Should We Ban The Music Stands?


This has become a conversation over the past few years in worship ministry. Possibly, it’s even become a battle in some chruches. Should we allow music stands on the stage?

For some, this will seem like a ridiculous idea; how can we know what songs to play without the music? What’s the big deal? Why is this even a question?

While others might say: “yes, and if you don’t get rid of the stands, you’re doing it wrong!” or some other hyperbolic rhetoric.

For this post, I’d like to address the reasons someone would want to ban Music Stands, the pros and cons of those reasons and some practical considerations for you to take into account. Maybe you’ve been wresting with this idea. Maybe this has been an issue in your ministry. Maybe you’ve never heard of such a thing and you can’t understand why someone would do it; but you are going to keep reading to find out.

Continue reading “Should We Ban The Music Stands?”

Finding Your Place Pt.2


I started playing bass when I was 12. When I was 14 I picked up the guitar. I’ve been playing both ever since. I led worship for the first time at age 14. I learned to practice by playing in bands in high school, and worship teams in my teens and 20′s.

Not everyone who plays in a church band has that kind of background. A lot of good folks learned to play their instrument on their own and don’t know how to play and practice with a band. The following series of posts will be thoughts on how to serve God and His church well, by learning how to practice well. Here’s a few thoughts and musings on “Finding A Place” in the band for you and your instrument.

Part 2: Finding Your Place In The Song.

In this 2nd part of the series I wanted to talk about what you’re doing as a musician in the song itself. When you show up for band practice do you just start playing along right away or do you listen for where you’ll fit in the grand scheme of things? Figuring out where you’re supposed to be and some tips on how to get there.

“One of the most freeing places a musician can come to is the realization that I Don’t Have To Play Right Now.”

What are you playing?

It sounds simple, but the instrument I’m playing effects what I play. Let’s say there’s more than one guitar, if I’m the 2nd acoustic guitar and the electric is doing “lead work” then the band doesn’t really need me to play the same thing as the main acoustic guitar, and it really doesn’t need me compete with the electric for solo work. In this case I would probably just do some light picking or do some sustained chord work to “fill in the sound”. If I’m the keyboardist or guitar player who has the “lead” responsibilities, maybe I’ll back off or just not playing during any parts of the song with singing. Knowing what my role in the song is (which is determined by my instrument) affects where, when, what and how I play.

Should I be playing?

It’s the hardest thing for a musician to do: not play your instrument when it’s in your hands. The flip side of this is that one of the most freeing places a musician can come to is the realization that I Don’t Have To Play Right Now.

If the song is a sparse ballad, then maybe it doesn’t need a driving drum beat. If we are going “all out” on the chorus or the ending, then maybe in the 2nd verse I could just hang back. In other words, sometimes less is more. If I’m the drummer and it’s an uptempo song, maybe its the first song of the Sunday church service, then I need to be ready to rock from the get go. It’s all about being aware of where you’re at, and what’s going on around you.

“Knowing what my role in the song is affects where, when, what and how I play.”

Sometimes I just need to listen

I’ve found that sometimes, when I’m practicing, I just need to drop out for a second and hear what’s going on around me. I want to hear what the band leader is doing, etc, and then jump back in when I have an idea where I fit in. Recently I was doing backing vocals on a song, the first time we practiced it I didn’t sing, I just listened and I figured out where I should jump in, which I decided for this song was the 2nd verse, singing only on every other line and then coming in a bit stronger on the chorus. It gave a nice feel to the vocals on the song. I knew what my role was as the backing vocalist. I didn’t have to sing every line and I learned more by listening than doing. Sometimes it’s the other way around and I figure out my bit from messing around for a minute or two, but even that requires some listening and the maturity (gained over time) to know when and where to just try something out and when to step back and listen for a moment.

We serve by thinking

The key to all of this is using our brain and being aware of what’s going on around us. Luke 10:27 tells us to love God ‘with all our mind”. I take this very literally: God Wants Us To Think. Finding my place in the song by using my brain to know what my role is, what my instrument is supposed to do, and what kind of song it is (ballad vs. uptempo), are all acts of spiritual worship to God. I serve the band I’m playing with by being aware of what’s going on. The band serves the church family by being well practiced. We all serve God in praise, worship, and adoration to Jesus and about Jesus through our God-given ability to express thoughts and feelings through music.

