Category Archives: About the Praise Team

Pointers about Stage Presentation

How should the musicians of the Praise Team present themselves on stage?

My answer is – be natural, be yourself. Do not try to imitate another musician in how you sing or play or hold your instrument. You are not there to be somebody else, but who God may YOU! God has given you your own voice. Don’t try hard to make it sound like somebody else’s voice. God has given you a unique personality. Don’t use it to try to copy someone else’s personality. Let your own personality come out in your singing and playing. The Holy Spirit wants to use you according to what God is doing in your own life, not according to what he has done in someone else’s life. So be real. Be yourself.

A word about being “yourself”. “Being yourself” does not mean being the self that you were before you became a believer. Or the self that you are when Christ is not Lord of your life. You want to be the self, that new self that God has created in Christ Jesus and that is obedient to the word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. You want to live out the new life that God has put into you.  The Bible says that when someone is in Christ he is a new creation. It is that new life that you want to give expression to. To the glory of God.

 

 

 

 

 

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12 Practical Pointers for Praise Teams

If I were to summarize what the most important factors in making for an enjoyable experience of praise and worship are, I would list the following:

 

1. Please keep the beat!!!!! 

2. Try not to let the volume of the playing/singing of the PT dominate the congregation’s singing. It is beneficial for the congregation to be able to hear not only the singing and playing of the PT, but also its own singing.

3. Teach the congregation music that is singable. Try to avoid complex rhythms and melody lines. Remember: The congregation is not made up of musical professionals.

4. Chose songs with texts that are meaningful and theologically accurate.

5. Avoid meaningless repetition.

6. Remember to balance the learning of new songs with the singing of better/well-known songs. People get more pleasure out of singing songs they know. It is hard to put one’s heart into songs one hardly knows.

7. Be more concerned about the content of the songs (the words) than about the style of the music. God is more concerned that we worship him in spirit and in truth than that we worship him according to the latest style. Teach the congregation this principle.

8. Seek to approach the singing and worship time with an attitude of reverence and awe. We are worshiping the Holy One.

9. Discourage “showmanship” by the musicians. We are not here to impress anyone, but to lead others in worship.

10. Seek to avoid dress that draws the worshipers’ attention away from the music and  to the musician. God should be the primary focus of everyone present.

11. Remember the elderly when standing for long periods of time. Show solidarity with them by adopting a sitting posture from time to time. Let them know that you are aware that it may be difficult for them to stand with the rest of the worshipers.

12. Let everything be done in love.

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Seven Pointers for the Heart

Leading the People of God in worship is more than merely a musical venture. It is also a venture of the heart. Here are some pointers for the “heart”, that innermost seat of the emotions and attitudes.

 

1. Members of the PT are committed followers of Jesus Christ whose main desire is to glorify God with their voices and instruments.

2. Members of the PT desire to work together with and in submission to the leadership of the church.

3. Members of the PT will seek to preserve a spirit of unity within their group.

4. Members of the PT will see themselves as partners in worship with the congregation.

5. Members of the PT will realize that success depends on the blessing of God on their endeavors and will ask God for his blessing on their work. They will remember to thank God when he answers their prayers.

6. Members of the PT will maintain an attitude of dependence on the Lord while they lead the congregation in praise and worship.

7. Members of the PT will maintain an attitude of humility toward God and others when success comes their way.

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Pointers about Appearance

Does it matter how the Praise Team members are dressed? Does their outward appearance matter?

I believe that appearance matters. Here’s why.

The purpose of the PT is to lead others in worship. The goal of the PT is to direct the attention of the people of God Godward. So, if this is the desire of the PT, they will try to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to themselves. Of course there will always be some attention on the PT. After all,  they are there on the stage, visible for all to see.

When it comes to appearance, what would be considered an unnecessary distraction?  This would depend largely on what is considered appropriate in a given location. For example, if, in a certain church culture, short hair for men is considered appropriate for worshipers, long hair on a man could prove a distraction. In an environment where women wearing pants is considered inappropriate, this would be a distraction.

In the word of God, women are urged to dress modestly. Therefore, dressing immodestly may not only be a distraction, but also disobedience to the word of God.  Standards of “immodesty” will vary from place to place. Immodest dress in women may lead to the men in the meeting being tempted to have sinful thoughts. (Of course men may be tempted to have sinful thoughts in the face of modest dress also. But my point is, that immodest dress may lead to an unnecessary increase in exposure to temptation.) Men are urged by the word of God to “flee temptation”, but how does one flee from a worship service to which one has come to worship God?

