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Lead or lose worshippers, music minister tells peers

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Unless worship services “start somewhere and go somewhere,” younger participants will lose interest, a veteran music minister told his peers during Church Music Leadership Conference at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center, June 28-July 4.
Norman Behymer, minister of music at Council Road Baptist Church, Bethany, Okla., said many worship services cause younger people to “lock out emotionally” because the services do not flow.
“For something to flow, it has to start somewhere and go somewhere,” Behymer said. “School musicals flow, television presentations are cohesive. Why can’t worship be the same way and have energy?”
Older church members may have gotten used to a worship style that jumps around with no transitions, he said, but his experience is that they also appreciate the difference when services flow logically.
Behymer is quick to point out that taking people to the throne of God does not mean using “bigger and better music Sunday after Sunday. It is an attitude that directs people to the Lord Jesus. Worship should be a fresh encounter every week.”
Ideas for fresh worship, transitions from one element to the next and suggestions for new elements are not the sole domain of the music minister, he continued.
“I have known ministers of music who would not use an idea offered by a church member or another staff person because it was not their idea,” he said. “That cuts God off. He may be speaking to you through that person.”
Ideas can come from the laity, Scripture, peers in ministry and from the minister of music himself.
“Don’t be afraid to try,” he added, “and don’t be afraid of rejection.”
Several years ago, Behymer developed a workbook to help others formulate worship services, feeling that no one was discussing issues related to worship that concerned him.
At the suggestion of a friend, Behymer filled a notepad with every thought he had on the subject of worship planning and then refined it into a presentation which he teaches twice a year.
While his original goal was to reach church staff people beginning their ministries and bivocational church musicians, he has helped worship planners who have become bored or frustrated with their own worship ideas.
One exercise he asks worship planners to complete is to draw a line graph charting their service without identifying each element on the graph. When Behymer began his quest to improve the flow of worship, he was most bothered by services that were so disjointed he felt himself go up and down spiritually.
“I may look at a graph of a service that begins at a low point and suggest that the worshipers may have arrived at a service already at a low point, he said. “They need to begin worship at a high point.
“Sometimes the line describing a service takes a sudden plunge. When I ask what that is, many times worship leaders will tell me it’s the announcements. I suggest moving those to a place in the order of worship that won’t bring worshipers down.
“If you are bored or frustrated with your services,” he advises ministers of music, “that isn’t bad. God is about to do something in your heart to lead your worship in a new direction.”
The missing element many times, Behymer said, is joy.
“If you don’t enjoy it,” he tells worship planners, “how do you think the people will have joy?”
Predictability is one of several barriers to worship which Behymer lists. Among others are failure to start on time, malfunctioning sound systems and beepers sounding during worship.
He advises worship planners to “know all your ingredients before you start to plan, set aside undisturbed time to plan and take some risk.”
Behymer, with a 23-year tenure at the same church, has worked with five pastors, including two interim pastors.
While many ministers of music move from one church to another frequently during their careers, Behymer said he attributes a successful relationship with pastors to trying to find how he can help them be successful.
“I love the office of pastor,” he said. “Each pastor has taught me something. My pastors have wedged ideas in my heart, and it was up to me to flesh them out.”
Church Music Leadership Conference was sponsored by the music ministries department of the Baptist Sunday School Board.

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  • Charles Willis