blog.
The response was immediate and very pleasant during my phone interview with the worship pastor, until he asked my age. The excitement he had expressed disappeared as he quickly excused himself from the call. That was the last I heard from anyone at the church. I was very disappointed and eventually left in search of another place to worship.
I have since found an awesome church home where the focus of the worship is simply to love and glorify our God. We have a 30-40 year age span on the team, and all have become brothers and sisters serving Christ. We even took to the city plaza in downtown Albuquerque for 12 hours of worship in the heart of downtown!
There are many churches that have not lost the vision of one family in Christ. Pray and you will find where God wants to place you by His river to grow.
By the way, at the time I was 36.
The issue is not only ecclesiology, but the understanding of worship as liturgy, literally “the work of the people.” Even the term “worship pastor” indicates that worship is the music/songs/performance/show. There are countless ways to “worship,” most of which do not involve a production. Worship, the work of the people which gives glory and praise to God, must be so ingrained in the disciple’s being that every breath is worship. If we have a “worship pastor” whose role is to lead “worship” which means being the band leader and production manager of the performance, we really, seriously limit the full richness of worship for our congregations. I was recently at a workshop full of “worship pastors.” The entire workshop was about putting on the show, and increasing production values. At one point, it was asked who had been doing this (adding technological production elements to Sunday services) the longest. I won, having been at this for 31 years. It was real disappointing that for almost all of the participants, worship was about increasing the production quality, to continue the “brand” and increase popularity/attendance, and not much at all about making disciples.
So much can be said, but it comes to this: it’s not about the music…it’s about God. When a church or an individual focuses on “what I like,” or on what they think people (any kind of people) will enjoy or show up to hear, the focus is anywhere but on the Lord Jesus.
We’ve lots to learn from our brothers and sisters in the southern hemisphere on this issue. I spent most of my ministry career in Africa where wisdom is synonymous (mostly) with age and experience. I too agree with empowering younger leadership – and I’m committed to that. However, young leaders need to learn the lost art of appreciating elders. I would love to see churches display a multi-generational combination of leadership where wisdom is transferred downwards and passion, vigor and youthful idealism transferred up. In short, we need each other!
I’ve been on both ends of this. I’ve been called the “young, cool guitar player” and the “outdated old guy” – within the same year. I think what we are seeing is a backlash against the, “its always been this way, and we’re gonna sing Amazing Grace with a piano and organ the way Jesus sang it” mentality. The danger of course is swinging too far the other direction of saying, “take your organ and shove it!”. The church in the 21st century needs to be relevant, with a healthy balance of respect for the wisdom of elders, who in turn must be willing to admit it’s not 1980 anymore. Titus 2….
My worship team consist of all ages. I am almost 58 and the oldest. One of my drummers is 17 and the youngest musician. Being the worship pastor, I simply don’t recognize age. If a person has the heart and the talent to be on the team, I couldn’t care less how old they are. Another area where we are different is that I never lead worship. I have some very talented and creative people who do a great job so I simply fill in wherever needed. I am a bass player by trade but am currently playing keys. My goal as their worship pastor is to allow everybody to use their gifts in the best way possible and make everything flow. Simply put, I have people who sing lead vocals better than I do so I encourage them to do it. We do a pretty wide range of music but for the most part, but rarely do any of the old hymns. No style of music is off limits as long as we can find a way to glorify the Lord with it. Now, the secret that makes all of this work is that I have a boss (head pastor) who gives me complete freedom and trust to make it happen. We do not meet to discuss the sermon vs. the music or anything else. We do things independently and in prayer, then bring it all together on Sunday. It never fails to amaze me how things always fit together perfectly. Oh, did I mention that my video technician is 12 years old? The kid knows his stuff and never messes up. When my last one left, I was told this kid was brilliant with computers so I asked if he was interested and gave him a shot. He makes me look like a genius! I think focusing on age is wrong, period.
Sorry, but your article is not true! In most churches you can do almost everything if you are 40 or older and almost nothing if you are under 30 years old.
“We’re trying to reach twenty-somethings, so it’s really important to sound just like what people hear on the radio.”
There are more issues with this scenario than just age. If I had all day, maybe I would rant about reaching twenty-somethings rather than build the kingdom, spread the Gospel or reach the lost. “It’s really important to sound just like what people on the radio” is a growing problem in the Christian music industry. The list bothers me. You know, the list of “if you like Nickleback, try Third Day. If you like (female pop artist) try Zoe Girl.” If you enjoy hanging out in coffee shops with your friends and listening to a local cover band, come to our church – everything will be just the same as your used to. There is no longer any illusion that what churches do is imitate the culture.
Enjoy living in the world, visiting coffee shops, listening to rock/pop, watching movies and socializing with people who look/act/think just like you do? Try church.
I’m a 55 year old professional guitarist in Nashville. I played in church from the early 90s to the end of 2005 just about every Sunday. I also was asked to play at many conferences and prayer meetings. It wasn’t unusual for me to play 2, 3, or 4 times a week at some type of church event. I didn’t get booted out, I left. Why? I simply couldn’t play another 1 – 4 – 5 – 6m worship song! It may seem trite, but I can’t imagine the children of the CREATOR not being a bit more CREATIVE. I felt as thought the Lord was calling me to take His presence OUTSIDE THE BOX, both literally and figuratively. I began focusing more on playing bars and clubs. I can tell you guys something. t’s a big world out there – one that really needs Jesus. I’ve had many many God encounters playing in bars. These are the people Jesus hung with when He walked the earth, and He still is there! He likes them and wants to save them. If I like them (vs. avoiding them and judging them), I find many openings to talk to people and share the Lord. I’ve played a LOT of prophetic worship in church too, and I can tell you that I’ve seen the Holy Spirit show up in a bar with a greater presence than anything I ever experienced inside the walls of a church. We were playing BULLET AND A TARGET by Citizen Cope and our singer went thru the club with a wireless mic while we vamped ppp on the music. He sang to every woman in the place, “Its gonna be alright darlin’, its gonna be alright mama…” and then returned to the stage and said, “You know why its gonna be alright? ‘Cause Jesus is in this place!” I tell you the truth, the entire bar erupted in the mightiest roar I’ve heard and we spontaneously cranked up the music and it felt as though a waterfall from heaven was landing on the stage and overflowing into the bar. The glory of God was there. Why do I tell you this story? Because its a big world there and you do not need the leadership of the church giving you permission to go out and use your gift to bring God’s presence to this world. It doesn’t have to be a bar. Go to a jail, an old folks home, a hospital. I’ve played all those. I’ve gone to street corners in the projects full of drug dealers and prostitutes and worshipped God there with just my guitar and a singer – and seen first hand that the Spirit of God is greater than darkness. Be encouraged my musical brothers and sisters – your gifts are irrevocable. And there is more going on OUTSIDE the church walls than within them.
David- As I read your post I could feel the Spirit of God speaking through your words. Thank you for sharing so honestly! I wish my husband and I (55 yr old worshp leaders) could have been in that bar that night! What an amazing experience.
Seems to me that so much matters upon each of our individual connection to God and reverence to that… and so little matters in regards to how we are treated by others.
I don’t think that God EVER looks at us with anything less than adoring eyes and we do our best when we approximate that as best we can in how we regard others. . We are also judging when we judge those who judge us!
Reinforce your personal connection to God and restore your faith and then, interaction with others – believers and non-believers alike – becomes a pleasant, joyous activity. If someone disapproves of me due to my age, that person is not regarding me through God’s eyes. If I then, in return, regard him with disapproval for this, I lose my connection as well. At times like that, It’s an opportunity to turn the other cheek (to look away) and reflect on God’s love only.
Many of these youngsters do regard their elders with love and respect. So do their up-and-coming leaders, in their hearts. Certainly they will often act in misguided ways as we all have. But just as we know it when we do, so do they. It’s a twist in the gut for them to think and say such things.
Amen its true. According to bible.God Loves us and bless us ,,If any one accept him in the Youth. But for God Age does not Matter to Serve him.he even gives you power and Spark even if you are more than 100 years old ” We should Remember Abraham and Sara” The Connection and faith does matter in all the ways and tools to Serve the Lord with Passion. .Weather you are a preacher or the Gospel Music worshiper……………Amen
I agree and I appreciate your sensitivity to the issue. Our smaller church made a conscious choice to add more modern worship music about ten years ago. I’m 54 and lead our team which ranges in age from 29 to 59. I have indeed noticed the trend you describe.
The issue described here is pervasive. It’s as if humanity has gone brain dead, or brainwashed or both. I say both. It’s clear however, the concern for members, or what makes it work in numbers has missed the Christian mindset all together. If one is looking at external appearance to be in the fold. Then it’s clear their message is not reaching anyone in a real way. Perhaps those presenting them selves as a conduit of god and Holy Spirit should do the work of god and not one embracing fear. Who should be fired is the leaders who embrace fear. They lack real connection and this message comes to you from god.
This is what happens when you value the “program” over the “people.” As a young worship leader I have already learned this lesson the hard way a few times. People should always come before the “program.” The minute you value the style, the lights, the look on stage or anything else above the people who are willing to serve with you week in and week out, you will end up with a lot of burnt out, hurting, and rejected people who may even walk away from the God you serve because of the hurt you’ve inflicted.
This multigenerational church concept has been described in extraordinary detail in Ross Parsley’s book, “Messy Church.” If you liked this post, you’ll love this book. (that’s a recommendation, not an ad — I have nothing to gain from it! Just trying to add value to this conversation)
The author Parsley is younger than Baby Boomers and older than the young hipsters, and so he has a very unique perspective on how all ages can come together, and points out common pitfalls of the young AND the old. I’ll say it again – he is an equal opportunity corrector … BOTH ends of the age spectrum get corrected (and lovingly slapped around a little) in this book.
If you’re into the Church looking more like Jesus’ intention and less like a business, this book is an essential and unique read.
My experience: I am 54 yrs old and have been a church musician since the Dallas Holmes days:) I play lead guitar and can fill in on a few other instruments. Some years ago I heard a then up and coming worship band from the uk named delirious . Rocked my world when I found I can play the style I like in church. Now I’m older and playing in a ” contemporary” worship team that consist of ages 60 to 20 years. I have let it be known to the powers that be that if they want a younger lead player I understand and won’t loose my salvation over it. I have been blessed though that they want and enjoy what I do. I know i can’t do this forever but i play now to impact worship in an anointed way. I don’t have anything to prove. Still make mistakes and cringe at some of the songs lol but if I can serve and someone lets me. I will!
I’d like throw out my “strory”.
I went to Christ for the Nations Institue in Dallas, Tx. My focus was on Worship and Technical Arts. I graduated in fall of 2011.
A month before graduating I got a call from my home church to be the youth pastor.
I seeked God about it, and got confirmation after confirmation.
So, I became the youth pastor. My heart is worship. At this point though I had only led a worship team twice, and that was in school.
I get an opportunity to lead (because everyone else who leads was unavailiable) for a conference at our church. It went really well, so me and the three other worship leaders created a schedule to lead once a month. I also began to lead the youth in worship in our youth services. After a couple months I gathered what musicians I could find in the youth and formed a worship team. It was going great!
A year later I began to lead worship in this small church that my church is in good relationship with. This church never had “live” worship before. It was just me going for a few months. But then I had people that wanted to go with me. And not just people from my church, but a lot of young people from various churches.
Eventually the church asked me to help them find a drum set, and piano. So I did, keep in mind they don’t have any musicians in there church. But every thursday night they would be used.
Every once in a while a pastor from my church would speak at this church and we would bring a worship team to minister there. Our church be gan to “lend” a team to them on occasional sundays. which has now led to every sunday.
In the midst of this I began leading worship with a prison ministry that goes out once a month. And man those guys pull it out of you!
Also, there is a homeless ministry out of a house of prayer that i began to lead once ever other week at 7:30am. Not to mention when they need someone to fill in on other days.
All while being a youth pastor. I get the opportunity to minister more outside my church than in, and am greatful for it.
There is a lot of need outside the 4 walls and if you really have a desire for something you will do it. I love to worship, and I will do it in my room, office, street corner, prison, house of prayer, small church, big church, youth church, theatre, stadium, or living room. And I have.
The best place for us the be is the right place. Where ever God has you, be a light.
This isn’t just with worship leaders. It’s happening to pastors too. If you don’t have “the look” then you are out. My husband, who is a pastor, relates really well to the high school and college aged crowd. Our home is continually filled with this age group, hanging out, even living with us. But it’s pretty common knowledge, that no matter how trained, gifted, passionate and sold out for God you are, if you are of a certain age, you are non hire-able. How is this remotely Biblical?
And from the minister (and I’m a worship leader too) perspective, just when we’ve finally been through the school of hard knocks and figured out what is most important, been battle and field tested, suddenly we aren’t “cool”. Really? Is this what is best for the church?
Manuel – Great insight in your article. I’m right in the middle of this as a fulltime worship pastor who will be 50 this year. Thankfully our church values diversity in our worship leadership – both generationally and racially. But, I know that I can no longer be the main filter for what songs we sing and what artistic expressions we use.
The only way that I am keeping my job – and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in ministry – is act more as a “producer”. I share leadership with younger leaders and help train and mentor them. I also give them a big say in the planning of the services. I also have learned to develop other skills that will make me more valuable as I get older – teaching, counseling, writing, etc.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see things swing back towards multi-generational worship over the next 5-10 years.
I experienced a hint of the issues addressed in this article. And I understand what the goal is. Personally, in the scope of ministry, I don’t think that there is a short of opportunity to serve and be used by God. Even if a respected elder is replaced by a younger with the “it” factor, I should say. But I don’t think it is all fair if one is throw under the bus just because that one seems to fit the criteria. I believe there is a lot to touch on this, such as even the spiritual aspect of it which maturity would play a big part in.
I really appreciate this article! I am 55 and have been involved in choirs and praise teams since high school. For a long time the Lord filled me up to minister to the body through singing and playing guitar. The choirs and the early praise teams I sang with were beautifully mixed in ages. In the 90’s I regularly sang along side someone 30 years my senior and loved it! I would say that all the churches I attended up to this point were moderately sized churches. Then in the 2000’s I made the move to a large church. It is a great church, however I have noticed over the past 7 years or so that the look and feel and the “branding” of the worship has entered the danger zone of being slick and hip to the exclusion of those people and elements that are not. And when I slipped away and stopped participating a few years ago, very few people seemed to miss me. That’s sad.
I think the thing to remember is that church is not supposed to be an arena of spectators but of participants. And we need to be careful not to block anyone from sharing their gifts of worship. We need to look for ways to allow more people to participate and not less.
And I think we need to quit trying to lure young people into the church with hip music, etc. Church life should be so much more than that. More than a cool experience on Sunday, if the body of Christ is really ministering like it should, we should ALL want to be there and be interacting together way beyond Sunday morning service.
I am currently on a break from leading worship (accept for an occasional retreat), and I have made the move back to a moderate-sized church. Most importantly, I am asking God to show me what He wants me to do for the body right now but….I get to worship Him through song for all eternity and that fills my heart in a big way.
btw….i just read your bio….I also went to Cal Poly! My next door neighbor dated Weird Al!
Unfortunately the modern Worship culture is becoming a downright nasty place to hang out in. Some of the most arrogant condescending and down right vicious sites on the internet today are the gear sites for Praise and Worship guitarist. As worship has become a big business over the last few years it has become less and less about HIM and more and more about image and conforming to the modern worship pop culture.
This video pretty much nails what is becoming increasingly the norm in today’s seeker friendly watered down Worship settings.
It’s frankly embarrassing!!
There needs to be a return to the real heart of Worship!!
I’ve seen this video a few years ago – it’s HILARIOUS!
Because it’s probably the best summary of what’s behind the exclusion of older people in worship, and in youth ministry, and in pastoring.
This video is so frightfully our reality! Our home away from home has in many ways become our mission field! God help us see that Church is the people and going to church is going to fellowship with the people…sincere connecting and yes, worshiping as well. We actually had someone come tell us on the patio today to stop visiting and get into the worship service…one of the leaders in the church had sent him to break up the fellowship in the coffee house so some of the praise music was not missed. This is so tragic. But we have a choice and a voice. We do not have to be part of a rebuke worthy Revelation church. It is up to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear to remain faithful, loving and to model true discipleship. One on one discipleship is a mighty antidote for the passive masses.
rutledge8021- My husband and I have been witness to this very thing!! Thank you for posting this video. We’re going to make it “required viewing” for our worship team (age now are 13, 17, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s / choir age ranges from 30s – 80s). THANK GOD we serve in a church that appreciates diversity! BTW – we are in our mid 50s.
I really appreciated the approach of our old worship pastor at Horizon Indy. He was more of an administrator, and he really had a sense for building teams. We had folks in our teams that were anywhere from 16 to 60, and it was a great mix. It was more about talent, ability, and style than anything with age. Some people did suggest that they were kept out because of their age… but you should’ve heard them play / sing. I don’t think I’d want them on my team even if they were 22, wearing skinny jeans, and holding a fresh-brewed mochalatte from a local coffee shop.
Good post, btw… :D :D :D
I just turned 50. I’ve been a member of have our megachurch for 5 years. I have played electric bass since I was 15 years old in almost every kind of band you can think of. I have been in vocational ministry in a para church setting for 20+ years with an MA in leadership. I work with and have mentored hundreds of 20 somethings. I can’t lead a small group because of my travel schedule. When I met with the 29 year old campus pastor asking how I can get involved there were three opportunities – help park cars, help in the nursery, or usher.
The church is run by talented but under paid and over worked young people the same age as my children. I come on Sunday, sit down, and leave when it’s over. Very sad there is no room in the branding or program of the church for experienced people looking for nothing more than to contribute along the lines of talents and gifts.
When did worship stop being an offering to God and start being a marketing ploy to attract new members? Who are we really worshiping if it’s directed at the people we want to fill the seats instead of the One who died for our sins?!?!?!
You took the words right out of my mouth. We come together to worship the Lord not men. It’s not a show. When we come together we should be in overflow to offer up to the Lord a sacrifice of praise. It is my hope that the “Church'” would repent and return to true worship with the Holy Spirit present . Many songs are nice and even scriptural, but the spirit behind the song lacks true intimacy with the Holy Spirit. We should only desire the Holy Spirit and not entertain a worldly spirit in the church. Its time to worship in truth and in spirit …..our Father will not accept anything else.
I think this is a profoundly wise and powerful point.
I have personally experienced both Scenarios 1 & 2; #2 at a church where I am an ordained Elder and was part of – and led for 22 yrs. – the group that introduced “contemporary” worship in the late 70’s. I still play keyboards at occasional Saturday night services, because I am now Music Director in another church.
I hit Scenario 1 after being “let go” in Scenario 2.
I started out playing for Sunday School at age 11, was organist at age 15, and Choir Director as a high school senior, and have continued in church music ministry ever since.
I just turned 70. My keyboard and guitar skills are better than ever, and if I’ve lost a note or two at the top of my vocal range, I’ve picked them up at the bottom.
The service I now lead is a blended style with both hymns and praise choruses. I also play for and occasionally direct classical sacred music in various churches.
I don’t know what the optimal answer is, but we really need to find it.
Im 55, been a player most of my life in both secular and Christian music on guitar and bass. I see two sides to this, and to be honest, “IT” doesnt look good on either side. On one hand we have the issue of entertainment vs worship. On the other hand we have age discrimination due to separate age groups wanting to see their own people performing. Young kids do not want to see or mingle with old people. Its a fact of life. And Old people have more difficulty in doing some things as they age. As someone who has been doing this awhile i see more and more leaders trying to perform a structured manicured big arena service. Note for note as the song was recorded. Tracks, lights, special effects, etc… Visual appearance to entice the young to come. And that excludes the elders both in the pulpit and in the congregation. We, the pioneers of this style of music are not respected. It IS all about a show now a days. And called worship, as if old people cant or do not know how to worship. But when i was young, in bars, and saw old people on stages i didnt wanna stay and listen to “THEM”. So i understand the entertainment part of all this. But here is the rub in churches. – GOD doesnt need anyone to manufacture anything for Him or His glory. If He shows up, it will be successful. And what separates church from secular is God. It took me many years to learn all the formulas for success in music. And i have been very good at using them. But when you go into a church, ask for a job, then decide you have to wipe the slate clean, fire all the people who are not that good, and create/manufacture a great band for God all you do is destroy people. You ask for a job and then hurt people to accomplish it. Because when you are done it will be better? Heres a clue… God doesnt want you to manufacture success, and then give it to Him. You can not hurt people and call it serving. I know, i know, THAT old guy and gal cant sing or play…heard that a few times, and in truth, ive said it myself about others! But my mind was on the ideas of building a successful band and seeing the players as assetts, not people. God awoke me to this problem in my life a few years ago. And He showed me how i hurt, insulted, ruined, people all over to do a good job and be successful. It hurt me deeply that all this time i was trying to do HIS part, and never once understood that He doesnt need me to make anything. HE is the creator. He also told me why i failed when the numbers went up, and things looked great, and then it all disintegrated. What I can create, another man can destroy. What i build, someone else can take apart. But if i just show up, and serve, and help, and learn to see others as His servants i was sent to and do what i know how too myself? Thats something another person cant take apart. In short, if I just do my part, and let God influence/change things in His way, Then politics, funding, egos, frauds, cant stop it. Servants do the work Masters dont want to do. This isnt always fun and good times. And servants learn to do what they are told, not tell everyone what to do. Very few leaders are true servants these days. Its all about trying to do concert entertainment in churches not designed or equipped or big enough to do it the right way. But i wouldnt listen when i was younger…. Im now the old man with a dream…. And the young man with a vision never listens to anyone. Its a shame all over america that the two dont see each others value and hook up, rather than try to kick each other out.
