Because I spent so many years in music ministry, I have people ask me questions about the trends happening in their churches. Whether you are a musician, church member, or church leader, I believe these things I’m about to state will be helpful to you in understanding what is going on and what kind of decision to make.
Church is vastly different than what it was 30, 40, or 50 years ago. You got about the same thing wherever you went. You cracked the hymnal open and had a list of about 30 favorites that would rotate. The preacher would either preach how to be saved or pound some sin in the church. I believe we have found some depth in some ways, while some have dug so deep they have dug a grave. Back to the original subject😀.
I want to state the trends, address pros and cons, and make some suggestions. Whether your worship leader is a humble servant of God or a bulldozer who wants you to swallow what he gives you each week if that means you choke on it, I think this will be helpful.
1 – The role of the choir. Churches that continue to have a choir have seen a shift in the choir’s role. Church choirs have had a performing role in the church for many years. They prepare a song, perform it, and repeat the trend weekly. The performance may or may not be all that great, but people feel that the worship leader earned his money and those who enjoy choirs like it. The trend is to shift from the performing choir to the worship-leading choir. The purpose is good. A choir ought to know how to lead people to worship by example. Let me state some pros and cons.
Pros – Performing choirs led by a skilled director have the advantage of singers developing their talent and having a greater “talent pool” from which to choose. I’ve seen average choir members become good soloists with some proper training. Also, church members can often be encouraged spiritually by the message of a song they hear by the performing choir, soloist, or ensemble. People need to be encouraged periodically.
Cons – Some do not strive for excellence, and churches have to suffer through listening to a choir. If the sound of your choir is scaring people away from your church, you might want to rethink what you’re doing. The Lord deserves our best!
Suggestions – The worship leader should be teaching the music ministry and the church where they are going and why they do what they do. Poor or no communication of a vision leads to confusion. People will eventually jump ship if they don’t know what’s going on.
2 – Getting rid of the choir. I’m personally a fan of both a choir and praise team for many reasons. I just like a fuller sound. Some worship leaders just have the sound technician crank the sound up to make the sound fuller. I’m going straight to the pros and cons.
Pros – The worship leader can more easily manipulate the sound. He or she can choose the singers and get a preferred sound.
Cons – There are many people who can no longer feel plugged into a ministry when the choir is eradicated. Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas opted to keep a choir because of that reason. They have a phenomenal ministry and understand their biblical purpose. Also, many worship teams do not understand musical principles. There is nothing wrong with that. It is just tougher for people like me who need to see it.
Suggestions – Know your church culture before making a decision. Some churches are better off with a worship team. Others are better off with a choir or both. God will lead the transition. Don’t walk in with your own plans!
3 – New songs. This is the one that makes people uncomfortable.
Pros – The Bible says something about singing a new song to the Lord. It’s biblical. It breaks the monotony. Some people hate predictability (I am one of those).
Cons – People freeze and resist these songs because no one takes the time to teach these songs to the church. When people are comfortable, they worship more freely.
Suggestions – A good worship leader teaches these songs to the church and continuously brings these songs to the attention of the people until they are as comfortable with a new song as they are with “Amazing Grace”.
To pastors and worship leaders – Teach the church through transition. Develop relationships before you try to radically change them. It may not happen in your time frame, but you will be glad you took the time.
To church members – Pray about it. If you cannot adapt, don’t send the music changes through the gossip circle. It may be time for you to worship in a place that suits you best.