It is my belief that men may also dress immodestly. In some congregations, might it not be possible that men, who have turned to Christ from a gay lifestyle, could be tempted unnecessarily by the tight fitting attire of a well-intentioned worship leader? Just a thought.

PT members who’s hearts are right with the Lord will care about how their appearance affects those watching them leading the worship. They do not want to become a distraction to the people of God who are seeking the face of God in worship.

At this point it is necessary to say a word about judgemental attitudes. We know that there are those who love to find fault with just about anything. Critical comments from the people need to be evaluated carefully. Is this a genuine criticism or is the person simply engaging in fault-finding? Also, if someone’s appearance is found to be distracting to a majority of those present, it does not follow that this person deliberately tried to flaunt a certain standard of modesty. Someone may simply have been following the pattern set by someone else. It may all have been done innocently, and without awareness of the impact on others. Correction, or instruction needs to take place with gentleness and in love.

PT members who love the Lord will not want to be “unnecessary distractions” when they lead the worship. They will also consider honestly any criticism that comes their way. They will want to err on the side of caution.The leadership of the church will seek to protect the PT from unfair and unkind criticism by addressing those who engage in it.

May God give wisdom to PT members, and the leadership, to navigate a course that brings the maximum amount of praise to God.
 

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Spiritual Check-up for your Praise Team

Here are seven questions to help you assess the spiritual level of readiness of your team for the task of leading congregational singing. At the bottom of the page there are some brief comments about how the answers to these questions affect the spiritual health of your team, and thus impact the effectiveness of the team.

The Questions:

1. Is your team made up of Christians?

2. Are the Christians that your team is made up of submitted to the Lordship of Christ?

3. Is your team in submission to the leadership of the Church?

4. Is your team united?

5. Is your team’s purpose to glorify God?

6. Does your team pray together for a successful worship experience?

7. Does your team view itself more as a band that is performing for an audience or as a group of musicians who are seeking to lead others in worship?

 

Comments about the Questions:

Question #1   Team members who are not yet believers in Jesus Christ have not experienced the personal blessings of salvation, and thus are not able to praise God for them.

Question #2   Being under the Lordship of Christ does not mean that team members are perfect. But it does mean that God has a say over every area of their lives. They are able to praise God authentically because they are living authentic Christian lives.

Question #3   The leadership of a Bible-believing church is accountable to God for its leadership. This means that it is accountable for what happens during the worship service. If team members resist the leadership of a church, they are at risk of usurping those who should have the final say over what happens in the worship-service of the church. It is unlikely that God will bless the ministry of a praise team if it resists the leadership of the church.

Question #4   The Spirit of God is grieved when fellow-believers are not united. Unity does not mean agreement about everything, but rather, that even when there are differences of opinion, these differences to not lead to feelings of hostility among the members of the Praise Team.

Question #5   We can sing/play to honour ourselves, or we can do so to honour God. Sometimes we may vacillate between the two, but the understanding of each team member should be that all honour belongs to God. While the team may be praised for their work, this praise should not be the goal of their work.

Question #6   Prayer for God’s help and blessing for the praise-singing demonstrates a sense of the team’s dependence on God. It is not the instruments or the voices in themselves that bring a spiritual blessing, but rather the Spirit of God who attends to what the team and the congregation is doing.

Question #7  If the Praise Team views itself primarily as a band performing for an audience, then it will have a different primary focus than that of the congregation, whose primary focus is to worship God. However, I believe that in congregational singing the focus of both the Praise Team and the congregation should be primarily on God. This means, that the Praise Team is there, not so much in a performing role, as in a helping and facilitating role. Their voices and instruments serve to aid the congregation in the mutual task of worshiping God.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Musician’s Greatest Love

Who should be on the Praise Team?

I believe that the Praise Team should consist of members whose greatest love is the love of God and of Christ.  Such members may love music, and be extremely skilled with their voices or their instruments. But their love for God and Christ is greater than their love for music or for their instruments. They may love performing on a stage or playing their instruments, or using their voices in front of others. But this is not their greatest love. Their greatest love is the love of God and Christ and their greatest desire is to see that the name of God and Christ is honoured and glorified.

Why is this so important? Why does this matter? Musicians who love God more than anything else are first of all interested in pleasing God. Their chief interest is not in pleasing themselves. Their chief interest is not in gaining glory and honour for themselves.