Blessings to all
Our worship team spans 42 years. The leader is a 55 year old WOMAN. first we struggled a bit with the church accepting THAT there is a bit of a young vs old thing in the congregation but NOT on the team itself. I believe our own unity with The Lord is what is holding us together and allowing the church to flourish in the worship setting. Perhaps it’s because our senior pastor has college and high school Spirit led kids and a heart for the elderly that has kept the church balanced. Perhaps it’s because our worship team is such a great mix of ages and personalities. Whatever the readon, God is blessing as we grow
As a long time worship leader and now musical director, I find this topic painful anyway you look at it. On one side you have, at times, ageism and the commercialism of the church. On the other, again at times, stagnation and irrelevance. And throughout we are missing opportunities to reach a dying world. I believe our God is THE God of balance. I think the answer must be somewhere in the middle. There are young and old, hip and un-hip that HE wants to save. He wants to bring ALL the lost ones home. And while we know this will not happen, as the straight and narrow way will only be found by so many. It’s our duty to work out these, as well as all of our other issues in the church, so as to not be the reason our lost brothers and sisters in the world REFUSE to come home. May we ALL be of the mind of Christ (via whatever style of church experience) and show the world, a very diverse world, a community worth coming home to. Yes, God bless us ALL, in the absolutely most expansive use of the word
I’m a “mature” pianist who lives to worship. One observation I made many years ago and it is coming to haunt me. When churches begin two services, one for the older group, one for the contemporary….that’s division. We should strive for unity, not division. Blessings to you who live to serve, in whatever capacity God chooses.
I do not understand “worship” offered up in churches that depend on smoke, flashing lights, and loud music. The appearance of God is often as a flashing light, and a cloud of smoke, and a thunderous sound. Are we trying to artificially create the appearance of God in our “worship”? Isn’t God’s Presence enough? I believe when we make worship about the people (trying to attract a certain age or people group) we are stealing the sacrifice off of the altar and eating it ourselves. Singing / Praising / Worshipping in our service is the ONLY thing God gets out of the service. Everything else is for the people (the teaching, the announcements, specials, etc.). Can God be happy with us eating the sacrifice? Look what happened to the sons of Eli the priest to answer that.
Yup, and a big AMEN to that! Which is why I’m Catholic now. Jesus really does show up (in the Eucharist) and there’s none of this horizontal “please the people” garbage. It’s all an offering to God.
We are 57, with a wealth of experience. My husband’s primary gift is preaching the Word. We know if he had to look for a church, it would be nearly impossible to fine one. Not only that, but we have been done-in by youth pastors/music pastors in previous churches. THey have not respected my husband at all. It is sad. We used to be in the prime of life. No more.
I definitely experienced that a few years ago when my church went to a new format and I was told I was too old to sing on the team. Our new worship leader was a very talented 20 year old with some experience but not a lot of formal training. I was 48 with my Bachelors degree in voice, piano & choral conducting. I was the adult choir director, but we didn’t sing every Sunday & eventually the choir faded away. I felt very useless. I was a member of that church for over 20 years. I am now in a much bigger church. It was very difficult to leave, but I am singing in the choir every Sunday & leading worship singing with 3rd & 4th graders. But I really miss singing on the worship team & directing the choir. I am now 55 years old & sometimes I feel washed up. But I am a child of the 70’s & really loved rock bands like Aerosmith, Peter Frampton, Boston, Journey, Foreigner. Isn’t that hip? Forgive my rant.
I am glad someone shared this on Facebook. I’m 66, was in earlier life a worship leader in three Vineyard churches, and I’ve experienced what is being told about here. And, “the stories of worship pastors and leaders deeply hurt … by the churches they served,” also rang a bell.
But my concern and view regarding this issue goes a step farther. I apologize if this has been covered by someone, but here it is. As I stand and worship in church, where the young worship ensemble leads up front, I often scan around the congregation to see who is and who isn’t actually worshipping. I see a congregation that has at least ⅔ of the people not participating. Sometimes, I am part of it. It was no different, by age group, at the OneThing Conference last week in Kansas City, MO.
Why? I believe it is this. Modern worship/praise songs are written much differently than were the songs that we could learn, and teach, easily. They are long, often with three different “movements”: Verses, Bridge and another little bit I’ve never understood. Their lyrics, for the most part, are not “lyrical,” not following the cadence of the melody and feeling like they’ve been shoe-horned into the song. And, there is the issue of the “slides” shown that carry the lyrics: they frequently do not match the lines of the song.
For the young people who have learned these songs from the CD’s, this is not a problem, and they are the ones singing in church. For the rest of us, though, the songs are often a mystery, not sung often enough to learn, and too long and internally varied to easily learn in one singing. So, we try to sing along, stand and close our eyes and try to worship in our hearts.
Modern worship resents more problems than just those in this excellent original blog article. … thanks.
Absolutely agree with your observations. Last Sunday I looked around during a song that should have had people weeping and 90%+ of the people weren’t even singing. Also, your observation about the “slides”…songs that wanted to accelerate or accentuate the ending would often use a key change, like “Shout to the Lord”. Now, they jump an octave and lose most of the congregation because the range just went into another dimension.
Sorry, but I take issue with your statement that a a song “should have had people weeping and 90% of the people weren’t even singing.” Not everybody responds to the Lord in the same way. While SOME people might be inclined to weep, others might get very, very quiet. Those people who “weren’t even singing” might have been experiencing profound communion with the Lord at that moment. Man judges by outward appearance, but the Lord judges our HEARTS. (1 Sam 16:7) Looking at worship as a mode to triggering some outward display of emotion, manufacturing emotion by changing keys or whatever is all marketing gimmicks. I personally don’t think it has any place in church.
Looking around at the reaction of people to what should have been an engaging song, people were checking their phones, looking at the watches, looking around themselves, looking at their bibles…not typical characteristics of people “experiencing profound communion with the Lord at that moment.”
Oh, I see. Well, thanks for the additional details. I would say this is symptomatic of a congregation that has been taught to think of worship as entertainment. If they aren’t entertained, they’ll look at their phones, check their watches, etc. And aren’t they being taught to think of worship as entertainment when we make worship sound like their iPod playlists? When the lyrics are all about what WE get from God instead of actual worship?
When will we learn it’s all about family we are all God’s CHILDREN whatever age we are! God is inclusive not exclusive we are to be leaders to show the world what living life to the full is all about. Not trying gimmick’s to get people through the door!
It is God that converts people through the Holy Spirit we are just to be real and worship God with the best of ourselves… I will stop now because as a singer who has been looked over in the past it is very hurtful when you love to sing and others ask why your not in the worship band!
Great job, bro! I think balanced leadership should listen to someone before they look at them. Talent combined with a loyal heart of worshiping and serving is most important and often rare to find. Then, as musicians it’s on us to change, develop, and grow as worship and musical styles evolve within the church. I’m a 41 year-old guitarist and have grown up through church, so I’ve seen the praise and worship gamut roll.
I love rock music and production. I think it’s cool that the church can offer worship that equates with and/or excels beyond what secular performances do. The most successful churches are the ones who value all people and talents for their worship teams within the context of what their congregation needs to connect with God and become prepared to hear the message the pastor is going to deliver.
Look at the span of talent and ages who come across the reality show performance stages like The Voice, America’s Got Talent, American Idol, etc… Our world is full of all ages and kinds of musicians and singers. Church worship teams should be no different.
I’m currently blessed to serve and work under Daniel Robbins and the worship team at Church at the Cross in Grapevine, Texas where a group of the most true and diverse worshipers I know gather each week. We are a cross-section of cultures, ages, and talent. Prior to CATC, I was in a mix of all four scenarios you described and am so thankful to have escaped the cafeteria.
Let’s celebrate worship diversity month! :)
I think one thing that gives a performance feel to worship, regardless of the ages of the members of the worship team, is the songs they choose. Praise and worship is to be a vertical thing, to God, telling Him how much you love him. Way too many songs being sung in churches now have a horizontal message, meaning your singing to someone (not God) about how you feel, how God has blessed you, how you have changed, etc. Those type songs have their place but not during praise and worship. You don’t have to tell people what God can do, if you give God all the glory and honor and praise He deserves during P&W, they will see for themselves what He can do!
What an insightful article. My background is in worship ministry, and I’ve taught worship leading full-time for the past decade. This is all absolutely true: churches are phasing out older worship leaders for the reasons listed in this article. It’s a complicated situation, and how a church views what “church” is and means, has a lot of bearing on their approach to what is an acceptable age for a worship leader.
Thanks for the good insights!
You have put your finger on an issue I see as more global than just in the worship part of the service. I changed churches a few years ago. I was going to a very contemporary non-denom church with a large praise team, etc. We had a nice blend of ages and ethnicities in the group. However, the blend (esp of ages) was NOT the same in the congregation or in the pastoral staff. To find someone over 50 was an anomaly. That church was also full of cliques (that I didn’t realize until I walked away). They were definitely focused on the “event”. When I changed churches, I found one focused on “community”. They have a blended service where the “contemporary” music goes back to “Jesus, Lover of my Soul” and is done with iWorship DVD tracks. I love it! And the community is MOSTLY over 50. Do you know how much you can learn from someone who is 70 and has walked a life of faith for 50 or 60 yrs? It’s amazing! Same way with older worship leaders/choir members, etc. I feel so comforted and learn so much from the experience of these older individuals who are willing to share with me how to find God in worship, how to navigate life and just genuinely care about each other. Thanks so much for sharing this post!
Your account seems to fit with what I personally experienced and what I’ve been sensing from other sources.
I can only imagine what an important and big problem this would be if you inserted the words “Pastor, Executive Pastor, Lead Pastor, Senior Pastor” etc. in the article. There would be much moaning, cries of despair, wringing of hands as to how terrible “they” were being treated – like a commodity or an object! Oh my!
Too many times and in too many places churches have become consumer driven just like the media and businesses. Whatever sells or increases attendance/offerings/responses is what is “Best” no matter the cost to the church or those effected by that choice. The church has accepted then adopted so many business, political and worldly beliefs and practices that God couldn’t get in there at all…they’ve got it down to a science.
Maybe there should be a church for only the beautiful, the cool, the good looking – no fatties, geeky, old or ugly need attend. That’s a sad state of the American Church, in general – thank God not all churches.
Over 20 years in one ministry – asked to resign by leadership (?) and offered incentives IF I made no protests or waves. Did what I was told – totally unemployed for almost a year and finally was found by another church that has taken us in and loved us no matter the number of birthdays or color of my hair. God is still out there and working in spite of some of His own who act other than God’s child.
Just think of the possible generations of people touched by these churches that either reject them or turn them away from God because of what they do. Being held accountable may cost them a great price.
I think this happens not only in the worship setting, but in the general in churches these days. They are focusing on young families and youth more than building a community of all ages. The idea of the old mentoring the young can’t happen if the “older generation” is excluded in many ways within the church. I applaud those churches who realize that worship and church is for all ages and that they all have needs. Baby Boomers are leaving church because they feel they have no place. That isn’t how it should be. Let’s involved all ages, in all areas of ministry, and make them feel a part of what God is doing. I’m in that age bracket and often times feel I have no place…I don’t think it is about big churches, big worship teams with trained voices, or fancy children’s building. I think we should come together to worship and learn more about God, love each other, and support each other in our walk daily SO THAT, we feel like family and want to share that with invitations to others. If it is performance based, the feel good, we are losing God’s best for us.
This issue comes up any time there is a shift in what is popular in the music world, and worship teams thinking “it’s really important to sound just like what people hear on the radio.” If anything, people want to hear something else than what they hear in their car radio everyday when they step into church. A friend of mine says that he hates how Christian music is always one or two steps behind what the music industry has already put out there. Anytime there’s a new sound, it’s already been done. So if our worship is trying to sound like what’s on the radio, all we are doing is recycling the same sound and forgetting about the whole point of worship. Our worship should be something different from the everyday, something completely devoted to the Lord. Whether it has an old school or a new school sound shouldn’t matter. Not everyone in the younger generations is going to love a younger sound. More and more I see the younger generation finding that they like old hymns better than more recent worship songs.
This article was great and sad to read at the same time. Thanks for posting!
I feel disconnected by the more modern forms of worship in churches today. I am grateful to be in a church that offers a good blend of the old and new, and the gospel is central to everything to takes place during worship. I feel this is the key – a clear presentation of the gospel without pandering to the world. When we ape the world, we succumb to their mores and values (or the lack thereof). Instead, we must be distinctively different than the world, demonstrating what true Christianity is all about. That doesn’t mean we should not reach these people groups in our communities. The Great Commission makes that abundantly clear. But, we must reach out in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than compromise our core beliefs and convictions.
Oh my goodness, yes This is reality. Sad, but true. I long for a multi-generational worship experience that has the older pouring into the younger… it’s vanishing quickly. I believe by doing away with the ‘old’ folks (who, by the way, are mostly in their 40’s; an age I couldn’t WAIT to be once) we are discarding wisdom. We (not only as a church culture, but as a culture) are devaluing and displacing those who can truly teach; from experience! Anyone who’s ever been a college grad can tell you it takes more than a piece of paper; you need experience and knowledge together. This is happening to people in their 30’s…the saddest part of all; all will age. So what doesn’t seem possible to the young in their prime will all too soon be their reality too. Lord, please guide and direct us! We need to reverse this quickly…
Truth! Sadly, just like our government nothing will change unless we do something about it, starting with prayer.
My dad was one of those “retired” from worship ministry a few years ago by his church. He actually gave away his guitar and equipment, saying, “Who wants an old guy anyway?” It is so sad. The church said his style wasn’t progressive enough and brought in a younger leader. Thank you for sharing something that does seem to be happening more and more.
I think there are a couple of issues, from my perspective, that we need to hold in tension. The first is the vision of the Lead Pastor. He needs to build a team around him that meets the need he believes God has called, equipped, anointed and impassioned him to reach. Right or wrong, his vision and dream determines the mix. Follow him or lead him, but do not stand in the way. The second is the reality that for so very long, the Church has positioned itself in a place of irrelevance. The message we gave was clear and meaningful, but mostly only the churched were listening. There has been a need for a correction (and yes, often the pendulum swings past a point of healthy balance. Thirdly, there is an abundance of churches still catering for the churched. Let’s get as many churches that will give the next generation an onramp into the church as possible. Unless we take the water of life in a cup they can drink from, we will lose them. And, as it has been well said by more clever speakers than myself, if this generation of adults fails to reach this generation of children, the next generation of children will have nobody to reach them. Then lastly, if God has gifted, called, anointed and equipped you, trust Him. Will not the God of the universe who loves you look after you. Perhaps it is a season of retooling, refreshing, growing. Endure hardship as discipline . . . we are under management and we have a sovereign God who loves us. It is a time to test the things we have taught about going through hardship in the trenches, off the stage. Do you really believe what you have preached? Now is a great time to live it. And God, who is faithful, powerful and loving – will do right and all will God that He is God. I am 53 years old – and worshiping in a church with a style that is foreign, but it if filled with your people who love Jesus – and I have so much hope for this next generation.
My views and experiences are my own, just things I have contemplated for more than 25 years. Multiple factors at work, really. What I have witnessed in my ministry (and I have served as education, music, and pastor) is the changing of leadership style in churches. That is, more and more a CEO pastor and “professional” staff mentality has crept in.
I remember when the days when it was the church/local congregation that called the pastor and called the worship leader and other leaders.
I then experienced new pastors coming in and cleaning house, bringing in, usually, staff from previous church(es) or others — even though voted on by the church, it was really the pastor who selected.
I then see the CEO style emerging and the ministerial staff is now recruited and hired in a more business-like fashion, although many churches still vote on some, it is not what it used to be.
What happened to the pastor and other leaders being the under-shepherds to the Great Shepherd? The local congregation deciding whom they feel is best to lead them?
With this change in mindset comes the changing of styles, traditions, and staff of churches without really surveying/asking the congregation what they, as a body, desire. They are seen as the dumb sheep and the pastor (and other leaders) are really the ones who know what everyone needs and wants. Really??
Changes are made and thrust upon the local body — and how can they react? If negatively, they are told they can go elsewhere. How do they react? They begin to distance themselves in reality from more personal relationship(s) with their leadership. Or they go elsewhere. If we are honest and look at church stats, even the most dynamic and seemingly booming churches have lots of folks going right out the back door.
So — where does that leave us? In the tenuous spot of the world influencing the church and its operation. Scriptures tell us that it is easier for the world to influence us than we influence the world. And if the world has crept in as to how we do leadership decisions, then where else has it?
I agree totally. I am seeing this unfold at my church right now. Everything you mentioned is almost taking place or has took place. People are distancing themselves just as you said or are leaving. We were once a church of between 2500-3000 people but now far below that number. It’s as if this approach is a blueprint for all the churches that I’ve read about in this article.
So true as I am experiencing this now, but more as a church member than as a person on the worship team. It appears at our church a unilateral decision was made to “go millennial” and the worship has changed to a total millennial style leaving behind more traditional types of music. Perhaps balancing the worship styles in unity would be a good idea ? Occasionally a hymn will show up but the songs in the millennial genre are often more than an octave in range ( apparently that’s all the rage now ) and really difficult to sing. More traditional worshipers have been moved at their choice to a separate venue where traditional worship is played and used but, they have to do “video church” rather than seeing the Pastor speak in person. I have heard many unsolicited comments in our church from the 35 and older somethings that they feel like they have been kicked to the curb so to speak. OTOH, talking to the millennials after church who seeing my gray hair say to me please don’t complain about the loudness of the music, you shouldn’t come if you don’t like it. BTW, I didn’t complain, this person just said it to me. My response after going to numerous church services is that are you saying that I should leave the church ? BTW, isn’t there something wrong with having to wear earplugs to church ? I struggle with that. I guess I’m old, but even so, I don’t appreciate being dissed and disrespected by millennials and the pastoral staff wrt the predominant musical style in the main sanctuary. The idea of reaching the next generation is used to support this move and truthfully, I don’t have a good response to that. It seems virtuous. I saw some forums recently about separating worship and teaching by age was not biblical and I’m not sure about that either. What I do know is this approach of disenfranchising one age group for another is not working. It doesn’t appear biblical to me as it teaches that the body of Christ is separated into pieces that are seemingly arbitrarily decided upon and copies the worldly cultural artifacts of class “warfare” …. what happened to the biblical admonition that we are one body, all with different parts and that the Holy Spirit teaches us to give and take, be unified, tolerate each other in love and to be one. It seems it’s being ignored. Putting people in different worship rooms to accommodate worship styles teaches separation, not unity. One idea or question came to mind is how would Jesus Christ respond to the admonition that somehow our church worship has to submit to branding and marketing…. my intuition tells me that the response would not go well for those who market Christianity in nice neat worship style packages…. Just mt 2c
This is a can of worms. The church is sick. It started with the Jesus Movement, then The Vineyard Movement (which I was a part of), then Maranatha .. etc. The shift in American Christian Worship started in the 60’s, in may ways as a revival. Back then it was simple, show up with a guitar and a couple of people and WALA! corporate worship. Over time it has been through numerous permutations and has morphed into what is now a trendy money making machine. “Worship” .. the most sacred of our spiritual mandates has been turned into big business and rationalized by a mind set of “cultural relevance,” “being all things to all men” or worse “branding,” It is a blemish on an already lukewarm church. Jesus turned over the tables in the temple for such things. Worship IS a lifestyle. What it isn’t is a room full of people emoting because they like or are inspired by the music, technical effects, a person on stage, etc. Our ability to humbly engage in It certainly waxes wains and we should absolutely be lead by God’s people who are called to lead (look at the Levites) in a corporate meeting, but it is not confined to the assembly of believers. (I offer the most pure – humble worship when I am taking care of my disabled daughter). The new mind set that leaders should have a “look,” or be a certain “age” is contrary to biblical principals (e.g., church leaders should have enough age on them that they can actually sport some wisdom), clothing and hair should be modest (yes I think this applies to male worship leaders too). One has only to look at the cover of a WOW Worship CD to see how our culture and doctrine about worship has been damaged.. has become a product. To not see it is just a sign of the horrendous desensitization that has occurred. We would be wise to look to the bible again, instead of social trends.
