How to Easily Expand Worship Team Skill Levels

In a previous article I wrote about how to classify volunteer musicians based on musical ability, one very important factor I mentioned was giving people a way to grow. Even when you’re dealing with a variety of worship team skill levels, it is important for them to expand their vocal, musical, and worship skills.

For the most experienced players, this might involve leading through them. While success in this area is by no means guaranteed, I’ve got at least one good story from last year so you can see how it works.

Enter Martin

Martin is a fun guy with kids, and he plays bass. He’s an intuitive player that loves classic rock, has a great ear, and absolutely no idea what he’s doing. Somehow, with almost no instruction or theoretical knowledge, Martin has managed to create a style that is fun and interesting, and he’s perfect for a three-piece band when you want an active bass part. He’s played in a few churches, never any big ones, but is a fantastic addition.

I spent some time with Martin early on, showing him some scales, talking about the idea of playing in a key rather than memorizing notes and runs, etc. It was a tough jump, though, and just not one that he was ready to take. I was convinced that if he just knew the theory behind what he was doing, it would unleash a monster player on the world. Martin was a rhythmic player at heart, and cared more about when notes happen than anything. Since what he was doing was in no way harmful and he’s a valuable member of the team, I backed off of theory training. We’ve kept building the relationship and he’s kept playing. After all, he’s not doing any damage.

Enter Phill

Earlier this year, a guy named Phill and his wife joined our church. Phill is an accomplished drummer and percussionist: studio sessions, endorsement deals, the whole thing. Phill is what I’d classify as an A in my system, and it’s easy for him to get involved in church, so first we made sure that it was a good place for his family (remember, the goal is to develop and not use your people). Once he was settled and joining in, I had a different problem: there was nothing that I could teach him. Phill is 10-20 years older than me (I don’t know for sure), and has forgotten more about drumming than I will ever know. If anything, rehearsal was me trying to catch up to his level of knowledge. How can teach him anything?

During a group outing to a baseball game, Phill and I got some time to talk, and I decided that I was probably taking the wrong approach. Instead of trying to figure out what I could teach him, I asked Phill what our next step was in band development. He had some very good observations, but chief among them was that because of the way we rotate players in different patterns (we’ve got a number of people that have abnormal work schedules), our bass and drums tend to not lock up very well, with the feel of the song being too dependant on my strum pattern. I acknowledged that we were weak in that area, and asked him to help me brainstorm ways to address it, given our scheduling limitations.

The team has good solutions

Phill and Martin already got along well together. After they came up with a plan, Phill approached me, asking if he could take Martin under his wing. Their schedules were similar and they could play together once or twice a month. Phill wanted to get the music in advance, and have a rhythm practice for the two of them ahead of our normal rehearsal to put together rhythm patterns and to teach him how to play as a section. Martin, being a rhythm-oriented guy, was all over this. They’ve been doing this for a little while now, and things are much tighter when they play together.

But here’s the (still upcoming) twist. In the classification article, I talked about how A’s can be limited by their habits and experience. Martin has an expressive feel to his playing that would keep limit him in the studio but is amazing to have live. So Phill is also about to learn from Martin (I just told Phill this, so he won’t be surprised if he reads it here). When these two meet in the middle, with just enough of Phill’s solid studio foundation and just enough of Martin’s expressively styled lead feel, I will have a killer section in these two. In the mean time, I’m able to spend a little time with each, knowing that they are also leading each other.

The team is getting stronger by utilizing the gifts and experience of its members, and isn’t limited by how much time I can personally invest. Anyone who leads a larger team will tell you that their own time becomes a ceiling fast, and I’m grateful to have leaders on my team who spread that work to grow and mature the team faster than I can. God has sent me people who are ready to invest in each other, and if I’ll just guide them in how to do it, great things happen.

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