Last time, we looked at the early stages of working with young people. We saw that the issues are the same as working with any band, but with some extra caveats. In this post, we’ll look at a 5 more key issues. In all these, we’re assuming that the young people are musically gifted to some extent…
1. ENTHUSIASM IS OFTEN HIGHER THAN MUSICALITY.
There is often a desire to get ‘worshipping’ or ‘playing’ but often the musical skills don’t match the passion. One young person I worked with would stand in front of a mirror while playing, as he elevated himself to rock god status. Unfortunately, his playing and tuning didn’t match what he saw and heard in the mirror. Another guitarist was well versed in his scales, but was unable to match the key he was playing in, with the key a song was in. Time spent correcting them (in love) is well worth doing, without breaking the relationship. We need to be extremely patient and persevering to support new musicians, whatever their age. Anything worth building for God will take time, but nothing we do for God is ever wasted. Give them space to learn and make mistakes, gently equip them with ideas, riffs, patterns and harmonies.
2. BAND DYNAMICS.
The fundamentals of a band and how it operates need to be communicated constantly. I know a worship leader that struggles to play with a band simply because he has always played alone and it’s been a challenge to understand the dynamics, use and register of different instruments. When we come to working with less experienced musicians and young people, the issue is the same. With one younger guitarist, the idea that he shouldn’t always be thrashing away was quite a heartbreaking moment, but he quickly learned. Over a year on, he’s excellent at knowing when to play and what, depending on the nature and part of the song. We must constantly communicate how important it is to listen to each other when playing. You may often find beginner drummers have trouble keeping the same tempo – so a metronome is a great way to help this. Keep plugging away!
3. THE CULT OF FAME AND BEING UP-FRONT.
One of the hardest things to handle in our Christian life can be success. It’s good to be confident and let your light shine, but all that we have comes from God – worship is reflecting back what he’s done in and through us. For younger musicians, this can be an issue. One young person was given an unhelpful ‘word’ once that could easily have puffed him up with great pride. Fortunately, he handled it well and stayed very humble. Model humility and thanks in accepting praise and criticism. God is more interested in our character than our gifting!
4. CONSTANT ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT.
Teenage emotions can go up and down, feelings can predominate (can’t they with all of us…) I’ve had times where individuals are in a very dark place. Other times, they want to be somewhere else (like at home on their Xbox…) You need to learn people management skills and how to negotiate with and between individuals. I’ve seen bands in schools rip each other’s heads off (very messy…) Your role will often be peacemaker and someone who can show there’s another way through. Use informal and very clear encouragement, but be real with praise! At other times, you’ll need to just sit with, listen to and understand what is happening in their world, which can often be quite painful. Often the question from young people is, ‘how much do you really love me?’ Jesus believed in the disciples, despite who they were. We need to show that same belief and love.
5. START OFF PLAYING A SMALL NUMBER OF SONGS THAT THEY KNOW AND LIKE.
In time, play more songs and with wider traditions / musical challenges. With a band I’m currently working with, we initially had a pool of just 10 songs. All these were ones they knew and liked – making it much more enjoyable and easier to learn! Where they didn’t know the song well, we got the original CD, played the song and listened to it individually and together in the car. Over time, the band expressed the desire to learn more songs and ones that would challenge us a bit more musically. So we picked songs with specific guitar parts and specific drum patterns; we played a song in 6/8 rather than 4/4; we chose songs with a greater range of dynamics; played an old hymn etc. We also journeyed with individual songs, stepping out beyond the music to create ‘new songs’. All the time, you are looking to move forward and grow, while bringing the young people with you.
We’ll have further tips in part 3.
Steve Hayes is a worship leader at City Community Church in Exeter (UK) as well as a school youth worker. Steve has a great youth work resource website at myfishbites.com.