Who is Your Church Geared To?

Every church is geared towards someone, either intentionally or unintentionally. The Music of the Church is often the biggest indicator of a church’s primary demographic. Is the music of your church contemporary? You are geared towards a 40 year old Soccer Mom. Does your church music sound like a Gaither Homecoming? Then you’re probably geared towards the 60 and over crowd. Does your church hand out ear plugs? Then you probably don’t know who Bill Gaither is and you’re demographic is the young and the restless. Some churches are very intentional about this. Some churches have no idea why they are doing what they are doing, its just the way its always been done.

I prefer to be intentional about things and the music and expression of the church is no exception. Who are we geared towards? Why are we geared towards them? How can we achieve this goal?

Who?

Often this can be answered by who shows up. Things like your church’s median age, marrieds or singles, kids or no kids. You can also be aware of the area you live in: Urban, Suburban, Rural, etc.

Why?

This is something that will probably be set by the Pastors, elders, and leadership of your church. Some churches focus on the unsaved. Some churches focus on who they have now. Some churches focus on the youth, while other churches give great deference to the older members.

Being aware of this as a worship leader will help you in song selection, arrangements, band selection, etc.

How?

If you know who your church is geared to, and you know why, then you have to ask HOW. How do I serve the people God has given us and connect with the people we feel called to reach?

For me, my church has a wide demographic. A fairly even balance of old and young, married and single, and kids a plenty. We want to be geared towards everyone. The vision I’ve taken from my pastor is that we want to minister to everyone. We want to respect and honor the older saints and we want to reach the next generation.

As a worship leader, this can be a bit of tight rope, you can’t make everyone happy so what do you do? The answer I came up with was a ratio and a rotation.

The Ratio: If there are 4 Sundays in a month, 2 are as middle of the road as possible. 1 skews older, and 1 skews younger. This way we minister to the most people and groups of people possible. Middle of the Road will change over time, but currently I would define it as worship leaders like Chris Tomlin, Brett Williams, Brenton Brown and bands like Jars of Clay, Phil Wickham and the music you would hear on your secular top 40 station. Older Tends to lean towards the old Maranatha praise songs, hymns, and a gentler sound with a little bit of Bill Gaither thrown in. Younger would be worship bands like John Mark MacMillan, the worship bands out of Mars Hill Church, the Reality Churches, Sojourn Church Network, and Calvary Fellowship in Seattle, and the music you would hear on your local rock or indie rock station (KEXP in Seattle for me). In addition, the #1 style of music in North Snohomish County (according to radio station ratings) is country music so I try to have 1 Sunday a month lean a bit country/folk (this can fall under Older, Middle, or Younger depending on arrangement) because country music is a very natural expression for the people in this area. In more Urban or Suburban areas the style of expression might well be different but the concept is the same.

The Rotation: I lead 70% of the time, but we have other worship leaders who lead 1-2 Sunday’s a month, plus they often co-lead with me on my Sunday’s. I have a certain style that connects with certain people, these other leaders have different styles that better connect with a different group of people. Variety is the spice of life and when you are trying to serve as wide a demographic as we are, it’s not just important, it’s essential.

The point is that one group isn’t served to the exclusion of another group. We don’t ignore our youth and we don’t put the old people out on the Iceberg. Here’s how a month of Sunday’s might work at Calvary:Arlington

Example 1:

Week-1 (Middle Ground Set, pop/rock. CCM, Modern Hymns)

Week-2 (Older, Country set:Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, He touched Me, Glory, glory, etc)

Week-3 (Middle Ground. Other worship leader. CCM. Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, etc)

Week-4 (Younger. Modern Hymns, pop/rock. a little more overdrive on the guitar)

Example 2:

Week-1 (Younger. Folky, Modern Hymns. Channeling bands like Head and the Heart, Noah and the Whale and Damien Jurado)

Week-2 (Middle Ground. CCM, pop/rock)

Week-3 (Older, other worship leader. Maranatha Praise songs. Traditonally arranged Hymns)

Week-4 (Middle Ground. Other leader co-leading with me. Acoustic CCM songs.)’

Week-5 (Fifth Sunday Month, something different, lead by myself with no band, keep it simple and straight forward)

That’s how I do it. How do you identify who you are gearing towards and how to best serve them?

Why These Songs?

Some thoughts I’d had recently on why I pick the songs I pick when I lead worship.

NEW SONGS:

The bible speaks in many places about Singing a New Song to the Lord.

I admit that I don’t like doing new songs. It just easier to go with the songs everyone knows or the songs other band leaders have introduced. But last year I was convicted of my laziness and our need to be constantly reloading our song lists and expressions of worship. So new songs have to happen.

OLD SONGS:

Music has a way of calling people to the Lord or back to the Lord as the case may be. If someone is sneaking into the back row for the 1st time in years than these will be the songs they know. These will be the songs they connected with their relationship to God. So i’m very intentional about having some other tunes in a set list.

REALLY OLD SONGS:

Hymns. Some people love them. Some people hate them. I don’t make a distinction between hymns and choruses other than one has more words than the other. Some Hymns are really good and I pick those and some aren’t and I leave those alone.

Hymns do come in really handy for a few reasons. Older saints tend to connect well with them. They also tend to be a little more open to new styles and expressions of music in worship when it’s done with songs they grew up with because at least the words or tune is familiar. Younger Christians are gravitating to the hymns because they often express the reality of our lives in Christ better than the songs on Christian radio do and the seem to lend themselves well to modern expressions of music.

So I go with what works.

“CONTEMPORARY” SONGS:

Like many in my generation I find little connection with “Christian music”. The music seems to have little connection with my faith, Christian life or preference in music. That’s fine, it’s not geared towards me anyway. But there are people in the church who love that music, they connect to it in a way that I don’t. I want to serve them so sometimes I do songs I don’t care for because it’ll serve the larger community and that is a good thing.

INTENTIONAL VARIETY

In a church with as large as demographic cross section as the one I serve at variety is the key.

I try to be intentional about the songs I pick. I try to be intentional about our “sound” (folk, pop, rock, country, etc) so that a broad range of tastes are covered.

No one type of sound, style or song should have a monopoly.

Jesus should have the only monopoly when it comes to music in the church.