Where are the music ministers? Where are the creative-types that lead us each and every Sunday to the throne of grace? Where are coming from? Where have they gone? The answer: no one knows.
As an interim pastor and frequent guest speaker in churches, I serve alongside all sorts of worship leaders. Very few are full-time staff members; most are part-time, cross-vocational servant-leaders pulling two or three jobs to forge a living. In smaller churches, you mostly have faithful volunteers with little or no musical training but who have a desire to serve God.
I love them all. I love their heart. I love their willingness to get up there and lead people who often look like marble statues with frowny faces :(. I love when they partner with me as the teacher/preacher to make the entire service meaningful.
But their kind are going extinct. They are dying away. And the younger generation are not moving up to fill their spots. It seems that the younger generation could care less.
Why is this happening? Let me suggest a few possible reasons.
First, in our day and time theology is king and the teaching/preaching ministry of the church has become exalted as the highest order of church-based ministry. While there is no doubt theology is critical in our culture with rampant pluralism, relativistic secularization, and a large segment of our population who are biblically illiterate, but does that mean the preaching and teaching ministry must command the majority of our worship time? I would offer that most of our deeply held theological roots come not from sermons, but from songs. (I’ve written on when pastors were the hymn writers.)
Another reason is perceived value. As pastor/theologians view their role as the most essential for church health and spiritual growth, other ministry platforms are viewed as less valuable or subsequently inferior. I wouldn’t say they are viewed as insufficient, but their value is not essential. The common notion among many preaching pastors today is that as long as the teaching/preaching ministry is good, strong and biblically faithful, then other sectors of ministry will, by proxy, succeed. I am not sure I agree with that conclusion.
A third reason is that it hard to find someone who believes God has called them into worship ministry. You might discover someone with talent in vocal or instrumental music, or in songwriting, or even in leading people in corporate worship, but the last thing they are considering is using these talents for the Lord through local church ministry. I teach hundreds of young adults preparing for future ministry and rarely do I have any student who believes God has called them to lead worship as their vocation.
Rewind back 25 years. In those days, the music minister (or music director) was viewed as second most important team member on the church staff, far ahead of youth, children or education. The role was highly important because of the amount of “face time” they shared with the teaching pastor. The two-man team was like as Batman and Robin, Jordan and Pippen, Andy and Barney. They worked as a tag-team planning worship elements, service designs, and ways to incorporate creativity into the plan. This function is very rare today.
Today, the worship minister is not that important. Most church leaders view children’s ministry as the #2 most important staff position to fill. A poor children’s ministry equates to fewer young families and diminished growth potential. Worship leadership might make it to the third or fourth slot on most church teams.
All these reasons (and many more) lead to lessened interest in exploring God’s call in worship ministry.
Fast forward 25 years. I anticipate there will be few, if any, young people following God’s call into music ministry. I believe there will be very few full-time worship pastors, only found on large church staffs with multiple services. I sense that schools of music at the seminary and Christian college level will no longer prepare students in church music or worship leadership. Those degrees will go away.
I believe the want ads will be filled with churches desperately looking for someone, anyone, to lead worship at their church, but no one will be applying.
These are just my predictions. I hope I am utterly wrong, but I don’t believe I am.