What do we value in worship arts?

Any “band” of people ought to have some type of structure — otherwise they wouldn’t be a “band,” would they?  Corporations have expectations of employees.  Countries have expectations of politicians.  Parents have expectations of children.  And, yes, churches have expectations of their musicians.  So what are the expectations of musicians in a worship band setting?  While each church’s expectations will look differently, here’s what our expectations are.

Let’s begin with expectations, then we’ll contrast with what expectations we ought not to have.

  1. Accountability. Musicians ought to be in a growing accountable walk with Christ. Life off the stage is more important than life on the stage.  Since those on stage are in a pseudo-leadership role, taking a look at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is helpful. Leading worship is a noble task. Musicians (both instrumentalists AND vocalists) should be above incrimination, the husband/wife of one spouse, restrained, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach others, not addicted to alcohol, gentle, a peacemaker, not a lover of money, manage their family well, not be a recent convert, and have a good reputation with outsiders.
  2. Available. Musicians ought to have availability to be a part of the worship arts family. Not everyone is in a season of life where they are able to participate in the worship arts family.  Attending rehearsals and leading worship regularly with the worship arts family is important. For example, a musician ought to be available to sing/play regularly in a foundational group before leading worship outside that group. It promotes unity, a team-spirit, and contributes to rubbing shoulders with others. Musicians also need to be available enough outside of rehearsal to prepare the music in advance. Rehearsal means re-hearing the music — not hearing it for the first time.
  3. Attitude. Musicians ought to have an attitude that is pleasant and enjoyable to be around. We’ve all been around someone who was incredibly gifted at what they do, but they were a pain to work with. Without an “others first” mentality, it’s hard to swallow — regardless of talent level.
  4. Ability. Musicians ought to have an ability to sing/play at a level God has set up at their local church. For one church, this might mean singing in tune. For another church, this might mean singing at a solo level. While the height of the bar is different at each location, there is a bar.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of the “bar” at our church. Someone else’s bar will have a different look.

  • Prepare music in advance of rehearsal
  • Ability to play/sing by ear or written music to keep time/tune with the band, smooth changes, ability to identify good tone
  • Ability to play/sing with confidence to lead, instead of follow
  • Singers, strong ability to harmonize and vary voice slightly to blend
  • Bass guitars, ability to lay down a groove with the kick
  • Guitars, ability to read chords and lead sheets, understand tone, effects, and ability to drive guitar-driven songs
  • Pianists, ability to read chords, written notation, ability to drive piano-driven songs, and knowledge of when not to play
  • Drummers, ability to take notes, play with and without a click-track, simple to moderately-complex worship patterns
  • Keyboardists, ability to read chords, mod wheel use, navigation of keyboard, knowledge of where to play to fill in the holes and when not to play

In contrast, here’s what we ought NOT to look for when it comes to expectations:

  1. Perfect people or spiritual giants. No one is perfect. Not one. (Romans 3:23)
  2. Serving every week with no time to worship off-stage. There’s a margin that needs to be maintained. Burning out for the sake of “always available” ends up being “no availability” in the long run.
  3. A fake-happy-face all the time. We have bad days. We can’t keep up a faux face all the time. Authenticity and being real with a positive attitude is what we are after.
  4. The best singers/instrumentalists in the nation. Many of us are average singers with average instrumental skills. We aren’t recording artists. We aren’t a monster player. There are plenty of others who can sing/play circles around us. Realistic ability is what we are looking for.
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