Should we allow unskilled musicians on the worship team?

1-excellence

By Neil Oldham

”If they want to play or sing, let ‘em. We’re a church, for crying out loud, not a communist regime!” says Jim Bob.  Betsy Sue replies, “Yes we’re a church and God deserves our very best. That’s why we should only hire professionals to lead our worship.” Ahhhh yes, the battle between involvement and excellence!  It’s one of a million conflicts that play out within and between churches every week.

But—as with most such tension-issues in the church—the challenge facing us is not how to “knockout” one or the other but, rather, how to strike the right balance between the two. There is no clear-cut formula or solution that fits every church. There’s not even a solution that fits every single situation bound to arise in your church.

Still, each worship ministry does need to determine which value—involvement or excellence—will win most often or carry the most weight. In churches of 500-ish or less people, where most of us reside, we tend to have a natural and inherited bent toward letting involvement win.  Our smaller environments tend to naturally develop family-like cultures. That kind of culture can easily lend itself toward a more laissez faire, unrestrictive mindset. Many of our ministry settings would see uprisings if worship leaders suddenly began requiring musician applications, try-outs, and/or lengthy apprenticeship programs!

In light of this bent toward involvement, I’d like to make a case for excellence. I chose to emphasize excellence over involvement long ago and have never had cause to regret it. My church has a core value statement that reads: “Excellence honors God and draws people.” I believe that’s true. And, by the way, it seems King David did, too, when he organized Israel’s worship ministry using skilled and qualified musicians (I Chronicles 25).

Here are a few myths that commonly hold us back from valuing excellence as we should. Maybe you’ve heard them or are even thinking one or two, yourself:

Myth #1: If someone wanting to sing/play is turned down due to a lack of skill, they might be offended or even leave. This is actually true, they might. I list it as a myth because it ignores another, even more disquieting reality: If you let them participate in spite of their lack of ability, others may leave and guests may never return. Why should this person’s ill-founded ambition be prioritized above the opportunity to minister to those others? 

Myth #2: We’ll seem judgmental and not very Christ-like. Only if you go about it the wrong way. For certain, valuing excellence over involvement can be a challenging undertaking! One day, a new believer in whom you’ve been investing deeply may ask you to involve their son who can’t keep a beat to save his life. Choosing excellence in situations similar to this becomes heart wrenching, as someone’s fragile faith may seemingly hang in the balance. But scripture is full of great wisdom on how to handle conflict in a godly manner. Let’s be careful to heed that guidance and lead strong because the hard calls are worth making when your values are on the line.

Myth #3: My church just doesn’t have the people or resources to do music with excellence. Technology is beginning to render this statement completely null and void. For example, check out worshipbandinhand.com (maybe you could only afford to buy one song at a time through this service but, even so, you’d be making progress). Or just seek advice from someone you trust—someone in your community or region with experience in extracting excellence from humble circumstances. You can even contact me directly through my site and I’d be glad to connect with you about your unique situation or maybe even write a post about it. 

To be clear, I’m not advocating for some elitist involvement scheme or for using techy worship tools to kick your church’s musicians to the curb.  But I am saying that, to the extent we emphasize involvement at the expense of excellence, we are left with ministries that are less God-honoring or people-drawing than they should be.

Do you have concerns that I didn’t address here? Have you fought this battle before? Tell us about it!

 

Neil has been the worship pastor at LifeQuest Church in Springfield, MO since 2007. He is also the author of BlueCollarWorship.com, a worship blog that has ministry tips, tools, and resources for leading strong in the local church. Oh, and more importantly, he’s a husband and a dad!
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    54 comments on “Should we allow unskilled musicians on the worship team?

    1. However, it is also good to remember that if the church relies on secular institutions to produce qualified worship leaders for the church, sooner or later it will find itself without worship leaders…only skilled musicians. Your point referring to 1 Chronicles would be a stronger one if the Levites were not considered to be of the priestly order. This would suggest that their designation as worship leaders was not ONLY because they were skilled musicians…but that they worked to bring glory to God in an intentional way.

      Replacing the heart of worship with excellence might be the transplant the institutional church needs in order to live, but it can never fully replace the real thing!

