Music Ministry as Music Education

Are you a music minister? A worship leader? A “song leader”? A Pastor of Creative Arts? A _________(fill in the blank for your title of the main music pastor of a church)?

If so…I hope you’re ready. I hope you are gearing up for the next wave of music ministry. Not only will you be responsible for all creative aspects of your church’s worship services (be it music, choir, bands, praise teams, drama, creative movement, lights, video, sound, etc.), but my prediction is that you will soon become your community’s only music educator. Did you hear that? The weight of any future in anything musical will soon become heavy upon music ministers.

This won’t happen tomorrow…or next month…and for some communities where the arts are of higher priority, maybe it won’t happen for years, maybe decades. But it is coming.

Before I tell you why I think it is coming, let me recite some stats for you.

Did you know that when children study music in school, they also improve their reading, spelling, and math skills? Music also increases a student’s learning capability in many other areas.
– in recent reports, students taking music courses scored an average of 20 to 40 points higher on both verbal and math portions of the SAT than students who took no arts courses
– moreover, students who took more than four years of music and the other arts scored 34 points better on the verbal section of the SAT than those who took less than a year
– Students who participate in their school band or orchestra are 52% more likely to go on to college and graduate – many on scholarship
– A recent Rockefeller Foundation study discovered that music students have the highest rate of admittance to medical schools.
The facts are clear: Children who study music are more successful students.

However, school systems do not generally seem to see this. With the current economic situation, “specialty” teachers are being dismissed from school districts. It includes higher language arts (foreign languages), visual arts, and performance arts (music, drama, etc.) One high school in Georgia is losing an art teacher with a Doctorate and over 35 years experience in THAT school alone to retirement…not replacing the position, just dropping the program altogether. One school in South Carolina is dropping its orchestra program – and this in a big city, not a small community! The country’s economy is forcing schools to make the hard decisions…learn to count and read…or learn to play an instrument and experience group camaraderie at its best.

Honestly, I don’t blame them too much. I can’t argue with their logic. I mean, even putting a sports program on the chopping block instead of a music program…that seriously cuts a source of revenue. So I’m not too surprised. However…how will the gap in music education be overcome? How will students of all ages ever learn the arts? Just wait until college to start? I don’t think so.

I think Music Ministers will have to pick up the mantle of Music Education. Not only within the four walls of the church (children’s choirs, youth bands, handbells, afterschool music academies, etc.)…but I think Music Ministers will have to get outside the walls of the church.

Here’s a crazy idea…when your local school is cutting their band program because they can’t afford to pay the teacher…could you step in and say, “I’ll teach it. I’ll do it for free.” Would your church leadership even let you do that? Could you teach an elementary school music class?

I’m not lifting myself up as an example…I haven’t gotten involved like I should…but I did have this happen to me one year in Texas. The local high school had to fire their band director about a month before school was to start for some “indiscrepancies”. They found a somewhat local college band director to take over the band program that year, but he could only do the band class…not the other music classes. The principal of the school, a member of my church, had a crazy idea. He came to me, his music minister, and asked if I could teach an Advanced Placement Music Theory class and an Instrumental Ensemble Class. With the church’s approval, I taught two classes for that year.

Yes…it was a tought schedule to keep. Yes…I had some rough students to deal with. But I also had successes. The ones of my Music Theory class that took the AP exam passed it. One of them went on to clep her first year of music theory at college…majoring in music (and she couldn’t even read notes or rhythms at the beginning of that theory class!).

What about you? Can you take the light of Christ into your local school system by offering to teach a program that might otherwise be cancelled? Is this the future of Music Ministry? how else will the next generation of artist be found, trained, exposed, set loose? What’s your role?

(disclaimer: I truly honor you as a music educator. I am not promoting your dismissal so I can have your job without pay. I am simply stating what you must admit is a realistic fear…that your job as a music educator will most likely be eliminated. It is a terrible need that we continue music education…this post may be an option we find necessary in the future. You have my utmost respect for what you deal with day in and day out and I will honor you any way I can.)

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