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Mentoring novice worship leaders is a crucial part of our work as experienced worship leaders. As you will see in this series of posts, education alone falls short in providing much-needed direction in the life and ministry of worship leaders. In these six posts, my friend Bobby Craig draws from his extensive research in this field as part of his doctoral project to help us understand the vast need and how we, as more seasoned worship leaders, can best fill the gap.

Kenny

By Dr. Bobby Craig

15-year-old me was not in church. I hadn’t been to church more than a few times in my life up to that age. But music is what got me there. I played baritone/euphonium in the high school band. A couple of friends invited me to come to their church to play my horn in their brass choir (it didn’t hurt that they were both cute girls). It was a couple of trumpets, a few trombones, a French horn or two, and me. It was mostly just music straight from the hymnal. But it was fun, and I loved music. It was the only thing in which I found any sort of fulfillment or success.

Within a few months, I had heard the gospel, given my life to Christ, and became a “regular” at this little church in North Alabama. I joined the youth choir and then the youth ensemble, played and sang in the music ministry’s Christmas/Easter productions, and was involved in the church at every turn. Music, and music ministry, literally saved my life.

In my senior year of High School, Brother Jim became the Music and Youth Minister at that church. After graduation, even though I had scholarships to go to college and fulfill my dream of becoming a band director, it just didn’t work out. All my friends went off to college and I was stuck in my small hometown working at Dairy Queen, still going to this church.

But Brother Jim saw more. I became his right-hand man for many music and youth ministry events, activities, and ministries–everything from moving tables and chairs for youth events to leading worship while he was on vacation; at that time for me, it was pretty much just saying, “Let’s turn to hymn # such-and-such and worship together…” Then I would wave my arms in the basic floor-door-wall-ceiling pattern and all was well.

Brother Jim never called me his intern, or protégé, or anything like that. There was never any sort of formal agreement or contract. But looking back to the early 1990s now, and after nearly 30 years in vocational worship ministry, I can see clearly that Brother Jim was mentoring me and it changed the course of my life.

Not only is there a significant shortage of “Brother Jims,” but there is also a shortage of worship leaders who had a “Brother Jim” in their lives to mentor them toward successful, fruitful ministry leadership. The Alabama Baptist Paper recently highlighted a shortage of music ministers altogether. And it’s not just an Alabama Baptist problem, but a problem across the Southern Baptist Convention. I recall a friend on a music ministry search committee asking me just a few years ago, “Are music schools even making music ministers anymore?”

While working on my Doctor of Worship Studies degree, I became more and more aware of this problem. Not only did I purpose my dissertation toward revealing this shortage of mentorship in worship ministries all over, but I made significant changes in my leadership style to intentionally mentor worship leaders in my midst–to become their Brother Jim. Byron Spradlin affirms, “There appears to be a clear need in our North American churches for more spiritually maturing, artistically skilled worship leadership; leaders who are clearly called, biblically sound, spiritually dynamic, pastorally oriented, artistically skilled, and specifically trained for worship ministry in our churches and their missional assignments.”[1]

Over the next few articles, I want you to see how mentorship goes beyond discipleship. I’d like to teach you the biblical foundation for developing a mentoring emphasis in your worship ministry; I’ll show why academic institutions have not only missed the mark in this need but really aren’t designed to fulfill this role, and I’ll give you some of the most practical areas mentorship should be developed in novice worship leaders. None of this will be shared in such a way as to say, “Do as I do,” but rather to provide principles for you to develop a plan of action for mentoring (v.) worship leaders to become mentoring (adj.) worship leaders.

Of everything the church needs, veteran worship leaders taking up the mantle to mentor novice worship leaders is one of the most overlooked. It may not seem like such a key component to a novice worship leader’s totality of ministry; after all, one plus one is still only two, so what difference could one veteran worship leader make? The math is not wrong, but the equation is. Instead of looking at mentoring as addition, the church, and specifically veteran worship leaders, must begin looking at mentoring as multiplication. When one plus one becomes two, each of those two can individually begin another one-plus-one mentoring relationship. This now multiplies into four mentored worship leaders ready for the critical task of the calling. When each of these four now-veteran worship leaders takes on four novices, the equation produces eight, then sixteen, then thirty-two, then sixty-four, and the multiplication continues. If this could somehow be a perfect process, without losing one, this equation only takes approximately eighteen to twenty iterations before fostering a fully mentored worship leader in every church in America.[2]

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[1] Byron L. Spradlin, “Discipling Worship Leadership: Biblical and Theological Rationale for Discipling Worship Leaders” (DMin diss., Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012), 4, https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/ doctoral/542.

[2] Based on the estimate of 300,000 to 350,000 evangelical churches in the United States by Brent H. Burdick, “The Status of the Church in North America” Review & Expositor 115, no. 2 (May 2018): 201, DOI:10.1177/0034637318771354.

Dr. Bobby Craig

With nearly thirty years in worship ministry leadership in various churches throughout Alabama, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, Bobby has experienced almost everything a church music ministry can throw at him. Not only does his vast experience provide support to his ministry, but he also holds a Bachelor of Music from Samford University in Birmingham, AL, a Master of Music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, and a Doctor of Worship Studies from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Bobby currently lives in Moulton, AL with his wife, Heather, and three daughters, Evangeline, Eliza, and Melody.