      • Hi B.J.,
        I 100% agree with you about the need for worship leaders to have a heart for worship. This article is actually not about whether we should emphasize excellence without regard for spiritual health (I would completely disagree with that). It’s about whether to emphasize inclusion/involvement without regard for excellence. In other words, SHOULD someone unskilled participate just because they WANT to participate. Many of our churches struggle to answer that question in the realities they face week-in and week-out.

        And just to clarify further…the I Chronicles passage was not quoted as an argument for excellence without regard for spiritual health because that’s not what the article is arguing for. Simply saying excellence matters. End of story :)

        • Hi Neil,
          Thanks for your reply and clarification. I guess the confusion comes when we face the two – excellence and heart – against one another as if it were an either/or situation.

          “…to the extent we emphasize involvement at the expense of excellence, we are left with ministries that are less God-honoring or people-drawing than they should be.”

          This statement implies that musical excellence (according to our cultural professional standards) is what honors God the most (more specifically, more than an individual’s desire to participate). I’m not certain that this is always true.

          This statement also sets its point in the implication that “people-drawing” is a priority for corporate worship. This is a dangerous assumption.

          I agree with you…always strive for excellence in worship. However, I would offer the idea that as worship pastors/leaders/team members, we are accountable for each other. If we are unwilling to tackle the task of explaining why skills are necessary for participating in any ministry, then I think we have a bigger problem than we are willing to admit – - for which paying musicians will not solve.

          • Hey B.J., great discussion here!

            I do believe that God is more honored when his people are using the gifts and talents He gave them to serve where the body of Christ needs them. I don’t believe he’s very honored by people wanting to use gifts they don’t have rather than the ones He gave them. We are not all hands, we are not all noses or eyes. But we are all part of the body and we all have our part to play. God is most honored when ears aren’t trying to be toes.

            And by drawing people, I was trying feebly to imply drawing people to worship. When believers are drawn to worship robustly, I do believe something evangelistic takes place. John Dickson wrote a great chapter on worship as evangelism in his awesome book “The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission”. Highly recommend!

            Finally, I’ll refrain for arguing for/against paying musicians other than to say I think it’s regrettable that more top-notch Christian musicians aren’t willing to volunteer their time to the church. I’m fortunate to have a few that do!

            Thanks again for the discussion.

            • Hi Again,

              I think we agree more than we don’t. I’m just concerned when the church gives up the opportunity to train musicians by denying the passions of those with less experience. As I mentioned before, I fully understand and appreciate never sacrificing excellence. However, I am certain that if we always opt for hiring musicians outside the congregation to lead worship then we will be sacrificing much more than excellence in the end.

              I guess this one reason fewer and fewer youth and children are utilized in worship as leaders – - they may have the right heart, but they don’t yet have the skill to be excellent. How unfortunate.

    2. hi! thx for the article…this is something I face constantly…I’m still kinda new to the church here (just over a year)(700 attenders average). And as I began casting a similar vision as you, not just were the musicians/singers heartbroken/confused/lost, but more, all their friends/family/even some congregants who have heard them sing and play for years are knocking my door down and even complaining to each other…ugh…tough stuff….any suggestions? I desperately don’t want the entire church in on this, because it’s a non-issue for most, but I just don’t have the time to sit down with 100 people and have this discussion (especially since I have with at least 30 and it doesn’t seem to be bearing any fruit:(

      I feel like i live on the edge often…
      Nick

      • Were you just casting the vision or actually asking specific people to step out of the ministry? It’s hard to offer specific advice without knowing more about the situation. But I will say 2 things: 1) It’s advisable to primarily implement excellence proactively (i.e. for new people who are wanting to join) than it is to implement it retroactively (i.e. for people currently serving); 2) In cases where you truly and prayerfully feel that a person(s) serving is a serious hindrance to the ministry because of their lack of skill, it’s best to proceed gently, prayerfully, and with lots of grace.

        People who serve in worship ministry serve in perhaps the most vulnerable ministry of the church. They’re putting themselves out there and are often scared to death of the fact their talent could be judged or criticized. That doesn’t mean we do nothing. It just means we must handle these precious people with care.

