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Worship Team vs. Worship Band

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Is the church platform exclusive for the select few or should it be a place to raise up people who are gifted to lead?

There are many great worship bands that tour and record albums to spread the gospel, and many small churches that lead worship with very few people in their teams. Both bring much glory to God, but I’m sometimes amazed when some big churches in urban areas with over 1,000 attendees have the same worship team with only 5-6 people on stage every Sunday. It seems like a physical impossibility to not have a bigger team, but after thinking about it I’ve realized they might have fallen prey to a mentality of a worship band instead of a worship team. Secular bands are content with 3-6 members and can work efficiently to create a commercially viable entity to become famous and make lots of money for their record label and themselves, but those things should not motivate us. How then do we end up thinking this model would work for Sunday worship?

Worship bands in Sunday services exist in a cocoon of stages and green rooms, barely having contact with regular churchgoers. They seek each other out and can become an exclusive group of artists living an isolated life in the middle of God’s people. I want to challenge all of us to break that bubble and train our band members and singers to become a part of our church family on a deeper level, engaging in Sunday services by going out and mingling with non-musicians, during the week by attending small groups, and even volunteering for non-musical service opportunities. We should be modeling the love of Christ to all people, and isolation just doesn’t work. If we only share life with other musicians, we will miss out on profound wisdom from people that are not on the worship team.

Our lives as leaders should be filled with a desire to find more people for the worship team, find out their potential, plug them in to serve, and keep raising them up as their abilities grow. This can’t happen if we view our worship people as a band with limited participation and walls that are too high to cross. Don’t build walls and obstacles. Instead, build up people and tear down the walls. Every singer and player is a potential worship leader, and we are called to tap into that potential and set them on a path where their gifts will be fully realized for God’s glory. The worship team needs to be more than a band. It needs to be a breeding ground of worship leaders and lead worshipers, no matter what the instrument.

Choirs are much neglected, but they don’t have to be. The only issue is our antiquated view of them. Be bold and put out a call for choir singers for Easter and Christmas services. They can rock just as hard as the 5-piece, and even harder. People will see more of their friends on stage, and choirs work as an excellent first step in the audition process for team singers and potential future worship leaders. If you don’t have a knack for leading choirs, try to find someone that does and give them a place to serve in the team, it’s a win-win all around.

Youth shouldn’t be ignored. Are you working with the youth pastor to find budding musicians and singers? Is there a venue or are there events where you can include them in worship? If their talents aren’t up to snuff, make them quiet in the mix but have them on stage. When their friends see them up there with your team, it will build up their self-confidence, get them excited about practice, and give their friends a kick and a sense of belonging in “the big church.”

Our whole calling should be about creating a worship team instead of a worship band, raising up and training those who come behind us, and making sure that our churches will stay strong for years after we’re gone. Worship teams are a key way to ensure this by recruiting newcomers and setting them on a path that keeps the worship going strong. We must model selfless service, and pouring into others by building a worship team that allows new leaders to rise up is the ultimate example of this.

 

More thoughts on raising up your team members in Petri’s earlier Monday Musings, Raise Them Up.

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9 Responses to “Worship Team vs. Worship Band”

  1. Thank you Petri. I hadn’t thought about this before, because our 150-member church (400 attendance on Sunday due to 3 area colleges) has 6 worship leaders with somewhat distinct teams of musicians, one leader who specifically puts together choirs 3-4 times/year (incl. a year-round youth choir) and many, if not most are integrated into several other ministries in the church. I thought that’s what everyone did!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Colleen. That sounds fantastic! Looks like you guys have figured out how to keep your church growing and thriving through the worship team. Blessings as you go on!

  3. Probably what bothers me most about this article is the complete lack of Scriptural basis or reference. Beyond that, I do appreciate the heart behind this message.

    Two main thoughts: Old Testament worship certainly seemed to require a certain skill level and musicians were more of an isolated bunch. This approach seemed to bring glory to God. Are we to believe that it is no longer valid? And if so, on what grounds?

