Adapt Your Ministry to Your Needs
You don’t have to sound exactly like the recording. This is particularly true in a contemporary setting. When leading traditional forms of music, we do not concern ourselves with this too much, but when we lead contemporary music, we often make feeble attempts to sound exactly like the original artists’ recording of the song we are covering. This is not bad, and if a worship team is able to reproduce that sound, by all means, go for it. It is not necessary though, and I would even submit that trying to recreate that sound is often a waste of time. We must adapt to our musicians’ needs. Often our musicians do not have the ability to sound exactly like the recording, not because of a lack of talent but rather because of a lack of the proper equipment. This goes far beyond the sound though. It is acceptable to change the key of a song. In fact, it is often necessary. Adapt what you do to the needs of those in your ministry. You are the leader, and you should be able to gauge that. Flexibility is crucial to excellence in the church music ministry.
Plan, Plan, Plan, and Be Prepared
When I was younger, I thought that planning was not a good thing for corporate worship, and I often criticized it. Now that I am older and more experienced, however, I realize how much planning helps. This is not to say that we should not be led by the Spirit at all times, but it is to say that God often leads and directs us during our planning process. Do not be hesitant to create a plan and stick to it. Be prepared for anything that could happen at all times though. Obviously this is impossible to do 100% of the time, which is again why flexibility is important, but we must be prepared for make changes at any time as best as possible. The more amateur the musicians the more planning is required. Take time to plan and be prepared.
Get the Proper Training, and Continue Learning
In today’s society, many in ministry criticize those who have extensive training, particularly in music, as if it is not necessary. Before going on, I will admit it; higher music education typically is not necessary. I have two music degrees and have completed some doctoral coursework in music. This is not necessary to be a minister of music. However, it is certainly helpful, and I am thankful that I have the training. If we are not careful though, we can take it to the other extreme and think that absolutely no training is necessary. The minister of music should be one of the most knowledgeable musicians among all of the leadership. It is not acceptable to know a few chords on the guitar and have no grasp of anything else. Take time to get proper training by whatever means possible. Not only that, but continue to learn. Learning is constant; it never stops. Never stop growing as a musician, and seek to be as excellent as possible. If you do that, your level of excellence will merely increase.
Develop Balance between Simplicity and Virtuosity
Virtuosic musicianship is not required to lead God’s people in worship. In fact, often the simpler the better. Nonetheless, there are certainly times when virtuosic enhances the worship experience. We could also see this as the worship leader’s personal gift to God. There needs to be a balance though. There is nothing wrong with being flashy in your presentation to God if it is balanced with simplicity and if the purpose is not for your to show off but rather to make an excellent presentation to the Lord. Keep in mind also that many congregations do not respond well to virtuosity. It needs to be limited. All in all, keep a balance.
Realize that Worship Is Not about You but about Christ
While excellence is good and necessary for a thriving music and worship ministry, we must be careful not to take on the idea that excellence is for our benefit. It is for God’s. The reason we are excellent in what we do is because God is worthy of it and so much more. Worship is not about us; it is about Christ. We must keep this at the forefront of everything we do as we pursue excellence.
Scripture requires that those in worship leaders be excellent in what they do. We should not take this for granted. We must also not negate the fact, however, that all we do is about God, not us. If we glorify God in all we do, we will not only give him our best, but we will also realize that the glory of God is always the issue. Be excellent musically, and be excellent in your approach to how you glorify him.