        • I had a guitarist and a bassist who were okay as musicians … okay at their best. They were in the band when I began leading the worship ministry at our church 8 years ago. I wanted them to stay but I knew they were resistant to change and not willing to put in the efforts required to improve what we were doing.

          I began asking them to practice more between rehearsals and I spoke with the whole team about how important our ministry is. Eventually they dropped out because they didn’t like how demanding I was. I wondered whether I was approaching the situation wrong but I noticed the other musicians were much happier with the results, which were two-fold: 1) the music was better quality 2) more artists were attracted to the church.

          At the time we had only one band, all of them playing each weekend. Within a year we were on a 2-team rotation with a better quality experience for the congregations.

          • What a great example, Bob! Sometimes when we cast vision and begin to change culture, people can tell when it’s no longer the right fit for them. Hopefully we can help them find the right fit in the process. Thanks for sharing :)

    3. Good points. What are you views about allowing people to sing/play but tying that to their behavior, morality, etc. Do we sit people down when they have been acknowledged in sinful practices, etc or do we talk with them and keep them on stage to keep the connected?

      • Hi Lawrence,
        Great Q! I wrote a blog post related to this topic awhile back: http://wp.me/p3yfln-3X

        I’ve actually faced this at times with some of my vocalists. One had a somewhat public relapse to something they had struggled with in the past. We asked them to take a break for awhile and get their feet back from under them. That seemed good for them and the church. But we also didn’t want to cut them off from their support system, either. It’s a fine line to walk sometimes.

        Sometimes it might be appropriate to ask them to keep coming to rehearsals for the love and support and keeping up-to-speed but to take a break on the leading part of things.

    4. I really appreciated this article as our own congregation is working through this issue. It is worth considering that if excellence is what is being sought, development of that excellence needs to be brought in so that those who are mediocre can be given the tools and appropriate opportunities to excel.

    5. ” But I am saying that, to the extent we emphasize involvement at the expense of excellence, we are left with ministries that are less God-honoring or people-drawing than they should be.” – I think those two summary statements are greatly to be questioned and not merely accepted at face value.

      1) Are we sure God is more honored by exclusion and technical achievement than by inclusion and passionate intention? (A potentially false dichotomy, I know, but one completely in line with the thrust of this article and the greater *argument*)

      2) And this “people-drawing” stated as our goal — *is* it the role and function of the musical presentation to recruit or to bedazzle? — or rather to glorify God and edify the believers? If “people-drawing” is the point, then we’re basically in marketing and sales. We might equally be open to tickling ears with false doctrine, running raffles, promising material goods or whatever might attract the crowds. It’s the Holy Spirit’s *job* to draw people. God’s love, mercy and kindness are both the attraction and the reason.

      Mind you, I’m asking for questioning, not argument. I actually find the article useful and well written. I don’t doubt Mr. Oldham’s faith, sincerity, methods or results. Of course, being a volunteer WL in a <200 member service, I live weekly with the technical expertise vs. intent to worship tension. And I agree that this tension will persist; that there is no clear-cut solution, nor, in the world of imperfect people coming together in imperfect communities and seeing only dimly through the glass, should there be.

      Shalom

      • Great comments, Hank!

        I do believe that God is more honored when his people are using the gifts and talents He gave them to serve where the body of Christ needs them. We are not all hands, we are not all noses or eyes. But we are all part of the body and we all have our part to play. God is most honored when ears aren’t trying to be toes. It’s not about “exclusion” but about which ministry would be the right “inclusion”.

        And by drawing people, I was trying feebly to imply drawing people to worship. When believers are drawn to worship robustly, I do believe something evangelistic takes place. John Dickson wrote a great chapter on worship as evangelism in his awesome book “The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission”. Highly recommend!

        Thanks again for the discussion.

    6. We have all received specific talents and abilities, but “the church” as a whole does a pitiful job helping us find, define and develop these.

      So, as in most megachurches I have attended, we pay highly skill secular musicians to perform for the “show”, while those with a heart for the lost and desire to use their talents are relagated to “greeters”, “seaters” or merely “spectators” .

      Quality does matter but, developing musicians like we develop leaders, teachers, etc… should be part of the focus of the “music ministry”. If our “music ministry” is only focused on the “show”… is it really ministry or just a performance? Shouldn’t our ministries be used to “grow” people and not just “attract”? Josh Stone and Mariah Carey are attractive… not doing much to grow me or draw me to Jesus!

