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Worship Leader Wanted: 20-something, Guitar-Playing Male (ThinkJump Journal #55 with Kim Gentes)

Has the Church has Sold out to Ageism, Sexism and Cultural Models To Fill Seats and Meet Budgets?

 

Before jumping into the topic, I want to outline a clear disclaimer. If you have read my blog, website, writings (published in popular worship magazines), heard me speak at a conference or even read my recent book, you will likely catch the fact that one of my passions and callings in life is to equip people, raise up new leaders and develop younger worship leaders. In fact, for most of the 20 years I have been leading worship I have spent many years developing training and mentoring younger people. The goal for me is to release people called to ministry, regardless of their age, into a maturity, skillfulness and wisdom in using their gifting for the glory of God and benefit of the church.

That said, this article and interviews deal with something related to age. However, I do not want to be misunderstood. This is not an article directed to young people. This is an article and topic directed to pastors, ministers, eldership and leadership of local churches.

Author, speaker, Episcopal priest, and retreat facilitator Ian Morgan Cron helps with some excellent and succinct thoughts on the topics at hand. The purpose of the article is to unearth the issues and to begin talking about it. Please contribute to the discussion, post your thoughts, and get your local church leadership involved. It’s an important issue that church leadership needs to consider.

Several months ago I met a friend for tea and conversation. This friend is a well known, world traveled, award-winning artist, songwriter and worship leader. This person is in their 40’s, very much in demand around the world and recording albums. My friend is seen as a mentor to many other creative, artists, songwriters, and worship leaders. We were catching up on a couple years of happenings, when my friend said something in passing that jolted me a bit.

My friend said, "It's sad to see people who are not ready, replacing people who are mature in their gifting".

"What do you mean?", I asked.

"Kim, you don’t understand what is happening out there. I go to churches everywhere. Big churches, ‘happening churches’, ‘in churches’, and there is a sad trend going on. The big thing in ‘growing churches’ is that you don’t keep or hire a worship leader unless they are under 30", my friend exclaimed, "honestly, in almost every church I go to that you hear of as a ‘cool’, ‘up-and-coming’ or ‘growing’ church- they simply won’t hire a worship leader who isn’t under 30."

My friend and I continued our discussion, but I was so surprised by what they said, it stayed in my mind for days.

Another time last year, I was doing a consulting call with a church who asked for some help with how to transition from one worship leader to another. The goal of the pastor- to move to younger music. The worship leader being replaced was 60 years old. The new guy- mid-20s.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to meet with and interview author Ian Morgan Cron (Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale, and Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts ).  In addition to speaking with me about his books and recent writing, he graciously talked to me about worship as well.  In that conversation, I was surprised he began talking about his early work as a songwriter/artist in Nashville. We struck down the road of music, worship and church.  At one point he talked about writing as a creative outlet that allowed him to continue in it at any age- as opposed to music artist/songwriting which often demanded youth. I realized for the first time he was talking about something I’d been hearing in church as well.  I wondered if Ian might have some thoughts on the topic of age and music and worship.

What resulted was a great interview, that I have broken into 3 short clips dealing with the following topics:

  1. Ageism In The Church
  2. Commodified Religion
  3. Women in Worship Leading.

What I love about Ian is that he has distilled a number of important points into a crisp discussion. There is more to be said, but he gets right to the point of some of the important underlying issues that are propelling decisions in local churches.  Are we discriminating in our local churches for the sake of money, filling seats, and competing with the church down the road?

Let’s listen church, and then let’s talk.

 

Segment 1: Ageism In The Church (Length 2min 47secs)

 

 

Segment 2: Commodifying Religion (Length 2min 2secs)

 

 

Segment 3: Women Worship Leading in the Church (Length 1min 34secs)

 

 

Now, please, contribute your thought below. This topic needs discussion and working out.

 

Again, many thanks to  Ian Morgan Cron for spending time for these interviews. If you get a chance, I strongly encourage you to check out his books Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale, and Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts. I have read Chasing Francis and am now reading Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me- both are excellent!

in Christ's love,

Kim Gentes


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Reader Comments (54)

"A commodified, world imitating church" wow. I'm 50 years old and still leading worship. I must be the exception!

Mark

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Young

Glad you watched through the videos Mark.. The point is for us, I think, is to do things with a Kingdom agenda, and not just try to mimic the world values. To ask ourselves if we are doing things with Kingdom values instead of just trying to compete with the church down the street.. Ian was pretty blunt.. i loved his thoughts on this...

July 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Well timed post Kim. Ian is such a powerful communicator. As a 40-something worship leader, I am beginning to face this issue more often. I'm hoping that this youth dominated worship leader trend might fade away over time as a more balanced and multi-generational approach is rediscovered.
-

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Slocum

Being on the older side, a women and on a worship team I sometimes think about these things. I am so grateful EVERY Sunday that I am able praise and worship the Lord, and help to create beautiful spaces for our church body to enter into His presence. My gifts were not nurtured growing up. I see the need today for more mentors, teachers etc. to support the younger generation of worshipers. I'm glad we are seeing some well known christian artists coming along side of them. I have to say, the way in which some churches transition their worship teams from what I've heard from some, is really damaging. It almost borders along the lines of spiritual abuse. Some brothers and sisters get deeply hurt. I understand why they do what they do but It's just not right. I don't believe it's honoring to God. It's a blessing being on the worship team at my church. I do have a God given desire to lead and I agree with Ian that a woman brings a different sensitivity. But honestly, I just don't tell myself it will ever happen. I will always worship the Lord in song. You have encouraged me today. Thank you!

July 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercolorbrite

I'm a 47 year old worship leader who was just replaced by a 20 year old female singer/guitar player. The new 36 year old pastor of our church took me to lunch and said, "We want to gear everything in our church towards the young. We want a young worship leader, who eats and breathes worship." It's been 6 months and the new worship leader is on a 6 weeks break because she burnt herself out leading worship every week. Enough said.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

Pretty much everybody on our worship team is 35 and older. Our leader is in his 40s and a good number of us are 50 years old and up! I am so glad that God does not care how old you are and feel so privileged to be a part of a vibrant, God-honoring, worship team whose sole purpose is to help prepare peoples' hearts to come into the presence of a Holy God and not to entertain a crowd.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Curtis

Greetings ! I'm not surprised, i've checked out the 'want ads' in Christian Jobs sites.... so, what a 'happening' church gets is one with no Spiritual Growth resume and shallow testimony. They want 'the look', 'the sound' to be competative in growing the church. I am a 52 year old worship leader, born and raised in the city of New York and can still 'mix it up' with anointing and thank God for it, every day. If a Bible believing church is truly Bible believing, then it should re-focus by fasting and praying - in seeking Godly direction to provide them what is needed. I think this is an awesome post Kim, Thank You !! HG. hgmp.tripod.com

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHiram Garcia

Wow. Thank you Ian for articulating some things that I have lived through, am living through and thought about.

I am a 49 year old woman, full time worship leader. Praise God I am at a church that honors me and loves me and lets me lead them. I rarely think about my gender when leading.

This wasn't always the case. I had to leave my home church because while I served them for years as first a volunteer, part time and then the Interim Worship leader, I was told I didn't have "the look" they wanted. Read between the lines: you are a woman over 40.

I have read the job postings "wanted male under 35, tenor, plays electric guitar" and wondered if it is legal. I've wondered what that lead Pastor will do when he gets older, if he's even thought about it. I pray for my middle aged worship leader friend who just had his salary cut-- the writing is on the wall for him and I hope he can find another position. Ministry is all he has ever done.

Commodifying the church? Yes, unfortunately being full time in ministry it is always in the back of my mind that we must "succeed" financially, or pretty soon the church won't be able to pay me, keep the lights on, fund the programs and ministries. I have the same needs as everyone else, and the same responsibilities to do a good job and help the organization thrive and survive whether I work for a ministry or a business.

