As a worship leader, training up musicians and other worship leaders is a centerpiece of my role. Training musicians is necessary in order to have a thriving, sustainable worship experience at your church. But I would venture to say that as Christians, that should only be part of the motivation for raising the talent level and excellence of our worship teams. The beauty in my platform as a worship leader is that I get to develop people. So often we view developing great musicians as the end goal. Having excellent bands is not enough for us to count ourselves as successful worship leaders. I think that training musicians is actually just a means, whose end is discipleship. I’d like to offer what I think are some practical steps to make that vision of discipleship come to life.
1. Spend time with your team outside of service and rehearsals.
This should be of utmost priority to anyone in a leadership position. If you position yourself as a leader who spends time with people “offstage”, they are much more prone to value your opinions and respect your decisions. It builds trust between you and your team. In everything from Paul and Timothy to Obi Wan and Luke, the value of organic relationships in a leadership role can be clearly seen and appreciated! Everything else is secondary.
2. Do away with chord charts during services.
Not even cheat sheets. When I used to lead in youth ministry (where I dealt with mostly inexperienced musicians), I found that chord charts and cheat sheets were a huge hindrance. When your musicians are relying on these tools, they aren’t allowing themselves to actively memorize the music, thus obstructing their perspectives on good musicianship. When I began to take these pieces of paper from them, they realized that they had to understand the guts of the song -- the chords, the rises and falls, the subtleties. I watched them participate in making the music, which is the quickest way that anyone can learn.
3. Provide them with everything they need to succeed.
Set your team up for success! If you are doing an arrangement differently from the MP3, take the time to cut the MP3 to flow how you will be performing it. Provide chord charts with as many notes as possible for rehearsal. And for the love of all that is good and holy, please communicate often! So many times we blame our team members for mistakes that we could easily fix with consistent communication. Are you doing every single thing you can in order to ensure that your team is well equipped? This can transform a team member who has great potential and willingness into a beastly musician with a heart for your worship experience.
4. Give them freedom.
I say this with a caveat; you must trust the musician in question. If you’re dealing with a player you feel comfortable with, don’t be afraid to let him or her try that guitar line that doesn’t necessarily suit your preference. Let your drummer do a jazzy fill every once in a while, even if it isn’t something you would choose to do. Giving your team freedom of expression (as long as it doesn’t hinder your overall vision for the songs) is a great way to continue to build trust, and to get your musicians thinking outside the box.
Hopefully these steps serve as practical reminders for you as a worship leader or band director. Remember to always build genuine relationships with your team members, and to love them well. Happy team building!
Vagner is our Plantation Campus Worship Leader. He leads with passion and loves creating an atmosphere in worship that empowers people to meet with God. Learn more about Vagner.