Teenagers in music ministry?
This is a widely debated topic amongst music directors and liturgists. Most often, the answer to the opening question is a resonant “No”. Overall, I have found that the music community in most parishes is closed to teenagers. I think this is unhealthy, and actually opposes what the mission of the church is. In Matthew 28:19 we hear Jesus say…”Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. The Lord called us to make disciples, so lets look at the word. To be a disciple means to be a follower of a teacher or leader. Who is the head of the church? Christ. As pastoral musicians then, aren’t we called to be a disciple of Christ, and further… by the instruction in Matthew called to “make disciples”? I’m no bible scholar, but this seems pretty clear and straightforward. Discipleship starts within our parishes.
Here are three myths about teen musicians, and three observations from me in working with young disciples within music ministry…
Myth #1 – “Teens aren’t able to deliver ‘quality’ musicianship”
Here’s the truth – The average teenager in a parish has more time to practice their instrument than the adult volunteers already serving in music ministry, and they do so. The teens I have interacted and worked with spend hours a week noodling on their guitars, drums and pianos. Need more proof? Go checkout the Christmas concert of the high school in your town this December. The will likely be playing college level charts, and you will find the musicianship to be a very high quality.
Myth #2 – “Teens are unreliable”
Truth told – Teenagers are (usually) over scheduled during the week, but I would argue that they are reliable. Today, young people are pushing and competing for academic placement, as well as competing in their sporting and arts programs in hopes of great college choices and/or scholarship dollars. Throw in family activities, chores, and after school jobs, and yes…they have a LOT going on. The golden ticket for success at my parish has been a rehearsal on Sunday afternoons. This is NOT ideal for me as a music director, but it works to meet the needs of the teens, as well as my adult volunteers. My job isn’t to make my life easy, my job is to make ministry accessible to the people God has called there so that they can serve the Kingdom. It is also my job to pour into people and help people develop their gifts. Find what works for your teens, in your community, and set them up for success.
Myth #3 – “Teens want rock and roll music in the church”
Complete nonsense. Know what teens do want? They want music that speaks to them in the church. They want quality and excellence in music. I haven’t met a teen yet that has suggested a secular rock or metal tune for use at mass or in a worship setting.
What has your experience been working with teen musicians? What is working? What hasn’t worked well?