I hate that being the best worship leader I can be in order to glorify God mixes in with self preservation at times. I work hard at keeping my physical appearance up. I have learned how to play the guitar (at age 47-- was just a keyboard person). All this being said, a bi-vocational ministry would probably have more security.

Still, I know this is what God has called me to do. He didn't promise that it would be easy, just that He would be ever present, ever loving and ever desirous of my submission to Him.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTricia Green

I am so happy that I am not the only one who feels the same way about all three of these issues. I am a forty-something female who has been singing in church since I was fourteen years old. Last year I ran into ageism for the very first time and it about knocked me out for good. I was directing a youth choir that was making its first CD and we were shooting our cover photo. I was left out of that photo because I didn't have the "look" that they were going for. I was told, "Don't worry at least your vocals will be all over it". I was devastated, not because my picture wasn't being taken but because of the reasoning behind it. Unfortunately, the whole project fell apart and the CD was left unfinished. I can't help wonder if God shut it down because of what it was becoming instead of what it was meant to be, a vessel of HIS honor and glory. Thank you for this posting which I will definitely be sharing with others!

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Thank you for this, Kim. I enjoyed it tremendously. I just want to say something about Ian's comment that he "wanted a worship leader with some miles on them." I know that he wasn't necessarily talking about chronological age here. You would never place a "baby Christian", regardless of age, in the role of worship leader. We want someone who has a personal, intimate relationship with our Saviour. God has told us to to make Him known throughout the nations. One of the ways we make Him known is through praise and worship. But honestly, if you as a leader do not truly KNOW Jesus Christ, how can you make Him known to others?

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSonia Fabbri

I struggle with Ian Morgan's outlook. Just my opinion, but I don't think he is in touch with reality. He says, and I quote, "I don't care of they are a young person or they are 70." That's nice to say, but it is just not reality. I highly doubt he is going to go to a church where the primary worship leader is 70. I think he does care, and I think he should admit that. Even if he would go to that church, I doubt he is recommending that everyone take their ageism glasses off and start opening up resumes to 70 year old worship leaders.

70 is an extreme - but Ian said it, not me. But if we can all agree that it is OK to not hire a 70 year old worship leader, then what about 60, what about 50, what about 40, what about 30? At what age does it really start to become agesistic?

By the way, there are lots of successful worship leaders out there who are over 40. Matt Redman, Paul Baloche, Don Moen - to name a few.

I think the reality is that the people to blame are not the churches, but the people in the churches. Church leaders are fighting a war against basic human nature. We want to be entertained, and there is no one to blame. You can't blame a crowd, because it is not an individual. It just is.

The crowd is the reason the Roman Colloseum was built. Highly unethical, but who was to blame? The Roman's just built the thing to please the crowd. Can you blame churches? They just want people to come on Sunday mornings. So, they are all trying to figure out what the people want. What will make them come, and stay?

Is a church going to hire a 70 year old youth pastor? No. Because the 70 year old isn't going to draw a lot of youth. Worship Leaders draw crowds churches, just like A list actors draw crowds to movies. You want crowds in your movie - pick the right lead actor. That's Hollywood. More than Hollywood, that is human nature. You can hardly blame Hollywood. All they are doing is finding out what the people want.

So, the problem is not the hiring church, the problem is the crowd they are appealing to. And who can you blame in that crowd? It is really hard to point a finger at someone. Can you blame a church for wanting attendance? They need attendance, so they can pay the bills, so they can continue to grow.

The bottom line is, we can complain all we want, but there is no one to blame. There is no one we can point our finger at. All we can do is complain. Or, we can just choose to be different. The only one you can change is you. The only one you can blame is you. You are part of the crowd.

The question is, which crowd?

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Dahl

It is an alarming trend around the world, people with gifts and anointings crucial to the church are being left unused on the sidelines in the name of giving the young ones opportunity. I agree it's more about the visual appeal and congregation pulling power than what it needs to be - providing an atmosphere where God can move and change lives...

Everyone misses out, people's true giftings, experience and God given destiny are left to waist creating dissolutioned believers that should be kicking goals and growing while taking the church on an incredible journey - especially with the technological means we have today.. Teamed with experience and anointing... The church misses out on the benefits of this while often sitting through younger, less experienced people learning the ropes without the benefit of being mentored and taught via someone else's experience.

I'm sure it's not all that bad everywhere but this is what I've seen. Let's do what we can - pray for wisdom in the leadership of our churches to benefit the church and all that need to experience His presence through worship in His House.

We need to take the battle to the enemy, not provide an opportunity for lame kariokee style worship. It's just too important.

Thanks for the article and for having the courage to speak out on such a topic - most would prefer to pretend it's all good :-)

All the best!

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOz

First let me thank you Ian for having the courage to say what you said about ageism, sexism and commidifying. I have lived through all these issues you touch on in the church and have not been as blessed as the writer of the entry before me. I am a 53 year old mother of 3, 30 year plus experience in leading worship and hispanic to boot. Not only do I play keyboard but I also play guitar. I workout and keep a trim appearance to honor the people who have come to worship so that I am not a distraction.The biggest hindrance for me used to be that I was female, now it is that I am female and 53 but I hav also unfortunately been discriminated against because of my ethnicity. I was reduced to tears listenting to the interview you gave because as you said, there is an entire voice of God missing when we categorize lead worshippers as male, 20 something, and guitar playing. Most worship leaders in the churches that I have volunteered in have the same mind set or are afraid to speak out against such things for fear of losing their position. I have nothing to fear, except God, and I have continued to lead worship with women's groups, children and basically anywhere that God would lead- with or without pay. Perhaps it's time to get back to the real issue here-Prayer. If more pastors and leaders would be on their knees along with the congregations during worship asking for God to bring people and resources, perhpas we would not have to commidify the church and lower ourselves to the worldliness of such discrimination. Let's together beseech God for help, in prayer, and watch Him sustain our needs, fill our churches and provide for and bring the necessary resources needed to continue maintaining our facilities. Let's pray that God would raise up faithful, spriritually strong worship leaders, both male and female to lead our congregations in such prayer.
God bless you for having the courage an insight to speak what I have and am still living through.
A sister in Christ~

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerrie Backes

I really enjoyed this interview. I also feel better after hearing it. I am a 50 year old female worship pastor. I've been leading worship at the same church now for 30 years and on staff full time for 20. I have changed and adapted to the "new music" as best as I can and thank the Lord every day that I am still in His ministry. One thing I have done through the years is train up younger musicians and singers and have been able to surround myself with anointed, willing and teachable believers. My two sons are now 24 and 18 and activily involved with the worhsip ministry. My 24 year old is the band director, youth pastor and leads worship with me each week. We take turns leadning songs and the dynamic of the young and old works well. Mentoring is vital and I'm grateful that I've been able to "keep up". Another little twist, I don't play any instrument. My instrument is my voice. I believe I've been able to do this because worship leading is not just playing and singing. It's providing an atmosphere for the congregation to worship and get thier minds on Jesus. If everyone on the team has a heart for real worship, the qualifications for leadership are much deeper than voices, instruments and sound. We are a contemporary church with three locations in Louisiana since hurricane Katrina. We're not a mega church but the 400 believers that worship with us are seeking the throne room every time we get together.

Thanks again for the article and interview. Very refreshing.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarnell

Great post. I am sending it to staff and friends to get feedback. There is much needed dialogue that needs to place! Thanks for your insight!

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Young

I am 53 and led worship for a number of years. To be honest, I prefer to worship for an audience of One in my basement. God is so much easier to please (when we are covered in Christ) than a congregation. Don't get me wrong, I love corporate worship, but not dealing with the dynamics of congregations and leadership. I think we have significant leadership issues in the contemporary church...

Thanks for the great article and interviews!

