Reflections on Worship: Benchmarks for being in the worship team 


 I believe we should all be aiming to excel in what we do – both individually and as part of the worship team.  But having a musical benchmark that doesn’t enable new members to join easily really bothers me.  Maybe it’s my ‘music teacher’ background wanting to see students develop, but I’ve seen too many people get discouraged (or worse, hurt) over the years by being told they are not good enough.
I believe in being as inclusive as possible – but sometimes this can create more work for the person responsible for worship, which maybe why some worship leaders shy away from the challenge?  We also need to create an inclusive environment within the worship team, as it will usually not be as easy to play with musicians that are ‘less competent’. Below are my personal views about the musical benchmark.

If someone comes to me and says they want to join the worship team, but can only play four chords, I think that’s great!  There is no rule that says every musician must play every song, so why not encourage the newcomer to join in the songs with the chords that he knows (or better still, show them how to use a capo and transpose the chords for them!).  You will be surprised how quickly they will want to learn more.  With this approach, you are setting the benchmark very low, but still encouraging someone to develop.  When I think about when I first started to play at church on my tiny Casio keyboard, I’m sure it wasn’t great – and I still make plenty of mistakes now!
I’ve also heard it said that someone can’t be in the band unless they have grade three or four on their instrument.  This is complete nonsense!  I once had a student come to me who needed help with his Grade 8 piano. He was a brilliant music reader, but when I asked him to play ‘Happy Birthday’ by ear, he had absolutely no idea what to do (quite shocking!).
On the other hand, I’ve had students who are not interested in exams who are extremely good musicians – they just haven’t got a certificate to prove it.  I would much rather have someone who is musical in how they play, and so can fit in with a band set up, rather than a ‘trained’ person who can only play what they see.

On a practical note (no pun intended!), I have used the process of ‘shadowing’ several times and it is really effective.  Get an experienced person – preferably with the same type of instrument – and let the newcomer join in with what they can, and if they go wrong, the more experienced person is there to take over straight away.  This method can be used with any instrument – even the drums.  I started two (now very good) drummers off with someone with a tambourine right next to them to keep them in time if they lost concentration.
In this post, I have only been talking about a musical benchmark.  There are other benchmarks for joining a worship team that are equally, if not more important - maybe for another time.

Steve Ball, 05/02/2015