The problem in a nut shell is we think music has to be played to worship, like it is worship. Wrong, music can, and should, enhance, worship, but, it is not a necessity to worship. Worship is not a style, or some fad, that changes with each generation, it is acknowledging who God is, and what he has done for us.
Some times I wish we would just cut out the music of a service, and just worship God, really worship him, as appose to singing a song, and say, there I worshiped. How many of you have been in a service where there was a Holy Hush on the service, and people cried out and started weeping because of the presence of the Holy God is felt. If so, you know that music at that time only clouds the presence of God, and usually ends the moment. Don’t get me wrong, I love music in worship, but it in just one vehicle to direct us to his presence.
It is apparent that this is an issue that has surely struck a chord with many folks as it has with me. This “branding” and running the church like a corporation rather than a body of believers has left me searching for a meaningful worship experience that isn’t just for show. I believe that we wouldn’t have this issue if our churches were seeking to put God first.
I find it very disappointing to not be allowed to do anything in the church since I have retired. Just because we are of the older generation, that does not mean we are no longer needed in the church. I am the same piano playing, guitar strumming, saxophone blowing musician I always was, but I am no longer active in the church. Do they think the music is beyond my capabilities? Well it is not! I am not even allowed to teach a Bible study. The problem is apparently my age.
I have been a part of a church plant that went from 12 people to 15,000 in about 10 years. I did see a trend to the younger musicians and worship leaders replacing older musicians and worship leaders. In my opinion, I think it mainly had to do with the church getting the same worship experience with younger people and they did not require as much income and if married most younger people had spouses that worked as well. Then I think the cool look factor came in second. Then, probably more of an up to date with the current generational music connection the younger musicians had vs the older, more set in their ways musicians. I’ve been working with church plants since, so building a team and then developing them into good musicians and worship leaders has kept me in the game almost into my 40’s. Due to the natural trends I’m seeing, I plan to continue to grow past my worship pastor position as I never want to stop growing. In addition, I plan on helping send out the worship teams I develop to help plant other churches, keeping a focus on developing others to fulfill their purposes.
With that said, I think maybe an older worship leader needs to continue to find other areas of ministry to grow in and be ready for the transition, as I think it’s inevitable.
This is all so good—bless you and those who have responded!!
As one who didn’t get into doing modern worship music until my mid-40’s, I can appreciate this article very much. I’m just an almost 50 year old metal-head from the 80’s who used to balk at the thought of playing U2 style music. And now I feel like I’m having to re-learn how to play guitar to stay up with what’s in.
It’s OK and I know I can always use the practice, but did I miss the phase in church music where we played late 70’s to 80’s style rock music? ;-)
Seriously, a good article. Well thought out.
after 40 years in CCM on the progressive rock and blues side of it, and also 17 years leading worship, the church I served in as head of worship music has taken on only some of the problems (not all). My position was dissovled when the new pastor decided his wife should be head of worship music, after 14 yrs on staff working well below average salary. In this case is was not so much age as what the leaders perceive that it would not be possible to progress with me on staff. I think they were mistaken but so what. Reality is that most of the people in our church still wanted me on staff, and funny enough, a lot of the teens that the new leaders think they are pleasing are telling me they like the same things I like etc., and they are not that inspired about some of the so-called ‘modern’ worship… As a musical expert and producer for many years who has paid a lot of attention to the youth of various times, I can tell you with some confidence that a lot of kids are yearning for worship music that is more organic, human, expressive, full of Biblical truth, and not so manufactured sounding.
One of our youth worship leader’s fave songs is “Come Thou Fount” Anyway that is all JUST STUFF!
Style and presentation are just tools and not the core issue of this. The core issue of this is the current culture of NEWER, FASTER, BETTER LOOKING, More SHINY and UPGRADE UPGRADE UPGRADE. 100 miles an hour and 1/2 an inch deep… I have come to see that our current world culture is addicted to rapid change even more than it ever was. (and that isn’t just young people) I tell you what is encouraging to me, though: I am finding some young people that are seeing the lie of it all, and they are changing — gaining wisdom and true Holy Spirit insight into how important the Bible is, how important prayer, respect, Godly wisdom from elders, and DIVERSITY of age in the Body of Christ is. I pray that these are the kind of youth that will have more and more influence in the church.
I’m the old (55 years old) media guy at a church that hired a new college graduate as the Worship Leader last May. He attended a state university with a vey well respected music program, not a Bible college. He has a very firm grasp of what worship really is and is working hard to engage people of all ages in serving and in worshiping on Sundays. Yes, he’s learning some valuable lessons along the way but he’s also more mature than many his age.
My biggest disappointment in this has been the very negative and immature reaction from some of our older members. They complain about the songs, volume and other elements. We’re not trying to push anyone out, but help others want to come in. Some of our Elders visited several Sunday morning classes to discuss this and they were almost attacked. One was told by a member that they donated a lot of money to the church and insinuated that they’d take their money and leave if they couldn’t have things their way. Where’s the spiritual maturity in that kind of attitude?
There was one older gentleman who told our Worship Leader that some of the changes weren’t his personal preference, but he understood why they were being done and to keep up the good job.
One phrase that has always bothered me is “The youth are the future of the church.” That shortchanges the youth right now. We need to give them opportunities to be fully involved now so they feel a part of the church body.
My comments may drift from the points of this article, but if you’re worshiping to honor God, that’s what counts. We just have to be careful to recognize there’s a world of lost folks right around us and not close ourselves off as we get together on Sunday mornings.
Reading this article gave me knots in my stomach and reminds me so much why I left Evangelicalism 8 years ago and found my Home in the Catholic Church.
It is not only the worship leaders who are too old for the church today…I am a young, active 63 year old and have been in non-denominational churches for the last 45 years. Sadly, we have not found a church home since moving to our new city 5 years ago because of the worship time. In most churches it is no longer a time of worship, but “performance praise” at over 100 decibels. No one is participating other than the performers on stage. God’s presence is often “manufactured” in the form of smoke, colored lights and painfully loud music, Several of the churches we have visited offer ear plugs if the music is “too loud”. Not kidding. We no longer feel wanted or accepted in the church today, so we stay home. Every staff member is under 30 in most churches and bent on marketing to the younger generation only. This is a fractured body. We should all feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging. I long for worship with the family of God in an atmosphere where the music is understandable, singable, and worshipful. I have no desire to go back to the past, but there is plenty of worship music out there today that is…well, worshipful..Worship music. I miss worship.
I’m 60 and I play in a “contemporary service” that to me seems a bit old school. Our worship leader is in his early 50s, and our music is very heavily piano driven. I am a bass player, and double on guitar, and am passionate about playing music. It’s what I love to do. My opinion of contemporary music is , at this time, electric guitar driven, mostly written by guitar players. I actually like the younger, guitar driven sound better.we don’t seem to be moving any of the older players out, but we have a lot of younger players come and play for awhile, and then move on to another church. I think it is because the music is not what they identify with.
On a different note, my wife and I have started a ministry at our church working with youth , teaching them to play music in a praise band situation. They are between the ages of 13 and 15, and we started when some of them were 11. They now regularly lead the youth service and recently led for the entire congregation … Yep, big church. It is the best ministry that I can imagine.I once ha d a pastor, Brother Jimmy Jackson, that said ” look to your passion, there you’ll find your ministry”. I guess the point that I want to make is if you are in a situation where you want to use your talent, and age has sneaked up on you, don’t let your passion die with you. Pass it on. There is a wonderful generation that is hungry to be involved in music. Gods music is the best music in this world. Share it, plant a few seeds, and have a wonderful time. That’s my vision. Since the bible says, in latter times old men will dream dreams , and young men will see visions, that we make me a young man! God bless you, and pass it on!
My first reaction was simply to say that when worship is seen as an “attractant” in a church, for people we should not be surprised we are having this conversation and issue in the church. My understanding of worship from the beginning was that it was intended, in part, to atract the Holy Spirit, not us.
Personally, I’ve never seen or heard of a Biblical teaching where worship is positioned as part of the “offense” or “progressive marketing strategy” of a church to bring people in. In fact, in close to 30 years of ministry, pretty much anything we’ve used other than God’s vision for people to bring people to our ministry eventually became the very reason they left our church one day. (i.e. “I came because of the style of music, and when they changed it, we were done.”
I believe this kind of thinking that worship should be one of our main “attractants” is based on a very derailed theology of the purpose of this experience to begin with. When this approach prevails, and is played out in the history of a ministry, I believe it divides the Body of Christ more than creates unity. Where, in the wisdom of man did we come up with the idea that services should be defined and characterized by a style of music anyway? Can’t seem to find that in any teaching in the Word as well.
We’ve mistakenly brought two terms together that, in most cases, do not necessarily connect with the other – music and worship. Somewhere in our attempts to grow a church we’ve considered these two terms as one in the same, when in fact they are two completely different ideals. Just because we have a certain kind of music does not mean we also have worship occuring and vise versa.
Lastly, for now, when people are seen as resources to bring about the vision of a church, it should be no surprise that simply because of a “change in style” in worship, musicians and worship pastors are moved around or dismissed. The lie that at some magical age we have given God our best and its time to move on is foolish human wisdom. To think that God would honor and pour out his spirit on a place that retires people due to age like a secular business might, well, I believe that ministry cries out for the power and anointing of His Spirit to go somewhere else.
Just like serving, tithing, buliding projects, ushering, etc… these are opportunities for God’s passion and vision to be fulfilled in people – not just in a church. Show me a church with a tremendous vision for itself, ignoring the tremendous vision for individual people, regarless of age, and I believe you will find a long line of large and vibrant ministries operating without the anointing and vision of Christ. If we are not about creating ministry opportunity for people to live out and realize God’s incredible call in their personal life by following a life-long commitment to utilize their passion and gift in music or any other area, regardless of age, how can we even define ourselves as the Body of Christ.
Thank you for the well written article. We should not worship the worship, but worship Jesus in spirit and in truth regardless of race, gender, or age. Thank you Manuel, you have your finger on God’s pulse.
“Marketing principals should never be the crux of a God-directed local body.” Someone mentioned this earlier and perfectly described the origin of the problem.
For many many years now, much of churchdom has become preference-driven. We are no longer God-led local bodies, but merely man-led. We have succumbed to what we see everyone else doing, see the size of their congregations and equate that with the hand of God’s blessing. Then blindly, we try to emulate what we see, believing God will grow us by leaps and bounds, when it is the very DO-ing(in our own strength, leading to burn out) that negates our ability to hear Him.
Having said that, I’d like to offer as a worship leader for 20+ years (47 years young) that, if I’m NOT duplicating myself and discipling others, effectively and purposely training my replacements, I’m not doing my job.
Our congregation ranges in age from 8-80, and I lead our P&W with songs, hymns, and specials from the oldest to some of the newest out there. I blend spontaneous worship songs in between as directed by the Holy Spirit, and believe whole heartedly if He isn’t leading me, I can’t lead them.
Very thought provoking and engaging post. I think the “youth oriented” approach to leading musical worship is a result of the church imitating the world rather than influencing it. An attempt is made to craft a musical presentation that will attract a large audience. Unfortunately, those who are attracted to a church primarily because of musical worship style tend to be spiritually shallow and produce no fruit — they may even be false converts. An emphasis on sin, conviction, repentance, grace, redemption, obedience/righteousness, service, and worship (in that order) will produce mature, productive Christians who are genuinely concerned with the spiritual and temporal condition of their fellow man and seek to help improve both.
I enjoyed reading your blog because after almost 30 years in ministry, both as a worship pastor and now as a Pastor, I’ve seen exactly what you’re talking about. It’s so unfortunate that worship services have become concerts where we want our favorite songs or jams to be played and sung and the smoke and lights really cover up something that’s really missing which is a real relationship with Jesus and an intimate time of corporate worship. I’m all for spreading the wealth – I love hymns, I love the upbeat praise, I love the meditative/contemplative and I love heavy duty gospel. I agree with you that what we as the body of Christ need to do is to teach our people real diversity and blend our worship folk together, each learning from the other. Instead of following what the world does (which is never a good thing), we should be the trend setters – this way, maybe the world would once again respect us and come into the church instead of declaring that we’re hypocrites. If we could model what the Prophet Joel spoke of, “Your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams” – then I believe we will model for a dying world, the Church of Jesus Christ!
My church is about 60% college students. We have 2 services for everyone at 9 and 11, and a large college service across the street also at 11. Our “big church” worship team is mostly 30ish and up, with a few exceptions. College worship is all college students. Time and time again, we hear that college students like to come to big church more because of the music. Maybe because the worship leader is a better musician, maybe they like the older sings and hymns, or maybe the big church worship leader is more experienced at reading the crowd, but it is refreshing to see my church not practicing this young-only trend. Our church proves it wrong! :)
This is a wise article. I often lead worship – and I am in my 50s. But at a previous church, the pastor, who was not much younger than me, asked me to direct worship on the grounds that “your playing is actually quite cool for a 50-yr-old.” I did not accept.
You’re in my head, bro. It’s beautiful to see a post that echoes my sentiments in such a precise manner. Leadership has always been about utilization of the “talent pool” (so to speak) with a healthy dose of top-down humility; meaning, willing to learn, young and seasoned, old and new, fresh and established. If there is no discipleship and vision, Church worship teams become inbred, overly stylistic, focusing on the method rather than the message.
The bottom line for any worship leader is whether they are a “mirror” or a “canvas”. Any person can go up there and mimic someone else’s gifting and coincidentally place themselves in the echelon of the average worship leader. Problem being, there are too many that “do” whilst the “called” are either ignored or phased-out.
There is a vast need for a resurgent and recommitted attitude of true worship: living the lifestyle. Dedication and loyalty are applicable to the intrinsic nature of worship but, nothing, absolutely nothing, takes the place of a leader’s ability to let the vessel of their soul be poured out by the GOD who fills them.
Church business should never be integrated into the mentality of the Worship Team’s foundation. More than ever, the production value is placed on a greater plane than the movement of the Holy Spirit within the service. An attitude, an emotional response, ambiance, can all be created from lights, video, and music. An authentic response requires none of that, which seems to be the base mentality from most of the replies on this post. There are some that are called out of “4 Walls” of the Church, yet (much like the prophets of the Old Testament) there are those called to be committed to the established body of Christ so they can remember and return to the Heart of Worship. It is a dirty job to bloody yourself with the ridicule and the rejection, but in the end, it’s not about you. We use the gifts as weapons of spiritual warfare. Once we enter the fray, there is no turning back and there are plenty of battles and plenty of casualties.
I bring it back to this, as a worship leader, are you a “Mirror” or a “Canvas”? A mirror reflects what it sees while a blank canvas’ best use lies in the heart, mind, and ability of the Creator.
Take heart worshippers!!
I had a very hard time getting a new worship job at 48 and 49… and frankly, I get a little concerned for my future even at the church that hired me knowing my age and thinking that experience mattered. Will they still let me do this when I’m 65?
The church worships youth worse than our culture at large does. It’s sinful.
That said, one of my greatest joys is developing new young talent in the church, and I intend to do it till I can’t anymore!
I go to a church that uses all ages for worship and ministry. We are a true believer’s community. It is such a relief to not follow trends. First time visitors may not be impressed because we don’t have a slick show. But if they look a little deeper, they find a wonderful church family that will encourage them to become active in ministry alongside each other. We sometimes might have youth lead worship or someone 70+ sing a solo. Our choir and praise teams are all ages as it should be! Great article!
I’m 27 and even though I’ve been part of worship/choir teams since teenage years, I’ve only been a worship leader the past two years. Our band consists of men and women of all ages and my approach to auditions has always been to disregard age as long as they can play and sing contemporary worship. I did recently audition a 50 year old singer who had really heavy vibrato and I had to tell her that she was welcome to join the team as part of the backup singers but with her type of voice, I couldn’t use her to lead. She didn’t agree and moved on. Was her ego bruised, maybe, but when is it time to step aside and let the younger generation have an opportunity to lead? Why does one have to stay in the same position of leadership for 40 years and not be willing to try a different area of ministry? I understand that the older generation feels like they’re being kicked out but why stay so long that you’re asked to leave? Shouldn’t the older generation be proud of the young musicians/leaders that were raised up under their leadership and rejoice over their God given talents? At what age is too young or old? If you have a good relationship with your pastor then there should have been some communication about where the church is headed, what is the vision for the praise/worship and some indication to whether or not you fit in anymore. I find it hard to believe that someone was just asked to leave out of the blue. Some people are just oblivious to the fact that their style isn’t relevant anymore to the age/style of their church and at the end of it all they get offended.
Spoken like a true “under 30 year old”. It’s difficult to understand discrimination unless you are being discriminated against. I’m a 53 year old woman who can play many different styles effectively. I play by music but prefer lead sheets. I play hymns but prefer contemporary and play and sing in a contemporary style. I write contemporary songs and was a keyboardist/singer for Vineyard Christian Fellowships in Ohio for years. We recently moved to east Tennessee and are presently looking for a church. Mentoring younger musicians is my passion, but sadly I’ve found that some young keyboard players who can barely chord become offended by someone older trying to help them. As a mother of a very gifted 20 year old guitarist who has been pushed aside by older “big $ giver to the church” musicians to the point where he doesn’t want to play in church, I see both sides of the issue. Us middle aged and older ones need to mentor and encourage the younger ones; I love it when I see a worship group comprised of many ages. And I want to pull my hair out when an adult/older person becomes territorial over their instrument. That kind of nastiness can do a lot of damage to an aspiring musician who has his/her heart in the right place.
Personally–I’m still very relevant and of course I want to be used–and not pushed into retirement. Why should I be? I’m a stinkin’ good musician, have worked hard at my gifting for countless hours since I was 7 years old, prayed and studied the Word, and God has blessed me with His anointing. Fortunately I’ve found most churches readily accept me for some reason–although some of them don’t want to call me a “worship leader” because I’m a woman. Sadly I was passed over for a worship leader position once where the pastor actually told the worship team that “a woman applied for the position and she was by far the most qualified–but I haven’t seen that women make effective worship leaders”…I knew who all had applied–I was the only woman who had. This is the same man who raved to me about my voice and about how easy it was for me to play and “flow in worship”.
I’ve been in a situation where a younger guy (guitar player) was trying to lead worship at a church, and they let him go because he was just not gifted enough to lead worship. While he was there, however, they gave him the title of Worship Leader. After convincing me to come lead their music (and they were very happy to have me there) I was given the unofficial title of “Go To Person” for the music. I guess it doesn’t matter what you are called, but the point is this–I have faced a LOT of discrimination as a lady who leads music worship, and even more as I have aged, even though I have kept my skills and my songs current.
I admit there are those who are stuck in a certain era and are unwilling to change. I’ve dealt with someone like that and I must say it is frustrating and can understand why a pastor, at that point, would make changes. But I don’t think that is the case with most musicians who really love to play and are doing it with a servant’s heart, for the right reasons.
I’m sincerely hoping that this issue doesn’t lead to separation of churches into younger churches and middle-aged/older churches. I avoid the mega-churches like the plague–I’m not into smoke and lights and am quite sure it doesn’t impress God one bit, but I have a teenage son still at home and want to take him where there will be other young people his age. I love modern worship, though, and am all about keeping up with what’s going on out there musically. So we’re hoping to find a good mix that will relate to our whole family. I’m sure God has a place for us.
For many years I’ve said this and will continue to say it. My favorite times in worship are those when I play to an audience of One in my living room. He deserves all the glory and all the praise. No, I don’t want to be pushed out of playing for church because of age, and no, I don’t want to be irrelevant. Thank God I’m relevant to Him and always will be, and He accepts and loves my praises. I’ll play and sing in churches til I’m no longer able to keep up (right now I certainly am), and when I’m not? I’ll gladly play for friends, elderly, and whoever will listen. But most of all? I will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, play for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So dear, “under 30” person…when you are over age 45, please think about your attitude when you were younger. I’d about bet you’ll shake your head and wonder how you could ever make a statement like: “If you have a good relationship with your pastor then there should have been some communication about where the church is headed, what is the vision for the praise/worship and some indication to whether or not you fit in anymore.” The fact is, you will be the older worshiper someday–time waits for no one…
Wow! I’m amazed at the focus on music. You would think music is the only way to worship God. Everyone seems concerned with age and style yet where is the heart in all this? After 25 years of being on the music team the Lord showed me that my idea of worship was askew from His idea of worship. I won’t pretend to speak for everyone but I can say this: everytime I ask someone how was worship today, they automatically begin to tell you about the music. If this idea about the music has been inadvertently conveyed or purposely conveyed it scares me. Music leaders should confront that idea everytime they hear it.
