Worship Pastor / Composer Travis L. Boyd and his wife, Cynthia, provide inspiration and resources for the worship community and all believers through sharing the blessings of worship, faith, family, ministry, music, love, & life. We also share information about Worship Sounds Music, which can be found on our Worship Sounds website at worshipsounds.com ~ Downloadable Choral Anthems * Solos * Orchestrations * Worship Songs * Accompaniment Trax

Posts tagged ‘worship team’

Worship Ministry Team Top 12 Tasks

An Essential “To Do” List

For All Worship Team Members

 

What is needed for effective ministry from each member of the Worship Ministry Team?

Whether you serve in a Worship Band or Rhythm Section, Praise Team, Choir, Orchestra, or as an Accompanist, the essentials are the same:

Those who seek the LordIn order to glorify the Lord, lead God’s people in worship, and allow the Lord to use your gifts to speak to the hearts of others through His Spirit, you need to apply prayer, passion, preparation, flexibility, clarity, commitment, faithfulness, and authenticity!

Here are 12 ways to become most effective

as a member of a worship ministry team.

1. Pray for your Worship Pastor and for all of your ministerial staff. Pray for their families. Pray for the congregation at your church (church family) to worship the Lord and serve Him with all of their hearts. Pray for your own testimony and spiritual walk. Pray for other worship ministry team members and for the worship ministry as a whole. Pray through the order of worship, and pray during the worship service.  Be real (authentic) with the other members of your worship ministry team.  If you are struggling in some area, ask for prayer.

God is Faithful sunrise photo2. Be faithful in attendance at rehearsals and in every congregational worship service. Unless your are too sick to go or out of town, be there. We all understand that seasons of life occur, such as when you are caring for a loved one who is ill. However, if there’s nothing keeping you from being there, please be faithful!

Your passion for the Lord and for serving Him through worship ministry is the thing that makes you a worship team member. Others sit in the congregation every week who could be an asset in worship ministry, and yet the lack of passion for serving in this way prevents them from making that commitment to the calling. If your passion has begun to wane, ask the Lord to revive it within you so that you may contribute week by week, worshipping with passion in spirit and in truth.

KEY TRUTH ABOUT  FAITHFULNESS:

Your presence,

more than anything other than your prayers,

allows your worship ministry to effectively reach up to glorify the Lord

and reach out to encourage and inspire others.

Especially for Chor and Orchestra members:
Be aware that many churches are eliminating choirs and orchestras.  If you want your church to still have these groups as a regular part of worship ministry leadership a year from now, 5 years from now… 10 years from now, make it your priority to be there!

If you say that you love singing in the choir or playing in the orchestra, love having these groups as a contributing part of worship ministry, and love the sound and the impact they can make, you need to be one who will be there faithfully. When the choir and/or orchestra suffers from low attendance week after week, the level of excellence suffers. The director has difficulty choosing what to sing or play, not knowing who may be there. The overall sound is less than it could be without you and others there. After weeks and weeks of low attendance and less than stellar sound due to the low numbers, how much support can we expect from church members and leaders for the continuation of choir and orchestra ? In other words, if you want to have a choir and orchestra , you MUST be committed to it.

give God the glory3. Be spiritually prepared. Do all that you can do to walk closely with the Lord. Abide in Him. Spend time in private worship. Learn all that you can about Him and about what true worship really is. Listen to worship music often. Love the Lord and find joy in His presence.

4. Be musically prepared. Attend every rehearsal that it is possible for you to attend, and be on time if at all possible.  It is great to have everyone in place with music ready and instruments and voices warmed up if possible (sing with the radio on the way there!).  If that is not possible due to your work schedule or some other factor, please do the very best you can to arrive ASAP.   

* Even if the choir or orchestra is going to be sharing music that you know well, your presence and participation can help others to learn the music. Having the full group present helps with things like balance, interpretation, and choral tone, as well as with division of parts, marking any changes in the music, and unifying vowel structure.

* If your director sends out an e-mail with links to the music you will be singing, spend 15 minutes listening to the demos a couple of times during the week.

Sing praises with understanding*  With new technology have come new tools for worship ministry. We can listen to demos on our computer and do so almost anywhere with wireless technology. We can look up sample pages to a choral anthem and even be able to see the music as we listen to a demo. We can hear several different versions of the same worship song at ccli.com or other sites. Many worship teams have their own website, facebook page, or blog to keep everyone informed. Sometimes e-mails are sent to worship team members with listening links. There are worship conferences, worship blogs, and “how to play” videos online. All of this means that we have more resources available than ever (and fewer excuses for being unprepared).

