You’ve probably heard someone say about a member of your worship team, “He’s the guitar player”, or “she’s in the band.” Or, perhaps a band member has said of himself, “I’m just the drummer.”
While these are accurate descriptions, they all fall very short of the complete role of each worship team member gracing your worship platform each weekend.
The truth is each member must view him or herself, and fulfill three equally important roles when he/she participates in leading worship. These three roles must function the same as a three-legged stool. If one leg is missing, too short or too long, the stool (i.e., their role) is out of balance and won’t serve its purpose. If this is the case for a member of your worship team, they, too, are out of balance and are unable to effectively contribute to the worship service.
A more complete description of who each individual on the platform is, and how each one serves is defined by the following roles:
ROLE #1 – Instrumentalist/Vocalist:
This, of course, is the most obvious one. Each individual must come to every rehearsal fully prepared and bring his/her absolute best offering of musical talent and experience to the worship gathering. Every position needs to “own” their part (i.e., drums, alto vocalist, etc.) on the instrument being played and/or harmony being sung. Excellence should always be an objective (Note: I did not say perfection, an impossible, unrealistic target for anyone). God is not pleased and does not accept a 2nd-best, “good-enough,” left-over offering. Additionally, every instrumentalist needs to own a quality instrument and related processing gear. Low quality stuff plays and sounds…well, cheap, and may communicate to other team members this role is a low priority.
ROLE #2 – Team Member:
Every person on the platform should always be contributing to the whole. For example, the bass player, drummer and percussionist should play together – in a manner that firmly establishes the groove. Keyboardists and guitarists should play rhythm patterns that complement one another – not “fight” or overlap each other. It’s very important to identify, listen and follow the lead instrument, as well as keep consistent communication through song transitions (head up, eyes open). Determine who is going to take leads in specific sections. Everybody else should create space for that lead to be presented. Vocalists, listen to your other singers to make sure you are on your part and to make sure your part “fits.” Blend with your team members in pitch, style, pronunciation, vibrato, and phrase cut-offs, etc.
I’ve said many times that you can have seven people playing/singing the same song at the same time in the same way, but they are not a band (team). A band (team) is focused on the same objective – play/sing to complement and build-up your team members, not to bring attention to yourself or away from your ministry.
ROLE #3 – Worship Leader:
If any instrumentalist or vocalist satisfies role #1 and #2, but does not consider themselves a worship leader, they should not be on the platform. But how can a drummer (for example) lead worship? Isn’t that the lead singer’s responsibility? The answer to the latter question is no, not exclusively. It’s the responsibility of the team. Why a team? Bob Sorge, in his book, “Exploring Worship: A Practical Guide to Praise & Worship,” wrote, King David assigned 4000 of the Levitical priests to the ministry of song that worship could be perpetuated in the lives of all people. The word “Levite” means “joined” – joined to the Lord and to each other. This is where the anointing and flow of the Spirit is, where the gifts can flow, where true worship can flow. As we become one in spirit with the Lord, we become one with each other. There is spiritual strength where a team is “joined” in unity.
Various individuals in the congregation identify with those on the worship team. Years ago it was primarily vocalists who were considered the worship leaders. The musicians were just background support. But, in today’s worship gatherings, musicians on the platform are equally viewed and responsible for leading people in the congregation. A guy in the crowd may love guitar and is drawn into to what the lead electric player is doing, and how he/she is doing it. What does that players face say? Are they enjoying what they are doing? Are they inspiring others to worship? This diversity is where we find our strength and most effective point of connection with other worshipers. The team can also take the focus off any one individual and (ideally) more onto the Lord. It’s so very important to “connect” with other worshipers as we lead. You can’t do this while starring at a music stand or the confidence monitor, or aren’t musically or spiritually prepared. When you know your part and the song lyrics, the music/message tends to move the “18 inches of reality” – beyond your head into your heart. They become your “song,” your personal expression of praise to God. Other worshipers (and God) can tell when you are playing/singing from your head and not your heart. It can mean the difference between appearing “real” or “phony” in your ministry.
Bottom-line: You can’t have one without the other(s). It’s very important to understand that these three roles are inextricably bound together. They work in combination with one another. They do not function (very well) independently. As a worship minister/pastor in the local church, it’s imperative for you to teach, model, emphasize, and require every team member to follow and embrace their musical, team and leadership worship contribution.