How to Create a Strong Praise Team for Your Church
A praise team adds energy and depth to a church service. It's main job is to invite the congregation to worship God through music by leading them in a set of songs, hymns or a combination of the two. Ideally, this time will help all ages in a church family to enter into God's presence together.
When I became involved with my church's worship ministry, I didn't know how much planning was actually involved in the week-to-week running of the team. After attending a worship conference, I understood more about effectively starting and running a praise team.
Putting a praise team together is more than finding some people to play and sing. The same care should be taken in creating a team as in starting any other ministry. It calls for a lot of thought and prayer and needs a strong vision to guide it. The other pieces will fall into place as you step out in faith.
Write a vision and mission statement for the team
Though these two are different, they are meant to connect to each other. The vision describes and defines the ministry, to show its purpose and personality. A mission statement is more practical and action-oriented, telling what the ministry will accomplish and how it will reach the goals.
The team's statements need to go together and to align with your church's core beliefs. You might even include the pastor or church board in on the process to help ensure consistency.
You can add other sections into your statement as you feel led. Listing Principles (general guidelines for running the ministry) and Core Values (truths about worship based on scripture) also helps clearly explain to you and others what you will accomplish for God through the team.
These are some excerpts from the Mission and Core Values statement we drew up in our church several years ago. Anyone who expresses an interest in joining our team gets one to study.
"God has called His people to worship Him by singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, shouting, standing in quiet awe, raising hands, clapping…God created us in His image - that means He created us to create. The variety in these (9) groups in intentional in order to draw you into one of them…"
"To enhance the worship life by providing for our services a rich variety of high quality music, reflecting traditional and contemporary styles…The worship team leads worship for all services, prayer meetings and special events…"
#1 - We value worship as the highest calling that God has given to humanity (Ps 73:25-26)
#6 - We value kindness, compassion, forgiveness, patience and cooperation in our interactions with one another. (Eph 4:32; 5:19)
#1 - Practices are on Fridays at 6:30 unless arrangements are made otherwise.
#2 - To participate in leading worship, attendance at the preceding practice is necessary.
Recruit personnel for the team.
If you are starting a team, chances are good that you already have even a small core of interested and talented people. But you'll want to find more. A larger pool of musicians gives you more flexibility, and allows for a rotation so no one gets burned out participating every week.
At our church we put an insert in our bulletin at least once a year that invites musical people to consider joining. But the most effective way to pursue people usually is one-on-one. People like being asked directly.
Keep your ears and eyes open for a spark of interest in a congregation member. Even if they don't want to perform, they may have a musical ear and want to help with the sound board.
Listed in our principles is a set of prerequisites for team members. To qualify, a person must be:
- a member of our church or regular attendee
- have taken the first of our church membership seminars
- be musically gifted.
Most teams consist of three kinds of members
Regular team members - instrumentalists or vocalists, or sometimes both. They need to show commitment, a willingness to submit to leadership, and a heart for their congregation to grow in worship.
Worship leader - the person who will actually lead the congregation through the songs. Many teams have a separate music leader who takes care of the arrangements and leads the music rehearsal. This person must be spiritually mature enough to be a role model and facilitator, as well as organized.
Sound team members - people who understand running a sound board and setting up microphones and amps. Another aspect is loading song lyrics onto and running a computer so that people can follow along easier. They need to have a combination of musical and technical skills so they can support the musical team.
Call a meeting for the team
Hold a general meeting. Hand out the vision and mission statements, and expectations of members. Give a chance for people to ask any questions.
Get everyone's contact info and schedule availability as well as any other pertinent info, like other instruments they play or music teaching experience.
Run a short brainstorming session, taking down ideas for songs or hymns. Aim at first for more familiar songs to encourage the team and the congregation.
Gather music for the team
Decide on a starting batch of about a dozen songs to work on. Think about incorporating some well-loved hymns - they can sound updated simply by playing them on electrified instruments.
Make sure you are using songs legally. Get software such as SongShowPlus - for a yearly fee you can download and print copies of most well-known worship songs and hymns. You choose between formats, like lyrics with chord names or an actual melody line with piano accompaniment. You can also transpose a song to another key if needed.
Start rehearsals for the team
Special and intimate times of worship can happen using vocals and just one instrument, such as piano or guitar. I've led some weeks when no one else was available, and the quieter sets brought out a sense of thoughtfulness to the singing.
But most weeks, you'll have a band that will probably include:
Accompaniment instruments - piano or keyboard, acoustic guitar
Rhythm section - bass guitar, drum set, bongos, tambourine, shakers, etc.
Lead instruments - lead guitar, violin, flute, brass, etc.
Vocals - ideally both women and men, but at least one strong voice to carry the melody
Adding New Members
As you go, you'll want to make a set process for bringing on new members. This demonstrates to them that this commitment is serious. It also gives potential members a chance to experience being out front with the team before plunging into leading a Sunday service.
I've seen people who seemed confident in their abilities suddenly get nervous when put behind a microphone. I've heard people say, "This is not what I expected". They might mean that the pace is fast for them, or they're not used to learning new songs.
In my church, the first step is a beginning interview with the Pastor or Worship Arts Committee Chairman. They share a little about themselves and what is drawing them to the music ministry. Next, they attend three rehearsals with either of our two teams. If everything goes well for them (and the team), the final thing is a second interview.
It's a little involved, but people who make it all the way through the process really understand what is expected of them and what they can expect. They, and we, know for sure they want to be a part of the team.
Offer learning opportunities for the team members
Once your team is up and running, you don't want the momentum to slow down. There are lots of ways for your team to grow in musicianship and worship.
Find local workshops or classes, or online videos that address techniques of playing and singing. See if one of your more trained team members would be willing to do some coaching in their area of expertise. Hold regular critique sessions using recordings of the team set from a previous Sunday morning.
Times outside of the rehearsal can strengthen trust between team members, and build bonds. Consider a team retreat weekend or even just a day. If you don't have funds to go far, meet at someone's house to pray, study God's word, and share fellowship together.
Set regular dates for meetings monthly or every few weeks. These provide an opportunity for team members to voice concerns. They can also be brainstorming sessions. Bring from the Pastor upcoming themes for service messages, plus any special events or holidays. Let those guide you to related music.
New songs ideas should be brought up here, and a plan to introduce them to congregation. Decide when you'll use that song and work backwards, making sure that the team will have enough time to practice it so they'll be confident and able to worship with it.
- The worship leader should choose the song set early in the week if not before.
- Consider the instrument mix you have as you start putting sets together.
- Open and the rehearsal with prayer.
- Rehearse new songs with the team at least a couple of weeks before doing them in the service.
- Plan a 5-minute Bible devotional as part of the rehearsal time - reading a psalm, for instance.
- Lead a prayer time for team members at the end of the rehearsal.