Musicians who love God love what God loves. They love Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. They love the truth, for that is what God loves. They will love unity and peace. They will love humility and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. They will be eager to give the praise to God rather than to seek praise for themselves. And they will hate what God hates. They will hate pride and self-promotion. They will hate drawing attention to themselves when this will result in drawing attention away from God and from Christ. They will hate anything impure and anything false.

What happens when the love of God and the love of Christ is not the greatest love of the Praise Team members? What happens when the love of self and the love of music and the love of performance is greater than the love of God and of Christ?

Whatever the musician loves most will be the central focus of his/her thinking and whatever the Team loves most will be their central focus. If the musician loves performance more than God and Christ, his performance will be the central focus. He will think about how he comes across and what others think. He will seek to make a good impression. He will try to put his musical skills on display and seek to impress others with them.

If the greatest love is music rather than God and Christ, then more thought will be given to how the music sounds, whether it is projected loudly enough through the amplification system, whether each musician can be heard adequately and things of this nature. While these things are not wrong in themselves, they will be the most important things on the minds of the musicians whose greatest love is music. These things will be more important than the issue of how the music will affect the worship, whether the music will help the worshipers in their singing, whether God is honoured through the music and whether the musician’s heart is focused on God during the worship singing.

The greatest love of the musician and of the Team will impact and affect the atmosphere of the worship.

Now there is no question, that because of the fallen nature of man and of what the Bible calls “the flesh”, various loves will constantly be vying for the place of pre-eminence in the heart of the musician. The temptation to put self on display, and to seek honour and praise for oneself will always be there. But musicians who seek to join the Praise Team and those who lead the Team, should have a settled disposition in their hearts that the greatest glory and honour belongs to God and to Christ and that the desire for the promotion of their glory is their greatest desire.

Musicians whose greatest love is God and Christ and a Praise Team whose greatest love is God and Christ will set a tone for the worship singing that may or may not be immediately obvious. But this disposition will impact everything the Team does and every note it plays or sings. Regardless of what can be said of the congregation that such a Praise Team is leading, when this is the Team’s settled disposition, we can say with certainty at least this much: Such a Praise Team is worshiping God with their singing and with their leading of singing. The perceiving members of the congregation will notice this tone, and it will be pleasing to them and inspire them in their worship in song. God will be pleased, and his Spirit will join Himself to such worship.

When such a Team prays for the congregation they are leading, they will have the right focus for their prayers, namely that the love of God and Christ be the congregation’s greatest love and the honour of God and of Christ be the congregation’s greatest desire. Should God be pleased to answer such a prayer – and why would he not, such a congregation will experience worship in song that will be a joy and a delight and will be worthy of the greatness and beauty of our God.

 

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Pointers about what to sing

Each week the Praise Team faces the question: What songs should we select for the following Sunday. A number of factors come into play in answering this question: What will fit with the theme of the sermon? Are there directives from the pastoral staff to consider? Do we want to learn a new song, or do we want to stay with the music we know? What music is suitable for the musicians? Does the music match their skill level?

The question that I would like to consider here does not focus on the Praise Team or on the pastors but rather on the congregation and it is this: What songs are suitable for the congregation? Or, to put it another way: How well is the congregation able to sing these songs?

Sometimes it is helpful for the Praise Team to sing a song acapella (without musical accompaniment) in order to listen in to see how well the congregation is managing to sing a particular song. Ordinarily the voices and the instruments of the Team may obscure the sound coming from the congregation and as a result the fact that participation in the singing is limited may go unnoticed. The reason for limited participation may well be that the congregation is finding the music too difficult to sing.

Here is where the focus of the Praise Team is different from that of a Christian band performing in front of an audience. A band is not primarily concerned about whether those present are able to sing along. They have come to minister to the congregation in song. The congregation/audience is there primarily to listen rather than to participate. In such a situation the difficulty level of the music is limited only by the skill of the musicians.

But the situation is very different  in the arena of congregational singing. In congregational singing, everything focuses on the congregation. Is the congregation able to sing along? Does the majority of those present find the music singable? The focus of the Praise Team is: How do we enable more people to participate in the singing?

Congregational singing is the congregation’s opportunity to offer their praise and worship to God in song. The music is a vehicle for the words of the song. If the congregation finds the music too difficult to sing, their effort at expressing their worship will prove unsatisfying and discouraging. So one of the ways the Praise Team seeks to enable the congregation to offer their praise to God in a satisfying manner is by ensuring that the songs they have chosen are singable.

