Meet Ian Shanks
Ringwood Corps, Melbourne
Worship leader for 25 years
How long have you been involved in worship ministry?
Ian Shanks: Probably longer than I care to admit! I’ve been involved in Salvo music since childhood. I joined the senior band at age 10. I started playing guitar at age 13 and formed my own rhythm group in the corps at age 14. I’ve played in a variety of Christian/Salvo contemporary groups over the years. My time leading a worship band started when our family moved to Ringwood about 25 years ago.
How has the ministry evolved at your corps in that time?
IS: Ministry at my corps has expanded to become much more inclusive. It better reflects our congregation, especially our younger members. Over the last 10 years, there has been a strong focus on growing our roster and involving more of our young people. Ringwood is an encouraging and supportive environment which has allowed different forms of worship to evolve, including brass band playing with our contemporary group.
You are a busy man! You run your own business as well as a foundation for improving the health of women and children in Africa. Why is it important to you to make time for this ministry?
IS: Through my charity, the Fullife Foundation, I’ve been involved in some exciting mission opportunities in Ethiopia where we have saved hundreds of lives by funding safe birth initiatives. The pharmacies I am associated with in my work and the people I meet every day are my immediate mission field. With all the hectic activity occurring elsewhere in my life, including a large family with 11 grandchildren, I find my involvement at Ringwood to be a nice escape and something I really look forward to. My role is running the band which I enjoy. I always look forward to making music with good friends and producing high quality music that underpins and supports worship. It’s the relationships and the bonds we share as Christian musicians that makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes, we can fall into the trap of trying to label everything we do in church as worship or mission. If we are honest with ourselves, it’s not that at all. I’ve concluded that making music and enjoying time with friends in a Christian environment is something of value.
You were the leader of your worship team for a long time. What are the top two lessons you learned during your time of leadership?
IS: As the leader of the worship team, I saw my role as the person who encouraged connection and cohesion within the group. And stopped the drummers from racing! With a roster of over 20 talented people, many experienced the highs and lows of life, so I found I often needed to be a pastor more than a musical leader. The second lesson I learned is that poorly rehearsed and slap-dash “tone deaf” music detracts from worship. I always focused on making sure that the band, particularly the rhythm section, learned to play together. We must do all we can to support and not distract during worship.
What encouragement can you give to worship leaders around The Salvation Army world?
IS: Always be thankful that people choose to give their time to be involved in worship ministry. The time of expecting people to show up out of duty is well and truly gone, and that’s a good thing.
Do all you can to encourage and grow unity, both personal and musical, within the group. My experience has taught me that groups that communicate well will ultimately play well and selflessly together.
Finally, I would strive to choose music that reflects the corps environment and relates directly to people in the congregation. Issues such as the key of the song, ease of singing, and song speed are all important factors. If we want people to join in and participate in the musical expression, the least we can do is make it easy for them!