Recently I received the following message from an email subscriber. He is enjoying my service “Worship Song Of The Week“, but he says some of the songs wouldn’t work in his church. Here’s his comment, and my response.
I like the song you shared in the latest Worship Song Of The Week email (Love So Great by Hillsong), but it’s way too over the top for my church.
My pastor is too old school, even though he is in his 40’s. I think he would also feel this is too charismatic. Plus, we are not blessed with talents and gifts.
Thanks for your comment. Sounds like there are two hurdles to overcome here: 1) Your pastor only wants very traditional music, and 2) The band can’t pull off modern styles anyway.
First, let’s tackle the Pastor. Not literally.
Pastor’s Too Old School
Presented correctly, I think your pastor would be open to bringing in more modern songs if you tweak the style. Don’t try to do the song as Hillsong does (even if your band could). Start doing new songs in a traditional style.
Go ahead and use an organ, piano, acoustic guitar — whatever you have. Adapt the song according to your church’s current acceptable style.
I know it seems like there is a lot going on with these super-produced songs by Hillsong and others. But when you break them down, they can be accomplished with a guitar and singer, if that’s all you have.
Start modernizing a little at a time. Add in a hand drum, percussion, then, eventually, a full drum set. Let an electric guitar play behind the acoustic, but don’t add distortion, and only play chords.
It’s never a good idea to overhaul your church’s style overnight. Take it a little at a time. It will probably take years to get where you might want to go tomorrow. But part of pastoring and leading is not herding your flock at break-neck speed. Instead, guide them gently where you know is best. Boiling it down, it’s about what’s best for the church, not about how cutting edge you are.
Build trust with your pastor. If he completely trusts you with his flock, he’ll let you take it just about anywhere. I think that’s true even though he’s “old school”. His preferred style might be outdated, but hopefully, he won’t let that stand in the way of deeper worship through modern songs and style.
Remember that worship does not have to be super-modern. Only if that’s what will help your congregation worship. No pastor should stand in the way of that.
Your second problem: the band sucks.
That’s a very common complaint in churches. No one practices, it’s 100% volunteer-run, and commitment is lacking.
That part is easily solved.
All it takes is one person to transform a worship ministry. One person needs to stand up, call a meeting, and lay ground rules. Have everyone sign contracts. Those who can’t commit don’t have to be on the team. If you’re left with two people, that’s your new band.
From there, you have a very solid foundation from which to build your ministry.
But still, know that great bands take time. Sure, you could hire professional musicians every Sunday and form an insta-band. But that’s not sustainable or healthy for the church.
It’s much better to grow the team of committed volunteers over time.
At my church, we are mostly volunteer-run except for an associate pastor who takes care of the administration part of things. But we have no salaried musicians.
About five years ago, I called a meeting to roll out mid-week practice. Over time, we’ve introduced worship team contracts and many other elements to “up” the level of commitment.
We haven’t lost a single musician in the process, at least not for asking them to commit.
Over time, the extra required commitment led to higher levels of professionalism. Here are the elements we’ve been able to add because of more commitment and higher skill:
- Mid-week practice
- Lead guitar
- Click track (metronome)
- Pad loops
- Keyboard (not just piano)
- Backing tracks
Taking a longer view, it took the whole 15 years since I started volunteering at my church to get here.
It was a process of adding a little at a time. As we made steps to improve, we started attracting more musicians. Now, we have musicians with 30+ years of experience. Some have been semi-pro gigging and recording artists.
Had they walked into our church 15 years ago, they may not have had any interest in joining us. Eventually, we were something very good musicians wanted to be a part of.
Don’t Give Up
The Bible says not to despise small beginnings. Don’t count your church out just because your skill level and modernization isn’t here yet. You just have to go through these years when the pastor and your band resist change.
But it’s really worth it if you can make it through.
Image: Gabe Barletta/Unsplash