Updated: Oct 22, 2022
October 24, 2021
Musicians of smaller churches hold a special place in my heart because I am one of them and I very much understand the joys but also struggles and stresses that come with serving in a small church. Serving as a musician in a smaller church is not an easy task, and though it may look glorious to some, it is truly a place of service.
Often the lead pianist in a small church is called upon to play a tremendous amount of music that larger churches would have several pianists sharing the responsibilities. These faithful, small-church pianists often play for congregational singing, play for the choir number, accompany the soloist (what we call special music at my church), and play offertory. This is a tremendous amount of music to prepare in advance, and non-musicians often do not understand the “behind-the-scenes” practice that takes place in order for the church service to run smoothly.
Sometimes due to lack of planning or unforeseen circumstances such as illness, the lead pianist is called upon to play music with little opportunity to practice. God has worked in my heart over the years about my attitude about playing the piano, and my husband has kindly reminded me that I need to keep my motives pure and focus on serving the Lord through music. If you are a church pianist, maybe these thoughts resonate with you and you have felt overwhelmed and unnoticed, wondering if serving as a church pianist is really worth the effort.
Two main thoughts have greatly encouraged, challenged, and helped me in my attitude regarding the stresses of serving as a small-church musician.
First, my talents are not my own; my talents are from God.
God gave me the raw musical gifts and mental abilities to play music, and He also provided an amazing environment, conducive to learning music as a child. God lovingly gave me wonderful parents who provided every musical opportunity to learn and grow such as lessons, orchestra experiences, and fine instruments. Ultimately God and in an earthly sense my parents invested much into my musical training, and to “whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48). I cannot brag or boast about my musical gifts; these gifts are entirely God’s and belong only to Him. I am God’s humble servant, and I am blessed to give my gifts back to Him.
Second, every area of my life needs to be surrendered completely to God.
God is teaching me to daily yield my life as a living sacrifice to Him, and this yielding includes my musical gifts and abilities. If I yield myself to God and ask Him for grace even in a difficult situation such as getting music last minute, God will always give me the grace for the next step, whatever that step may be. I have been astounded over the years how God has helped me through difficult circumstances such as fatigue, intensely challenging music, or lack of solid practice time. God has literally helped me play notes that I could not have played on my own. Praise be to God for His help in a time of need. What a joy it is to offer my sacrifice of praise to God through my music!
My heartbeat is to provide quality yet simple, conservative music that is not taxing on the church pianist’s time or ability level. I know that countless pianists serving around the world did not have the opportunity to take many lessons, yet these dear people are serving God with their music no matter their level of proficiency. To these people, the unpaid small-church pianist and the willing yet relatively untrained pianist, my heart longs to reach with simple, conservative music that most importantly pleases the Lord but also sounds beautiful to the ear.
God has “put a new song in my mouth”, and my prayer is that “many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3). The goal of my music is that the unsaved will be drawn to Christ and that the saved will be encouraged in their walks with God.
This early intermediate piano arrangement of "Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners" is a simple arrangement, sight readable for the advanced pianist and simple to learn for the developing pianist. It is perfect for the church setting, recitals, and also personal enjoyment. This arrangement can also be played during the Christmas season as "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus", so this piece is handy for year-round playing. As a part of a series entitled, Small Hands, Beautiful Sounds, this piece caters to those with smaller hands. None of the simultaneously played intervals are larger than a sixth. Though the piece is written for small hands, it is certainly not limited to any particular group. Someone looking for an easy-to-play arrangement will find this piece enjoyable!