Some of you might read the title and say, “Yeah right.” That’s okay, I used to think that too. But this is for the people who have or at some point would like to have a Middle School (or Jr. High) Praise Band. So I would like to share with you what has worked for me (us). Is this a “Do _____ and you’ll have success” post? No. I’m still a long way from where I’d like to be. But we’re moving in the right direction.
1. Clarify the Win – Yeah, all I do is steal stuff from books I’ve read (Stanley’s “7 Practices of Effective Ministry”). But before you embark on the Middle School Praise Band (MSPB) trail, you need to figure out what a “win” is. For me, a win is students on stage and leading other students. Everything else falls in line behind that. I think the #1 win for our group is to see their peers on stage, using their gifts to glorify God and leading others in worship. Learning new songs, dynamics, transitions, harmonies, and all the other stuff can be added later. If you can get a 7th or 8th grader on stage in front of their peers, that’s a win.
2. Have an Application – What an application does is add validity to your group. It says to the students and the parents that this is a real commitment with real goals and standards. Ours has a Welcome and a Theology of Worship section as well as a section about Expectations, a breakdown of who’s in what band (we have two that rotate), and calendar up through February, and of course, my cell phone number (just in case). The most important part is the Commitment page that is initialled by the student next to 10 statements about how they will conduct themselves while participating in the band. At the bottom, the student and a parent signs it, so I know they both have read the conditions. It sounds like a lot of work, but when you have a problem, you’ll be glad you have an application to fall back on and refer to.
3. Encourage your team EVERY CHANCE YOU GET – The sooner you understand that your band will NEVER sound like the Hillsong CD, the better. This realization will help you gage improvement among the participants in your group. Take the time before practice, during practice, after practice, while they’re standing next to their parents, whatever to encourage them and let them know that you’re glad they’re on the team and they are doing a great job. There will always be ways to improve and things to work on. But focusing on those things will only frustrate you because you are holding onto unrealistic expectations for your 7th and 8th graders. This goes back to you Clarifying the Win. Figure out what you want to do and do it well, with A LOT of encouragement along the way.
Do you have a Middle School Praise Band? Why or why not? What has worked for you? These are just some thoughts of mine. What are some of yours?