Raising the Bar
Every church has what I call a ‘revolving door’ of guests who come in and check them out. These guests, consisting both of believers and non-believers, will have a set of criteria they may use to evaluate your church as a potential home. Music is likely somewhere on that list.
Some of these folks might put music rather high on their criteria list, but they lack the musical discernment to appreciate the differences between mediocrity and excellence. Sure they might know when a vocalist is flat or sometimes when a musician is on the wrong chord, but they won’t necessarily be able to appreciate the differences between mediocrity and excellence.
For others, music is a low priority. I’ve even met people who say they are indifferent to music. For those folks, while it is easy for you to drive them off with music, you are not likely to draw them with it. Let’s combine these two groups and call them the ‘Quality Loafers.’ Yeah, it sounds goofy but this is a more interesting name than the nerdy sounding acronym I was originally going to use. The Quality Loafers are unlikely to appreciate quality above a minimal standard of mediocrity, and if they do, they won’t care.
To contrast, another group of people will both value music AND have the musical discernment to distinguish between mediocrity and excellence. The best label I can come up for them is the “Connoisseurs.” As people walk through your church’s ‘revolving door’ of guests, if the music is not up to ‘par,’ the Connoisseurs are not likely to make your church their home.
The Connoisseurs very well might be in a minority. Many churches even function without them. But a church might not understand the value of raising the bar for their worship music without their presence. And if this group is missing, your church might not even know they’re not reaching them. The Connoisseurs are out the door and down the street to the church that, in their minds, musically ‘gets it’ and offers a higher quality corporate worship experience. Meanwhile the Quality Loafers are the ones who have chosen to stay and make your church their home.
As a result, this can skew a church’s perception when it comes to ‘raising the bar’ with the worship music. Aside from the theological imperative, (Psalm 33:3 says “play skillfully”) just in terms of a church growth strategy it can be easy to underestimate the value of having excellence as a value for your church’s worship music. This is because no one WITHIN your walls is likely to make a complaint about the quality of the music if they are all Quality Loafers.
Meanwhile, the Connoisseurs who walk through your church’s ‘revolving door’ aren’t likely to tell you why they didn’t make your church their home (unless you are proactively surveying them).
If you’re a skilled worship leader leading in a church which has not successfully caught the Connoisseurs, the value you bring to your worship team won’t be as appreciated. Furthermore, if ‘raising the bar’ for your church’s worship music requires any sort of sacrifice, like cutting team members, requiring your worship team members to practice/prepare more, or investing in expensive musical equipment, you are in for an uphill battle in trying to convince your leadership of the value of such ‘costly’ methods.
I’m not sure how many worship leaders understand these things but more importantly, I believe pastors and other church leaders need to understand the consequences here.
For instance, churches that don’t have a hold of this idea will have hiring groups likely consisting only of Quality Loafers. As a result, they are more likely to perpetuate the mediocrity as they lack the discernment or values necessary to distinguish the good worship leader candidate from the mediocre candidate on a musical scale. So they are much more likely to hire mediocre worship leaders.
I once worked for a church that was failing to reach the Connoisseurs. My pastor once told me that when people told him why they attended our church, music wasn’t even mentioned. This was because this church historically had a very impotent music program that was not a barrier for these people (Quality Loafers) in the first place. Those who had a problem with that church’s music program (Connoisseurs) weren’t talking to him because they were attending the church down the street that ‘upped’ their game.
Worship leaders share this with your pastors. Pastors, if you will allow your church to make the sacrifices it sometimes takes to ‘raise the bar,’ you can increase your growth potential and reach people who would otherwise bolt back out that revolving door to the church down the street. Holding fast to excellence in worship is also a fantastic testimony to the greatness of our God. Yes the path to excellence costs and is not always appreciated but in the end, it will reap rewards and testify to the glory of God.
Greg Jones is a musician, music teacher, worship leader and independent recording artist. On my site you find me sharing music instruction, with an emphasis on worship music and articles on worship leading.