Tuesday, July 7, 2009

creating systems for worship teams

For any organization to maximize its potential, GREAT systems have to be in place. You can have poor systems and still reach your potential, but your potential will just not be very potent.

One of the most important areas of church world is the worship team. If a church wants to maximize the potential of their worship environment, then it obviously makes sense that a GREAT system would have to be in place. The problem is this: the system builder types are typically not on the worship team. Usually the worship team consists of extremely abstract/creative people and people who simply want to help setup and tear down stuff. Both are vital to the team, but neither are especially gifted at building systems.

The temptation is to just let the worship environment take care of itself, because after all, creative ideas are probably flourishing already. However, creative ideas are not a system. If your goal is to maximize potential, you need a great system; which means you need a system builder. You need someone who can sit down and figure out how to get every part of the worship team on the same page; someone who can build a framework in which the creative ideas can be executed. Every second of the worship time needs to have been thought through with an ultimate purpose in mind.

The reality is that most worship leader positions are filled based on musicianship and vocal ability, not on LEADING ability. There are multiple types of leading that must be done in order to truly LEAD worship, and I would argue that the majority of it takes place behind the scenes on Monday and Tuesday, not on stage Sunday. So, if you are going to really take your church somewhere in terms of worship, you need a system in place. What that ultimately means is that you need a leader in your worship area... in addition to an artist.

Systems can be hard to build for a group of abstract/unstructured people, but ultimately there needs to be a great one to maximize your potential. You need structure to succeed, which also means you need a structured person on the team.


  1. Ok, so this probably fits more to my leadership style than being abstract etc... but I have a question.

    Does Structure really help people in their Relationship with God. Spontaneous worship is one of the most beautiful things, and you cannot structure that.

    Let me know what you think.

    You're awesome. God Bless


  2. I would be interested in hearing Nate's view of the structure v. spontaneity question. But I believe that the Holy Spirit can be in the planning as well as the spontaneity. Our God is a god of order, not of chaos. Is there room for the Spirit to move? Yes! Is there more room if we have done our part to carefully plan the details so that a missing microphone, dead batteries, latecomers and wrong words on the Powerpoint don't have to be dealt with? Absolutely. Try worshiping with a song that you "own" and then try worshiping with one you've never rehearsed. It's exciting to think that there is a higher purpose to careful planning than just looking good. It is elimination of horizontal distraction so our focus can be vertical! Great post, Nate and great question, Nath!

  3. Nathan, that is a great question and one that has been asked and debated many times. The key is striking the balance between the two; allowing freedom of worship and planning properly to create the right environment for worship to occur. Planning allows you to think through and eliminate distractions, bathe the experience in prayer and create the excellence that helps all personality types encounter God.

    As you will note throughout the Old Testament God led people through some incredibly detailed plans to build settings and places for worship. I totally agree with Nancy that God's Spirit can (and should) move in the planning process, but if we fail to plan we often miss opportunities for worship.

  4. Great question, Nathan, and know that in my answer I don't claim to be an expert at any of this...

    Nancy did a good job of explaining I think. One time I heard Andy Stanley say the Holy Spirit can move just as effectively in the planning times as he can from the stage. Obviously there are times when a worship leader may feel he needs to add an extra chorus, tag another song, etc. But I think the bottom line is that worship planners should be relying on the Holy Spirit to help them PLAN the service as much as they rely on him to show up during the service. Simply relying on him to show up during the service is not a system, it's laziness.

    Another post that touches on this is defining a god thing. Here's that link: http://nateedmondson.blogspot.com/2008/11/defining-god-thing.html

    Also, I was referring to much more than just the music. In order for the ENTIRE worship environment to maximize its potential EVERY area of the worship service has to have been thought through. Deciding not to think through lighting changes, the sound mix, staging, etc simply in hopes that the Holy Spirit will work all of that out would be a terrible system, and as a result the potential would, again, not be very potent.

    Hope this helps answer your question! I've become fully convinced the past several months that structure paves the way to a relationship with God. So many people refer to the walk with God as a journey and an adventure. That is so true from a lot of contexts, but I personally feel that if you add a structured plan to your journey, it's going to be a lot smoother and your chances of ending up where you want to are going to be much better.

  5. Ok, I think I got an answer!

    Yep, I definitely agree that the Holy Spirit will (and should be allowed to) move in planning sessions. I do think its important though that we do not plan/systemize everything so much in the worship itself (I know what you mean about getting tech stuff going etc.) that we don't allow him to work then.

  6. Great post Nate.

    I want to write a stunning comment about the difference between worship planning in an environment where there is a stage and hundreds or thousands of worshipers and a smaller, more intimate setting but I'm way too tired and probably wouldn't be able to write a 'stunning' comment even at the best of times.

    I'm enjoying your blog and reading what God is teaching you. I'm glad your Dad keeps pointing us this way!