* For choir members:  If you know there’s a part that you’re not getting during rehearsal, speak up and ask the director for help. Often, as your section (Altos, Sopranos, Basses, or Tenors) sings through a passage a couple of times, the re-inforcement of hearing your part played will help everyone.

If you have a piano and can play a tricky part yourself, take your music home to spend some time working on those hard to hear parts.

* For orchestra, praise band, or praise team members:  If there is anything that you struggle with in rehearsal and are not confident about, spend some time working on your own before Sunday.

Speak up if something sounds “off” in rehearsal, even though it appears everyone is playing (or singing) what is written.  Sometimes you may help to find a mistake in the music.

*  For All Worship Ministry Team Members:Love is patient  with heart  cropped

Remember that what we are doing is very important and sometimes very difficult.  Patience is required in order to work up an entire “worship set” of music for congregational worship each week, often with very limited rehearsal time.   We must all be as diligent as possible and patient with each other and with ourselves.  We are confronted with our own humanity when preparing music; and there is no better time to thank God for His patience and grace with us, even as we choose to employ patience and grace with others (and with situations that are out of our control).  You may be doing all that you can do and wish that others took their opportunity to serve as seriously.  However, we always need to remember that we never know what others are facing and the challenges that may keep them from being as faithful or as prepared as they would like to be.  We just need to pray for one another and employ a lot of grace, continue to be faithful, and encourage others as much as possible.

5. Remember that every Sunday’s worship is important. The special programs can be a wonderful time of worship, but every Sunday   needs to be just as important.

The Lord is the same year-round,

and

He deserves our best every week!

Give Him your best (in terms of commitment, passion, faithfulness, and effort). Make it a priority to be there, be prepared, pray through the service as you worship, and do your best to bring glory to the Lord in every service of congregational worship that you are able to attend. Pay attention when your director goes through the order of worship for next Sunday’s service during rehearsal. You can help with leading in worship most effectively when you are able to share with clarity because you know what is going on.

Never forget that God is the one who created music,

gave you musical gifts, saved you,

and gave you some incredible and eternally glorious

reasons to make musical praise!

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart: I will tell of all Thy wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in Thee, I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High.” ~ Psalm 9:1 & 2

Never take the opportunity

to use your voice or instrument

(and your faithfulness and availability) 

to glorify the Lord within the congregation

for granted!

“Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.” ~ Psalm 107:31 & 32

Love the Lord calligraphy6. Support the worship ministry through your own giving. You can give financially as well as giving of your time for rehearsals, personal prayer time, and worship times. You can give and redeem your time in worship ministry when help is needed in preparation for a special program, ministry opportunity, or mission trip. You can give time to working with worship ministry groups for children and youth, investing in the lives of these future worshippers and worship leaders.

7. Be well groomed. Here, I am not talking about the cost or name brands of your clothing. Just make sure that your appearance is well-groomed and not distracting. (Well-fitting clothing and well-groomed hair are a must.)  Your own worship ministry may have additional requirements for appearance that are more specific.

8. Invite others to come to know the Lord, to come to church, and to attend services and special programs. Encourage the faithfulness of others through your own faithfulness (which is a silent witness) and through verbal encouragement, letting them know that you are glad to see them and that their presence is important.

9. Invite others to participate in approriate areas of worship ministry when you know that they have the special gifts to contribute both spiritually and musically. Take some time to talk with them about the blessings of serving in worship ministry and how much it means to you. When new members come, welcome them! Don’t be stuck in a rut as far as who you have to sit beside. Make sure the new member feels comfortable.

10. Don’t fossilize! Be flexible and open to change when it is needed.

* If a change in schedule (such as letting the choir leave the loft to sit with families after the musical worship portion or your service is over) allows more people to participate, be open to that change.  This would include changes in rehearsal schedule.  If you have an unavoidable conflict, let your Worship Leader, Director, or Music and Worship Minister / Pastor know as soon as possible.  When you know that you will be out of town, please let them know your schedule.  Advance notice of absences allows for better planning.

sing a new song to the Lord* When new music is introduced, be open to it. You will likely grow to love it! Even if a song is not your favorite, worship the Lord as you sing and/or play it!  Be open to new styles and new musical techniques as well.  It’s always a good thing to keep learning and growing as a musician and as a member of the worship leadership team.

