There is this sense of honoring people over function. As worship leaders we should always be on the look out for ways to increase this sense of family within our circles of influence. This sense of family or cohesiveness, or belonging to one another or whatever you would like to call it, spills out into the way we worship together and folks are able to see that there is a genuine love between the people who are playing music together within that certain collective. You may be like me in this, you may be able to walk into a church or a musical performance and discern within 5 seconds whether or not that band on stage loves one another or, are simply “playing a gig together.” In fact, I would be willing to go so far as to say that is the reason folks will pay hundreds of dollars to see their favorite band play music together. It’s not the chord structures or talent, it is the camaraderie and the history those individuals have together that people pay big bucks to witness! As worship leaders we are called to create an environment of willingness above obligation. Musicians won’t feel like they “have to” play this Sunday if there is a sense of family being nurtured in your worship ministry, they will feel anticipation for the next time they get to play together!
Being Together // Serving Together
One way we can nurture a cohesive culture in our worship ministry is simply by spending time together away from that stage. If you take the time to invite, you will begin to see this dynamic take shape. Invite the band over to share a “family meal.” Or take the tribe out to listen to a local band you all would enjoy. After the show, go and get ice cream together and talk about the things that inspired you about that band. If you are inspired creatively by seeing art, schedule a time to go to your local museum together as a band. I’ve seen this play out many times over the years. It is not me who is gathering/shepherding musicians, but it is Jesus who is teaching us, together, that community is such an enormous blessing. I begin to listen to different types of music, at the suggestion of my bassist. I begin to enjoy a different type of ice cream flavor simply because that is my guitarist’s favorite kind. Little things like this will be tell-tale signs that healthy, life-giving musical cohesiveness is on the rise at your church. It is not all about “equipping meetings, and talent driven seminars” but more about sharing life together. Sometimes we get it backwards and think that we need to get our lives sorted before we can share them with others. In the Kingdom we find that it is in the process of sharing our lives with others that Jesus begins to sort the issues of life. Sometimes we work so hard to “press in” our church’s worship values through teaching an equipping class, and we forget that the disciples became more like Jesus as they simply shared meals with him. They found they began to think more about Kingdom values the longer they hung out with the King. This relational dynamic is still at work today in your worship ministry. The more you share life together in a healthy way, you begin to have significant conversations. As you begin to nurture this culture, you will begin to find a depth to worship you never thought existed. For a musician, there are few better things than worshipping Jesus with friends you deeply love and have journeyed the tough stuff of life with. Over the past five years I have really enjoyed being a part of our church’s songwriting group. By expressing our creativity in a safe place we were able to become more cohesive. We found that something unique happened when we sang a song on Sunday morning that came out of that writers group. There was ownership, and a sense of belonging that happened. These were our songs, one person may have come with an initial idea, and another person added a bridge, another added a chorus. There was a sense of community written into those songs. What a privilege and honor to serve the local church by writing songs for Her.
Encouragement // Gratitude
A word of encouragement and gratitude goes along way. The thing with encouragement is that you don’t do it in order to gain a compliment in return or to gain favor from the person you are encouraging. That is more along the lines of manipulation. Jesus never led out of manipulation. He always led out of love. When we create a musical culture of encouragement, several things will happen.
People will feel safe to express their gifts. When you encourage others in your band, you will find that you “look forward” to that expression of creativity from them because you know it is something that you yourself could not express. It is the way your drummer plays that fill, the way your guitarist plays those certain passing notes that only they can play. As you encourage your band mates in their gifts, they will begin to take your lead and play with courage. Rest assured, the most effective way to rid your worship culture of timidity is to encourage one another in your respective gifting. This thing of encouraging others goes beyond what certain musicians can “do” with their instrument. Take time to encourage others in who they are as people. Remember, Jesus always deals in terms of identity. He is more concerned with the posture of our hearts than in our skill level. Granted, we want to be pressing on both pedals of character and excellence, but encouraging others in who they are first, will always lead you to appreciate what they can do second.
Being thankful for others in worship ministry will also eliminate unhealthy competition, which is all too common among musicians. In fact, as your worship culture grows in giving encouragement and being grateful for one another, you will find attitudes shifting from “I can do that better than you” to “no one does that like you can!” When we feel safe within our worship family we don’t have to strive to be the best, instead we look for ways to appreciate one another. Thankfulness is God’s way of leading us from entitlement. Nothing is owed to you as a worship leader, everything we enjoy is a gift from Jesus. That includes the sense of community within your worship culture. When you show others that you are thankful for them, you will begin to find they are eager to serve with you. Serving with someone is always more fun than serving FOR something. Don’t you love being around thankful people? They are like a breath of fresh air. Becoming a cohesive worship tribe has everything to do with moving away from entitlement, and into the realm of being grateful for one another. Take time on Sunday night after church and shoot your band a “thank you!” text. Let them know the time and attention they give is not unnoticed. Developing family traditions together is another way to show gratitude for one another. I remember a season when every Wednesday night after practice we would go out for pizza. We began to expect this tradition and count on this time to share our lives together in a meaningful way outside of playing our instruments together on stage.
Creating a cohesive worship culture is all about developing a family worship culture together. A worship culture that is cohesive is attractive to the culture at large. As you love, encourage, and serve one another in your worship culture, you will begin to see more connection in the larger church family. As worship leaders, sometimes we aim too low. It is far too low of a goal to simply get folks clapping along with their favorite song, or create a technically sound 20-25 minute worship sing-along. Our aim must forever be to lead others into Jesus’ presence, and that begins with loving and serving those in our worship community. We can experience cohesiveness in our worship culture only by loving and serving those the Lord has gathered around us.