In this post, I’d like to present a few reasons why your church might consider using a worship team. I’d like to be very clear from the very beginning that I do not despise or disregard the use of a choir in a gathered worship setting. I am also not advocating a view that places an improper focus on a few select musicians on stage to the neglect of the congregation’s involvement. Instead, I’m writing to discuss an effective ’tool’ that may suit your particular congregation’s needs.
Generally speaking, a worship team is a small group of vocalists and instrumentalists that lead and support congregational singing.
The configuration of worship teams varies, but at my church, it consists of a worship leader, an SATB quartet, and a mix of instrumentation. We also rotate on a weekly basis between choir and worship team. Although both groups have different strengths, we view them as fulfilling the same purpose: to lead and to support congregational singing. So, let’s consider some reasons why a church might employ a worship team.
Note: The term 'worship team' carries a lot of baggage which could conjure images of smoke, lasers, and loud music that overpowers the congregation's singing. That's not what I'm advocating. I could say 'a smaller group of vocalists and instrumentalists that helps lead and support congregational singing' each time, but that's a mouthful, so I've chosen to stick with the term worship team with the proper meaning implied. (Added to the original post on 3.7.17)
1. Use a worship team if you have limited resources.
Some churches have a larger group of dedicated musicians while other churches may have only a few. If your church is smaller or limited in musical resources, organizing a smaller group of musicians might be a more effective strategy than organizing a larger choir. In other words, work with what you’ve been given. God sovereignly fills each church with people that He has chosen and gifted, and it is the church leadership's responsibility to sharpen the God-given gifts and abilities of its membership to 'do the work of the ministry.’ So before starting with the premise of ‘we should have a choir ministry,’ consider first the members of your congregation and then select the best approach to leading and supporting congregational singing.
2. Use a worship team to add variety to the worship service.
There are only a few ways to arrange the primary components of worship: singing, praying, giving, scripture reading, preaching, baptism and Lord's Table. Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to be innovative with a worship service from week-to-week and very easy to fall into ruts that contribute to making a congregation less engaged in worship. Working with a small group of musicians in a worship team provides natural opportunity to add variety to a service that can effectively engage the congregation. For example, team members can introduce hymns using a verse of scripture or personal testimony, lead in corporate prayers and scripture readings, and effectively teach new hymns to the congregation all right from where they are standing. This not only adds variety for those who are listening every week but also allows team members to exercise their speaking gifts to edify the congregation. In addition to leading elements of the service, a worship team provides a musical flexibility that is harder to achieve with a larger group of singers or instrumentalists.
3. Use a worship team to intentionally disciple and train its members.
In a smaller group of musicians, you have more time to invest in individual members, allowing you multiple opportunities to sharpen the gifts God has given them to declare His truth in song. Recently God has been burdening me with the question, ‘Who am I discipling and training to take my place?’
Discipleship is taking what you have learned from faithful mentors and ministers of God’s word, and entrusting it to others who will in turn, teach others also.
I don’t profess to know everything about worship, but what I have learned, I want to instill in others who will carry on the worship ministry in my church long after I’m gone. A worship team can be a helpful structure to cultivate a passion for worship ministry in individuals that’s different from typical private music instruction.
Not every church needs a worship team, but here are three reasons to consider using one. In the future, we will discuss specifics ways to implement a worship team.