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGary Stearns

Wow, this is excellent! Unfortunately I am a casualty of this kind of thinking. I helped a church get started in 2005 and the senior pastor and overseeing pastor told me from the get-go that because I was female and 50 that I would be replaced as soon as they could find their young male. It took 5 years but in the last year I was even told that no churches of any significance would want me in their worship ministry. It has been close to a year and I'm still looking to find a new place of ministry.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermkp

"Don't trust anyone over the age of 30", the cry of the 60's rebel, seems to be alive and well in the 21st century church.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKen Rosentrater

I want to thank you, as well, for addressing the issues we see that reveal the direction in many of the 21st century churches. It's unfortunate that so many are willing to turn a blind eye to such an obvious trend. Personally, I have been a worship leader/pastor for over 20 years, and just lost my job to a man more than 20 years younger. I was told, "We're going a different direction." And that was it. No other reasons given for the change. I'm still out of work and have found it's much harder to find work at 55.

A "committee" actually announced to the praise team and choir (about 50 members) that the change was coming in two weeks. When challenged with the question "What have we done wrong?", the committee replied that the worship had been better than ever, but that they had just made the "difficult decision" to take the church a "different direction". The fallout was horrible. Many, both praise team and congregants, left the church. It's sad that these changes carry such wide-reaching ramifications. We should all be praying for healing in the hearts of those who take the offenses in these cases. I'm sorry to admit that I am one who's been hurt. And I even know better. God's grace is much bigger than all of this. Praise God in all things.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterR

This trend makes me wonder if the phrase "worship leaders" means to literally worship the leaders. I feel for the guy who talked about worshiping in the basement where there's no politics. Perhaps one of the best qualifications of any worship leader is the "Holy Spirit windshield wipers" to keep cleansing our sight and keep the focus vertical, refusing to be influenced by any American Idolatry. That way you make the best of however long you have, for as long as the church will tolerate the focus of worship being on God.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobison

Sad to say, I'm another casualty here of such thinking...one of the comments that resonated with me the most is the statement that to be young means relevant and to become and elder must mean we are now irrelevant....and yet the entire New Testament is a declaration of a MATURING FAITH not just new converts kept on bottled rice water....

I was a worship leader for years in a small church that was eventually taken over by a more youthful congregation...Pleased we stayed and enjoyed every minute of it...but also realizing that the unspoken agenda was youth only leaders....for everything....approaching 50 in a few years, and no longer needed beyond handing out smiles at the door...we left to find another place. Why? Because, fortunate for us, our faith and maturity recognized the value Christ has placed within us....and knew that just because others didn't recognize, or tap into the wealth of our 25 year walk with the Lord, doesn't mean we were crushed by it, Instead we utilized the time to reinvest in our own walk, and bring the wealth Christ deposited in us to the forefront...

It was hard and uncomfortable, but as I read the scriptures, every time God wanted to do something with people HE had to MOVE them forward by force....the children of Israel would never have left Egypt were it not for the 10 horrible plaques, and the early church leaders never would have left Jerusalem were it not for the persecution after Stephen....

What was started was Gracious Vine Ministry (www.GraciousVine.com ). A regional ministry to encourage, equip and engage others through retreats, worship events, Music, messages and more....

It's about keeping our eyes on God, not church, not church leaders...and working with those that have a True Kingdom Vision, not their own.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna fruhauf

Very though provoking video.. thanks so much for talking about this.. as a 50+ piano playing worship leader.. I have sensed these forces over the years and I loved the insight of Ian..
The other side of the coin is the challenge to worship leaders to change with the times. I've seen to many musicians getting stuck in the 70's, 80's & 90's. Music is constantly changing and we need to change with it.. God doesn't change, His truth's don't changed but musical styles do.
The challenge is to be musically relevant but spiritually mature. I love challenges.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark Cole

I am 31, and an out-of-work white male worship leader. I was let-go last November by a church that decided they wanted to "go in a different direction." I've been doing this 10 years, and I can point to three things that I think are the roots to the symptoms of commodification and ageism. Sexism, on the other hand, has been a longstanding problem which I think the evangelical church is *slowly* moving away from, and some of the mainlines have (mostly) had figured out for 20 years.

First, in regard to "relevance" and cultural connectedness... The success and growth of contemporary churches throughout the 80s, 90s, and 00s were the result, among other things, of an awakening to cultural sensitivity. Church leaders finally realized for the first time in many decades that one's ability to understand youth and young adult culture would allow you to get a message to them. This method *required* that you see and work through the youth lens. What better way to do this than employ and utilize young people? And frankly, the church had been so stuck for so many years that the aging folks in the pews had lost all ability to relate, had alienated themselves from young adults, and had totally lost effectiveness in purveying the good news of the Kingdom. Trouble is that when the pendulum swung, it went to the polar opposite, which is where we sit today. Certainly it will swing back. The question is, will we as leaders be there to temper the swing so that it can more fully reflect the kingdom, or will we swing it back so far as to snatch back "our" church from those young whipper-snappers and start the cycle all over again?

Second, and related to the first, was lack of building up and mentoring the younger generations. It has been going on since at least the WWII generation... but when I was young in the church, I was viewed as a troublemaker and a thorn in the side of older folks in the church. I represented something that they didn't understand (nor chose to seek understanding of), and their solution was often to criticize and demoralize. Often this led to outright demonization of my ministry values and passions. Clearly this is unhealthy, as viewing persons within your community as a "threat" will never lead to wholeness nor cultivate loving community. The baby boomers, who were/are often the "children of the 60s and 70s" in terms of cultural background, have too often forgotten what it was like to lead the cultural fight they pioneered (which then one generation later became the cultural "fight" in the church). Many of them, in my view, have left behind the desire to be revolutionary and willing to risk for the sake of change, and have traded it for the desire for suburban security and unchallenging religion (pioneered by their parents before them). In the process of this, often the idea of mentoring has been subverted by the more fear-driven competition model. We see it everyday in politics, and we see it everyday in religion. It is individualistic, selfish, and un-Christ-like. I was let go last November because I had a passion for leading people to step-out... and that wasn't welcome in the church full of comfortable middle/upper-class folks.

Maybe relevance to youth DOES drop-off as we age, but that doesn't mean that wisdom drops too. Wisdom and leadership can remain in place in different ways. In order for this to work, however, we need to design systems that foster this model. We cannot only pay one person to be both wise and young... but it is possible to employ a both/and model. But now we're on an issue of money, because we need a willingness to pay for both, don't we?...

Third. When did Christ-like community become such an issue of money? We've lost ourselves in the commodification of church... but it started long before any living generation of today. We've only made it worse, however, by opening book stores, releasing albums, and making every aspect of our community something you can purchase for only $19.99 in the lobby after the service. We pay for buildings that we only use for a few hours/wk. We focus on ourselves and what makes us feel good in worship. We talk about worshiping in spirit and truth, but we secretly mean "in soft pews and air conditioning." Wisdom-of-age would harness the epic youth worship and take it to an underpass with the homeless. One week's church-mortgage would buy meals for everyone there, and the most important person in the space would be a homeless guy, not the pastor or the guy/gal with the guitar. Commodification goes way deeper than buying an image (guy, 20s, guitar player, etc)... it goes to our desire culturally to diminish everything to something we can pay for readily. We aren't willing to INVEST... ie: time, money, energy, love, community... we'd rather PAY... ie: get the whole pre-packaged lot for only $15,000/yr. We truly have adopted the capitalist model for running our churches, and it doesn't look anything like the early church in Acts and Romans... nor what Jesus talked about in the sermon on the mount.

