A lot of times we talk about how we can better serve God and our churches in our worship, song and playing. But what if we could better serve the other members of the church band? What if we could be a servant to our worship leader instead of expecting him to march to our drum?
What if by making a few small changes we could better love and serve each other? Wouldn’t that be an act of worship to the Father who would see his children “playing nice” together? Wouldn’t that be an act of service to our church if we played better and gave them a better platform to express praise, awe, love and devotion?
BE ON TIME. BE READY.
All of the things I’m writing in these posts are generalities. Nine times out of ten they should be happening. We all know there are mornings when the kids puke on their shoes or the alarm clock’s snooze button seems to hit itself or half a dozen other reasons that we don’t make it to practice or church on time. There should be a thick layer of grace in our worship communities. As a worship leader I recognized this. There was a mom with small kids who wanted to be a part of the band, and so we never expected her to show up and set up. I knew that there was going to be a Sunday here and there where I was going to get a text 10 min after morning rehearsal started saying she wasn’t coming. She got a lot of grace.
But grace doesn’t give us an excuse to be lazy. The 20 year old drummer who couldn’t get out of bed on time each week got a lot less and found himself not playing for a while. I had people complain about a less than talented musician getting more time and my response was “he practices, you don’t.”
Do you want your worship team to be better? Show up on time, and be prepared for when you do show up. Know the songs, practice your instrument.
THE FLIPSIDE: Worship leaders. How can you expect people to get prepared if you don’t prepare them? If on a regular basis they don’t know the songs until the night before or the day of? Why would they show up early if you’re always late? Be the change you want to see.
I put notes in the chord charts I send out. Simple things like “band comes in on 2nd verse” or “3rd verse quiet ramping up for the final chorus”. It’s amazing how many players over the years have gotten lost in the song and then when I mention the notes I sent out 5 days earlier they go “oh, I see them now.” How many times has a worship leader said “ok, we’ll have the band come in on the 2nd verse” only to have the band come in on the 1st chorus or earlier? If my band leader asks for something to be there, or asks for something not to be there, I need to be listening so I can function as a part of the team.
I don’t just need to listen to my band leader, but to what the other players are doing. If I’m a bass player and I start doing lines up high on the neck, is that clashing with the lead work the second guitar player or keyboardist is doing? If I’m the piano player, am I stomping all over the “sonic space” of the other players (see my thoughts on that HERE)? Maybe the drums are ramping up and I should match. Maybe the keys are taking the lead so I should back my electric guitar down. Maybe the lead singer is approaching the 1st verse in a low key way and the backing vocals should follow suit or wait for the chorus.
Listening to what the other band members are doing or not doing will take you miles down the road of being a better teammate.
THE FLIPSIDE: Worship leaders. Know who’s doing what, and be able to give some direction. Assign the “lead” role for a song between the Lead guitar and keyboards if you have both so only one is doing the solos and they aren’t battling with each other for space in the song. Most of this work will be probably take place with your keyboardist since they can step on the musical toes of everyone in the band (bass, electric, acoustic, vocals, etc). As well as with the vocalists who often haven’t learned to sing with other people and to be generous with harmonies and parts in my experience.
KNOW THE RATIO
The ratio is pretty simple. The less people in the band, the more I play to fill in the space. The more people in the band, the less I play as space is taken up. When you show up on Sunday morning, if you play or sing the same way no matter what then you do a disservice to your teammates. Maybe they need to you pick up some slack since you’re down a few players. Maybe you’re crowding in on those around you. Either way, having a ratio of number of people to how much I play will be a great help to your team.
THE FLIPSIDE: Worship leaders. We need to know the ratio as well. It’s possible to have too many people on stage at once. Also, it’ possible that if you have a larger number of players than usual, maybe for a special event, that you need to acknowledge this publicly and make adjustments on who is doing what so that you don’t get a muddied mess of sound when the service starts.
PLAY LIKE YOU PRACTICED
I don’t know how many worship leaders have walked away from a band practice feeling good about things only to find that it all falls apart when the service starts. If a specific arrangement is worked out then we need to do whatever it takes to make that happen during the service. I’ve found that using a pen to make extra notes on my chords charts is extremely helpful. I disagree with the idea that you do more in practice and less in a service. I think in practice you find your way and then take it there for the people.
THE FLIPSIDE: Worship Leaders. If you’ve allowed or created a culture of ‘anything goes’, then don’t be surprised when it does and the going is bad.
BE A SESSION PLAYER
Some churches have a worship community where people form bands that have a specific sound, vibe and scope like a real band would. Churches like Sojourn, Mars Hill, Soma, Calvary Fellowship (Seattle) and others function this way. Most churches however, don’t. They have a worship “team”. That is a hodgepodge of players from different styles, tastes and musical backgrounds. Creative fulfillment is optional, service is not.
When I get a set list from a worship leader, I ask myself, what do I know of their style and musical preferences and try to orient myself in that direction. If I get a youtube link, no matter what I think of the music, I need to get that sound as best as possible. Jimmy Paige started out as a session player in London. It wasn’t time for him to play Stairway to Heaven, he played whatever role was asked of him.
THE FLIPSIDE: It’s a good idea to have a clear plan for what you want to accomplish musically, and then communicate it as best you can via words, directions, and youtube links so that everyone in the band is on the same page, or at least the same chapter.
READ YOUR BIBLE
Imagine a worship team that didn’t complain about leadership leading because they had studied the roles of elders and deacons in the New Testament and understood that it was biblical for someone to lead and set the direction of the worship community.
Imagine a worship team that was devoted to “love one another” because they knew it was a major theme of the scripture.
Imagine a worship team where the older players trained the younger instead of dismissing their music out of hand because that kind of discipleship is talked about in 1st Timothy. Or a worship team that cared about reaching the next generation while still serving the older instead of just wanting their way all the time.
Read your bible and you’ll find it’s all there.
THE FLIPSIDE: Worship leader. Do you know your bible? All those issues I listed above are fairly common, can you teach, train, and lead using the scripture as your guide? Did you know that the Bible speaks about these things?
Does your set list, prayers and culture reflect a worship community that valves, honors and seeks to follow God’s word. Or does it reflect one that honors, valves and follows the advice of men?
Pray. For unity. For love. For diligence.
Do you have an issue with your worship leader, or some part of the church band? Have you prayed about it? Have you asked God for the answer? Have you asked God to fix the problem for you?
Sometimes God has fixed the problem for me. Other times God has shown me that I was the problem. But had I not prayed, would I have found these answers?
THE FLIPSIDE: Worship Leaders. Pray. Pray through your set. Pray for your people. Pray over your issues, cause we all have issues with people, places or things in our church. Worship Jesus in prayer so you can better lead the church to worship Jesus in song.