      • Absolutely! The paid thing seems regrettable, doesn’t it? Almost like the “easy way out” or something! Working to develop talent from within the church is a great idea. I think that’s why a lot of churches who have embraced modern songs/styles are still making their way back to worship choirs as a way to develop talent.

        One of the best way to “find, define, and develop” is to jump in and try stuff. We should not only allow but encourage people to do so across the board. Great thoughts, Roger!

    7. Keeping Him at the center
      I find that the most important thing when it comes to putting my team(s) together (especially the team leads) is their own heart toward worship and their own personal walk with Christ. Good music, bad music, good worship, bad worship and any combination of these can come out of almost any team at any time. Time apart from Him can destroy the best music from becoming worship. Likewise, some ‘rough’ sounding music, given from the heart of someone laser focused on their own relationship with Him, can produce, despite its imperfections, some wonderful worship toward Christ.

      Good, Better, Best,
      I believe we are to constantly called to strive for the best we can do, but I do not believe that means we cannot do what we can, with what we have now, while on the path to getting better. I would never be where I am musically or as a leader if I was not allowed to make mistakes and blunders through the years and learn from them. Early on I did accept anyone and everyone. It mostly worked, but it did cause a few speed bumps. Now my level of honesty with team members is getting better and I am trying to find new and creative ways to help our teams better themselves rather than cut anyone out. We are a very gracious church and we always strive to find a place for anyone wanting to serve. God has been good and we are always learning and growing.

      It’s not about me
      I do not want, if at all possible, to be distracting to anyone trying to worship by playing or singing badly – but – I believe worship is between a person and their Savior. It happens, or not, based upon where the persons’ focus and heart is. I’m not using this as a cop out for allowing bad music or musicians, but I do feel it is a valid point. I want to be able to worship in any setting and at all times. Impossible? Maybe, but I keep trying. :-)

      Your church culture
      A last point is to remember your church culture. You may ‘have’ to strive for excellence if you have a church where everything is “timed and tight” on a Sunday morning. In that case I would recommend finding a venue within the church for your unskilled or under-skilled talents to hone their crafts first. Youth worship, small group music, Sunday night services, etc, can be a great place to serve under your helpful guidance with gentle, constructive criticism.

      Thanks for the article. I can appreciate and agree with much of what you say. As a worship leader and also the logistician ;-) who has had to go from making use of limited resources to organizing 5 separate teams to accommodate the number of musicians… I can appreciate the thoughts and my thoughts on this help as well.

    8. Great article, Neil! I am the Music Director in a large church with around 40 volunteers in four separate ensembles with over 2000 in attendance each weekend. I have mixed in two or three professional musicians with the volunteers in each group and it is the only way this all works. Truthfully, the pros are usually “covering up” the bad things the others are doing! People think the groups are great and we truly are able to lead worship in a way that changes lives but I know the secret is having some pros mixed in. One thing I learned many years ago is the false dichotomy between someones intense desire to be up there leading worship and the assumption that the intense desire means the motives are pure. The two things are just not always true. Just because a person desperately wants to be leading worship we cannot assume that God is calling them or that they are not motivated by ego, etc. My experience is that true worship leaders are called, chosen and endowed with the requisite gifts by God. Thanks again for your insight!

      God Bless!

      • Love what you shared about motives, so true!

        Why do you think more professional-level Christian musicians don’t volunteer their time in the church? They’re out there and in a church your size, you’d think they’d be stepping up? Curious if you have insight…

        • I know you didn’t ask me, but after searching for a worship leader for some time in a bivocational role, what I have found is that professionals who have paid for a college education in music and are trying to find areas to use that education to pay the bills and support the family are hard pressed to do something voluntarily.

          • It’s a good point, Keith, and I wouldn’t argue for not paying leaders (since I am one who gets paid! lol) but I know several AWESOME musicians who work other day jobs and music is a serious hobby for them. They could get paid somewhere but they choose to volunteer their time to the church. I wish there were more of them around!