* Be open to wearing robes or not wearing robes (depending upon what works best for all of the considerations at your church).  You may be asked to wear a certain color.  Please help your group to follow worship ministry leadership in this area by cooperating fully.

* Be willing to sit or stand anywhere that you are asked to be, in both the worship center and in the rehearsal room (unless you need to be seated for physical reasons).

* Be willing to let go of traditions and procedural routines that may no longer be effective.

11. Communicate visually as well as musically. Remember that only part of your worship team’s presentation of any song or participation in worship is the sound component of ministry. The other component that can be observed is visual.

Praise   Lets just praise the Lord* In order for the messages that you are proclaiming to be as effective as possible, choir members, praise team members, and others who sing need to communicate through their facial expression and posture as well. Even those who play instruments need to support the message of what is being shared through appropriate facial expression and/or posture.  People want to know that you are authentic in your beliefs and that you are passionate about your beliefs and your relationship with the Lord… passionate about Him! Your face should reflect the message that you are singing or playing (especially for non-wind players). Your posture should not look stiff and formal.

* If your Director or Worship Pastor wants you to memorize a song in order to communicate it most effectively, do it! (Hint: being there at every rehearsal and listening to demos or working on your own a little bit helps!)

* If you are holding a music folder or looking at music on a stand, hold it high enough (or adjust your stand) so that you can see your director just over the top of the music. Get your head and your eyes up as much as possible. No one wants to look at the tops of everyone’s heads or at a platform full of worship ministry personnel whose eyes appear to be closed because they are looking down all of the time.

NOTE: Our choir sings from memory as often as possible so that we can communicate visually and musically with more effectiveness, and we have recently begun utilizing an on-stage monitor with lyrics. Although we have used screens at the back of the worship center for the lyrics to congregational music and anthems for many years, we can include information on the on-stage monitor that it not meant for the entire congregation to see. We utilize a different color of print for cues to the choir that precede a section of lyrics. These on-screen cues are often very brief and include: “Men” when only the tenor and bass are singing (could also use “TB”); “Women”; “Unison”; “4-part”, “2-part”, “2X”, “3X” or “4x” to show the number of repeats; and even cues for dynamics. Notes that are held for a long time can be indicated by using a line after the word (Example: “love___”)

Lift up His name!

Lift up His name!

12. Participate and worship in the entirety of the congregational worship experience. Remember that you are not there just to “perform” a “special” piece of music. You are there to worship! You are a believer and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and and worshipper of Almighty God! Every song, scripture reading, testimony, and message is important! Seek to bring glory to God in all of it. Come to worship ready to give to the Lord the praise and thanksgiving of your heart, the honor and glory He deserves, the obedience and open-ness that are a sweet offering to Him, and the entirety of who you are. Seek His face and reflect His joy.

 

“Whatever you are doing, let your hearts be in your work, as a thing done for the Lord and not for men.”
~ Colossians 3:23 (Weymouth New Testament)

 

SUGGESTED  READING   FOR  WORSHIP  MINISTRY  TEAM  MEMBERS

1.  Our Worship Scripture page is a very comprehensive worship resource, with scriptures from both the Old and New Testaments in Biblical order.  Our bold key words before the beginning of each scripture make it easy to search and find particular passages.  This is an excellent resource for worship scriptures.  Also, try the key word or topical search features at Bible Hub or Bible Gateway.

Here’s the link to “Lift Your Voice”, our worship scripture page:  https://worshipsounds.wordpress.com/lift-your-voice/

1. “The missing piece…What Every Christian Should Know About Worship”
https://worshipsounds.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/the-missing-piece-what-every-christian-should-know-about-worship/

2. “31 Days of Praise (Scripture Devotions)
https://worshipsounds.wordpress.com/2013/09/28/31-days-of-praise/
This post has been recommended on Worship Links @ http://www.worshiplinks.us/2013/09/devotions-praise/

3. “Walking in Worship”
Note:
This article has also been published in the online magazine, “ChurchMag” with its original title
@ http://churchm.ag/walking-in-worship/
and on churchleaders.com , using the title, “What Worship REALLY Means” @

http://www.churchleaders.com/worship/worship-articles/163955-cynthia-boyd-worship-really-means.html

* found on this blog @ https://worshipsounds.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/walking-in-worship/

OUR OTHER POSTS ABOUT WORSHIP: (Our pages, like the one on Lifestyle Worship, have titles that are always visible on the blog header. Our posts are categorized, and all of the posts on worship can be found in our category called “Worship…with Wonder!” (and the sub-categories in that topic). Here are links to 7 of our most widely read posts about worship.

