How To Have A Healthy Worship Team

This article first appeared on ChurchTechToday under the title “7 Guidelines for a Healthy Worship Team.”

I’ve been leading worship teams for over 20 years, and I’ve learned that the culture of the team determines the effectiveness of the team. A team that has a culture of camaraderie and connectedness is going to be much more effective at working together and leading others in worship. The quality of the relationships among the people on stage has an impact on the environment in the room. If the band is privately quarreling offstage, their presence on stage will reflect that. If the band is a group of best friends, that will translate to the rest of the room when they’re leading worship.

The best way to create a culture of camaraderie and connectedness is to communicate guidelines and expectations up front. Rather than stifling or restricting, clear boundaries are actually comforting. Knowing what’s expected allows people to relax. There’s little more frustrating for a volunteer than committing to something and then finding out they’re expected to do things they aren’t prepared or qualified to do. It’s hard enough to get volunteers to commit to anything these days, so don’t burn them with a bait-and-switch situation. They’ll be even more reluctant to volunteer for anything in the future.

There’s a delicate balance to the presentation of guidelines and expectations. You can definitely scare off good people if you come on too strong. But it’s also important that people know what is expected, or they’re unlikely to make a commitment at all. While there are certain details you’ll want to cover once your prospective volunteer is on board, here are seven guidelines I recommend communicating to potential new worship team members:

1. Make your relationship with God a priority.
Regularly encourage your team members in this area. Make sure your rehearsals and sound checks have a spiritual element before you even begin working. Remember, first and foremost, your team is leading in worship, not just playing music or putting on a performance. This must remain at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Be clear about this expectation before asking volunteers to commit. This is also the guideline that allows you to discuss any potential spiritual or moral requirements for team members (e.g., alcohol or drug use, sexual purity, gossip, pride, etc.).

2. Be humble, hungry, and smart.
This is taken from leadership guru Patrick Lencioni’s playbook. Humble: everyone knows that musicians can have egos, so address it right up front — a worship service is all about God, not the people on stage. Our job is simply to point to Him and get out of the way. Hungry: musicians can also be lazy (I can vouch for this personally). If they’re not properly motivated to put in the rehearsal time, it’s going to show. They need to want to be on the team. Smart: being relationally smart is essential for any healthy team. Be aware and considerate of your teammates’ feelings. Learn to play well with others.

3. Confirm, decline and utilize blockout dates on Planning Center.
This is self-explanatory, but it’s essential to communicate to the team that your ability to make a volunteer schedule depends on each member staying on top of their Planning Center profile. This may require a little training. This also assumes that you use Planning Center Online (you do use Planning Center, right?).

4. Practice at home before rehearsal.
I like to say “hearsal happens at home, REhearsal happens on Thursdays” (when we meet as a team). This should be reiterated regularly.

5. Be on time. (“On time” = early.)
There’s a reason musicians have a reputation for being late. But I’ll bet your tech team members are on time. It’s disheartening for those team members who arrive on time to find themselves waiting around while the guitarist tunes up, the drummer runs his paradiddles, and the keyboardist plugs in his laptop, controller, and interface. When people aren’t on time it can generate anger and disunity in the team very quickly. (As the leader, you must set the example in this — it should be apparent to everyone that you are ready when they arrive.)

6. Know the songs well enough not to need the chart.
I’m a firm believer that one of the most important roles of the worship team is to demonstrate worship. Your congregation will be less inspired to engage in worship if the musicians have their heads buried in their music stands. When the band knows the music, they can listen to each other better, follow your lead better, and actually reflect on the lyrics they’re singing. (Encourage your team, even the technicians, to sing!).

7. Attend our church regularly, make this home.
Even if you pay your musicians, you want them to feel like playing in the band is not just another gig, but rather a ministry in which they are serving their church family. Encourage your team (especially the introverts and those hiding in the tech booth) to get to know the people they are serving. Ask them to meet someone new each week at church. Your team will be more effective at leading worship if the people in the seats know them and have a relationship with them. And again, this goes double for you as the worship leader.

Other items to consider:
You may consider asking volunteers to commit for a specified period of time. This allows them (and you) an “out” if things just aren’t working. Nobody wants to sign up for a lifetime commitment. Remember that for many volunteers (especially musicians and anyone under age 40), six months can seem like an endless commitment.

I’ve left off some of the obvious guidelines because you’ll end up addressing those without prompting, like the expectation that each member has a certain level of proficiency on their instrument or equipment, and the rehearsal schedule. Depending on your situation and the culture of your church, you may need to communicate guidelines for modest attire and restrictions about the minimum age of volunteers.

Just remember, as the leader, you set the tone for your team’s culture, and clear and consistent communication creates comfort.

Are there other guidelines that you have found helpful? Share a story of how you learned an important guideline that perhaps you didn’t share up front! Leave a reply below.

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