        • I am not a professional Musician but I am a professional sound tech.( wont give you my resume but I have worked shows with 50 to 50 thousand people in attendance.) I am sure that my reasons for not doing sound in church are similar to the professional musicians reasons. As a sound tech I approach every gig with professionalism even when I get asked to help out on the occasional Sunday. When I am doing sound, I am paying attention to the sound of the preacher not to what is being said. On a Sunday morning I know for myself I have a very hard time turning off the sound tech in me and worshiping. I know I cringe a little when things are not going well for the sound guys, who are volunteers and love that they are dedicated to doing sound (but also was not sad when one of the guys moved to a different church and that is a whole other story). My wife can attest that if things continue for a while I will start to twitch and then she tells me I should go and fix it. Now let me be clear. they sound guys at my church have asked me to jump in when things are going bad. for them it is a learning experience which is a good thing. But I digress!!!!

          My point is that when I am in church I want to worship and I can’t do that when I am doing sound because for me it is just another gig. I know ALOT of musicians and have talked to them about this topic (why pros rarely volunteer in church) and we have concluded that it is fine for us to do it once in a while but for the most part we want to be ministered to and not “work”. My pastor and I have also had a conversation about it as well. When he get time off he will go to a church where he does not know anyone, sit in the back and gets ministered to because he needs it as much as we do. He usually hopes that no one asks him what he does because then he might be asked to pull a sermon out of thin air and preach (and he has been asked) All I can do is speak for myself but being in the music industry for 25 years when I get to make it to a Sunday service I just want to worship and be ministered to.

          As for the subject of the article I could go on for days about skilled vs unskilled. I think it depends on the size of your church but also how “unskilled” one may be. If one who is unskilled but is willing to take the time to learn the craft (whatever they play or sing) and direction (how best to use their talents) and have the right heart (as in I will let God use me and the talent he has given me) then skill can be gained over time. BUT if one is not willing to learn their craft ( as in I took A guitar when I was 10 so I don’t need to come to practice) or take direction (as in My guitar was in tune when I bought it 17 years ago so don’t tell me that I need to tune it or change the strings) and don’t have their heart in the right place (as in I am going to make a joyful noise and you can’t stop me) then it would be in the best interest of most people not to have them leading or in the worship band.

          I shall sign off in my usual way………
          But then again what do I know……….I am just a sound guy!!!!

          • As a sound guy, you have a great perspective on all this!

            I totally get what you’re saying. There are times as a worship leader that I just want to worship and not lead: it’s nigh on impossible to keep the brain from churning in the worship leader box though.

            But, also, don’t think that you’re NOT worshipping by running sound. Who am I to know the mind of God but I’d wager that humbly using the amazing gift your Father has given you to serve Him and His Church is more meaningful to Him than your singing with everyone else. Sometimes I think we just get “worship” too locked in a box of our own preconceptions.

    9. Great post Neol. Excellence in the secular would be considered professionalism. Back in my old church as a music director I would always state that we have to be more “professional”, but they didn’t like that word, it equated to worldliness. Yes, I know people are weird.=) They didn’t understand the importance of preparation, they just had millions of excuses. At the end the day you have to discern who are the ones that are gonna dedicate to the ministry and apply that excellence that God is looking for. At my current ministry we hold auditions not matter what. Most everybody is ok with it, but those who come from small churches never really had to deal with that. It is a requirement from God to achieve excellence. I wrote a illustrated comic blog about certain blunders that a worship team goes through when excellence is not applied. http://de-aragon.com/11-mistakes-that-worship-bands-make/
      Great post Neil

    10. There is a balance between the two. That is also why there should be some form of excellence. “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.
      Praise the Lord with the harp; make melody to Him with an instrument of ten strings.
      Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy. (Psalm 33: 1 – 4) It is a matter of heart towards God along with presenting skillful melodious sounds. Congregational praise and worship can be beautiful, but it can also be a challenge, since many parts of preparation must be carefully considered. The heart and skill of the musician or singer is essential to an effective praise and worship team.