I suppose the moral of my story is... you reap what you sow... unless you choose the break the cycle and start fresh with some new insight from the Spirit. We can begin to mentor. We can refocus our worship so that our focus (both financial and spiritual) is not so me-centric. We can revisit what loving community looks like, and learn to love those both like and unlike us... but that takes a deliberate effort. It won't happen by itself. We have to get uncomfortable.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFat Toaster

As a 51 year old with over thirty years of worship leading experience I have found myself out of a job for the first time this year. My phone has stopped ringing and I sit at home and play my guitar and sing to myself. It's a sad and frustrating feeling to be put on the shelf and overlooked. Especially when I feel I finally have something to offer. I hope the church opens her eyes and begins to value those who have traveled the road for a while and have been knocked down a few times. It's by getting back up over and over again that we build the muscle and character to lead.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCraig Swanby

Jesus Christ didn't start his earthly ministry until he was 33 years old. I'm not trying to say people under thirty shouldn't be in leadership positions, (I started teaching the men's sunday school class when I was 25), however, a church leader should be mature, and know what he's doing. When a man gets behind a pulpit, or behind a piano, or is any leadership position, he has a responsibility to God almighty, and will answer someday for what he says and does. THAT should be humbling!

On a side note, we're a smaller church, and right next door to us is another larger church that sounds like a rock concert every Sunday morning and Sunday night with the 'music' blaring through the walls. Is this what Christ would be pleased about? Music that sounds like the world's music and disrupting Godly preaching? (2 Peter 2:15)

Matt Wilkinson

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Wilkinson

As the 53 year old basement worship dude, I should make a few things clear. First, I spent most of my time as a worship leader trying to move a traditional denomination toward more relevant music. Why would we expect most people to be able to sing their hearts to the King with 200 year old music? After all, Psalms 33:3 says to "sing a new song of praise to Him". My disdain for church leadership falls equally on those who push for youth focus and those who won't budge from old traditions.

How do we focus on Him? I highly recommend going to a quiet place, in my case the basement, to sing, shout, give thanks, study, and be quiet and listen to the King. While I do like corporate worship, it is highly over rated...

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGary Stearns

In categorizing as being a contemporary worshiping church we need to be mindful who it is we're leading in worship. I lead a small group and at 47 years I'm the youngest person there. Even though we use many contemporary songs it would be foolish not to consider the age of the congregation and the style of music they have worshiped with over the years.

July 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLewis

1) People have equal value. The 26 year-old is not more valuable to God than the 66 year-old.

This needs to show up in the style of worship we employ and the song selections we make. This is hard to remember when all the worship leading "fantasies" in our sub-culture feature us leading in front of a packed stadium full of unbelievably good looking young people (watch a Hillsong DVD).

2) Theology and methodology must remain separate.

"Amazing Grace" isn't theology. Neither is Hillsong United. I love everything United does but I've found, stylistically, that Paul Baloche has the worship style that works across the greatest age range.

One last thought on age-ism:

Statistically, a 26 year-old is infinitely more likely to become a Christian than a 66 year-old. That's a fact backed up by countless studies. I think this is the reason a lot of churches try so hard to be "relevant". They're doing it out of a heart for evangelism. The problem with that is the Biblical model of church clearly and repeatedly shows that the Church is for the believer - not the unbeliever.

So it's a bit hypocritical for a 50 year-old worship leader to write articles about worship as evangelism and then complain when they're bumped off stage in favor of a younger worship leader. If you really do care about evangelism then get off the stage because, statistically, the younger you are the more likely you are to make a decision for Christ and everybody likes being catered to in their own demographics. I think the right mindset begins with realizing that the Christian is God's vehicle for evangelism - not the church. The Church is for the believer. When we understand that, we put the focus back on displaying self-sacrificing love for one another in practical areas like worship style.

For the sake of bold discussion, let me state this - the worship time in a church is not an evangelistic vehicle. It's for the believer. Without that central understanding, age-ism will inevitably rear its ugly head as the Church seeks to most effectively evangelize the unbelievers in their midst.

When the worship time's first priority is evangelism, pastors stop paying attention to who is in their church and instead cater everything towards the non-Christian person they hope will walk through the door for the first time that Sunday. This is also against the Biblical model of pastors being shepherds of a flock.

If there's one thing we've all probably experienced, it's the reality that there is usually a gap between the congregation you want and the congregation you have! My worship ministry started becoming a lot more effective when I stopped obsessing over who wasn't in my congregation and instead began ministering to the people who were actually there. And in my church, those people weren't all young and trendy. When the people who were there became my obsession, a lot changed. My song selections, the volume of the worship time, etc.

It took me a long time to lean what it really means to minister to a congregation out of love and I've still got a lot to learn. I think that's why this hurts a lot of people - we expect our pastors to have this part figured out. And, truthfully, I think that's a reasonable expectation.

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts - great, great, topic!

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff T.

This is such a relevant debate between what will evangelise new and younger believers and what will evangelise and feed different generational cultures within the church especially those who may find meaning in traditional worship. Some styles of worship have stood the test of time and have nourished Christians throughout the centuries and continue to do so. There is a thriving, functioning part of the body of Christ that embodies transcendence and peace that for me is harder to find in loud worship. However, if I had come across more 'loud worship' at certain younger ages and stages (i.e. 20s to 30s) I may not have left the church during those periods in order to find relevant cultural expression. Youthful music ministry is clearly meeting a need and is here to stay however the church is a big place and extends beyond each worshiping community. I am sure the devil would love us to think that born again worship can only be a certain way.

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVirginia Hyam

I think this is a timely offering and one that I think is increasingly necessary. As I listened and read the the responses, I became aware of how much this has, is, impacting my current reality.

I have a dear friend and mentor. He was my worship leader at the time I came into relationship with Jesus. He's written, recorded, and had published upwards of 100 songs. He has been a worship leader and teacher for many many years now. Not on staff with any church (though he was for many years, and would be again if the right opportunity were to become available), he has been traveling teaching seminars and workshops, leading worship, equipping worship leaders and their teams, and playing concerts. But in the last couple of years the opportunities have all but gone away for him. In the last year, he lost his house and is struggling to pay the bills . . .

It seems we are, he is, caught in the very things presented here. I will be sharing this with our pastor and use it for dialog with our team. I'll let you know what happens . . .

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStill here . . .

I am happy to say that I have just been hired as "Praise Team Leader" with a congregation that is made up of people who have attended their church for decates and newer community families. I'm a man, age 50, and my instrument is the piano / keyboard. The article, videos and comments have all been very insightful to me. To me, this is about focus. Are we trying to serve God out of our faith or out of what we think ought to work? Our present church hired a pastor before they had enough money coming in to pay for him in the faith that this was what God wanted. We've always been able to pay him, to my knowledge. Then they hired a worship director (a woman in her 20's) in faith. Once more the money started coming in as the church continued growing.

I was particularly struck by the comments on using worship for evangelism's sake. My experience has been that most people will join a church because they feel embraced by the congregation. Style of worship and pretty looks onstage usually rank much lower on choosing a church. So why are so many churches going for the commercial end of it? Besides, it seems to me that the worship director / leader is there to serve the present congregation, not a potential future one.

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBertram Sluys

Maybe there is a lesson in all of this for the up-and-coming young worship leaders who are all in their prime, and job opportunities abound. The lesson is, don't plan on doing this for your entire career. Worship is timeless and ageless, but music is very generational and time sensative. That is not a bad thing - it's just reality. Different ages of people are drawn to different genres of music. So, if you have a career in music which depends on you performing or presenting in front of an audience, eventually your age is going to have an affect on you. Every musician must face this reality. It is the rare minority of musicians that can adapt through their life span.

Again, music IS generational. Worship is timeless. Worship and Music are not the same thing. They often go together. Most Worship Pastors are actually hired to be Music Pastors. The "worship" element is not exclusive to a music pastor. Hopefully, the Senior pastor is as much of a "worship leader" as the Music Pastor.

Being hired to be a Music Pastor is like being hired to be a Youth Pastor. The role is impacted by generational forces. A 60 year old is not going to be hired as a Youth Pastor, any more than he is going to be hired as a Worship Pastor (who actually functions as a Music Pastor).

Worship Leader (who are hired to be Music Leaders) feel like something is robbed from them when they are no longer desired as Music Pastors (who think they are Worship Leaders).

