Quality or Quantity on the Worship Team?

finale1-5-18-08_FotorI recently received this question from John:

We currently have four worship teams, giving 15-20 people a month a chance to lead in music, either by singing or playing an instrument. I’d guess that a quarter of these people are very skilled musically, and have been split among the four teams. We’ve discussed cutting the number of teams down to one or two that would be much more musically adept; the downside of this is that many “moderate” musicians would no longer have a chance to share their musical gifts as a part of worship. We want to be sensitive to everyone, yet provide the highest quality music possible for all of the obvious reasons. What biblical principles should we use in determining which direction to go?

Here are two choices that seem to be available:

A. Smaller team with skilled musicians.
B. Larger team that includes less skilled musicians.

A smaller skilled team serves the church more effectively, can contribute to a tighter team dynamic, and can shorten rehearsal time. A larger team involves more people musically, allows skilled players to take time off, and can facilitate training others. I’m sure there are other advantages that you can think of for each.

Romans 12:3-6 is a passage that speaks to the gifts God gives and how we’re to view them: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy…”

Here are some principles I think we can draw from this passage:

1. Don’t apologize for using the most gifted musicians to serve. “The members do not all have the same function” (Rom. 12:4). 1 Chron. 15:22 says Kenaniah led the singing “because he was skillful at it.” (NIV). God gives gifts to build up the church, not to fulfill the aspirations of various members. My first responsibility is to serve the congregation, not make an individual happy. Although it’s nice when I can do both…

2. Don’t equate desire to serve with giftedness to serve. “I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment” (Rom. 12:3). Watching American Idol confirms beyond the shadow of a doubt that musicians tend to think they’re better than they really are. Wanting to sing doesn’t mean someone is called or gifted to sing. As a leader, I have to be willing to graciously redirect those who aren’t gifted musically to serve in other ways.

3. Communicate to lesser skilled musicians that they may not be used as often, but are still needed on the team. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ” (Rom. 12:5). In other words, don’t burn your bridges. Athletic teams typically have many more players than are actually playing at any given moment. But every player is needed. When your main soprano gets laryngitis, when your guitarist cuts his finger, when your best drummer has a scheduling conflict, a less skilled player can become more valuable.

4. Use less talented musicians with more gifted musicians. “So we…are…individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). Schedule your strongest members in key roles and use less gifted members to support them. You might have two acoustic guitarists play with the understanding that the less experienced player is learning from the other.

5. Use group ensembles for those who aren’t good soloists. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us” (Rom. 12:6). Choirs and ensembles can not only involve more people but can also contribute to a bigger sound, more exuberant expressiveness, and more creative arrangements.

6. Finally, take time to tell your team why you’re making any structural or schedule changes. When people understand that their gifts are from God, that he gives different ones, and that they’re all for his glory, they’ll have an easier time understanding why they don’t sing or play as often as someone else. That doesn’t mean they’ll never struggle, but you’ll be able to direct them back to God’s intentions for their gifts. As we build people’s faith to serve with “the measure of faith God has assigned,” they’ll be able to serve with joy, no matter when, where, or how.

If you have any other thoughts, let us know!

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23 Responses to Quality or Quantity on the Worship Team?

  1. Marvin Hadenfeldt February 19, 2007 at 5:26 PM #

    What if churches that have the luxury of 4 or 5 different worship teams were to “share” with, say, a church that has no musicians at all? Maybe team up with a small church that has a need for a musician or song leader and provide a musician/s on their off Sundays. They wouldn’t be transferring membership or anything like that, just using their talents and gifts as God leads them to help another congregation worship.

  2. John Keltonic February 20, 2007 at 11:59 AM #

    Bob,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to tackle this question in such a detailed way. Your response helped to solidify much of what we’d been thinking, using scripture as a clear foundation. Again, thanks!

    John

    P.S. To Marvin – we’ve made such an offer to two other churches in our area who have lamented the fact that they are “musician poor”, but neither seems interested in taking us up on the offer. Thanks for the idea, though!