Music is a gift…Worship the Giver!
This article was also published by TheWorshipCommunity.com @ http://www.theworshipcommunity.com/music-is-a-gift-worship-the-giver/

Worship Planning and Preparation

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Do you know someone who is looking for answers?

Thank you for spending your valuable time reading the contents of this page. We hope that it has been helpful to you. If you or someone that you know is looking for answers about life, we hope that you will visit our page called “Do You Know Jesus?”. The links provided on this page will help to answer life’s deepest questions. Here is the link to “Do You Know Jesus?”: http://www.worshipsounds.wordpress.com/do-you-know-jesus/

Please feel free to share this URL with anyone who is looking for answers about life and eternity.

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Generational and Cultural Relevance in Worship Ministry

 The message of the gospel always matters. 

 It is always relevant to every life, every heart, every age, every culture, and every generation. 

 Sharing the truth of God’s love, as demonstrated through the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ matters more than anything else in the world. 

However, it’s not easy to find a way to communicate the life-changing and eternal message of saving grace in a world where there are is so much divisiveness.  It can be difficult to overcome generational and cultual attitudes to the extent that what really matters (the gospel message of salvation and new life in Christ) is clearly shared and understood.  In our homes, in our churches, and wherever we go, Christians need to demonstrate the love of God and apply His grace in responding to situations where a lack of generational or cultural understanding seems to be a barrier to communication.  In doing so, we need to remember that everyone wants to feel that they matter and that their opinions and beliefs are relevant.  The reality is that adults are sometimes dismissed by teenagers and children as irrelevant to contemporary culture and to the lives of the younger generation.  In the same way, adults can sometimes dismiss younger people as lacking enough maturity to be relevant to serious discussions and decision making.  If God’s people, the church, are going to make a difference through sharing the eternal truth of salvation in Christ, we have to be willing to take a fresh look at everything we do.  In light of the pre-conceived ideas and differing backgrounds on both sides of every generational and cultural issue, is it possible to find a way to unite the generations in powerful, life-changing worship?  Can the adults to whom church leadership has been entrusted become open enough to make any necessary changes on the path to reaching the hearts and minds of younger generations?

Webster defines the word relevant as:  “bearing upon or connected with the matter in hand; to the purpose; pertinent.”  In other words, when we are living and relating, worshiping and sharing in such a way that our ministry becomes relevant for reaching up to God and out to others, what we do matters!

People always matter!  We have intrinsic value because we are created by God in His image and redeemed by God through Jesus Christ, which means that our lives have eternal and infinite value.   The value of our lives or the message that we share is never the question.  However, true relevance that allows God to speak to the hearts of others through us without the barriers of cultural and relational obsolescence brings eternal value to our ministry.  In other words, God can use lives and ministries and talents and hearts that are surrendered to Him to bring about real spiritual fruit in our hearts and lives and in the lives of others.  When we are surrendered to God’s Kingdom purposes, He makes us more aware of changes that we can make to effectively minister to all of the people who make up our congregation.

The message of the gospel is always relevant.  God’s love and mercy always matters.  The problem of perceived irrelevance has never been about the message itself.  When it comes to our relevance in sharing spiritual truth, what we do relationally and the message that we project to those around us (through our lives, our words, our posture, our attitudes, our musical preparation and choices, and even the expressions on our faces) impacts their willingness to hear the message of the gospel.  When we learn to care more deeply about how God can use our lives and our willingness to seek His purpose than we do about what is comfortable and easy for us, God can indwell our hunger to bring Him glory in such a way that His Spirit brings not only relevance but Divine power to the ministry that we have been given.  This process will take some thought on our parts.  We never intend to get comfortable and begin to resist change, and we often don’t even recognize those tendencies in ourselves.  It will take awareness of where we are and a passion for becoming all that God made us to be to prompt the uncomfortable process of change (where change is necessary) and allow us to become more open to considering the types of changes that will make our ministry more effective with people of all ages.

