Getting team buy-in is one of the trickier parts of leading a worship team. Musicians are, by nature, creative people who desire to express themselves in every-increasing ways. Usually in a band situation this is not a problem, as creating new guitar riffs or drum rhythms are a natural part of the band making process. Worship music, by and large, restricts this process to a certain extent. After-all the chief mandate of any worship team is to foster an environment where others can sing. Too much creativity within a song can lead a congregation in the wrong direction.
On one hand, too much creativity can destabilize the confidence of a congregation to repeat a well-known song. If it is too far from the original, it can feel foreign and lead to timidity in some congregants. All the other hand, too much creativity can be too captivating for members of the congregation. This is why it is exceedingly rare to hear screaming guitar solos in worship music. While there are some exceptions the average worship song has relatively simple parts, organized around a simple structure, all designed to make a song singable and repeatable. So for the worship-team member, it can become somewhat monotonous if the focus is not kept where it should be.
So the first thing that I do with my teams is to set the standard for sacrifice. I push for excellence to a certain degree, but I push harder for an attitude of sacrificial worship. I am a strong believer that to truly be a disciple of Christ that we must emulate his life as completely as possible. Christ’s mission was to sacrifice his life for the world, and I believe our attitudes as followers should be the same. So if the discussion ever does lead to disgruntled musicians, we always have the fundamental truth that we should be willing to sacrifice more for each other, for the congregation, for the non-believer, and ultimately for Christ.
The second thing that a worship leader must do is have a handle on the songs we are playing. When someone gives me a suggestion, I need to be able to know, in real time, if that suggestion is compatible with the song we are singing, the set list as a whole, and the goals of the gathering in which we are playing. If the suggestion is not compatible, my two options are always to a) cast the vision for why that will not work in our context and b) to come up with a new suggestion that will continue the collaborative process in a direction more suitable to our purposes. It is never an option to flatly reject an idea. I want people to creatively input into what we are doing, but I want to focus that creativity on worship-leading, not necessarily playing music. The trick is to help steer the creative energy toward that purpose. It is the essence of the word lead. I would never want to be known as a Worship Commander, but a Worship Leader. By leading my team into creativity that is beneficial to the congregation, a worship leader consistently progresses the team towards being individual worship leaders.
Lastly, I try as often as possible to be open minded. When an idea can or even may work, it is always a good policy to give it a shot. Even though sacrifice is our modus operandi it is always helpful to build team morale, as well as help foster the creative spirit of the team by trying as many new things that can work as possible. Even within the structure necessary to help a congregation, it is foolishness to create a stale environment. So finding the right balance is imperative to having a team that is focused on the right things (getting people to worship) and advancing in ways that help drive the church forward creatively. Getting team buy in, for me, requires a balance of these concepts and in many cases it requires that I know the limits of each team member as well. Finding the balance takes time, flexibility, and discernment. But it is more than worth the effort.
by Ryan Savage