  3. Ryan February 20, 2007 at 1:40 PM #

    Thanks for this post, Bob! This seems like one of the most difficult issues we deal with as worship leaders. I’ve learned the hard way how not to treat the issue, and learned the hard way that quality does need to come over quantity. Our job is to point people to Jesus, and sometimes a lack of quality creates a huge distraction from Him.

    Marvin, I think you’re idea is fantastic. Lifechurch.tv is a church that is giving away all of their content for free to whoever wants it. You can use their graphics, sermon notes, videos, everything at no cost. What an awesome ministry to people who aren’t as blessed. I think we definitely should think about helping each other out at different churches.

  4. Tami February 20, 2007 at 2:14 PM #

    An added benefit of mixing your “regulars” in with newer folks of varying skill levels is seeing the newer folks’ gifts and talents grow. As tragic as a lead soprano with laryngitis is, ;) how much more glory does God get when *each* member of our body is growing in service! God may surprise you with who He sends and who He raises up.

    To encourage those with “talent to grow on,” you might suggest that they take private lessons or join a community choir to pick up added musicianship skills. By these means, the individual grows in both skill and confidence, and the worship leader and other teammates are not solely responsible for the person’s training. What’s more, the leader has an opportunity to observe the individual’s personal commitment to growth and service. If the person wants to be on the team just to be up front, it is unlikely that he or she would put in the added time and discipline (and often expense) involved in added training.

  5. Doug February 20, 2007 at 3:07 PM #

    Marvin – I love this idea, and have been a big advocate of this concept. You have to make sure that the church leadership is on board, and supportive of it. You also have to make sure that the team members from the “supplying” church have a good sense of their own personal boundries. Some might also, just not be interested in helping out, which is ok as well.

    A great topic overall. A very fine line to walk, especially when there are people on the team who have marginal skill, and you have to talk to them about perhaps “stepping back” their service a bit, and the reasons.

    It’s also important to emphasize the difference between skill and talent. Skill can be improved through more practice, private study, etc. Either someone has the talent or they do not.

    Great topic!!!

  6. Matt February 20, 2007 at 10:54 PM #

    Bob,
    Thank you for another great post. I don’t usually comment here, but I am a faithful reader, and really appreciate your ministry through this blog.

    I had a question related to this issue. What about a church that is small but is growing… The small church has limited musicians, so they use basically anyone they can (within reason of course). But as the church grows, some much more musically talented people come along. However, the weaker musicians are firmly established on the teams. What do you do? You can’t just kick the weaker ones off the teams. I’m not just being theoretical. We are basically at that stage in our church.

    If you (or anyone else reading for that matter) get the time to answer this, thank you!

    Through the cross,
    Matt

  7. Bob Kauflin February 21, 2007 at 7:49 AM #

    Matt,

    Thanks for your encouragement. Here are a few thoughts on your question regarding what to do when more talented (and I assume still godly) musicians come along. This is what I did when I got to the church I’m currently at.

    First, communicate to everyone on the team that being part of the team is an opportunity to serve, not a right to protect. In your situation you could probably do this at a team meeting. Then, I’d lay out qualifications you’re looking for in team members. I think of three: godliness, musical skill, and natural expressiveness. Make it clear to the team that as the church grows there will be others who may surpass them in those areas. When they arrive, we want to make room for them. That means the present members might be asked to serve less or even in another ministry! But that in no way lessens their importance to the team now. I’d also remind them that if we’re pursuing humility and God’s will for our lives, we’ll want to be the first ones to encourage others who might eventually take our place.

    No, you don’t just “kick the weaker ones off the teams.” But responsible leadership means lovingly leading people to the place where they want what’s best for the church, even if it means they have to serve in another way.

  8. Bob Kauflin February 24, 2007 at 4:19 PM #

    Marvin,

    We’ve “loaned” musicians to other Sovereign Grace churches in our area (near Washington, D.C.) as well as some that are farther away (Kansas City, MO). In most cases it’s been younger churches whose worship leader won’t be there, or just needs a break. One church near us sent their worship leader to our Pastor’s College for a year and we were able to send someone over once a month to help them. It was a great experience.

