I received this question from Dennis:
What would you say are the benefits of a “worship team” (several singers leading at the front) as opposed to one “songleader”? From what I can see, at least one major benefit is, to have many voices projecting the volume of a song *AT* the congregation, to help them catch on to it. This has been especially helpful when learning new songs. Are there other benefits of a worship team, in your opinion?
No church ever needs to feel as though their corporate worship is less biblical, authentic, effective, or genuine because they don’t have a “worship team.” God doesn’t give us specific direction in Scripture about who is to lead corporate worship. But I can think of at least five ways a group of vocalists can benefit corporate worship.
1. Modeling Expressiveness. The Psalms encourage an unhindered, genuine, physical response to God in public praise that includes clapping, bowing down, dancing, standing in awe, lifting hands, and singing enthusiastically. None of those activities in themselves mean someone is worshipping God, but at different times they are appropriate expressions of praise to God. Having different vocalists model such expression can be an encouragement to a congregation to do the same. I’ve been affected many times as I’ve glanced up at the singers and noticed their genuine engagement with God as they sing.
2. Unity in Diversity. Three or four people can more effectively models the “one body with many parts” aspect of the church. Of course, your vocal team isn’t the only way to communicate this, but it can be an effective way. It displays the varied grace of God when people walk into your meetings and see singers of all sorts singing God’s praise together: men, women, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, young, old, etc.
3. Musical Harmony. Vocalists can add variety and depth to congregational singing through the purposeful use of harmony and vocal fills. By “purposeful” I mean intentional and for specific reasons. We shouldn’t sing harmony or sing fills simply because “we can.” Harmony can add depth, variety, beauty, and focus to certain lines or sections of a song. Of course, some churches sing everything in 4 part harmony. But since God hasn’t been clear that he prefers unison or harmony, both can be used to proclaim his glory. In a similar way, vocal fills can draw attention to the meaning of certain words or phrases and direct people’s hearts to the truth of what we’re singing.
4. Authenticity. I don’t mean more authentic worship, but a more authentic musical style. For churches that use more contemporary styles of music, a vocal team is able to more accurately capture and communicate the emotional language of that genre. Contemporary singing typically involves using less vibrato, shorter endings to phrases, and a more relaxed enunciation.
5. Greater Involvement. Using a vocal team can make room for more people to serve and bless the church with their musical gifts. That’s assuming, of course, that you’re not already using a choir, which enables even more people to use their gifts in serving God’s people.
If you do use a worship team, make sure they differentiate themselves from the performance-oriented, self-exalting culture of our day through demonstrating humility, joy, and a servant heart. It’s also not a bad idea to mix things up if you’re able to. A single leader has the advantages of flexibility, clear leadership, and making the most of limited resources. We’ve also used different numbers of solo vocalists throughout the years, and sometimes none at all, such as when a choir accompanies the leader.
Hope that’s helpful. If you have any thoughts on advantages of using a worship team, or things to watch out for, let us know.