    My second thought is that I actually use a “Bands” approach in my church for the very reasons that are mentioned in this article as not part of the “Band” mentality. In other words, I use Bands for the specific reasons of building up new worship leaders and getting more musicians on the stage.

    My approach is simple: I create 4 different “Bands” and each year I shake up the band members. This allows me to have (theoretically) 40 worship team members who are each plugged in to a specific band, growing together in skill, relationships, and Biblical knowledge (as each band is a small group, as well). Each Band has their own main leader, and I help that leader try to raise up new leaders within the band itself. These new leaders may lead a Band of their own on the following year.

    Anyway, I appreciate the heart of this article, but something feels a bit off.

  4. Hey Petri, I love the heart behind this article but I wanted to help paint a better picture of a band centric model for a worship team. I agree that if the goal of a worship band is to create CDs, and tour the world then we’ve missed the point. But I served on staff at a church for three years that had a “band-centric” model and it was incredible to see how God used this to grow his church, empower leaders and make disciples. I’ll quickly break down the difference in what you described above and what I saw happen.

    Before let me say I do not believe there is one right way to lead a worship team/band. I think it all depends on the context and culture of your local body.

    At this church we didn’t build a band (regardless of the talent and skill of the musicians) without a worship leader who we believe could lead the congregation and band both spiritually and musically. They were the first piece to the puzzle. From there we trusted them to build the band that they felt were the best fit. The expectation were that these were the guys they would do life with. They would disciple and invest in these guys and then in return call them to disciple and invest in other guys. These musicians or band were expected to actively be a part of and serve in our local church outside of music. They weren’t musicians who happened to be christians but rather they were followers of Christ who happened to be musicians.

    This model worked well for the following reasons.
    – It’s next to impossible to shepherd, care for and pastor 40 + worship musicians. There needs to be the right dynamic, relationships and systems for it to be more than I know this worship member’s name, area they live and dates they’re available to play. Therefore we invested in the few to dig into each others lives and see spiritual fruit.

    – There was a greater intimacy amongst the “team/Band” than I had ever experienced as we actively served together, prayed together, studied the scriptures together, spent time on mission in the city together and confessed sin to one another.

    – The band played the same arrangements of songs and knew how to cover each others mistakes which lead to a tighter musicality which ultimately lead to a more distraction free environment and it allowed the band to lead worship with our physical posture because we knew the songs very well and didn’t have to burry our faces in a music stand.

    – Because there were often the same people leading each sunday at a campus the congregation was familiar with them and responded better to their leadership. In return the band/worship leader knew the congregation so well he knew how to engage them in worship and point their hearts to Jesus.

    – Lastly, it allowed our guys to invest in younger guys at our campus to help train, equip and disciple them to follow Jesus. Music is not the goal just the means to a greater end, to worship Christ.

    Our worship director had a great saying that has stuck with me for a long time… Regardless of the task or role of a person the goal is to use tasks to get people done, not people to get a task done.

    Sorry I know that’s a lot but I was hoping to point out some of the benefits of using a “band-centric” model. 🙂

    • Hi Caleb, and thanks for your fantastic comment! It was a real joy to read your perspective and see you expand on the thoughts I started with, bringing new perspective into the conversation, and I totally agree that each team needs to be led in different ways, we musn’t put God in a box. In effect, our thinking is not that far apart. As the team grows, you have to be able to manage it, and you guys brilliantly broke the musicians into smaller, more intimate and more manageable bands and reaped the benefits in excellence and spiritual growth, that’s awesome! I’m assuming that the bands you created weren’t isolated, but you also had big team meetings and communicated to keep everyone on the same page.