    11. Great article! I’m a worship leader of a very small Church (a smidge over app. 150) and I’ve faced this issue several times. Since I don’t have the luxury of a large pond to fish from (or choose from), I’ve found it helpful to find other ways the “lesser skilled” can be involved. For example, I might let them know that they’re not ready for the Praise Team (which consists of 2-3 people), but they’re more than welcome to join the choir. I wouldn’t recommend them singing special music as a solo, but I would encourage them to practice with a large ensemble for special music. I have found that the ones with simply no musical talent recognize this themselves and are happy to be put wherever. I also highly agree with your “use of technical resources” suggestion. You are absolutely right! When I was first hired on to this Church as the music director, I was the only “skilled musician” in the entire Church. I used Instrumental tracks left and right! This was several years ago so when I see all the resources there are now I think, wow, that could’ve been useful back then. :) But I see how far God has brought us in our music ministry. Before me, they didn’t even have instrumentalists. No pianist, organist; just a few ladies leading a capella as a last resort. I did whatever I could to get something going. If anyone could play anything I would work with them personally. My first worship band consisted of a 13 yr. old guitar player all the way to an 80 yr. old bass player (female). :) It wasn’t quite the sound that I personally preferred, but my heart rejoiced along with the congregation that was happy to have live melody in the air once again. Through a lot of prayer, practice and determination (and 7 1/2 yrs. later), I am grateful to say that we have a full praise band, a nice-sized choir, and 20 good vocalists who rotate each Sunday to sing on the Praise Team. We’re no mega-Church, but I do have to say in our situation (that you may find is more common than you think) if it wasn’t for the heart and soul, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But I do realize that your article is written more for the larger Church that has the option to choose between those skilled and those that are not. I hear your heart behind it and I thank you for it. Thank you for letting me share my story!

      • I actually had people more like you and I in mind, Christina! Or people who started out where you and I started out. Your story is amazing and I can identify with it but too many small church worship ministries aren’t willing to put in the prayer, the work, and the occasional difficult conversation that typically accompany building excellence into a ministry.

        It takes time and it takes commitment…truly valuing excellence to build what you’ve built. But it was all worth it wasn’t it?! Thank you so much for sharing and I hope people see your story and are inspired by it.

        If you happen to come back and read this, please let me know if it would be ok to share your story on my blog sometime?

        • Please; we need to clarify: “unskilled” is not the opposite of “professional”. Just because you’ve played paying gigs doesn’t mean you’re skilled in what I need; & or that my electrician, social worker, high school student, or head of Pediatrics at a major University hospital don’t have an amazing set of skills that just need some refining to shine in a band situation.
          My #1 criteria is someone who wants to praise God. As the paid (professional! lol!) director of 4 Praise groups (kids, Teens, PT (invited), Pr Ensemble (“everyone invited”)) it is MY job to feel out each person’s unique gifts & talents- & areas of struggle – and create a place where 1. they feel their contribution is valued and 2. the overall presentation is a beautiful offering of praise which engages the congregation and invites them into participation. Knowing the potential & challenges of each member and creating a meaningful experience for each member AND the congregation means the standard of excellence is on me – not individual team members.
          I choose songs based on the skill level of team members that will be attending (we rotate) and change keys according to vocal range & chord difficulty. Yep; I’ve typed out LOTS of individualized chord charts with individualized instructions. Arranged lots of individual mentoring. Frankly; it’s my “professional guitarists” that yack and twiddle, and ignore “DROP! STRINGS ONLY!” and make my rehearsals a mash of noisy chaos, but those young beginners drink it all in in awe, and in the process, not only learn some insane licks, but that REAL GUYS are 24 hour/7 days/week Christians & are happy to share their faith. Newbies know they get to play along – unplugged at first – and a song at a time, they’ll hear “We’re down an acoustic – you ready to plug in on this one?”
          I have no dedicated “Worship Leader”. With constant positive feedback, I am very transparent in my choice of soloists for certain songs -one doesn’t mind hearing that “Ann’s voice has a nice “Pop” sound for this song” when it’s just part of an ongoing “Betty’s got that nice low range for this one”; “Cindy, you did a great job of harmonizing last month on ___; how about you try it here?”; or “Dan, Ethan, Frank – your voices blend so nicely; let’s try you guys there”. Like the unplugged guitars, I tell vocalists up front they won’t have a mic until I can learn their vocal range and where it fits best. Then they move to a shared mic stand. After a few weeks, I’ve had a chance to move atonal members to Guitar Class; keyboards (I have 3), in charge of prayer, announcements, scripture before a song, sound booth, having the word sheets ready each week, organizing our monthly outing….if you focus on what they are good at; you rarely have to point out a shortcoming they probably are already aware of – they just desperately want to fit in somewhere. A lot of work, but my job is not just to produce a quality 2 hours of music/ week, but to nurture, teach, lead, inspire; and to create a fellowship where others also nurture, teach, lead and inspire – each, according to their gifts.

