Alex Barringer has been director of worship and music at Georgetown United Methodist Church for less than a year.
“It’s kept me busy, for sure, but I’m liking the people and blending in well with what they’re doing here,” said Barringer, 25, from his church office.
Most of the director’s 35-hour work week is wrapped up in worship – whether planning, selecting music, rehearsing, readying multimedia material or tackling other details.
In fact, recruiting, tracking and scheduling volunteers for worship and related ministries are his greatest challenges.
“I have to make sure everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be,” he said.
“That’s something they don’t really teach you at school.”
DETAILS OF MUSIC MINISTRY
Barringer is hands-on at both of Georgetown’s Sunday morning worship services, which draw a combined average of around 300.
In the early (9 a.m.) traditional service he accompanies the choir, which sings three Sundays per month. On the fourth Sunday, Barringer directs the bell choir. Although he had played in a bell choir, he had never led one until he came to Georgetown.
Barringer is even more visible at the (11:15 a.m.) contemporary service, selecting the songs, performing either on guitar or keyboard, and leading a praise team which varies in size from week to week.
“Sometimes it’s just me on acoustic, or me and a conga player, or six or seven people with bass, drums/percussion, keys and guitars,” he said.
Current songs which have worked well: the Chris Tomlin tune “I Will Follow You,” Matt Redman’s “Sing and Shout,” and the familiar “Cornerstone.”
Georgetown pastor William Bills shares with the staff an outline of upcoming sermon messages, which are similar in both services. But he and Barringer meet week to week to plan specifics.
Bills has been pleased with the music director’s energy and talent.
“He is very mature and easy to work with,” Bills said.
“And he had some pretty big shoes to fill when he came because our church has many excellent musicians.”
Barringer’s position actually combines the roles of two previous worship staffers, each of whom led a different service. He is already putting his own stamp on worship expression.
“In the first service I just kind of kept the momentum going, and for the second one we did a kind of re-boot thing,” he said.
PATH TO MUSIC MINISTRY
Barringer has a deep history in church music. He was born in a small town outside Toledo, Ohio and started piano lessons at age 5, taking to the instrument very well. He began playing in his church while in elementary school and continued right through his high school years.
“I picked up guitar in 7th grade and started leading more contemporary songs for the youth group,” he recalled.
“Eventually I felt like music was the area God was calling me to in my life.”
He studied music at Greenville College in Illinois, with an emphasis on worship leading and piano performance.
While still in school he was already choir director and pianist for a local church.
He moved to West Michigan in 2012 to begin work at Leighton United Methodist in Caledonia before coming to Georgetown last year.
A good sign: Barringer survived his first Christmas season at the church with its rush of extra services and special music.
“I had a lot of help from people in the church volunteering in various ways and the staff was supportive with what I needed help with,” he noted.
A MULTIPLE OUTLOOK
Barringer’s variety of talents (he’s also an excellent vocalist who sings with the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus), serve him well in his differing roles.
“I think what’s unique about this position is that I’m doing both traditional and contemporary (worship) styles,”
“A lot of times you’ll find classically trained musicians who want to do only classical, or some who are more into the jazz-rock thing and they only do that,” he added.
“It’s nice to be able to be involved on both sides of things.”
Personally, Barringer says, he’s a big fan of the music of Hillsong United, one of several contemporary worship ensembles spawned by the huge Hillsong megachurch in Australia. But he also appreciates the modern hymns of Keith and Kristyn Getty (“In Christ Alone”).
“This job is fulfilling in a lot of ways, but for me the most satisfying is leading and seeing people come into the presence of God and really being able to worship.”
Just The Facts:
Who: Alex Barringer, 25, single
What: Director of Music and Worship
Where: Georgetown United Methodist Church, 2766 Baldwin St. Jenison. www.gumonline.org, 616-669-0730
How: Prepare all church worship-realated experiences, lead worship/music at contemporary service, accompany church choir, direct bell choir
Philosophy on the role of the arts/music in worship: “Often times music/arts are tools to help us focus on why we are in worship and to give voice to the Word. Sometimes it helps us to put our emotions in the right place, and the text of the music can steer us in the direction of what God wants us to hear.”