  9. Linette February 27, 2007 at 11:37 AM #

    I just wanted to say that we’re exactly where Matt is in his church. I’ve been praying over and struggling with the very thoughts that he is having – afraid to hurt people but realizing that this is all about God’s glory and not an individual’s position or import. I’m thankful for this discussion – I’ve never been to the sight before but will continue to read. I feel very encouraged that there are others who are in the same “boat” as we are and who are seeking to glorify God first and foremost!

    I have a question for anyone out there too. We are a growing church currently meeting in a school. We have come to that 80% capacity and are looking at moving to 2 services in the fall. This provides a new wrinkle in the logistics of worship etc. If any of you have been through this transition, I would be so grateful for ANY adivce and suggestions on how to make this transition as enjoyable as possible!! All new territory for me and our desire is to see Christ lifted high even in this!

    Thanks for this blog. It’s a great encouragement!!

    Linette

  10. connie March 1, 2007 at 2:46 PM #

    Our church made the transition to multiple services awhile back- how they handled scheduling musicians and frontline singers (those on mikes)was and is by making a monthly schedule whereby people rotate. This means that typically a musician will play once or twice a month depending on how many musicians we have for that instrument. There is also room for those developing their giftings-a necessity since we have a lot of turnover (we live in a military town plus we are known for doing a LOT of church planting!)

    There are also other venues made available for folks to use their musical giftings such as in small groups or church meetings and so forth, plus a songwriting group that meets monthly.

    It really helps if musicians think outside the box and realize that using one’s musical gift does not necessarily mean it has to be on the platform every Sunday-and sometimes even platform musicians can do with a sabbatical season.

  11. Indie Preacher March 1, 2007 at 3:07 PM #

    As a “moderately good” musician who’s really yearned to be on the church worship team before, I’ve been “shunted” or whatever you want to call it.

    I’ve led worship on Sunday nights and even on one Sunday morning. Those were great experiences I will always remember.

    Right now I coordinate worship for our youth group. It’s a fantastic experience to grow with them. I am actually pretty tired of large churches though with only the same people on the teams all the time.

    I help lead at a smaller church sometimes and these people give me an honorarium which I am beginning to feel guilty about taking. Smaller venues. Smaller churches. Smaller worship leaders. We don’t need any more rock stars in the church.

  12. Jordan Fowler March 7, 2007 at 10:47 AM #

    We have a bifurcated philosophy (HA!). For our instrumentalists it is necessary that they be highly skilled. We develop them in other venues (children’s bands etc.) For our vocal teams, we have a developmental feature called bridge team which gives the possibility for 100+ people to serve.

  13. Carri March 8, 2007 at 9:30 PM #

    I have a female singer who was brought on the team to be a background filler on melody. She wanted to be on our team for years before she was finally brought on. She lives to sing on our worship team if you know what I mean! I “thought” she would work out and develop into a much better singer than she has. Now I regret having her. She adds nothing except sloppiness and sour notes to our worship team. It sounds much “cleaner” when she isn’t singing that week. I feel like I’m trying to beat a dead horse to get her to come up to a higher singing quality with hardly no avail. I know the importance of discipling and developing the people you work with in the ministry. I’m no expert that’s for sure in knowing always how to go about doing that. But I am wondering if she just doesn’t have what it takes for me to have something to work with. I’ve often wondered if I am doing her a dis-service by wasting her time serving in this area, when she could just move on to where God really wants her to be.

    So my question is: what tools can I use to try to develop her vocally? We already listened to “The Vocal Coach” video as a worship team. I’ve already had a talk with her about her vocally weak areas and recommended she take voice lessons. But she excused that away. AT what point should I feel I’ve done all I can and it’s time to tell her to step down? She will be devastated and there’s no easy way around it. Any input will be appreciated! God Bless.

