Sorry for the controversial title. Thought it might serve a purpose though.
When I first got involved in playing worship music back in the late 80s, most worship leaders I saw were young guys in their teens or 20s. The whole thing was fresh and new to me.
Recently, as I have visited a few churches in the Glasgow area (Scotland) I was struck that most of the worship leaders are in the 40s and 50s. There seem to be very few up and coming leaders in their teens and twenties any more. Is this just here or is it a general problem?
I am slightly concerned about this because if it is a general issue and not just local, then where is the next generation, where is the next move of God coming from? Also, we're all getting older and once we get too old, we won't be able to train the next generation. In fact the churches will get stuck at our generation and not cater for the next generation at all.
My understanding of Ephesians 4 was that the point of leadership is to train others to do the stuff, not just to cling on to your role until you die. Is it that worship leaders are tending to cling onto their roles and are not training new leaders?
Well, I'm a pastor now, so training future leaders is part of my job description (Eph 4:11-12); but it should be true of pretty much anyone in a church leadership role.
I have been greatly encouraged to see the number of Christian colleges and seminaries (including the one I attended) that offer degrees / concentrations / training programs in worship and arts ministries; but there should also be a "training culture" in the churches that is modeled and led by the pastors.
Hi Ian, I think that's just the churches you've happened to see - you only need to look at something like Soul Survivor festival that has teenage worship leaders leading crowds of 10,000+ to see that worship leaders are far from a dying breed - in fact sometimes in those situations you might prefer a bit more age and experience! In my church we have worship leaders of ages 17, 21, 32, 35, then it starts getting a bit hazy but there's three more ages up to (I'm guessing) early 50s.
And yes, it is absolutely imperative on anyone who has even a modicum of experience and wisdom in this area (or any) to start training up others. Find a member of a youth group who has a heart for worship and even a smidgen of musical gifting, and get them involved. Even if they're just standing at the back of rehearsals with their guitar only coming through their own monitor while they try to keep up with the chord changes. Meet up with them, talk about what worship is and what the pitfalls are and laugh about all the mistakes you've made so they begin to learn from them. Then get them leading one song in a service, review it, talk about different services, what worked, what didn't, why... then gradually pass it over more and more. They will flourish and the church will be enriched and equipped for the future. Win all round.
The young guys you saw in the late 80s are probably the older ones you are seeing now. Because they have more experience they probably lead more often though one would hope that they also have the discernment to spot gifts in the younger ones and help them to develop.
I don't think it's a general issue - I agree with Matt. There are lots of young worship leaders around. Maybe us Scots are a bit more reluctant to 'take a risk' and let younger ones lead.
In our church (south of Glasgow) we have been fortunate to see the older ones stand down while the younger ones develop and take on the role of leading. The worship leaders in our main services are between 27 and 40. We have an older worship leader of 50 who is a real spiritual role model for the others. Just because someone is older doesn't mean they should step down, as long as they are willing to encourage and be on the look-out for new, young leaders.
When I had the role as leader of the team I was able to see two young men in particular showing a lot of talent and spiritual maturity so I made a point of encouraging them to lead more, and ran training evenings using the Paul Baloche DVD series to help them develop and learn about being part of a worship band. These men (now 34 and 27) are now our main worship leaders and have been a huge blessing to our church.
Perhaps in some places it is the case that older worship leaders want to cling onto their roles because they are worried that younger ones will change things and not do it as well as they have?
Come 4 or 5 miles further south for your next visit and we will hopefully give you some encouragement :)
Dude, sorry to hear about your recent struggles and burnout/frustration in leading and recent resignation from leading.
On this current discussion topic I'd have to say that I feel like that's not at all the case on a global level. I personally see great excitement to lead worship in the younger generation coming behind us! I am a Canadian who now Worship Pastors in the U.S. and travels internationally leading. I see young people rising up to lead worship everywhere I go! 2 weeks ago I even had the opportunity to travel and teach worship in Malaysia and saw there people from all around that "other side" of the world with a passion to worship and grow in worship leading skills too!
I think there are some in the mix of the new generation (as any) that like the stage and attention and musical outlet, but I see a lot that are VERY sincere and passionate and honest in their worship and pursuit of God. I also see lots of budding young song writers expressing a new generation of heartfelt worship music to God as well...
Be encouraged - this does not die with us - it's gonna grow! :)
New Christmas worship song "Hope Is Here (Joy To The World)" at http://www.praisecharts.com
(Spent last 2 weeks as the #1 downloaded chart on PraiseCharts!)
Worship leaders would only die out if worship dies out -- you always need someone to lead, even if it's merely strumming a guitar or suggesting a song.
A really nice church, to me, is one in which the leaders are both training new leaders, having them assist and grow into leading, while still demonstrating good leadership (not being kicked out because they are older). Basically, a Psalm 105 thing where the generations work together, where the church is one church, one body, one fellowship, one Lord as its head.
You used the word "cater" -- that often gets a bad connotation, but it's really a good word, for "cater" means to serve, and to serve something that can be expected to be of high quality. Teaching the next generation to recognize high quality is another responsibility of the older folks; and likewise the younger people should be helping the older find the quality in and of the music they are preparing to share with their friends and the community.
I'm really encouraged that so many of you report that there is not a problem in your area. I think there may be some issues in this part of Scotland and we certainly need God's help in this area. If you have a moment, please pray for God to renew his church around the north side of Glasgow.
Definitely not an issue in the states... If anything we have the opposite issue. When I was looking for a full-time worship leading position it was not uncommon at all to see age limits on postings I would find online. I.e. "over 21 need not apply." I'm not joking I saw that a number of times.
There are an enormous number of young musicians today, thus making a supply-and-demand situation that favors the younger. Insurance is much less expensive for those that offer a full-time position (there really are still a few churches, maybe, that have full-time folks on staff), and the younger person is accustomed to being in school and following instructions, and thus may be easier to handle than an older person who has begun to form ideas and philosophies of their own. Those factors tend to outweigh the experience, gained wisdom, knowledge of people and their habits, and proven faithfulness of the older musician; but there still are places that value a good geezer (and once you get to 65 the government takes care of part of the insurance).
There have been times I've felt like starting a Geezer Church, where folks could bring their harmonicas and tambourines and git'ars and even sing Matt Redmon like you never heard it before, ministering to folks who still have twenty good years left but feel lonely elsewhere. But it would be a tough row to hoe for a full-time music minister, having to sing "How Great Thou Art" all four verses, every single week:)
Then again... we have a "traditional" service. We've got an excellent and fairly large choir, with even a few young people in it, and provide top-notch music in a liturgical format. The people are warm and friendly; but no one new comes. They just keep getting older; and before too long, the choir will outnumber the congregation, and possibly even BECOME the congregation.
And who knows what the world will be doing by then? We might be meeting underground, where the unpaid worship leaders will be whispering new melodies to the faithful, never knowing if the authorities will have a spy there...
WOW "over 21 need not apply"??? Oh my goodness... Now I feel OLD.
What a shame.
I lead worship WAY better now at 36 than I did at 21. I'm not perfect and am still learning but the extra 15 years of experience and maturity have helped a bit I think! :)