Thoughts On Worship “Team” Culture

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Today, I’m just sharing some thoughts, not too complex, and hopefully not too much to digest. Just a few thoughts on the worship “team” culture that exists in our modern churches here in the mid-2010s.

We’ve Got Some Great Teams to Emulate

From Hillsong to Bethel to Rend Collective to Desperation Band to Gateway Worship to Passion – we’ve got some great influential worship bands to “look up to.” Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for the rockstar approach. These teams are skilled, polished, well rehearsed and produced. They have great exposure and distribution. They produce some great songs for worship.

But they are NOT our idols. They are not the end-all-be-all when it comes to “how to” do worship teams in the church. Look around at what’s happening in your region, in your own community even. I’ve been challenged recently to be more “in tune” with what’s happening in the “global worship culture” around the world, which is something I’m working on.

(side note: I’m one of those weird musicians, whose job revolves around music, but is wired to love silence more than noise. My down times do not consist of a lot of music. My background music is typically instrumental and more times than not classical. Sometimes this makes for a bit of a disconnect when some enthusiastic, young person asks me if I’ve heard the latest awesome worship “hit” from so and so…usually I have not!)

We have to be careful that we’re not building our own teams that look like “little” Hillsongs or Jesus Cultures. Sure, look to the excellence and skill and be inspired to be great yourself. We need to guard our hearts, though, against creating awesome presentations of worship music, without actually planting seeds for, nurturing and caring for a culture of worship that permeates our churches whether we have awesome presentations of worship music or not.

It’s HARD to Raise Up New Members Without Purpose & Intention

Most of my worship leading “career” there were always meetings where my supervisors and leadership would encourage, nay, challenge, nay require me to grow the team. Words like “recruit” were used often. I always find these discussions tough because I’m a pretty laid-back introvert. Ther idea of “recruiting” makes my skin crawl. It makes me so uncomfortable.

That being said, I would make a few announcements every two or three months and we might see a new member on the team. Most times, the leadership would point me in the direction of someone who “plays classical piano” or “played flute in high school” or “used to be on the worship team at another church.”

I’d approach them and I’d get the usual push-back:

  • “Oh, I’m not good enough.”
  • “I’m not ready for that now.”
  • “You don’t need me.”
  • “I’m taking a season off.”
  • “I’m not really interested in that.”
  • “I don’t have the skills for that.”
  • “I can’t read chord charts.”

And the list goes on.

One thing I learned over the years, is that it is very HARD to build teams by “recruiting.” Sure, there are cycles and seasons where the team seems to be filled with very capable and willing people who seem to attract more, but if you’re not intentionally raising up others, eventually, like all seasons do, that time will come to an end.

Someone will move away. Someone will leave the church. Someone will have a character crisis. Someone will lose the ability to play/sing (injury, health).

So, without some sort of intentional structure in place, a pipeline of sorts, a farm system, it’s almost impossible to guarantee that you’ll just always just have a full pool of people you can use on your team.

What that means, is that the Church needs to have purpose when it comes to training leaders and team members. Traditionally, the system has been to hire and recruit free agents. We need a new worship leader? Post a job opportunity on a ministry jobs site and hope for the best. We need new team members, get out there and find folks who “used” to play or for whatever reason have been quiet about their skill set.

The traditional system really looks NOTHING like actual discipleship. Hiring in talent (even if they are awesome and the right fit) is only part of the equation. We need to really look at our mentorship and training approach.

Do we even have a Discipleship Approach?

My heart has always been to mentor and coach. I think I get it in my DNA. My dad (also a worship leader/pastor) has poured into so many people during the long course of his pastoral/missions career. I watched him when I was a young child, help others find their voices and their musical talent. When I was old enough, he set me off on my musical journey and helped me along the way.

I am a certified CrossFit trainer. The last 5 years, I’ve been helping people from all walks of life become better versions of themselves through fitness and nutrition. It fulfills me to “coach” people.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a handful of worship teams, that by most people’s standards would be called mediocre. But you know what, because we had intention and purpose, we worked hard to become great and useful in the Kingdom. Young and old. Multi-generational.

But, even in my few HIGHS in coaching/training/mentoring during my worship leader career, one thing still seems apparent to me: it’s really tough to produce KINGDOM effectiveness for the long-term if we aren’t intentional about it.

Some of the obstacles in the way:

Most full-time worship pastors/leaders are loaded with a full complement of weekly duties and requirements that allow little time for actual interaction with potential team members. They don’t have much time in their “job description” to actually even think about creating and sustaining some sort of “academy” or “discipleship” pipeline where elementary kids are exposed to opportunities to LEARN how to play a musical instrument (or sing).

Imagine an approach that allowed a worship pastor to truly mentor and disciple people that showed potential and aptitude for music. Now that would be an amazing farm system!

Please hear me out, this is not a slam on what I see worship pastors doing. I am one myself. I long for the day when discipling young (and young at heart) musicians is looked at by the church at large as a necessity, instead of a “Oh, you can use the facility, but teach private lessons AFTER your regular church work is done” kind of a thing.

We shared an article a while back that showcased how the Latin church is doing a great job with raising up the young generation to play and sing music. There’s a reason why. They are intentional about making sure their children are exposed to music from an early age.

That article inspired me. It stirred something in me. Recent conversations are stirring the desire inside me to see churches also be places of art and education (along with places of spiritual growth and Kingdom effectiveness). Hopefully, these thoughts today do the same for you.