          • You rock, Carlyn, and you totally get it! You wouldn’t put all that work in if you didn’t value excellence. Oh that every church had a leader like you around.

            Too many churches put up with singers who can’t carry a pitch to save their lives, etc, etc because they value involvement so much that it makes their music a distraction from worship.

            Involving people is awesome but it needs to be done responsibly and it sounds like you are! Thanks for sharing :)

    12. Such a good read, thank you posing it!!

      I think as worship leaders we need to encourage the unskilled musicians, and let them know that everything they do to get better as a musician for God is actually a form of worship. If feeling they should be a part of the worship team is of God, then they will strive to learn and get better, and if it isn’t of Him, then they won’t get better, and their desire will fade. Sure we may not want to take the time to teach, but isn’t worship a ministry? God may be using you to train up/disciple a great worship leader from scratch. Having skilled musicians makes learning/playing songs easier, but what good is a talented musician if their heart is in it for just that, the music. I personally am dealing with a kid who wants to be a drummer, that can only keep a beat for a few measures before his ADD kicks in and he loses it. It’s frustrating for me, but I don’t want to discourage him, so like a new job, he is has to prove himself. Before he can play a Sunday service, he has to improve, and take it seriously because worship is a ministry not a club. I don’t believe unskilled musicians should be allowed, but where is the line of unskilled drawn? When I first started on a worship team, I was very green, and even now as a worship leader I have team members with more skill than me, but I believe what makes the difference is the heart I have. The time I spend chasing after God is what’s anointing the limited musical ability that I have, and giving me the discernment of how to lead the worship service. I pray for that same discernment with my worship team members, for God to help me see who and what works and the reasons why they works, not because of a resume, or talent. I’m thankful for the worship leader that allowed me to play under his leadership, I had to start somewhere, and never want to lose sight of that.

    13. this cant be separated….Heart(spritual/devotion life) and Skill(playing exellence). i believe that being part of worship team you/we should have call by God….just as God called Levites to minister in tabernacle.

      i believe we are not qualified if you dont have a Heart though you are skillfully or vice versa. by because God calls us/you He alone can gives us skills to do the right thing in worship.

      remember worship is not entertainment to people rather we(people including PW team) must entertain our creator. worshiping Him in Spirit and Truth. God bless

      • Heart is certainly important. In this case, I’m ignoring (or better yet: pre-assuming) the heart issue in order to focus on many leaders’ unwillingness to say “no” when they should. To value involvement of one-and-all to the point that they allow worship music to become a distraction rather than an excellent offering.

        Thanks for calling attention to this important part of worship ministry!

    14. I’m a Worship leader, and I think that this is a very hard and delicate thing.
      When we talk about “HEART”… What’s the people believe about “HEART” ?
      I just remember some story about some person that had the most beautiful Heart for serving the Lord. This guy saw a whole family without house, so this person felt mercy and his “Heart” sent him to build a house for this homeless family. When he finish the house, he invite the family to live there. After 2 weeks when the family were sleeping, the house fell down and kill them all. What is the point in this story?
      This person was not an Architect.
      That is something that I can see in my 15 years like Worship leader.
      Sometimes we want to involved anybody, without the musical gifts and we don’t know that we hurt our Church. And the worst part is… to tell the persons without skills that they need to leave from the worship ministry.
      My advice for everybody could be, if someone without skills wants to serve in the worship ministry, first they need to have an audition ( this is not american idol, but this is important) If the person don’t have the skills, could be good that the Church can open a Workshops. So you can give the opportunity to learn, if this person is responsible, this person will learn and you will see that. But if this person is not responsible, this person will not learn anything.
      Put in the worship ministry all the people with interest, with the desire to be a good musicians for God, people that you can see that they work hard to be a “worshiper”.
      Is up to you, I fixed a lot of conflicts with this way.
      And also I explain those kind of persons, that maybe there are some other ministries for them.
      If you are a musician, you perfectly know, that before to play and worship God, you need to Pray, and before to play, tune your guitar.
      If your guitar is out of tune, you will be a distraction instead a worship.
      We need to understand that the lead vocal needs to be tune because is the MAIN INSTRUMENT in the Worship Ministry.

