I would like to hear from you about exhibiting leadership when you are not the leader. How have you effected change in your worship environments without having the authority to direct or compel that change? What things have you done to generate trust in your opinions and skills? Is it possible to lead by example passively? I would like to encourage improvement in our worship music selections and preparation without undermining existing authority. I don't want the job - I just want us to get better, and if the leadership think it's their idea, that would be fine with me. One of my most gratifying experiences as an electric guitarist was at rehearsal on a song we'd done before, but I had made some changes to my tone to fill and blend more effectively. Not a single person said, "Wow, the guitar sounds great." Several vocalists said, "Wow, the vocals sound better than they have before." If I play better, and everyone else thinks they sound better, that's an example of the kind of thing I'm talking about.

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Hey Greg, I think there are two key areas to watch out for. 1) Keep an eye on your standing in the group, often those that suggest change end up being labelled as 'difficult' and an outcast from the rest of the group 2) If you do get one of the leaders to think it's their idea this often leads to disappointment as they are not likely to run with the idea in the same way you would and therefore you still end up frustrated with the way things are.

In order to put forward your ideas it all depends on how the group is set up. Some places give opportunity to input, others may not. I play in a band which has people who are not afraid to speak their mind on a song or an arrangement. This works on three levels, first, we were friends before we formed as a band (we had played together in various worship scenarios before forming officially as a band). Secondly, I am not skilful on multiple instruments and in a sense I want to keep it that way. The reason being I then rely on the people who play the particular instrument to come up with their own stuff to fit in with the song. Of course we can all still discuss whether what they've come up with works in the overall sound. Thirdly, we do not play together every Sunday so when we meet we can chat and catch up what's been happening and it keeps playing together fresh, sometimes having a break from things allows everyone to assess where they are etc absence makes the heart long to worship. The key is the culture is already there, we are used to each other saying things like 'I'm sorry but that doesn't work' etc etc

Often with Church worship groups they are thrown together purely because they play an instrument and the friendships and culture need to be formed afterwards. This is a harder way to do it and often it is the case that the group culture is undecided/underdeveloped and therefore often they become a group that play the same song but they are not a team.

Hope that helps.


Yeah, this is a tough one; in ways, I think it depends a lot on the leader and their openness to suggestion.  I suspect that a lot of worship bands rely on the 80/20 rule - you get 80% of the results from the first 20% of the effort, and when you start pushing for that last 20% of the results, the math sez that it's going to take four times MORE effort than you're currently putting in.  And when you're pushing for "improvement in our worship music selections and preparation" it starts putting that kind of pressure on everybody in the band... and the WL probably has a sense of how much rehearsal time and raw talent the band members bring to the party and is trying to maintain a balance there.

Kudos to you for improving your guitar gone, but when you wrote, "Not a single person said, 'Wow, the guitar sounds great'" I had this feeling that you were disappointed nobody gave YOU credit (and maybe the corollary, that nobody else said, "wow, I'd better start working on my singing  a lot harder so that I sound good enough to be in a band with such an awesome guitar player.")  That can be the danger with trying to "lead from behind," that it's not much different from "pushing".  I think I'm taking your comment a little out of context there, I get that you really were pleased that the vocalists thought THEY sounded better, and yet... there it was.

I'm trying to think here... as a WL of a band that definitely relies on that 80/20 rule a lot... how would it "work" that someone in the band could do this "lead from behind" thing in a way that would work?  Here's what comes to mind: first off, take me to lunch and let me explain the things I'm trying to do with the band, the changes I would like to see happen.  Maybe one of those is that I would like the drums to be quieter and another is that I would like to do more "current" songs, things people might hear on the Christian radio station.  Now maybe you think we ought to be playing louder than we are, but you do agree with the "current songs" idea.  Well, then, start sending me youtube URLs for some current worship songs you think our band would like, push that thing that you agree with.  (And accept that some of the songs you suggest I'm not going to like!)  Okay, then, as the leader, after a little while, I'm going to figure out that I'm getting some useful help on this "current songs" goal of mine, but as far as quieting down the drums, I'm on my own.  And I'll focus on getting to that goal and set the loud drums issue aside.  And so... you have, in some way, "led from behind" by influencing which of MY goals we make more progress on.

Don't know if that makes much sense, but that may be one approach.  You probably have several improvements you'd like to see; figure out which of those are on the leader's list, too, and just be supportive of those.  And in the areas where you disagree... just let those things go for now.  Eventually the leader may come to think of you as the person who has been really helpful in improving the band and ask you for ideas... some of which will fly, some won't.

This type of thing definitely requires two-way submission and surrender. I would say, "Surrender your ideas with the same open hand that you do your tithe/offering". We offer it to God through the leadership of the church. We're ok if they save some of it, or use it as needed. We don't (at least shouldn't) get offended if they use our finances or save them. We just simply let them go.

As a leader, when that type of attitude accompanies suggestions and directional conversations, no part of me feels threatened or uncomfortable. It's much easier to be open and include other's opinions when they are submitted, rather than shoved. The same goes for me as a leader. My volunteers feel much safer to share with me when I regularly seek their opinion and input on the direction of things. I submit my opinion to their wisdom.

Hope this helps.

Yes. The Kingdom IS relationship. And when we seek God's Kingdom and right standing, everything else falls in place. Gifts make room for themselves and are embraced, rather than forced.

I have had the title of leader/minister/chief musician/pastor/director/associate for most of my adult life, and it has been my responsibility to choose 99% of the music we sing -- but it's a lonely, scary task without all sorts of input from others.

