A seven year old, at a church of 80 people or less, can play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the piano for the offering and everyone will love it. It won’t matter how well she plays or how much she might mess up – the people know her. They know her parents and they probably know her grandparents. And as a result, almost anything she does will be wonderful and worshipful.
That same scenario would not play out so nicely if the church was say, 500-700 people in attendance.
What causes the change? Relational vs Presentational leading.
Relational vs. Presentational Worship
As a camp and special event worship leader for many years, I have learned this lesson many times over. Why does a song we’ve never even really done before come across so great at a summer camp? Even on the fly? Why is the music, worship and energy during a small weekend conference over the top? Because the students or participants are connected to our worship teams on a personal level. They know us. They know our names. They sat by us at lunch during the event. They are personally connected to us and that changes how they perceive and connect to the music and ministry. There is a strong relational component.
Our team has also served on the other end of the spectrum where the attendance was greater. We eat dinner in the green room with other artists and speakers. We only get a chance to see the congregation for brief moments and we may only be leading worship music for one evening or maybe a couple days. In that case, we would never think to pull out a song we had never played! It’s because we didn’t have the relationship component. It was all presentational. Their only view of us was from the stage perspective. It raised the bar. And we had to behave differently.
Just because you are relational doesn’t mean that you can wing it or do a bad offertory song. And it’s not to say that we should only do our best when there are lots of people in attendance. We want to offer excellence in all we do, with what we have been given, giving glory to God through it!
But, it’s the transitional time that’s worth being aware of. If your church ministry and attendance is growing, your worship ministry will experience the pain of crossing over the line of relational vs. presentational. You will have to come to a point that presentational side of the ministry is solid so people can freely worship, even if they don’t know the leaders personally.
If you aren’t growing – you may be in the funk of trying to be to presentational in a relational context or visa verse – too relational in a presentational context.
The irony is that skilled presentational level worship leadership to a larger crowd will come off seeming more relational than a “relational” attitude does. But, a worship leader without a relational side will never be able to come off presentational.
This isn’t a public label – it’s only for you. Don’t call one worship service relational, where you will put all the kids playing Mary Had a Little Lamb on the docket every week or anything. But knowing the times when you invite a relational component into the situation might help. This might be for a special, smaller worship time. Or a more intimate, mid week core group worship night.
Understanding where you are will also help you in working through the giftedness of your team. I often get asked what to do with someone on the team who has a heart of gold, has been around a while, but just can’t hold the pitch or keep the beat. These situations are usually as issue of a church worship team that was relational when it started and has now needed to cross the bridge to more presentational. People with less musical ability will begin to stand out more when you are in presntational mode. At the beginning, the congregation was just happy to have someone. But now, as things are growing, there’s a different vibe about low quality. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for people to serve. It takes lots of people to help worship become meaningful and engaging. And it also takes a hard and heartfelt conversation for a leader during these times.
Have you experienced this? How would you classify your current worship services?
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