The SIMPLE Framework For Developing A Healthy Worship Team Culture
Worship ministry “culture” has become a buzzword in recent years. But what does the word “culture” actually mean, and why do so many leaders want to develop it?
Culture is simply the set of assumptions, values, and expectations that your ministry members use to guide their actions. It’s how the people of your church do things when they aren’t told how to do them.
Our ministry’s culture is revealed by the default actions of the people in our ministry. It’s the tangible result of applying what has been taught verbally and non-verbally in our ministry.
With that definition in mind, I’m sure you can see why so many leaders want to focus on it. Your culture is what STEERS your worship ministry. If you can teach people the right things and get them to apply them to what they do, you could shift the focus of your entire ministry.
Now, before the naysayers remind me that church isn’t a business environment and “doesn’t Google always talk about the culture of their company?” Let me remind you of this simple truth: culture can be used for good.
For example, think about a church that is inwardly focused. They have the ASSUMPTION that when they come to church gatherings, the gatherings will be designed around their own preferences. They VALUE practical messages that will make their lives better. As a result, they EXPECT to receive something for themselves out of the church gathering.
A culture change would mean shifting the expectation from an inward focus to an OUTWARD one. When that happens, they will come with the ASSUMPTION that church gatherings were designed to be a collective experience. They would VALUE others being built up and equipped in the church. As a result, they would EXPECT to give something on Sunday mornings.
That’s the power of culture. And it just as quickly applies to your worship ministry.
The hard part is learning how to STEER the culture of your worship ministry. But there are five things you can do to start steering your worship ministry culture in the right direction.
Identify what’s important.
To create a healthy culture on your worship team, you should know what a healthy culture looks like. We can’t just wish and hope our culture will suddenly one day be a healthy one. We need to identify what a healthy culture looks like so we can take steps in that direction.
So often, worship leaders WISH for a healthy culture but never DEFINE what it looks like. And I don’t blame them. Defining the culture of your worship ministry can no doubt be a daunting task. Here are two simple exercises to help you figure it out:
Ask: In 5 years, what do I want my worship team to look like?
Where is your worship team currently? What can you celebrate? What frustrates you?
Do more of what you want to celebrate. Do less of what frustrates you. This will help you identify areas of growth in your worship ministry.
Come up with three simple statements that summarize what you wrote down.
You probably came up with a long list of hopes and dreams for your future worship ministry. It will be hard to communicate it all to your team members.
Let’s commit to crafting three simple statements that could guide your ministry to the outcome you want if they were ingrained into the hearts and souls of your team members over the next five years.
This isn’t some new idea I came up with. You see this all the time in churches. Why do you think so many churches have big vision statement boards in their lobbies with simple phrases that get repeated by staff members over and over again?
- Circles are better than rows.
- Saved people serve people.
- You can’t outgive God.
It’s because they believe if people can grasp and remember those simple phrases – it will steer the church’s culture. The secret is that you have to figure out what those statements are that are worth repeating over and over again for your worship ministry.
Maybe for your worship ministry, it’s that we aren’t just musicians on a stage; we are all worship leaders.
Your statement: We are ALL worship leaders.
Maybe it’s that you aren’t just a group of band members that get together to play songs; you are a family of believers who will hold each other accountable and encourage each other.
Your statement: We aren’t a band. We’re a family.
Perhaps you want your worship team to be prepared for rehearsal instead of showing up without knowing their music.
Your statement: Rehearsal isn’t practice.
Only you know what statements your worship team members need to hear repeatedly. You get to decide what statements you want to use.
Communicate it to your team.
That exercise leads us to the next step in the process – one that many worship leaders miss. Once you’ve identified the culture you want, you have to COMMUNICATE it to your team.
That’s the purpose of creating those statements for our worship ministry. It isn’t just so that we can go through a fun exercise. They are meant to be used. They are intentionally simple, so you can sprinkle one of them into your conversations whenever you talk to your team.
Don’t keep your ideal culture a secret – let your team know so that you can create it together!
So often, we spend more time complaining than we do communicating. We trick ourselves into thinking we’ve addressed the problem in our ministry because we’ve put it on repeat in our brains and vented to others about it but have never addressed it directly!
Don’t let the process of identifying the culture you want to stay in your head. Teach it to your team. Regularly work those phrases you carefully crafted into your normal conversations. Say one of them every week for the next month, and I guarantee you’ll start hearing some of your worship team members repeating them. That’s how culture starts.
Now, every time they make a decision that relates to that phrase – it’ll pop into their head and guide their actions. Remember: culture is how the people of your church do things when they aren’t told how to do them. That’s what will happen when your team remembers those phrases.