I have a fairly malleable will -- but it is not the bullish types who move me.  It's those who win my heart with their supportive attitude, the love I can see they show for others, their vision of the church as a place for all, not just a few.  This sort of "leader from within" is not necessarily your nicey type of person; they may be crusty.  But you see good judgment emanating from them. 

I've also seen leadership from 'within" coming from the top -- a pastor who gave me the freedom to do as I pleased in certain situations, and he would back me; but he also told me what would probably happen, and he proved a true "prophet." 

Wow, you really hit it with that account of the guitar changes.  I just took a pill (actually, 5 pills) that collectively keep my heart chugging.  I cannot see that pill inside my stomach; in fact, it is probably dissolved into molecules by now; but I'm quite glad for it.

I think that you want to become a natural influence within the team, someone that people trust for suggestions and ideas, actually even ask you about them.  To attain this, you need to establish a track record of being a positive support to all and a contributor to the team.  As has already been mentioned, the relationship between members of the team are pretty important, even more so that each individual's skill level.  Since you used HR jargon of 'corporate culture', I'll toss in HR jargon of 'team player'.  If you are generally patient and supportive of the group and people grow to trust you, you will find that even the odd 'bad day' won't blow it away over night.  So to influence corporate culture, keep being a team player.

From what I have ready of your earlier comments, this seems to be the track that you are on.  Keep it up.

Even when you are the "leader" you still need to exercise those kind of skills - for example, the none of the songs we did yesterday morning when I was leading the worship were my choice but since the minister had given a full list I decided to go with them. Of course, that was greatly helped by the other two people on the team yesterday morning being strongly supportive of me, turning things that could have been dicey into music that flowed.

Technically I was leading worship but I was also led and supported in worship and that is a good place to be.

Reading this discussion reminds me of the importance of authorisation.

I expect that most worship teams are not clear about the exact terms of their authorisation, and my conviction is that it seriously cripples them.

Years ago I was on a worship leaders training course, when the teacher said something pretty much like that, and I realised that I was leading worship because I had a passion for it, and I could play an instrument. I had never actually been given any terms of reference by the church leadership. So I asked them to define my authorisation, and they said, 'what specific authorisation do you want'.

And that's when the worship life of the church really began to take off.

If you're 'just a band member' and you don't really know where your authorisation begins and ends, it's probably because the team leader doesn't know. If he was clear about exactly what the church required, he would be letting the team know on a regular basis - every idea, every contribution, would be evaluated in the light of the authorisation from the church.

I think people should play according to their abilities - and one ability is one's skill in learning new tricks.  Younger players tend to be more set in their ways, because they are still learning basic skills-sets and feel less secure about themselves in general than "old hands." 

Any moderately skilled drummer can play a syncopation, because the rote-learned rock rhythm has certain traditional syncopations.  But to introduce a new syncopation upsets the rote-rhythm which had been learned and reinforced a thousand thousand times.  Like as if someone told you a better way to get at certain chords in a song would be to tune one of your guitar strings to a different pitch. 

A person can only inspire others to learn, to experiment, to try new ideas.  I think you understand this, because you offered  a suggestion gently, not as a "this-is-how-we-do-it old coot". 

Our guitarist feels way more secure working from a chord sheet - notes disturb him, even if he's just playing the chords.  Since I began always giving him a chord sheet, he is more relaxed, as is my wife, who has read music all her life - yet prefers the chord sheet when singing and playing the piano, because the words are easier to group in the vision.

I've also learned that "playing with the CD" actually means "doing the same order of events (don't throw in an extra chorus) as the original, and playing the way you personally interpreted what your instrument was doing on the CD."  All, all, all attempts I have ever made to reproduce exact rhythms, no matter how enchanting those rhythms were, resulted in utter dismay by the group.  We tend to learn best the way I learned classical music - by just getting in there and hashing it out, and sooner or later we came upon what satisfied us, and hopefully will be a pleasing offering to the curch and to the Lord.

I feel for you Greg, but don't have any solid suggestions to offer. It's quite possible that many of the younger guys lack your skills and feel threatened by them or simply can't understand what you're getting at. It's also possible they have no interest in doing things differently because - as Greg M said - it doesn't fit the patterns they know and like for now.

This is an old discussion, isn't it? It took me a while to spot that the first page was from a couple of years ago! As a (re-)starting point, I'm sorry to hear that the situation seems to drag on without much change.

I think there is a difficulty in the concept of leading from behind when, as I understand it, you aren't recognised as the leader. Frustrating but the truth is that a backseat driver doesn't much help the bus go forward. I'd love for you to be in a situation where your contributions are encouraged and your skills are drawn on for the benefit of the team but it sounds like that still isn't happening.

Sadly it isn't uncommon in churches. I could tell you plenty of stories where I've experienced being a victim of similar things. Mind you, if I dared to stop to think about it, I could probably also recall times when I've been the perpetrator too. Truth be told, it isn't just a church thing although it feels disappointing in what should be a grace-filled community. You can be undervalued in any situation!

One thing that might be worth doing, if you don't already, is finding some avenues for musical expression and development outside of church. I know you've got lots of experience so I'm sure you've done that before but I don't know what else you have on your plate now. I remember reaching a point in my mid-twenties where I felt that my incredible bass playing skills far exceeded anything my church worship group required so I ended up following some openings and getting back into doing music in addition to the regular church gig. Getting on for twenty years later, I'm still going with one or two projects always on the go. I'm a much better musician all round and only too aware of how much more room I've got to grow. I certainly feel less frustrated playing in a church situation.

Just possibly you could do with finding some opportunities where you go full throttle and just about keep up, because it sounds like, at the moment, you are constrained by a situation where you can't stretch out without hurting others.



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