I recently read this fantastic post by Barnabas Piper called 4 Things I Learned About Work From a Pee Wee Soccer Team which held some great insight. While reading it, I kept thinking of how well this would apply to worship teams. So here are his points, applied to the context of a worship team:
Effort is a skill and we can all learn it
I’ve said it a hundred times: I would rather have someone on the team with limited talent and a good attitude than someone with incredible talent who can’t be bothered to work hard. In the long run, the best players to work with are those who consistently give their best effort week in and week out. Some people have enough raw talent to stumble into rehearsal half asleep and unprepared, and still manage to play the song without throwing the team off too badly. Other people have to work really hard, take copious notes, and still manage to make a mess of the song from time to time. As a leader, I’ll take the mess every time. Because ten years from now, the better contributor to the team is the one who inspired others with their good attitude and consistent effort. They’re also probably a better technical player because they’ve spent those ten years practicing their instrument with a pencil and a metronome nearby.
Focus is more important than talent
Double yes! As with any other craft, the difference between ignorance and proficiency is much smaller than the difference between proficiency and mastery. Ordinarily, the novice musician can grow very quickly simply by directing their attention to a finite list of areas. Focus, especially combined with effort, allows a player to grow in all the right areas and quickly overtake those who rely merely on talent and intuition.
Stay in your position
Churches are full of musicians who overplay or underplay, throwing the whole sound out of balance. When an electric guitarist underplays, synth players feel like they have to fill in the midrange, so they start to overplay. Whereas when the guitarist overplays with a lot of rhythmic power chords, other guitarists and keyboards feel like they have to drop out because it’s getting too muddy, and the bass player feels relegated to whole notes. This kind of thing is a danger in every position because no player is an island. They all contribute to the whole sound.
There is always that kid on the soccer team who knows their position and sticks with it. In fact, they never move their feet. If the ball comes within two feet of them, they’ve got it covered. But if the ball is three feet away, that must be someone else’s job. It’s easy enough to get a kid to know where their position is, but it’s much harder to get them to realize that “their position” and “where they’re supposed to be” are two different things. In the same way, when playing music as a part of a band, one player’s part changes from measure to measure. When not reading from a score, the best players listen and adapt.
Some players are just better than others
There’s no way around this. The best worship team members will acknowledge the facts, look for ways to encourage others, and support the team with the gifts God gave them. No matter how good we are at something, there’s always someone better. The best team members are flexible when not asked to play very often, and ready to help out when the other player is sick, dead, or fired.
Moreover, God deserves our best attempts at worshipping Him, but we’re not going to impress Him. Our best attempts at worship will still need to be redeemed by the finished work of Christ. Worship is a joyful response to what God has done for us in the gospel. So don’t stress if someone else is a better musician. We’re not responsible for how we invested someone else’s talents. We’re responsible for how we trust in Christ and respond to His grace with repentance and faith.