I am over 40. I was a worship pastor. I directed bands, orchestras, choirs, and I wrote songs. I am a gifted musician, but I don't get asked to lead Worship very often anymore. There is no changing that reality. Resenting the young guy that took my place is not going to get my anywhere.

But I AM STILL A WORSHIP LEADER. I just don't depend on music to lead worship anymore. Now, I just lead with my life. I don't even play my guitar that much anymore. But I am still a worship leader at heart. Nothing has changed, except the impact that I used to have THROUGH music.

I have had to re-invent myself. I am no longer a career musician. It was good while it lasted, but now there are better musicians that have taken my place.

So, this is a message that all you worship leaders need to receive. Don't ever loose your identity as a worship leader. However, don't rest in your identity as a musician.

Musicians come and go. Genres come and go. Styles come and go. Preferences come and go. Churches will continue to adapt on that front, as they endeavor to reach people through music.

Worship stays. Worship deepens. Worship matures. Worship is ageless. Most churches are not really hiring people to be worship leaders. Worship is not a vocation. It is a lifestyle. Anyone can lead worship - even though most people don't. Worship does not require skill. It just requires heart.

Music is a vocation. Music changes. Music is generational. Music impacts emotions. Churches recognize that the way to pierce people's hard hearts is often through music. Churches need skilled musicians who can reach specific generations. Churches are willing to pay for that.

Worship and music go together like a hand in a glove. But, the glove is not the hand, and the hand is not the glove. If worship is the hand, the glove wears out. The glove gets changed. The glove gets updated.

So, YOUNG PEOPLE -- start preparing now. Your days as a vocational musicians are counting down. Who knows how long you will last. Make sure that you have something else to offer -- vocationally. Develop depth and skill that goes beyond music.

And, OLD PEOPLE (i.e. 35 and over) -- don't resent young people. Don't resent your church. Don't resent the church. Don't loose your identity as a worship leader. Hold your identity as a musician loosely. Explore the non-musical world of opportunity around you.

I wish it were different, but truly, this is just the way it is. At least as I see it.

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterReality Check

Well, here we go...I am a woman who is about to have her 63rd birthday, and I lead worship at our church. I am not particular gifted or talented, but I have been a worshipper before I even knew what I was really doing. I try to stay very current with worship music; but the most important things to me regarding the worship time are the manifested presence of God, doing what I can during times of worship to lead the congregation into that presence, and blessing and pleasing our Lord with our adoration and love. I have been involved with worship either as an instrumentalist or team member for years; but four years ago, we had severe problems with our worship team resulting in the loss of our leader and several of its members. Because the church desired a leader with a heart of worship and spiritual maturity under his/her belt to bring the church through a healing process, they asked me to take the position. I definitely feel the weight of the responsibility, but I am humbly surrendered to His Will and will lead our congration to honor and minister to Jesus each week until He decides its someone else's turn.

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly

As a 54 year old music director in a fairly small Presbyterian congregation, I have watched the excitement of the 60s and 70s, with "folk services and folk groups" leading worship. I did this while in my teens and 20s. Then came the 80s and 90s with the expansion of that, reflecting the more "rock n roll" type music and emphasis on presence and stage sound. I worked with this style, also. Since the millenium, we have had a burst of great song writing, and larger congregations. But, the mainline church will never be eliminated, nor will "older" music leaders be phased out. I have become a mentor to many younger musicians and singers, encouraging them to try their wings. Many of the pastors I previously worked with have asked if I could leave and join them where they are now. But I still have work to do, and am not ready yet. When the time is right, I may leave my current post and start all over again somewhere else. That is what keeps "older" musicians viable - mentoring younger people and starting a church music program from the ground up - the way you would want it to grow. Don't give up - maybe you're looking in the wrong place. Try a church that seems on the way down. With most churches, music is what breathes new life into them. It also makes you feel younger, which shows in your playing and singing!

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarla

Very insightful and thought provoking. I believe that one of the biggest problems is that the "church" has been sabotaged by people who just want a large crowd, so they can have a lot of money, to be able to do many programs, so they can feel like they're affecting culture, when it truly is the other way around. Chasing after the almighty buck and allowing fear of man to drive the entire "church". Or, worse yet, fear of not having enough men (and women) to fear, even. And this coming from the region that has more churches per capita in the US, probably the world. But there are just too many "churches" and not enough God.

It's certainly sad to read the stories of how the "church" has thrown people by the wayside with the intent of remaining "relevant" and/or cater to a younger crowd. As if the "church" itself is getting old. So, it must remain "hip" before it breaks a hip. Come on now...

The truth of the matter is, that this discussion is only about 30-45 minutes of the "service", specially at churches where they are lead by the schedule and not by the Spirit (oh how I miss the 3 hour services when it was all worship, and praying, and healing and losing yourself... but that can't happen if you must remain relevant, after all, it is a fast food world we live in).

The apostles and the founders of the "church" truly served until they died. I don't believe they ever considered "retiring" or were worried about a younger guy taking their place. They were all about equiping and mentoring and preparing those who would continue the work of the saints. And I can't see them asking for an appearance fee or demanding that the crowds they would address be of enough people to justify them coming.

You can also argue that when you pay someone to be a worship leader, that that in turn carries the expectation of: you need to perform to continue to be paid; otherwise, we're bringing someone else who will. Or: you need to give the people what they want to keep them here... or anything along that vein. Money just changes things, in my opinion.

Also, I find it very disappointing that "worship leaders" today don't really pray about what songs they are to do on a given service. Sometimes the songs are picked out the Monday after the Sunday service. Now, if the worship leader has a prophetic gifting and the Lord told him that that is the song list to do, then that's perfect. But, most of the time, they just want to play "cool" songs, or songs performed by Chris Tomlin, or "cool" songs they heard on the radio (mostly performed by Chris Tomlin), or songs with cool guitar/piano riffs (more than likely played by said artist). How about asking God what's in His heart? What do you want to do, Lord? What is it that you want your people to hear from You this service? The absolute biggest compliment should be when whoever is preaching mentions the songs played during worship and piggy backs on the theme of the song list, because that truly ties the entire service together. It has been many, many months since I have heard anyone "preaching" that has mentioned the songs as a part of their message. Sometimes a passing comment that they sounded great. But, is that the affirmation we're looking for? Good looking, sound great? Filthy rags... filthy rags I tell you!

We need to stop worrying so much about how we sound and/or look and start pressing to touch the heart of God. We need to start feeling bad and empty when people keep saying: you sounded great. How about: I love the way you worship! Also, people need to stop paying so much attention on who's leading and focus on lifting up His praises... but that's another story altogether.

I believe there is a lot of repenting to be done. To me, great and/or good looking singers, talented and/or good looking musicians not required; worshippers are demanded!!! Young, mature, male, female is irrelevant. If God calls them to lead, more power to them. If they were hired because we need more male attendees, ages 18-35 because they buy most of the T-Shirts, then we're in more trouble than I thought.

Worship is 100% for Him and 100% about Him. But that's just me.

July 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGZUZROX

Who is being worshipped, God or man. Worship is 24/7, not just on a platform in a building.

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterr00m50

We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us. I think that is a loose quote from someone but I think it is right on in this situation. In so saying, I must gently disagree that there is no one to blame. It is 'US', those who attend churches all around the world. We have forgotten the purpose of church, that being to meet with God Almighty and hear HIS Word. That Word is meant to bring conviction of 'sin' ( Anyone remember that term?) and to bring to a point of salvation. But of course that is not the only thing that His Word is meant for. It is to challenge us in many ways, bring Hope and show us truth and so many other things. The time of musical praise and worship is meant to prepare our hearts and minds to hear that Word, to break up the 'soil' as it were so the seed can find the good ground and spring up and bear fruit for the Kingdom of God.

We've allowed church to become just another form of entertainment nowadays, so maybe we can get a 'feel good' feeling. May God help us get back to more of the basics. May God help us to honor Him and His son, Jesus Christ in all that we do. Unless God builds the house, those that build it, labor in vain.

