Ask the Expert – How to approach playing with the worship band when you have moved to a new church

Ask the Expert – How to approach playing with the worship band when you have moved to a new church

Mark Fishpool from the UK asks:

I’ve been in a number of different worship bands over the years and have now joined a different church. Having been here a while I’ve asked to join the worship group here and will soon be meeting with them to find out more about how they do things. Obviously they will have their own particular styles, both musically and in leadership, and I’ll be bringing my own experiences and views from the groups I’ve been with before. Do you have any tips and suggestions of how I should approach starting with a completely new group like this?
PS. Keep up the great work on the blogs, articles and everything else, and keep up the humour too – loving it!

Andy writes:

This is a tricky one. As in so many situations coming into an established group requires a sensitive mix of openness, holding back and wisdom. which is pretty hard for most of us to get right first time…

I guess when joining a team, often the safest posture to take is to first learn from the host church and then gain their respect before offering ideas unless you have a clear open invitation. By learning I mean to observe and try to get a handle on their worship values and practices, input protocol, their leadership structure and style, their team history and try to get an idea of what things they want to develop and grow in i.e. their vision.

Now depending on what is most valued you might gain respect for being a fantastic musician striaight away but in order to lay a foundation that will allow you to input, simple things like being encouraging, turning up on time, making friends with the sound man and offering to help set up/pack down, and crucuially playing your parts to fit in with others rather than showing all your favourite chops will always help to show you are more interested in the team than your own music or expression of worship. The same can be said for non music settings too. If you want to be able to input try to get to know people and be genuinely interested in them. Its so much easier to take new ideas or constructional cristism from someone if you know they genuinely have your best interests and development at heart.

Its not always easy to bite your tongue in this way, especially if you are perhaps more experienced than some of the established team and enjoy the process of creating and working through musical ideas but the famous quote of “seek to understand, rather than to be understood” could apply well here.

Less pleasant to think and work through is deciphering any agenda that leaders or team members may have. Now we all hope that every worship teams’ goal is purely dedicated to worshipping God, serving the congregation, prefering each other, investing in their skills, inviting new creativity, bearing with each others’ weaknesses, caring for each other on and off the stage, welcoming new members etc etc.

In many churches that is beautifully true but let’s be aware of the darker realities in us all.  There are also some less whole realities you may have to navigate and bring the light of Jesus into. Are there maybe team members whose sense of identity is mixed in with their longstanding position in the team? Some may be placed in a leadership role that deep down they may not feel equiped for or capable of but don’t want to let that show, some may feel threatened by the presence of a new player that might be better than them, there may be a culture of only using the best musicians so your invite to the team may only be as secure as the quality of your last ‘performance’, there may be general allergy to practice or preperation or even a resistance to change or new ideas or even new material. There may be a very high pressure to get the music portion of the service ‘right’ . Obviously I’m painting a very dark scenario here but of course the reality is all our worship teams are a mix of our good and bad bits as people.

Perhaps a great way to get involved and contribute is to look for the holes in the team outside the actual playing of music. Good bands function on playing to the strengths of the members’ gifts outside of the performance. Andy Summers other role in the Police was mediator and peacemaker between two highly creative, motivated and explosive personalites. As we know people tend to gravitate towards instruments that reflect other aspects of their nature. For instance good bass players are often steady types that hold a team together but dont always need to be upfront or at the center of the group

So search for your team’s complementary gifts. Some are great spokespeople, some are great administrators and organisers, some cast vision well, some are great at teaching and explaining songs and musical ideas, some are great at hospitality, some are pastoral. However in the majority of teams I’ve worked in these gifts are generally untapped or not used to thier best potential so find the holes and see what you can plug. Assuming there is an openess for you to do so.

The good thing is that learning and then gaining respect will work what regardless of how good, bad, open or closed your leader and team are.

Other possibly related blog posts you may find helpful:

Worship team dynamics – the phases a new team must go through

Worship administration – tips to keep everyone happy

How do I tell someone in the worship team that we won’t be using her anymore?

The conscious competence learning model

Worship team rotas made easy with free Google tool

Creating a website and social network for your worship team

What to include in a music chart

Using orchestral instruments in your worship team

How to move a church from traditional to contemporary worship styles