Worship Team Dynamics – the phases a new team must go through

Dr Bruce Tuckman published his Forming Storming Norming Performing model in 1965. The theory is an elegant and helpful explanation of team development and behaviour which can be usfully applied to worship teams.

Tuckman’s model explains the sequence that a team goes through as it team develops maturity and ability and relationships establish. The role of the leader changes as the cycle moves through the stages beginning with a directing style, moving through coaching, then participating, finishing delegating and almost detached. At this point the team may produce a successor leader and the previous leader can move on to develop a new team.

The progression is:

  1. Forming
  2. Storming
  3. Norming
  4. Performing

Here are the features of each phase:

Forming – stage 1

The Theory – High dependence on leader for guidance and direction. Little agreement on team aims other than received from leader. Individual roles and responsibilities are unclear. Leader must be prepared to answer lots of questions about the team’s purpose, objectives and external relationships. Processes are often ignored. Members test tolerance of system and leader. Leader directs.

Application for Worship Teams – It is helpful to establish a clear understanding of roles and responsibilities at this stage. The leader will set the ground rules and the “culture” of the team will start to develop. Good and bad habits (such as timeliness and rehearsal discipline) will begin at this stage and will be difficult to undo once they are bedded in.

Storming – stage 2

The Theory – Decisions don’t come easily within group. Team members vie for position as they attempt to establish themselves in relation to other team members and the leader, who might receive challenges from team members. Clarity of purpose increases but plenty of uncertainties persist. Cliques and factions form and there may be power struggles. The team needs to be focused on its goals to avoid becoming distracted by relationships and emotional issues. Compromises may be required to enable progress.

Application for Worship Teams – This is a difficult phase, particularly for people who dislike conflict. It is nonetheless essential to move to the norming and performing stages. This storming stage is particularly uncomfortable for Christians who somehow feel that there is something “sinful” about conflict, that somehow we should always be in agreement and living in total harmony. Whilst harmony is wonderful (and Biblical), it is something that comes as a result of working through conflict. So encourage honest discussion, feedback and reflection. Establish and reinforce ground rules and boundaries. Accept compromise. Practically, it can be good to socialise, pray and study together outside of the worship team practice times. These storming experiences can be very character forming and will create strong bonds between your team.

Norming – stage 3

The Theory – Agreement and consensus forms among team, who respond well to facilitation by leader. Roles and responsibilities are clear and accepted. Big decisions are made by group agreement. Smaller decisions may be delegated to individuals or small teams within group. Commitment and unity is strong. The team may engage in fun and social activities. The team discusses and develops its processes and working style. There is general respect for the leader and some of leadership is more shared by the team. Leader facilitates and enables.

Application for Worship Teams – This is the time when your team is ready to begin to be more open to new members, perhaps younger or less experienced musicians. Remember that the new team set up will develop its own forming, storming, norming and performing cycle but unless the new members are particularly strong, it should be within the cultural norms of the existing group.

Performing – stage 4

The team is more strategically aware; the team knows clearly why it is doing what it is doing. The team has a shared vision and is able to stand on its own feet with no interference or participation from the leader. There is a focus on over-achieving goals, and the team makes most of the decisions against criteria agreed with the leader. The team has a high degree of autonomy. Disagreements occur but now they are resolved within the team positively and necessary changes to processes and structure are made by the team. The team is able to work towards achieving the goal, and also to attend to relationship, style and process issues along the way. team members look after each other. The team requires delegated tasks and projects from the leader. The team does not need to be instructed or assisted. Team members might ask for assistance from the leader with personal and interpersonal development. Leader delegates and oversees.


Application for Worship Teams – The team is working well together and the leader could now move onto new things or certainly be involved more at arms length. If you were applying this model to a house group, this is the time that the team is ready to divide and plant a new group. Perhaps by now you have enough musicians to form two teams.


With thanks to http://www.businessballs.com/tuckmanformingstormingnormingperforming.htm