As the chief worship leaders in our church, it is incumbent upon anyone who is a part of worship ministry to be as “relevant” to those we serve as we can be.  If we are going to really allow the Lord to use us to have an impact upon the lives of others, we must be open to new forms of expression and to refining the overall worship experience so that people are drawn to the message of the gospel rather than bored by the absence of passion and a seeming lack of commitment to excellence in what they observe and hear.   In my experiences working with teenagers through the years,  I have discovered that I have to “earn” the right to be heard by them.  The same is true of virtually any age group.  We want to know that whoever is leading us is relevant to the lives we live and is sharing a message with eternal relevance.  Most pertinent to this discussion of relevance, we want to know that these eternal truths mean so much to those who are sharing them that there is evidence of a heart of passion in the sharing process.

The kind of relevance we need as worship and ministry leaders involves bringing clarity, purpose, prerparation, and passion to all of our efforts in leading worship.  

1.  CLARITY
We need clarity because God is not the author of confusion.   Everyone on the worship team should have clarity in their thoughts and attitudes about worship and should understand that the purpose of worship is to bring glory to our God.  Every worshiper should be able to follow the music that you are sharing without confusion so that they can focus on the Lord and worship Him.

2.  PURPOSE
The purpose of everything that is done in the worship service (not just singing!) must also ultimately be to bring glory to God.  If a worship service is planned carefully, one message in song or in testimony or prayer can lead right into the next almost as a progression of thought as we worship the Lord.

3.  PREPARATION
This involves spiritual preparation for all ministry staff and worship minisry personnel.  A lot of prayer time should be invested before we ever reach pre-service rehearsals, ministerial pre-service prayer times, and, expecially, before the worship service itself begins.  As the planning takes place, all of the details should be a matter of prayer as well.  Worship ministry personnel should spend some time in prayer during rehearsals as well.

When it comes to the actual carrying out of the plan for worhip during the service, all of the leadership team should be well prepared so that the service can flow from one thing to the next and not interrupt the focus on our eternal God.  Every worship team member should know what has been planned to happen next.  What Travis calls an “expanded update” for the musicians and ministerial staff can be helpful.  Our church does publish an order of service in the bulletin.  However, the order given to those who are involved in ministry contains more information.  For example, for the staff, it might list who will be welcoming guests and who will lead a prayer.  For musicians, it might tell who is “in” on the first verse, where others come in, how many repeats of a certain song, etc.  However, this planning does not prevent sensitivity to God’s spirit.  Sometimes things change during a worship service; but if your original planning was clear, it is easier for everyone to go with the flow of God’s spirit.

4.  PASSION
Finally, we must have passion in order to be relevant as worship leaders.  Our passion for the Lord is expressed not just through musical excellence and preparation but in a transparent desire to bring glory to God.  We are all individuals, so this focus on bringing glory to God will be expressed in many different ways.  However, our passion should be far more than skin deep.  True passion is not for the sake of appearance.   True passion for the Lord must permeate our hearts and should impact our thinking, our prayer lives, our expressions of worship, and the way that we live and relate as people.  We are worshipers and seekers of God first and worship leaders second, in answer to His call on our lives.  The deep desire and passion of our hearts should be to bring glory to God, fulfilling our calling to lead worshipers and seekers of God in a relevant manner that God can use to draw others to Himself and to inspire believers to seek a closer walk with Him through a more profound understanding of worship.

When we are willing to do whatever it takes in order for the Lord to indwell our worship and use it to impact the lives of others, the spiritual foundation of understanding that the goal of worship is to bring glory to God is primary.  However, without consideration of some practical things that should also enter our awareness, we risk leaving our congregation behind and neglecting the simple relational things that could help to communicate with them more effectively.   We essentially have a dual role as worship leaders of relating to and worshiping the Lord while also relating to and leading God’s people.   This can be a difficult balance, but we can do all things through Christ.  The practical elements of relating to our congregation and thereby becoming relevant to them as worship leaders are not difficult but do require some initial thought and then continued awareness.

