My good friend Ruth Goddard from Joy of Music Co. wrote some things in a recent email conversation that I thought were terrific suggestions that are worth passing along:
What can we do to engage all generations?
1. Teach a respect for other generations’ musical heart language
-when I learn your songs, I show you that I value you.
-when you sing my songs you show me that you value me.
– See Eph. 5:18-21
-(verse 21 is not normally placed in this context, but it’s grammatical construction makes it clear it belongs as the last of four participial clauses which follow the command “be filled with the Holy Spirit” v. 18)
– As a result of obeying Paul’s command to be filled with the Holy Spirit these will be in evidence:
- speaking to one another in songs, hymns and spiritual songs;
- and making music in your hearts
- giving thanks to the Lord;
- submitting to one another…
-But, we must recognize where in the congregation the greatest burden of spiritual need lies and center the heart-language of our worship there, but with meaningful movement toward others so cross-pollination in heart-language can happen.
2. For hymns, select a few musicians who have a broader versatility with chords, guitar, keyboard, etc. and use one or two HymnCharts arrangements (http://www.hymncharts.com) for each service-energy is there with a simplified but contemporary creative chord structure, charts or notes for whatever instruments. You can try out a free arrangement – http://www.hymncharts.com/
3. Diversify styles you use – i.e. the diversity on Mars Hill Sampler: The Sufjan Stevens influenced Sing Team styles may be more palatable to the older generation. In early January Paul and I attended Imago Dei church in Portland (one of the largest and fastest growing young churches in that area) whose entire service utilized this style (also see Isaac Wardell’s work to build unity musically in multigenerational churches.)
4. In rehearsal think of participation before performance. Talk about how we can include more people in the way we do things, get more people excited about joining in. Some in the older generation may feel devalued. Talk together about how this perception can be changed.
5. Use repetition intentionally, say why you are repeating. Teach people how to meditate. (Sometimes a little less can be a little more).
6. By trimming some repetition in songs, there could more songs to increase variety, or bring other participatory elements into the service such as dramatically spoke scriptures that includes the congregation, or open congregational prayer guided on a specific need or even worship, such as an attribute of God.
7. Together with your worship team, brainstorm ways for showing value to each generation. For instance, allow 5 minutes for one individual (chosen ahead of time) per week to give a testimony about what God is doing in their lives. Choose people from each generation represented in the congregation. (I found that the people who complained the most did not have anything to say about what God was doing in their lives. They had become a mission-field in a sense.) Have the person write out what they will say ahead of time, so you can go over it with them if you like, to be sure it’s biblical, stays within the time frames, and to affirm the value of what they are sharing.
8. Occasionally have a traditional pianist play for a hymn and have your band find ways to support that musically.
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