  14. Indie Preacher March 9, 2007 at 8:16 AM #

    Man, they should fire Simon Cowell. All you need is a mega-church worship leader to take his place. That would boost ratings for American Idol through the roof. :)

  15. Mark March 12, 2007 at 8:01 PM #

    In my opinion quality and quantity are both important in a worship team. It’s good to include as many people as possible but at the same time you don’t want people singing/playing who are no good. I don’t think it’s fair to turn a would-be singer/musician down just because the team is “big enough” – I’m not aware of God setting any limits on the number of singers/musicians in a worship team. Obviously you don’t want more people on stage than in the congregation. I also wouldn’t recommend using “we have enough singers/musicians” as a euphemism for “we don’t think you’re good enough” as it’s misleading. I don’t believe Romans 12:3-6 limits us to serving according to any spiritual gifts we may have. People also have talents that are not spiritual gifts. In fact I read on a website a while ago that music is not a spiritual gift but a talent.

  16. Bob Kauflin March 12, 2007 at 10:47 PM #

    Mark,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Actually, God did set limits on the number of musicians on the worship team at times. David appointed those who were to prophesy accompanied by lyres, harps, and cymbals, and skill was a factor.

    1Chronicles 25:7 The number of them along with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the LORD, all who were skillful, was 288.

    As far as music being a talent or a gift, I’m not sure I see a significant difference. Both are given by God, both can be developed for his glory. Am I missing something?

    One last thing. In reading through your comment, you seem to base much of what you say on your own opinion. “In my opinion…I don’t think…I wouldn’t recommend…I don’t believe.” I’d encourage you to at least consider how there might be different perspectives for some of the viewpoints you express, and that our goal isn’t simply to share our thoughts in these matters, but to pursue God’s.

    Thanks for contributing!

  17. Mark March 13, 2007 at 4:32 AM #

    Bob,

    It appears that 1 Chronicles 25:7 applies to the Levites being appointed to serve in the Temple etc under the Law of Moses, which ended with Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. I’d be interested to know if Jesus placed any limits on the number of people to serve musically in the New Testament.

    As far as talent versus spiritual gift goes the site I referred to in my earlier post said that music is not a spiritual gift but a talent that can be learned and practised (or something to that effect). I’m not aware of any spiritual gift that can be “learned” or “practised” as they are given to us by God fully fledged if you know what I mean. I hope this clears that bit up.

    If some leaders want a small, high quality worship team and others want a larger team of mixed quality it’s entirely up to them. Each church is unique and has its own needs and God has different plans for different churches so what may be right for one church may not be for another.

  18. Bob Kauflin March 13, 2007 at 8:38 AM #

    Hey, Mark. Thanks for the response.

    My point from the 1 Chronicles passage was simply that it’s possible for God to limit the number of people who serve in a leadership capacity, based on skill, gifting, and character. That’s true for both the Old and New Testaments (1 Pet. 4:9-11; 2 Tim. 2:20-21; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Cor. 12:18-20). Simply because someone wants to serve in a particular ministry doesn’t mean they’re gifted to do so. But you’re right in saying that there’s no specific numerical limit on how many people can serve on a team. I didn’t intend to imply there was.

    Spiritual gifts don’t come to us “fully fledged.” I’m sure you can detect how someone with the gift of teaching (1 Cor. 12:29) or hospitality (1 Pet. 4:9) or administrating (1 Cor. 12:28) grows in their gift over time, through practice, study, diligence, and experience.

    I totally agree with your last point. This is what I wrote in my original post:

    A smaller skilled team serves the church more effectively, can contribute to a tighter team dynamic, and can shorten rehearsal time. A larger team involves more people musically, allows skilled players to take time off, and can facilitate training others. I’m sure there are other advantages that you can think of for each.

    It’s just good to try to think through these issues from a biblical perspective.

