This is an e-mail I sent our musicians and vocalists last week. I’m hoping will be useful to you and your worship team as well.
Leading people in worship—whether you are behind a kit, keyboard, guitar, violin, cello, sax or microphone—is something that should be taken seriously. Being a husband, wife or godly single is something that should be taken seriously. Being a mother or father is something that should be taken seriously. Being a Christ-follower is definitely something that should be taken seriously.
Some of us have been together for 10 years, some of us for one weekend. No matter the time period, I want to ask a difficult question: “Are we growing?”
Are we growing in godliness?1
Are you increasing in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love (2 Pet. 1)?
The Holy Spirit not only defends against sin, but He attacks it by producing godly character in believers. Do you reflect the character of God with love? Are you joyful? Are you a person of peace? Are you patient, kind, good, faithful and gentle? Do you resist the flesh with self-control? Do you lead in humility? (So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Col. 3:12) Do you love the Bible? (I rejoice at Your Word, as one who finds great spoil. Ps. 119:162) Are you growing in godliness? If not, do you desire to grow in these areas?
Are we growing in preparedness?
Pre•par•ed•ness refers to the state of being prepared for specific or unpredictable events or situations. It is an important quality in achieving goals and in avoiding and mitigating negative outcomes.
It is expected that we arrive for rehearsal on Sundays prepared. This means opening Planning Center Online earlier in the week, show up on time and have our parts practiced. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of being able to play with the same band every week, which means you show up once a month with a new group of people. In a two-hour period, you are expected to not only hammer out each of the songs, but to gel with one another and actually worship—the reason we gather each Sunday anyway. I’m certainly not speaking of the weeks I get the songs out too late. I’ve done this over the years and I’m sorry. I am working on getting that list out earlier each week.
Are you growing in preparedness? If not, do you desire to grow in this area?
Are we growing in our gifting; are we improving?
We’re all presented with the challenge of how to improve our capacity for creative expression and grow in our gifting.
The key to improving is recognizing your weaknesses on your instrument, and not shying away from them; rather, face them head on. This may require a great teacher and is certainly something that any musician should be considering, regardless of ability or experience. A good teacher will point you towards areas for improvement, and give you strategies and practice techniques to move forward.
Here are just three areas to consider:
- Often a musician will be more proficient at one of these and the other will lack somewhat. Listening to a song and working out the parts on your instrument is a great way to learn to play what you hear. This is a really helpful skill for playing within our team, but also writing parts for songs.
- Every musician/vocalist should own and practice with a metronome. Start by singing or playing a song you already know. Break it down into small pieces—an intro riff or verse melody—and practice one of these with the click repetitively for at least 2 minutes. Work on articulation, precision and rhythmic accuracy. Change the tempo and try the same line again.
- Practice being creative. Improvisation and writing parts, making melodies on the spot is one of the great aspects of music. Like any other activity, practice improves your ability to create what you want to create. I recommend doing this with other musicians. One of you might play chords under a singer/other instrumentalist and then switch it around. Practice coming up with parts over different chords. Buy a recording device, and you can do this anytime. Enjoy the process of honing your skills and opening new possibilities for creative expression on your instruments.
Know and understand your role. You are a worship leader (musician/vocalist) standing on a stage in front of many people who will either think about you or about God. Though we can’t control the thoughts of others but we can certainly keep from being a distraction as we point others to God as we worship Him. Do you want people to think about you, or is the worship of God your desire?
Understand the big picture. Is there is a spot where you can let the song breathe a bit, or will you have to fill that hole? Less is more.
Here is some help in the area of growing in our musical gifts:
+ Vocalists, are you singing on days other than Sundays? Are you strengthening your vocal cords? Just as you lift weights to strengthen certain muscles at the gym, you should be singing often and learning to breathe well in order to strengthen your vocal cords. Check out this website for more information on voice functioning, as well as videos of what’s actually going on when you’re singing (pretty interesting).
Are you using the Vocal Coach CD, or something comparable, to warm up your voice and expand your range? If not, I would highly recommend you do so.
Listen for things like pitch (sharp/flat), rhythm, when and how they breathe, diction, crescendo (to get gradually louder), decrescendo (to get gradually softer), staccato (singing the notes in a short and detached way, usually used for fast or happy and lively songs) and legato (singing in a smooth and jointed fashion), vibrato (a rapid, slight variation in pitch) and when and how they choose to belt their voice and or soften it.
+ Guitar players, are you working on scales, picking, strum patterns, making space, etc. Are you playing our style at The Village? Do you think about tone? Do you think creatively?
- Gear 101 - Electric Guitars/Amps/Pedal Boards (by Jeff Capps)
- Guitars, Riffs and Songwriting
- Nigel playing ‘Stronger’ (Hillsong)
U2 (The Edge), Hillsong United (Nigel), Chris Tomlin (Daniel), The Fray (Joe King)
+ Drummers, are you listening to drummers that have our style? Are you practicing?
‘Absolute’ & ‘You Found Me’ by The Fray, ‘You Won’t Relent’ by Chris Quilala & Kim Walker, ‘Hosanna’ by Starfield, ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay, ‘My Love, My Enemy’ & ‘Someday, Sarah’ by Dave Barnes, ‘We The Redeemed’ and ‘You Hold Me Now’ by Hillsong, ‘God of Justice’ by Tim Hughes, ‘Love Invades’ by Robbie Seay Band and ‘Move’ & ‘Free’ by Mercy Me.
+ Keys, are you listening to creative keys players? Are you practicing? Have you ever thought about using delay?
Hillsong (Great use of pads, piano, Rhodes, delay, etc), Coldplay, Tim Hughes (esp. ‘God of Justice’ it’s tough timing and ‘When I Survey’ from the “Happy Day-Live Worship” CD), The Fray, Jamie Cullum (Twentysomething) and Keith Jarrett (The Koln Concert).
Are you growing in your gifting? Are you improving? If not, do you desire to grow in this area?
Are we serving for the right reasons and in the right ministry?
I know that serving in the worship ministry takes time and energy. I know it’s a sacrifice. You give up at least one night of the week of your rotation to rehearse the songs on your own, and then you show up on Sunday and give up that whole day. I know that some of you have families and other responsibilities that wait for them as soon as they get home on Sunday night and/or Monday morning. I know you can grow weary; but I also know that the Lord will provide. I know if you are serving for the right reasons, in the right ministry, God will be glorified. Are you serving for the right reasons? Pray and ask the Lord.
Let me know if serving in this ministry is too time consuming or wearisome.
Please answer these questions
- Are you growing in godliness, preparedness and gifting/creativity?
- If your answer is “no,” are you willing to pursue these things?
- Are you serving for the right reasons and in the right ministry?
I love you and am honored to serve alongside you at The Village making much of our great God and King!
1 2 Peter 1:3-11 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.