So You’re Too Old To Lead Worship — Now, Deal With It.

photo-23I 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.

Murder, Manhunt, and Manifesto

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(KABC photo)

My hometown of Irvine has been all over the news today due to a rare murder and the manhunt for the suspect, Christopher Dorner.  Irvine is consistently rated one of the safest cities in the nation, which makes this crime so alarming.  But what is most alarming of all is that this man, a fired ex-LAPD police officer, wrote a vitriolic manifesto describing his rage and what he planned to do about it.

He is angry that he has been wronged, and he is out for revenge.  He is out to kill.

We don’t know the full story, so I can’t be the judge here.  I’ve read reports that he was depressed.  Maybe by serving in the military, he suffers from PTSD.  Maybe he has a history of mental illness.  Nevertheless, from all the reports I’ve heard on the news so far, there is no doubt that he is very, very angry.  Angry enough to murder a young engaged couple in Irvine and a police officer…so far.

Coincidentally (or not), we were studying anger in our Bible study just yesterday.  This comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5;21-22).  Our study leader pointed out that in almost all cases of murder, anger is at the root of it.

I was also reminded of the verse in Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger, do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  Well, I’m pretty certain that Chris Dorner let many, many suns go down on his anger while simmering and raging about the wrongs he suffered, perhaps over decades.  I wouldn’t doubt it if he was rightfully angry about some of these things.  But instead of letting go, he let them fester and fester until…

Although I have not experienced the level of anger Mr. Dorner was evidently harboring, I am convicted today about my own issues with holding onto anger.  There were work-related conflicts that happened over 10 years ago that I’m still smarting over.  I can think of friends who betrayed me when I was in high school.  How I need to let go of them!  I know exactly what the Scriptures is talking about when it says, “do not give the devil a foothold.”  Anger can open the heart to much ugliness.

Sometimes, all attempts to work something out between me and the other party fails.  Then, it’s up to me to forgive, let go, and move on.  Although it’s not easy, it helps to keep in mind a couple of things:

1.  People are people, and they are imperfect.

Give them grace when they slip up and transgress against us, because someday we will be transgressing against them, too.  Maybe we should all lower our expectations on our boss, friend, spouse, parent, etc., because they are just as fallen and deprived as we are.  One time, I was sharing about something hurtful which someone I (used to) respect said to me.  Then someone casually said, “Maybe he didn’t really mean to hurt you.”  Most of the time, I would have dismissed her comment as platitude, but somehow it dawned on me that day that my friend, thoughtless as he might have been, wasn’t out to purposely hurt my feelings.  How liberating it was to realize that and how much easier it was to then forgive!

2.  The easiest way to let go of our past anger is to stop thinking about it.

The brain has a wonderful way of disconnecting the synapses when you stop making that connection.  I’ve actually completely forgotten about things I stopped remembering.  Praise God that we have this wonderful ability!  Sometimes, this ability pops up at the most inopportune moments, but let’s use it to our advantage!

I don’t know how this manhunt for Chris Dorner is going to end.  But for now, I’m going to do my part to try to make my world a better place.  And you?