Hi! I’m new to this site. I’ve been playing lever harp for about 10 months now and I love it! My fiancé and I have been attending a contemporary “mega church.” I am wanting to get involved musically, preferably the harp. Has anyone ever performed in such a church? How can I get started?
Laura, I attended my husband’s contemporary church for a few years, though it is a very small one. They had the projector with the count-down to the service, and the powerpoint sermon, and the 20-minute rock concert before each service, etc. The people in charge of the music just weren’t interested in the harp. The sound techs acted like acoustic music was evil (I’m exaggerating, but it was pretty bad), and they also had very little patience for my harp’s needs; in fact, the leader of that tech team is the reason I have a page on my website dedicated to the ways in which a harp is different from a guitar!
Have you ever heard a harp played at your church? If not, don’t jump in with that. Contact the leader of the music ministry — the name and contact info should be on the website — and find a way to get involved that already exists, like singing backup, maybe volunteering with the tech team, or if the music groups have snacks help out there. Don’t do it in the context of, “I want to play the harp for the church, but if you only have this other stuff, okay, I guess I’ll do that.” Reach directly for a service position. After you’ve been there for a while and have developed some personal relationships, people will find out that you play the harp and you can let someone else with more seniority do the work to get you in. If they aren’t interested enough to do that, then it’s not going to be a good fit.
In my limited experience, megachurches like to be glitzy, so it’s possible that everything down to their vacation Bible studies must consist of produced, amplified music. BUT, if that’s not the case in your church, a small group of children is a good way to use your instrument acoustically. Try contacting the VBS coordinator. Teach about the psalms, David, and the ways in which his harp was a little different. Teach the Bible verses that mention the harp and music. Teach about the ram’s horn (an early trumpet!) and the walls of Jericho. You could get yourself a harpsicle and bring it along as a kid instrument. Maybe write a story about writing songs to God while herding sheep. The research you’ll need to do to teach a class like this will be good for you, too. For one thing it will help you stay in line with God’s plan for music in his churches. For another, most church-goers pay very little attention to music in the Bible. When you can speak with authority on the subject, they have a harder time writing you off as just another “egotistical performer.”
In any good music ministry, a person who walks in and asks to be put up front will be regarded with suspicion. There are very solid reasons for that, and, frankly, some pretty weak ones. If you seek instead a position of service away from the public eye, you’ll build relationships with people who will learn that you can be trusted, and they will eventually suggest you get involved in more public ways. You’ll also have a clear conscience and a true defense if, once you’re up front, someone accuses you of seeking it for the wrong reasons. Which will likely happen. And oh boy, it’s going to sting. It’s best to have a clear conscience when it comes.
I agree with Angela. I don’t know how long you have been attending, or how many people you have in your “circle” there. I have personally found that the more people in a church, the harder it is to get to know any of them. Getting involved in the music department in any way will allow you to develop friendships, in addition to an opportunity to play. An electric harp might be a great thing to have, or have some pickups put in your existing harp. If you want to just get experience playing in public, you can just set up and play in a park (check local laws!), or contact a small church that might be hurting for music during offertories. Nursing homes are also a great way to share your gift of music with people who will appreciate your time and effort. Regardless of whether your church can make room for you in their “program,” you can always find some way to minister on the harp.
Angela and Alyson, thanks so much for the advice!
Alyson, I used to play at the nursing home my grandpa was staying in before he died and the residents loved it. I liked it too, thanks for bringing it up! That’s a perfect way to get started.
Angela, love the idea of children’s ministry. I love working with kids.
I’m going to develope a nice little repertoire and hop on those sticks.
Thanks for the advice!
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