The struggle is absolutely real. I appreciate the article, and it was great to read “the other side”. From another standpoint, my 28 yr old husband is a worship leader/songwriter under the direct leadership of an older,much more passive worship “Head”. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the motto. Nothing has changed in our mega-church for years. Our church is getting older and we are losing an entire generation. (And I don’t mean because we don’t have a “cool laser show” for the worship sets. It’s the entire style, an unwillingness to change.
In my church, we have the talent, passion and resources for songwriting yet because there is no open door, the young musicians go elsewhere to find an outlet. The older leadership may fear change, and the young feel no place to be connected or empowered. We (young and old) need each other. THe young can learn from experienced and gain much needed wisdom, the more mature could be willing to learn how to connect to a younger crowd. If you aren’t getting younger (mentally,open to new ideas) you are getting older. THere must be flexibility on both sides. We are the Body of Christ- Can an ear say to the eye, “I don’t need you?”
I agree! My husband is also a worship pastor/song writer. God gave us gifts to use to edify one another. I do not have the gift of music in any way, but whatever a person’s gift is, it is biblical and healthy for a church to use them in service to one another and God. Of course, this must be done prayerfully. My husband has been lead by the Lord to tell people that they need to continue to serve in the church elsewhere before they can be on the worship team, regardless of how good they are. Not because he doesn’t want to use them, but because the Lord might be working in their hearts or they might have different motives that we don’t see. If a worship leader can’t worship alone or at home the same way they would lead a crowd, then their heart might not have the right intentions yet. It is a hard situation, but thank God we can trust Him!! God bless you and your husband in your roles at your church. May you and your church leaders be filled with wisdom and grace in this season. :)
I appreciate this article very much. I am happy to say that our Praise Team consists of high school aged students, all the way up to a 93-year old who contributes faithfully every week. In fact, I would have to say out team’s median age is about 40, and that is probably a lower number than the median age of our church membership. To me, there is another issue that is tied to this that I struggle with, and that is what kind of music to bring, and how often to add it, because, in a way, that is tied to age, and “ecclesiology”.
We are fortunate that our church commits equally to both a traditional style of worship and a contemporary service, but most of those who attend are not familiar with contemporary Christian music. They learn the songs at church. For that reason, we introduce a new song only once every couple of months. Furthermore, half of the music every week is something we sang the week before in hopes of helping folks gain more familiarity with it, and it seems to work. I met a contemporary worship leader recently who proudly told me his musicians are so incredible that they do about 150 new songs per year…essentially 3 new songs per week! I wonder how the people in his congregation are able to participate? It has been a long-standing belief for us that we are not “performing” for the church every week. We are simply leading. It seems to me that if you add several songs per week, you are essentially inviting the congregants to listen to you, rather than to sing along. While they both have merits (being a professional classical and jazz musician for over thirty years, I have counted on listeners to make my living for a long time), we collectively decided years ago that, for the most part, we didn’t want to create the division between the Praise Team and the congregants of “performers” and “audience”. Our musicians are professional and could easily handle adding a song or two every week, but I have decided that doesn’t serve those we’re here to serve very well.
Thanks for a thought-provoking and relevant post.
After experiencing a layoff as a fifty-something full-time arts pastor and seasoned church leader, I found that “seasoned” was code for old – a liability rather than a benefit, especially with respect to an onstage presence. I couldn’t even get an interview and left church staff ministry. The Lord led me into another area of ministry for which I’m grateful, but I still feel a sense of loss as my passion and gifting were serving/leading artists and encouraging the church in creative worship expression. I know I’m not alone in this experience.
I see the issue as really 3 fold:
#1. Economics: churches seem to be moving away from ‘big box’ worship services and electing instead to go with venues (on and off campus). For the price of one 50 year old Music Minister you can get 3-4 capo-kids in skinny jeans. Plus with more and more churches moving away from choirs/ orchestras (for both cost and stylistic reasons) there’s less demand for the 50 year old guy with the seminary doctorate.
#2. Perceived Relevance: It’s a fact that many of today’s millennials want nothing to do with many of our churches and the perceived reason for this is style (musical style, style of the room, style of dress, etc.) What pastors (and elder boards) don’t realize is that many of today’s UNCHURCHED millennials are more interested in issues such as gender equality, environmental stewardship, social justice, etc. than if the band looks like a Mumford knock off. Most churches find it easier to change out the platform than start addressing questions these 20 somethings are actually asking.
#3. Consumer mentality: IMHO, Many of our churches have become purveyors of spiritual goods and services rather than movements of Kingdom people (this is where ‘branding’ comes in). We try to teach our people “it’s not about you” but we communicate the opposite in our programming. We can’t tell our congregation “look, we’ve provided 14 venues all built to cater to your personal preference in worship” and then lament the fact that our people are unwilling to worship together inter-generationally or inter-racially. Simply put: our congregations are exactly where we’ve led them.
Anyways, just my 2 cents (which won’t even pay the tax on my cup of coffee.) Thanks for addressing this issue.
I’m a 54 year old music minister, when I came to this church 7 years ago the whole praise band was my age and older. Younger ones were invited in from time to time, and they would sing one Sunday and that was it. Eventually I gathered all those 20s 30s musicians on the fringes and told them we were trying to start a new band. I thought it would last a few months then fizzle out, but it caught fire and after 3+ years they are a great band with a lot of momentum going right now. So we have our youth band lead worship 8-9 Sundays a year, then the other Sundays are split between the original band and the younger band. It was a hard transition for those who were used to leading every Sunday for so many years, but (almost) everyone understood why we had to do this. It makes our “branding” confusing, I’m sure, since the worship leadership has a totally different look depending on what Sundays you show up, and I think I may have to deal with ego issues and hurt feelings more than the average music minister might, but it was the right answer for our church. One difference for me vocationally is that I do not set myself up as lead singer on any worship team, I choose songs, write charts, lead rehearsals, play whatever instrument needs to be played (or stand to the side if everything is covered), and coach others in how to be lead worshippers.
What an eye-opening blog! These issues are so very evident all around me, but reading these posts has brought things in my own church more clearly into focus. I’m not a musician. I sing in the choir and love it, but I have no official position in the church other than the board of trustees. But without question I see the ‘branding’ issue all around me in our area. A local bar (famous on the gulf beach) now draws several thousand on Sundays for a worship service.
In my own church we have both a traditional and a contemporary service every Sunday. In fact, two traditional and one contemporary. I’m in my seventies, and I much prefer the traditional services. Don’t like my old ears subjected to that many decibels. But looking around the congregation I realize that in ten years something must happen or we will be very thin on the ground. Is it possible that the rising generation will not value these lovely and poetic old hymns, written by masters? Will the ‘traditional’ service reflect more of the modern music and forsake these long-enduring songs that lend themselves so readily to a choir of thirty or fifty voices? That would be a great loss.
Membership is an issue that must be seriously considered by senior leadership if the church is to survive financially; but I would not be drawn to a service that did not include enough quiet and enough soft harmony to invite my soul to touch God.
You’re just noticing that churches have cliques? That’s been going on for years. Frankly, the best way to have church is in the home, not at a designated building.
In visiting and or belonging to many churches over the years I’ve seen both extremes of this. Older worship leaders and congregations refusing to allow younger worship teams to become part of their world. Young worship teams not seeing the value of older worship styles. My current church embraces an intergenerational worship style with a good mix of modern worship music and classic hymns. I am very blessed to be at a place where Worship is the key word.
Relevent …that is where you have it completly backwards. Nothing in the the Church should be in any way even remotely relevent to the world.
I want to thank you for putting my thoughts into palpable words.
Thirty two years in the worship arts.
Now I’m the pastor of a small country church; digging it big time.
But I bailed on worship leadership because I saw what you are
I told my son in confidence “those punks can’t rock it near as
hard as your old man” and his response was “but look at you.”
Actually, truth be known, we were laughing thru that!
Bless you all.
Keep on cranking it out for His glory and to build His Kingdom.
Not knowing the motive of the aforementioned churches it leads one to ponder this thought, is anyone being led by the Holy Spirit as it pertains to worship. I believe that in the local church every individual is significant and has a role to play. Ephesians 4:16 ( amp)
For because of Him the whole body (the church, in all its various parts), closely joined and firmly knit together by the joints and ligaments with which it is supplied, when each part [with power adapted to its need] is working properly [in all its functions], grows to full maturity, building itself up in love.
We need to connect in love and worship collectively because no one individual is and island unto himself. The Holy Spirit will use whomever he desires as we surrender in righteousness. Age, gender or race has no emphasis on who should lead worship. let’s not loose sight because Christ is the focus of our worship not branding, pop culture or popularity. We are a peculiar people don’t allow the love of the world to enter into the house of God, or wherever you might assemble yourselves. Let’s not reject people but love them and work together in brotherly love don’t allow the wrong spirit to destroy the congregation of the righteous. we can coexist in the kingdom as we worship together both old and young. We were not sent to earth to force oneanother out of fellowship we are here to walk in love and to demonstrate the mind of Christ. What message are you sending when you determine that any individual is no longer suitable to serve in ministry?
One thing we must understand: Sunday service cannot be the end all and be all of our worship experience. No one service can meet the spiritual needs of everyone in the audience. We must be worshiping and praying and studying the Word daily on our own. We cannot wait for the pastor or worship leader to spoon feed us. That is why I love youtube. Some mornings I put on contemporary worship music and dance before the Lord with all my might. Some mornings I listen to the Southern Gospel music I grew up on many years ago. Believers must be more mature and more responsible for their own spiritual fitness.
I can’t lie… I’m wrestling with this topic from all sides now, myself ;-)
I’m coming up on 56 and worship/church music is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
As I read the comments after the blog, I see valid points in all directions. When I “net it out” and look for my own bottom-line, I think we have to stay as current and as genuine as we can. We can keep our hearts and minds pliable… and be new wineskins… or we can get stuck in our era of choice. We have to consciously make the choices that lead to one or the other of those outcomes.
To stay fresh and passionate, as a team, takes an atmosphere of love, honesty and humility. And in this case I’m talking about the kind of humility that says to a younger person, “I’m going to lift you up as high as I can and give you as much foundation for success as I can because it shows love. And when I can’t keep up any more, and I start to slow you down, I’m going to look for the next best place to serve… so I can watch what God is doing through you, from a ring-side seat.”
As we look at the others on our team… and see them gaining skill and passion, and ready to”take the wheel,” I want to say, like John the Baptist, “He must increase, and I must decrease!”
I have been a worship leader for 35+ years. I became a senior pastor by planting a church in a small mountain community where 5,000 people live in Northern California. I have been through all the politics and young guy stuff. I grew up and “cut my teeth” at a very mega church in SoCal and led worship for two mega church pastors. I will be 54 years old next month and I am still called to lead worship and now teach and equip His church. I am having the time of my life serving Jesus. Size of church does not matter. Calling does. There is no substitute for anointing. Be where God has called you and be content.
With that being said,
#1: I am a nobody in light of who Jesus is.
#2: “Branding” is not in the Bible, but being a disciple is. Be one.
#3: The gifts and callings of God are IRREVOCABLE. You are never to be “retired” or “put out to pasture”- Start your own work or find a place that will accept you as you are.
#4: God looks upon the heart and not the riff.
#5: God is well pleased with a worship leader who worships in the secret place as much or more than on a stage.
#6: Hymns, 70’s, 80’s 90’s 00″s,worship songs are ALL good if sung in “spirit and truth.”
#7: Love the Christian kid in skinny jeans who is dreaming of being a worship star. Build a bridge and pray about taking him under your wing and developing him into a biblical worship leader. Be patient and love and look for the next generation.
#8: Worship leading is pastoral ministry. (No “ands”, “if’s” or “buts” about it!) The godly worship leader must be set aside as a worship leader much like the menorah was in the holy temple. Separated unto God Himself. The priests were instructed to “minister unto Me” first before the people. You can’t be holy on a Sunday morning after playing ” I kissed a girl and I liked it” on Saturday night in some bar.
#9: Be y-o-u-r-s-e-l-f. That’s when Jesus is seen as the Creator of an artist. Insecurity, competition, ego, unfair criticism from others, drive us to copy and plagiarize other Christian artists.
#10: You can have my guitar when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers. I am going to do this until I am dead. I am His and He is mine.
This is something that happened to me personally, and was personally devastating. I was hired by a large church (2000+) as pianist and played for both traditional and contemporary services. We had several different worship leaders, and part of my job was keeping track of who did what songs, and in which keys, and which style, so that everyone could easily work together. I would take care of details with the band and let the worship leader concentrate on the singers and congregation. Some leaders wanted more help, some less; my job was figuring out what they wanted and doing exactly that. I would take care of writing charts and lead sheets, lift songs, arrange songs- whatever was needed. I never pushed myself out in front, but always supported and tried to be pretty invisible. Many times I was told, “You are the glue that holds us all together.” A change in leadership changed everything (and not just for me.) I learned that when people start saying, “Won’t it be great to get a break!” they really mean, “Run away and never return….” Everyone seemed to agree that the new leaders were struggling, but no one wanted any of the “old hands” to give any advice. I left after my salary was cut in half because “you’re not playing much any more.”
I started attending another church, but stopped going to church entirely for over two years, because every time I walked into church, I burst into tears. My faith took a major hit, and I was severely depressed for a long time. Only over the last six months have I found a church home, but I’m serving as Sunday School teacher for 3rd and 4th grade, and not with the worship team. Rejection scares me to death.
I have to laugh when I read “but you have to remember that older people want to hang on to their hymns and their style of music.” We didn’t grow up on Bing Crosby- we introduced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones! I am now 60, and I always considered keeping up with contemporary music, Christian and not, part of my job. It’s insulting to think otherwise. Some of the most cutting-edge musicians out there are way older than I am. And being young is no guarantee of good musicianship or connection with a congregation.
Sadly enough, I am a musician who has been shelved. I had the choir at my church for over 30 years, and was the church pianist for nearly that long. When we got a new pastor 5 years ago, he promised a blended service…which thrilled me. I had worked with students from a local Christian college to form a Praise group…so new songs were not an issue. In very little time, the choir was gone (actually, I went to church one Sunday to find an announcement that the choir loft was being torn out after the service…talk about shock!) There was a need for more “stage” room for a “paid” P&W Team. Several of us had volunteered our time in the previous years, feeling that was where God called us to serve.Then one by one I saw my “older” friends leaving. It was due primarily to the fact that they would make some sort of a suggestion to help “older” members to adjust to the changes. All suggestions fell on deaf ears. I am still at that church, though the “theatrical presentations” make me sad. The church is growing, and young couples are being saved. (Though many of them continue to live unmarried with their mates,) I still wonder, “When did it happen that God was no longer enough??” “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.” John 12:32 I find nowhere in the Bible that we should become like the world to attract the world. (Unless it is the Scripture that we are to be all things to all men…I Cor. 9:22) We are warned many places in Scripture not to be like the world. Anyway…
In the last year, the Lord has led me (along with a friend with whom I have sung for many years) to a new ministry. Our community has a place called “Hart Comfort House” where people go when they are in the last 3 months of their lives. We have been asked to go weekly to play piano and sing hymns. Every time we go, we are SO BLESSED, and we have been able to witness to several who didn’t know the Lord. We were even asked to sing for a funeral of a man we had met there…there were about 150…and the funeral was at a VFW hall!! The family seemed SO appreciative that we would be willing to sing in that atymosphere! :-) What a privilege it has been to serve the Lord at ComFort House!! There is a real urgency for people to know Him there! We feel so blessed!! Praise be to HIM!!
I love how you brought this issue to our definition of church. It brought so much clarity to me . Whether it’s how worship is done, youth ministry, kids ministry, etc. it comes down to the same thing…how are we defining church? Once we turned 50, our “mega church” didn’t really have a place for us. Just when we have matured to a place where we can truly mentor and assist younger ministers, we are sort of pushed aside (actually, we were told we are the financial backbone that keeps the church reaching out to the young. We only make $27,000 a year, so that made us laugh). Having been in both types of church. I far prefer the “community”style and it seems to be more biblical to me as well (Act 2). Great article!
I know what you mean about the age thing. Since, in the Old Testament, Levitical service ended at age 50, maybe I should’ve stopped two years ago. Feeling washed up! :)
The scenarios you are describing are not the body of Christ, they are a group of people who love the world and want to imitate it. They need to read and obey God’s word – especially 1 John to see if they are really in the faith.
I just turned 52. I rarely play at churches these days, except when invited occasionally. Instead, I play in secular venues, with some great musicians. My current band has two 26-year-olds, and the other three of us are almost-or-just-past 50.
We have a great deal of fun, and the variety in ages isn’t an issue.
On the other hand, I’m totally fine with getting out of the way of the younger generation to play on worship teams. I don’t NEED to be on stage at church. I can find great musical fulfillment (actually MORE, to be honest) playing in the secular world.
And still enjoy the worship at church, led by whatever age group is doing it.
But if somebody pulled the “branding” comment on me, I’d be looking for a new church immediately. :)
Whatever happened to the idea that churches were a house of God for people to come in and learn about Him? Whatever happened to allowing God to take the lead in His own house and letting the chips fall where they may? With the drive to create a “brand” for churches, it seems that they are putting God in the backseat rather than letting Him drive the service.
Hello all, If I may add the following perspective about this troubling phenomenon. Yes, I find it very troubling for several practical reasons but above all for this one reason alone. If the duties and responsibilities of a worship leader is equal to that of an “overseer”, then we must consider what Paul has to say in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 in the context of spiritual maturity. Is it a possible that a young 20-something is able to achieve the high standard set forth in that Scripture? Possibly. But I would argue that it is more than likely the exception than the rule.
Put it this way – – Many pastors guard the pulpit very carefully as they should. A responsible pastor is generally not going to have an individual write and deliver the Sunday sermon on a regular basis if that individual hasn’t had any theological training. As an older, experienced worship leader, I consider every word, every lyric equally as important as the Sermon. Both have the power to usher in the presence of the Lord.
Unfortunately, many of the younger worship leaders are unaware of what they don’t know: Leading worship is more that just copying someone else’s version of a hit worship song. I strongly feel that the duty of the modern worship leader is to encourage surrender and acknowledgement of the greatness of our King. . . Can God bestow maturity on a young person? Absolutely. But Apostle Paul understood that spiritual maturity takes time. I consider the position of worship leader equal to that of an overseer, especially in the context of the contemporary service.
So, what is my point? It’s not about the volume or the type of jeans that are on the platform, it is about the needs of those in attendance. What do they need? A God that is greater than societies’ offerings. Simply presenting a younger demographic at an elevated decibel level on the platform for the sake of mirroring secular super-stars in an attempt to reel in twenty-somethings may arouse curiosity, but in the long run, will it be effective enough to change lives? Do skinny jeans alone make someone say to themselves, “Wow, I’m a sinner and I need Jesus”. Harsh? Don’t mean to be. But discarding wisdom and spiritual maturity for the sake of image IS harsh.
Bottom line: Don’t through out the baby with the bath water. This older “baby” has a lot to share and a lot to give.
It’s pretty sad that as a 40 yr old sax man, I feel that I get more respect from musicians and patrons of bars than I do from church leadership. I quit playing bars because I realized I loved playing worship music. I USED to dream of being a worship leader in until I was beat down at one church for not being southern gospel enough. Then, totally looked over for, what I feel,not being young and hip enough.
I don’t play guitar, nor so I want to. Along with the sax, I play piano. I like many styles. My piano style is heavy in jazz, blues, and rock. I tell people it’s a mix of Girauldi, Billy Joel, Keith Green, with a touch of Brubeck.
I have to agree with the gentleman that talked about the 4 chord formula. There are so many other beautiful chords out their to work with. Ever heard a major 7 chord?
We as musicians have a had time being ourselves when we have to sound like a Hill song United cover band. God gave us all a unique character and with that character comes style.
For someone to say that churches don’t discriminate because of age is either blind or under 30. Churches have become the most political and discriminatory organizations out there. It’s painful to say that, but it’s true.
I have cried many tears because I know my dreams will never be realized. I have gone through stages of anger and bitterness over the situation. I have gotten over that, BTW.
One other thing. A large, 40 yr old man in skinny jeans? Really?
Imagine if we all focused on holiness… I am happy to belong to a church that welcomes ministry from all ages with older and younger leading us side by side.
Manuel – spot on, especially the end comments concerning community. Man is not the focus of worship – God is. He alone is the audience for both for those leading from the stage and those in the pews. A church that uses the look or age of those leading to “brand” has chosen to appeal to the wrong audience – it will be to their shame. Regardless of how effective this worship might seem , I suspect it is an abomination to God Almighty as He shares the spotlight of His glory with no one.