      I think the difference between right and wrong isn’t in whether you call it band or team-centric, but what is the spirit behind it. Your band-centric model sounds more like a structure to manage the larger team, since your musicians were plugged into relationships and also expected to serve outside of the worship team. That’s the heart of my article, to raise up worship leaders and team members that are a part of the church, not just the isolated team. In that respect, you had worship teams, who understood the church and were a part of the whole family, and I applaud you for it.

      Your model looks great for growing churches that want to avoid the wrong isolated mentality. I hope that your musicians enjoyed great relationships with many more people than just those in the worship team. Your worship director’s line is one for the books, let’s follow his advice and keep using tasks to get people done. Really enjoyed your comment, all the best for the future as you follow your calling!

  5. Thanks Petri, yeah it was a great joy to be a part of and God is and I pray will continue to do great things through this church. I recently moved to LA this summer to work with a church plant and I am praying through how to best lead/, structure and serve our church and worship team. Not everything translates perfectly to a different city and local church. 🙂 But thank you for writing and bringing this article to the light to shed light on the heart of a worship leader, team and band. Love it bro! much love and all the best as you continue to lead and serve God in your calling as well.

  6. Heads up – I’m an outsider and not a Christian. But to me worship bands are just a church trend, sound predictably similar to each other, mimic a certain brand of ambient rock in the non Christian world and are embarrassing in their preoccupation with ‘gear’ from iPad apps to complex keyboard rigs. As an interested non-Christian they communicate absolutely nothing to me. I’m interested in the message of Christianity and not these sad attempts to be trendy

    • Hi King Kong, thanks for your comment! I love that as a non-christian you’d be interested in the message of Christianity, God’s love for every human being! You’re right, there are some embarrassing Christian bands with weird preoccupations, but I want to challenge you with this thought – how many secular bands do exactly the same without the same criticism? The Christian worship teams run the gamut. Some are toned down, some go crazy with gear. In the end, it’s not that but their heart for God and people that makes the difference. I love the pursuit of excellence, but it should never take the place of honoring God, and you’re absolutely right about that! Praying for you to get to know the God I love, hope you’ll find some amazing worship music! For starters, check out these songs:

      Bethel Music with Cory Asbury: Endless Love
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnGfzNAnZTA

      Iron Bell Music: God That Saves

  7. I have been a worship leader for many years…we currently have 3 separate groups and it is challenging. I completely agree that this trendy type music is not for everyone. Not all Christian music is like this but to be an effective church we must be adaptable and relatable to the people of this world. We have to take the message in a form that is palatable to them. I come from a family of singers that loves all types of music. I believe to put our Lord in a box is a disservice to him. He came for all people and that is why we need the traditional, the gospel music, the contemporary Christian, the rap, and Christian Rock. God made each one of us uniquely different…so our styles or worship should be just as different. Not all music will touch your heart but it might touch the person next to you or another family member. Everyone is needed to build the kingdom!!! I wish the Church would stop competing and start completing each other…we all serve a purpose. The big bands and the local church…they are all vital to serving the people…they are all vital to growing the church. If that is not the heart of every worship team, I suggest they take a long and hard look at themselves and get back to the heart of worship.

    I completely agree that worship team environment is utmost important and raising up leaders, investing into the young people, and effectively placing them in positions to be successful in their roles. We will not be on this earth forever but being able to raise up the next generation to carry this on should be every leaders goal. Every person from the 70 year old choir singer with 40+ years of experience to the 14 year old first year guitar player add value to the kingdom. They both can possibly reach someone this 35 year old worship leader can’t. It’s in our differences that make us a stronger church.

    So for those of you serving the local church, keep at it! Don’t give up and don’t lose heart. If your team has gotten off track, get them back on. God placed you in a position to make a difference. Don’t be afraid, be bold and obedient to our Lord. You are responsible and accountable for your teams…this is a high honor and privilege. Lead to the best of your abilities and lean on God’s wisdom and strength through difficult times.

    Sing, play, and dance unto our Lord like never before! He is worthy of all honor and glory. Blessings to you all!

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