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A Look Behind the Leader: Ben Beltman

BeltmanBenBen Beltman’s greatest challenge is something like a balancing act: leading his church’s music/worship ministry within the diversity of the congregation’s modest-sized membership.

“We have doctors, homeless people and everything in between,” noted Beltman of the range of socio-economic classes at the church on Grand Rapids’ near west side.

Even with responsive readings on the sanctuary screen, consideration must be given to those who may be illiterate and thus excluded.

“There are many challenges like that,” Beltman noted.

His part-time position includes responsibility for leading music and a volunteer worship team. He also is in charge of technical aspects such as audio, video and on-screen support.


Beltman estimates he spends at least a dozen hours per week on matters related to the church’s Sunday morning worship service.

A weekly meeting with Servant’s co-pastors Jeff and Jenn Petersen provides the outline for the sermon topic, other elements of worship and perhaps a relevant song.

But typically, song selection is left to Beltman.

“My philosophy is that if our music is solidly-biblically based and if the preaching is as well, there will be a lot of common ground,” he said.

He works with a group of volunteer musicians who rotate on a weekly basis. He’ll prepare various numbers of vocalists and band members, depending on what’s needed.

On a given Sunday, the volunteer group comes to church early to rehearse.

“I used to have a weekly evening rehearsal, but lately I feel like it’s worked better to set up meetings with individual people to work on things,” Beltman said.

Worship at Servant’s averages around 75 people, so the volunteer pool is not large. Another challenge for Beltman is to coordinate worship team members with varying degrees of music skill and experience.
Their worship style could broadly be described as contemporary, with a wide variety of songs. A current favorite is “10,000 Reasons,” an award-winning, Matt Redman song currently popular in contemporary worship.

“I get a lot of positive feedback when we do that one,” he said.

He also prepares music for a once-a-month Sunday evening vespers service.


Beltman’s father was a pastor when Ben was very young and church music was part of his early experience.

“I took music lessons on and off, but really I always wanted to play by ear,” he said of his keyboard skills. He also played percussion through school.

A music theory class in college helped things like chord structure and the role of harmony come together. He took private guitar lessons in his spare time.

But it was while he was at Ferris State University studying illustration and graphic design that he began to get a feel for leading worship: Beltman helped the worship team at a church just off campus.

“I really cut my teeth there,” he recalled, still never imagining that he would ever actually be employed by a church.

After graduation, he volunteered to play in worship at First Reformed Church in Grandville where his college pastor had begun serving.

“I was working for a company as an illustrator, a job which I was able to do but I just did not have the passion for it,” he recalled.

It was through a connection at First Reformed that he learned about Servant’s Community where he eventually signed on as part of the church staff.


The urban church has quite a history. Their facility is in a mature neighborhood of small residential lots with a mix of owner-occupied and rental housing, just two blocks from busy Fulton St. It was originally home to Ninth Reformed Church which had roots going back to the 1890s.

That church disbanded in 1978, and Servant’s Community formed three years later meeting in the same historic building on the corner of Deloney and Watson St. SW.

For a few years of his tenure there Beltman was full time. But now he supplements his part-time position doing freelance graphic arts work.

In most churches, you simply can’t please everyone when it comes to music selection, style and approach to worship. Beltman says Servant’s diversity contains that challenge. But he is committed to bring forth music as a form of worship with the least amount of distractions and the highest possible quality.

“I’m always aware of trying to create an atmosphere where those of us leading or playing are not the focus of attention,” he noted.

“I want to point people and their worship straight to God and try to be as little in the way as possible.”

The Facts:

Who: Ben Beltman, 42, married with two children
What: Worship, music and media coordinator
Where: Servant’s Community Church, 53 Deloney Ave. SW. Grand Rapids, www.servantschurch.org, 616-451-2418

How: A 3-day per week position, planning and providing music and technical components for Sunday morning worship, consulting with co-pastors, leading a worship team.
Philosophy on the role of music/creative arts in worship: "Music is a great and wonderful gift as a form of worship. It’s a means of connecting our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical parts – all of which can be engaged through music. To me that’s a very complete form of worship."
Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Terry is journalist who writes for newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites. His most frequented “beat” is arts and entertainment. He is married with two children and lives in Grand Rapids.

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