I digress from my usual posts about parenting, because I’ve been seeing several internet posts on the subject of worship leaders getting forced out for being “too old.” I know, I don’t think that’s good, either. One would think that, of all places, the Church would want to encourage generational diversity in leadership up front, but sadly that’s often not the case.
But you know what? That’s the way it is, so deal with it.
Complaining bitterly doesn’t do much good, and we shouldn’t plant seeds of resentment and cause division in the Body, so I decided to take some action…after a period of mourning and wallowing in self-pity, that is. Here are some suggestions and pointers coming from my own journey as a middle-aged worship leader:
1. Confess your own anger and bitterness.
In Ephesians 4 we read, “31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Perhaps the pastor and the board of elders were wrong. Maybe you resent being replaced by a perkier, fresher face. I don’t blame you. However, it does no good to remain stuck in anger. We are all imperfect people trying our best…even the senior pastor. Let’s move towards a place of grace and forgiveness.
2. Start mentoring
You’ve probably learned a lot in your life and what you think is common sense might be completely new to someone younger. It’s time to pass along that knowledge, whether it be by mentoring formally or informally. I recently became certified as a voice coach and began teaching — and I love it! All of us eventually have to get off the stage, so the more gracefully we can do so, the better. Why not help raise up the next generation of worship leaders?
3. Update your sound
Be honest — is your music style getting a little stale? If you’re still stuck in the 1970′s Jesus Movement music, 80′s techno, or 90′s grunge, it’s important to open yourself up to some more contemporary sound. Listen to some current music out there. You might be surprised to discover songs that express worship in a whole new way. Take some lessons and learn current playing styles for piano and guitar. After I became a mom, I decided to take up the guitar to sound more “today” and also took voice lessons to learn the current singing style for pop music — and they paid off. This issue is not unique just to our industry; people in many other lines of work continue to improve, learn, retool, network, and market themselves. Likewise, we should never let ourselves get complacent and out of touch.
4. Update your look
Let’s take a good look in the mirror. Have we let our appearances slide over the years? Have you not been taking care of that “temple” of yours? I know it sounds shallow, but who really prefers old, haggard folks leading us up front? We might be able to regain some youth and vigor just by losing some weight, updating our hairdo, improving our wardrobe, and getting in shape. If you’re still sporting the 90′s permed hair and/or mommy jeans, you are screaming, “I’m over the hill!” Sure, you want to keep it age-appropriate, but you can certainly look modern and up-to-date with a simple style makeover and maybe buy yourself a little more time.
5. Find another venue
If after all that effort, you still find yourself getting ushered off the stage, perhaps you can find a different venue to continue using your gifts. Smaller churches are more likely to use people of all ages and also appreciate a more “seasoned” worship leader. You can sing for kids, seniors, prison ministry, Sunday School class, etc. The stadium-sized sanctuary with bright lights might no longer be for you, but there’s no limit to how God can continue to use you!
6. Remember: what goes around, comes around
Maybe all that church music war between traditional vs. contemporary music we heard about when we were coming of age was the same as the struggle that’s happening to us right now. We thought the good times would never end…but we were wrong. And honestly — if we continue to fiercely guard our fiefdom, then we all grow old together until the whole church literally dies off. We must have a change of guards.
By the way, for you younger folks who just ran us off of our playground, remember this: don’t get too smug and complacent, for you too will someday be getting replaced by kids who are still in diapers today. Mark my words.