"I Mean, This Isn't A Worship Gathering..."

"You shouldn't do that. I mean, this isn't a rock concert..." 

Due to a myriad of factors, worship music has become increasingly proficient at "staying with the times" musically, both by appropriating the sounds of contemporary artists, and even by staying ahead of the curve in some cases. A worship band being on the forefront of musical progression may seem improbable, but take a listen to Kings Kaleidoscope's newest album Becoming Who We Are and try to tell me its not jazzier than most stuff you hear on KEXP. A big part of this shift is that many musicians double-dip in the previously more separated worlds of playing on a worship team, and playing in a local band. 

As a musician who straddles both worlds, one may often feel like they have to wear different hats when playing at their church vs. playing in their band. This is to be expected in some ways, as playing in a worship team does and should have a decidedly different set of goals than a typical musical performance, but many musicians in church tend to be reminded all too consistently of the things they shouldn't carry over into their worship team "from the outside," like:

  1. Too many distorted/fuzzy/noisy/atypical sounds
  2. Overly conspicuous stage presence
  3. Mosh pits/stage diving/scissor kicks/guitar chops
  4. Self-indulgent soloing
  5. Any kind of vocals other than pristine, clean singing
  6. Very tight pants

The list goes on and on here, the point being that we tend to be very emphatic about the ways we don't want our worship sets to look like rock concerts. These considerations are certainly founded in truth, and I in no way want to imply that we need to embrace all aspects of extra-church musical performance.

However, I do think we overlook the ways in which playing in a worship team can bleed into other forms of musical performance with potentially just as awkward consequences as the inverse scenario. So, after that agonizingly long introduction, I give you:

"Things You Do On Your Worship Team That You Shouldn't Do When Playing A Show"

  1. Stop playing and lift your hands whenever you feel like you should. 
    • Some worship musicians, particularly Acoustic Singer Guys (ASG's) are known to stop playing their instrument and just lift their hands, no matter what dynamic level the song is attempting to reach. Regardless of whether or not this action is ethical or moral, it certainly wouldn't fly at a normal concert (unless you're a country musician hahahahahaha). 
  2. Lead corporate prayer
    • Imagine what would happen if after the set, a band's front-person approached the mic and said "Father God...we gather in your presence..." in a soft, particularly breathy voice. It might make some people feel a little uncomfortable, but I'll be the first to admit that as a worship musician, I don't know if I know how to walk off a stage unless someone's praying.
  3. "Worship leader cues"
    • You know how sometimes worship leaders basically yell at their congregations to do stuff i.e. 
      • "Lift up a shout!"
      • "Sing it out!" 
      • "Come on, church!"
      • Others?
    • At a show, if no one's singing, they probably won't start if you yell at them. 
  4. Expecting people to sing
    • As worship musicians, we seem to expect that people will just naturally sing the songs we lead "because thats what churchgoers are supposed to do," but when you're performing your own music, there's no such guarantee, and if someone does sing, it rocks your whole world. Maybe we should be more like that in our churches...
  5. Phoning it in
    • As worship instrumentalists, we can often fall into danger of "phoning in" our parts for a song, in that we lean on the same boring parts and never worry about being interesting or putting effort into what we play. As a performing musician on the local stage, this is the easiest way to make people lose interest in you. No one wants to watch someone that doesn't look like they care about what they're playing. 
  6. Taking the sound guy for granted
    • The sound guy at a local venue has the power to take whatever you give him and either make it sound uncharacteristically good, or downright terrible with the touch of a few knobs and sliders, and because of that, any knowledgeable band will pay special attention to how they treat the sound guy. In church, we seem to treat our (often volunteer) sound guys however we want, expecting them to always hold up their end "because they're serving the church." Thats wrong. 

Are there any ways in which you've experienced or noticed some crossover between playing shows and playing on your worship team, in either direction? Let us know! Maybe we can help each other stop accidentally scissor kicking the communion table. 

"As our kids are dismissed to children's church,"

Ian