Building a Music Education
Program in Your Church
Jim Cammack and Cathy Butler, 2009
A music education program in your church can be a wonderful
ministry. It can bring people together, spark
interest in music, and grow your church.
We call our program “Picking and Praying” and we have found it to be a
great asset for our church. Here are
some steps we have found useful for starting and growing a music education
program in our church. We hope it helps
a person (or persons) to play & sing
need a guitar player and/or keyboard player and a singer.
ways to get a guitarist and/or keyboardist
1. You can “grow your own” It is easier than you think to learn to play
the basic chords you’ll need. An
average adult can learn the basics in a few weeks.
2. Find musicians in your church. Ask!
You may be surprised at how many people in your congregation already
play an instrument. Note: your keyboard
player needs to know how to play using chords.
Often, traditional pianist/organists do not play in this way. So, you’ll need to either find a keyboard
player who already knows how to play this way, or, find one who is willing to
first, musician second. When
identifying people to help, concentrate on finding people who are good
teachers/nurturers. For example,
you might use a good Sunday school teacher who might also sing in the
choir. It is often easier to make
a teacher into a musician, than to make a musician into a teacher. Ideally, of course, you would look for
people who are great musicians and great teachers, but, that’s not always
easy to find. If you have good
musicians who lack the nurturing talent, consider coupling them with a
you will also need a bass player and a drummer. If you don’t have someone who plays
already, see if you can get someone to take some lessons or get someone
from outside the church to come in and teach.
- Find Music
You Already Have A Contemporary Service.
If you already have a contemporary service, use the songs you are
singing in that service. Your
music director will already have music, but, you’ll need to make sure it’s
simple enough for your purposes. If
your church sings Praise and Worship music, you probably already have a
license to use music from CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing
International). If your church doesn’t
have one already, you should consider getting a SongSelect subscription from
CCLI (see below)
You Don’t Have A Contemporary Service.
If you don’t have a contemporary
service, a great resource to use is ccli.com. CCLI
maintains a list of songs and how often they are used in worship in
churches. Start with the CCLI top 50. If possible, get a subscription to
SongSelect (it is part of CCLI.com). With a SongSelect subscription, you can
download transposable chord sheets.
Although you can also find chord sheets in various places on the
Internet, the chord sheets you get from SongSelect are provided by the
publisher and so are more likely to be correct. Start with the songs which are easiest
to play (and in the key of G --some of the ones we start with are “Every
Move I Make,” “Holiness” (AKA
“Take My Life”) and “Lord I Lift
Your Name on High.” If you don’t know what a “transposable
chord sheet” is or what “key” means, ask a musician or your music
director. The music aspect is not
as difficult as you might think.
you don’t know the song already, you’ll need to get the recording to
listen to and learn it. Good resources
for this are itunes.com, amazon.com or youtube.com.
Myspace music is also developing
an extensive library of free music which you can organize into play lists
for various purposes.
- Start Classes
classes start with second grade and older. Start teaching adults as well. Depending on your resources, you can split
people into separate classes for different age groups and instruments. We first make announcements for people
to let us know if they are interested in taking classes. We
then schedule classes for them based on the response we get. We have learned that classes need a definite
start/end time—so we usually aim for 8 week sessions.
them the common praise and worship songs.
In the beginning, classes should learn the same songs at the same
time—for example, you might have your beginning keyboard and guitar
classes, learn “Every Move I Make”
in the key of G. This will
allow you to combine them into a band to play in your service.
they have learned a basic song, let them play it in church. This provides motivation and
encouragement. It will also let
your congregation see how a program that is bearing fruit. You will be surprised at how many will
see these initial efforts and then want to be a part of it
- Form Regular
your budding musicians are able to play basic chords, you can start the band. Add singers and let them begin to practice
and play as a group. At first,
you’ll need to keep fairly tight control.
Over time you can allow them more freedom to make decisions—for
example, let them decide how often to repeat a chorus, or let them have
control over song selection—you’ll need to ensure the songs are in a good
key and not too difficult to play.
This will give them some creative control.
attention to instrumentation and age.
As a rule, younger kids like to be with older kids, but, not visa
versa. However, your instrumentation
will likely dictate how you make up your bands. For example, we recently started two
new bands—one band is from 4th to 6th grade. This is because we had a drummer in 4th
grade and a guitarist, keyboardist and bassist in 5th and 6th
grades. At our church, our normal
youth age is 6th grade and up, but, because our
instrumentation feel in a different age range, that’s how the band is
The Musicians You Have Taught.
you have a basic program established, involve those you’ve taught
throughout your music program. At
our church, kids who were in our original classes--some of whom were in
elementary school at the time--now regularly participate in our chancel
choir and in our Praise Band. We
now have six drummers who play on a regular basis in our services! Our last Christmas cantata was
directed by 16-year old and our Easter Cantata will be directed this year
by an 18-year old--both of which learned in our original Picking and
Praying classes. We also have a gospel band (the Glory
Train band) which is now has about twelve mostly older adults (all over 40)
—some of these started in our picking and praying classes and some of
them came “out of the woodworks”
once we gave them an opportunity to play.
- The kids who learned in our original
Picking and Praying classes are now helping teach and direct our newer
groups. Additional musicians are
stepping forward and volunteering to help in our program. Once things get started, you may find
it takes on a life of its own.
we have been offering classes and building bands for a number of years,
it has only been recently that we have begun to formalize the
process. We have created a
position of Coordinator of Music Education (COME) and are now making a
concerted effort to get others involved in leading the various groups
within our program.
We hope these steps are useful to you in helping you build a
successful program in your church. If
you have any questions or need additional info, feel free to contact us.