What are the biggest issues facing worship teams right now?
That’s the question we posted to the Musicademy Worship Community, a 3,000+ strong Facebook Group comprised of worship musicians from multiple denominations and church size all around the world.
We were immediately inundated with responses with many common stories of dwindling numbers of musicians, lack of budget, old equipment, time pressure conflicts and other demands in their lives.
Here are the common themes:
Motivation, busyness and commitment
This was the overwhelming challenge. Many commented how time pressured their musicians were with family, work and other commitments. However, others also mentioned that this is a problem in most other local community ventures too.
“We have to look at our definition of commitment and who is defining it. If the person defining commitment is a single person with no kids and no other job or commitments that lives and breathes the worship team, Their definition is gonna be a little different than some others.” Evron Sampson
“It’s not about how many Sundays someone can do… it’s about being present when they said they’d be, on time is even better, practised, prayed and prepared. The worst is when people don’t show up and don’t communicate that they are not coming” Lucy Boyd-Bell
“We are quite good at adding new activities but not good at stopping those that are no longer worth running to free up time/resources for those that are.” Andi Moore
It is clear that burn out is a real threat as worship team members are frequently juggling other ministry commitments alongside practice, rehearsal and family life. And it appears to be getting worse with a noticeable drop in the numbers of musicians in the last 10 years.
Lack of musicians
Many churches report that the numbers on their worship team are dwindling. Churches that previously had multiple teams are down to a small core of musicians. Fewer younger people are coming up through the church and when they do they are later lost to university a few years down the line.
“These are the only musicians in our church, so we all play every single week with no musical young people coming through, and no musical new members joining. The last time I was at my church and didn’t play was 2001 !” Darryll Prew
“Our one drummer is phenomenal but he’s just 1 guy. We have 2 services on a Sunday. I can’t ask him to do it all the time because that’s 8 services per month.” Cory Geesaman
Some churches are resolving that issue with use of backing tracks such as those created by Worship Backing Band. These can be used every week or simply as back up when team numbers or sparse (or to give the musicians a weall-earned break).
It is clear that alongside lack of musicians, some churches are struggling with the levels of musicianship amongst their teams. Vocalist who can only sing the tune, inexperience and lack of skills in other musicians were also mentioned.
“Groove. Everyone has their own idea of what to play and it doesn’t sound wrong but…it doesn’t sound cohesive.” Grant Tracey
Sound tech problems and lack of budget
Churches are struggling with old, unreliable equipment and lack of budget to replace. Many do not have skilled PA team members so musicians have to double up.
“Sound techs. We don’t have people to run sound. Half the time someone in the band has to keep running back and forth to the sound board.” Robin Thompson
Schedules and practice
Given the struggle to even get a full worship team together for a Sunday, inevitably additionally finding time for rehearsal sessions too is a challenge. Many people are keen to incorporate socials for worship team bonding (and in an attempt to help fix the apparent commitment issues) but it is clear that with increasingly busy lives, this is a tricky one.
Finding popular current songs that are singable and correspond well to scripture was raised. This is particularly an issue when songs must be chosen to go with the service theme. The website
The pressure of learning new songs was also mentioned along with octave jumps and impossibly high keys.
“I thought we were the only church struggling with the very things you all have mentioned: lack of participation, musicians, leadership, etc” Pamela Finck
Old vs new
Struggles with keeping everyone happy with a desire to embrace the new but with many still wanting to hold onto older styles of worship. Although this comment did lead to a lengthy discussion of what worship is and how different styles are equally valid.
Some felt that this was due to the senior pastor trying to please everyone. Whilst this may not ring true for all denominations it clearly struck a chord for some.
What about solutions?
A number of solutions were proposed that have worked in some churches:
Free music lessons for local young people
Re-thinking the number of services and expectations for worship in each
Adding social and spiritual aspects to rehearsals
Monthly cell group for musicians
Socials for musicians – but many recognised that this is adding to time pressures even more
Adding devotions to practice sessions with different team members rota’d on to contribute
Choosing as a church (from the leadership down) to “put worship first”
Monthly set lists – focus on doing a few songs well
Worship training (especially for vocalists). The Musicademy Harmony course was mentioned as being effective!
“I’m probably going to fall into the “lack of commitment” group for this comment, but, honestly, I would be the guy who doesn’t show up to the “fun nights.” Between the kids schedules and my and my wife’s work schedules, we do pretty good to get in a solid family movie night in a couple times a month. Do I have a heart for music? Absolutely. Have I been called to serve in a “worship ministry”? I truly believe so. Do I have an extra night every other month to be away from my family? Meh…” Chico Viars
Is there anything good happening?
With the above you could be forgiven for thinking that it was all doom and gloom. But we ran another post asking what good things are happening with worship teams right now. There were lots of positive comments to that. You can join the Facebook Group and read them but some highlights included:
A youth band growing in confidence
Elsewhere (in Australia) breaking into three separate bands that don’t share the same musicians
New (paid) music director to build the worship team and help with rehearsals
A small group comprised of worship team members and their partners