During the week at Arrows College, Pastor Ray Badham shared about building a worship team and he posed the question: in selecting your team members, what characteristics are essential; what characteristics are preferable; and what characteristics can be developed?
The students started brainstorming different answers for each category. Some people thought that it was essential that worship team members have a “heart of worship”. Others thought a “good attitude” was essential. Some students then said “attitude” was too wide a concept: perhaps certain traits like humility and teachability were essential whilst other traits could be deemed preferable.
Depending on your school of thought or ministry background, some also thought that skill was something that was essential; whilst others thought skill was only preferable.
“Availability” was also an interesting one. Some people thought that availability was essential; but others felt that availability was something that should be looked at depending on the season of life that a person was going through.
At the end of the day, all these characteristics are actually questions of degree. Ask yourself this: if having a heart of worship is an essential quality of a worship team member, what do you mean by a person’s having “a heart of worship”? If worship encompasses our whole life (and it does), then does that mean your ministry candidates must be fully sold out and surrendered to God? Less than completely sold out suggests that a person may only have a “partial” heart of worship. Quite possibly, the worship leader may not yet have this quality!
Some people thought maturity was “preferable”. But what level of maturity? How mature is mature enough? Can’t maturity be developed?
What about skill? Most worship teams desire to have musicians, singers and technicians with a level of skill. But ultimately, the leadership of the team must decide what degree of skill is acceptable. For example, if you are Lakewood Church, you would expect your musicians to have a high skill level – because you have that option and a huge pool of talent to work with. If you are a small local congregation, you may have to accept a much lower skill threshold.
Ultimately, I think there is only one requirement that is essential. It is a requirement on leaders of worship ministry – not on the candidates themselves. It is this: to exercise wisdom and to hear from God in the recruitment process. Leadership will need to consider their vision and goals and to formulate a policy as to what they would like to see in their worship teams, but then also exercise a great deal of flexibility in dealing with people on a case by case basis – because at the end of the day, there are no perfect people.
I remember one time a member of the worship team told the worship pastor, “I think I need to step down because I haven’t been doing my quiet time”. The pastor simply replied, “Don’t step down – just start doing your quiet time!” What wisdom!
Another time, one worship team I worked with took in a member who had a difficult attitude and was only marginally skilled. The worship pastor sat down with this guy week after week to do devotions and Bible reading together; and the team spent time investing in this person’s skill. Three years later (!) the guy had developed a much better attitude and became extremely skilled at what he did.
But it took the patience of the worship pastor to come alongside this guy and to journey with him.
Sometimes, the worship ministry can be an entry point into community for people who would not otherwise find a sense of life-giving community in a church. If we exclude these people from the worship ministry for, say, attitude or lack of skill, could we be jeopardising their Christian walk?
On the other hand, if we put someone on the team with very little skill, could we end up delivering a second-rate worship experience so that we value one person over the countless others in the congregation who depend on the worship team to lead them into worship?
These are all things which worship ministry leadership must grapple with and strike a suitable balance.
Here’s a final interesting thought. I put in the category of “can be developed” the item “a saving faith in Jesus”. It sounds pretty funny, but I think it’s possible for even non-Christians to be part of the worship team.
I came across this in a thriving church plant in Japan where to reach out to young unsaved musicians, these musicians were given the opportunity to serve in a worship band. This was because whilst young Japanese people may learn a musical instrument as a hobby, they seldom have the opportunity to play in a band setting. So the church picked up on this as an evangelistic possibility. Sure enough, within months, all the unsaved worship musicians became Christians as a result of being in God’s presence week after week and hearing the preaching of the Word.
Some great worship leaders of the contemporary worship movement started playing in the worship team when they weren’t yet Christians. Henry Seeley and Lincoln Brewster come to mind.
I heard another great story about a new church plant in a former Soviet bloc country. The church was started by the pastor and his wife. They had no one else. So they hired secular musicians to “perform” the worship leading function every Sunday. At the end of the message, they would give an altar call and over a period of months, the church began to grow. The worship team then finally fronted the pastor and asked “you have been inviting people to receive Jesus at the end of your message whilst we played. When do we get the chance to receive Jesus?” The band front person is now the senior pastor of that church!
Yes, even saving faith is not necessarily an “essential” in worship team building. It can be developed!