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Worship Styles

All the views expressed here are personal opinions.

I hope that these notes stimulate some thought on how we can progress, enrich and beautify the way in which we lead worship.

If you look at many western churches they would tend to endorse one of the following musical techniques to lead their Worship:

Organ, Choir, Orchestra, Music Group, Rock Band, string quartet, vocal groups, percussion, digeridoos, Steel Drums, decks, samplers, rain sticks.

I think that it useful to note that the musical style we are used to is very much self imposed; we could very easily use some of the other examples, notably the string quartet, the vocal group, percussion etc. It would also be possible to have a time of worship without using any musical instruments at all. Just a thought!

Here is a list of musical styles:

Classical, Reggae, Barn dance, Rap, Country, jungle, House, Indie, Punk, Rock, Jazz, Fusion, Garage, Metal, Soul, Ballroom, Progressive rock, Free-form, Latin, Techno, Acid, R&B, Hip-Hop, World music, Bali, Chinese, Arabic, Indian, African, Caribbean, Opera, Barbershop, Grunge, Gospel

This list is by no means complete, but allows us to appreciate what a diverse selection there is. We tend to only scratch the surface in our musical styles within church. We should try and break out of this mind set, try something different.

We have seen an increase in the use of world music and ethnic styles within much of worship over the past year or so; is this a trend which will grow? I feel that God is shaking up inspiration and creativity within the Church. My personal feeling is that if you can worship God with it - go with it.

It is important to hear new styles of music. Much of our inspiration would come from TV, radio, other churches, conferences etc. The radio offers a wide range of musical styles which you may not normally listen to. Let's listen to all music, remembering that music isn't Christian or non-Christian, it is good or bad (it is edifying or it isn't.)

Going to other churches is a good opportunity to get a different perspective on our own style of worship. Worship is led very dhferently from church to church. One worship leader that I worked with recently used the following method.

 He would list groups of songs together which would form, in his opinion, a good time of worship lasting about 20 minutes or so). The band would then practice that set of songs with joins worked out to go from one song to the next. He had six 'Sets of Songs' which he would then call upon. This obviously meant that the band would always know what was happening next; would provide a musically 'polished' time of worship; but would limit his flexibility.

I wouldn't advocate the use of such a stringent system, but why not practice links between songs; links which needn't only be used once.

Different congregations will worship to different songs. Here is a good case in point - an example from a celebration held in Sheffield that I read about a couple of years ago.

There were about a thousand people there and the worship team had been asked to lead about half an hours worth of worship. They kicked off with a couple of 'Pioneer favourites', but people didn't seem to be really going for it.

Then, at the end of the second song... there was a 'Holy Silence'... a thousand people; still; in the Presence of God.

Out of the silence came a lone male voice... singing... singing an old hymn ... !

Before anyone knew what was happening the rest of the congregation burst into song and joined him. Everyone looked at each other... slightly bemused, and then started to back the singing. From that moment on the people were on the worship team's side, and what followed was a great time of praise and worship. Something clicked with people when the hymn started.

When we lead Worship don't alienate people with too many songs they don't know. Use familiar songs which people will be able to praise God with instantly.

What else can we use in our worship?

Dance, mime, videos, slides, sound effects, painting banners, flags, ribbons, lights, lasers, virtual reality, drama, Prophetic Singing, computer graphics, video walls, fireworks, backdrops, poetry, applause, chanting, meditation, bibles readings, juggling, torches, smoke machines, backing tracks, Shadow Theatre, decks, smells, tap-dance, tribal sticks, rain sticks, Samplers, May-pole Dancing, Costumes, Percussion.

God has made so many things for our pleasure and enjoyment - quite often many have been hijacked by New Age ways of thinking... we then try and avoid them. We need to claim them back. (Saying that - be aware of genuinely dodgy origins to seemingly innocent things)

There are, as you can see, so many ways in which people can get involved in worship. I think we sometimes limit our vision to that of only music. If we have jugglers, let them juggle; if someone can make banners, let them; let people read aloud from the Bible; let artists paint; etc... The list goes on and on and is only limited by our own creativity and willingness to step out.

We as Christians tend to be trend followers and not trend setters. Let's try and keep a broad perspective. let's take something and build on it; not take something and copy it.


Q: Should we be 'radical' for radicals sake? ff not, why bother changing?

A: No, not for the sake of it - you need to have a vision and a reason. There's certainly a place for it. It's only through change that we can grow. It can be good to be radical, it can get you out of a rut. We're being changed anyway, we're not the same as we were this time last year. Worship needs to be radical to be relevant - to reach people.


Q: What about people who like it the old way? Do we leave them behind?

A: No, let's be sensitive and try to bring them along with US. If you want to make a change suddenly, people will react against you. But give them reasons and purpose, give them notice, and they'll be more likely to accept it.


Q: Should / could we relate musically to all age ranges ?

A: Think: is it relevant / worthwhile? This should definitely be part of your preparation.


Q: Do we aim at the majority or minority?

 A: We certainly need a range of styles. Music can relate to all ages, whatever it is. People do enjoy a range of music. We shouldn't stereotype people If God is in the centre of it, it becomes attractive anyway, no matter what the musical style. Sometimes people will surprise you - eg older people wanting rock and roll, and younger people more traditional music In aiming 'Middle of the Road'you might just miss everybody. Try a mixture; different things each week.


Q: Are we limited by the choice of instruments? ff so how can we progress and develop? Also... how do we achieve other worship forms with limited resourses?

A: Progression and Development needs to come from goals, aspiration and vision. Then think how to get there.

  1.Have a realistic goal

  2.Pray - be wise and sensitive

  3.Ask someone / pray for someone to fulfill this role.

  It's easy to ask God 'Please give us a...'

  But let's look at what we can do as well. We have people full of potential. Let's ask them! If they can't do it, give them time to learn.

  Let's explore our options... a church wide questionnaire?

  But still root it in vision / purpose otherwise it's being radical for radicals sake.


Q: Do our meetings allow for a change in worship style?

A: Flexibility comes through the sense of relationship and family within the congregation. It comes about slowly and gently, it takes trust and relationship between the leaders and the worship leaders. It means you have the freedom to be honest if things don't work. Meeting leaders need support too! Sometimes they have no concept of working with a worship leader. Maybe we need a workshop on the practicalities of leading a meeting. There needs to communication between the worship leader and the meeting leader before the day. This needs to come out of relationship.

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