Archive for the 'Youth' Category


potential in people, not programs

I’ve seen this happen a hundred times and have been a willing participant in it as well:

A person comes up to you and says they play an instrument or sing. You instantly do that thing where you think you can tell by the way they are talking if they are any good or not. You tell them you’d love to hear them sometime and tell them more about your program to see if they’d be a good fit. You do one of the following:

1) take their number and lose it on your desk later,
2) tell them to call your office with the less-than-thrilling idea of a screening,
3) tell them to find you on Facebook and then you lose their message amongst the hundred that are already sitting in your message box,
4) have them play or sing fairly quickly for you right there on the spot and instantly realize they’re either ready for your program or they are not,
5) kick yourself realizing you need a program or a system for finding new players and singers,
6) repeat a combination of 1-5

Trying to find people who would “be a good fit” for my programs (services, choirs, orchestras, bands, etc.) can be a very dangerous dead-end street. If we are constantly focused on the potential in our program, we will only be building the kingdom of our program, and not the Kingdom of God. What about the potential of that person that came up to you? What if we shifted our focus and investment to instantly seeing potential in people instead of programs?

If we don’t have a place for people to go who have potential but are not quite there yet, how do we ever expect them to get anywhere? We send them away thinking they are going to come back six months later magically better and ready to be able to hold their own. No wonder most of them never come back – we never offered them help.

The disciples didn’t have it all together when Jesus invited them to follow Him around. In fact, they were a glorious mess. But Jesus saw the passion and potential in every one of them, and He knew that if He just gave them a place, if He just gave them a chance to learn from Him, they would grow. Never once did Jesus think about the gravity of saving the world and think, “Nah….these guys can’t cut it.” He let them follow along, fumbling a bit here and there, putting their foot in their mouth every once in a while, but they kept learning…so they kept following….and they kept learning…and kept following…do you see the cycle?

The most important students in my band development program are not the students who are already playing main stages here in our venues. They are not the ones who have the best equipment plus the ability to use it well. They are not the ones who can play blindly without charts even if I transpose on the spot. I love all of my students, but the most important students are the ones who aren’t ready yet.

The most important students are the ones who are working hard every week in small offices with coaches just learning how to sight-read rhythm charts and keep up with a song. No lights, stages, or loud amps – just hard work. They don’t know exactly what they’re doing yet, but they are learning more and more every week. And when it’s time, their coach will tell me “They’re ready,” with a big smile on their face. But those students have to have somewhere to go, and somewhere to grow. Those students have to have someone who see potential in them and believe in them enough that they will create a place where that development can happen.

They’re the most important people in my program because they are the future of The Church. Long after my programs are gone, long after I’m gone, there is a good chance these students will be somewhere in the world leading worship. If I’m really going to walk the talk and be a Kingdom Builder, I cannot see every player through the filter of the holes I need to fill in my program. I have to trust God to fill those holes at the right time. I have to have a season where maybe I don’t have a player who can pull off leads like John Mayer.

I have to get my focus off the vision of a stage that sounds perfect and instead have a vision of people simply making it to the next step in their development. Jesus never asked me to turn every student into a professional player. But He did ask me to see them like He sees them, and to help train them and disciple them and give them a chance to connect to Him in worship through their talents. And I’m finding at the end of the day it’s a much better view from up here.


The Little Things

Have you ever noticed that it’s not always the grandest of gestures that make an impression in our lives and on our hearts?  The unexpected stuff that catches off guard and brings undeserved joy to our day is the best!

Over the years of working with teens, it’s been my practice to send each member of our youth choir a birthday card from all of their choir leaders on their special day.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that they receive “real” mail in the mail box, which is pretty rare for all of us these days, or the hand-written note I include, or just the fact that they feel thought of and celebrated, but the response always amazes me.

I have received emails, texts, phone calls and even thank you notes from students and parents alike…for a birthday card…crazy, right?  Such a small thing, but God has used it to touch the hearts of our kids.

