Picture a classroom with 15 to 20 10-year-olds gathered around a rug on the floor. A teacher plays recorded music and lets the beat of the music pulse through her shoulders and steps. She transfers the beat to the rhythm sticks, which she holds in her hand. The teacher demonstrates how to play a particular rhythm pattern with the rhythm sticks; and at that point in the music class experience, many students begin to imitate the teacher’s motions, even though they have yet to receive rhythm sticks of their own. Students who show readiness receive the rhythm sticks and are invited to practice the rhythm with the teacher’s guidance. As the students gain musical independence, the teacher introduces a new, and more challenging rhythm pattern to layer atop the first. Some students can maintain the first pattern while others are trying the new one. Some students abandon the first pattern—feeling more comfortable playing the one the teacher is currently demonstrating. Eventually a third pattern is introduced. Guided by the beat of the music and the teacher, the students perform the various rhythms simultaneously; and, the teacher encourages the students to listen and stay together as a class. In order to stay together with each other and with the recorded the music the students need to focus their attention on the leader, to hear the music and internalize the beat, and to develop an awareness of others. This rhythm exercise is a whole body experience that requires participants to tune out internal and external distractions.
I witnessed this scenario multiple times in my music classroom. Then one day I began to see parallels between the music class activity and the gathered worship experience.
Internalizing the beat//Knowing Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit
Focus on the leader//Focus on God
Develop an awareness of others//Sense of being gathered for worship
Whole-body experience//Posture and movement are part of worship
Tune out distractions//Directing the mind to the real meaning of worship