A London worship guitar course – some questions

I teach a London based worship guitar course. I was recently asked some questions about the course. Here are my answers.

How long have you been running the guitar course?

I was asked by HTB to teach a worship guitar course some 12 years ago. I liaised primarily with my friend Andy Piercy (who had initially introduced me about the Alpha Course).

Since it started the course has ran 3 times a year during term times.

Having taught the courses for so long they are carefully honed down so that pupils can, with some effort on their part, make rapid progress with their worship guitar skills.

Approx how many attendees do you get on the guitar course each term?

At HTB we have always ran two worship guitar classes in an evening – a Beginners Guitar Course and an Intermediate Guitar Course. The numbers vary from around 6 up to 22 in a single class. I try and keep the maximum to around 15 – I find more than that is a bit of a handful, and it’s hard to keep an eye on everyone’s progress with larger numbers.

I guess the average number for each class would be about 14.

Over 1,000 people have now attended the worship guitar courses at HTB.

We also run two levels of advanced guitar course. These generally have fewer people – around 4 – 12 students.

Can people from any church attend the guitar course?

Over the years word has got around and we have students coming from HTB, all of the HTB plants, Jesus House for all the Nations, Hillsong, Kensington Temple and lots of other smaller churches in and around London. I think the furthest afield is a current student who comes from Soul Survivor, Watford.

Other churches have been asking me to go and help to develop the musicians at their church too. I have also taught courses at Kensington Temple; St. Michael’s, Chester Square; St Barnabas, Kensington; St George’s, Russell Square; St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square; Oasis, Colliers Wood, and Every Nation.

What do attendees go on to do after the guitar course?

At the end of the worship guitar courses we have an end of term party. The party is a fantastic, inspiring evening of celebration and worship. Students from the all of the current worship guitar courses play, sing and worship together. Last term the party was hosted by Oasis Church, Colliers Wood. There were around forty guitarists there. All of the guitar students from the various classes play four worship songs as a group. For many it is the first time that they have played in front of other people.

People who have been on the course are members of the congregation from various churches (I’ve even had a number of vicars on the course.) Some desire to play the guitar for their own person worship time. Some want to go on to lead others in worship. I have had a number of students who are already serving in the worship team in their own church who come on the courses to refine their skills.

Many of the students go on to lead worship for prayer meetings, connect groups, in their local church – some of the students have even gone on to lead at big London churches!

I am in touch with the people who lead home groups. Some have asked me for students who are advanced enough to lead worship. The guitar course has supplied three guitar students for various home groups in the last few months – that was, of course, the original aim of the courses.

The pastor of a South London church recently contacted me. They had no musicians to lead worship on Sundays. The Pastor asked me to train some of their congregation to be able to lead at their services – a bit of a tall order to take 9 complete beginner guitarists and try and get them ready to lead in a large church. That class is now on week 8, and some of the more diligent students are really getting it together (much to their own surprise). I’m helping those students to lead at a mid-week service in a couple of week’s time.

And what is the vision for the guitar course?

People have referred to the Worship Guitar Course as my ministry.

Around the time that I did the Alpha Course I went on a follow up course. Part of the aim of the course was to find how you could contribute to the life of the church. On that course the penny dropped that I am a professional musician and that is the skill that I should use to serve the church. When I was first asked to run the guitar course I was thrilled. I saw it as my way of serving the church, HTB in particular, where I made a commitment on the Alpha Course.

There seems to be a hunger in people who want to play worship songs on the guitar – initially for their own worship time, but perhaps to go on to lead others. I have recently received these comments from two students:

“Absolutely loved learning all the great songs of worship – great for my own faith – my own daily worship”.

“I led worship yesterday at 7am. Completely spirit led and sporadic and I remembered all the chords! Afterwards someone said they couldn’t believe I’d only done one term on the ten-week worship leader course! Testimony to great organisation and teaching.”

Comments like this inspire my teaching. They instil in me the confidence that I am doing something useful for the individual, and for the church.

I have a desire to encourage people – to help them through the ‘pain’ of learning towards the point where they feel joy at playing the guitar for worship.

There are currently four levels on the Worship Guitar Courses. Apart from the Beginners and Intermediate I am also running Advanced and Advanced 2 guitar courses. This term they are taking place at Oasis, Colliers Wood.

I have a vision to work with more advanced worshiping guitarists. I see that many guitarists who have a lot of experience of playing and of leading worship and reached a proficient level, but could still go some way to refine their musical skills to make them better musicians and worship leaders.

I have also thought about making the guitar course more formal – offering an accredited course, graded exams, or even developing a college (along the lines of secular models). I would also like to teach some electric guitar courses in a worship guitar context, and perhaps some songwriting. I have a B.Mus., M.A. and a Ph.D. in music and feel qualified to tackle these possibilities.

Just last week the BBC ran an article asking “Is the UK still a Christian country?” in which they concluded that there are declining numbers of people who identify themselves as Christian. I have the vision that my guitar courses are my small contribution to The Great Commission. I hope that my teaching touches those that come on the guitar course (we have even had non-Christians on the course who just wanted to learn the guitar, but then went on to attend a church), but that those students also go on then to touch the lives of others with their own worship music.