The Electric: When You Feel Unwanted

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about being Turned Down in the Mix.

I was scrolling through a forum for electric guitar players, I stumbled across a thread for guy who play in church bands. Many of them had similar stories. They had been asked to play but where almost always non-existent in the house mix, or where never able to hear themselves in the monitors because the keyboard player or background singer complained, etc. They were men who wanted to serve and felt unable to do so.

I confess I understood where a lot of them where coming from and it inspired this post.

There were three general situations represented in that forum. I want to look at the causes and give some thoughts on responses.

1. The victims of sound men…

Their band leaders want them heard but the sound guys (for many possible reasons) don’t. I was a sound guy for many years so I know what a thankless job that is. If it all goes perfect then nobody notices, but if one little thing goes wrong it’s all their fault. Over the years I’ve been amazed how many people feel the freedom to go back and complain to the sound guys who are often only doing what they’ve been told to do.

That being said there are sound guys who see themselves as a “check” for the worship band, or who don’t get the vision for what’s going on. That can be rough, I’ve been there. This is where good, honest and open communication comes in. Talk to your band leader. Be honest, have dialogue, and maybe don’t do it during sound check before service ( 🙂 ). It’s possible that this is an issue that your worship leader is unaware of or is trying to work out already. More communication is generally a good thing.

2. We Like Guitars, kinda… 

The guys who’s church wants an electric guitar player, but it’s not the emphasis… Most of the music I listen to is guitar driven, but that doesn’t mean the music your church band does is. A lot of churches are piano driven, many others have acoustic folk in their roots. The is where the “it’s not about you” or “are you here to serve?” comes into play. A lot of worship band players have been told this, especially electric guitar players. This is the situation where it really applies. Maybe you’re not up in the mix because you’re wanted to fill in the sound, but the music isn’t the music you’re used to. If you’re used to driving guitars, you may think it’s a personal thing when really it’s a sound thing.

Like I said earlier. Communication is a good thing. Communication up front to understand our role as guitar players in our church music community, and communication afterwards to head off any misunderstandings.

3. We Just Aren’t That Into You…

Then there’s the 3rd group, those who aren’t wanted… I feel for you guys. I’m not sure how you got in the church band, you may not be sure yourself, but you’re there and you feel like you might as well not be. That sucks, that really sucks.

Should you leave your church over it? Maybe and No.

No because a church should be a family. I still come to christmas dinner even though my mom insists on playing that terrible Josh Groban christmas album. (Haven’t you ever heard of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, or even Amy Grant Mom? 🙂 ) No because maybe God doesn’t want you to serve (for now) in music at church and maybe you’re supposed to teach kids in the sunday school or help mix the soundboard. Church should be a family and if you leave so quickly over this you weren’t part of the family to begin with. I you just take your amp and go else where, you may be missing out of the great things God has planned for you that you can’t see because all you can see is “your callings” as a musician.

Maybe this is a way for you to see that God is calling you somewhere else. You might that you find that the form and expression of your church doesn’t mesh with yours, and maybe that’s part of the problem in the band experience for you. For example: You come from a Pentecostal background and you’re serving/playing a baptist church, or you only play Classic Rock/John Fogerty style leads and the church you’re at is looking for something more along the lines of John Tesh. I find that a church’s style and expressions of worship and art are often linked (directly or indirectly) with it’s views towards evangelism, discipleship, community, and theology. It’s possible that something like this is God launching you out somewhere new. If that’s the case, then see the above about a church being family and leave in the light of that great truth.

These are just some thoughts. We have the great privilege of serving Jesus and His church through music and creativity, and finding our place in His service is part of our Christian journey. If you find yourself in this situation, as many of us have, know that you are not alone and this is a great chance for you to grow deeper in prayer, God’s grace, and the community God has called you to be a part of in the local church.