I love music!
I'm one of those people who could listen to music all day, every day.
I could make a playlist for every activity.
Music is one of those things that you don't have to know really well in order to enjoy it a lot. Whether you can read music and play piano like Beethoven OR you couldn't play a rubber band and get popular song lyrics wrong most of the time....it doesn't matter. Music transcends all of that.
Music is a powerful tool and when it's used strategically, it can be a game changer. So it's only natural that we, being the young and cool ministers that we are, consider how music can help (or hurt) our programming. Not to mention, worship through song and praise is a very biblical practice and as such, it deserves our careful consideration.
There's a lot to Consider
If you haven't already, you'll eventually come to the place with your youth group where you'll ask yourself: Should We have a Student-Led band? Unfortunately, there is a lot to consider when asking this question. Are your youth leaders musically savvy? Do you have the necessary equipment? Do you have students who are able to play and sing? What musical style would work best for your group? Those are all things that you and your leadership group have to decide for your particular group.
What follows is a thoughtful and concise list of Pro's and Con's to having a Student-led band and the choice that I feel is best overall.
- Student Worship.
Worship isn't limited to just music and singing, however, there are some students who will naturally connect with God better through music. Not to mention, praise through song is a very biblical means of grace.
- Student Involvement
Any time you can pull students out of their seats and get them in front of their peers is a good thing.
- Developing Leader-to-Student Relationships
If you have a student who wants to drum and you have a leader who can teach Him, this is a great way for some practical mentoring and discipleship to take place.
- Motivation for More
Having students who may be too shy watching their peers lead may inspire them to get out of their comfort zones and give it a try as well!
- Stewarding Talent
Giving students an outlet to use their gifts to worship God is a great way to show them that we should use our God-given-gifts to glorify Him.
- Inspires Creativity
Maybe you have some students who considered picking up an instrument but never had enough of a reason to. Casting a broad net to the entire group, i.e. "If anyone here plays or wants to play guitar (any instrument) we would love for you to get involved," may just be enough reason for students to pick it up! Now you're encouraging students to learn an instrument AND giving them the opportunity to showcase it.
Ok, now for the "Con's," but let me just say that these aren't really 'bad things'. So don't think of these as deterrents, think of them as precautions that you may want to give some extra thought to.
- It Takes Time
If/When you decide to start up a student band, be ready to invest a good amount of time! Many of your students who CAN play are not super experienced so they may need some work. I would suggest pairing them with a leader who can play during the music set until they are strong enough to play alone. Band practice isn't just a 10 minute breeze through for students, be prepared to spend at least an hour (or more) with the entire band going over songs before you cut them loose during youth group. This doesn't even factor in personal practice time that the students should have at home.
- Strong Structure is Vital
If you aren't prepared to tell them how you want songs played and/or how they should fit into the order of service, you may want to polish that up. Structure also includes designating lead/back up singer, choosing musicians, developing a schedule (if you have enough students to rotate), etc.
- Drama & Jealousy
When our youth band really began to flourish, more and more girls wanted to join. Naturally, they all thought they were Brooke Fraser or Kari Jobe and they all wanted to lead. Unfortunately, not all of them were ready to lead (vocally) and some had to sing back-up. This caused a good amount of jealousy which caused drama amongst the students. Girls would talk bad about the other girls and pretty soon we had some Jerry springer situations that we had to handle during practice one week.
- Replacing Corporate Worship
When we blur the lines between Wednesday night youth service (or whenever you have it) and our Sunday morning service, students have a hard time understanding why participation with the larger local congregation is important. The temptation is to justify absence from Sunday Morning Service with attendance on Wednesday Night.
- Student Leaders Can Do Damage
Leading worship is a big deal. Whether it's in front of 10 students or 300 adults, it's very important. This means that we, as the leaders, can't just allow anyone to lead our students. We had meetings and accountability statements that our students had to comply with before they could step foot on the platform. They knew that if they violated those commitments, they would have to take a break from leading. No student (or person) is perfect, so there must be grace. However, there must also be clear standards for the students to shoot for, as leaders.
*Also, if you are not the designated 'band leader' during practice, be very selective in who you allow this role. We had a situation where our band leader (a young adult) would constantly discredit my opinions and would gossip about the leadership during practice. Once I started sitting in on practice, this particular leader, quit and refused to lead if I was going to be there. Pray and be selective with your leadership. Which brings me to my final caution:
- The Fear of Delegation
It is so valuable to give others responsibility and ownership in the ministry. Even if you have the skill to do it yourself, the ministry gets broader with an additional leader(s) in place. If you are afraid of giving up some control, this will be very hard for you. If you're not prepared to share some responsibility, it could lead to power struggles, tension within the leadership team, or conflict of leadership styles. It may stretch you a bit but that's not necessarily bad. It's not only practical to have additional leadership to spread responsibility to. It's healthy.
Phew! There are my Pro's and (kind-of) Con's. It's a lot to consider, however, I would make a very hard push to have a student-led band (if you have the students and culture for it). Our group is full of creative students who are hungry for a chance to use their talents! When I let my youth leaders play all the instruments, run the sound, etc. the students are there but they aren't fully invested in the service. After we got more students involved, we noticed that these students began inviting more friends and taking more ownership in the youth group at large. Our students have a place where they can flex their creative muscle and still learn to serve in a Godly way. It's allowed my leaders to speak into their lives more effectively (because they have a common ground to start on), and it's caused other students to ask where they could serve within the group.
I would urge you, whether or not you have a student-led band, consider creating more and more avenues for your students to serve where they're gifted. You'll see a big difference!
By Richard Colon
YGC Content Contributor
& Youth Pastor at Central Church