Last week I opened up this blog to YOUR QUESTIONS. I asked you to leave comments with your questions and you all jumped right on it!
I’ve been involved in worship leadership in the local church for 25+ years and it is my hope that maybe I can share some of this experience by helping with your questions.
The following question immediately resonated with me because I’ve found myself in this place a few times. This question is from “Peg”:
How do you plan music for a service when the musicians are all on vacation, and the only ones left to lead are vocalists?
Luckily, I’m a musician myself so I’m never totally without any musical help but I can certainly relate to struggling to get a band together. It seems to especially be more difficult in the summer months. I’ve personally felt that gripping fear and frustration that comes when I see nothing but red “decline” signs all the way down my roster in PlanningCenterOnline.
The first thing to do is take a step back, take a deep breath, and relax. As predictable as this may sound, God is still in control.
We can worship Him without music.
Even if no musicians are available, we can still gather corporately and celebrate His kingdom.
Nevertheless, there are some things one can do to prepare for these Sundays. It’s not an exhaustive list but should get you started with some ideas.
#1: Turn on the 911-Emergency Beacon
In Gotham when things got ugly they’d turn on the bat light. In church world we need to find a way to turn on our 911-Emergency beacon. What does this mean exactly? This could be a great recruitment time. If you have enough time to prepare you can make a brief announcement in your church or send out an e-blast. Try posting on FaceBook. Keep it simple.
You can try something like this: “We are in need of a few extra musicians to serve as backups. If you’d like to dust off your guitar or keyboard, get in touch with me ASAP”. You never know who may respond. I can almost guarantee that there are musicians in your congregation who perhaps don’t want the full commitment but would step in to help on a temporary basis.
#2: Look Down
Look down, age-wise. That’s right – to your youth. Most likely there are a few teenagers in your congregation who have secretly learned to play guitar or piano. This could be a fantastic opportunity for them to be used in your church service. Be willing to stretch and do something easier, or (gasp) something newer or edgier. Let them bring their expression to your team. Talk to your youth pastor or ask some parents who are in the “know”.
#3: Reach Out to Others
The other churches in our town shouldn’t be a source of competition. They should be a source of companionship and mutual support. We’re all on the same team. Perhaps there is another church in your town who has someone that could help for that one Sunday. Typically in a church like ours, we have several musicians for each part and they’d love to go help one Sunday.
Before recruiting a musician from another church I’d recommend following my personal code of conduct in this area which involves talking to the Music Minister and making sure you aren’t putting them in a bind by doing so.
This brings me to a point that I hope to discuss in a future blog article. Community. Most of us have little or no community with the other musicians and leaders in our community.
#4: Reach Out to the Artistic/Music Community
There are probably other musicians in your town. Guess what? They may not attend church. Now each church has their own philosophy about having non-Christians playing music in church. Some of us take that even further — non-members, etc. It really depends on how you are viewing the musician. Are they in spiritual leadership or are they just helping you musically?
How about that guitar player who you have heard at the local coffee shop or restaurant. How would they respond if you reached out and told them that you’d really love to have them help you with a few songs one Sunday morning. Buy them a really nice breakfast and don’t try to get them saved before they play.
We have an amazing bass player on our team who started this way. One day, while playing as a session bassist for our worship team the lyrics of the songs pierced his heart and he was gloriously saved. He is still in love with Jesus today.
#5: Forget about the Instruments
That’s right. Forget about musical instruments for a Sunday. Radically revise the way you do worship. Make it something special. Do a few songs acapella. Insert a spoken word segment, such as a creative monologue. Craft spoken prayers. Write a few simple, repeatable melodies to some of your favorite Scriptures or prayers and teach them to your congregation to sing them.
Really – you will be amazed at how beautiful this can be. Take a simple, 3-4 note melody repeating 2-3 meaningful verses from the Psalms. Teach your congregation the melody. Begin to sing it and encourage them to close their eyes and begin to sing harmonies if they hear them. It could be one of the most inspiring worship experiences you’ve ever had.
I can’t help but think of the story behind Matt Redman’s song, Heart of Worship.
when the music fades, and all is stripped away, and I simply come
longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart
As intimidating as it may be, this could be a profound blessing in the life of your church worship. Embrace it. Prepare them for it the week before. Tell them it’s going to be special and they don’t want to miss it. If you don’t have that much time, greet them Sunday morning with an explanation and vision, not an apology. And prepare for what could be a powerful time.
I’m sure many of you have some great ideas. Share them below. Have you experienced Sundays like this? What did you do?
Comment below and let’s discuss.
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