First of all, we must realize that there has always been and always will be a “gap” between musicians and non-musicians.  Regardless of whether we are formally trained or simply have learned by years of participation, we will always view our role as a worship ministry leader differently from the way it will be viewed by those who have never participated in music organizations or in worship ministry.  Procedures that we take for granted as normal can seem strange, irrelevant, and even boring and archaic to non-musicians.  We have our own unique language (musical terminology), as well as our own set of expectations when we evaluate what we are doing (our own musical standards).   We must not get so caught up in the use of musical skills and expressions that we leave God’s people behind.  Every song for congregational worship should be singable and in a practical key, for example.  We just need to put some thought into relating musically to people who are not formally trained musicians.

The Apostle Paul always tried to become relevant to those whom he was trying to reach and serve.  (I Cor. 9:19-23)  Paul observed the culture around him in order to reference things that the people knew and build upon their knowledge with spiritual truth in his preaching and in his conversations.   Jesus was effective in ministering to people of all walks of life because they felt he was relevant.  He used stories that related to daily life in order to explain spiritual truth, and he demonstrated continual compassion for the hardships and difficulties and losses of life.  He also saw the hearts of the people with whom he came in contact and was able to speak to their deepest needs.  When Jesus communicated with people, I believe that He gave them His full attention and was fully engaged in communicating spiritual truth.  He could draw a crowd due to more than just His healing power.  People wanted to hear what He had to say.  The truths that Jesus spoke and taught were eternal, and He must have used all that He was to communicate them clearly and with passion.  We, too, can use all that we are to communicate spiritual truth and to focus on genuine worship.  We can relate to the daily lives of people so that they know we care about the joys and sorrows in their lives.  We can relate to people by speaking to their needs and clearly demonstrating genuine compassion and agape love for them.   When led to do so, we can use appropriate cultural references and even current events to share God’s truth in a relevant manner.   We can follow the example of Jesus to become more aware of the manner in which we relate to God’s people so that no only our worship leadership but also our lives make a difference and are relevant in ministry.

When it comes to worship ministry, the need for relevance is evident even in the Psalms.  The musicians who wrote them referenced events central to the history of Israel when talking about how God had protected and preserved the nation in every circumstance they faced.  There was a continual focus on remembering all that God had been to them (Savior, Lord, Refuge..) and all that He had done.   Throughout the centuries since the Psalms were written and since Jesus walked the Earth, there have been all kinds of situations surrounding and impacting the ministry of the local church.  Churches have utilized all kinds of worship leadership and musical expression of various types; and cultural surroundings have been a key factor in influencing changes.  It would be unrealistic for us to fail to recognize the fact that worship ministry has always been in the process of change.  It is Biblical and valid to sing to the Lord a new song, inspired by the way that He is working in our lives.  Christians in our congregations as well as those who have been called to the task of worship ministry leadership have done just that throughout the centuries of church history, singing the new songs of their own generation.  In recognizing that change is a constant process, we must also recognize the resistance to change in our own lives.  It is a challenge for any of us to accept change.  Change can be painful.  Change can take us out of our comfort zone.  Change can be threatening.  However, if we are to be relevant in worship ministry leadership, we must continually ask ourselves what contemporary elements of worship and new songs could be useful and meaningful in worship ministry.   We must also be aware of traditional worship practices and songs which might serve as a barrier between the worship ministry and many people in the congregation, and thus might have a negative impact on our relevance in the church today.

For example, choral praise is an element of worship ministry that has always been dear to my heart.  The Lord continues to give new songs for church choir ministry through those he has gifted with the ability to compose, so I don’t believe that He is finished with the use of choirs in worship ministry for His glory.  In order to be relevant in contemporary worship however, choirs will have to relinquish the role of a performing group and exchange it for the dual role of personal worshipers and leaders in worship ministry.   (The word “contemporary” here is not being used to describe a musical style but rather in the context of an overall worship ministry that is relevant today, no matter the style of the song that is being sung.)  Though there are some excellent examples of choral praise as a part of a vital contemporary worship ministry (such as the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), there are several reasons that many churches are no longer including traditional choral praise as part of their ongong worhsip ministry.   The following facts are true of many church choirs and represent the type of disconnect that prevents some elements of worship ministry from being relevant to the hearts and lives of people of all ages in our congregations.

