I have no real musical training. Except for singing in the high school chorus and girls ensemble, I can’t even read music.
So why would I take on the challenge of developing a praise band for my youth ministry? Because I’m crazy? Possibly…
For those of you who feel youth praise band challenged, try this method:
1. Make a list of talented youth in your group while praying that God will reveal them to you. Do you know who takes piano lessons? How about someone who sings in the school chorus? Are some of the kids in the band at school? Maybe you’ve stood next to a beautiful singer in worship?
2. Talk it up with your youth. Generate interest for a praise band. Take the youth to hear other bands. Invite those who may want to be involved, even if they don’t have any musical training. Do they… Like music? To sing in the shower? Tap their pencil in class? Dream of playing guitar?
3. Seek out someone who can read music and relate well with teens. This can be a mature high school student or someone else in your church or community.
4. Audition the youth. This is not necessarily for weeding out. It can be, but you should let them know if it is. I used it to assess their comfort level with praising God publicly. At one of our auditions, one girl’s voice was very “uncertain” (I can’t read music but I do have ears!). However, her heart for worship was another thing! After becoming a part of the band, her enthusiasm for praising God became a passion and incited her to ask our music minister for private voice lessons. She was one of the best vocalists in the band by the time she graduated.
5. Gather the students together. Begin with a devotion using praise Scripture. Have a brainstorming session that allows them to give feedback regarding songs they’d like to learn, positions they’d like to fill (singer, guitarist, bass player, violinist, keyboardist, drummer, etc.), and ideas for other students who might be interested in participating. Encourage students to speak with their parents about taking private instrumental lessons.
6. Obtain appropriate music and licensing. It is important to pay attention to copyright laws. Lyrics and music are the property of authors and musicians. For information on obtaining a license to download music and display lyrics, contact http://www.ccli.com. They have a list of top 25 songs as well as the ability to copy and share recordings, lyrics sheets and cord sheets.
7. Rehearse. Begin with devotions at each rehearsal, focusing often on the reason we worship. Assign devotions to band members on a rotational basis, emphasizing worshipful hearts rather than theology or “performance”. The performance mentality focuses on the musicians instead of Who we worship.
8. Rehearse some more. 1.5 – 3 hours a week is a minimum. Many of our rehearsals were epic fails- poor timing, students acting as though they were soloists, two steps forward and three back. But God taught us all about his steadfastness through our faith as time and again worship touched hearts and lives.
9. Don’t take things too seriously. Whenever I did, the youth helped to lighten things up. They laughed at me when I attempted to imitate their nasally sounds, their lack of annunciation and their bored looking faces; they made up their own musical terms like “naked” for acapella and never panicked when we had an off-site worship experience and forgot most of our sound equipment!
10. Always be a step ahead. When some band members begin their junior year, or you anticipate that a
member will be moving or leaving soon (and it takes time to train musicians), repeat Step 1.
Our Praise Band soon adapted to leading worship off-site at our retreats and mission trips as well as in the community at assisted living facilities and children’s homes. And we were able to maintain a 15-year ongoing youth praise band in the ministry that I served.
As the youth musicians improved, birthday and Christmas gifts from their families became new instruments, and they gifted their “old” instruments to the praise band, thereby continuing the legacy and enabling potential new band members to practice before making an expensive purchase.
So, what are you waiting for? Get crazy! Start praying and making your list of youth today!
Kathy Rexroad is the Coaching Coordinator for the Youth Ministry Institute. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing in 1975 from West Virginia University. While serving as volunteer nursery coordinator at an Orlando area church, Kathy felt God’s call into a life of ministry. While serving for over 25 years at that church, she “grew up” with the children she served and became their youth minister. As the church’s longest tenured staff member, she received the unique blessing of watching some of her former youth alumni respond to their call to ministry and others return to their church home as godly spouses and parents. In December 2010, Kathy retired from her ministry to serve her family that included four new grand babies, with her husband, Gregg. In September 2012, she was hired as the Coaching Coordinator for the Youth Ministry Institute. In addition, Kathy coaches, leads a small group, serves as a Youth Ministry Assessor and board secretary, and teaches Student Leadership.