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!