Since our enrollment has exceeded over 200 at times, this practice is sometimes overwhelming in the midst of the dozens of other things on my “to do” list.  I admit, at times, I’ve considered giving up this custom to free my time for “more important” tasks.  Each time that thought has crossed my mind, the Lord quickly reminds me of the impact I’ve been shown that this has had, and possibly some I may never know.  To this day, it’s my weekly task to see that this happens, in obedience to His urging.  After all, really, what could be much more important than lovin’ on these kids?

So many little things, like learning and calling our students by name bless and build relationship.  After all, God knows our names.  Can’t we strive to do the same no matter how many there are?  Believe me it’s not easy, but it lights up their face, especially when you run into them outside the walls of the church.

Even now, God reminds me of some of the “little things” He’s done for me and how, only I, really, fully understand what it meant to me at that moment in time.  It can be unnoticed by others, but deeply profound to me.  God is so specific in speaking to our hearts, even in the most subtle of ways.

The Word says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I believe we can show love, change a heart, an attitude, a belief, heal a hurt, encourage, give worth…all by one small act of kindness.   Let’s all ask ourselves, “What’s my “little thing” today, and who might it touch?


Sherry Owen is the Founder & Director of Puresound, CBC’s high school (formerly 7th-12th grade) youth choir.


the underdog.

I played soccer in high school and right before any huge game we would all get together to watch one of the Rocky movies. And every time we saw him take down that huge 40-foot tall Russian in Rocky IV, we thought to ourselves, “everybody thinks we’re gonna get killed, but we know we can do this!”

Whenever you start a brand new program or implement a new system, everyone is watching to see if you can actually pull it off. Some folks are excited to see what God will do, and some folks will think you are absolutely crazy for attempting such a thing. But you know something they don’t.

When God gives you a new vision for something, remember that you are the only one He has anointed with the grace, strength, and that certain strand of fearlessness that borders on insanity to carry the vision out. And while it is your job to cast the vision to your key leaders, there is a reason no one else will ever really see exactly what you see because God gave you the vision – not them! But that’s why they need you in the first place.

I am about to start a new training program for students who want to develop their skills when it comes to playing in a worship band. We are providing an environment for students to learn, plus we have rehearsal deadlines to meet since we are backing up our youth choirs this year. I’ve got 29 students and 12 adults spread out between 2 portables. That’s a lot of teenagers with instruments in their hands. Now I have a plan, but some might think it has disaster written all over it. I couldn’t be more excited, because I can see it working, and it is glorious, loud, fun controlled chaos. God wired me with not only the vision, but the grace and anointing to handle such a three ring circus.

At the moment I do feel a bit like Rocky staring at a really tall Russian dude, thinking – “hmmm..maybe everyone’s right. maybe I am about to get clocked in the mouth!”

But I know that when God gives us a vision, He doesn’t ever drop the ball. Me getting knocked out is not part of His plan. I might find myself on the mat a few times, but I know if I keep the vision before me I will always get back up.


training up the next generation, part 2

In my last blog, I mentioned a revelation I had about a new training technique which involved new players shadowing older players, so this week we’ll put some wheels on it and hopefully give some practical starting points.

As quickly as possible, have younger students who have a desire to play “shadow” one of the older students in your rehearsal. They don’t even have to plug in! They can stand next to their “trainer” and get one-on-one coaching right there in the middle of your rehearsal.

They can rotate in and out, playing “live” with the other band members. By doing this, you have immediately empowered your older students, which gives them buy in, and you’ve also multiplied yourself! Now you have more time to be a pastor, and be fully present while your students handle the details.

Here’s the added bonus – when you need a player at the last minute, now you have an immediate pool of students who know your material.

If having all of this go in on the middle of your rehearsal is too stressful, your other option is to find another time. I first tried this system out in between our two Sunday morning services. We had a 40-minute block of time where we were just sitting around anyway, so we decided to have our training time then – that way it didn’t overload my rehearsals, and didn’t add another night to the schedule.

Regardless of the logistics of “when,” I encourage you to not wait and just jump in and try it on any level you are able to handle. Maybe right now you don’t have the luxury of an empty block of time, so you can only handle one player shadowing another – that’s great, start there!

