A few years ago I visited a worship conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention. I heard some alarming statistics:
- A poll of church leadership revealed that music is at the very bottom of priorities. At the top of the list is children’s ministries.
- Another statistic showed a drastic decline in church attendance in the 20-40 age bracket.
Churches are in a panic as to why their congregations are shrinking. There are several reasons, but a big one is painfully obvious: our culture is so tuned into music that it simply makes sense to make music a priority in our churches.
Ed Setzer recently wrote a post that has been making the rounds on social media. In it he reiterates the statistics that Southern Baptist churches are in decline. Membership shrunk in 2015 by 200,000 people.
Here in the Buckle of the Bible Belt I attend a Southern Baptist megachurch that is booming with thousands every week. And across town there’s a gigachurch, also Southern Baptist, that’s really booming.
But then again, my church and the one across town have contemporary worship with praise bands and stage lighting. Ed is probably talking about the other SBC churches like the itty bitty ones on every corner here in Greenville – the ones that have 50 people, with Lowry organs, with worship committees battling against acoustic guitars and praise songs from 1982, with 78-year-old deacons who chase off visitors because they don’t want to change. These churches are dying quickly.
It’s fashionable these days for people downplay the importance of music. They’ll argue there’s more to worship than music, and that’s true to an extent. But it is a HUGE part of worship.
If we look to Scripture for guidance our priorities will be in order. You read… a lot… in Scripture about music. An entire book of the Bible is devoted to it. Do you read much about children’s ministries?
If the Scriptural emphasis on music isn’t enough to convince you, how about other real life examples? Mega ministries are known for their mega music: Gateway… Hillsong… Elevation… LifeChurch…
What does it mean to make music a priority? Let me spell it out for any pastors/elders/deacons:
Put money into music. Install a good sound system and make sure the room is acoustically treated to sound great (and make sure you have a competent person to run it.) Buy instruments. Have a budget for charts and sheet music. Pay musicians if need be.
Empower the gifted. This is the hard one: too much drama in the music ministry centers around people with no talent. These people firmly believe they have it and demand to be a part of the praise team. If you’ve watched the audition weeks of American Idol you know this isn’t just a church issue.
Have the leadership guts to just say no. It’s really not that hard if you think about it – if someone can competently sing or play an instrument, they should be a part of the praise team. If someone can’t competently sing or play an instrument, they should find another ministry.
What’s “competent” is relative to your location – and you have to make that decision. If you live out in the country with a small population area, competent does not mean the same as if your ministry is in a large urban center with a big talent pool.
Let’s spend less time worrying that off-pitch Aunt Sally’s feelings will be hurt if she doesn’t get to sing a solo, and more time training, equipping and encouraging those who do have talent.
Find a quality worship leader. If your church is blessed to have a quality worship leader with both talent and spiritual depth (they’re hard to find), hold on to him or her. Appreciate and pay them well as they’ll most likely be hired away by a larger ministry. I know of one top-notch worship leader who is continually pestered by the largest megachurches in the country (to the point where it’s almost humorous) – they’re trying to hire him away from his current church.
If you are a quality worship leader and are neither appreciated, encouraged or paid by your church, have a little self respect and move on ASAP – life is too short to be spinning your wheels.
Bottom line: It appears a well run worship-driven ministry in a pop/rock Chris Tomlinesque style is what reaches the masses and helps grow churches. What can you do to make music more of a priority in your church?