(Originally written 12th Jan 2011)
It would be great if every musician in your church worship team knew how to anchor the worship music. By that I mean:
But that does not just happen out of nowhere. Anchor musicians will have to be carefully cultivated. A musician who can anchor a worship team will usually play either the piano or the guitar. Those two instruments are able to provide a full rhythmic and harmony (beats and chords) support for the congregation, and are thus easier for the rest of the band to latch on to and follow.
Besides that, anchor worship musicians -
1) Need to know the various chord progressions that work as intros and for free worship. A good song intro is one that cues the worship leader and congregation to start singing. Sometimes hiccups happen in the worship session and the unity of the singing gets disrupted. The anchor musician has to know what to play that would lead the congregation back into the song or into the next song. At this point, being able to improvise a quick song intro (around 4 bars long) is an essential skill to have.
Knowing the chords that work for free worship also allows the anchor musician to lead the rest of the band when playing for spontaneous worship. You ought to confirm all these chords in advance during practice, but sometimes a congregation can build up a lot of momentum for a song that you did not plan for. So that time it helps if you are able to choose suitable chords and flow into spontaneous worship from there.
2) Should be able to think as a worship leader – the best way to get this ability is to lead worship in a small group setting. Leading worship at a small group, with only one instrument and a few people, is the best training ground for worship ministry ever. Doing this, falling flat on your face a few times, seeing firsthand and upfront what works and what doesn't, is the fastest way to learn how to lead worship.
And once you have this ability, you are able to gauge what the worship leader needs and provide that for him or her accordingly. Does the worship leader need the first note of the melody to start the song? Or the rhythms to be clearly brought out so the people get the timing? When you think like a worship leader you'll be able anticipate what you ought to play next.
3) Must dare to make mistakes – if the pianist or guitarist does not boldly lead the worship leader, congregation and band through the instrument, it is often because he or she is afraid of making mistakes.
Making mistakes is part and parcel of being an anchor musician. Sometimes we mis-read the dynamics of the congregation and sometimes we lead the people in another direction from where the worship leader is going. It's easy to tell people to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit for him to guide you in your music, but the fact remains that while learning you will slip up once in a while. And frankly, I don't see that as a problem. It hurts our pride, true, but that helps us keep our confidence in the LORD and not in our own skills, experience or worship ministry wisdom.
Many musicians do not realize the power they have to communicate and lead people with their instruments. Many of them see playing their instruments merely as an opportunity for personal expression while serving the Lord's people. I hope I have helped you see the potential to use your instrument not only for personal expression but also to unify the praises of the congregation effectively. If so, then the next time you take up your instrument in the worship team, play carefully and with the awareness of how you can through your instrument help to anchor the rest of the worship musicians!