  1. Choirs hold music folders when they sing, pulling heads down and limiting eye contact with the congregation.  This also creates a physical barrier between the choir and the congregation.  In viewing photos of choirs, one discovers that singers who are looking down at music appear to have their eyes closed.  When music must be used, choir member need to raise the music up so that their heads do not have to look down to see the music, and they can actually look over the folder as they are singing.
  2. Choirs often “file in” in single file into the choir loft like some formal processional.
  3. Choirs are usually physically placed as far away from the congregation as can be, due to the design of most church buildings.
  4. Traditional seated choral risers do not allow for effective miking of the choir.  As a result, sound is often covered by instruments (and it’s not always their fault!), which means that the message that is supposed to be conveyed is not coming through.
  5. Our emphasis is on the “performance” of an “anthem” instead of on leading our congregation in singing God’s praises.  (Would we be as committed if we weren’t singing an anthem every Sunday?)
  6. Our body language is often stiff and formal.  We are concentrating on a posture that produces the maximum choral sound.
  7. Our facial expressions are often lacking due to our desire to concentrate on singing the music correctly.  (This very disconnect with the congregation, by the way, means we are not singing correctly even if vocal and choral technique is exemplary!)  It is true that God looks upon our hearts, and genuine worship is always the most important thing.   However, we must remember that the congregation is not blessed with x-ray vision to see inside our hearts.  They must rely instead on their senses in order to receive a message that is being spoken, sung, dramatized, danced, or played during a worship service.  As worship leaders, we should in turn use all of our senses and all of our being to communicate so that the message goes forth with the emphasis of all that we are capable of doing in order to express it.

What a difference! This choir is aware that part of communicating the message effectively is eye contact and facial expression. They are visually engaged in worship when they sing.

While you may or may not agree with all of the statements above, I think we can all agree on the fact that in order for overall worship leadership to really effective in making an impact in our churches and in the Kingdom of God, all people who are involved in worship leadership must do everything possible to relate to our congregations.  In other words, we must be aware of the need to be relevant.

The same kinds of visual and audible disconnect that can limit the effectiveness of choral praise also exist in other areas of worship ministry.  The entire worship ministry team must have an attitude of humility and desire to continue to learn and grow in order for God give us the direction we need so desperately.  Everyone who is on the platform in a worship leadership role must be aware that there is a need to be as involved in the message of the music visually as one must be in focus and mental awareness on the technical aspects of music.  The message must speak to our own hearts first and then be communicated through our facial expression, eye contact, posture, and attitude.   It ‘s never just the music that speaks to the heart.  It is God’s spirit working through the music that makes an eternal difference in the lives of people.  If a seeming lack of interest distracts from the message, people may be so bored that they are not open to the truths that are being communicated, thus inhibiting the work of God’s Spirit.

In a time when opinions about what a true worship ministry should be vary widely, we must continually seek God’s wisdom.  A recognition that all music itself and all musical gifts come from God and that the highest expression of music is ultimately to give all glory to God must permeate our hearts and inform all that we do, including planning and preparation for worship.  We must all be aware of the visual picture we present when elevated on a platform in front of God’s people.  What kind of message is being given by our posture and our facial expressions?   How obviously involved are we in the elements of the worship service that do not require our musical gifts?  Are we listening?  Praying?  Hearing from God?  Are we seeking to give Him glory?  Are we doing all that we can do to prepare for worship leadership so that our eyes don’t have to be downcast onto the music when we are singing praises to God?  For musicians, when we are not playing as part of the worship team on a particular song, are we still involved in worshiping God?  When we sing or speak of joy or grace, does our face portray the beauty of these gifts?  When we tell of the sacrifice and agony of our Lord, is the passion we feel for Him evident on our faces?  In everything that we do, we must endeavor to avoid the distractions of complacency, seeming boredom, lack of passion, and poor preparation.  These things focus attention on the question of whether we really believe what we are singing rather than opening hearts to the truth.  Rather, we must first be genuine worshipers and then seek to convey the truth of God’s love through full awareness of our role as a part of a worship leadership team.  Only then can our vulnerability before God and before our fellow worshippers allow us to connect to His life and theirs in a manner than brings relevance to worship ministry as a true reflection of relationship rather than as an artificial performance.

God is real, and our message of His love and salvation is eternally relevant.   Lord God, help us to worship You as we seek to lead effectively and to encourage others to worship You as well.

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This post was written by Travis L. Boyd and adapted by Cynthia Boyd

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Here is a particularly well composed response by an experienced Worship Minister to a question about how a choir should function as worship leaders.  This discussion took place on the forum in the “Music in Worship”  Community on Choralnet.org , and you may view the discussion in it’s entirety by becoming a Choralnet user and a member of the “Music in Worship” community.

