steve ball

personal thoughts on family, faith and work

Archive for the tag “inclusive”

is a good welcome enough?

Over the last few weeks I’ve heard lots about how we, as church, should be welcoming to anyone who comes through the church doors on a Sunday morning. All very right and sensible stuff. But… there’s got to be more than just a good welcome – though ensuring visitors and regulars are welcomed in church each week is very important.

Welcoming someone who doesn’t ‘fit in’ to what we think is an appropriate way to behave, dress or talk should be easy to do – after all, if they’ve never set foot inside of a church before, how are they expected to know ‘the rules’? But our prejudices nearly always affect our reaction and interaction with them. It has been said several times (by visitors!) that my church is very welcoming, which I would agree with – certainly I remember feeling very welcomed when I first came.

The church is not here to just welcome people though – it is called to love people.

It is often said about what our approach to people coming into church should be: Bless – Belong – Believe – Behave. Behaving – or somehow ‘fitting in’ is the last part of what can be a long process, which is usually not our responsibility to try and change anyway. If we want a church full of people ‘just like me’, this is possibly an approach to take – but I pray for a church as diverse as the community in which it stands. Which means loving people coming in who don’t behave, dress or talk as we do.

It strikes me that we sometimes approach the four B’s in the opposite way. We will welcome someone if they behave, and once they believe, they will belong to our church and we can bless them. Sad, but probably true for many people in many of our churches.

I would imagine that coming into a church for the first time is a pretty terrifying experience. If we analyse what we do, it’s a totally alien environment to most people! Giving them a great, warm welcome is vital, but I would imagine it would be very hard for a visitor not to be affected by the church showing them love – Gods love.

Points to ponder:

  • How accepting are you of people that are very different from you?
  • When was the last time you had a conversation with someone you didn’t know in church?
  • When was the last time you blessed someone new in the church?

benchmarks for being in the worship team

As discussed in an earlier post, I believe we should all be aiming to excel in what we do – both individually and as part of the worship team.  But having a musical benchmark that doesn’t enable new members to join easily really bothers me.  Maybe it’s my ‘music teacher’ background wanting to see students develop, but I’ve seen too many people get discouraged (or worse, hurt) over the years by being told they are not good enough.

I believe in being as inclusive as possible – but sometimes this can create more work for the person responsible for worship, which maybe why some worship leaders shy away from the challenge?  We also need to create an inclusive environment within the worship team, as it will usually not be as easy to play with musicians that are ‘less competent’. Below are my personal views about the musical benchmark, and I would be interested in other peoples approaches.

If someone comes to me and says they want to join the worship team, but can only play four chords, I think that’s great!  There is no rule that says every musician must play every song, so why not encourage the newcomer to join in the songs with the chords that he knows (or better still, show them how to use a capo and transpose the chords for them!).  You will be surprised how quickly they will want to learn more.  With this approach, you are setting the benchmark very low, but still encouraging someone to develop.  When I think about when I first started to play at church on my tiny Casio keyboard, I’m sure it wasn’t great – and I still make plenty of mistakes now!

I’ve also heard it said that someone can’t be in the band unless they have grade three or four on their instrument.  This is complete nonsense!  I once had a student come to me because he wanted to pass his Grade 8 piano. He was a brilliant music reader, but when I asked him to play ‘Happy Birthday’ by ear, he had absolutely no idea what to do (quite shocking!). On the other hand, I’ve had students who are not interested in exams who are extremely good musicians – they just haven’t got a certificate to prove it.  I would much rather have someone who is musical in how they play, and so can fit in with a band set up, rather than a ‘trained’ person who can only play what they see.

On a practical note (no pun intended!), I have used the process of ‘shadowing’ several times and it is really effective.  Get an experienced person – preferably with the same type of instrument – and let the newcomer join in with what they can, and if they go wrong, the more experienced person is there to take over straight away.  This method can be used with any instrument – even the drums.  I started two (now very good) drummers off with someone with a tambourine right next to them to keep them in time if they lost concentration.

In this post, I have only been talking about a musical benchmark.  There are other benchmarks for joining a worship team that are equally, if not more important which I may well go into another time.

Points to ponder:

  • What musical benchmarks do you set for your worship team – and why?
  • What other benchmarks should there be for the worship team?
  • If you have a higher benchmark, how can we ensure inclusivity?

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