Is your church’s worship band becoming passe? Have you and your team reached a plateau? Have you all reached a point of comfort? Are you satisfied with it, or are you convinced that you could do something more? The Apostle once wrote that he “press(es) toward the mark of the high calling…” utilizing language that makes me think that the Christian journey is supposed to be anything but comfortable. We must constantly strive to move our band in fresh directions, as an act of worship.
Sometimes creativity does run low, though. So what’s a worship leader to do? Here are three suggestions that I think could really shake things up for your band. Try one or three of them, and see what pops out.
Get off script
Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to visit several churches with great worship bands, but as I enter into worship with these wonderful musicians, I am struck by how disconnected the worship leadership is with the congregation they are ministering with. This barrier, I think, is created largely by the band’s bondage to sheet music. How many of us use that black music stand as a wall to hide behind, instead of looking out (or even better, up) during worship? We glare at the music-even though deep down we know each chord and each word that we play and sing-as though our life depends upon hitting every note and rhythm with perfect precision.
Invite your group to memorize their music. At first, this will seem a daunting task, but as you begin to work through the process of memorizing your music with other musicians doing the same, you will realize that most worship music is very easy to learn by memory. You’ll be shocked at what you were missing when you return to corporate worship and play through these songs by heart. There are few things more uplifting than looking out and seeing a congregation full of Christ followers praising Him with their voices. If we remain buried behind the sheet music, we’ll never know that joy.
Bump it up a Notch
We try to be sensitive to the needs of our church, but I fear that in doing so, we as worship leadership sometimes fall into the trap of trying to make the church members comfortable instead of worshipful. I’m not suggesting that worship and comfort can’t coexist; instead, I’m suggesting that when comfort trumps worship, something is terribly wrong.
How does that work out practically, though? As I’ve been visiting other ministries, I’m struck by how low most worship songs seem to be keyed in most churches. Believe me, I understand the desire to place songs in a comfortable key for everyone to sing in, but I think that we’ve gone a bit overboard. It is all too easy, in many churches, to growl through Sunday morning worship in our morning voices, barely disturbing our Sunday morning rest. Shouldn’t we have to put some effort into Sunday morning worship? I’m not suggesting that we modulate up to the key of Tomlin (or even Tomlin flat), but things could be bumped up a notch.
So, take a few songs prone to droning in the low end (“Blessed be Your Name” comes to mind!) and transpose them up one whole step. You’ll find that they are not too hard to sing, and you’ll notice that the higher key will immediately add an energy to the music that wasn’t present before. You’ll also notice that the song will become fresh for the instrumentalists in your band as well, because they are having to relearn and refocus their energy for the song in a different way.
Crank it up a Notch
In an era of plexiglass drum cages and digital drum sets, churches have all but solved the annoyances of too much stage volume. I fear, however, in this new age of zero stage noise, that we’ve sacrificed some energy for comfort. Could it be, that our love is not as loud as it ought to be?
I was a bit puzzled, after our band got its first expensive digital drum set and we were able to really scale back the volume in our church sanctuary, that I stopped hearing people singing along as we worshipped! This may sound really odd, but as we backed off the volume on the PA, it seems that people could actually hear themselves singing a bit more, and they became focused on what they heard coming out of their own mouths instead of worship. Their embarrassment at the sound of their own voices was a hindrance to worship. As a result, my once powerful group of singers in the audience reduced their vocal volume a noticeable bit. When we raised the volume a bit, the crowd returned in force. By raising the volume in the room just a bit, we produce a sense of excitement and urgency in the service that encourages others to participate in worship.
So, next Sunday, crank the volume up a notch! Don’t blow anyone’s ears (or speakers) out, but don’t be afraid to add just a bit more volume to your worship set. You might just be shocked at the celebratory spirit and sense of excitement that you’ll make way for in the service.
Will any of my suggestions drastically alter the way you worship on Sunday? Probably not. If, though, your band is in a slump, and you just don’t know how to break out of it, try my suggestions, and I think that you’ll discover a new energy and approach to worship!