  19. Linette March 16, 2007 at 1:31 AM #

    Hey guys,

    I’m responding to how Carri feels about the lady that she has on her team that “muddies” the waters of sound. We struggle with that in our teams too. Many of the people serving on our teams have been a part of our music ministry for many, many years – before there was an abundance of people who were not only available but also truly gifted in this area. They were available when needed and so, sometimes quality had to suffer in order to have a position filled. One thing that our Sr. Pastor suggested to me – which I’ll be implementing in the next few weeks – is to have someone in the church make a video (including sound) for each team that is a part of our music ministry. I’ll be showing that at a “thank you” brunch that I’m hosting for our team members & I’m trusting that God will use that video to make our people aware of where their gifts do or don’t lie. I don’t know how it will work out yet, but I’m praying that God will work it out!! He’s in control. Another thing that we’ve implemented in the past year is an audition for each person who wants to be part of a music team. They then are required to attend a minimum of 4 practices in order to see if they’re a fit or not. That has helped to bring to light weather someone is talented or gifted in the area of worship through music or not. None of this is easy. It’s a wonderful thing to know that we can trust the Lord to guide us in this – to help us deal with situations so as not to hurt people too badly, but also being humble enough to recognize our mistakes and make them right. God is the One who ultimately needs to be glorified – our pride should never stand in the way of that! I’m learning this continuously!

  20. Mark March 17, 2007 at 5:01 AM #

    Bob,

    I’ve done some research regarding my statement regarding spiritual gifts and talents and found that talents can be given by God to anybody, believer or not, whereas spiritual gifts can only be given to believers. Then there are natural abilities which can be developed from scratch as opposed to devine spiritual gifts.One website said that someone without the gift of music who tries hard can become a better singer that someone with it who neglects it! Hopefully this will clear this debate up once and for all…

  21. Keith Morris July 25, 2008 at 5:39 PM #

    Hi all,
    I wanted to weigh in on whether or not music ability is a talent or a spiritual gift. Mark is completely right that spiritual gifts are given to believers only. However, he seems to be insinuating that therefore, music is a spiritual gift. That is not true. There are 4 primary passages that deal with spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians chapters 12-14; Romans chapter 12; Ephesians chapter 4; and 1 Peter chapter 4).

    There are many good commentaries and books that deal precisely with the Biblical list. I am a musician, and sorry to hurt the feelings of my fellow servants, but music did not make the list! This is not a matter of debate. As I said, there are many resources available for identifying spiritual gifts. Some groups and individuals stretch the list of spiritual gifts to include all kinds of things. The Biblical list is fairly small and specific. I might point out that you can use your genuine Gift of the Spirit while leading musically, but that music itself is not the gift. I would warn using common sense, good Bible study skills, and finding the historical, Scriptural understanding of this truth.

    I observe that sometimes, we musicians take ourselves too seriously! In other words, having an attitude that “Music must be a spiritual gift!” Or, that music is “so powerful.” Yes and no. Music doesn’t compare with the genuine gifts of the Spirit.

    In Him,
    Keith

  22. Mark May 11, 2009 at 9:22 PM #

    Keith,

    I didn’t mean to insinuate that music is a spiritual gift. Presumably the site I was quoting had added to the Biblical list of spiritual gifts. Thanks for picking this up!

  23. Cyn April 19, 2011 at 2:09 PM #

    We are a small chuch, but have talented singers and musicians at various levels. What I find is that, the singers and musicians that are the MOST talented, are the people that I can depend on least. Because they are talented, they have opportunities that are often placed ahead of the service of the church.
    While some on our music team would limit the ability of the nominally talented (mostly singers) to participate, I have a lot of apprehension – 1. because I can’t always depend on the “most” talented even when schedules are published way ahead of time and 2 – I thought corporate worship was to be about what’s in the heart.
    In my experience, if only those who are considered to be very talented are allow to “lead” worship, it sets the bar so high that marginally talented people are intimidated – and, in a small church, you end up with no one but yourself becuase you can’t depend on others who have not set their priorities so that your commitment to your home church comes first and everything else follows.

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