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Serving in a Small Church



Author: Kristen Gilles
Leadership Category:

Posted June 28, 2016 by

(This article was originally published in Worship Leader’s May/June 2014 issue. Subscribe today for more great articles like this one.)

I grew up in a small church and, from a young age, served on the worship team under the leadership of my parents. I gleaned invaluable wisdom and encouragement from their love for God and his Word and their commitment to leading their small church with excellence in spite of having limited resources. Although I now serve on the worship team at a larger and very musically gifted church, I know the challenges of leading with limited resources in a small church.

God illustrates in his Word that he is present and greatly glorified in the diversity of both big and small church gatherings. Like our modern megachurches or arena-filled worship gatherings, the Old Testament Temple worship employed many worship leaders and many elements and instruments. Likewise, our modern small churches more closely resemble the degree of simplicity that existed in the house churches of the New Testament and early Christian period. Even the psalmist David glorified God as he skillfully played and sang among the sheepfolds.

There is no dishonor in “small” worship services. This truth should encourage anyone leading worship in a small church and battling the lie that your worship service isn’t adequate because your team is smaller and less skilled than the many musicians serving in megachurches.

Perspective Check:
Here are four essential perspectives to encourage you as you serve in a small church:

  • Jesus Is the Point. No matter the size of your worship gathering, the goal should always be to make much of Christ and his work in saving the lost through his unblemished life, sacrificed for our sins. This is why we praise the Lord!
  • Jesus Is Our Worship Leader. Jesus is our Great High Priest, our Perfect Worship Leader. We worship the Father through Christ the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. You are not the way for your church to worship God.
  • God Expects Excellence. You may have limited resources, but you’re still expected to steward them well. Uphold excellence in leading and organizing your team and in developing their skills.
  • You need Wisdom. Whether serving with large or limited resources, we must ask for God’s wisdom and help!

Skill Check:
In addition to having these essential perspectives, leading worship in a small church requires cultivating essential skills on your team. Here are four ways to grow your team in size and skill:

  • Hold Open Auditions. Get to know the members of your church and invite anyone with musical abilities to audition. Keep in mind that some may audition with skills that need honing before they can lead with excellence; encourage these members to seek musical instruction before auditioning again.
  • Consider Strengths and Weaknesses. Consider the strengths of your band members and utilize them well in arranging songs. Consider the weaknesses of your band members and encourage improvement in those areas through practice.
  • Simplify Song Arrangements. There will be certain arrangements of songs that will not be possible for your small band to achieve. This is okay. With limited sounds and skills in your band, simplifying arrangements can serve your congregations well if you make the most of this opportunity.
  • Seek the lost. Ask God to grow your church and add people with musical skills. Participate in this work by engaging with music artists in your community, seeking primarily to share Christ’s love with them. As they come to faith in Christ, encourage them to join your church and serve with their musical skills.

Kristen Gilles is a deacon at Louisville’s Sojourn Community Church. Her CD Parker’s Mercy Brigade is a story of faith, lament, comfort, healing and worship following the stillbirth of her son. Kristen blogs about worship with her husband, Sojourn’s Bobby Gilles, at mysonginthenight.com.


One Comment

    Joe Krol

    “…Keep in mind that some may audition with skills that need honing before they can lead with excellence;…”

    Hmmm. Where I agree as worship leaders we should be bringing our best, it is important to to remember that we are to bring our PERSONAL best. Agreed that if someone can’t sing on key maybe they should not be leading worship.

    However, the point is to glorify God not please the congregation. In truth, we have no idea how well David sang. We can extrapolate by how often he played the harp with others that he was probably skilled in that instrument and was clearly a gifted and inspired writer.

    However the command was for all to sing. It does not say all to sing if you can sing, or if others here on earth believe you sing well, sing.

    By placing a goal on “excellence” in performance you limit those who worship, and you are making a judgement call based on your or your team’s opinion. I believe like any parent God hears the sound of EVERYONE’S voice that sings to Him in praise and worship and smiles. Whether they are on key or not (and yes I sing and play several instruments for my worship team as needed).

    You may also be excluding a large and frankly VERY important group of people that we are called in scripture to bring into His house. The disabled community.

    All too often I see worship leaders way too focused on the quality of their music and performance. We are not called to be played on the radio, we are called to worship God to the best of our INDIVIDUAL abilities.

    I think churches could be best served by seeking people who are more excellent worshipers and be less focused on their current musical abilities. Bringing the focus to where it should be, on God instead of ourselves.

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