This is all too often the reality, or at least people’s perception of the state of worship music in smaller churches, but I want to suggest that this isn’t the whole story. For at least half of my life I have been involved in leading worship for small congregations and I thought I would share my experience of what is quite a unique role.
There are several ways in which the role of worship leader differs according to the size of church you are involved in. The kind of musical worship that you get in big churches is normally more musically accomplished, which is definitely important, but there are actually a lot of great things about the worship in smaller churches which are easy to overlook. It is a place where young and/or inexperienced people have the freedom to develop their talents. In the church where I grew up I had the opportunity from a very young age to get involved with the music. Mistakes were not a big deal and it was a very non threatening environment for a young musician to develop. If I had grown up in a larger church where the pressure was much higher then I might not have felt as free to experiment and try new things.
There can also be a freedom in working with a small team: fewer people can be more dynamic and can afford to take more risks than people who have the pressure of running a large organisation. For example, with minimal admin we have set up monthly band practices to prepare for our mid-week worship event that we started running just over a year ago. In a bigger church it would probably have taken more time to set up, more effort to manage and it would have been more difficult to organise the large numbers of people involved. A smaller church often has the freedom to start to explore what worship is and push the boundaries a bit more than large organisations; having more people to please can sometimes lead to an effort to please everyone which in turn can lead to a rather generic sound.
So where am I going with this? I guess I want to encourage people in what they are doing: it’s easy to get discouraged when all you can see is a lack of numbers. I think that by looking at the challenges in a different way we can make them into positives, and make the best of what we have available. Of course there are issues to deal with and I certainly don’t have them all worked out, but my next post will deal with some of these and hopefully provide some helpful practical pointers.
I would love to hear your stories as well. What do you love about being part of the worship team in a small church? What don’t you like? What do you feel is unique to your particular situation?
Jamie Maxwell heads up the worship at St Dionis church in London. You can hear his stuff at www.jamiemaxwell.co.uk
Do you have experience of playing worship in a small church setting? What have you learnt? What has been frustrating? What advice would you offer others? Please comment in the box below.
Other posts you might like:
Ideas to improve band communication – video clip
Tips for working with a band – video clip
Rehearsing tips for worship musicians – video clip
Resources to help small churches
Worship Backing Band – Musicians Practice Tracks – great for at home practice, or to play along with as a band – keeps you in time and fills in for missing musicians
Worship Backing Band for Churches & Small Groups – for when you don’t have musicians – 54 great sounding backing tracks to play with or without the lead vocal line. Onscreen words and 50 pre programmed set lists.