10 Essential Worship Team Systems (And Why You Need Them)

David Santistevan —  November 30, 2012 — 22 Comments

3036132944 17005214e2 zYou probably didn’t wake up this morning saying, “How can I really screw up my worship team?”

Nobody thinks that.

We all want to move our worship departments forward. To grow, develop, and improve.

But there are a lot of questions:

  • What the heck do I do?
  • How do I move my worship ministry forward?
  • What is important to my worship ministry?
  • Who can help me?
  • Where am I leading my team?

Many of us don’t know what to do so we resort to all we know how – playing it safe. Doing what we’ve always done.

Well, I want to start a discussion today to challenge you, address the issues that have been kept hidden, and help you go to the next level.

The Secret Ingredient

It all comes down to this – there’s one word you need to get very comfortable with. That word is…

Systems.

Yep – it sounds boring and anti-climactic. But guess what? They work!

What is a system?

A system is a pre-defined process. It’s the track on which your ministry runs. Without it, you’re lost. With it, you know exactly where you’re headed.

Every aspect of your worship ministry should have well thought out systems.

They should be based on your church’s vision. They should be prayed through. They should be discussed and agreed upon with your pastor.

Systems will keep you organized, ensure your ministry runs smoothly, and will help you accomplish more for the Kingdom of God.

10 Systems Every Worship Leader Needs

Systems require work on the front end so you can enjoy your job on the back-end. Your worship team will rise and fall based on the quality of your systems.

For example, what is your system for:

1. Developing your team members musically?

2. Discipling your team members spiritually?

3. Training musicians who aren’t ready?

4. Raising up new worship leaders?

5. Executing excellent weekend services?

6. Selecting songs for worship?

7. Communicating with your team members?

8. Scheduling your band?

9. Auditioning new worship team members?

10. Recruiting new worship team members?

You may have some of these figured out. Others, you’ve probably neglected. But no more.

You need to work “on” your worship department, not just “in” it.

OK, Now It’s Your Turn

Now, in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

What systems do you have that are working?

What areas do you need to work on?

I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on this, so hold nothing back.

Don’t be afraid…It’s always better when you share :)

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22 responses to 10 Essential Worship Team Systems (And Why You Need Them)

  1. Maria Rivera-Jones November 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Thanks so much for yet again another insightful post! I consider myself a pretty structured person who has to have processes for just about everything but there were some great suggestions here that I had not considered before. I’ll definitely expand the systems I’ll use to move the team forward.

    I’d love to hear from others on what strategies they use to develop the team musically?

    Thanks,
    Maria

  2. Good thoughts. I’d love to hear from leaders who are bi- or tri-vocational, where their worship leading isn’t full-time, or even half-time (or not even paid at all). How do you find time to develop these systems? For me (1/4 time), getting services planned, volunteers coordinated, music arranged and rehearsed, staff meetings, and the actual services leaves not much time to think about these systems.

    Numbers 5-8 are absolutely in place for me, as I can’t function without them (Planning Center Online is a huge part of that). But all the others are a distant light on the horizon calling my name, but so far out of reach in my available hours. And we do pay a price as a result of neglecting those.

    Thoughts?
    Thanks,
    n

  3. Hi David, I just forwarded this post to a pastor I know. Well, there are some things I would like to contribute, but it may sound negative. You can’t fix something if you can’t identify the problem correctly. Usually the things I mention are from actual real life experiences. I will talk about it on the music side and leave the spiritual growth part to someone who is more gifted in that area. I must say that I have found it to be NOT easy to find really gifted, talented, trained, experienced musicians that are as spiritually mature as they are musically. One of those two sides usually far outweighs the other. I believe it is easier to find a qualified senior pastor for a small to medium sized church than a music minister or worship leader. The pastors all have essentially the same training and the same interests, and goals. ( I know that’s an over simplification.) But anyone who is a trained musician knows how specialized “musicians” are trained to be. I will try to be brief, but it isn’t working yet.
    #1, #3, and one half of #4. All of these basically involve instruction and personal musical development. ENSEMBLE experience is important. Reading music and charts is important. A hunger to personally improve is important. Someone who is more developed musically must challenge those who are not, EVEN if they feel insecure about their own training. Those who are less trained must be willing to receive instruction, and constantly work to improve. Lay out in advance the skills they need, and do follow up interviews or progress reports. But who is instructing? The person most knowledgeable may NOT be the worship leader. I see a lot of emphasis on the spiritual aspects, and that is WHY we do it. I don’t as often see emphasis on HOW we do it. That actually involves giving and taking criticism.
    What is the difference between a pianist and a keyboardist. They are often as different as night and day. Can your pianist improvise? Can your pianist ditch the score and play from a chord chart? Can your pianist simplify and become PART of the band? Can your keyboardist read music well enough to take a score and play the string reduction? Can your pianist and keyboardist simply change places for effect? Can your guitar player read music ? Can your bass player read music? Someone MUST instruct. Everyone must develop a common music vocabulary. A trained pianist can teach a bass line to a bass player. A trained pianist can teach the correct rhythm of a strum pattern to a guitarist. One good pianist with one good guitarist could bring along a lot of fledgling players. Have sessions on music theory and music reading. Have strum along sessions for younger players. Have different people in the adult praise team help with the youth praise team. In schools and athletics they call them FEEDER programs. All that requires EXTRA time. I think it should be understood that established praise team members SHOULD contribute in those areas. But, time is not always free.
    Does your music ministry budget have a line item designated for talent development and instruction? You could contact a music person at another church to help with specific situations. You could call a local guitar teacher, make sure they are qualified. (There are no official standards in this area.) Approach them first with specific songs and charts and say, I have a young guitarist we want to develop. We are offering him/her some scholarship instruction. Can you help us with these specific issues and give us progress reports? There are thousands of YOUTUBE instructional videos on music.
    Last issue. At least one person MUST know every measure of music in the song. How to count off the intro. How many measures in each section, where the chords change, where the repeats and codas are etc. So that if there is a problem, it can be figured out quickly. FORMAT and FORM ! ! This is the most frequent cause of wasted time in rehearsals. One person has a score, one person a lead sheet, one person has a vague chord chart, one person is playing by ear the way they learned it off of YOUTUBE. Every musician should play from a source that has been JUSTIFIED. Offering me 6 unexamined choices does not solve that problem unless everyone uses the same chart. It takes someone’s attention BEFORE rehearsal.
    In short, (when have I ever been short?) you get what you pay for. Nothing improves without a plan or sacrifice.

