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3 Articles on Small Churches from Worship Leader Magazine’s July/August 2006 Issue

3 Articles on Small Churches from Worship Leader Magazine’s July/August 2006 Issue

Editorial Team
  • Three articles on small churches from our 2006 issue.
From the Worship Leader Magazine Archive

It’s always fun to look back into the archives and bring forward conversations our community was having several decades ago that we’re still having right now. The role of worship music in church based on the size of a congregation has been a topic we’ve covered since the beginning of the magazine. Solving small church problems that are a result of trying to emulate big churches with more resources is akin to the youngest child trying to beat the oldest child in basketball – – you just don’t have a chance because you’re too small.

We took a look back at our July/August Issue from 2006 and found three articles relevant to our current conversations about how hard it is to resource a smaller church when large churches are creating all of the resources and they just don’t fit the bill. The three articles are:

  1. Is There a Place For Choirs in Modern Worship?
  2. From The Heart of a Small Church
  3. Finding Musicians For The Smaller Church

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Is There a Place For Choirs in Modern Worship?

By Tim Davis

With the worship revolution over the last ten years bringing a more raw and “real” worship experience, it has been difficult in some circles to integrate choirs, because they are typically seen as dated, plastic and “performancy.”

When I say the word “choir,” what images come to mind? Robes, gospel hair, too much makeup, a flamboyant conductor and a bunch of plastic people who don’t really appear to be worshiping, but instead, singing to the conductor? While these stereotypical forms are common and may apply in some cases, they do not have to define your choir today.


When I work with singers on worship teams or in choirs, I have one primary goal: to help every individual see themselves as the worship leader. To help them understand that they are just as vital in their role of leading worship as the main worship leader. If they can grasp this concept, they will begin to own their responsibility as a God-appointed worship leader and discover a whole new world of ministry to the body of Christ.


Last year I was in Nashville and went to Born Again Church for a Sunday service. They had a choir of only about 40 people. I will tell you that I almost didn’t recover from that amazing experience. The choir members really “got” this concept of each individual being a worship leader—as though leading the congregation in worship was their sole responsibility. The passion and the emotion were palpable. Each person had their own interpretation of movement and sang as though they were singing a solo. To many “purists,” this would not be the approach to take, but to me, it was an amazing worship experience because no matter where I looked on the platform, I found individuals whom I could follow. With an intense focus on the Lord and a sense of awe and privilege from each member, I wanted to go where they were going. Oh, and there was no conductor!

As you encourage your people to take responsibility for their individual calling to lead worship, they will develop ownership and vision for personal ministry to the body as never before, and suddenly, your once stale, heartless choir will be full of life and passion.

Tim Davis has worked as a session singer in Nashville and Los Angeles for the past 11 years, singing background vocals for many Christian and mainstream artist recordings, TV commercials, and movies. In addition to his studio career, Tim recently took a job at Saddleback Church as the vocal director, working with the worship teams and choirs. Tim, his wife Melody, and their two children have lived in Orange County for the past six years.

From The Heart of a Small Church

Did you know that the average church size in America is about 100 people? Why then do we seem to think that everyone is like Willow Creek or Hillsong or Saddleback? Though we hope that all of the articles in this magazine, small and large, help everyone develop new ideas, we know that due to the limited resources of the smaller church, some of the suggestions have to be put in the “dream” category. We’d like to share some thoughts from a reader and worship leader who recently shared some of her struggles as a worship leader for a small church that is still striving for excellence in what they present for the Lord.

“I know that the majority of churches in America are under 100, and yes, some of our most popular worship leaders started their work in such churches. But sometimes, in the trenches, you feel a little alone in the battle. Larger churches have ‘more’ to offer, so some think, and smallness often turns people off. “What we have done for the past few years is concentrate on vocals, as there have been no musicians other than myself. We have four singers, three women, and one man, and we use accompaniment tracks for worship (though I do use a keyboard on occasion). Last year we lost one of our key vocalists to a move and I was reeling with what to do next. I cried out, ‘Lord, what’s going on? What do I do now?’ And the quiet reply was, ‘Just wait.’

“A passage in Isaiah says, ‘Forget the former things, see I am doing a new thing…’ So, I’ve been waiting, and praying, a lot. … The challenges of the small church—especially those of us with no building of our own—is, simply put, money, space, and resources. I didn’t graduate with a degree in music, nor had any intention of becoming the worship leader, but the Lord has put me in this position for ‘such a time as this,’ and I do feel at times pressed in on every side. But God uses both great and small for different purposes.

“One day I was cleaning in my kitchen, listening to a worship CD by Darlene Zschech. In tears, I just called out to God, ‘Why Lord is this so difficult? Why can’t we have what Hillsong has? I love Darlene Zschech; I want to be Darlene Zschech!’ And He said to me, almost audibly, ‘Susan, I didn’t call you to be Darlene Zschech. I called you to be Susan, and I’ll do the work through you.’ That was truly awesome. I have to go back to those times when I’m low. And in letting go, and listening to God’s promise, He does do new things. I’m sure we have different challenges that larger churches don’t have, but I trust Him to work it out. It is, after all, His work.”

Susan Hettinger, Castle Rock, Colorado

Finding Musicians For The Smaller Church

By Dustin Burke

One of the most difficult things small church worship leaders face is putting the right people in the “up-front” worshiper positions. It’s important that someone be talented enough to not be a distraction and have a desire to lead your church in worship. To try and balance those things I’ve found several creative ways to fill the praise team at our church with talented, passionate people.


Maybe you can invite people to bring their guitars to a campfire prayer service. You may be surprised who brings a six-string and leads a chorus they just wrote. Or, you can hold a Saturday morning “Worship Workshop” open to the whole church where you’ll offer ideas, learn songs, discuss corporate worship and the roles of the band, and maybe you or the pastor can bring a devotion. It will be a great thing for the members you already have as well as meet people that have kicked around the idea of getting involved but don’t know where to start.


Sometimes the most committed and passionate people in the praise band are the youth. Bridging the gap between the older and the younger in your congregation can begin with your worship team.


The church bulletin or a jpeg. file on the media screen is always a good way to let your church family know you have opportunities available on the worship team. One of the primary ways I look for someone who may be a good fit for the worship team is to see who really “goes for it” in corporate worship. I usually notice a couple of people in the sanctuary who really seem engaged, and although they may not know it, they lead me in worship. It’s those people that I would love to have stood there “going for it” from the stage. Sometimes that person may or may not play a guitar or any other instrument, but would make a great fit to hold a microphone. After the service, the simple question, “Do you sing?” may start a conversation that ends with you inviting them to practice.

The most important thing you can do is not stress out. Don’t be afraid to lead worship within your immediate means. Not having a full band doesn’t mean you can’t fully lead worship. Don’t focus so hard on finding that musician to complete the band that you forget to cultivate worshipful hearts in the musicians/singers you do have. If you’re missing a drummer don’t be afraid to take the opportunity to teach your church something new about quiet, reverent worship with a guitar and piano. You may stumble across something worth doing even after you find a drummer.

Dustin is a worship leader from Dayton, Ohio. He is a Husband, a father of two, serves as worship pastor at Living Water Worship Center, and leads worship with his band throughout the week in churches all across the Midwest. 

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