Our goal for church musicians and worship teams should be that they become ministers through music. It isn’t enough to be good musicians or great performers. Worship teams need to minister.
Ministers through music have some excellent and unique characteristics. Imagine a worship team who’s passionate about what they’re doing, with a clear sense of their calling; they are faithful to practice, they’re full of integrity, and they clearly exhibit a servant heart toward God and others. What pastor or worship leader wouldn’t want a platform full of people like that! Sound too good to be true? It’s not! Conveniently, every one of these qualities comes along quite naturally as a result of one all-important process called spiritual growth.
The good news is it’s not up to us to change people. That’s God’s job. The powerful message of 2 Corinthians 3:18 is that we are being transformed: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes the Lord, who is the Spirit” (TNIV). According to Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is both the author and the finisher of our faith. Our responsibility then, first and foremost, is to intercede for those in our worship ministries, asking our great God to grow them and transform them in His time and in His way.
Along with praying for them, there are a few other responsibilities we have as church leaders to help our teams grow spiritually. First off, we have to model the qualities and characteristics we hope to see in those we lead. Are we enthusiastic as we lead from the stage? If not, then what right do we have to tell others to be? Do we show up with a smile and an upbeat attitude each week for rehearsals? Can others sense our passion for God and for those He loves? That kind of passion will contagiously “rub off” on your ministry team if they see it first in you.
If we want our worship and production teams to be faithful and committed to growing, then once again we must set the example before them. That may sound obvious, but apparently not all worship leaders realize it. For example, one worship leader told me he was “leading” his choir through my Pure Praise study, but he didn’t understand why some of his choir members weren’t participating. I wondered too—until he let something slip which cleared up the mystery for me. He admitted he wasn’t doing the study himself. He just didn’t “have time for it.” No wonder some of his people weren’t going through it. He wasn’t out front leading the way. His team didn’t see their leader placing a priority on personal growth, so why should they?
The second step to help move your team toward maturity is to pay attention to your team members. Take note of their individual progress as worshipers, leaders and musicians. Ask yourself, are they being effective? Are they being challenged under your leadership? Invest time with them and be friends with them outside of rehearsals and hectic church schedules. Perhaps go out to eat as casual groups. Invite key team members over to your home sometimes. Be sure to make use of those times to notice their attitudes toward the rest of the group and toward their own involvement in the worship ministry.
I remember talking with a bass guitarist who was dissatisfied with the church he’d been playing in for years. “We never practice before we play,” he told me. And as a result, he had finally decided to move to a different church where he’d be challenged and could play with more excellence. As we spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder if his worship director had any idea he was so discontent.
Not only should we as leaders examine our group, we should also lead our group to examine themselves from time to time. Lead times of discussion about how the group is doing in key areas of ministry. Ask questions like, “Are we disciplined?” and “Do we mind getting our hands dirty and serve others off-stage?”
Just as it’s important to exemplify and to examine, it’s also vital to exhort and urge them toward maturity. As worship pastors and leaders, we need to follow Paul’s example. In his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he wrote, “We exhorted each of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV). Go out of your way to encourage your team. Remind them often of how you appreciate them and of how vital their role is within your team and church. Praise their efforts and progress in front of other team members. Even the most secure musicians and tech people need to hear when they’re doing a good job.
Another way to urge your team forward is through teaching and mentoring them. Too often, we as leaders get frustrated and impatient with the spiritual and biblical shallowness of our people, when, in fact, we’re partly responsible for that shallowness because we won’t invest time to instruct them. Carve out a few minutes during your rehearsals to teach on worship and leadership. Prioritize time to help mentor certain individuals who show the most potential and desire to grow.
Occasionally you may need to confront members of your group. It’s a difficult but necessary part of leadership. I’ll never forget having to confront a guitarist over his immorality. He refused to repent when we discovered he was living with his girlfriend, so I had no choice but expel him from our worship team. As shepherds we must protect the “flock” God has entrusted to us. Remember that the key above all is to love them—that should be your greatest motivation. “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV).
As the old saying goes, “Experience is the best teacher.” Look for opportunities for your team members to get hands-on training by letting them try things on their own. Show them you trust their abilities and their walk with God. For example, let them lead a song, or help plan a worship set, or run the sound board during part of a service. Whatever you allow them to do, just be sure you set them up for success first, by carefully preparing them.
Helping develop your worship teams to become ministers through music can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do in ministry. True, it may seem like a slow and challenging process at times, but keep this in mind: Spiritual growth—both for your team and for you—is a journey you have the opportunity to take part in. What a privilege to watch your team blossom as true ministers through true, biblical worship!
About This Series:
This series on Building Strong Worshippers is presented by Pastors.com, in partnership with Next Level Worship, a ministry providing quality training resources for churches and church leaders. Go to www.NextLevelWorship.com for free materials and coaching for the Pastors.com community. The articles in this series series are written by church leaders committed to intentionally training people about worship. Their churches are reaping the benefits—and they gladly pass on ideas and suggestions of how your church can too!