Lastly, I'm a 59 year old along with my wife of 58, and an early twenties young lady leading worship in a small church (40 or so) on a good Sunday. No musicians at all so we use sound tracks. We'd love to have a band but if the cost is what I've read here in so many of these comments, then we'll keep going just as we are, until God brings us to the next level in His time.

God's blessings on all those who are truly laboring for Him. My heart goes out to all those who have been pushed out to make way for someone 'trendy'.

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGlen

I feel sad that so many people in this post have taken the stance of a victim or judge. The fact that people in general want the younger generation leading the music is not wrong. It is not sin. Music is entertaining, but that is not all it is. Music draws people. Music draws crowds. Music defines a culture. Those are all just sociological facts.

Honestly, I'm just waiting for some person 50 or older to rise up in this post and say, "you know what, I was a worship leader, I was a song leader in church, and the time came for me to pass the torch. So I have done that with great joy, excited to pour into the next generation of leaders. Sure it may have cost me my job, but it is not about me and my job.

The young leaders are not the enemy. They are the opportunity. Come on people. Pass the torch. Find something to to pour yourself into. Don't resent or resist the tides of change. Don't become a victim in this. Music evangelizes, and churches need music to reach people. Music is not worship. They are separate, yet they can go together. But let's be clear, this whole discussion is really about music, not worship. It is about musicians being able to graciously pass the torch, and not grasp on to their jobs at all cost.

When you loose your job, it is so easy to point fingers and say that the church has fallen into sin. Nothing has changed. The church is started full of sinners 2000 years ago, and there are still sinners filling the pews. Most churches are doing the best they know how to reach people. Leaders are imperfect, and full of pride. But don't resent them. Don't be offended when you are asked to step down. Do it with grace. Pour into the next generation. If the lack maturity, disciple them.

Music is generational. You can't please everyone with music. Most churches realize they have to make some choices -- some tough choices. That's reality, and it comes with a cost.

Stand tall. Pour into the future. Pass the torch. Re-invent yourself.

Don't be a victim.

July 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictim

Friends,

Lots of collective wisdom stirring around on the comments here.. Thanks for everyone joining in.

I just wanted to put a word of clarity from the article /post itself--

The article is not meant to be fodder in the "worship wars" (aren't those over yet?). I will likely write an article on it in the future to address this, but I think most thoughtful Christians and leaders understand that no musical styles are "canon". We can't argue for a style, and the articles or interviews are not doing that. Whether chants, hymns, folk, rock or rap- music is, quite simply, the tool through which we express our liturgical voice through rhythm, lyrics and melody.

What this blog entry is about - is whether our predilections to something beyond music (an image, perhaps) is required to effectively communicate in that musical space. And whether accommodating those predilections to match a successful pop-music "image" by embodying it in the musical leader of a local church is an acceptable thing to do. Do we create a marketing image with our Sunday morning worship leader in order to attract people?

The reason for doing this article was to point out that this is a practice that churches use. Some believe it is good others don't. I hoped by at least clarifying and bringing up the topic we could discuss it. Thanks for so many of you putting your thoughts and points out there to let us all consider. For some, this is a very personal issue as it has impacted them directly. For others, it is not on their radar.

My hope is that wherever you are on the issue, you could begin a dialog with your leadership team, your pastor and your church. We often hit "hot button" issues in the church and polarize over the topic without ever really talking it through. Discovering and seeking God's heart for your local church together, you may find God surprising you a long the way with a new perspective.

blessings.
Kim Gentes

July 18, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

Thanks for posting this, Kim. Such a dynamic issue facing the church today. From my experience as a 42 year old contemporary worship leader...many churches have become a business and worship leaders have become products that sell and get people to "buy in" to the local church.

Some of my recent experiences in these "mega-churches" and corporate modeled organizations has shown me a shallow leadership more consumed with putting "butts in the seats" (direct quote from a lead pastor) and meeting the bottom line financially. There is little value placed on life transformation through genuine Holy Spirit influence....oh, unless that transformation means more signups to groups, involvement in programs and activities and financial giving.

DB

I know what it's like to be put on the shelf and marginalized by the modern, younger church. I've been working thru my own distaste for corporate church and the commodification of the worship experience. I think we all hunger for the real, the genuine and a deep connection with God. It's always easier to worship people and their talents more than God Himself. Human nature.

Younger people are the next generation of worship leaders and I agree we should always strive to raise up other leaders for the future. I enjoy hanging out with younger guys and learning from them. What I don't appreciate is the entitlement mentality that a lot of young worship leaders have.

To me, the primary issue is churches often choose to follow the world's model for success more than following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Godly discernment. When you have spiritually immature leaders and "executives" running churches, the result is often reckless decisions on staffing that cultivate a shallow and entertainment-oriented consumer Christian environment. Anyone is disposable if they don't bring value to the organization.

I pray God will continue to reveal Himself to us and help us align our hearts with His Spirit.

July 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Bauer

I've been consulting with churches and worship ministries for almost 30 yrs and recently had a church seeking a new Worship Pastor/Leader put in their national ad "we're looking for someone with a rock star attitude and rock star mentality". I believe personally what the church has forgotten in recently days is Who worship is really for - God. It's a simple true statement. When WE start to worry about how we're going to "pay the bills" and "do ministry" by doing the "latest gimmick" or have the "greatest show on earth", and try to please people rather than please God, we've created a HUGE problem. Don't get me wrong: we still need to do things with excellence like scripture says, but we most importantly need to do things with a humble heart.

Recenty I had the opportunity to talk with a group of world-renown worship leaders as well and the consenus was being saddened by the attitude of "give them what they want", rather than "give them what they need". "Age" isn't really the issue-like many have said, maturity is, and when leaders in the church make decisions to please people rather than God, that's when hell literally breaks loose. God doesn't want a show, He wants TRUE worship, from those who are TRULY His, no matter the age.

Are there bold, creative, courageous leaders out there? Yep, there sure is. God has His hand on everything. It's up to us who lead within the church to listen to HIS heart, not ours, and make decisions like this area to "let the church rise". Pray for wisdom, discernment (because the enemy will do everything within his power to get worship from God), and God's heart.

Selah!

July 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBen

I have been involved in music ministry since high school, and I am now 53 yrs old. I toured with several evangelistic music ministries across the US and Central America, and have led well over a thousand people to the Lord. My wife is a much more accomplished musician than I am. She led worship in two churches, where I accompanied her. Music has been a beautiful gift from God to both of us and part of our expression of our love for Him.

We moved to the Pacific Northwest, joined a local church and later became part of their praise team. Within a year, the senior pastor decided that he wanted to reach a younger demographic. We were told we wouldn't be needed as much. This went on for about a year. The music minister, who had been leading for well over a decade, wanted to move into a role outside of music ministry. The pastor decided to go with a young, female worship leader. She began picking her new team... and no one even bothered to tell us we were no longer needed. The previous music minister felt we had been treated poorly and was the one who told us about it after the fact.

My wife and I decided to leave quietly and seek a church home in which we could participate. We auditioned to join another church music team. We were both told that we were fine musicians with an obvious gifting in leading worship, but that the pastor told her that she needed to give preference to the young. I was welcome to play a keyboard, but my wife was too old for this ministry.

My wife is my best friend. I can't do that. Not to her. We didn't go back.

