I had an interesting conversation with the praise team last night a rehearsal. We were learning a new song- two, actually. As recently as last week we learned and presented another new song. About 3 weeks ago, I believe, we introduced two other new songs. In fact here lately we’ve been introducing new material at a pretty high clip. As we were discussing even more new material we wanted to do soon, I brought up something I’ve actually written about before. In fact I had already decided it would be my topic for today’s blog before I ever went to rehearsal. It is, I told them, exciting to learn and present new material. I love it! But there can also be a downside that can work against a praise team if you’re not careful.
Remember, I told them, what our goal is. We’re trying to lead the audience in praise and worship. We want them to have a real, engaged praise and worship experience. We don’t want them to be spectators, or just kinda sitting back enjoying the show. We want them actually participating in the praise and worship. We want them not just sitting back watching and listening to us sing praise and worship, we want them to sing along also. That can be more difficult to achieve when the audience doesn’t know the song. Even if they really enjoy it, it’s not quite the same as the experience that happens when the praise team sings that song that everyone is familiar with and loves. There’s a different kind of “corporate” worship that happens then. Praise teams must walk a fine line in song selection and the balance of new material vs. older, familiar material, in my humble opinion. It’s very easy to find yourself in a situation where the audience is watching YOU praise and worship God in song, but not really doing so themselves.
To be fair though, we didn’t all agree on this point. Some of the members made the point that if we’re doing simple, easy, repetitive songs the audience can and often does catch on and participate. Those kinds of songs, our drummer added, are the best kinds to do, and as long as we’re doing those, he said, it doesn’t really matter how often we’re doing new material. I definitely agreed with him on the point he made about simple, repetitive songs. Our worship leader was in agreement with that also. She pointed out that she had in fact been deliberately choosing those kinds of songs for that particular reason; so the congregation could catch on quickly and participate in the worship experience.
I agreed with all of that, but there was one more point I thought we were missing that you might want to consider with your own praise team. I shared with the group that all of their points were great and I agreed with them. But if we’re doing new songs so often that we don’t get familiar enough with the older ones to do them without a rehearsal, then we’ll always be in place where we can’t just flow in the spirit and still be doing prepared, rehearsed material.
This actually causes us some issues sometimes, particularly when we decide we want to do one of those songs in an up-coming service. We get together and start working on the song, and lo and behold what I thought would take us a few minutes ends up taking an hour. Why? Because we sing the song(s) so infrequently that every time we do them we have to learn them all over again. If we’re doing new material of some kind 2 or 3 Sundays out of a month and there are only 4-5 Sundays available, that doesn’t give us much time for repetition of things we’ve already learned.
A great example of that is the 2 new songs we did 3 weeks ago. They went over great and the congregation loved it. Tore the church up! So much to that the pastor made us do them again the same morning! But guess what? We haven’t done either of those songs again since then, and we’re already doing more new material this Sunday. And when the songs were brought up the leader of one of them could barely remember them. So 2-3 weeks from now when we have our first opportunity to perhaps do one or both of those songs again, how do you think rehearsal will go? And by then, how many times will we have done the ones we’re singing this Sunday? I’m thinking we won’t have done them again. Nor will we have done the new song we just did last Sunday again by then.
I hope my efforts to give you a clear understanding of how lots of new music can actually hinder your praise team doesn’t come across as condescending or in any way some kind of negative opposition to the other members opinions that I shared with you. In fact I thought the conversation was productive and respectful, which I was both proud of and grateful for. It offered two ways to look at an issue that quite often nobody pays attention to at all. And, to be fair, my worship leader has been pushing us to learn and present new material at an accelerated pace for very good reason. Our repertoire was old, stale and ineffective. She’s doing an absolutely fantastic job with the team and we support each other 100%. It is though, something I think all praise teams should be aware of and perhaps discuss from time to time.
I’d love to hear what you think on this issue! Share your opinion in the comment section below. By the way, you can find this article and 12 more like it in my e-book Praise Team 101.