How can we handle the situation where we have a youthful worship team that likes different music than our elders, who prefer more traditional music?
From Elaine Martal serving in the Philippines
QUESTION: How to cope?
“How can we cope with a very traditional type of church where our worship team is all youth with different preferences on choosing the type of music, while our congregation is composed of mostly elders who often don’t like to learn new songs and always want to sing hymns, which some of the church members cannot cope with?”
This question could be interpreted in a couple of ways. I don’t think this is just a generational issue where the older people want to sing their songs and the younger people want to sing their songs. This type of question often indicates that there is a deeper issue, either with establishing a solid foundation for the specific church, or with us as the worship leaders submitting to serve our senior pastor or leadership.
Our worship music and program should always serve the purposes of the church and the philosophy of the senior pastor or church leadership. Worship is not an effective Band-Aid, covering the very real problems related to church health. When we try to use worship in that way, we get stretched, and eventually break. New wineskins are needed to hold new wine. As worship leaders, if we are trying to pour new wine into an old wineskin, it will cause a split. It just isn’t productive. See Matthew 9:17 or Mark 2:22.
The real solution is not in the song selection, or in the styles of music we choose to sing. The solution lies in the decisions made by the senior pastor or church leadership. These are strategic issues at the highest level. What we need to know as the worship leader is their answer to the questions, “Why does our church exist?” and, “Who are we trying to reach?” If we try to change the music without knowing those answers or without the leadership changing the foundational structure and vision of a specific church, we inevitably will find ourselves at a dead end, holding empty, ruined wineskins.
I have a few suggestions for those who find themselves in this situation. First, be sure to ask for direction from your senior leadership. Find out their answers to the questions above. Second, be sure to pray continually for your senior leadership. Third, use the music to encourage your church rather than to change your church. Encourage the congregation to pray for and love one another.
Include the younger members of your church in leading the music. Teach the vision of the church as established by the senior leadership. Until the leadership decides to put on new wineskins, encourage the younger of heart to serve within the old wineskin. 1 Corinthians 14 instructs us to do all things for the edification of the entire body.
Teach that worship is more than music. It includes the four principles that I outlined in The Worship Answer Book. Biblical worship …
- Must be done in love. 1 Corinthians 13
- Is always accompanied by humility and reverent fear. Isaiah 66:2
- Is commanded by God. Luke 10:27
- Involves surrendering our entire lives as an offering to God. Romans 12:1
In closing, there is a huge difference between a worship service and a worship serve-us. The maturing believer will come to see church not as a place to have his or her own needs met, but as a place to serve the body of Christ. The music we choose to lead the congregation is not the tool to be used to transition the church from older to younger generations. It should serve the entire body, and be in line with the philosophy of ministry of the senior pastor.
Whatever you do in this situation, I encourage you to love. James 4 teaches us that we won’t gain anything through arguing and division. Instead, we should check the motives of our own hearts and pray. I particularly like the version in The Message: The motive of our heart should be “may God’s will be done” in our church. It is His church and we should pray for our leaders that God’s will be done.