Praise teams are nothing new for many denominations, as they’ve been using praise teams for years. But for many of the African-American churches, having a praise team come forth instead of testimony service or morning devotion is very much a new thing. And like all new things, many newly formed praise teams are being met with a great deal of resistance from their congregations. Today I’ll share 5 of the most important things I think praise teams need to do in order to be successful at wining over their church congregation.
1. Choose true Praise And Worship Songs.
A praise team’s job is somewhat different from say, the choir’s job. Praise and Worship is really, in a sense, a form of prayer set to music. The praise team’s main goal is to set an atmosphere that encourages and facilitates praising and worshiping God. As such, you should endeavor to choose songs where both the lyrical content and the musical arrangement encourages and helps the audience to sing along in praise and worship to God.
The best praise and worship songs are SIMPLE and repetitive. These kinds of songs are easy for your audience to learn, which encourages them to sing along and participate in the praise and worship.
Praise songs should be mid to up-tempo songs that have a positive vibe musically, and lyrically focus on praising and exalting God; “Oh give thanks/ Unto the Lord/ For He is good/ Yes He is good” , for example. This is a happy, up-tempo song that gets the audience clapping and singing along.
Worship songs are generally slower and talk more about relationship, closeness and what God means to us: “Into Your arms/ I’m drawing near again/ to dwell with You/ Is my only heart’s desire”
Try to choose songs based solely on their ability to encourage and facilitate praise and worship throughout the congregation. Avoid choosing songs because they’re popular or they’re everyone’s favorite. Often some songs are great but would work better for the choir or some other group rather than for praise and worship.
2. Rehearse And Perfect Your Songs To The Best Of Your Ability
It’s very important for praise teams to understand how critical it is that you serve in the highest level that you’re able to. Praise teams are an entirely different animal from the choir. Usually everyone on the praise team is singing in front of a microphone. The songs, although typically more simple than choir songs, are often written with an even greater focus on the harmony and over-all sound. Remember, we’re trying to set an atmosphere that encourages praise and facilitates worship. Imaging going to a romantic, dimly lit restaurant for an expensive dinner only to find them playing terrible music over the sound system. Even if the music was your favorite love songs, you simply couldn’t get in a romantic mood if it sounded bad.
As such, every performance for a praise team should be as good as you can make it. People often misunderstand the need or the importance of perfecting your songs and striving for excellence in your music ministry. I talk about that a great deal in my blog “why it’s better to sing in unison than to sing with bad harmony”. But the important thing to remember is that you want your praise team to simply be a vessel, or a conduit through which the Holy Spirit can flow musically. You don’t want anything you’re doing to be a distraction in that sense. It is absolutely more work, to be sure. But the work is well worth it, and if you do it your audience will respond.
3. Sing Your Songs Often
One big mistake praise teams make is to constantly be doing new material. Again, for choirs this is much more acceptable and even preferred on some level. But effective praise and worship needs audience engagement and participation. That can only happen if you’re singing your praise and worship songs often enough so the audience becomes familiar with them, learns the words and begins to sing along. This is another reason why the best Praise And Worship songs are simple, repetitivesongs.
A new praise team obviously has to go through a period of learning a lot of new material in order to build up a catalog. But in general I’d recommend the average praise team be working off a list of no more than about 10 songs that they rotate through and repeat often. Doing this helps your audience develop a relationship with the songs. They’re more likely to participate and sing along to songs they know and hear often rather than new songs they’re not familiar with.
4. Be Authentic. Praise And Worship God From Your Heart, Every Song
It is an absolute must that every member on a praise team is completely immersed emotionally and spiritually in every song. If it’s an up-tempo praise song, everyone should be moving and clapping and praising God while you sing, and doing it from a very real place. If it’s a worship song, lift your hands, close your eyes, sing from your heart. The audience can always tell when it isn’t real. But when it is real, it’s contagious. If you’re choosing the right songs and approaching the ministry prayerfully and with a sincere heart, this will happen automatically.
5. Be Patient With The Congregation
As we said at the beginning of the article, many churches are just recently making the switch to using a praise team. None of us like to see old, familiar things replaced. Especially when we didn’t see anything wrong with the old way. As such, it is quite likely that even if you’re doing everything above to the letter, you simply won’t get much involvement or participation from the audience for a while. You must see that as normal and to be expected.
Whatever you do, do NOT scold, reprimand, guilt or otherwise try to force your audience to participate in praise and worship. You will undoubtedly get frustrated as you go forth every Sunday giving your best while the audience looks on, almost defiantly sometimes. The worst thing you can do, however, is lash out or say negative things in your efforts to get them going.
Instead, continue to simply choose great songs, perfect them to the best of your ability, sing them often and be sincere and real every time you get up. Never sing for the audience, because if you do, you’ll always be tied emotionally to what they’re doing or not doing. Sing your songs to the glory and honor of God. Sing your worship to Him. Sing your praises to Him. He will in turn work through you to reach your audience. Before long they’ll start standing, singing along, praising and worshiping God together with you. Just be consistent, be patient, and be Positive!
Did you find this article helpful? Find it and 12 more like it in my new e-book Praise Team 101.