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Struggling to appreciate inexperienced volunteers

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  • Struggling to appreciate inexperienced volunteers

    I have been the worship leader for my church for 15 years or so. There have been years where I've had a lot of musicians on the team but most years, it's really just been me on the keyboard.

    At the moment, the worship team is me on acoustic guitar and a youth on the keyboard. The youth is a beginner keyboard player - I've thought him a little bit.

    A few years ago, a friend told me about Ableton Live. Since then, I've been using Ableton Live on a regular basis to play back drums, bass, acoustic guitar and, sometimes, electric as well. The keyboardist and myself have no problem following Ableton Live tracks.

    One thing I'd like to note - I use EZ Drummer for drums and record the other instruments myself - bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, etc. I experimented with MultiTracks.com and the like but found it to be too artificial for our small band.

    While recording the tracks myself may seem like a lot of work, I have come to really enjoy this part of my preparation. And because I'm playing and recording everything (except the keyboard), I know I will like the final product.

    A few weeks ago, a family joined our church. The husband plays multiple instruments and sings. The wife sings. And their son plays the drums. Two weeks ago, the brother approached me and offered to join the worship team. He said he could play the bass and his son could play the drums. We are a very small church and we don't have any formality with accessing volunteers. If someone volunteers to do something, as long as they are active members of the church, they are allowed and almost empowered to do that which they want to do.

    So, this pass week was their first week playing with us.

    The brother is fairly good on the bass but his son is a beginner on the drums. Also, the brother doesn't have a bass and can't afford to buy one right now and our church doesn't have a bass that is left at the building either so I need to bring my personal bass to the church and back every Sunday for him to play. As I mentioned, his son is a beginner on the drums so he's not able to keep time too well, doesn't make use of fills, etc. All of the things you'd expect from a beginner in drums.

    So going back to my use of Ableton Live. Now, with the brother playing the bass and his son playing the drums, I have no use for Ableton Live. And given the drummers experience level, it would be unreasonable for me to expect him to follow a click track.

    So from one weekend to another, the quality of our instrumentation for our worship team went from reasonable using Ableton Live to very poor. The interest thing is, I doubt most of the church cares and that's eating me up inside a little bit too, to be quite honest. Most people don't know the time I put in to use Ableton Live but most people at the church were very happy to have new musicians join the team. I think this was simply because they don't have any musical training so they can't appreciate a band that's playing in time with proper arrangements and dynamics and everything compared to a band that has never played together and has inexperienced musicians.

    All this being said, I know that this brother and his son are more important than me just wanting our worship team to sound good. They have a soul and I know they volunteered out of the goodness of their heart. So I am trying to bring myself to appreciate their volunteering to help out.

    That's what I'm struggling with - looking past the drop in the quality of our musicianship and appreciating the fellowship, relationship and community benefits that we get by having this brother and his son join our team.

    If you've ever dealt with something similar or even if you haven't but could share some thoughts, I would be most thankful. Also, if you're seeing an opportunity for me to improve or realize an error on my part or grow through this experience, I'd humbly receive any constructive criticism you may have.

  • #2
    You already know the answer to your last comment : "if you're seeing an opportunity for me to improve or realize an error on my part or grow through this experience"

    That is exactly what you have been given.

    You are kind of like Elijah, feeling as if you are the only prophet of God. You've had to do it all, and found a way to do it.

    And now God has sent you Elisha to help. And Elisha is inexperienced or just different.

    You are being asked to be the leader, and not just the doer anymore.

    So I am going to offer some practical suggestions:
    1. Consider other options than you being the only guitarist. Since the father doesn't have a bass, does he have a guitar? And you could play bass?? Or something different on the guitar?? Depending on what other instruments the father plays, this might be an opportunity for something different. If he plays violin or flute or whatever, find a place for it. When I am lucky, we have two guitarists. One plays mostly rhythm stuff, and the other one plays the fancy stuff. One of the guitarists does play violin, and we use it when we can.
    2. Reduce your rotation list significantly. When we added several new musicians all at once, we cut back the rotation list significantly. For two months, we used about 8 songs that worked well with each other in different combinations. They were all songs that the congregation liked, so we got no complaints. We got really good on those 8 before expanding the list. The repetition will help the drummer especially.
    3. You have to lower your personal expectations. You have expected "perfection", and gotten it from Ableton Live. And now you have the imperfection of live accompaniment. Learn to praise what is good, and to encourage improvement where it is needed.
    4. Be thankful that your congregation appreciates people. You might need that one day.
    You have been blessed with the opportunity to truly lead. I hope you grab that opportunity!


    • #3
      Thank you, kepmek! The example you gave of Elijah and Elisha really resonated with me.
      1. Those are really good alternatives. I will keep those in mind. I believe the father does have an acoustic guitar but, honestly, having him play the bass is more beneficial for us than him on another guitar or me on the bass, for example. I just need to get over the fact that I need to bring the bass for him and, instead, appreciate the fact that he is there now to play it.
      2. I like the idea of reducing the rotation. Like most churches, we've got a few songs that are church favorites so I can definitely focus on those for a little bit to help the father and the drummer get more used to our set list.
      3. Yes, you are absolutely right. I know acknowledging accomplishments is an important part of leading so I try to remember to do that as often as possible.
      4. Yes, you're right about this as well. In fact, I actually have to take back some of what I said above about the church not appreciating me too much. As I think back to the 12th when the father and son joined our team, during that service, one of the associate pastors that MC's our services took a few minutes to acknowledge what my wife and I have been doing for our online services during the COVID pandemic. The background here is that, like most churches, sometime in late March, we stopped meeting in the building and moved all our services to online and only recently in June did we go back to meeting at the building on Sundays. Our weekly services are still online-only. So, since the end of March, my wife and I have conducted all of the online services from our basement. And on that Sunday when the father and son joined the team, one of our associate pastors took a few minutes to acknowledge what my wife and I have been doing for the church and to thank us for our efforts.

        So like I said, I need to take back some of what I said above. Clearly, the church does appreciate us and I let some of my personal feelings cloud my thoughts there for a while when I was writing this post.
      The other thing I'll say is having played with the live band a 2nd weekend and gone through the routine of bringing instruments back and forth and all of that, I gotta admit, it's really not that big of deal. As I think back to around this time last week when I was writing the post above, my heart was definitely in a different place - and different bad, not different good.

      This past weekend, the drummer already showed some improvements. While we're not using a click track, I did ask him to try using the headphones that are available on the drumset and he gladly agreed. After service, I told him and his dad that he showed lots of improvements already and he said he thought the headphones helped.

      So again, this family seems like really nice people that just want to help and after a 2nd week playing with them, I am much less bothered by having them and feel much more blessed to have them.

      Clearly, I have a lot of growing to do in many areas so I'm going to take all of your advice above, thank the Lord for the people that He has sent to contribute to His kingdom alongside me and pray that He will help me lead them according to His heart.

      Again, thank you, kepmek for taking the time to provide the feedback that you did. Everything you said resonated with me. I really appreciate.


      • #4
        I am glad week 2 was better than week 1!