As church musicians, we understand the necessity of training young people not only in music generally but in church music specifically. With all the talk of a lack of young church musicians, how do we begin to recruit the children in our own churches?
Some churches have gaggles of kids running around while some churches have an average attendee age of 75. A church musician’s job is not to grow the size of the congregation (although there are certainly ways we could assist in that task), but we are in a perfect position to recruit the next generation of church musicians, no matter how many kids there are in our congregation.
Expose Kids to Good Music
Typically the first experience that piques a child’s interest in becoming a musician is hearing good music. If we, as church musicians, can provide that experience every week in church, there is a chance that the children of the congregation will want to participate in that music-making. And as one of our tasks includes directing a children’s choir, we can encourage the participants to further pursue music if we provide them with a good experience in that setting.
Be Prepared to Give Recommendations
Because you are the church musician, you will find many people of the congregation coming to you for recommendations and advice about teachers and instruments. Be sure to know your community and the best teachers therein. Be ready to advise those who come to you in the most knowledgeable way possible. At the very least, have a list of people to send them to if you cannot answer their questions yourself.
Some children beg to take piano lessons or to play the violin or the trumpet. But some children enjoy music without speaking up about any desire to be musicians themselves. Parents are essential to encouraging children to take lessons and keep practicing. I have never met someone who does not regret quitting their music lessons when they were a child. Adults often express disappointment that their parents let them quit. So parents, be tough!
Yes, music lessons are expensive. As church musicians, we can take the time to plan group classes for the youth of the congregation. We can use our role as choir director to teach children about music even if they can’t afford lessons. Additionally, it would be wise to encourage parents to budget for music lessons for their children. Often the money is there if one is willing to spend it wisely.
Much of the above becomes extremely difficult to accomplish without a good relationship between the church musician and the congregation. Take time to get to know the people of your congregation and to goof around with the kids. When you are generally known and liked, people are more likely to listen to your advice and encouragement. When people see the joy that music brings to you, they are more eager to pursue music as well. Even if you are not very outgoing, rest assured that people appreciate love and humility more than charm and wit. Simply sharing the love of Christ in whatever way you can will win others over to listen to what you have to say.
And when people listen to what you have to say, they will hear the importance of music in the church. When they hear the essential nature of music in sharing the Gospel, they will be eager to participate and to encourage their children to participate.