As a conference facilitator and church consultant, I have often had the opportunity to ask people about the use and function of their praise teams. Some have told me that the team creates tension in the music ministry because of elitism and attitudes of entitlement. Others have declared that their entire choir is the praise team while some may have “sat down” the choir and are only using a team of six singers. With regard to responsibility, singers have told me that the team is in place to set the mood for worship, bring in God’s presence and prepare the congregation’s hearts for the preached word of God, while others view themselves as the special singers to be tapped for more challenging music. Clearly, praise teams are used and viewed differently, depending on theological inclination, worship philosophy or denomination. I would like to highlight a different perspective for your consideration, let’s allow the entire congregation to BE the praise team.
Particularly concerning the intentional moments in our worship services called “praise and worship,” the entire congregation should be the praise team, not an exclusive group of six to nine singers with microphones. There is greater benefit when everyone in the room is fully, actively and intentionally engaged in worship. Based on Psalm 95:1-7, Psalm 150, Colossians 3:16 and 1 Timothy 4:13, we see that the collective group is always encouraged to participate in praise and worship. These passages, among others, also accent the importance of teaching and admonishing one another in wisdom through the singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Worshiping together with others is one of the most important things God’s people can do and singing as an aggregate body is a fundamental part of that expression. Carefully selected repertoire should have a didactic nature that perpetually edifies the congregation as scripture has instructed in Colossians 3:16. Additional benefits of corporate singing during worship include but are not limited to: unity of mind and spirit, reflection and celebration, focus, relationship building and most importantly, discipleship.
Unfortunately, in many worship environments, the congregation has been reduced to being an audience. Typically, audiences enjoy the performances of those on stage and offer an applause at the end of the show. These days, it is common to scan a congregation during worship and find a large number of people watching the praise team sing. There are many reasons why this may occur: people may not know that it is ok to participate, the “worship leader” may be functioning as a solo artist, the harmonic, melodic, rhythmic and lyric anatomy of the songs may be inappropriate for the setting or the praise team may function as featured artists during a concert – to mention a few. Have we allowed performance culture and marketing campaigns to replace community and discipleship? Have the nature of our worship spaces and musical preferences now prohibited the congregation from participating? In some cases, the answer is yes. With our huge sound systems, acoustically dead buildings and mammoth musical arrangements, congregants may not have the opportunity to sing, be heard or even hear each other musically ascribing worship to God, which can communicate a lack of value on participation and engagement.
All is not lost, the praise team can serve as a huge asset to the Body. Members of the team should be engaged in regular private worship that overflows into public worship facilitation. Additionally, they must be skilled singers because of their vocal dominance and leadership. Praise team members must also have a heart to serve their congregation and be engaged in discipleship in the life of the church. Appointed singers are able to serve the congregation by providing musical support with lyrics and melody lines as well as functioning as lead worshippers, which can help congregants feel more comfortable with dialing in and participating. An excellent praise team finds its ultimate value in facilitation and support, not concertizing. Music leaders are responsible for selecting, writing or arranging praise and worship songs that possess theological integrity as well as musical elements that encourage full, meaningful and intentional participation. Careful consideration must be given to key, standard congregational tessitura and facilitation/leadership techniques.
I present these perspectives not because I am against the use of praise teams, but because I am an advocate for the responsible use of music in corporate worship. When used well, praise teams are able to serve as huge benefits to their congregations. Corporate worship gatherings are excellent opportunities for God’s people to respond to His voice and goodness, participate in discipleship and build community. Singing together is a healthy part of accomplishing those goals. Let’s be intentional about building our music and worship spaces with the entire congregation in mind. Everyone is invited to the table.
Author, Chad Brawley
Worship Ministry Consultant