As worship leaders, it is common to compare our bands on Sundays to the professionals we hear on the recording, and it can sometimes be discouraging. We long for that massive sound, with expert precision and masterful taste. However, as we all have learned, Sunday is not a place of perfection! Sunday is a beautiful mess of different musicians with a variety of musical backgrounds coming together to serve a congregation. It’s not about us! However there are some things you can do to help your band be better and grow towards a more unified, cohesive sound.
Provide Clear Expectations
It’s easy to be disappointed and stay silent. In the past, I have been guilty of being overly nice to avoid hurting feelings, all the while being frustrated with where things are at. That is not good leadership, that is people-pleasing. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6. Clarity is the most helpful thing you can give your team. Provide clear goals and expectations for what you’re looking for. Send your electric guitar players examples of the kind of tone you’re going for. Are you expecting the exact drum parts and fills from the record, or do you want to give your drummer more freedom? What keys parts do you expect to hear live versus what you’ll keep in the track? What parts do you want background vocalists to be singing, and when? Is the reference exactly what you’re going for, or do you want to reinterpret it to better fit your congregation?
Your band should know the answers to all of these questions. This sets your team up for success. When your band knows clearly what the target is, you’re more likely to hit it.
Dig In To Development
Think of all the genres and different approaches to playing each instrument. Sometimes, sending your guitar player a video is not enough. Maybe you have a musician coming from a jazz or gospel background, and you need to help them simplify their playing. Or maybe their tone is clashing and not blending in with the worship songs you’re playing. In these cases, one-on-one development is key. Have your guitar player bring their entire rig on a separate day, and spend time on their tone. What chord shapes are they playing? Do they have the right kind of ambient tones? On Sundays, you only have enough time for quick solutions. This is the dedicated time you need to dig into their approach, and mindset. Once you get on the same page, the results will line up with what you’re looking for more often.
This kind of time spent with your musicians shows investment. There hasn’t been a time I’ve done this where I haven’t built additional trust with my team as a result. With busy schedules, I know it’s hard to set aside individual time like this, but this is where the deep growth of your team begins. Someone took the time to do the exact same thing with me and I’m a result of their investment. Sow in the kingdom. Invest in your people.
Build Relational Capital
An impactful metaphor from me and my wife’s premarital counseling has always stood out to me in regards to developing a team. Imagine each relationship you have has a “relational piggy bank.” Deposits are activities that increase relational trust. Difficult conversations, or events that are taxing on a relationship, are considered withdrawals. Make sure you’re depositing enough into the relationship, before you withdraw. If you haven’t spent a lot of time getting to know a musician in your band, and you act hyper-critical and demanding in rehearsal, that’s not going to go well. You haven’t built enough relational capital to support that. Know when to deposit and know when to withdraw. Learning to balance the two is what keeps the team healthy, while continuing to grow.
Provide clear expectations, dig into development, and invest the time required to build relational capital with your team. Making your band better is much more than just getting the results you want. It’s about loving, caring, and shepherding the people God has entrusted you to lead. Don’t give in to the short-term comforts of avoiding conflict and hard conversations. Build relational capital, and lean into those conversations with clarity and gentleness. Remember the goal isn’t perfection on Sunday, it’s much more about stewardship and service. Steward the gift of your team well, and seek to honor and serve them along the way. Worship leading doesn’t just happen on a stage, it happens in the green room, at the coffee shop, and on those late-night calls that you sometimes don’t want to take. Strive to lead well in all these areas, even more so in the less-visible ones.
“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:22-24 ESV