At this juncture in our lives, we're looking for a church that has a choir we can join. We'd like to make friends who share a love of the Lord and to whom God has given music as a way of communicating that love. I try not to think about the damage being done to churches by commodification. It hurts too much. The only thing we've done wrong... is age.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterScott Dakers

Has anybody read Darlene Zschech's book, "The Great Generational Transition"? You can find it here: http://www.darlenezschech.com/cmspage.php?intid=109&intversion=5. My hunch is, she has dealt with this whole issue herself. She has watched all of this unfold in Hillsong Church, and has written a book about it. She also has had to pass the torch on to the young. In fact, Darlene is no longer the key worship leader at Hillsong - as you probably all know. She is now a pastor with her husband Mark in North America. They started a new church. She was once a praise and worship international icon. Those days are history for Darlene now. She is on to new things. And what of Hillsong? They are thriving in the wake of her legacy. I'm not saying everyone has to love Hillsong music. It's just interesting to see this whole issue against that backdrop. If any of you have read the book, I'd love to hear your insight or reflections.

July 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Dahl

Honestly, Ryan, I think you are completely missing the point. No one (at least not me or Ian) is arguing against progression, mentoring and such. The key point is that we do that, instead of just replacing people in an attempt to assuage a sense of cultural relevance. The core, brutal fact is that churches do NOT largely train up mentors as they should (out of a biblical mandate) to pass on God's grace from one generation to another. The core, brutal fact is that too many churches fire older leaders (especially in the music areas) because they want to hire younger ones, not in hopes of passing on a generational blessing, but in hopes of "putting butts in seats" and to take care of budgets.

I am not in any way suggesting this is true of Darlene or any "heros" you might identify. The point is not the exceptional stories where generations are valued, God is honored and mentoring happens. The point is the "everyman/woman" stories that are showing up here on these comments- stories in which hiring and firing has nothing to do with mentoring. It has to do with what Ian has identified as a "A commodified, world imitating church". For every one of the "success" stories you can note (or books or songs written by famous people who have done things well), I can point to 100 (maybe 1000) churches (and their "pastoral" leaders) who have chewed up the old and the young with the goal of fulfilling the financial and corporate needs of the church mechanism.

Ian points to some poignant truths here and ignoring them by saying that it's nobody's fault is the same kind of rhetoric that has been used over the ages to explain away all sorts of evils. Their are people who's job it is to feed the sheep. Jesus said this pointedly when he commissioned Peter in his 3-fold reinstatement. God has called leaders. You can't absolve them by the "crowd" mentality. Too many sins have been shunted away under this guise. Jesus never allowed the mob to be a reason for bad decisions, and he often went against them (when they wanted to make him king in John 6:15, when they called on him to perform miracles in John 6:30, etc) because he was more concerned with the Father's direction than the crowd which was sometimes driven by the agendas of the enemy.

There is "someone" to blame. Yes, as individual's we all have to take stock and live rightly, and bring kingdom principles to the forefront. But the leaders in churches are the ones (according to bible's directives) that will be called to account for the pastoral oversights and decisions made like this. As leaders (most of the articles in my blogs are written for people in some form of leadership), we must take this seriously. We can't give ourselves a "pass" because "it's what the people want". True leadership leads well, even when those who are following don't agree. This is the mark, in fact, of true leadership- to lead others well, when they can't see why they should follow. A leader sees further, sees with vision, to a future in which righteousness, justice and joy become the fruit of a journey based in love.

November 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterKim Gentes

I suppose that whilst 3/4 of the worship leaders in my church are below 30 and only 1/4 is female (which is me) our issue is not so much about the intentional replacing of the older worship leaders with the younger, but more of scrambling to get the young in because the older people seem to be intent on "retiring" (which is a nicer way of saying giving up, but I could be overly critical about it), so it was a little of a surprise to see this being a calculated move in other churches.
Then again, we only have one full-time music leader (who takes care of music related stuff and rostering and does not worship lead) so I suppose it's a different scenario. Excepting this one 20-something-guitar-playing-male, all the rest of the team plays/sings/leads on volunteer basis.

November 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Hey Kim. I just stumbled onto your site and was looking through your topics and of course picked the one on women in worship leading. I really appreciated what Ian had to say about bringing a fresh perspective. It is interesting the position that I have, that I haven't come across more opposition as the head of the Worship Leadership division. However, when I have led or wanted to lead in certain churches I was not allowed to even though I have a Master's in the field and have years of experience leading and teaching on the subject. There are a few key areas that are obviously under attack in the church today and we have succumbed to much of it. Those being: women in leadership, the Holy Spirit, and relevance. These can be quite debilitating on their own, but together, we are in great danger of becoming the "lukewarm" church. Thanks for your thoughts, really appreciated!

January 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Isaac

In watching the videos above I realized so much of what I have been feeling lately is shared by others who are "aging" worship leaders, although I find it amusing that over 30 is considered "aging" in the gospel music world. For the record, I am 49 years young, am what is considered to be a "gifted" musician who can play anything with keys on it and some instruments without keys as well. I play everything from contemporary gospel to hymns (in a more contemporary style) to soul gospel.

I paid the price with eight long years of classical piano and vocal training, and, thanks to my genes (musical family on both sides), have worked many long years on my God-given gift of playing "by ear" as well. For many years I led worship and labored and prayed over the ministry God has given me.

I've listened to many young keyboard players with a "current" sound who basically know how to chord and play an extra note or two now and then. I really enjoy (and also play and write) current music, but in some ways gospel music has been "dumbed down" because everyone wants younger musicians and many of those younger musicians just do not have the skill that comes with time and years of experience.

So here I sit, in an area where God called us to be, with nowhere to exercise my gifts. I have been asked to come to some churches but they are very traditional and my style would not fit. I attended a church that had a band with no keyboard player, but they were all men (ages 30, 22, and 45) and although I can easily play along with them (and have on a couple of special occasions--and it sounded great), I obviously didn't meet their physical criteria for being in their church band.

And yes, as a woman I have been discriminated against over and over. I was bypassed for a worship position for which I was the most qualified applicant because (yes, this was said to me) "I've never seen a woman be an effective worship leader". Yikes.

Please don't get me wrong; I am not bitter. Just perplexed. I'm not ageist against the young. I have two talented teenage sons that are guitarists, and at least one of them has shown an interest in worship leading someday. I've seen the opposite happen with them--we were part of church at one time that wouldn't let them play anything and discouraged my eldest son when he came to praise and worship practice. So I have seen both sides of the coin.

Yes, we all must "pass the torch" at some point, but the truth is that I am just as capable (and in many cases, more) than someone much younger than me. I take care of myself and look younger than my age. I know many wonderfully talented women who are facing the same dilemma --it's a "good ol' boys club" and we just don't fit.

Hopefully these responses will be read by some ministers and they will realize that the church of today is just as important as the church of tomorrow. I think it's important to appeal to all ages, and why not have a regular worship leader and then a youth worship leader for a youth band/choir that reports to the more seasoned leader? Yes, you want to reach as many souls as possible, but God deals with people of all ages. And if, as a previous comment suggested, the church needs money to make ends meet--hmmmm....I don't know any teens and 20 somethings that make enough money to substantially help support a church.

Blessings, Becky

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeckyD

Thank you Ian and Kim. Just to jump in here....I guess Moses, Joshua and Caleb to name a few were just too old to lead the apple of GOD's eye from slavery to freedom to the Promised Land.
I, for one, believe those gray-hairs come with wisdom, understanding, discernment, knowledge, revelation and are not a sign to be retired.
I must add that most of the younger generation seem to have a patent saying, "I know that" which makes it difficult for them to receive what GOD has poured into us older folks.
We have four worship leaders:
18 year old male, started 2009 barely playing drums, now also plays guitar, bass & keyboard
22 year old male, started 2010 barely playing acoustic guitar
32 year old female, started 2010 vocals only?
35 year old male, started 2009 acoustic guitar, keyboard

I will continue to Praise & Worship Him (the Lord) with my drums as long as He wills, then I am able!

Is there a drummer out there willing to teach a soon to be 60 yearer?

