In my travels over the last few years, I’m hearing more and more stories and complaints, some coming from very close friends, about older musicians (40 and up), who are getting shunned/ignored from participating in church worship teams. Many churches now, are adapting new/trendy methods to do their worship each week, hoping to appeal to a younger audience, including making sure the ones who sing/play on the stage, fit their image criteria. Unfortunately, many skilled and committed musicians who don’t fit the mold are being thrown aside. Many musicians who have been serving in their local church for many years, or who are newly saved, feel like they have no place to use their God given gifts in the church that God has led them to, because the leadership in the worship team wants younger people. As much as I enjoy a lot of the new songs coming from streams with younger age worship teams, we as the church are making a great mistake in ignoring the older/seasoned musicians, who have a heart to serve with their music gift. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that not every musician/singer is as good as they say they are, LOL, or many older, less-skilled musicians find it difficult to play a lot of the new worship songs, but there is definitely a right and a wrong process in which we choose musicians to serve on our church worship teams. Believe me, I am super picky about the musicians who accompany me, and over the years where I have served seasons in leadership at a local church leading and being in charge of the entire worship team, I know I have hurt and wounded some along the way because they didn't fit my personal preferences or didn't meet my criteria of skill, because of my (selfish) pursuit of excellence. I can look back now at the age of sixty, and see where I DID NOT always do the right thing, and left someone out who God could have used to help usher His presence in. I won’t be able to hit the undo or the redo button now and fix that; it just doesn't work that way.
Back in the 80’s, I worked in the audio department at a very large TV ministry. In fact, at one time, it was probably the largest TV ministry of its type in the world. The show consisted of a format like a late night talk show, with guests, who were interviewed, plus a full, (very professional) orchestra with a group of six to eight very skilled singers who sang special songs together between the guest interviews. During my time there, I served many, many well-known guests during that 80’s era, making sure all their audio needs were met before they sang or gave their testimony on the show. The process and criteria in which this ministry chose their singers and musicians, was very thorough and super picky. One of the main priorities they made sure of, no matter how talented the applicant was, was that their image/looks before the TV audience, especially the singers, fit their criteria, even more so than the band members. During the time that I was employed for this ministry and served as the Audio Floor Director, BB & CC Winan of the famous Winans Family, were asked to come join the team and be singers on the weekly show. (They were only like 17 and 18 years old when they arrived.) Of course, they went on to achieve great success in Christian music, and also sang backups for many secular artists. There was also another young and amazing singer who applied for a job there too. Her name is Sandy Patti. Sandi was turned down, because at that time, she wasn't slim and trim and just didn't fit the image they wanted for their show. Of course, if you know who Sandy Patti is, you know that she went on to achieve great success as a well known Christian solo singer all through the 80’s and 90’s, filling up large auditoriums every where she performed. Her songs have been sung all around the world.
(Note: I am not telling this story to be negative about this ministry. I look back at that 4.5 year season in my life working for one of the largest TV ministries that has ever been, as a gift from God and a learning and growing place where I grew in Godly character. I learned how to serve people, and was trained to do what I am doing today.)
I am thankful that God does not look at our age and disqualify us when our hair starts falling out, our skin wrinkles, we become overweight, or we aren’t dressed up in the latest styles. I am reminded of Abraham, Moses, and many others in the Bible that God used very powerfully when they were way up in age, to do great, great things. We must as young visionary leaders, reevaluate the way we chose and not chose those in our churches to fill positions, who may be older, less skilled, but have a heart to serve in different capacities. There are many musicians who long to use their musical gift in our worship teams, become part of the sound crew, or who have skills to assist with the media ministry. The bottom line is, it’s not about us, or our personal preferences, it’s about building the Kingdom of God together. Any church/ministry that stifles the gifts in people is building their own kingdom and seeking their own agenda, and NOT furthering the Kingdom of God. Maybe some of those who sing and play their instruments in your worship team aren’t as skilled as you would like them to be, and your worship team band doesn't sound as tight or professional as you would like, but you are making people come alive when you open doors for them to use their musical gifts to minister. (Even if you have do deal with a little ego at times, LOL!) I love pursuing excellence in everything I do, and I teach and instruct other musicians/singers to sharpen their music skills as much as they can, but the church needs to stop throwing aside those that God sends us who are servants, mentors, and even Fathers to younger musicians. The kingdom of God is filled with all ages and all colors; let’s purpose to hear God’s heart and release people with their gifts, young and old. Let’s build His kingdom together, even if we don’t all wear skinny jeans. :)