If you're a worship leader trying to keep up with today's modern worship sound, you have probably realized it's pretty difficult to recreate the epic orchestral, mesmerizing folk or powerful wall-of-sound qualities that dominate the genre.
You encounter challenges such as a lack of qualified musicians in your church, an underpowered sound system, budget constraints, limited rehearsal time or team member inconsistency. All of these are valid and difficult obstacles to overcome when trying to build a worship team that sounds great, carries spiritual authority and operates in unity.
It may seem like excellence of sound and spirit is reserved for the megachurches with thousands of members and even larger budgets, but that simply is not the case. No matter what size of church you're in, you can have an excellent worship team. Here's how:
1. Excellence starts from the top. Probably the most difficult thing for any musician is gaining a realistic perspective on his ability. You're either your own worst critic or your biggest fan, but I encourage you to evaluate yourself objectively. Discover your actual strengths and honest weaknesses because one of the keys to building a team of excellent members is to be sure you lead by example.
Excellence is not perfection or being the absolute best at a skill. In fact, excellence should never be based on a comparison to anyone else. Don't worry about who is better and who is worse. Excellence is about confidence, maximizing what you do have and being willing to learn. Are you truly excellent? Consider these factors:
Confidence. If you're a little unsure about your song list for the week, that's OK! Don't apologize to yourself or your team for your choice of songs. Even if you think your set list seems a little flat, your team will trust you and give you their best effort if you feel comfortable and confident when making decisions. If you are insecure or hesitant, however, your team will sense that and will subsequently reflect your insecurities with confusion, doubt and, ultimately, poor playing.
Maximization. If you're not an amazing singer with the ability to do mind-blowing vocal runs and hit crazy-high notes, that's OK! Know your limitations. Choose songs that fit your range, and don't push for notes you can't hit. Keep your melodies simple. If you maximize the skills you do have and stay within the boundaries of your capabilities, you will be able to perform with excellence.
Learning. If you're not a strong musician just yet, that's OK! Are you willing to learn? Are you getting into the lessons and practicing your craft? Your team does not expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to grow. A desire for excellence at your craft and an effort to achieve it will attract excellent team members who can help you improve and pursue growth for themselves.
2. Use a quality sound engineer. There's an old trick in the live music industry when the headliner isn't much better than the opening acts: Replace the sound man.
A great audio engineer can make a mediocre band sound really good, just as a bad audio engineer can make an awesome band sound awful. It's all in the mix. Use the same approach to finding a sound engineer that you would use to find a leader, guitarist or drummer. Don't brush this role off as unimportant. As much as Grandma Jane may want to sit behind the soundboard and serve the ministry, this position requires as much foresight, training and skill as any other position on the worship team—if not more!
Again, you can give an individual the opportunity to grow, but don't settle for someone unknowledgeable who has no desire to become excellent. This role is crucial to creating the kind of sound you are aiming for in your service.
3. Play to a click. A very simple and practical way to get your worship team to a higher level of excellence is to start playing with a metronome. This one simple step will immediately make your band tighter and more uniform. It will help to simplify their parts.
All you have to do is download a free iPhone app called Metronome—it's that easy. If you can't afford to switch your whole stage to in-ear monitors, you can at least get your drummer on a click using a Rolls Headphone Amplifier. They cost about $75 at Guitar Center and work well with wedge monitor systems.
These three points will help you achieve the impact you would like to have with your worship team.
Joshua Mohline is director of WorshipU (worshipu.com), the online school of worship from Bethel Music. With a background as a worship leader in settings from small to large, he has been a part of the Bethel Church worship teams since 2012. He facilitates the worship school as it equips and empowers thousands of worship leaders and teams worldwide.
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