Kristen Gilles (worship leader at Sojourn Community Church) recently posted some helpful thoughts for smaller music teams. She points out the challenges and the opportunities by giving an example of her (a vocalist and keyboard player) working with two others:
Bobby and I realize that some of you may not have the advantage (and accompanying challenges) of leading and/or serving with a full worship team each week (or anytime for that matter). You may find yourself, more often than not, a one-man or one-woman worship band. From my own experience of leading worship by myself and in smaller ensembles, I know this can present numerous challenges. It can also yield fruitful blessings for you and your congregation.
Recently at Sojourn New Albany, I served in a worship band that consisted of me singing while playing acoustic guitar, a lead male vocalist who also played acoustic guitar, and a keyboardist who sang tenor harmony. This smaller band is atypical for our worship gatherings and it presented a number of challenges for us as we arranged the songs without a bass player, electric guitarist or drummer. We set out to utilize the strengths of each band member and also embrace new musical challenges without complicating things unnecessarily. Additionally, we wanted to serve the congregation by encouraging them to actively participate in creating music with us by singing out (since they’d be able to hear themselves better, given the smaller sound we were generating) and adding percussion with hand clapping on upbeat songs.
A summary of her tips:
- Consider the strengths of the musicians you DO have, and use them
- Likewise, consider the limitations of each band member, and work on them over time
- Use some instruments to cover others you might have had (e.g. keyboard can play a stronger bass line to cover what a bass guitar might do)
- There’ll be certain song arrangements you can’t do. That’s OK – you can make them simpler
- Use a small team as a chance to invite more congregational involvement in singing and clapping to the beat
You can read her full post here.
At our church we’ve had team sizes from 2-12 serve the gathered church on Sundays, so we’ve experienced both ends of the team size spectrum.
While a large team brings blessings of musical diversity and creativity, a small team brings its own unique blessings too, including a better chance to connect with each other, more frequent opportunities to improve, and so on. There also tends to be more time to work on things during practices with a smaller team.
If God’s blessed you with many musicians, these thoughts are still helpful to assess from time to time – what can I do to better support the congregation’s involvement? Where can I play less? Where can I simplify?