Shalom and GOD BLESS YOU ALL,

Joseph AR

August 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJosephAR

I see people throwing out statistics, experiences, and observations, but few actually pulled out a bible verse on the subject of worship.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

http://www.openbible.info/topics/praise_and_worship

There are hundereds of verses in the bible that admonish us to praise God. It doesn't say a lick about age, appearance, in fact in most verses it admonishes all people to come unto him and worship him regardless of their position in life. See that's the great thing about God's love, he doesn't care what you have done, what you look like, how you smell, or if you have committed terrible acts, he loves each and every single one of us where we are at any given moment in our lives. Truly, if we ask God in prayer and submit ourselves to his will, we'll find ourselves in positions and places we never dreamed of. Yes, there is a problem in the Church. Anytime a pastor favors supplemental readings over the actual word of God, there is a problem, because the pastor is scared that people will be afraid of what the Bible says. If you don't like what's in the Bible, then why are you leading a church?

Ultimately, when I enter a church, as a younger person, if I see someone who is older and loving it's something I have to look forward to when I become that age. That I could love Jesus as much as the older person, that I can ask them about their relationship with Christ, and that I can develop my relationship with Christ on a deeper level.

I go to concerts to be entertained but worship should be something different for me, I don't like worshipping in the dark. Didn't Jesus say in John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." I feel weird about worshipping in the dark. Why does that seem to happen quite a bit when I go to church? You don't have to turn off the lights to watch television, why does it have to be like a concert?

Also, some of the songs we sing at church don't really seem to be worship songs. Looking back over the list of psalms and other verses I linked earlier, it seems that what's in those verses doesn't seem to be reflected in the songs we sing at church, or at least the songs at the churches I've attended. It seems like it's more like Damien Rice writing christian themed music, or Mumford and Sons writing Christian themes, but not really worship music. Don't get me wrong, I like Mumford and Sons and Damien Rice, but when I'm in worship service and we're singing a song that is well kind of lame, I don't feel connected to God. It sounds good I guess, but it's not something I feel I can sing along with, like what's in the psalms.

I guess it's cool that there's tons of churches popping up here and there, but none of them seem to want me to get to know Jesus, it's more of a club of people who are Christians that end up being clickish and exclusive.

As a young person, cool, I can dress up and look for a guy to date, but that's about where it starts and ends for me.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterR.M

I am 34 yrs. old. I've been thinking about this for the last few years.

I think we forget the influence of outsiders on this. First, worship music used to be a completely separate part of Christian culture, with it's own record labels, etc. Sometime in the late 90s/early 2000s, the majors bought and exploited the Christian record industry. It became inspirational music, and you no longer had to go to a Christian bookstore to buy it. Pretty soon, all contemporary and modern Christian artists started doing worship songs, which became hits. Commercialization and exploitation of something holy like worship.(Yes, I said holy, because if there is ONE THING we should all defend, it is the corporate communion we have with Jesus in our worship gatherings, and the songs we sing to Him).

In addition to that branch, in the late 90s/early 2000s, we also saw pastors, frustrated by the fact that not everyone gets to become a culture-influencer who is viewed as the top of their field, start doing anything and everything to fill a sanctuary. A Pastor is a shepherd whose number one motivation is caring for sheep. The Bible draws clear divisions between Pastor/Teachers and Prophets, Evangelists, and Apostles. We just called them all Pastors and threw them into a Pastoral role. So instead of being Godly men and women whose motivation was to care for people, we asked them to be CEOs, missionaries, cultural pundits, and politicians. It didn't work, and many Pastors who have that gift left the ministry feeling like failures for doing what they were supposed to do: care for people. The Pastors of today need to be charismatic, entrepreneurial, missional, media-savvy, and winsome. They need to preach like John MacArthur, manage like Maxwell, and inspire like Bono. So, they bring those kinds of mindsets to their roles.

So, we are left with a culture of church that demands young, sexy worship leaders and absolute conformity. This is because of the millenials. In the late 90s, secular musical tastes changed from the raw honesty of grunge and punk to Britney Spears and nSync. Sexy, ultra produced bubblegum for a generation that rejected the anti-conformity of the late GenXers. So, all of a sudden, for the first time in a decade, you had 17 year old millionaires on MTV singing to computer-generated pop. Malls were full of fashionable, clean-cut young people, and the brooding and honesty of the previous few years was wiped away. Millenials acted similarly to their baby boomer grandparents. They believed in the conformity of culture. They frowned upon differences between them and longed to paint the world with the same brush. They didn't get into destructive addictions, they partied and blissfully ignored the consequences, just like their grandparents did.

The Boomers never intended to grow old. They intended to die young or live forever. Their children(Gen X, now in the 32-55 age range) were truly a "lost" generation. The 18-30s of today are the ones inheriting their legacy. This is not ageism, this is a selfish generation that destroyed the culture in the 60s who decided to hang on to power for as long as they possibly could. They see themselves in these young Millenials and are therefore happy to hand over their spots. I rarely ever hear of Pastors in their 30s or 40s. It's either 60s-70s or 20s. Think about it.

And these Millenials are the ones who the boomers are turning the reins over to. Not the Gen-X folks. We are not truly their descendents. We sound and look different than they do. We were useful idiots for them and are now easily discarded. We will end up having niche culture center churches where we find each other, and as we get older, we will be the stereotypical church full of blue-hairs. But make no mistake, this handoff is happening.

I see another change, echoing what someone else posted above. The worship service as outreach is, I think, a result of the growing influence of reformed non-charismatics in worship media. If we're downplaying intimacy with God and worship being vertical, what are we doing then? We're playing U2 songs(baby boomer influence), and nobody dresses up for church anymore, and we don't ask people for money, or talk about issues of Christian morality. We give people life coaching and tips on better living. We tell people to have more sex with their spouses(not a bad thing, but I hate when it's a gimmick). We make church 60-70 minutes long. We overlook obvious blatant sin, and use words like judgmental to talk about other believers and churches. OR, we go the exact obvious direction and start fights with people. We pick theological arguments with other well-meaning believers. Basically, we become Pharisees or Saducees instead of disciples of Jesus who walk with Him in intimacy, humility, reverence, and love.

And the saducees have big big churches. They like young, sexy, good looking people who are really entertaining, funny, and talented. They like watching the good-lookings make cute babies and try to crash instagram with pictures of them. The pharisees have a few big churches and a lot of small ones. They only care "who is on the Lord's side". They think their job is to teach and mentor everyone.

The Saducees have money and the Pharisees have purity. But neither has the authentic.

I say all of that to say something I've learned from these two generations as an encouragement: Maybe if you can't fit in their game, you should believe enough in what God has put in you and what He has called you to to completely buck the system and start new ministries. Don't play or pay into the system anymore. Do your ministry the way God called you to do it, and if there is no conventional venue to do it in, have the cojones to invest in starting one. Let them play their game and do what they want. Christianity is not meant to flow in the same direction as culture, it is meant to be a counter-culture. Jesus calls His true disciples OUT of the dying world and INTO being agents for His Kingdom. One day, trends, fads, and flavors of the moment will be permanently be wiped off of this Earth by Jesus, and in their place will be HIS UNSHAKABLE AND UNCHANGING KINGDOM. We will all joyfully sing the same songs together regardless of age. We will worship Him intimately and know Him fully. In the meantime, we are called to be counter-cultural agents tearing down the trappings of this world, and bringing people into alignment with Jesus' Kingdom.

If they reject you from the groupthink of this era, be part of the larger church somewhere else. Don't depend on someone else for a job, go out there and do what you have to to eek out a living. Make tents, and pour all the money into building ministry structures they cant marginalize you out of. You don't need to be accepted into the "cool kids" club. You need to reject them and marginalize them by rising up and doing the ministry Jesus called you to in DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE to the whims of culture. Don't reject the church global. Just reject the existing ecclesial structures and do something different. Identify with the church, start or join good local churches, and make sure snobby 20-somethings know their rejection means nothing. Then in 5-10 years, we'll all be there to help them fix the mistakes and painful hurts they incur by the unforgiving and difficult journey of ministry.

Bit of a rant, I know. Lots of stuff rattling around in there.

July 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Morris

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