Having a worship band for your youth ministry is a nice addition if you have the talent and equipment to support one. While not mandatory in order to worship, a worship band can enhance worship and allows students to use their talents for the Lord. Having a clear vision for what you want it to accomplish and a smooth launch for building a worship team will help prevent heartache and confusion later.
Developing a worship band does not come without problems, however. Parents will question the spiritual maturity of some student worship leaders. Students will be mad when their friend isn’t chosen to sing lead, even though the less popular girl is growing in her faith and has more ability and heart for Jesus. How will you explain to the drummer and the guitar player that they will not have solos every week? These are some of the issues we will attempt to minimize as we look at four things you can do to develop a student worship band.
Our ability to lead in youth ministry does not mean we have to be an expert at everything. It means we find the best people who fit a need and then equip and resource them to win. Therefore, you do not have to be an accomplished musician to have a student praise band for your group. You will need to find someone who is a good musician and has the ability to teach. While students should be working with a music teacher to continue to improve their skills, the adult will need to work on chemistry, cues for transitions, and blending together.
Additionally, this group should grow together spiritually, much like its own small group. These students need to learn that worship is more than performing on stage: it is a spiritual act, leading others in a time of praise and confession before almighty God. The discipleship process will help band members understand “the why” of what they are doing. Secondly, because these students are leaders in the group, Satan would love nothing more than to tear them down and render them ineffective. The spiritual time together provides an opportunity to slow down and focus on each other, not just on the task of preparing the music for worship.
Spiritual discipleship may not be a strength of the leader helping with developing worship ability. It is perfectly acceptable to take a team approach. With the worship team being co-ed, having male and female leaders with a divided responsibility would be a great idea. Remember these are students and at times they are going to act like students. They will be immature and not the most accomplished musicians. Our job is not to create the next Hillsong group, but to develop disciples who can take their spiritual skills with them and serve the kingdom. That takes both spiritual development and skill development.
Unbiased Selection Process
In an “everybody wins” culture, it can be difficult to determine how to build a worship team and keep everybody happy. If you don’t define what pieces you are looking for to fill your worship team, you could end up with a worship choir and concert band. While not bad ideas, these are not likely what you are looking for to lead out on a Wednesday night youth worship service.
When we led our church group through this selection process, we chose to bring in outsiders to help provide an unbiased opinion. We communicated this upfront in an attempt to ease the tension with families who might get mad at us for not showing a preference for their child. We invited worship leaders and youth ministers from within an easy traveling distance to sit in on the audition and interview process. They were able to give honest feedback and ask tough questions. While we had disappointed students, it did help us minimize some of the conflicts because we were not personally responsible for choosing students for the worship band.
Being part of the worship team does not give students the luxury of deciding when they want to come to church. The rest of the group depends on them for their success. Most students and parents recognize the importance of a team, but they don’t realize how much it should translate to church. While commitment should be on a higher level for church involvement, we all know the church is seen as optional because it will always be there.
Raise the bar for the worship team. Have students and parents sign a covenant during the application process. This covenant will outline what you will provide to the student by being part of the band, including additional spiritual and emotional support, certain elements of equipment, and any rewards for services at the end of the year. The covenant will also include the expectations of rehearsals, performance dates and times, whether or not you expect them to take lessons, worship and Bible study attendance for their own spiritual growth, personal lifestyle decisions, and the consequences, including dismissal from the team, for not fulfilling any part of the expectations.
Be prepared to follow through with the support and the consequences. Students will need a balance of both.
Simple Creates Wins
The best wins are small wins. They create momentum. Keep the expectations of the worship team manageable. Find songs that are familiar to everybody and in a key (such as G or can capo to a G chord progression), so that everybody can enjoy the experience. As soon as the worship team learns one song get them out there. This builds encouragement. It’s not about having an entire set. It’s about celebrating obedience and growth. Don’t try to create an elaborate playlist. When our team first started, they did not play every week. Instead, we worked on four songs and played once a month, changing the song order from time to time to keep it fresh.
Do not feel like you have to have a student band. If you have only one student who would like to play, have them join an adult worship team to help lead students in worship. Again, the goal is about the discipleship and growth of the student, not adding a cool element to the youth ministry program.
Worship teams are nice, but they are not necessary to have a great youth ministry. Take the time to develop this element of your ministry well. If not, it could lead to frustration, pridefulness, or poor quality. Each of these issues will affect the overall youth ministry, not just the worship team.