What factors should the Praise Team consider when seeking to determine whether a song is singable? Here are some suggestions.

1. The range of the music – There will be those people in the church who can easily reach high notes, and those who can easily reach low notes. Everyone else will be somewhere in between. Except perhaps for the occasional note, the range should be within easy reach of most of the worshipers. It is an unpleasant and unsatisfying experience for those with untrained voices to have to consistently strain to reach high notes.  

2. The rhythm of the music – It is my view, that a song chosen for congregational singing should have a rhythm that is reasonably easy for most people to learn. This is not to say that the rhythm needs to be boring. But the more predictable the rhythm of the song is, the more quickly the congregation will be able to learn to sing it.

3. The steadiness of the melody line – Melody lines can either flow steadily in one direction, staying on the same note and rising or descending at a steady pace, or they can fluctuate wildly, with wide gaps between successive notes. Many wide gaps, and significant fluctuations in a melody line will leave the worshipers wondering what the next note might be. Such melody lines are more difficult to memorize and may present a source of frustration.

The Praise Team will greatly promote joy in congregational singing if they build up a repertoire of songs that can be readily sung by the majority of the worshipers. The proof will be in the pudding. If the congregation is singing the songs, then they are singable. If after many attempts at singing a particular song, the singing is still tentative and the sound barely audible, the song may be too difficult for the congregation. An effective Praise Team will seek to ensure that most of the congregation will be able to participate in the singing of most of the songs most of the time.

 

 

 

 

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Pointers about the Beat

I have come to the conclusion, that keeping the beat is a matter of great importance in congregational singing. In other words, it is of great importance, that the Praise Team keep the beat during their playing and singing of the songs. I cannot overstate how important this is.

What do we mean by “keeping the beat”? Each bar of each song has a number of beats. Sometimes 3, sometimes 4, or more. Each beat has the same length. Usually it has the same length throughout the song. One can speed up the beat or slow it down, but if we slow the beat down, we need to slow every beat down, and if we speed the beat up, we need to speed every beat up.

Keeping the beat is important in all forms of music. Regardless of how complicated the rhythm of a musical piece is, the beat is always steady.

Musicians are familiar with the metronome. The metronome is a handy tool. It is a tool that helps musicians keep the beat. The metronome is set in motion either by winding it up, or, if it is an electronic version, by turning it on. See http://www.metronomeonline.com for an example of an electronic metronome.) Metronomes can be set to keep a slow beat, or a fast beat. But one thing is certain, unless the metronome is broken, it keeps a steady beat.

Why is all of this relevant? I believe that human beings have an internal beat-keeping sensor (I think I  just made up a term). We can often see people tapping their feet, or their fingers, to a certain beat. Or they will be rocking their body or their head back and forth to a certain beat. Even those who cannot carry a tune, or sing, have the ability to keep a beat. Somehow this beat-keeping sensor is something that is in us from birth. I believe our creator put it there.

Here is how this impacts congregational singing. When for one reason or another, the beat of a song is not kept, in other words, when beats vary in length within the same song, the worshiper experiences a conflict within himself. The lack of a steady beat is in conflict with the sense of rhythm that his creator has put inside of him. And this conflict becomes a distraction during the singing. It takes the joy out of singing, because trying to sing against the beat becomes a frustration to the worshiper.

We might say, why should the worshiper be distracted? If he is spiritual enough, he will remain focussed through it all and still worship. True, God will still see his heart of worship, and God will be pleased. Nevertheless, the worshiper will be frustrated, and the experience of worship in song will be an unpleasant one to him.

What is my advice (pointer) to the Praise Team? Please make every effort to keep the beat. How can this be done? Here are some suggestions.

1) Practise your songs with a metronome. Make sure that the beat is steady, whether it is slow or fast. Practise until the beat is steady. If the metronome is not loud enough, find a way to amplify the sound. Make sure all the musicians in the band/team are keeping the beat. 

2) Listen to the drummer (if there is one on the team). One of the drummer’s roles is to keep the beat. A drummer can be a big help to a Praise Team. He can alert the Team when they are not keeping the beat. The drummer will know when the beat is not being kept, because there is nothing more frustrating for a drummer than to have to adjust to musicians who are not keeping the beat. He should not be shy in alerting the Team. In the end, the frustration that he feels will also be felt by the congregation. The rule here is: When it comes to the beat, the musicians need to adjust to the drummer, instead of the drummer needing to adjust to the musicians.