I’ve seen a trend that praise and worship have turned into a performance with mini sermons sprinkled throughout. Boring. If I want a concert I’ll go pay for a ticket to see someone I really want to see. At church I want Spirit led praise that I can participate in. And between every song we get a five minute sermon. I wish the worship leader would lead worship or get behind the pulpit. One or the other. The kind of music is secondary. I’m just tired of the churches being the place for young people to be discovered by the Christian music industry.
A couple of questions : is it possible that our churches were working hard to attract and keep young people in the church WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, and it just SEEMS like a new goal? And, without working to bring in – and keep – the young, our churches will die out. SOON. We HAVE to bring in and keep younger people so that THEIR children have a chance to learn about Christ. As much as I wish I could have the perfect ( at least to me) worship at my church, I also know that we are told to ” bring them in “. Maybe it’s not about me….
You’ve shed some light on the behavior of a former worship pastor at my church. Within a few months of his arrival, the order of worship on Sundays was indistinguishable from Christian Top 40 radio. The “music” mainly consisted of arrangements in the keys of E, B, or A, with a 5- or 6-note vocal range, sung only in unison (and frequently prime unison), with uninspiring, repetitive lyrics.
Choir soloists over 40 were no longer called on; instead, one young woman on the praise team sang nearly every female solo, while the worship pastor sang many of the male solos. The orchestra, most of whom (including me) are 40 and over, was moved from the main floor of the sanctuary to platforms in the balcony. After a while, we realized that either our microphones weren’t being turned on any more, or the sound crew had been instructed not to put us in the mix. The praise band’s bass and drums, on the main floor, were turned up so loud that our chairs literally vibrated on those platforms. We commented among ourselves that the worship pastor’s next move for us would be out the door, especially since we had been relegated to playing on only one or two songs out of four or five in each Sunday service.
As it happened, after three or four years, the worship pastor resigned abruptly–and, from the way he handled it, unwillingly.
All that to say…it never occurred to me until today that the way he treated the choir and orchestra had anything to do with our ages. Things make a lot more sense now. Thank you for writing this post.
Fabulous article. Absolutely true. To really understand this, the article needs to be deconstructed into several factors creating this problem. The age discrimination is most prevalent in music (as far as a church is concerned). Other areas of ministry don’t seem to be as affected.
We have a healthy mix of various ages in our congregation, yet our worship team consists of mostly older people. I noticed one evening at practice that nearly all of us have grey/white hair. But for sure, every one of us is forty or over (well, we now have two more on the team who are under 40). Our problem is finding folks who will commit to the time required to practice, and it’s only one night per week plus 1 1/2 hours early before actual service. I like to think that our congregation does not look at each other in terms of age, but then I am one of the older ones, one who still sees herself as much younger than she is :) True worship has nothing to do with age OR experience.
I just had another thought about this from a different angle.
In all of these scenarios the goal of the church is to “stay relevant” and attract “younger congregants.” What does that say about how young people feel about the church? And why would their participation hinge solely on music style and hipness?
If younger people are not coming to church I think there are much deeper issues at hand!
AND shame on the church for catering to ANY one set of people and not striving to minister to and be ministered to by all!
Do you ever read the ads for churches wanting Worship Leaders”? Almost everyone mentions Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, etc. Nearly every ad reads the same. No one is original anymore.
I had this long reply started but the further I got into it the more it sounded like I was having a pity party for myself. It comes to this. If the situation becomes like a lot of those stated in both the blog and the comments above, leave it in God’s hands and ask him as to what he would have you do. I am a 54 year old bass player and when these kind of things happened to me I prayed for God to lead me in the direction of his choosing. I now play at another church with a great group of folks and feel more blessed and am growing even more as a Christian. He has put me in the right place. God has his plan for all of us. It’s how we go about following it.
Obviously by the response you have hit a nerve with this article. I have taken the time to read most of the responses to this point. I must say as insightful as the article is I also appreciate the spirit of the responders. Yes there are statements of pain and frustration, at the same time you hear the heart cry of people who love God, who love worship and who love the body of Christ.
These observations are not just for worship leaders and pastors but Christian education people, teachers, choir directors, elders, deacons, deaconesses, etc. Keep in mind that we do have an adversary who loves to divide the body of Christ.
Let me share the words of an old chorus we use to sing in our church where I grew up (bye the way, I am in my late 50’s):
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things on earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace
Sometimes we must sound like kids on a playground to God — my dad is better than your dad arguments. Except I wonder if it sounds to God like we are saying — my worship is better than your worship,
It is past time for this issue to be discussed. There should be room for worshippers of ALL ages to “make a joyful noise” together to the Glory of our God. Image is less important than sincerity of heart. I have been in other countries/cultures. Ours is one of the few that put older people “out to pasture” for the sake of appearance and youthfulness. In most countries maturity, experience, and wisdom are respected and even sought. What about the “James Taylors, Carole Kings, Paul McCartneys and Andy Williams'” of the secular world who still get a hearing? They don’t sound like they once did, but their contributions continue to be valuable. Phil Keaggy can still outplay most any young guitarist. We need all ages in this. Older people need to be more open to what draws this generation into the Kingdom and younger ones need to be anchored to time-tested truth that older ones possess. If we, as Christians, cater to the world’s standards, who will bring the positive change in our values? We have a responsibility to model to our culture what it looks like to transcend age, beauty, and trends for the sake of bettering our future, not merely “copy” the world to get “butts in the seats.” If it is genuine, sincere, honoring to God, hungering people in all ages categories will be drawn in.
After reading everyone’s posts, I have to admit I am starting to see a clearer picture of what may have occurred in my younger years that I was totally oblivious to… until now. When I was young I never thought about how the older generation felt when I was on the platform belting out a song or leading young people in choir to sing each note perfectly. I guess I assumed that the older folks were tired and ready for the youngsters to take over the positions they had held for so many years. It never dawned on me that they may have felt left out or even pushed out. Oh how they must have missed and wished for the old days when choir practice was more of a social gathering of like-minded people who just enjoyed singing to the Lord… Granted, all were not in perfect pitch and the vibrato a little harsh at times, but since we are singing heartfelt praises to God, I have to wonder… does He really mind all of the imperfection? Today’s church is more driven to what seems in our minds to be right… After all, God wants our best, right? Only the best musicians, only the best singers, only the best orators. We don’t want to run off visitors if they see older people ministering in music. No, their ministry is now changing diapers in the nursery, ushering or serving coffee… The jobs that no one else will do. Meanwhile, the music may be more dynamic than ever, but is the message itself? It is interesting to me how many times in the Bible God used the imperfect to achieve His purposes. Age never seemed to be an factor, talent never seemed to be an issue…. Willingness was what He sought after. Jesus said “If I (JESUS) be lifted up, I (JESUS) will draw all men to me (JESUS)”. I will conclude by saying we need to ask ourselves, who are we lifting up by putting others down?
Great comment and perspective Emile W.-
This issue hits close to home for me, as a young lead pastor in a large and quickly growing church that has traversed this path over the last 3+ years under my leadership. I found myself a little frustrated reading the blog, because there are a number of perceptions here about the issue that look much different when viewed from other angles. I don’t think the issue is whether or not the people on the platform reflect those sitting in the pews (in this case-in regards to age). I think the real issue is whether or not the people in the pews look (demographically) anything like those in the surrounding community that the local church is being called to reach. I became the lead pastor of the church I serve at 29 years old, and though the area surrounding us is filled with people of all ages, including the highest density of families with school-aged children, the average age of people in our church was about 20 years older than the community demographic. The pastoral staff and people on the platform reflected people in the pews, but families, children, and teenagers in the surrounding community were not being reached.
As the pastoral staff, leadership, and platform presence began to get younger, I have been accused of ageism or trying to be “worldly” or a number of other perceptions that I believe this blog exhibits, frequently. Yet the church has begun to engage the mission of Jesus in our city, and has grown significantly in 3 years, baptizing over 100 new believers (75 of them under the age of 20) in the last few years. Now, our demographics much more faithfully reflect the median age of our surrounding community- with young and old alike worshipping together on a Sunday.
There is a direct link between those on the platform and those in the pew. I have seen time and again, in every ministry context I have served in, that people will plant at a church where they can identify with the platform presence. If they are young and the whole platform is older people, they will often move on and vice versa. But we have to keep the main thing the main thing. The question we must concern ourselves with is the mission of Jesus. If people aren’t getting saved and baptized, and the church is stagnant, I don’t care who is on the platform- you’re missing the point.
So many churches are declining and dying because groups of insiders have a stranglehold on the roles of influence, particularly in the areas of music and platform leadership. Enough is enough- if you’re more concerned about your spot in the limelight than you are about the mission of Jesus and the millions of lost people surrounding our churches- you need to check check your gospel-pulse. If you’re older and mature in your faith- read and apply Titus 2 to your life and get on the mission. We need you.
“As the pastoral staff, leadership, and platform presence began to get younger, I have been accused of ageism or trying to be “worldly” or a number of other perceptions that I believe this blog exhibits, frequently. Yet the church has begun to engage the mission of Jesus in our city, and has grown significantly in 3 years, baptizing over 100 new believers (75 of them under the age of 20) in the last few years. Now, our demographics much more faithfully reflect the median age of our surrounding community- with young and old alike worshipping together on a Sunday.”
I have been a worship leader/pastor since I was 19 and am now 44. I see these scenarios from both ends of the spectrum. Here is my observation and experience:
I came to my current church in 2010 and was asked to be the worship pastor 1 year later.
I joined a team that could be described as one of these young, hipster, branded worship teams… I was 42 and not young, skinny, have spiky hair nor do I fully feel confident in PLAYING the more current music. But when I joined this team the year prior to becoming the worship pastor, I only served at the request of my pastor and at the leading of the current worship leader; his style, his design, his direction. I was not there to be positioned or to change direction, just to serve.
What I discovered and what has resulted in a great blend of yuoth and maturity is this:
(1). The older team members have a strong sense of living the life of faith and the reality that the daily struggle is more than the worship experience in a gathering of the people.
(2). The younger team members have an immediate immersion of passionate and fully immersed worship from the first strum of the guitar/keys… they might not have learned how to LIVE the daily faith struggle yet. The result is WE HAVE THIS MINISTRY.
The generation gap of style, method, experience and expectation is bridged by the older, more mature team members are instilling their experience and wisdom of living, faith and a worship LIFEstyle to the younger set who have unlimited energy, passionate expression and truly incredible sound.
We love the newer renditions of older songs, we have removed songs that wish or hope for God’s coming to our service and rather focus on the finished work of the cross and therefore worship from the position of “It is FINISHED” and from a position of knowing that truth. I am not saying this will work or is the experience of all, but it does start with the leadership of the team. the worship leader/pastor is appointed and serves from that position. If the church is excluding, it may be missing the point of ekklesia… we are being called out from where we are to a specific place for the purpose of loving and serving our God.
It is biblical that the older dream dreams and teach, the younger learn and run… WE HAVE THIS MINISTRY. I am learning to expand and stretch my keyboard skills and I can structure and maintain a scriptural direction within my team while they create the atmosphere! Our expression is a result of our relationship with God… just like kids look like their birth parents (check out pics of 2 year olds from each year skipping back 10 years at a time… they are all 2yr olds, but they all have different styles and clothes and backgrounds and cameras, etc… don’t get stagnant, stay focused and bless others because you have been blessed!
Great article… There is a balance needed for sure. My young, hipster husband is the worship pastor at our church. Yet, he has a heart to use people’s gifts. (Not all “hipsters” are how you describe them. :) Hipsters are people, too. haha) He has an older 50-something guy playing the banjo and another 40-something playing her ukulele (she is awesome)! It is a joy to see how it brings the whole church together and, in a way, it bridges the fellowship between the generations within our church body. He also uses his 14 year old brother on the keys and teaches guitar lessons to elementary school students. (He’s my husband, so I AM bragging here. Swoon.) Our church actually shies away from most (not all) main stream Christian songs because they are weak in their theology and worship to Christ. Hymns are cherished, but new songs, even written by the people on the worship team, also should be appreciated. A worship leader has the amazing opportunity to lead people in exalting God, that their worship of Him would flood into every area of their lives, bringing God all glory, honor and praise. He is the only One who is worthy of praise! This has everything to do with who God puts in that position – through the guidance and direction He gives the leadership of a church that is seeking Him – and should have nothing to do with age. I agree with you. Worship is a matter of the heart, both of the church and of the worship leader, which only God can know. It is not an equation. It is seeking our Father.
P.S. This font color is really hard on the eyes against the black background. I am seeing spots. (Respectfully, for your consideration.) God bless!
Sometimes the older dudes are hard to work with. They are not always flexible to new styles. As a Senior pastor, I want a certain freshness with our worship ministry. If a guy is 60 and can pull that off, I’m all for it, but that is usually not the case. Young guns can be just as big of a problem if they make it all about them and their demographic. Hitting the right mix can be tricky. Thanks for the post.
The Beautiful Church
A certain look
A certain feel
A certain image
That will appeal
A certain style
A certain grace
A certain sense
That’s our taste
The beautiful church
Stuck on the outward
The beautiful church
Love our clothes
Love our hair
Love our shoes
No one compares
Love our cars
Love our things
Love the clientel
Is this what’s right?
Is this who’s called?
only those who have it all?
I question the motive
I question the thought
Are you building the church
Or building the show up?
Your to old
Your to fat
Your to homely
who wants that
Your to poor
Your to sick
Your to ugly
You don’t fit
J. Carrol, is this really a song or a poem? I love it! Please, let me know, otherwise I’ll put music to it…haha. Who wrote this? Thanks
I think sometimes we rely too much on worship to “create an atmosphere” for the Word to come forth. While this is true, the issue really lies with where the heart is; that is the heart of the pastor, the staff, and of the people. Too many times churches get a “good feel” from a song and squeeze it until it’s dry; then we move on to another song and do the same. So too, we use worship leaders the same way: squeeze everything out of them and then move on. Just because something worked in the good ole days doesn’t mean that it’s right for today and conversely, just because something is new and fresh doesn’t mean that it’s right for the church. It may very well be that God is changing directions with the church and we haven’t turned with Him. Sometimes what we want and expect, isn’t what God is doing…this coming from someone God has touched for worship and yet the instrument can no longer “play”. I’m not saying that it’s right to look to a younger leader but I am questioning what God may intend to do in these music ministers lives that they may not be seeing quite yet… I do say this in love…Thanks
I am pleased to say that my church (River of Glory in Plano, TX) seems to have addressed this successfully. We have multiple worship teams – and most of them are very age diverse. The most interesting thing is that the church leadership guides these multiple worship teams with a very light hand in regards to the music they share on Sunday morning. Here is an amazing concept I see being walked out here. The leadership of the church actually trusts the various worship teams to seek and then listen to the Holy Spirit on how they should worship. When people are empowered like this they take that responsibility very serious – and effectively police themselves. Funny how those concepts of trust and honor actually work in real church life if you actually follow them.
Now I know why the Holy Spirit has been retired from so many worship teams as well…He’s too old!!
I’ll keep this short. I was the worship pastor for a large church turned mega-church for 18 years. I started at the church when I was 31. After 18 years of faithful service I was replaced and had to start over. I was told it wasn’t age, but the new guy was 32. Draw your own conclusions. I do love my new church, but it is hard to start over when things were building.
I have seen this, too. My husband is our worship leader and at 45 years old he welcomes musicians and vocalists of all ages and we try to play a mix to include all generations. About 5 years ago our senior pastor told us that my husband is really too old for youth ministry so we were asked to step down from that position. Wondering what your take on that is?
Wow, what a lot of comments in the past 24 hours. Some are right on the mark and I can’t top that.
What I will say is that “variety is the spice,” and I want to believe variety is a sweet sound to our Lord’s ears.
I would speculate that a lot of people choose a church for the pastor and his style of preaching. They end up, in some cases, having to “tolerate” the worship leader.
In our community of believers, we have operated for nearly 13 years with a worship ministry comprised totally of volunteers, including the leaders. At our two campuses, there are at least seven regular leaders and several other “occasionals.” It would be said that our style is contemporary Christian, but at least one of our pastors feels the importance of a hymn each weekend. If it’s appropriate with the overall set, there’s little taboo to having a country, blues, or bluegrass feel to an individual song. Our leaders range in age from mid 20s to 67, both men and women (the oldest are two women in their sixties who sometimes enhance each other’s leadership). Variety is the spice!
Occasionally there has been a move to have a paid staff member as the worship ministry figurehead, but the idea is thwarted for… uhhhh… a VARIETY of reasons. The worship leader is a target for his/her personality, appearance, manner, choice of songs, choice of transitional comments; is God happy with any of that?
As for the songs themselves… I like fun, celebratory songs as openers, but the majority of songs should address the character of God, the good news of what Christ has accomplished for us, and the peace/joy that we have from the presence of His Spirit in our lives.
Thank you for this exchange of opinions.
Wonderful and truth reading blog! Our church focuses a lot of energy into using all ages in worship teams. We fall short when we discriminate based on appearance and status in the community over dedication and talent. As human videos have taken over presenting the gospel through drama the methods and participates change. Regardless of age, appearance or how NOW a method or person is, a church MUST BE all inclusive and needs all ages, talents, gifts, parts of the population in which the building is located in order to be an authentic representative of God to the community.
Well-written, Mike. I wonder? If God is the audience of One that our worship rises to, then does He see an age prejudice? Or is it the heart of the worshipper that He examines? Churches that hire to capture a targeted age group (young or old) have compromised “Truth.” I would question whether their outreach program focuses more on internal quality than wreckless abandonment. We must always remember the Holy Spirit draws man to God – not a program – not a service – not a sermon – not music – not any effort in man’s own strength! Without “Spirit and Truth” man can not be drawn and our Father does not receive our praise offering.
It is a logical progression of churches that use a business model for their church. That is part of the reason I can’t stand churches that try to brand themselves, target a specific audience and run church like a business.
I think part of the problem comes because churches are afraid of not having a lot of really young people in their pews, so they cater to what the young crowd wants. There is little respect for each other and churches devolve into nothing more than constant power struggles. Those who are the older performers, members or leadership, have been in power for awhile. They have made this church what they wanted it to be and they don’t want to give that up because in their eyes, they tweeked it until it was perfect, why ruin a good thing? They have no value or concern for the younger generations. The younger generations want something that seems fresh and alive and new. They want to continue tweeking their service to make it what they want so it will be perfect in their eyes. They have little respect for, value or concern for the older generations. They want what they want and they want it right now. As I said above, these large, newer churches are afraid to NOT have all the young people in their church, so they give in to whatever the younger generation wants, setting aside the desires and needs of the older generation, which will eventually feel left out and leave. The younger generation doesn’t realize that when they hit 30 or 40, they too will be pushed aside for what another generation wants. It is a constant struggle for power.
I see the same thing happening in churches that over value the older, as you say, wiser and more mature people. I wouldn’t say it that way because being older does not ensure that you are wiser or more mature, you’ve just lived a longer time. In some churches, older people are venerated and held up as models for the community and get their way no matter what because they have the money and money talks. They worked their way up through the ranks within church leadership and have been in power for awhile. Like the CEO of a company, they don’t want to let go of that power, prestige and influence. They don’t want to train the next generation and allow them to take on positions of authority because then they wouldn’t be in power and things would change. The one common thing I see in most older people is the older they get, the less they like change. So, for these churches, they do the same old things year after year until they have become a bore. They sing the same old music and develop the attitude that somehow God is only pleased with music from the 1800’s. They have developed an attitude that nothing good can possibly come from the next generation. And why can’t it? Because if you admit that the changes the next generation make are good, then you are devaluing the changes you yourself made.
What it really comes down to in both of these situations is the need to be right, the need to feel important, respected, valued, the need to impress others, the need to stroke my own ego. People see church as a place that they can make a difference for the generations. They want to be remembered for doing something. So they struggle and war with each other, vieing for the attention they desire. The problem is, we have made church all about ME, what I want, what I get, when it was never meant to be that at all. It was meant to be all about God. I, me, my and ego fade into the background and all that is seen is Jesus shining through each individual. That is what it was meant to be. When we run our churches like a business, it will never be this. You can’t quantify a heart change, devotion or love for God and fellow man. As long as we try, we will continue to have nothing more than petty power struggles.
It seems to have started by wanting a king. That is just as much in the church as outside of her. Now the culture is just as much in her as in the world. The Lord told us why we shouldn’t have a king but most were not listening. Let the Holy Spirit be your teacher.
I’m a bit over 50. I’ve been playing guitar for 44 years, and bass for 34 years. It can be awkward being the oldest person on stage. No one’s trying to force me out or retire me, but the quality of the music has dropped. I don’t want to go backward, so I’m “retiring” myself.
Age isn’t the biggest problem for me, though. It’s not cool to learn music theory and good technique in order to communicate with the audience like a professional anymore. That’s passé now, and the result looks–and sounds–like a poorly trained high school band.
