I received a question last week from a worship leader in his 40’s who is taking my Fundamentals of Worship Leadership course. I passed this intriguing and important question along to those in my Coaching Network to get their feedback. Below is the thread of the discussion. Please add your own comments and keep the discussion going! –Dwayne
Question from Tom:
Dear Dwayne, I would like your view on how you feel about the issue of worship leaders being over 40 or 50 years of age and leading worship? I am certainly at that point and I get the feeling that older worship leaders/musicians with experience are not looked upon as desirable at times or they are to be avoided. A youthful look and emphasis on contemporary rock orientated music in worship is preferred by many pastors who want to grow their churches. I see this even when the church congregations are blended, multicultural or multi-generational and where in my humble opinion using one style of worship music does not meet different people where they are at. I also observe what you have described as “leaders leading songs” and not really being anointed in bringing spirit filled worship services to their congregations. I have been playing keyboards in worship teams, singing and leading at times for many years and have many great influences in all styles of music in areas of gospel, southern gospel, CCM, traditional, rock, jazz, etc. Unfortunately, I feel that experience is not of much value at times as I am led to feel that I am a dying breed and I am supposed to remain in my box and just play what I am told or sound just like the record. I suppose it depends on the spirit of the church or in which direction an individual pastor wants to take. In spite of this frustration I will continue to wait on the Lord as to where he will lead me. In the meantime, I am striving to learn about the deeper aspects of worshipleading since I feel this is an area of weakness for me and I am certainly growing in this from your webinar sessions. I welcome your comments on this topic since this has been on my mind quite a bit lately.
Response from Suzanne (in our Coaching Network):
Hiring a worship leader with spiritual maturity, sharply honed people skills, and seasoned musical experience can be a wonderful asset to growing a church. Many older worship leaders fit this description. There is a church in town that will not allow anyone to be on their worship team who is above the age of thirty-five. What a loss. We can multiply the prejudice if one is over forty or fifty or female or black. Our nation has noted experience with overcoming prejudice so we have a vast wealth of information on how to thrive in spite of unwarranted or incorrect opinions. Lead with your strengths. Find what is needed. Do what is honored by God. Never give up being the best example of excellence that you can be in your spiritual life and music ministry.
It is probable that young pastors have some negative opinions towards older worship leaders. Turned around, is it possible that we as older worship leaders have negative opinions towards younger pastors? I do not hold it against a young pastor for wanting a young, christian rock worship team. But is there a place for the older worship leader?
Youth are attracted to younger and more contemporary worship bands. A church with an excellent contemporary rock band will likely be experiencing growth. As we become older, one of our main responsibilities is to raise up young worship leaders dedicated to seeking God in Spirit and in Truth. There is a need for someone older to oversee younger worship teams teaching them to guard against becoming performance-oriented or offering unacceptable worship to the Lord. Remember the transporting of the Ark of the Covenant – there is a right way and a dangerously wrong way to lead worship in our churches. Frighteningly, there are some worship leaders who are more focused on charisma and sound then they are on worshiping God.
What might an older worship leader bring to the table? An older and more experienced leader will challenge individual team members both musically and spiritually to bring their best to God’s table. In keeping with God-honoring principles, the older are to help guide the younger believers and musicians. With age comes: more experience communicating with people, more wisdom, God honored spiritual maturity, more musical experience, better organizational skills, more team leading experience, more reasons to step aside and watch a team member thrive in developing his/her leading skills, a different perspective of time, more battles fought in life resulting in deeper understanding of the circumstances of the people in the congregation. Greater leadership roles fell on great leaders in the Bible when those leaders continued to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, no matter what battles raged around them. We must do the same wherever we are planted.
Anytime age restrictions are placed on worship ministries it misrepresents the body of Christ. I think it’s OK–maybe even wise–to restrict the ages of the main singers and leaders on stage in certain strategic services designed to reach a younger target group. However, to not allow older people to participate in any way ever on stage makes the statement that older folk aren’t acknowledged or needed.
Response from Dwayne:
Building on what Suzanne wrote, I want to encourage Tom to see himself more as a coach than as a quarterback. I believe this model of worship leading is more in line with Scripture and more in tune with today’s culture and needs. You don’t see many 50 year-old quarterbacks playing on the field, but 50+ coaches overseeing those quarterbacks and players are in high demand because of the wealth of mature leadership, experience and knowledge they can bring to the team.
On that note, one of my biggest motivations to writing articles for Pastors.com is to help educate pastors about this coaching model. Pastors have got to see the importance and value of older leaders and the need of coaching and mentoring younger worship leaders.
Bottom line for Tom and all of us is to a) stay faithful to God and his church, b) keep growing as leaders and servants, c) keep sharpening our skills as musicians, d) stay fresh and relevant, e) never stop pouring our lives into others, and above all, e) trust God to place us and use us for as many years as we have strength and breath!
The only one who can put us on a shelf is ourselves…