Communicate it AGAIN.
Did you think you could get away with communicating the vision to your team once? Sorry! This is a life-long process.
Nobody ever hears something ONCE and instantly grasps it. We need to hear things over and over and over again until they finally stick. So don’t be afraid to repeat these phrases over and over again. That’s their purpose. The more you say them, the more people will remember them.
When you’re sick of communicating the same thing, say it 20 more times, and people will just start to pick up on it.
Culture isn’t built in one small 15-minute worship team devotional. It takes at least a year (maybe even longer) to consistently hear the same message.
When do you communicate the vision?
So, WHEN do you communicate the vision? Well, every chance you get. But you need a time when you’re committed to communicating it consistently.
I can think of no better time to do that than during your worship rehearsals. If you have a consistent plan for your rehearsals, you can reinforce your worship culture statements every single week.
But do you have a plan for your rehearsals that involves more than just running through your songs for Sunday? You need one!
That’s why I want to give you the Worship Rehearsal Blueprint! It’s a FREE step-by-step guide for running the perfect worship rehearsal. It’ll teach you how to lead your team musically, spiritually, and relationally. That way, you ensure that your team isn’t just growing in their musicianship but also in their relationship with God and with each other.
If you follow the plan I laid out, you will ALWAYS have the opportunity to communicate your vision to your team.
Create SYSTEMS that reinforce the culture you want.
Remember: culture is the application of what has been taught both VERBALLY and NON-VERBALLY. You’ve got the verbal part down. From here until eternity, you are going to communicate your key culture statements over and over again. That’s easy. Now let’s focus on the non-verbal side of communicating the culture you want.
The systems you have in place ultimately form the culture you create for your team. Your SYSTEMS often reveal what you care about more than what you SAY.
For example, let’s say you want your team to be prepared for worship rehearsal. Every rehearsal for the next six months, you constantly repeat the phrase to them, “Worship rehearsal isn’t practice. Practice is what we do at home.” Meanwhile, every week you send out the song list the day before worship rehearsal.
You can verbally communicate the culture point all you want, but the systems you have in place need to line up. You are verbally communicating that preparation is important, but your systems aren’t set up in a way that allows your team members to be prepared for rehearsal.
Likewise, let’s say you believe everyone on your worship team is a worship leader. You consistently tell your team, “We are ALL worship leaders.” However, when someone new wants to join your worship team, you only check to see if they can plan an instrument well. You don’t have a spiritual evaluation process for new team members.
You’ve verbally communicated that being on the worship team is about more than playing music. However, you’ve non-verbally communicated that the only requirement for being on the worship team is knowing how to play an instrument adequately.
Think about the SYSTEMS you have created in your ministry over time. Do they support or hinder the cultural points you’ve identified? If they hinder them, change your systems!
Hold people accountable to the culture you expect.
Up until this point, you’ve done so much work building the culture of your team. It’d be a shame to see all that hard work be all for naught. And yet that happens all the time.
It isn’t easy to maintain the culture you’ve built. Sometimes it takes hard conversations.
You can repeat as many pithy statements as you want. You can even have systems that reinforce those ideals and lead your team to the results you want. But if you fail to hold people to the standards you have for your team, you will ultimately communicate that those standards aren’t that important.
I’m not saying this is easy or comfortable but being a leader sometimes means having difficult talks with people. While painful at the moment, these talks honor the people who ARE living up to the culture you want for your team and show that you believe what you say.
If you want the culture that you’ve built to stick, you have to hold people accountable to the culture that has been created.
The good news is that you have to have a lot LESS of these difficult conversations when you consistently repeat your culture points over and over again. The best time to repeat your vision for your team is during your worship rehearsals.
Make sure to check out the FREE Worship Rehearsal Blueprint I put together to help you ALWAYS communicate your vision for your team every single week.
If you follow the step-by-step blueprint, you’ll be able to lead your team musically, spiritually, and relationally. That way, they’ll know their songs for Sunday, grow closer to God, and grow closer to each other.
About Spencer Cormany
LeadingWorshipWell.com is an online resource created by Spencer Cormany to help worship leaders lead themselves well, lead their churches well, and lead worship well. Through weekly training on the Leading Worship Well blog and Leading Worship Well YouTube channel, Spencer equips worship leaders with the tools to point people to the worthiness of God AND how to develop worship teams spiritually, relationally, and musically consistently. Spencer has been in worship ministry for over 15 years and is currently serving as the Director of Worship at Salem Church in Chambersburg, PA.