Why Your Church Should Have Handbells- Part 3

This last Sunday at Lighthouse Baptist, we finally started reading music. After spending the first three weeks practicing only two techniques (ringing and damping), I decided that the ensembles were ready for the next challenge.

Boy, was it a challenge! The adults and teens all have a moderate to advanced knowledge of music and can read notes…or so we thought. It took us a few minutes to play our first scale on the printed page, but we finally figured it out.

Handbell MusicWe spent rest of the rehearsal practicing basic scales and some chords, all in the key of C major. We had a lot of fun, and almost all the mistakes were things that we could laugh about together.

At the end of the rehearsal, I shared James 1:2-4 with them: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Now, James probably didn’t have music rehearsals in mind when he wrote that passage, but it was enough of a trial for us to remind us that we need to keep working hard while remaining patient. Eventually, we will play some beautiful music together, but until then, we must wait and work and strive to improve.

As for the children’s rehearsal- that was a different story. Almost none of them have prior experience reading music, so we get to start from the beginning with them as they learn to ring together. By the end of the rehearsal we successfully played two scales an octave apart simultaneously…in both directions!

This brings me to my next reason for having a church handbell ministry. You can use it to teach people how to read and play music! That seems like a no-brainer, but perhaps we don’t realize just how much of a blessing this can be to the church.

Music lessons generally are not cheap, especially if they are good ones. Outside of the United States, there are some countries where music lessons in general are scarce. But here in our church we are using handbells to give people free music lessons every week.

Because of the unique nature of handbells and how each person only has a piece of the melody (as discussed in my last post), those who already have a musical background have the opportunity to expand their knowledge base.

For those who do not know how to read and play music, they get to learn something new, and perhaps later they can build on this knowledge by learning to sing or play other instruments.

So there you go! Reason #3 for starting a handbell ministry in your church 🙂

Why Your Church Should Have Handbells- Part 1

This last Sunday was an exciting day for me. For about three years I’ve dreamed about directing a handbell ensemble, and that dream finally came true, much sooner than I ever expected! Sometimes even those dreams that you don’t dream come true!

In the future I will provide more details about how God provided this unique new opportunity at my church, but in this series of posts I am going to share why I think every church should consider starting a handbell ministry.

Lighthouse Baptist Church has never had this ministry in the past, and as far as I know, we are one of the few Baptist churches in our area to have a ringing ensemble. Fourth Baptist Church is on the other side of the Twin Cities here in Minnesota, and they have a thriving handbell ministry. But aside from them, I don’t know of anyone else nearby.

Why So Few?

Based on my travels around the country and my observations from the orders that came in when I worked in a handbell repair shop, the churches with handbell ensembles are primarily Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, and Catholic. Oh, and let me add that many of these churches have not just one but *two* sets of bells.

So why don’t more Baptist and non-denominational churches have handbell ministries? I have no idea.

Maybe it’s because we have less money and don’t want to pay for the instruments. Maybe it’s because we often favor more progressive music styles and don’t think that handbells fit into that style.

Maybe we just don’t know much about them and no one is telling us about them.

Lighthouse Baptist is now the second church that I have been part of in the last few years that has decided to start a handbell ministry, and I think it is a very positive move. Today I am going to share just one reason why.

Bell RingingA Unique Opportunity

Handbells offer a unique opportunity to teach biblical truth.

Yeah, but why do we need need to spend thousands of dollars on new instruments and start a new ministry just to do that?

Great question! But slow down…that’s only the first reason. I’ll give more in the future. Right now let me explain this one.

Hopefully we teach biblical truth in our churches with the sermons, the singing, the Sunday School classes, the conferences, and the Bible studies. But for the most part, those are all lecture-type settings.

But handbells are hands-on, and they require immediate application.

When I preach or teach, I’m a huge proponent of offering practical ideas for application and implementation of biblical truth. You should never conclude a teaching time without telling people how to implement what they have learned as soon as they leave the building.

Once they leave, only time will tell if people respond or not.

But in handbells, ringers are forced to immediately apply what they are learning, or the group won’t progress. The theoretical instantly becomes reality. This provides ensemble directors with the opportunity to show people the difference between doing things one way and doing things another way.

So how does this enable the church to teach biblical truth?

More than Music

This week we spent the whole rehearsal learning basic ringing techniques. We are going to do the same thing next week…and the week after that…and the week after that.

Why? Because they need to know the basics before they can move on to the more advanced. They need a strong foundation so they don’t develop bad habits.

In other terms, we could say that they need to learn the elementary principles of ringing. (Does that terminology ring a bell? 😉 If not, it will soon.)

But if I told them that they need to learn the basics and then I immediately started teaching them more advanced techniques, I would undermine my own authority. My mouth would say, “The basics are really important,” but my actions would say, “Just kidding!”

I can assure you, however, that at the end of this month, my ringers will know the basics exceptionally well. They will have no choice because I won’t give them a choice 🙂

Not only will they hear me talk about it, but they will experience immediate application. Either that or they won’t continue to ring with us.

I told my ringers on Sunday that we are going to end every rehearsal by applying the day’s rehearsal to a truth from Scripture.

This week we compared our rehearsal time to the truth taught in Hebrews 5:12-14: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Many people in our churches have been reborn long enough that they ought to be able to teach and disciple other believers. Unfortunately, they have not reached full maturity yet because they have not been properly fed! They need more milk!

Likewise, our ringers need a solid foundation in the basics before they can move on to greater things.

Wrapping It Up

Here’s the conclusion. The ringers at Lighthouse Baptist have been told that they need to learn the basics. For four weeks they will apply what I have told them by actually doing nothing but the basics.

They will experience hands-on what it means to implement what I have asked them to do, and they will eventually see the difference it makes.

As a result, I can also take biblical truth and apply it to our hands-on “experiment.” When they think of Hebrews 5:12-14, they can think back to when they spent a month “drinking the milk” of handbells.

For the most part, when you preach or teach, you can tell people how to apply Scripture, and you can give them illustrations, but it’s harder to give them that visual, hands-on illustration that says, “See, this is why.”

But with handbells you can do that, and at Lighthouse, that is exactly what we will do.

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Echo His praises!