    15. I agree with Neil. My husband and I are passionate about music, and find our calling to minister through it. We have served in numerous places and it seems that one or all things never change:
      1. Musicianship is sub-par
      2. Practicing is not necessary
      3. Vocals are at best, weak
      4. An attitude of “it is what it is”.

      While I agree sometimes you will have a service where you through it all to the wind and “it is what it is”, it doesn’t have to be that way. Leading worship, or being a part of a worship team is a privileged and a great responsibility. You are inviting people to the very throne of God. Your music or words from the worship may bring healing, forgiveness, hope, sight, freedom, joy and of course, salvation. Why would you want anything less than excellence?
      I wonder when music ministry became the charity group… We invite them in because we “feel” bad and because we don’t want hurt feelings. Yet when we do, we take on more distraction and that takes away our focus, which is worship.
      I do believe that when we do have volunteers for worship, that we do not turn them away. I recommend a time for mentoring to prepare them for the responsibility. Many do not realize that you give up a night or 2 from your already busy schedule and then practicing at home and being familiar with the music. Prayerfully preparing your heart and praying for those who will be presented with this service. Often times, thats enough for some to say…”yea, i just wanted to sing” and walk away. Same with musicians…in this same aspect.

      We must remember while we present the words and music to the congregation, it is God who moves them and it is up to them to have an attitude of worship. We, as a worship team, are to play skillfully and unto the Lord.

      • Exactly! love your response!

        When God called for the tabernacle to be put together, He called for the most skilled tradesmen, not who ever was available for the job. I think we sell ourselves short as a church if we don’t offer God our best that we have to offer. Would you hire a lawyer or a doctor if they didn’t know what they were doing? These things will pass away, but the Kingdom of God will last forever. Let’s give God our best! :)

    16. If your heart is not right with God, your skill and talent will be totally ineffective. Your worship will be null and void. Those skills and gifts has to be connected to the source (God) in order for it to have power to achieve the desired objective. We must remember that it is the Spirit of God that draws men. We can hinder His flow only by the condition of our heart. The best musician most often is not the one that God has annointed because many are doing it for personal gain and not to give honor to God.
      David was not skilled in battle, but he was annointed to be the giant slayer. Peter the Apostle was not articulate but was called of God to preach. By your standard, none of those above named individuals would have been qualified.
      Excellence has its place but it should not replace someone whose heart is right with God and who has a genuine calling in a particular area. I believe this issue requires a great deal of discernment. God has a way of calling individuals who have no natural ability in the area that He has called them to.

      • You’re right, it does require a lot of prayer and discernment!

        I believe God always equips those He calls. The men of God you mentioned proved themselves to be very skillful at what they were called to do. But you’re absolutely right, no one would’ve expected such skill from such unlikely places and we have to be careful not to pre-judge someone before giving them a chance!

        But just as someone with great skill and a rotten heart is ineffective, so too someone with a lovely heart that can’t stay on pitch or carry a rhythm will also be ineffective when it comes to leading corporate worship. The whole idea is to get the church united in song so we’ve got to be able to make music that’s followable and not everyone can, no matter how right their heart is with God.

    17. I think this may have been said earlier, but I think church is a *great* place to learn music. So it’s better to have some kind of training path within the church than to turn people away to secular institutions in order for them to get the training required to be on the worship team. Perhaps it would be advisable for them to learn *off* the platform… but I know that Darlene Zschech, one of the world’s best worship leaders was ALWAYS using the platform to train people with natural talent… backing vocalists, drummers, bass players… you name it. So I don’t think it’s an either/or but a both/and.

    18. Pingback: Are We Responsible for Raising Up Skilled Musicians? | Blue Collar Worship: Lead Strong

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