Last week’s post was the first in a series called “writing for the community in community.” I laid out the basic components of a songwriters circle that could result in a crop of songs springing up from within your own church. In this week’s post I want to highlight the first essential component in a songwriters circle – people.
Assembling a songwriting community is a pastoral work. It isn’t for “band leaders.” When we assemble people to write songs we begin to walk people through a process that allows them to do something perhaps greater than they expect from themselves. This requires the vision and heart of pastor, along with the skills of a worship leader.
The first challenge is gathering people. It’s a challenge because if we have acted only as a band leader, we haven’t seen the potential in the people around us: Bass dude is bass dude; Harmony girl is harmony girl; Annoying-can’t-find-the-pocket drummer is–well–you get it. Also, bass dude doesn’t consider himself to be anything more than bass dude, either. When assembling your group, you may need to make personal invitations. If your church doesn’t already have a developed culture of songwriting you have to go out and hook a few people into your new experiment because they have never considered themselves to be anything other than what they currently are.
Everyone’s mindset needs to change. The musicians have to see themselves as creative partners. The songwriting circle becomes a way for the worship leader to pastor people through all sorts of heart issues: insecurities, fears, humility, false humility, critical spirits–you name it. When people write and share their songs with others it is a vulnerable moment that requires you, the worship leader, to become worship pastor. Everyone gathered needs a pastor.
In the songwriting circle we discover that we do not fully know everyone around us. There is poetic and melodic genius genius sitting right beneath the surface of a lot of people. It’s just never been encouraged! It’s never been invited out into the open. Part of the power of a songwriting circle is here, right at the beginning, when you choose your first participants. It’s the power of inviting someone to be something they’ve dreamed of, but never dared to try.
Don’t be afraid to mix the experienced with the novice. Shoot for a group of between 5 and 10. Bring in new people. Invite the old regulars. Gather the awkward 13-year-old and the stay-at-home-mom. I’m a firm believer in having a good mix because the goal is to write for the whole church. People all write from different perspectives emotionally, thematically, and experientially. These differences will give voice to the entire gathering of people who call your church home.
One of the main benefits of community is that it saves any one individual from having to be the expert in everything. People can celebrate their unique life with God and the sound that it gives off, and that sound begins with gathering and pastoring potential songwriters.