10 Tips for Worship Team Members (Part 2)
(This post is a follow-up to our last blog, written by a former professional musician who has been in the trenches of worship music for the last 18 years. Part one was our most-read blog to date and we hope you'll enjoy the follow up below. This article is intended to show the parallels between professional musicianship and successful worship teams.)
Thanks to all who read Part One of 10 Tips for Worship Team Members and for the many great comments and reviews. We'd love to hear your comments on this post, as well as our other blogs. So please let us know what you have to say below. So if you're ready for part 2, buckle up…
6. TREAT EVERY SECOND OF REHEARSAL TIME LIKE GOLD. We've all been there. We ran out of time, again, in pre-service rehearsal. There's no more time to clarify chords and vocal parts. No time to go to the restroom. No time for prayer. If this sounds all too familiar, read on...
I was once asked to play guitar for a worship leader whom I had never worked with before. I was reluctant to say, “Yes”, because I had been in the congregation when his team played before and they were…um…how do I say…less than awesome. But he was in a pinch, so I went with it. The worship leader (who played keys) and I were the only ones to arrive at pre-service rehearsal by the designated starting time. After ten minutes, the bass player showed up. Five minutes later, the drummer casually arrived. Both took another ten minutes to set up their equipment and chat about their weekend’s activities. Then they wanted adjustments in their monitors (another five minutes); meanwhile, the BGVs (background vocalists) had finally arrived, and they took another five minutes perfecting their monitor mixes. 35 minutes into rehearsal, I thought we were finally about to begin playing our first song; but then the bass player began asking the worship leader for clarification of the chords on the first song. Just as the worship leader began to respond, the drummer—without warning—decided he would warm up…LOUDLY. 40 minutes in, we finally began rehearsal as a team. We had to stop several times on our first song so that everyone could get on the same page; the same thing happened on song two (which we never got to the end of). By now, about 60% of the congregation had arrived when I looked up at the clock to see that there was just 10 minutes left before the service was scheduled to start! We hurried through song 3, and about 60 seconds of song 4 (we never made it to song 5). Suddenly, everyone on the worship team ran off stage and scrambled to the restrooms and grab their water. I knew we wouldn’t have time for team prayer before we had to start the service. I asked the worship leader, “How are we going to pull this off?” He said, “We’ll just have to do what we always do: wing it and believe God to make up the difference.” Needless to say, worship was a wreck, transitions were ugly, and the only people in the room who were able to enter into God’s presence were the Pastor and a couple of awesome ladies who could worship even if someone was banging a couple of rocks together.
If elements of this story sound like how things are done on your worship team, this is your wake up call. To be clear, if everyone on your worship team arrived on time and came prepared, there’s no reason that rehearsal (including pre-service prayer) should take longer than 60 minutes. Too many worship teams sabotage themselves by succumbing to time-wasting practices and habits that are easily avoidable. The main time-wasting culprits are typically:
- Setting up Equipment (& Instrument Patches)
- Sound Check
- Chord/Lyric Clarification
- Irrelevant Conversations
- Musicians Playing Between Songs
Here’s the sad thing that most worship teams don’t realize: when we’re “winging it”, people—even if they're not musicians—know. People are smarter about music than we give them credit for. They know the difference between worship that is well-organized and worship that was thrown together. Ask yourself this: Should music in the church be less-organized than music in the world—simply because we volunteer? Okay, we’re volunteers...but we’re also servants of the most high God, amen?! Doesn’t God (and the people of God) deserve our best?
“Praise the Lord with melodies on the lyre; make music for Him on the ten-stringed harp. Sing a new song of praise to Him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.” -Psalm 33:2-3
7. BE SPIRITUALLY-PREPARED. During the drive to pre-service rehearsal, are you preparing the spiritual atmosphere for your church, or do you feel that’s your worship leaders’ responsibility? If you believe this falls within the “Worship Leader Task List”, consider this: what if your worship leader was up all night with a sick child, or just had an early morning heated dispute with their spouse, or had car trouble and barely made it to rehearsal on time? Are they really going to adequately battle demonic spirits who want to bring chaos and disorder into the worship service—starting with the worship team? Make no mistake: worship is spiritual battle. Just because we can't see evil spirits doesn't mean they don't exist. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, "We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against the rulers of the darkness of this world."
For me, it starts with the drive to church. I want to be the first person in the building that day because I want any demon who’s gutsy enough to be in my zip code to know that he’s about to have quite a battle on his hands [a battle that Jesus already won and gave me authority over (Luke 10:19)]. When I enter the building, I then DECLARE to all principalities how the day IS going to go (Job 22:28, Proverbs 18:21). I prophecy that salvations and deliverance will take place. I bind and rebuke demonic forces and establish that the entire church grounds is the property of—and reserved only for—the Spirit of God, His people, and angels of God. And all this before any other person ever arrives! Once the worship and production teams are there, I like to pray with our entire team to (a) establish unity in what we're here for (cast the vision), and (b) because if we run out of time at the end of rehearsal, we wouldn’t have time for prayer.
