If you serve at a church of under around 500 members, it is likely that your worship team have faced somewhat of a dilemma. Perhaps the standard is lower than you would like it to be, or maybe there just aren’t enough people to fill the worship team needs for any given Sunday. It’s possible that these are both struggles for you. I want to put forward a principle that I like to call “The Sweet Spot” for worship teams, and it can be illustrated quite simply by this graph:
As you can see by the graph (and you will no doubt know by experience), there are more people available to serve at a lower standard. On the other hand, the number of people available to serve decreases as you increase the standard. This is not rocket science. However, I’ve marked off three areas that I want to discuss with you in more detail: the danger zone, the pro zone, and the sweet spot.
Worship Teams – The Danger Zone
If you have no minimum standard for the worship team, you will easily find people to volunteer their services. There are not many people in your church that wouldn’t be able to serve to some standard. It’s just that that standard isn’t very high! This is no good thing.
It goes without saying that you should be cautious of this zone. By inviting anyone to serve regardless of ability, you are saying that the standard is not important…and that’s dangerous. Our responsibility as worship leaders is to draw the attention away from us and onto the Lord, right? We can’t do that if any of the musicians serving on the worship team are distractingly poor. It doesn’t serve the congregation, and it actually doesn’t serve the volunteer. So what should you do?
Do NOT ditch them. TRAIN them.
This isn’t X-Factor, so don’t dash their dreams and leave them in the dirt! Help the potential volunteer to get a standard where they can be an asset to the team. It might take months or years, and that’s ok. There’s a whole lifetime of worshipping on a Sunday left! If they aren’t going to fit in a particular position, help them to serve in another area. Love them, and encourage them. But maybe just don’t use them in an area that isn’t right for them!
Worship Teams – The Pro Zone
Some large churches pay genuine professional musicians to play on a Sunday. While I understand the thought process – to help the congregation meet with God – this saddens me a little personally. It stops a potentially huge number of people from serving on music teams, which I find disappointing. So many people love to express their worship to God through the playing of music and it seems a shame to exclude such a large number of people!
Perhaps your musicians are near professional standard and have incredible attitudes. That’s great, but there are a few things to be careful of. First, pride can be a really destructive force for musicians of this standard. Not only that but if you are so determined to reach a professional standard that you only use a few musicians, you run the serious risk of burning them out. Use them wisely.
Worship Teams – The Sweet Spot
So what about the vast middle of the graph? There are a large number of people who have made their way out of the danger zone but have not quite reached the pro zone yet.
This is your sweet spot.
These are people who may not be session musician standard, but are willing to put the time into practice (maybe not as much as the worship pastor would like), and often have teachable and humble spirits. There are a huge number of people in this group, so the load can be spread in such a way that no one person will burn out. It also shows visitors a greater cross-section of your church and of course, the maximum number of people possible get to serve the Lord through playing music!
In my experience, I’ve found that, rather than having an open door policy for the worship team, it’s best to run an audition process (we’ll talk more about what that looks like in a future post). That way, you ensure that a basic standard remains in order to serve the congregation well.
Similarly, while we want to strive for excellence, and it’s a joy to have the support of the best musicians we can find, our focus should be on the middle area, the Sweet Spot. That way, we work towards building a large, healthy team that doesn’t place too much of a burden on any singular musician and therefore prepares us well for the long haul.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree?