I believe one of the greatest gifts parents can give their child, their church, and the body of Christ at large is to invest in music lessons for their children.
When my boys were little they wanted to play sports. And, we allowed them to. My husband was very involved in not only signing them up and supporting them in football and baseball leagues, but he was a coach for their teams. He made this a priority even though he was (and still is) a very busy pastor. However, I had a talk with Larry back then when the kids were little and said that I felt strongly that they needed to take music lessons of some kind, in addition. I personally believe although sports teaches you concepts and lessons you will retain for a lifetime, most 50 and 60 year olds, at least ones I know, are not playing football. However, those who are musical typically use their gifts for a lifetime.
I have found there to be a shortage of musicians in the majority of churches. Yes I know there are mega churches that have 10 piano players a piece. I'm not talking about those churches. Statistics tell us that the majority of churches in America are 70 people and under in attendance. Most don't have even two piano players, or guitar players, or even two worship leaders. Most are "praying in someone" who can help their church in this vital area and consider it a miracle up there with the parting of the Red Sea when somebody comes in.
For those parents who are reading this who have children who have talked about going into any aspect of full time ministry, let me say that it is doubly important, in my opinion, that you make an investment of music lessons for your child. When you give them music lessons, you are investing in your future pastor/missionary/evangelist. One of the biggest things you are giving them is the gift of flexibility in their ministry, and in reality, you take what is for many, a very real fear away...
The invention of split track CD's have lessened this anxiety for many pastors in that a lot of churches are now using these to do worship in the absence of any musicians. That's a great alternative that wasn't available years ago. I regret to say I have friends who have groveled in front of prima donna piano players with major attitudes who pretty much needed a spiritual spanking rather than a session of begging and pleading. But if you are a minister who plays an instrument and can step in and fill in the gap when needed, (if you don't want to use the CD's) it's not an issue. You just do what you need to do at the time. You make better decisions because you know you already have what it takes to do an entire service by yourself in the event that you need to. Many times in my life, I have needed to. I don't know what we would have done, had I not been able to help in this aspect of our ministry. All of my piano playing pastor's wife friends agree with me on this. Larry often says that due to my gifts, he has never found himself in the position some of his friends have been in of "bowing down to a keyboard player" instead of doing God's will for the church. Many (clueless) people might say, "why not just hire someone?" Did you not just hear me say that the majority of churches in America are 70 and under in attendance? This is not an option for most.
I have visited some churches with very strong music ministries and have noticed that in these churches a lot of the children are taking music lessons and starting to use their gifts at an early age in the church. I really encourage this. Both of my boys have played in the church from the time they were very young. Their gifts were not fully developed by any means (and they are still learning and growing), but they just learned "on the job." I have encouraged this not just with my boys, but with anyone's children in the churches we have served who show an interest in the music ministry. In our previous church I started mentoring our drummer when he was 13. He served as our drummer my entire 8 years in that church and by the time we left to pastor in Florida he was an incredible player.
This past week two separate visitors came up to me after church and commented, "someone told me those are your kids up there" (pointing to the platform). I said, "yes, that's true!" and they both went on to tell me how amazed they were. One asked, "how did this happen?" I said, "well, it's simply like this...I had these kids, put them in music lessons, gave them some doses of encouragement, had them at the church every time the doors were open, and got them involved in church ministries. It's that simple. And every parent can do this if they want to. It's not a matter of being the pastor or the pastor's kid. Believe me, please, please believe me. Those of you reading this who are church members - not ministers...if you do what I just suggested, just watch your pastor's face light up! If someone comes to me and says, "Pastor Deanna, I'm putting my kids in music lessons. I'm encouraging them. My goal is to have them here every time the doors are open, and I want to get them as involved as possible in church music..." Well, truthfully, you'd have to hold me back from either kissing their feet or letting out a huge whooooppp the whole neighborhood would hear!!!!!!! (SMILE)
Not only would all of these children's participation in the music ministries be a huge blessing to the church, but this is a gift they themselves will enjoy using their whole lives. Your child will never be mad at you when they are grown for investing in them this way. They will only thank you. My advice is to let them pick an instrument they have interest in and have a passion for. Then let them run with it. Truthfully, I would have loved it if either of my boys played the piano, however their interest as little boys was drums and guitar. So I allowed them to choose their passion and they have flourished. (Right now Dustin has a passion for piano too and he's teaching himself.)
Quite honestly I'm hoping in a few years that Savanna will take my place on the piano bench. Nothing would make me happier!
I for one believe it's important that we raise up this next generation of singers, players and worship leaders. I'm going my part and I hope all of you parents reading this will prayerfully consider doing the same.
The next few days I am going to post on this topic and give helps for people who are interested. And, if you're not interested, perhaps someone in your church or your family would be, so be sure to pass on the link to them.