Give them a go


We have a new guitarist in the worship band at First Baptist Church.

He has played with us a few times now, and he began playing at his own request. Oh, and he’s only 5 years old.

I don’t exactly remember who initiated Cooper’s involvement in the band the first time, but I can tell you that the last few times he has played with us have been because he was courageous enough to approach me and ask when he was “scheduled” to play again.

Whether or not he can actually play the guitar or reach the strings for that matter is not all that important. What is important is that young Cooper has a joyful heart and a willing spirit. He may not be the best musician on the stage, but I defy you to find someone who is more passionate about what we’re doing.

On the Sundays when Cooper plays with us, I enjoy observing him on the stage. Every once in a while, I will look down at him, and one of several things will take place.

Sometimes, we will make eye contact. I will either wink or nod my head at him in approval, and a smile will break across his face a mile wide. In that short interaction, Cooper is validated. He knows he’s a welcome and wanted part of our worship experience. He is a part of the band, and he is doing his small part to lead others in lifting up the name of Jesus.

At other times, my little buddy doesn’t catch me looking at him. It is actually sort of humorous because while he is looking at me, he just isn’t looking at my face. He is glancing at my hands and my feet to see what I am doing, and he is doing his absolute best to match my motions.

What’s interesting is that even though I have never given Cooper a guitar lesson, he is learning. Each time he plays with us, Cooper gets better about strumming his strings and stomping his feet with the beat.

I enjoy having my little buddy join us on the platform periodically. To use Christian lingo, it blesses my heart, but it also serves as a gentle reminder of several truths:

Eyes and ears are on you. Younger generations will naturally observe the generations that go before, for better and for worse. I know this was true in my own life. My understanding of how a youth pastor is supposed to function came from what I saw in the lives of pastors, youth workers and Sunday school teachers in my life. I became a youth pastor because I wanted to be the next Ron Bouvier. Much of what I do developed from what I saw in him. We need to be aware that impressionable eyes are watching.

What they see has as much impact as what you say. This is particularly true the younger a person might be. I can absolutely guarantee you that my boy, Cooper, doesn’t remember a single sermon I’ve ever preached. If you watch the boy onstage, there’s no denying he has seen and is imitating what he has seen me do. It’s adorable when it comes to watching a kid lead worship, and it can also be valuable for the future of the church. Of even more value is how kids see myself and other mature adults treating other people. Are the actions and attitudes others see in you worth repeating?

Someone has to give them a go. There’s a first time for everything. Each of us has to determine how much experience and ability is necessary before throwing someone into the mix. I know in my own life, I had very little idea of what I was doing and even less of an idea of how to prepare for it the first time someone invited me to speak at their event. What I did have was a desire to share the truth of the hope and life that I had found in Jesus and a caring adult in a position of authority who was willing to give me a chance. He and others like him continued to encourage and support me as I developed over time. This shaped my own philosophy of ministry. Experience is only gained when opportunity is provided.

One of my priorities as a pastor is, “Always be training your own replacement.” There were several people over the years that allowed me to join them while they were doing ministry. As I watched Cooper mimicking my actions, and even at my own daughter singing right next to him, I can’t help but wonder if he might one day be my replacement on the worship team.

I don’t know what God has prepared for him, but if we at First Baptist Church can play even a small part in helping willing and teachable young people like him through providing opportunities, I think the reward is more than worth the risk taken.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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