It doesn’t seem to affect the ever-growing congregation much. Fast food and pop culture have lowered the bar enough that many folks seem to think of Steer and Stein as fine dining. Thanks, but I’ll pass. :-)
You at least play an instrument that is still on the stage in modern worship. My voice as a 53 year old Trombonist has largely been replaced. I get called now to play quarterly for special services instead of weekly in my own congregation. My skill and training get recognized in other venues but sadly less and less in the church.
It’s pretty sad–bass is the new guitar, guitar is the new synthesizer, synthesizer is the new organ. Woodwinds and brass need not apply.
Yeah, its a completely different way of playing instruments. I never had to pad ever till this genre took over. So now i have to be a guitar, organ, strings, synth, and play parts. But learning this expands my knowledge and skills. I used to use pedal boards that cost around a grand at the most. Now my board costs 2500 and still growing! And the guitars need the nasally harsh tone that cuts through everything. So LP and Strats are out, and gretch’s are in…. Marshall and Mesas out, and vox’s in…. And guys like me who are old have to start all over. On top of that, tracks are pretty much mandatory these days too if you really wanna sound like the hillsong, tomlin tunes. I never p[layed in a 7 peice band that needed tracks till this stuff. :)
I admire you for hanging in there and doing what it takes. When I first auditioned for guitar in this type of setting, I couldn’t believe the leader actually wanted me to play those parts and those tones as close to the recorded versions as possible. I ended up declining and then auditioned for bass about a year later. It’s mostly roots in eighth notes, but at least it still sounds like bass… O.o
Sad but true, the church is following the way of the world. If age would have been a criteria for deliverance from egypt, Moses may not have been chosen for the task…
Great discussion. I hope I can explain myself in my broken English. I haven’t been able to read all comments and maybe what I am about to say has already been said. Anyway, I prefer to focus on what might be a solution and it is try to set up a style and sound of music that doesn’t pass with generations neither get stuck with some sort of music groups styles. I know, this sounds like impossible to try at church with people full of music groups styes and so influenced BUT, is worth the try…with a pastor open minded enough and prayer it might work. Roberto
¡Bien dicho, Roberto! (Y tus inglés está bien tambien.)
I think that writing and playing music that is timeless is a goal all musicians should aspire to. What bothers me about contemporary praise and worship is that it’s like music from the 60’s, when the wah pedal was first invented, and it was being used just for the sake of using it–it ended up sounding dated and forced. I’m afraid that will be the case with much of today’s Christian music: it won’t stand the test of time.
Good point Theo!
Although slightly off center of this blog’s purpose, there is a community of us professionals that left the industry to seek a “Christian” way of life. Many of us have experienced the issues raised in this blog, and as a result have returned to the secular industry. However, with the spiritual foundation we didn’t have in our youth, many of us now consider our this to be our mission field and calling. Although there is an age bias there as well, I know that personally, I can only attribute the success I have experienced to the favor, and blessing of God. I cannot limit God to the four walls of the church building.
FYI: When we do come off the road to attend, most of us gravitate to the simpler, laid back, more liturgical types of churches.
I’ve experienced this from the opposite side. As a young musician in a band of young musicians we were pretty much asked to no longer play, we encouraged older people to play with us, played hymns, arrived for excellence and authenticity but alas we were still forced out of the church.
What’s the point of the church? A bunch of Christians being together, sure, but shouldn’t it also be a place where people far from good can experience life in Christ? What’s the point of just having the Sunday morning feel good clubs when people in your cities, and communities are dying, and have no hope for an eternal life with the Lord…I don’t know, what the point of the great commission is if we don’t make church palatable for people who aren’t ‘church’ people.
I’m not blanketing all churches in this and if your church is highly involved in outreach that’s super great. But for many of the churches I’ve gone to in my life, the vision wasn’t to see people saved it was to see more seats filled.
Amen to your article! It seems that the focus should be on the one being worshipped, not on the worshippers. Many different people with voices and instruments raised many different musical styles all reflect our wonderful Creator. True worship will draw people in, not lights and smoke. Let’s keep our focus upward, not toward the stage!
First thing to understand is that I am 60 years old and have been playing Bass Guitar in church setting for 50 years. My background is in Tuba and other bass instruments in Marching bands, Orchestras, and rock bands. Years ago it was not a problem with age, we even wanted mixed groups so that the youth could learn from the older and better trained members but now I see some churches wanting to cater to the youth more than the older generation so they push aside the older musicians even though many of them are excellent at their instruments. I have had some issues myself with young worship leaders wanting to do things that offend some of the older generation so I have had to put my foot down sometimes. The main problem with the age debate seems to me to be one of experience versus skill. I have helped many young performers and worship leaders to see the error of the ways they believe are the best way to go when I introduce them to what true worship is. Many of the young leaders think the rock concert setup is best but I provide feedback from older and younger worshipers that they feel it is too much like a carnival atmosphere to be worshipful. Age is not really the issue in true worship, skill is more of what is needed and the ability to take feedback and tailor the service to what the demographics are of the congregation. When we all get to Heaven we will all be worshiping together so taking that as an example, stop the age discrimination and consider the skill and heart of the people.
Even though I like the energy of the youth and what they can bring into worship, I still like seasoned musicians when it comes to worship. Like anything else, young musicians need to be properly broken in and seasoned into maturity especially in worship. From my experience, I’ve seen train wrecks when an unexperienced youth takes the reigns. In my opinion they need to be mentored and trained not only musically, but spiritually.
“The dirty little secret is that, in an effort to create more attractive services, some churches are actually looking more and more like the high school cafeteria. There is the Cool table, the Nerd table, the Jock table. No one wants the uncool guy or gal sitting at their table. At least, not on the worship team table.”
I have been a Christian for over 40 years and a pastor for 30 years (on and off). I am now 61 years old and considered by the Church to be “too old” to minister. Moses didn’t get started until he was 80 years old. Guess I’ve got another 20 years to go before I’ll be qualified to serve?
Great article. Sad, but true.
Thank you for expressing how I have been feeling.
May God bless you pastor, My name is Sunil Joseph,I am 30 years old,I always wanted to be a great worshiper.I used to have no Guitar for playing ,and never had money to buy at all,But God looked in my heart that, i may Serve him with loyalty and Passion .Then he provided me a guitar ,and i started my guitar in 2009,I learned my Guitar and Vocalizing as well ,to sit in my home without the help on any teacher ,Thus Holy spirit Guided me And i learned it ,as much as i could play and perform any where ,I did it Because music was God gifted in me.and i Recognized my Spiritual gift in me. But when i went in the field ,i played with many ministries and churches ,during my performance people started getting heal and blessed,But there from my own band members ,other Musicians and some pastors ,Commenced to Criticize my music ,And always told me that you are good in all ways,but you need to learn more like Us,Try to Hire a teacher…. LOL,They always used to have a bad behavior with me,Because they were Skilled but not blessed,I used to sing and play ”Less but blessed” that seemed not good for them,because Holy Spirit was with me to provide me all during my performances. But they were there for Social Club and self projection ,I guessed.
Thus I left all the bands and my vagabonding to play in various Churches and Ministries. And kept my self in prayers for a while.Thus Jesus listened my Prayers and Raised me up as a Solo guitar player and Vocalist in Pakistan. Now I Use my Music for Evangelism. Lord is using me mightily for his work.I provide free books,Bible copies in the villages and Churches of Pakistan and bit medical Aid If Required there and Sources are Available to my Me for this help. Now i am Gratitude to my Lord from my Heart and Soul,as he treated me in all the ways. I have written and composed 6 to 7 Gospel songs,Yet playing Live but I am optimistic that soon Lord will provide me Sources to Record my CD in Pakistan..Amen I have Started my own Independent ministry of Gospel Music and literature Evangelism in Pakistan . Its all because of my Gift of Gospel music ,I am reaching to provide the people his message in this Country like Pakistan………Amen
Way of life Ministry SDA Pakistan.
To me, age is a side issue and people get stuck on side issues and rabbit trails. Looking at age to determine who should lead worship is no different than judging people by the color of their skin (and had they been taught properly, they would know, one race, one blood). The issue is this: Whether the song is from the past or something new, is it theologically sound, that’s the heart of the issue. Does it turn your focus to Jesus or does it highlight yourself and the “worship” leader. True theology is timeless. I’ve seen too many “churches” displaying music that is no different than “self-help” books in the store. God doesn’t need our help, we need Him, in the sermon and the worship music. Remember the Scripture, we are to worship Him in spirit and truth. Seems to me most churches want to focus only on spirit and forget the truth.
Here’s a problem I’m experiencing. Our praise band is older — we have a drummer, two guitar players, and a keyboardist. We range in age from 58-62. We play relatively current songs (within a couple years of being on the radio) and we’ve been told that we sound as good (if not better) than any praise band in the area. We would love to have younger folk participate with us, but no one wants to. I don’t know if it is complacency or intimidation (due to feelings of inferior talent), but each of us would love to get the younger musicians involved and train them to eventually replace us.
We’re not only seeing this in our worship band, but also in other facets of our church — Sunday School, leading AWANA, serving as deacons, etc.
I am non-musical and here is my perspective. I go to a large church (3 services of 500-600) and the worship is loud and contemporary. My husband and I are 40 so a little on the “older” side. I was raised in a dynamic pentecostal type environment and prefer a non charismatic, non-pentecostal environment for both style and theology.
I have to continually remind myself throughout “worship” that it is for God and not me. The songs chosen often have no clear melody and are difficult to sing along with, even once familiar, unless you have some musical ability. They are repetitive to the point of chanting at times.
Looking around the congregation during these songs I see people watching but not participating. At times, no one is singing along but the worship team is oblivious and “performing” dynamically. So, we sing old choruses or hymns in the car as a family. I ask my husband to not write comment cards regarding the worship unless he lets me read them first for tone and delivery and we pray that God be glorified through whatever type of worship is offered.
I am a musician, and I find those songs hard to sing along with (and, frankly, boring). I’ve heard them called “7-11” songs–you sing the same 7 words 11 times.
What concerns me about these stories is that age discrimination that works both ways just testifies to the fact that churches are splitting into age-segregated blocs. Not a good development.
Haven’t read all the posts but it is obvious this is a serious topic. I love all kinds of worship music but – what if, on occasion, we decided to drop all the musical instruments and just sing? In all honesty, both traditional and contemporary songs have selections that are repetitious and empty. The songs that to reach the heart are those with a clear focus on theology, prayer, closeness to GOD. When I hear lyrics that can be sung as a love song to “anyone” I wonder why they’re considered worship music. I would rather have music that is difficult to sing but melodious than a looping three note phrase. Much of this changed when we began marketing Christian music rock stars and trying to compete with secular music. So much “performance” came into play. Our focus is to worship the ONE who gave us music.
My name is Sonny, I’m 60, and I’m blessed to be the worship leader at a contemporary church called Sanctuary in the Atlanta area.
For a while, I’ve felt like we’ve been in an image crisis within the church. The only image, or branding we should be concerned with is the image of Jesus.
I’m not trying to slam anyone here!
Jesus used willing hearts of all ages -throughout the ages – to call people to Himself… the whosoevers of this world to come and have a relationship with God Almighty. He didn’t care about how old, their look, their age, but rather their heart, and their unconditional love for Him. The Father is looking for those who will worship in spirit AND truth! He’s looking for young and old. It’s gonna take all of us working together to make famous the King of kings, and Lord of lords.
I am honored to worship alongside 16 year olds to guys older than I am. We count it a priveledge to lift up the name of Jesus in our church. Together. The body of Christ!
So, for any of my younger brothers who might read this who are worship leaders, thank you for answering the call to worship Jesus, and to point people to Him! Just remember that Jesus called the whosoevers to Himself, regardless of age. May we praise Jesus all the days of our lives with all of our heart, and our ability.
One thing is or sure after reading these comments….. churches hurt people
This is a very good article. The heart of it could be applied to every area of “stage” and “pulpit” ministry. The called and anointed are very often passed over for the “attractive” and “connected”.
Tuff situation. I think you have to find a course and go with it. You have to realize that you won’t make everyone happy or please all. Times change and it’s funny how we accept that…. Outside the church walls. How come we have become stuck in the last 25+ years inside the walls. I love tradition and reminiscing on the past but you can’t do that forever. One of the first things God did was create change and change we must.
For me, after 20 years of doing this, one of the key qualifications I now look for is simply “growth”. Is this person growing in their walk with God and their musical capabilities, or are they sitting still? Being willing to grow musically and spiritually is essential for every worship leader and team member. I’m not as much concerned about where they are now, but rather if they are willing to take the next step. Often, those of us who are older are tempted to be content and not stretch ourselves musically, the younger ones tend to err more on the spiritual side. I push my people to stretch and grow, and either they do, or they leave. And, I have to be growing myself as well, or I am leading on empty. I can look back and say I’ve had to reinvent my style at least 3 times through the years, to remain relevant. And often, it’s been through leading WITH younger people, that I’ve been able to catch the next wave. Hey, if Tobymac can reach young people pushin’ 50, what’s to stop the rest of us, except a lack of passion to grow? Jesus Himself said you can’t put new wine in old wineskins, illustrating for us the necessity of change. It’s really not about the age of your body, but the attitude of your heart. Are you moving forward with God, or holding onto your past?
Or, maybe these older worship leaders have failed to mature spiritually and God as moved them aside. Seems all those years of “depth?” would have developed a yearning to teach/deciple those they were leading. Ever seen a dog leave a source of good food or would that creature always desire more from his leader and want to spend more and more time with them?
Each generation has its own unique expression of worship. The Church obviously, after a fashion, is schizophrenic. Do we need a Traditional, a Blended, a Contemporary service/s/approach? Maybe it’s the older that are more tolerant of having the younger join them in leading music than the younger wanting to be seen with the Elderberries…maybe it is a uniquely cultural thing…for Western/European types…we tend to be more opulent than most other nations and, so, we have choice overkill. Maybe it’s okay to have different services for different age groups. It’s kinda like eating at a restaurant…you go to the one you like cause you know what you’re gonna get. I hope that we remember Jesus’ love is the reason we come together…and if there’s discrimination issues(which since the birth of the Church there have been…”Gentiles in the Church?”) we must learn to serve those that are different than us…and actually consider them better than ourselves. How would it look if we all did that? I hope none of us is trying to force another to be anything other than what God has made us…beloved. If there is discrimination on the part of the leadership, they will answer for it. If we’re looking for Jesus, that’s who we’re going to find…otherwise, you might bring a friend to church where some grumpy old guy is standing with his fingers in his ears cause the music is too loud or, on the other hand, kids bored enough to die cause the choir isn’t his cup of tea…and how effective would that be as a witness to your guest as testimonies go? Hopefully, we can be creative enough to offer something for everyone. I didn’t get saved cause of music…it was God’s presence and love that attracted me toward faith in Christ. Personally, I’m 54, we sing all of the contemporary and blended songs… and Martha still plays hymns before we start the Youtube videos. And I’m okay with that…as long as there’s love.
Interesting thoughts! Thank you for sharing. I like the picture of a school cafeteria–Church obviously ought to be filled with the “cool kids”, ha! Tragically this is all too true.
I think this is a delicate thing to approach. While ageism ought to be exposed and proactively avoided, there is value in having a wide variety of representation. The church I am at right now is dealing with how to approach contemporary worship as a whole. How do we be authentic and relatable to the surrounding world, while still not conforming to a McChurch system? Contemporary worship through the exclusive guidance of “older” insiders leads to an attractional model where there is a competition for the best consumer experience. But at the same time this isn’t limited to the ages involved. “We need someone younger” also conforms to this attractional model.
In my opinion, this is why each community ought to wrestle long and hard with the issue of hospitality–which essentially abandons these sorts of hosts/guests hierarchies in a grand Sunday morning production. The answer will look different for each community, but I believe this value needs to be at the forefront.
Its not just age issues some churches have with worship leaders but issues of age with older ushers, service attendees and anyone the “target demographic” would not see as a peer.
Several years ago our church made the decision to change from traditional worship to a more contemporary style of worship. At that time we interviewed other churches. Some said they had experienced tremendous growth because they changed to contemporary worship. Some said they had experienced tremendous growth because they remained with traditional worship.
Our church leaders made the decision to change to contemporary worship to attract a younger congregation. To those who objected, it was suggested they find a new church home.
The decision was made to hire a Worship Minister. From that point, everything that happened during the service was designed to showcase the Worship Minister’s talent. A new emphasis was put on quality of the “performance”. If one wanted to participate, they must pass an audition. This completely ignored many who felt the call or need to participate in worship. Worship became a spectator sport rather than a participation sport.
I once heard a contemporary worship teacher say that many of the old songs have an “Eternal shelf life”, and I feel this is something that we too easily forget when throwing out ALL the old hymns and songs. Many old hymns have beautiful Biblical theology, while many of the newer songs are written from the idea that “Jesus is my boyfriend.” It is these latter types of songs that can also influence the worship leader’s presentation to become more “self” focused than God-focused.
As an “older” worship singer, I found that when we hired a new “hip” with a CD out leader, he came in like gangbusters and basically “aged” out all of the singers over 25. It started by cancelling / reducing the weekly practices to monthly, then quarterly, then once in a while. We have a few very talented young singers before he arrived and I believe his quest is to find the next “big” young singer. Our “mini-mega” (5k) church has been more and more divided by age groups while saying we need to all be “together” Meanwhile the contemporary worship has become 2-3 news songs every weekend, so it’s starting to look like the article “why men stopped singing”… suddenly the trio of back up singers is out, and it’s turned into more of a concert, where most just watch. Those of us who used to sing feel like our ministry was ripped out from under us. While we understand that God leads, there is not also the guarantee that His lead is followed. Old songs, and old singers tossed aside… I do trust in what the Lord has, but It still hurts.
It’s the world of rhe Young, now. We oldsters, who are actually the strongest financial supporters of our individual worshipping bodies, must like it or lump it. We cannot allow this issue to separate us from one another, not matter what the issue might be. (And I speak as one who has been ‘drummed out’ of the worship corps three times in two churches. And, no, I really don’t think the problem is ‘me’ … just my date of birth.)
Yup. I was in the choir when the pastor asked the drummer how old he was. 35 was the answer. “You’re too old we need someone younger!” he said in front of the whole church. (Not very long after we got one) Now if he had turned and said that to me, an ex New Yorker he would have got a bit more than my age out of me. Next church I went to i had to wear earplugs like I was at a rock concert. I gave up and went back to my Catholic roots where church is still, well, church!
Love your article – I think you are touching something important, and I agree with you. Fortunately, the churches I’ve been too had other priorities. I’ve been a christian for ten years now and was able to lead worship from 2008 to last year; I’m now 43. As I moved to another town, I joined a small church in the town I live, and they asked me to lead worship there. In both churches, worship teamshad older and younger musicians. The small church I go to know has very mixed up teams, and I don’t feel akward because I’m not 20 years old. It just doesn’t matter, because this church really is family and community. Which doesn’t mean it is only circling around its members. People are caring for each other, helping each other, but they also want to reach others and have a heart for their town. I really love it :-) As for the problem in the bigger churches – how can it be solved? I really don’t know, but I’m not a fan of focusing on “programs” and big events all the time, I think there lies a danger to focus on success in meaning of “we need more and more” to be “the best”. This is not church. I hope your words will be read by people who have influence to change something. Thanks again for your important words – be blessed!
great comments and replies. My only comment to add is that a worship group or team or director should be inclusive and not exclusive
I’ve enjoyed all your comments and opinions. I too find this a dilemma in my own search. But I have to share a video a friend of mine sent to me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RJBd8zE48A
Janelda, Rutledge8021 already posted this video in his comments, which has been making the rounds for a number of years now.
The “Worship Teams” often “entertain” instead of “worshiping or leading worship”. Just look around….most people not singing, just watching. The act of praise is not exercised , taught or encouraged. Yes, you see the young doing THEIR thing. The drums deafening….not an underlying supportive beat any longer. We Christians usually do not support smoking or drinking because we are not treating the temple of the Holy Spirit in a good way but the intense decibles….no problem although it is well documented how this destroys hearing over time for ones who do this and those of us who are subjected to it. My heart longs for genuine corporate worship once again….a venue where it is not about age or appearance, being “hip” or “cool”….but an atmosphere which invites the presence of the Holy Spirit to inhabit our midst. It does not happen just because four or five worship leaders are positioned just right across the front along with loud strings and percussion instruments behind them. It can happen with just ONE, old or young, who has a gift of worship and a willing, surrendered heart….. wow, it feels good to get that off my chest.
Many of us feel heart strings vibrate when images of age diversity are set forth, but in the real world, not the idealized one, audiences are pretty brutal in their treatment of age on stage. That’s the bottom line.
I’m sad to read a lot of these comments, although I have a somewhat different perspective.
Musicians/Performers feel wired that they must play and be heard to feel validated (I’m a bass player so I get that), but the point of service and participation in a church body is not to satisfy our own desires and our felt needs.
