Friends and supporters of our music ministry trip to Jamaica –
Thank you for believing in us, and for helping to take this trip from a dream into reality. You must be wondering how things went, and I’d like to take some time to share some of the highlights of our trip with you.
Our exciting journey not only met, but exceeded my expectations. I am deeply grateful for the talented team of musicians who took vacation, leaving their families and jobs, to offer themselves and their expertise to our Jamaican brothers and sisters. This team (of mostly introverts!) gelled together well and honored the individual gifts of one another. Our schedule was packed, and taking on such a full trip with a bunch of introverted musicians was a trick. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and didn’t even get to walk onto the sandy beach across from where we were staying until the following Monday, the day before we left.
The pressure of our schedule was compounded when we lost 10 hours of rehearsal and soundcheck time our first morning together. We arrived at our scheduled time for our 10 AM sound check, and the stage wasn’t even put together! ….And so we had to relaxed our expectations and tried to vibe with the flow of island time. “It’s all OK, mon. Everithin’s gonna be alright!”
Our first task was to provide music for the Global Leadership Summit, hosted by Willow Creek. The mission of the Global Leadership Summit (held annually near Chicago at the Willow Creek church) is to better equip present and future leaders in the church for leadership.
Two Jamaican representatives attended this year’s actual #GLS15 at Willow and they selected the presentations they thought would be most applicable to the Jamaican audience. These were shown on a huge video screen, center stage. Our role as a team was to provide music and worship leading, playing some key songs after the music session and during the break.
While providing an opportunity for corporate worship, we had the dual role of “setting the bar”- showing what is possible – in a conference room full of Jamaican pastors and worship leaders. We didn’t take this as an opportunity to show off our individual proficiencies, but rather wanted to demonstrate how to serve the song, serve each other, and serve the congregation in creating space for corporate worship, modeling after Christ’s servant leadership.
The feedback we received was extremely positive. I spoke with the Willow Creek representative, Randy Johnson, with some ideas about stage design in this unique environment. He took that opportunity to comment that the quality of the music exceeded his expectations, which really warmed our hearts. When you pull together a group of extremely thoughtful and talented musicians, producers and worship leaders who all understand their role, and who have a heart to give their all to the worship experience, that’s not necessarily inevitable, but we’re very thankful for the synergy this group had.
The second major part of our ministry was to host a full-featured music workshop for a number of churches near Montego Bay. This is the same curriculum we’ve been developing for more than a year now. We tried to let everyone see behind the curtain of how we do things as much as we could.
Here are some of the things we covered:
- At the initial plenary session we discussed the big picture, explaining everyone’s roles.
- We talked about the foundation: the drummer as time keeper and the bassist as the glue that ties the time to the harmonic content of the other instruments.
- We talked a lot about “sonic space”. Acoustics at churches in Jamaica is a significant issue, as most seem to be highly reflective. So listening to how all the musicians play together to fill that space is paramount.
- We also talked about the importance of the sound technician, the most underrated musician out there, but perhaps the most important.
- We talked about the most visible musician – the lead vocal or worship leader – and the importance of modeling a melody that is singable, in a key that is singable.
- Finally, we discussed how everyone in the band is serving the song and making space for the most important member – the congregation. Much of the excitement and energy of playing live comes from making space for the congregation to respond, even though we have no idea how they will respond or how the (or even if) the Spirit will move.
After talking theory for hours and taking questions and comments, we closed with a two-hour worship concert in which we participated in and demonstrated all the important principles we had been talking. This allowed people to clearly see how all the theory works in practice and illustrate how we choose to serve the song, serve each other, and serve the congregation. This final worship concert was probably the highlight of the entire trip for us, and the response was terrific.We were encouraged by the responsiveness of those who had attended our workshop. Their pastor (Duane Maden) came to us afterward and told us how much his community needed to hear what we had presented. Another person told us they had been to all the concerts in this church, and this one was by far the best they had attended.
We went to Jamaica thinking that we would be ministering, that we had much to give. But the result was that we received perhaps even more than we gave. It was so fulfilling to be part of the Global Leadership Summit there, and it was incredible to see the impact of the BYB curriculum on people’s understanding of how to do music. Certainly there are intrinsic obstacles to overcome in Jamaica, and certainly there is much more we could do, but we feel great about the connections that were made.
Grace & Peace