Play skillfully with a shout of joy. Psalm 33:3
It’s like a spark that ignites. When skillful musicians come together in a true spirit of worship, the combined energy within the worship band is infectious and invigorating for the whole congregation. On the flip side, when it’s clear that the worship band is struggling musically, there is an awkwardness and hesitation that quickly sets in over the congregation—and frustration for the worship leader.
The Two Keys
For worship leaders and music directors, what are the two keys to attract and keep good players?
1. Pray for a great core of players.
2. Become one yourself.
Great players love to play with great players—which can also provide an environment that inspires less accomplished players and helps them improve. But it all starts with leadership.
The Courage to Lead
A critical responsibility of the worship leader or music director is creating an environment where each player in a worship band understands when it’s their time to support and when it’s their time to “stretch out.” Mature players understand the courtesy of give-and-take in a group setting, and it often helps in the bonding process of good musicians becoming a good band.
But problems arise when one or more players don’t understand band dynamics and are overplaying all the time, leaving no room for anyone else (the musical equivalent of a ball-hog). In that situation, the worship leader/musical director (the musical equivalent of a coach) needs to quickly and courageously take whatever steps are necessary to establish a healthy environment of give-and-take.
When leadership is absent, two scenarios typically play out—and in either case, the results are not pretty. Here’s the less typical scenario. When a leader is complacent or ineffective, one of the musicians may try to usurp the leader role, which can lead to a lot of friction and confusion. Then, there’s the more common scenario. Most musicians don’t want confrontation, but frustration and resentment will eventually build to the point where there’s a lot of “complaining within the ranks.” Or they simply leave and seek out a band situation with healthy leadership.
As a leader, have the courage to lead. If you’re not a strong enough player, singer, or leader to lead with confidence, then have the courage to confront your own deficiencies and work hard to improve them.
Get to know the people behind the abilities. Value them. Take a genuine interest in them…
Value the Person
Musicians, especially great ones, are accustomed to receiving affirmation for what they do rather than for who they are. Get to know the people behind the abilities. Value them. Take a genuine interest in them…and the rest of their lives outside the church worship team, and even outside the sphere of music itself.
Value Their Families
Musicians’ families are long-suffering—through marathon rehearsals, jam sessions, recording sessions, etc. And musicians can be notorious for taking their family’s sacrifice for granted. Be aware of the family dynamics for each of your musicians. Stress to your musicians that a healthy ministry role at church begins with a healthy family life at home.
Ultimately, there will come a conflict. You really need your best drummer for the Easter concert, but his family needs him for the once-a-year family reunion. This is your chance to put priorities into practice. Ultimately, it comes down to what is more important: is it a stable groove for the Easter concert, or is it a stable family whose priorities are supported and encouraged by their music pastor?
Value Lesser Players
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a violinist on my worship team who was a state champion fiddler. Obviously, he was a joy to play with, and he enjoyed being part of the team. But one day, he pulled me aside and told me that one thing he really appreciated about being part of the team was the way that I could arrange meaningful parts for the other violinists—who we both knew weren’t as accomplished as him.
It’s absolutely vital to value the contribution of every team member—and to put each player into situations in which they can thrive. That’s one of a leader’s most important responsibilities.
This article started out with the premise of how to attract and keep great players. But it’s really about how to lead effectively. It’s one and the same.