I personally started thinking a few years ago how I had to make sure to find other areas in which to develop my skills and passions besides playing on stage (I’m 31 now and do still play). I know one of these days it will be time for me to step back and enter a new phase of my ministry, and honestly I think I’m ok with that.
I think as I age I will need to find new areas to contribute and serve, and it may be completely different, or in a more back stage way. I think that’s normal and ok. That way the next generation is getting in play while I can support however is necessary.
I think these transitions need to be handled with a lot more dignity and grace than they have been (based off these stories), but that doesn’t mean that change shouldn’t happen, or that it’s a bad thing for the church or even for us personally.
As a young worship leader myself having led for 8 years now and Starting learning about music and worship at a very young age, but also having a mother who has led worship for 38 years now, I’ve seen a lot of discrimination when it comes to worship teams. Not letting older AND younger people join or play. Many assume if you’re young you can’t keep up or don’t simply have the knowledge or developed talent, and if you’re older you aren’t “hip enough” to join. I think it’s important for the generational gap to close in and mix the different age groups. There’s much to learn on both sides. I’ve learned so much from older musicians and there are new techniques and technologies being invented that perhaps the older generation may not know of. For me, everyone has something to learn and improve of. Worship is not defined by age, but our heart for Jesus and leading others into His presence is what it comes down to.
I just recently joined they’d Roseburg Alliance church, about 3 years ago. I also played drums for the Alpha program and some Sunday services. I can definitely see your point. I can honestly say it doesn’t happen in my church, and it is probably the only reason I go and have grown immensely spiritually from joining it. Was brought up a good Episcopal boy but haven’t been to church until a friend got me to go to the Alliance church. I’m not bragging and I can see how this can happen. I am so thankful for the Pastors and congregation here and have made some wonderful new friends and also met some very old friends that go here. I hope everyone some day can have my same great experience in their own churches? Thanx for the article.
It cuts both ways. For years our worship leader would not allow anyone under 40 on the platform. All attempts for young worship leaders to grow in their calling and be given opportunities were stopped by a worship leader who feared them and their abilities. They were seen as a threat to his existence. We had to forcefully remove him and integrate the team. This weekend we have a 20-something, a 30-something, a 40-something, and a 50-something on our platform leading worship as a team. In my 25 years of Pastoral ministry experience it has always been the older who refuse to allow the younger an opportunity.
Excellent Article. Extremely thought provoking. However, as I read through the responses and comments, I became quickly disheartened. I am 30 and have been leading worship since I was in 7th grade. I now am a worship leader at a small, new church plant serving under our worship director, who is 7 years my junior. He is a man of God that I look up to, but we have learned to work with each other. We have very different styles and it is appreciated by the congregation. However, both styles focus on one goal: Intimacy in worship.
I find myself saddened because people have been so turned off and hurt by the church, but at the same time, I am turned off by many of the comments. Especially the one about the decibel meter. When did it become our jobs to embrace legalism? Yes a balance should be struck, but it is not our jobs as members to become legalists.
It IS our leadership’s job to avoid many of these pitfalls. By throwing the baby out with the bathwater, vital perspectives are lost. I myself had to learn a respect for the old hymns. Now, having gone through different levels of education, I am able to see things I could not see before. Of course, from a lyrical perspective, I would rather sing “Be thou my vision” than “I am a friend of God”. Things certainly are not written how they used to be. BUT to disregard either is detrimental to all.
I agree with those that say a blended approach is best. It is possible. I have done it. You can have hymns. You can have contemporary worship music. You can have sloppy wet kisses. You can also have intimacy in worship. You can have a time in the presence of God that is beyond anything you thought possible.
Let’s stop getting caught up in the argument of what is best and how it should be done. Focus on passion. Focus on worship. Focus on Intimacy.
Churches need to realize that age discrimination in an employment situation, even with non profits like churches, in many states is illegal, just like it is in any employment situation.
This article feels like it was written by someone who doesn’t fully understand the movement that is taking place throughout the modern church right now. There is a spiritual undertaking that is stirring pastors and leaders to create services that will bring the “unchurched” into the “church”. Jesus did command us to go and make disciples. If pushing older people out of worship teams helps the “unchurched” come to know God, then so be it… It is not egotistical to say this, as my heart is truly in the right place. I would never desire anyone to be “pushed” out of a ministry the enjoy, but my point is to emphasize the importance of creating “seeker friendly” services. As believers, we are already saved, and our salvation is a gift we should be ever so willing to want to pass along. Today’s culture and the next generations are looking for something very different from what the current church has been offering for the past 50 years. Our culture is looking for acceptance, structure, and yes, a polished product of events featuring young worship leaders and pastors. The American church can offer these products to the “unchurched” without having to water-down the gospel or compromise the words of Christ. When I hear anyone complaining about how they “used to be in a church choir” or “we older folks should be able to play with the younger folks” I fear that they don’t understand the vision that God is beginning to reveal to His church. We have to completely “re-think” everything we know about church and what church even means… If you grew up in a secular family and never attended church in your life, how would you view the concept of church? We have to understand that we have a duty to try to reach these people and help them receive the same gift of salvation we have received. Is there anything more important than saving a soul? If Sunday morning church services end up being nothing more than a polished product designed at growing numbers, why is that a bad thing? Can we not use the rest of the days in the week to perform “church”? Cannot the other days of the week be used to dive further into the Word, practice the gifts of the Spirit, and solidify our walks with the creator? I do not fully understand the resistance to change that is so deeply rooted within the modern church. We are deeply stuck on what was rather than what is coming. We focus on the negative elements of a meeting designed to be “seeker-friendly” while we forget that Jesus told us to make disciples of the world. There is a movement taking place… Please don’t be one of the ones who can’t come along for the ride.
Thanks for your response. Two things to consider which may hopefully inform your perspective. One, the seeker movement began in the seventies, and the older generation created it, not the current one. Point of fact is that the seeker movement is revealing itself to be an unsustainable model. Two, I am quite aware of the philosophy, theology, and programming design of seeker services at the highest levels both in theory and experientially. I completely track with the rationale you describe, but I disagree with you in a quite informed way. Third, I would really like to encourage you to read my follow up blog, “Age in Modern Worship: Further Reflections” and continue to dialogue with me.
I will certainly follow up with your more recent blog. However, I want to address your statement in regards to the “seeker” movement getting its start in the seventies. I think that what many of the new and flourishing churches are doing is creating something very fresh and very new as compared to what came out of the seventies. The charismatic movement brought something new to the church culture… modern music and etc. However, I think that if you look at the past 10 years, you’re seeing young churches that no longer relate to that generation of Christians. The world has changed so much in the past ten years alone, be it with the mobile revolution and social media revolution, that there is a disconnect between the church that came out of the seventies and the church of today. I also, in a very informed way, disagree with your statement regarding “seeker” churches and where they got their start. Perhaps, though, we do not necessarily disagree but are actually discussing two totally different movements. You’re relating the “seeker-friendly” structure to what came out of the seventies where as I am trying to express that there a is an entirely new movement within the church that sees a new vision that breaks away from the movement that came out of the 70’s.
I will not agree or disagree with your statement regarding the seeker movement being unsustainable because you do not provide evidence of such and I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that. If we are looking at the newer movement that I have described above, then I think that there hasn’t been nearly enough time given to judge such a change within the church.
I will tell you, without anecdotal evidence, that there seems to be churches that are exploding in growth by offering a “product”. These churches are reaching a new generations of Americans who have grown up around media sensationalism, pop culture, MTV, facebook, and many other modern phenomena. These people, ages 15 to 35, are being disenfranchised by the church. The newest movement that is reaching this demographic is not relying on the older worship leaders who came out of the movement of the seventies. These models are relying on young pastors, often in their 30’s, who also grew up around many of the same phenomena that our current generation of millennials faced.
I’m sorry Tom, but I couldn’t disagree with you more. Jesus cleansed the temple of those that tried to make it “seeker friendly”. The Church Worship service is about God’s people bringing their offerings to a Holy God, not about looking like any bar along the strip. Worship is what GOD gets out of Sunday (or whenever) worship. It is not what man gets out of it. Jesus said to GO into all the world, not bring the world into what should be a place of reverence. Now by reverence I don’t mean necessarily quiet and somber. I look to the example of David that danced wildly before the Lord as an example of someone that was truly engaged in worship, even as he danced. But our services should NOT be about “seeker friendly”. Read about Jonathan Edwards and the early revivals in America and elsewhere. “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is not a seeker sensitive sermon, but it turned thousands to God. We do a dis-service today to our disciple making process when we say “come as you are, and you don’t even have to change”. We may come as we are to Christ, but there is a transformation that needs to happen. Also, I believe Bill Hybills (spelling?) has come out and said that the Seeker Sensitive model is not effective in producing real disciples. And where is the grace and mercy that would “push out” the older generation? The whole response just saddens me, I’m sorry..
“Jesus cleansed the temple of those that tried to make it “seeker friendly”” seriously? Do you really believe Jesus was cleansing the Temple for that reason? Please read your Bible and don’t use it for such a false claim. Why did Jesus cleanse the Temple? What does the text say? Because the Sadducees (who controlled the Temple) had turned the Court of the Gentiles (the very place where ALL people could come and worship God) and had turned it into a place of religious practice for making money. They were making it difficult (if not impossible) for the outsiders to come and worship God, when he had said that his house would be a place of prayer for ALL nations. I am not a champion for the seeker-service, but I do strongly believe that a church should be open and friendly to all people. You never stop preaching the Gospel, but you do have to love people.
James, I thank you for your contribution to the dialogue, but let me use your comment as a springboard to everyone (not just you) to please keep comments cordial and motivated by love. THANKS ALL!
Absolutely. Thanks for the reminder. Sadly, comments can only be read and any emotion has to be inferred. The was no anger or snark in my intention. What saddens me about this entire dialogue is that we let our preconceived notions and personal impressions get in way of real discovery and traction.
““Jesus cleansed the temple of those that tried to make it “seeker friendly”” seriously? Do you really believe Jesus was cleansing the Temple for that reason? Please read your Bible and don’t use it for such a false claim. Why did Jesus cleanse the Temple? What does the text say? Because the Sadducees (who controlled the Temple) had turned the Court of the Gentiles (the very place where ALL people could come and worship God) and had turned it into a place of religious practice for making money.”
– That’s my point exactly. (ignoring the “false claim” slam). Today’s musical shows, with unsingable ranges, over-driven bass, and smoke and light show are driving people that came to worship away. My wife and I have to literally get up and leave the “sanctuary” during worship because the “beat” makes us dizzy to the point of having to vomit. Our (admittedly aging) hearts start beating erratically. I have tried earplugs, speaking to the worship leader, the sound tech, but “that’s the way they like it”. How is that not driving away people that WANT to come and worship out of their own church. In the name of being “culturally relevant”, and “seeker friendly”, the church is cutting off people that it needs in order to build an audience and become the next multi-campus video church. An earlier post expressed Paul’s heart from 1 Cor “When did it become acceptable for the eye to say to the hand, “I have no need of you”? Or for the foot to say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the Body”? (1 Corinthians 12)”. My point about the money changers is that they were offering a service of convenience in the court of the Gentiles the same way the church is now offering donuts and coffee and entertainment instead of worship.
At first, I thought you were trying to be funny, but the more I read, the more I realized you are serious.
For the record – “seekers” (if you want to play that card) come in all ages, demographics, and musical tastes/preferences.
Which “unchurched” demographic are you thinking of?
Hipster computer programmers?
Blue collar trades-people who love Classic Rock?
The rodeo, tractor-pull, line-dancing country music folks?
When did it become acceptable for the eye to say to the hand, “I have no need of you”? Or for the foot to say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the Body”? (1 Corinthians 12)
When I was a DTS director in YWAM, one of the staff members I ALWAYS recruited was a 62-year-old Mexican-American. Why? Because the young people LOVED him, and he was a great influence in their lives. Yes, the majority of the other DTS staff were 20-somethings (typical for YWAM), but the influence of this godly older saint was beyond invaluable. And the young staff and students adored and appreciated him.
Thank you, thank you for this reply, and others like it. I was pretty flabbergasted by this comment, too. Unfortunately, I think it’s the future- deciding that hurting people that you are already accountable for ministering to is okay, as long as you have some sort of touchy-feely, untried, blinders-on idea of “the next wave.”
It’s time we get back to letting God decide who is and is not the Man or Woman for the Job. We need to seek His face for people to fill vacant spots in our churches. We begin to think like the world and start doing things the world does to get what it is we want done in our churches, without sometimes even seeking God for direction, Missing out on God’s best for the now, will only bring Man’s glory to light.
Well our Senior Pastor read the article and present this comment: God leaves us no doubt in this exhortation to 50-somethings:
“… but at the age of fifty years, they shall retire from service in the work and not work anymore. They may however, assist their brothers in the tent of the meeting to keep an obligation, but they themselves shall do no work.” Numbers 8:23-25
For leaders over 50, may I offer this? Your greatest ministry from this point on will be to the next generation. We become mentors and disciplers, coaches and overseers for those coming behind us.
As one who is turning 50 in a year, I am working diligently at this. I am the one who must pass the baton to the next generation. They won’t rip it from my hand.
It gave and it is still is a perspective of legalism vs passion for worship. What do you friends think?
Ivan, thanks for your contribution to the dialogue. I’m aware of that passage in Numbers, and I believe that while you can be legalistic about it, there is a principle behind it that has Truth. I encourage you to read my follow-up blog, “Age in Modern Worship: Further Reflections,” especially the section on “Ascent and Descent.” And I encourage everyone to keep dialoguing on this as well.
What was the life expectancy at the time Numbers was written? Were people supposed to retire 5 years before the end of the average life expectancy or 40 years before the end of the average life expectancy? Makes a big difference.
This trend in our churches is very sad. My thoughts to all worship pastors, young & old;
It’s easy to start examining the mindset of the congregation (about what worship is) but we must stay focused on our teams. (you as the leader included) Mk 7 is always a great place to start. (Do we really want Jesus telling us that what we are doing is all in vain?) The congregation dynamic will always fluctuate. (assuming a healthy church)
Sadly, I find that the world has a much stronger influence on today’s congregation’s understanding of what worship is than we do.
And I believe it will continue to get harder.
Put on that Eph 6 full armor friends. Welcome to the war!
I am 49 yrs old ex-worship pastor who had to resign due to sin in the eldership.
Happy to say I am now at a church that exemplifies your last paragraph. I am simply a team member and feel God has me here to be a mentor.
I have seen both sides of this. Some scenarios play out in reverse… The older generation wont make room for the younger, and then the younger, which I want to add, are seemingly arrogant, bull headed, and quite spiritually immature and misguided, push out the old. Then I have seen it done right. A church where both young and old embraced and thrived together in Godly form and structure. I’ll also make note that this is probably the most talented and dynamic worship team that Ive ever had the privilege of leading with. I am positioned currently to build a worship ministry from the ground up and that is exactly what I intend to do….without bias to age.
So glad to hear what you said. Would love to know where you worship and see recordings of your sessions. I have been on the older side of this issue, and am now in a church where the needs of the elders are totally being pushed aside. Help.
I’ve found that the problem is that we’re trying to appeal to people, losing the real heart behind the worship. We should all honestly be trying to please God with our music, so if it is new or traditional, it should be extremely well done to honor God. And it’s a heart problem with the congregation if they don’t like a style of music that you’re playing.
Where have all the choirs gone? There was a time when all who felt a desire to sing for the Lord were welcomed. Now God’s people are auditioned and criticized and cast aside because they do not fit the perfect mold the leaders are looking for. Then those same critical people complain because they do not have help. I am reminded (wryly) of the movie Bruce Almighty, when Bruce is asking for a sign and overlooking all the signs he is being given.
I believe God LOVES to hear His people sing! I believe He loves choirs (hence, choirs of angels). I believe He loves to hear entire congregations singing His praises together! If I can’t hear the person next to me singing, the music leaders are too loud.
I used to lead worship for a choir. I never auditioned anyone, I never told anyone to be quiet. I sat weaker singers near stronger singers and gave them tips. Yes, I used the stronger singers as soloists, but I worked hard at not having favorites and using all of the gifts our choir was blessed with. I was grateful for the people God entrusted and brought to me. It was a sacred trust to love them and to bless the congregation at the same time.
Is this lack of choirs part of the search for youth? Our youth don’t have as many school opportunities to sing as they used to, but many still participate and excel at this art form.
In imagining that I led the worship ministry of a church today, it would be comprehensively inclusive. it would use people of all ages and backgrounds. It would include both “new” and “old” music, both classical and contemporary. It would also include liturgical dancers and painters and actors. It would have the children’s ministry mixing with the 50+ ministry. It would have multiple choirs and worship teams. It would not be too loud. Songs would be in keys the congregation can easily sing in. Imagining that is very exciting! Yes, it would be a lot of work. No, I probably would have little time to be in front of the congregation, but empowering others is incredibly powerful!
I appriciate what your articles describes and offers. I will offer my 25 year observation as a now 51 year old.
At 25 I was deeply concerned with age descrimination in the church as a community of people. I was more concerned at that time and continue to be troubled by the lack of cross-generational pollinization with in our church communities. It was not just the worship and music. It was the pulpit message. It was the big events at the church, it was the salaries of the pastoral staff compared to the youth pastors meager check. It was the decor of the youth room compared to the adult classrooms and meeting spaces. It was the average age of the elder board. Everyone of them alway above 45. It was the kind of projects we would do as a church improvement project. The money would always go towards improving adult comfort and conviences. All of these big concerns. But above all this was the segregation of the young and old. Sunday school. Families never worshipping together. Kids farmed out to the basement surrounded by the same age peers. We bless this behavior and the young people enter the main service as young adults and we expect th to join us after we have kept them 150′ ft away where we could not hear or see them. Then we wonder why we have a problem like you are describing. This is the result of Dr. Sunday School’s segregation (age discrimination). We did not have these issues before the Sunday School was introduced. If we do not change this current destructive idea of seperation of our children and youth, this is what you reap.
You know I never thought issues like these could occur until I read this article today? I grew up in a church where everyone with certain musical skills can join the band and/or choir and stay as long as they feel comfortable being a part. My grandfather celebrated his 76th year of playing in the band recently. He still plays twice a week, every week. People often say they are impressed with his skills or tone and he is an inspiration to so many youngsters for his testimonies and putting his faith into practice.
I moved to a very young church last year and have no idea how our leaders feel about this. Perhaps nice to ask, as I’m already 35 ;-) and part of the worship team.
Thanks for these insights and blessings,
I fee that the last two years of my life have been chronicled in this article. I’m one of the casualties. No longer in worship ministry after 20 plus years.
Please don’t give up on worship. There are churches out there who can use your gifts. I hope you have found a church by now that can use what God has given you; there are many churches with no musician(s). Don’t let the enemy rob you of the praise God has put in your heart! There will be a church that is thrilled to have you in their fellowship and will embrace your God-given talents!
I have had all the experiences of those above. I really loved being on a worship team. Now some Sundays are so painful, I have to leave. I now tend to work more weekends.Unfortunately feel more important here than in church. I love our church but…….
I’m so confused… I have so many thoughts on this and I can see based on the replies that I am in the minority in my thinking… I must be “young”… 1) There is a difference in being young and being youthful. I can think of many pastors and worship leaders on a national and global level that their age doesn’t even cross my mind (they are in their 50’s & 60’s) when I look at them because they are incredible at what they do and they stay relevant and fresh – setting an example for all people. 2) I’m 37 and in my prime as a worship leader. I recognize and am quite okay with the fact that I won’t be serving in this capacity for the rest of my life. I recognize that this is a season and at some point it will be time for me to step into another role making room for younger worship leaders with a “passing the baton” mentality. I’m gifted in many ways and have a lot to offer as a minister in the area of worship ministry and otherwise. It’s my job to pave the way and train up those who will come behind me. I don’t think I’m to die with a mic in my hand but instead be a champion for those who follow me. 3) “Worship leader” is how God has called me in this season of life but it’s not my identity. My identity is in Christ. If I get this confused I guess it would be hard to swallow the thought that I would do or be anything else but lead worship or be a worship leader. A lot of these replies seem very self focused.
Bethany, I really appreciate your thoughtful response. Please read the followup blog I posted to this original one (https://manuelluz.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/age-in-modern-worship-further-reflections/) and let me know if the issue of Ascent/Descent resonates with you. Blessings!
Gosh, lots of responses and discussions! And I’ve enjoyed reading through them as much as I appreciated the original article.
I am a 57-year-old bassist and FOH audio guy. I am one of the bassists at our church (all volunteer players, except for Worship leaders and music directors. I, too, am feeling the tendency to be used less and less to play for our church services which I attribute to my age and grey head of hair…;)). I work as a professional bassist all over the state and in several groups as the primary or the sub player, so I’m confident in my ability to play.