    Don

    • Don, you outline some great tips here, though it might take a while for people to digest it all :) Why do you think it’s hard to find musically gifted, professional people who are also spiritually mature? I’ve found the same thing.

      • Great discussion, everyone. Dave, thanks again for facilitating this kind of conversation. You’re right, Don’s comment is a lot to digest, but you can tell he (and everyone else) is truly speaking from experience. This could not have come at a better time as I begin to take on a leadership role in my church’s new worship team. I’m passing this on to my senior pastor and my fellow musicians.

        • Chris, are you the worship leader?

          • David, currently our team consists of me (rythmn guitar, lead vocals), a guy by the name of Jack Baughman (drums, harmony vocals), and sometimes a kid by the name Andrew Wisor (rythmn guitar). So, you could say I am the unofficial worship leader. As you can see, we need a bassist, and/or a keyboardist. Andrew can play piano, but he’s hesitant to cross over to playing chord style on keys, and his work schedule keeps him from consistent participation. We started out practicing the three of us in Jack’s basement. Lately we’ve been doing worship practice on Tuesday nights with a small congregation joining us, in hopes that it will grow into a regular thing to usher in the new service. Currently, we have no set date for when that will take off. Sorry for the long answer, but I thought I should give you the full story.

      • Just read and pick one or two ideas to work on at a time. Which one seems important now?
        Musicians are so specialized. Most people interested in ministry don’t start out in music college. Most people majoring in music aren’t interested in music ministry. The seminaries that have music are “usually” not up to the same level as top flight music colleges. The ones that are technically, are way behind the times in style. I know a couple of seminaries that have advanced degrees in piano, but what you really need is a keyboardist who studied composition that can improvise and arrange on the spot. Not your typical classical pianist. Guitar is almost nonexistent in those types of Bible colleges. CCM is more about writing and arranging and musical literacy than technical proficiency. Although, proficiency doesn’t hurt if you have it. The pastor I mentioned at the beginning of my post went to school somewhere with David Crowder. I think D.C. majored in composition. David, how did you acquire your musical skill and ability ?

    • Nothing like flogging through eleventy-two thousand arrangements and versions to get everyone on the same musical page.

  4. Thanks, David. It seems to me, one of the most common weaknesses I see in MD’s is the gift of administration.
    We all want to practice, play, serve, worship, etc, but the organizational skills it takes to coordinate all of the areas of music ministry is tremendous. I find if we don’t possess the gift of admin, then finding someone who does and empowering them to help is essential. It’s an example of a unified body with many parts

  5. David, This is my new year’s resolution (that I’m starting in December). The last week – I’ve started to outline areas that I need systems… two that are obvious to me are: Song Writing (your book has been helpful) & blogging – my wife and I have started to brainstorm this project together, I’m excited to pull the trigger… just need a better system. The hill that we are looking to climb in this is that I’m ‘techy’ and my wife is not – so our system with that project has to span a wide spectrum :)

    Things I feel are going well: Scheduling and Music Planning – our team is planned out through Feb / March (with room for flex if needed)!

    As always, I appreciate you and your practical challenges!

  6. I would say that one system we need to be working on a lot more is the system of building creativity into our Worship Ministry. And, yes I do believe it is something that can be systematized. I don’t think it’s easy, and yes we need to mix it up a bit, but I do think we can make a system for consistently fostering creativity in our Worship Ministries.

  7. David Santisteven, I just came across your blog. Thanks so much for the resources you’re providing. I’m enjoying your insight very much. I’d be curious about some of the things you’ve put in place for your individual systems. I’ve begun building some systems over the last couple of years and would enjoy not reinventing the wheel if you have any additional resources.

    David Lindner, I just wrote a blog post about a creativity system that may help. Let me know. http://worshipleaderlab.com/2013/02/08/killing-bad-creative-meetings-tips-for-creative-teams/

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