3) Here is a suggestion to guitarists: If you are strumming, try having your strong strums land on the beat, not on the offbeat (in other words, on the tick of the metronome, not between ticks). This will also help the congregation to keep the beat.

Keeping the beat will make singing more enjoyable for the congregation, and the Praise Team will be encouraged when they sense this increase in enthusiasm.

 

 

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Pointers about Songs and Singing

 

We have seen that the heart attitude of the participants in congregational singing is the most important matter. If the heart attitude of the participants is not right before God, it really does not matter what else is right with the singing and playing of the Praise Team and the singing of the congregation. If the primary audience of our singing is not pleased, what is the point of our singing?

Having said this, we should not understand this to mean that heart attitude is the only matter of importance in congregational singing.

The act of worship originates in the heart of the worshiper, but it is the music, the songs and the singing, that are the vehicle by means of which the worshiping congregation offers their praise to God. This process of transmission of our worship to God can be impacted positively and negatively in a number of ways.

What are some of these tangible ways that may impact the transmission of our heart worship to God in song?

Well, there is the song itself – for example, is it singable? Not all songs are equally singable.

There is the content of the song – do the words make sense to the worshiper? Are the words expressing thoughts and ideas that are consistent with the truths of our great salvation, and with who God is and what he has done? Do they express what is in a worshiper’s heart?

There is the speed of the music – is the song being sung so fast that it is hard to even realize what the words are saying? In other words, is the worshiper unable to formulate thoughts in his/her mind because of the speed in which the words whiz by the worshiper? Or are the songs being sung so slowly, that the worshiper is distracted from the words?

Is the rhythm too difficult for most of the worshipers? Is the beat being kept?

What is the role of the instruments of the Praise Team? Is the way the instruments are being used serving to underline and lend support to the message of the song or is it serving as a distraction from the content of the song?

All of these issues are matters of importance. They are important because they affect the process of the transmission of the worship of the congregation to God. With time, I hope to look at some, or all of the factors mentioned, in order to examine more closely what bearing each of them has on the singing congregation.

No doubt there will be differences of opinion about what constitutes an aid or a hindrance to worship. My hope is that at least some of the things I am saying will resonate with the reader, and that he/she will find in them something worth considering or even adopting.

 

 

 

 

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The Role of the Praise Team

On this site, when I mention the Praise Team I am thinking of those individuals who stand in front of the congregation (the people of God) during the congregational singing and who are leading the singing.  They may be using instruments and their voices, or just instruments, or just voices. They accompany the singing of the congregation with their instruments and/or voices.

There are of course many situations where only one person is leading the singing, (with or without instrument). While one person does not make a team, many of my comments will also apply to them.

The question we are asking is: What is the role of the Praise Team? What is their function?

Let’s ask another question: How does the Praise Team view itself? For example: Does it view itself as an essential part of the worship experience? Let’s put it this way: Would there still be worship going on if there were no Praise Team on the platform? Or if there were no worship leader? Well, conceivably someone could still stand up and suggest a song or two, and the congregation would then try their best to sing those songs. If the songs are familiar, the singing should go fairly well. Without the support of the Praise Team, some in the congregation might stumble along, trying to find the right notes, perhaps by listening to those around them who are more musically inclined. Would this still be worship?

I think we would have to agree that, depending on the attitude of the participants (see “A Serious Word about Worship“), this would still be worship.

Would the presence of a Praise Team make the worship experience more successful? This depends on certain variables, which we will discuss at some other time. But, all things being equal, the Praise Team provides support to the congregation, by helping them find the tune and the right rhythm of a tune. In this way they enable the congregation to actually sing the tune, and to concentrate on the meaning of the words. Stumbling and fumbling one’s way through a tune can distract both the mind and heart from the primary audience of the worshiper (see “The Audience of Congregational Singing“) and thus make worship in song a frustrating experience.

So the Praise Team is a musical aid to the worshipers. It functions as a support system to the congregation. It provides for smoothness in the worship experience by removing as many distractions to the worshiping congregation as possible. The more the congregation is enabled to focus on the song itself, the more it is able to present it as a worship offering to God.

One more question for the Praise Team: Does it view itself as separate from the congregation or as part of the congregation? Does it see itself as being “over here” and the congregation as being “over there”? I believe that the Praise Team needs to see itself as part of the congregation. It is seeking to enter into the same worship that it is seeking to lead the congregation into. The believers in the Praise Team join the believers of the congregation they are  leading, as members of the same body of Christ in worship of the one true God.

 

 

 

 

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