So coming to rehearsal spiritually-prepared is a must for all worship team members. When we all come to rehearsal prayed up and resolute to take our territory on behalf of the King of kings, satanic forces take note and scatter! Jesus gave you this authority over the spirits of darkness…so why not use it effectively and often?
“Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy…” -Luke 10:19
8. DON’T COPY THE BAD HABITS OF OTHERS. Being late, not knowing their parts, disrespect, blaming, justifying. We’ve all been around worship team members whose behavior can be cancerous. And like cancer, the bad habits of others can quickly spread to other team members. If you have someone on your team who never fully prepares his/her parts, are you entitled to do the same? And how about the person who is always a few minutes late…does that make it okay for you to be late, too? I can hear my father’s voice ringing in my head: “If they jumped off a cliff, would you jump off too?!”
Remember this: The only person you’re in control of is yourself. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others and feel that we’re entitled to their same “benefits” (though that doesn’t make it right). So many times I’ve seen a talented person on a worship team copy the bad behavior they see of other music team members, only to go down that same dark road. So when confronted, they attempt to justify their bad behavior by telling the worship leader, “Well, they do it.” Does this really give us the right to copy their bad behavior? Know this: God is calling you to a higher standard. So whenever you feel justified to copy someone else's bad behavior, remember the words of Jesus:
“…What is that to you?! As for you, you follow Me.” -John 21:22
9. FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS…WELL. None of us are strangers to last-minute changes. We’ve all arrived at worship rehearsal, only to be told that there has been a change or two to the set list. We’ve all had instructions given to us that weren’t fully and adequately communicated (and done so just minutes before the start of the service!). Other times you’re getting quick directions from a leader who knows exactly what he/she wants (these are one-way communications where there’s no time to ask questions). But all too often, those directions are often poorly communicated by a worship leader who may not know as much about music as you do. The worst way to react in these scenarios is to get frustrated and drop an attitude with your leader.
So whether you’re on your church’s worship team or you’re a professional musician, you have to be good at taking directions, and you should do so with a good attitude that becomes contagious to others. A professional knows how to translate any kind of instruction quickly—without getting frustrated—and make their leader shine and their audience (God and the congregation) happy. Performing well in this type of scenario will gain you favor with God, your Worship Leader, and your church body.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” -Hebrews 13:17
10. KNOW THE SONGS WELL. Do you have someone on your team who always seems to know where the songs are supposed to go and has the entire format instinctively memorized? They even seem to know the subtle parts that are someone else's. Well, they don’t know all of these nuances by accident; it’s because they have listened to the song---a lot!
We should listen to every new song a minimum of 25 times before we ever pick up our instrument or try to sing along. If this seems impossible with your schedule, remember that you don't have to shut off the world around you while the songs are playing. Play the songs during non-thought-intensive times in your life, i.e. while driving, showering, getting dressed, cleaning the house, cooking, in the waiting room, even with earbuds while you’re sleeping (set on a loop; having earbuds with you at all times should be standard for any musician or vocalist). If you have something more important to do while the songs are playing in the background, that's fine, because your subconscious will pick up the format of the song and the nuances of your parts. But you have to listen to the songs a lot.
For those who consistently use the excuse of, “I'm just too busy”, know this:
WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY.
My mother said that her grandmother used to say this phrase often. But there's wisdom in that. Let me put it this way: if someone wants to be a doctor, get a driver's license, or play professional sports, there's a price they have to pay to develop their skills. In the same manner, if you want to be on your church's worship team, there's also a price you have to pay: it's called, "Preparation". As I wrote in Part One, too many worship team members want the glory of being on stage, but aren’t willing to put in the time necessary to give their audience (God and the congregation) a quality music offering (remember Cain's offering?). I’ve seen a plethora of worship team members over the last 18+ years who believe it’s the worship leader’s responsibility to know the songs inside and out. These same people believe all that they have to do is to provide a little accompaniment for the worship leader and "kinda" know their parts. WRONG! If you hold a position on your worship team, it's your responsibility to know the songs well and learn all of your parts, because on my team, there is no grandfather clause in effect. Just because you've been part of the team longer than someone else makes no difference, because if someone else comes along who will learn their parts, I have to choose the person who comes prepared, plain and simple. Humility is eminent when we come to the realization that we can all be replaced. Pride says, “I know how to play the songs well enough.” Humility says, “I could know it better.”
“The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” -Proverbs 22:3
If your worship team needs coaching, contact ICWC today…
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