Have you ever considered the obstacles and benefits of missionary kids taking piano lessons? Maybe you have because you’re a missionary and want your kids to learn piano. Or perhaps you’ve never thought about it until now. However, because your church supports missionaries, you may be reading this to better relate to their families. I would like to discuss the obstacles, advantages and solutions for missionary families who want the blessing of their kids learning music!
OBSTACLE: WITH CONSTANT TRAVEL IT IS HARD TO HAVE CONSISTENT LESSONS
As a missionary, you are always traveling. On deputation. Then to the field. On the field, you may have to go from 'village to village' for various ministries or perhaps find it necessary to travel from a rural area to a city for supplies. Then you travel back to your home country to get in a car again and go on furlough. After that, you head back to the field. And the cycle repeats. It may repeat again and again until your children decide whether to stay on the mission field permanently or return to your home/passport country.
With so much travel, it’s almost impossible to find a teacher who can accommodate your needs. If you do, it’s in one country or the other. If ministries grow and are taken over by nationals, your family may move to a new location meaning your students have to find yet another new teacher. With all of the changes, they may feel like they missed part of their music education along the way!
SOLUTION: Yep, missionaries ARE constantly traveling. is this you? Maybe your kids are always facing change and saying goodbye to people: their extended families, their church friends, and possibly the people they meet at all the churches you visit on deputation or furlough. Maybe they are even saying goodbye to people -- not just friends on the field! Someday they may be saying goodbye to your family if they choose to return to your home country while you stay on mission.
With all of the changes and goodbyes in an MK’s life, they will often crave consistency of some sort. For a young child that maybe their car seat, a blanket or toy. It could even be your display table that you stand beside every church! As kids get older, they will want to have something in their life that stays consistent. Music can go with them anywhere as they can play their favourite songs on any piano wherever you are.
OBSTACLE: LANGUAGE BARRIERS WITH A TEACHER - When your family first moves to a new country or area, your child has to start life over with a new language. Although kids tend to pick up a new language quickly, musical terms are not necessarily the first vocabulary words they learn. Usually, there will be a transition time when your family is acclimating to a new culture and language before you can start pursuing interests such as music.
A SOLUTION: Learning music may help your child socially during furloughs, college and anytime they are in their passport country. Musicians often connect very quickly because they can communicate in more ways than just their words. Kids who take music also have the confidence that comes from working hard to learn a skill!
When grown, MK’s will find their training in various aspects of ministry, including music, helpful for serving in their church. They can be well-rounded and versatile in ministry because of their time on the field.
OBSTACLE: IT'S ALWAYS HARD TO FIND A TRUSTWORTHY TEACHER -It’s hard enough to find a trustworthy teacher in many areas let alone in a foreign country. Then suddenly, you will have to evaluate a total stranger from another culture (and in a new language!) for whether it’s safe to leave your kids with them. You also have to determine what kind of music he/she will teach your child and whether they are qualified to teach. Will your children learn helpful things within the culture or questionable stuff from this person? In many places, there may not be anyone in the area who can teach piano.
A SOLUTION: As your student learns to play the piano, they will be able to contribute to your ministry with this skill. You may be in a location on the field where your 10-year-old is the most advanced pianist in the church. Even if they can play once a month, this may be a blessing to many people. It may also encourage others to start learning to play too, (if in an area where pianos are obtainable!). Older teens may be able to help start a music academy as a free ministry or a source of income!
In the teen years, an MK may offer to play a piano solo in churches while you’re on deputation or furlough. Perhaps you want to sing a solo/duet and your son or daughter can accompany you. This opportunity relieves uncertainty for both you and a church pianist since you’re prepared when you arrive! Churches enjoy seeing MK’s involved in ministry and appreciate a family who serves together.
OBSTACLE: MUSIC LESSONS ARE EXPENSIVE! Let’s face it; the cost of music lessons can be somewhat of an issue - especially for missionaries! They are worth every penny because they are so valuable to one’s life, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheap. As a missionary, you may be trying to make ends meet on your current support while having enough money for ministry expenses. You can’t afford the high price tag that comes with so many teachers.
A SOLUTION: If you’re not a missionary, perhaps you could consider sponsoring an MK who would like to take lessons. This support would be a huge blessing to a family to have this expense taken care of each month! Ask your pastor or contact me if you want to get connected with missionaries who could benefit from this partnership.
Whether on the field or in their passport country, a well-trained musician can create a job by teaching piano. Even if this is not a long-term career plan, teaching music can be an excellent college job or back-up income. One can also get paid to perform or accompany others who are playing!
As you can see, you need to carefully weigh the obstacles with the benefits of your child’s music training. This skill will serve them for their entire lives, not just as children! Since it is part of their overall education, you should consider the solutions in spite of the challenges. Join me in the next post as I share some ideas to help you incorporate piano lessons into your home!
Thank you for reading; I hope my thoughts do assist you, missionary, in weighing some options. And with that, in closing, and from the heart of a missionary, I would love to leave you with THIS BEAUTIFUL PSALM.
Angela Joy is a private piano teacher who wants to teach others about God through music. She has experience as both a piano student and a piano teacher. She has also worked with the parents of her students for several years. Angela enjoys teaching young children as well as those with special needs. She wants to use the tool of piano lessons to teach others to know God personally!