In the next blog we’ll talk about some more details of what I have learned as far as what works and what doesn’t work as far as teaching methods go during those training sessions.


training up the next generation: part 1

How many times has this happened to you?

A student comes up to you and says they play an instrument, and they want to be in your praise band. You have no idea how this students ranks skill-wise, or where he or she is at spiritually. You tell them to call your office, or message you on Facebook, or you take their number. You lose their number, or they never contact you.  They find you the next week, and you set up a time to “audition,” and one of you has to cancel due to scheduling issues. You never see the student again.

All too many times I have let students slip through the cracks because I did not have a system in place that was geared towards handling these kinds of approaches from students.  I kept putting off launching a “system” because the idea seemed too daunting of a task.

Several months ago, I was at a Tuesday night rehearsal for one of our main services, and noticed a technique I hadn’t seen before. The worship leader had invited players who expressed interest in joining the group to come on Tuesday nights and play “unplugged” alongside other members.   I was on acoustic that night, so I had one of the new folks shadow me.  He was a high school student who was passionate about worship , and really wanted to improve his skills.

Over the next few weeks, Brandon and I became training buddies. I let him play right next to me and pointed out things during practice – like how to read a tricky chart, or where to listen for a change in the drums, etc.  He was learning more and more every week, and we were also getting to know Brandon’s heart, in addition to his skill level and dedication.

I began to think…what if?  What if this shadowing technique could work on a bigger scale with my student bands?  What if this was the solution for receiving the constant influx of potential new players?

In the next few blogs I will let you know what happened to the “what if?” revelation I had.  It has revolutionized my approach to training and mentoring, and I have never been so excited about raising up young students to be worship leaders!


managing your band: empower

Time and time again, my students continue to show me that they are capable of much more than I expect out of them. I am learning that the more I push them in the areas of empowerment and responsibility, they rise to the occasion.

I have help during office hours, but when it comes to the weekends if there are issues or fires that need to be put out, it’s all me. In order to survive a busy season over the next couple of months, I decided to try something new. I appointed one of my upperclassmen as the “band manager” for my worship band consisting mainly of high school students.

Imagine if you had someone to help handle the following:

a player calls the night before and cancels

a song set isn’t working and you need help making an executive decision

you realize right before service that charts are missing or in the wrong key

substitute players need to be called at the last minute

service flow changes need to be communicated to weekend staff

lyrics need to be loaded or emailed

These are all examples of things that I would love to have help with, especially during a busy season. I have to remember that the things I don’t necessarily like doing, someone else might actually enjoy being tasked those things.

I am going to try it out as a “pilot” program during the next couple of months, and if it succeeds, I am considering keeping the position. I will let you know how it goes!


Generation Rising

The lyrics that have resounded in my head and heart over the past few months are from the popular song, “Hosanna.”  They are not just words I agree with, but have personally witnessed over the last 15+ years.  I see, have seen, and am seeing, “a generation, rising up to take their place.”


When God allows you to hang around a long time, you get a unique vantage point.  I’ve been fortunate to watch this “rising up” unfold from their pre-school and elementary school days, on through middle school, high school, and on into the world that is theirs.  They are boldly moving from this plot of ground onto college campuses, becoming Godly husbands and wives, worship leaders, missionaries,  teachers, leaders in their churches, communities, etc.  The good news…they are taking their faith with them.  They didn’t leave it on the steps of CBC…back in Kids Choir or in Puresound, on a stage, in a band or on a dance team.  They are packing it up and taking it with them.  They are investing in others what was invested in them.  It’s not their parent’s religion, it’s their own personal belief system they are embracing and walking out.  Impacting others!


As leaders, parents, volunteers, this should give us great encouragement and undeniable proof of the verse that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Be encouraged.  Be excited.  Keep training up and investing.  As our mission statement says, “Keep reaching, teaching and helping in Jesus’ name.” They are singing their song of Jesus… and rising up!


Sherry Owen is the founding leader and director of Puresound youth choir at CBC.

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