“There are some simple universal truths about the choir’s role as worship leaders that I believe apply in any situation.  The first is obvious but so often overlooked and disregarded that it has spawned thousands of conference presentations, books and articles over the last forty years; the choir’s primary role is to lead the people in worship.  Whether the “liturgy” (“work of the people”) is formal or informal, screens or no screens, Catholic or Reformed, Denominational on Non-Denom, hidden in a choir loft or visible front and center it is the same.  Just the fact that you recognize this and want to learn more about it says a lot about your heart, integrity, and training.

First you should have a well defined theology or Credo of the Ministry of Music because everything you do should flow out of that.  Mine is not unique and I share it here so that you might think about developing your own: Glorify, Proclaim, Minister; Glorify God, Proclaim God’s word through song, Minister to and through those who serve.  Think of Glorify as a straight line of praise from the singer upward to God; Proclaim could be seen as a line in the shape of an L—proclaiming the Word to God’s people (horizontal line outward) which brings glory to God as His word is revealed (vertical line upward); Minister to and through those who serve (an inverted T)—I think you get the idea.  We do all of these things throughout worship at different times and sometimes different styles of music.  But to do any of them since the Old Testament the choir has been set apart to perform these roles.  Therefore the choir is in a position of servant leadership.  Next:
Modeling-what the choir does and how they do it sets the example for the congregation in the “what” and “how” in a worship service.  And of course that modeling begins with the director.  Every group reflects their leader.  Our choir is in front of the congregation.  When I want the congregation to stand the choir stands first, when the offering plate is passed in the congregation it is passed in the choir (if we are not singing) even though many singers give their offering on-line or in the mail.  The choir leads the congregation in confession, responsive readings, and of course singing.  Because our liturgy is informal and varies week to week that means we take time in rehearsal to run those things, and “talk” through the order of worship, rather than leaving it to chance.  That models to the choir the importance of those things.  This of course includes the hymns (an essential and extended topic around the choir’s leadership responsibilities).
Authenticity-we often think of this in relation to our own feelings but the choir is charged with the role of leadership which may require one to set their own personal feelings aside.  What I mean is this: one must be authentic to their role, the mood and the message of the music they are making.  I always strive to motivate genuine, personal expression from the personal faith of the singer.  But let’s face it, sometimes we may not feel so joyful on Sunday morning, or mournful on Good Friday.  One principle that seems to represent the greatest level of leadership is a willingness to sacrifice and sometimes that means sacrificing your own personal mood or feelings in order to communicate.  This not acting or “faking it”.  This is about understanding one’s role, their job, and sacrificial leadership.
What flows out of authenticity is expression and that, I think, is a tougher nut to crack.  How do you “free” people up to be expressive?  (For me, this pertains to choirs “seen and unseen”.)  Try to motivate first from personal experience and faith and teach to the idea of their role of leadership, responsibility to authenticity, selfless singing, and embodiment of the music.  They really have to understand and believe in their role and the business of authenticity to their role (above). Address the business of what do you do when your feelings don’t align with the music (answer: sacrifice self for the role of being faithful to the text); share how you feel sometimes.  Maybe you need to “prime the pump”–one of my mentors, Howard Swan, was first a psychologist.  He used to say “act enthusiastic and pretty soon you’ll be enthusiastic”.  Whose spirit hasn’t been transformed by the expressive power of music?  It’s not magic, it’s a gift from God!
Practically speaking they have to lift their folders up so mouths point up and out in order to be heard and faces to be seen; you may need to look into devices or activities that drama instructors use to teach expression.
Our church has been streaming our services for some time now.  The choir has really responded to seeing (and hearing) themselves.  Even though I’ve been at this church 23 years they have a new appreciation for my musical and expressive corrections because they have seen and heard themselves. Video the choir in worship and show it to them in rehearsal.  Is their countenance aligned with the music?  Then take the same piece of music and practice embodying the character of the music.
I hope this epistle has been of some value to you.  And if you like, I’d be happy to continue this discussion with other ideas and experiences independently.  You can contact me through ChoralNet or simply go to www.Belpres.org then navigate through the drop downs: About Us/Church Staff/Worship and Music (on left hand side of page).”
Blessings on your ministry
Scott Dean
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