Jumping off of Jodi's question about team auditions, how do you encourage members of your team to grow in their abilities rather than keep up with the bare minimum skill level they need to be on the team? Ideally, just playing regularly with the worship team should be of some benefit, but do any of you encourage your team members to take a more active role in their musical development? How?
I know I struggle with this too. Recently, a bunch of our worship ministry leadership re-dedicated ourselves to a very Oswald Chambers-like "Utmost for His Highest" theme for the ministry. To bring a higher quality "product", week-in/week-out because we could do better. I think this was brought around by one of the teams which seemed to consistently provide a very high level/very refined worship every week they played. The other teams noticed they spent more time practicing and more time selecting the songs. I believe it was very much a background peer-inspiration process. So that is one way, even a single worship leader and his/her team can change the worship ministry one-set at a time.
That was something on a more subtle macro-level. As a worship ministry, we've also had outside experts provide a day-long worship with master-classes to also inspire members. We also subsidized a local worship conference at the nearby seminary (The Worship Project at Tyndale). Lastly, which I believe has been most effective is that the church bought a book (worded as an early thank-you gift) for every member of the worship ministry and the teams have included a book-study as part of their practice times. It was suggested by a minister friend of mine who was already going thru it with his church.
(CBD actually has this book for $2.99! However, we bought it for a little more locally to support the family-run bookstore across the street from our church.)
However, on the micro-level it IS tough. For example (and I only use this as example, I'm not judging the person, that is God's job), we've had issues in the past with team members who had a very expensive guitar, but did not change their strings in years. You can extrapolate how much practicing he was doing outside playing on a few Sunday's. (Which we tried to tell them that a cheap guitar with bad strings sounds a lot like a expensive guitar with bad strings.) I really don't have too many answers on that except that only the Holy Spirit convicts (like it did with our worship team leaders). I struggle with this one quite often too.
Hopefully encouragement works. I was told by the retired president of our local seminary that encouragement is finding an "excuse to try to catch people doing something right". Positive re-enforcement. I send my team new things to learn all the time, and they are just great co-workers, so they drink it up. Some even take music lessons on the side, out of their own pocket to keep developing themselves.
What really challenged me was a talk on leadership based on a Bill Hybel's book that said developing good Christian leadership is 50% work on external, interacting with others and 50% working on the internal, developing yourself as a Christian and your own walk with God. In the case of worship ministry, if the 50% external is playing on Sunday's and working with the other team members, do we spend just as much time honing out skills and instruments? That was very convicting, and sent me back "wood shedding".
I always say this, but for me ability isn't the most important issue. Yes, of course you need a certain degree of ability but what is important is how well you work together and trust each other as a team. Sit down over a coffee with your fellow musicians, and tell them how it is - that you are delighted with them but you feel they have so much more to give. At practice times especially, let them know that it is Ok to improvise and stretch themselves and that mistakes are Ok ' cos the rest of the band will cover for them. It is unlikley that they will all make mistakes at the same time! If you keep on encouraging them and letting them know when something sounds really good, they will grow in confidence and ability.
Believe you me, it is much easier than having team members who have bags of ability but don't know when to back off. God Bless.
I think it all depends on the members of your team. There needs to be a combination of talent and desire for growth to be achieved. The less of those two components present in a servant, the less productive your efforts to grow them will be.
And we all have seasons in our lives where everyday life (work, family, etc) comes crashing down and prevents our growth as musicians. I think it takes some discernment to see who is willing to put in the time to learn and who isn't. And that can change over time with individual people, due to changing circumstances. But recognize when you keep pushing someone and they don't seem to strive for that next level, all you're going to do is make yourself sore.
And here's one small rebuttal I'd like to throw out. There can be different metrics for "growth." For instance, you could consider a rhythm section working on getting that groove supertight as being growth. Or the lead electric to learn that Lincoln Brewster solo note-for-note. Or an acoustic player figuring out some new chord patterns. Or a lead singer nurturing a less-accomplished singer into their role. Those are all examples of growth, but do any of those lend themselves to Spiritual growth within the congregation? Maybe the last one? Excellence will be noted by the congregation, but I can't judge to the point that a spotless 12-piece band version of Everlasting God contains any more Holy Spirit than a single acoustic and a voice.
In response to your question - I couldn't agree more with what you are saying, but to be fair Junjie, I was merely trying to answer the question that Joel asked. This is close to my heart, as I felt (and still do) called to worship, but thought the Lord must have got it wrong, as I had no confidence and never thought I was good enough to be able to do it. I praise and thank God for one fellow musician in particular who gave me a chance and encouraged me in this way. Through this I have learned (and am still learning) to put my own inhibitions and doubts to one side, thus allowing the Holy Spirit to do His stuff without me getting in the way.
In fact, Lorraine, many years ago my guitar playing took a totally different (and needed) turn when I forgot about worrying how I sounded and began to just improvise on the fly. Putting aside my inhibitions made a vast improvement, and to Junjie's point, made it better for the congregation down the road as well.
We're talking musical growth in this thread, not the spiritual side, but I really believe that playing skillfully to our maker is a spiritual thing. If we do it with the right heart on stage, the folks in the pew will respond.
I do admit, to a certain degree watching the worship leaders and musicians release themselves more freely into worship does help the people to release themselves too. And you can't release yourself freely unless you have the musical skill to back it up.
The difficulty, I feel, comes with discerning what will help the congregation release and what would distract them. I think I have SOME of the answers, but it's what I don't know that worries me... :)
I encourage the team to grow in general, through asking them to practice at home (I've provided a website where they can hear the song and find the music), and I throw new ideas at them during practice, something that they could do with their instrument or voice that will add to the song. Every once in a while we'll also just jam on a song for fun at practice. It stretches them.
But that is limited. Beyond that, I look for members who are eager to learn (you can tell by talking with them and hearing them tell you all about the new tabs they found on the net or they're showing you a new lick they just learned off YouTube). When I find one of these, I throw everything I've got at them. I give them training DVDs to take home and learn from, I sign them up and take them to music conferences, I'll even buy them lessons if they can't afford them.
Every once in a while God gives you these special people, and you can tell He's got His hand on them. It becomes a blessing to be part of the "watering and nurturing" element of their life, knowing the God is going to take them to higher heights of ministry one day.
The only down side (okay, maybe there's a couple) is that they often move on soon, and there's not very many of them to begin with!