If you're a worship leader, you know the struggle.
It's not a new struggle. As long as the church has been in existence, people have fought over music.
In the Reformation days, Martin Luther was accused of bringing secular tunes into the church.
In 1540 John Calvin stated that only the Old Testament Psalms sung in a metrical rhythm were appropriate for corporate worship. This caused quite a stir of controversy between Calvin's followers and Luther's.
Gregorian chants were criticized when vocal harmonies were introduced.
David & Dale Garrett were some of the first to use drums and guitars in worship back in the 1960s. You probably know the criticism that they received.
Fast forward to the present day: If you lead worship in a multigenerational church, you know the worship wars.
If you cater to the older folks, the young don't connect. If you cater to the young, the older people don't connect. It's a vicious cycle. But I'm wondering, are there ways to be progressive and modern in a way that most people can connect?
Of course, it's not possible to please everyone, but if you lead a multigenerational church it's your responsibility to find a place for different types of people to connect.
If people aren't singing, engaging, connecting on a regular basis, we're doing something wrong. Let's take an objective look at our worship planning.
Here are a few tips for leading modern worship in a multigenerational church:
6 Tips for Leading Modern Worship (for those who kind of hate it)
1. Allow your worship sets to breathe. A lot of worship leaders don't take into consideration how their worship sets feel from beginning to end. They don't put themselves "in the seats" so to speak, and experience the music as an attendee. Your worship songs can't just be a list of your favorite songs. You're an artist. What you love may not serve the average person and that's the goal of choosing songs—to serve people in their pursuit of God.
Doing three Young & Free songs back-to-back may be great for a youth event but in your church it's probably a bit overkill. Back-to-back-to-back songs with pounding bass and driving guitars is a lot for anyone to handle. So allow your sets to breathe. Utilize space. If you're going to go loud, balance it with a softer, older song. Realize there's people who have a tough time with modern songs. Create some space.
2. Dig for great old songs and hymns. When I was a kid, I thought hymns were lame. But I don't get that sense anymore from the younger generation. I feel that this generation is hungry for good theology, depth, and something real. If a hymn feels real and honest, they will connect.
I feel like most of our song choosing efforts are spent looking forward to the latest Hillsong & Matt Redman release. But what if we looked back and started mining for gold in the hymns of history? Zac Hicks has some great resources from our podcast interview. Old songs can connect if they are believable and sung in way that is believable.
3. Communicate the "why." Why do we really gather together? If this question isn't answered in people's minds they will resort to becoming consumers. And if the music doesn't suit their tastes, they'll find somewhere that does. But if people know that we are gathering around the cross of Christ to remember, to worship, to give our lives, and to be sent out, there just isn't time to complain about music. Don't make the music an entertainment spectacle. Use it as a reminder of the vision.
4. Lead with compassion. When you look out from the stage, what do you see? Is it adoring fans or people in need of God's presence? I know when I made the switch from performing for people on stage to seeing their need, hearing their stories, and leading with brokenhearted compassion, my leadership changed. I began to connect more. The church began to worship more. It wasn't, "Oh, there's the kid rocking out on stage." It became, "He cares about us and cares about this moment glorifying Jesus."
5. Lead with passion. Passion connects with passion. They may not love your music (which is OK) but a healthy follower of Jesus will worship anyway. They will find the common ground of passion for Jesus.
Don't just sing songs or pour your energies into being cool. Invest your life into knowing God. That right there is your greatest asset as a multigenerational worship leader.
6. Cast vision. I feel a great thing to do is to have your pastor cast vision for the sound and production direction in your church. Why do we do the music we do? Why is the volume as loud as it is? Why do we use this haze, lights, & video? When grandparents realize that the leaders of the church are making stylistic choices in order to reach their grandchildren, they'll have more buy-in.
The problem is we don't cast the vision. We don't love them through the process of change. They just feel like it's not their church anymore. But we need to take them by the hand and lead them into the future.
I'd love to hear how you become more progressive without alienating people?
Have you tried anything that has worked?
David Santistevan is the worship pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. For the original article, visit davidsantistevan.com.
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