While I agree and lament the fact that a lot of churches are going for the brand thing and losing sight of the importance of Christ-centered worship, I’ve taken the experience as a personal education in selflessness and where my worship priorities lie. I haven’t been officially dismissed or anything of the sort from church, so I won’t point to that as an issue. I’ve just noticed that I’ve been asked less and less to serve. But I’ve learned that opportunities to serve the Lord come and go and from different places. I’ve been inclined to take the fewer opportunities at my own church personally, but I’m thankful that God has taught me to not concern myself with such matters and to look to Him for guidance when I deal with my own faulty pride in such matters. God leads me where He needs me. I deal with a control-freak personality that will get me in trouble every time, but everything works out when I take a deep breath and let go, turning things over to Him. And things may not work as I expect, but in the end, things work out for me according to His will. And for that, I’m always grateful.
I’ve spent very little time putting these thoughts into words and communicating them in a way that hopefully makes sense, so my apologies if I don’t make much sense. Enough has been written about some dire circumstances going on in our churches, of which my heart hurts with everyone here writing about it. Between our churches, our nation and its leadership, our children, and the issues that Christians increasingly deal with, we certainly have a lot to pray about!
Many churches should institute two or more services with different styles of worship. I understand the concern about reaching the next generation, so leadership’s desire to “keep up with the latest music” is understandable — they don’t want the church to die out. As far as different services with different music splitting the congregation, I don’t buy it unless you only have 75 people in your church. We have two services and I have become close with those who sit near me in early service, those I serve with and those in my home group. The rest are pretty much strangers so I don’t think that represents disunity — just a fact of life.
Manuel, I don’t know if you’re still reading these responses, but would like to share with anyone who is still reading. I am age 57, and have served over 13 years as Worship Leader for a church which once had almost 200 in attendance. Over the past year, we have dropped to around 100 in attendance. I believe a lot of factors have caused this decline, but at some point, the pastor decided to blame me for this. For the past 3 months, I have been undergoing treatment for severe depression because in April, our pastor told me that he wanted me to step down from worship leadership because he feels we need to change worship styles in order to draw in more people. He said my style of worship leadership is not what people want now, lacks energy, and isn’t reaching people.
Guess who has taken my place as worship leader? The pastor! He is also age 57. He plays guitar and sings, and has a very worshipful heart, but our congregation is very confused about what is happening. The pastor did not go to our Personnel Committee to discuss this change, he simply did it. I was so hurt, I left for about 6 weeks to visit other churches. People started calling and asking me what was going on. The pastor hadn’t wanted me to tell anyone. He just wanted to start leading worship himself, and see if it would change everything.
After those 6 weeks, I came back and tried just sitting out in the congregation and hoped to worship as a member of the church, and see if God could bring me some peace. I was shocked to see that there were even fewer people in attendance than before. I was approached by one of our Personnel Committee members who said the committee wanted to meet with me, so we met and they heard my side of what had happened. I never officially resigned my position. The pastor simply took over. He leads the worship and then he preaches.
So the committee has met now with him several times to hear his “vision” for our worship leadership and they seem to be a scared bunch of sheep, because he is still up there every Sunday, playing guitar and singing.
Next, the pastor wanted to start meeting with me to try and convince me to “have his back” and tell people that I am in support of what he is doing. I want to say that as a Christian sister, I still want to support my pastor in many ways, and I do pray for him, but I can’t tell people that I am in agreement with what he is doing because I believe it is wrong.
Numbers of people have been spreading rumors in the church family, by now, and many have told me that they want me to march back up onto the platform and lead the music. I will not do that. Can you imagine what a scene that would be?
No one seems to know what to do, and I am not going to be the one to “lead the charge.” After 3 months now of visiting other churches, and then coming back to sit in the congregation of the church where I was the worship leader for so long, I am totally at a loss for what to do, except to wait this out. I feel I am “waiting on the Lord to renew my strength.” It is so painful to attend our church and watch this happen, but if no one else will approach the pastor and tell him that this is not what they want, I believe he is going to continue in this vein for as long as he is physically able to do both jobs.
Have you ever heard of a church where this has happened?
Hi Brenda. Unfortunately, I’ve heard many variations of this story in many different circumstances. I’m hesitant to comment not knowing the full story, but I commend your desire not to cause strife and division in your church body. Certainly this is painful for you and my heart goes out to you and to your congregation. May God bless your complicated situation for His glory.
Thanks for your blog on this subject. I grew up in the church. I’ve been a member of many churches as my job has moved me around about every 2 to 6 years. Some of the churches were very large with huge facilities or several campuses, and some very small that met in cafeterias. From a young age I always imagined myself in lifetime service to the church, perhaps vocationally. After realizing early on that I didn’t have the right giftings for preaching or youth ministry, I found that I really excelled in worship ministry. I was pretty good at leading services, but really my giftings were best suited in a supporting role – leading the band, charting the music, etc. I developed a deep passion for playing keys throughout my 26 years serving in worship ministry, and I became quite good at many styles. In virtually every worship team I served in, I quickly developed an implicit leadership with the musicians and singers around me. I typically became very close or even best friends with the worship leader (usually older than I), and I derived much satisfaction from being one of their pillars of support.
On the younger end of those 26 years, I really hoped God would call me to vocational ministry. But I felt strongly that I shouldn’t be “applying” for those roles like a job. My thinking was if I was going to earn money on the backs of tithers, I’d better be 100% certain that God was opening the door, not me. My personal ‘fleece’ for being called was that the leadership God had already installed at the church must have a need and open the door.
As I got older, it seemed the call wouldn’t be coming after all. The reality was that in all churches I had been involved in, they were either too small to need additional music staff, or they were large with staff needs but I was still very young and hadn’t developed my skills to a level where I’d have considered myself a viable candidate.
In my late 30’s, I began playing with a mega church after moving to a new city (another job change). As with past teams, I quickly developed a respect and an implicit leadership with many on the team, and fast became someone that the staff music leaders trusted and relied on heavily. A couple of years in, this church laid out an aggressive plan to plant numerous new campuses around the city in a very short span of years. I began to think this might mean God was getting ready to make the call after all, and I began listening carefully.
About this time I was nearing my mid 40’s. The church did start piling on music staff, both up-front leaders and behind-the-scenes staff. They were all in their 20’s (and great people). In my case though, all the roles I had taken on as a volunteer leader were being rescinded and assigned to new, young staff. A long series of things started happening that repeatedly reinforced the following message: “While we value your attitude, excellence, professionalism, leadership, etc, you aren’t interesting to us in staff roles, because you’re over 40”.
All of that is something I took in stride. After all, God may simply not be calling! Without going into detail though, one particular event drove this point in so hard that it was all I could do to finish my weekend duties without breaking down. Part of me wanted to leave this church, something I’ve never done except when moving. I waited a few months gathering my thoughts (to make sure I wasn’t making an emotional decision), then gave 2 months notice and slipped away as graciously as I could muster. After all, their mission is true and I believe in it.
I was deeply gashed by the experience in the end. That was a few years ago now. I’ve only been to church a handful of times since (trying out different local churches). Each one looks like they’re trying to emulate the mega-church I just crawled away from, and it makes me almost physically ill to be in there (nothing wrong with that style, I just can’t seem to get my arms around how intensely this affected me personally). I’ve sold/given-away all my gear. I’ve devoted myself entirely to my software career. I think if I ever re-approach music, it will probably be outside the church (i.e. with a college or a music school, strictly secular).
To my closest friends, I sometimes opine the following: “I’ve found a place where my age doesn’t matter, only my abilities. Where my attitude and inclusiveness are more important than how good of a hang I am. Where I am judged on the content of my character, not how I look. And sadly, it’s not the church. It’s in the fields of science and engineering. Here I can lead a team without being younger than it. I can impact the mission in proportion to my skills rather than the hipness of my company. I can build a team by stepping out of starring roles, rather than asserting myself as a rock star. It’s the least judgmental place I’ve ever found.”
I say that last bit half tongue and cheek and half serious. It’s just where I’m at with how I feel. I still believe in Christ, with all my heart. I know I need to be back in church, but I just can’t right now. The church feels about as accepting as Hollywood to me these days. The secular sciences feel about as accepting as what I imagine the church should be, so I’m currently immersed there.
Hi Eric. Thanks so much for sharing your story, and I truly empathize with your situation. My prayer for you is that you don’t give up on the church, but that you find your place, musically, spiritually, and in fellowship. God bless you.
I know this is an older post but I just wanted to tell my father’s story and ask for prayer for him. Back in Nov. of 2015 the pastor of his church came into him and just blatantly said, we are looking for another worship pastor because we think you are to old for the “contemporary service”. and then he walked out and left him to stew on it. The pastor says nothing to him for a few months and then comes in all chipper one day and talks about how they still want my dad there and they still love him but they need to attract young people and he just couldn’t do that, by the way he is only 45 at the time. He tells him that he wants my dad to be involved with the selection process and to train whoever they pick, two months go by and the pastor sends out an email to all the staff saying they are going to have lunch with the new worship leader, not once did he talk to my father about the selection. they have lunch and they meet the new guy, he is a young 20 year old who wears skinny jeans and has both arms and one leg covered in tattoos. I have nothing wrong with Tattoos or skinny jeans I wear them and i have a few of my own, but this pastor just a few years earlier fired a guy who got a tattoo for his wife and kids on his back, and had a strict suit and tie every Sunday dress code on Sunday mornings. and all of a sudden he has done a 180 on this which proved to my dad that this was all about looks, not heart not even talent it was all about look. They go on to find out that he does not believe half the stuff the church believes, the church is an independent baptist church, not saying they are the best denomination but you think they would hire someone with similar beliefs, no, this kid believes in speaking in tongues, that women can be pastors, that there is no one moment of conversion you are just kind of saved from birth, believed in the losing and regaining of your salvation, very different then the church believes. So they hire this guy and he was supposed to start immediately but he kept having excuses why he couldn’t be there Sunday after Sunday, then he finally starts coming and even though it hurt my father to do so he started offering the kid chances to lead and every time he had an excuse, so my dad finally confronted him and he point blank said he wanted to wait until he got to lead the entire service not just one or two songs, during this time the deacons had asked him to where long sleeves as they didn’t want his tattoos to be a distraction to anyone and after two weeks of being there he wore whatever he wanted and did it with a proud attitude. The same time all this is going on people are coming to my father asking why he doesn’t like the church anymore and why he is leaving ministry, things my father never said, when he asked where they heard this from they always gave the same answered oh pastor told me. So now the pastor is spreading lies. During the summer of the next year they started construction on the auditorium to make it look more “hip and cool” during this time my wife and I were attending the church and she went to a ladies bible study, when the topic went towards the new auditorium and new worship pastor, one lady who’s husband is on staff was quoted saying ” once we have concrete flooring and a coffee shop our church will be so much cooler and people will definitely want to come.” and another lady said” we jsut need to have faith in our pastor and follow wherever he leads us” I grew up in a cult like church so i know the danger of that last quote. Well while the auditorium is being renovated services were moved to the church gym where the new guy would take over the “contemporary” service. even though there were many talented people already in the church who could play guitar and drums he brought his own drummer keyboardist and electric guitar player, guys who were not even members of the church, even though there were plenty of people already serving in a praise team capacity he got all new people to help him lead because they fit the “look” more. one girl who three weeks in a row started speaking in tongues where they had to mute her mic. finally my dad couldn’t take it anymore and he, the sunday he left they had a small brunch for him but all that was said from the pulpit was that he was leaving to go somewhere else and that was it no thanks for your ministry and friendship no kind words just he is leaving so say bye to him. He left with the intention of starting his own piano tuning business unfortunately that hasn’t taken off like he had planned and they are struggling.. all this to say it really sucks when bad Christians are bad to good people.
I have just experienced this very thing. I have been a worship leader for a long time and have been through many music trends. I’ve been with a church for a couple of years, Just turned 50 and I am white. This church is also multicultural. I was basically told I was too old to be a main part of the worship team. Most people are shocked to learn I am 50, they think I’m 35 (not bragging). Currently I am a lead singer in two bands who definitely don’t think I’m too old. Guess the secular world doesn’t mind my age or color – that’s a twist!
In many ways, the modern church has become more “worldly” than the world with it’s concern about appearances and age of leaders! I’ve seen it happen!
I am a worshipper of God and a classically trained soprano. I was a voice major in college and sang for opera theater at a major university. I am also a pastor’s kid and have spent much of my life singing in the small country churches my father served. In the small churches everyone has a role to play to keep the church going. Community is real because everyone is needed. My husband and I met in high school and had our first child in college and I have been a home maker ever since. I have used my musical giftings to serve the elderly, children and people in need. I have sung in church choirs and as a soloist over the years but only once on a praise team.
Our current church services are more contemporary in style and they do have people sing solos occasionally for part of the worship. When I first came to the church I served in children’s ministry as this was the area of greatest need. For the last two years I co-lead the children’s Christmas play and program with more than 40 children participating. I have been willing to serve and I have willingly and exuberantly participated in our church worship as a member of the body. I also have five children with the youngest four ages 11 and under. The oldest is 26 and serves on the missions board and as a Sunday school teacher. Under our previous worship leader I sang a couple solos. He took a new position elsewhere and now this position is done by volunteers who are also elders. Over the past 10 months I have offered to sing a couple different times. The pastor sends out an email with the scriptures and people are able to make some suggestions to the worship leader. I looked up the scriptures and prayerfully selected some pieces that I thought might go well with the messages. I was fine if they used my suggestions or not. I got little to no response on these emails from the lead worship person though I did finally hear from the assistant. At the time it did not bother me that they did not choose the songs I suggested. There are other people from the church who also share their giftings.
I recently had a meeting with the head worship person in hopes to introduce him to some of the music I would like to share. We spent much time talking but very little time looking at any of my classical repertoire and the time ended with him suggesting that perhaps I could just join the worship team. I am not opposed to singing on the worship team though I am not sure the demands of caring for my family right now really allow for this time commitment on a regular basis. My hope was more to sing a solo once in a while to contribute to the service. Many of the pieces I sing are straight scripture set to music. At the time of our first meeting He did mention that style should not matter as long as the heart is right. Yet it seems there is little desire for me to share anything unless it is a contemporary song. I said before I freely worship during services to contemporary songs. My hope for the solos I shared however was that I might be able to share the songs that God has raised me with and given me the ability to sing. They are classical Christian songs written by the masters- Bach, Mozart, Liddle. I love classical music and for the over 30 years that I have sung within and outside the church, the pieces I have shared have been favorably received by varied audiences. The point of worship is not about the style of music anyway, but the One that we offer it to and if we are indeed living a lifestyle of worship- serving and caring for others, extending hospitality, being faithful to one’s spouse, tithing , reading God’s word and fellowshipping with other believers. I don’t have to sing in the church. I also don’t have to sing these songs in the church. But when one is rejected on the issue of style that is not easy either. God gave me the voice and training I have. Many people have told me they were blessed by my singing in the past. To say it’s fine if you sing if you sing just the style of music we want seems almost anti- worship to me. How does this allow for members to flow in their natural God-given giftings? Am I missing something? Since when does having most of the music sound the same truly represent the entire body? I truly don’t want there to be any division or strife but I am struggling with this lack of acceptance for the classical musicians. I realize I may not be cool, but the music is still beautiful and most of it is literally scripture set to music. Please give me a little guidance.
Hi Momto5. First off, it seems that God has blessed you abundantly—in your art, with your family, and with a full and meaningful life. It also sounds like you are blessed with a beautiful and talented voice, which really is a gift, one that you have sought to use for God’s glory, and I think that’s wonderful.
I think that there is some unspoken reality to your church being reluctant to use classical music, though the leadership might be hesitant to admit it. This is a reality for most now, unfortunately, as few people ever listen to classical music outside of movie scores, and don’t have an appreciation for it. And I don’t have any easy answers for that.
But I also suspect there might be another dynamic as well. I know that in the church that I pastor, I don’t have anyone who just “does solos.” Everyone on the Worship Team is a part of a community, serving together and being mutually submissive to one another in Christ. Lesser musicians play along better musicians, and in the process, we all encourage one another musically and in our spiritual journeys. I understand that your stage of life precludes you from joining a regular (and demanding) ministry like a worship team, but this might be a reason why they are reluctant to set the precedent of allowing certain people privileges that others do not have. I also could be wrong (!) in my assumptions, so please use grace-filled discernment in your situation. I hope that helps. Blessings to you!
Thank you for your insights. Other people who are not on the worship team do contemporary solos at the church, so only contributing occasionally and not being a part of the worship team does not seem to be an issue though I completely understand your thoughts on this. I did not come to the church trying to get on stage nor am I asking to revamp the worship style, but it seems a classical solo based on scripture a couple times a year is not an unreasonable offer. My family and I have been contributing members of the body through service as well as tithing for three years now. We can do none of this except through Christ, however. I prefer to serve in areas where we can serve as a family verses splitting up our family. I think there is safety in this. I also help lead the children’s worship two to three times a month on Sundays so I can’t really be on the worship team too. I sit under the youth pastor’s leadership for this and the teaching team meets monthly, so I am submitted to leadership here. I think serving our children’s ministry is very important as it only takes one generation to lose the Gospel.
God’s Spirit, and the truth of His Word draw people to Christ. Not the style of music. All worship is acceptable to God. Our goal is to serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord not men. Ephesians 6:7 All things were created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16b
I have survived a ruptured brain aneurysm in the center of my brain followed by a craniotomy, walked through 14 years of infertility yet I am now homeschooling 4 children, and our youngest child has Down Syndrome. I am pretty much convinced God will use all these things for His glory and He’s keeping me around here for some purpose. I would love to use my musical giftings in the church as well as outside of it, but if it is only the latter I can be content with this.
Thank you again for this post and your responses. It is obviously an issue that affects many. May the Lord guard people’s hearts.
A bit late reading this article; however, this has been occurring to me, directly, for nearly a decade. Just this month I was rejected for the first time in 40 years of ministering with the worship team (I am 51). Very vanilla response from a 19-year-old who doesn’t even read music. She said it was somebody else’s decision and named them, but has not responded with what their more detailed feedback was. I have been told directly that a church wants younger people. I have been told they would rather have a difference race. Several churches have tried to push me aside for younger people, but come back to me for rescuing the situation because nothing replaces experience. (Except our last pastor who said his 3 months’ experience 25 years ago equates to my 41 years’ non-stop experience. He has run all the ‘real’ musicians away now and is left with a few teens…and doesn’t know why they can’t play hymns with their 3 chords and auto-tune.) It is very disheartening to be pushed aside with nobody to explain why. The reason seems to be age, as the musicians and singers at our new church are all very young. I went through their “training” and was told I sounded “great”…no other feedback…yet was rejected. Even the night they cut the keyboard out of the digital mix completely, I was told nobody could tell. (Experience might have contributed to my ability to keep it going, despite not hearing myself playing.) So where are the people who are to be held accountable? Where are the people who preach “community”, yet make church the Disney Channel Experience? If I speak up, I am made out to be bitter. If I stay silent, I accept this charade as acceptable for the Body. Neither is true. What to do?!
Shawn, I understand your situation, and you aren’t alone. Our church has talked about “getting young folks in the door,” etc and this year decided to fund and hire a half-time worship leader to help the regular staff. The idea was that the new hire would be young and introduce “freshness.” I’m not sure how our main Worship Pastor took this ( he’s about 47 ) but eventually the project was abandoned.
We have a large older set in our congregation and as far as I can tell the desire is to have the age mix represented on stage. I’m the oldest at 71, but two of our drummers are around 60. The rest are mainly in their 40s with one bassist at 33.
We do have a youth/college pastor and spent quite a bit renovating our facilities for kids under junior high age, but I think it became clear that simply putting a 20-something on stage wasn’t necessarily going to draw in lots of people. When kids leave high school there’s no telling where they’ll go to college or work.
Another factor is that a 60-year-old is probably among the group doing most of the funding for the church, and may be active in the church for another 25 years.
If you are working on your skills so they fit the current music being used, then I would just find another church where you can serve.
My worship leader told me that the old must step aside as that was one of the tenants of Hillsong. She wanted me to teach a young person howto play the violin so they could take over for me. This was in 2017 and I was in my early 50s. Our church also disbanded our adult choir and handbell choir at that time. I ended up leaving that church for another church that let people over 50 participate in worship. My old church was trying to attract the next generation and thought that old people on stage would scare them away. I went to that church for over 20 years. the rejection still hurts. https://hillsong.com/collected/blog/2014/06/25-confessions-of-a-worship-team/#.Y61A7BSIbqt
The post has just shouldn’t be an issue of age. God can use everyone!! Many churches choose to have worship that separates congregations by generations, such as a separate children’s worship or youth worship. https://catalyticministries.com/financials/