Caution - Do Not Cross
I have been observing something in our worship teams for the past decade.
There is something that happens almost every Sunday in some way, shape, or form - the musicians and singers maintain some form of inaccessibility from the rest of the congregation.
We use the green room as our escape or we use the platform as our barrier that no one else is allowed to cross. For all intents and purposes, it's about the same as if we put up a "caution - do not cross" police tape to keep the elite away from the common folk. I'm not quite sure what drives it or what feeds it, but it doesn't seem right.
Maybe it's because we are introverted or introspective. Or maybe it's because we like the comfort of our place. Or maybe we just want to keep our distance and not let anyone get too close. Regardless of the reason, we can't ignore it any longer.
Now I understand full well that it's healthy to regroup for a few minutes before a service, to align the focus of the team who will be leading. But I also know that because we serve up front, our leadership potential is not limited to the platform. In fact, our leadership influence is enhanced because we serve up front.
By nature, we are already working against the grain. We serve on the platform - a natural barrier.
To remedy this, we must be intentional and proactive to change the culture or it will intentionally change us.
Therefore, on our team we have made some intentional effort to minimize the divide. Here are some practical things our team has done to help us be present relationally with the people and not compromise our moment to regroup as a team. Here are some of the things we have learned:
We have approached this differently over time and differently at different venues. We have learned that the newer the campus or the smaller the gathering, the more critical it is for our team to be present in the lobbies and hallways with people. So at our main campus, a 53 year old established location, we keep the 20 minutes before the service to pray together with the entire team.
But at our newest campus, we spend the 15-20 minutes prior to the service in the lobby and sanctuary with people. We pray and prepare together for a half hour before the service starts.
I still remember when I was leading at a young adult service, and I was out greeting people before it began. A few minutes before start time, I said hello to a girl who was sitting by herself. She asked me, "do you come here a lot?" I knew it was her first time, and I replied with, "Yeah! I love it here. I'm pretty involved." We wrapped up our short conversation and I headed to the platform as people flooded in for the start of worship.
Weeks later, I got word that this girl was impacted greatly by coming to this worshiping community, and that she was "blown away that the lead music guy cared enough" to come talk with her.
Friends, we carry the weight of influence with us everywhere we go. We just have to choose if we will embrace it or squander it.
Whenever we take community time within a service for people to interact with one another or to turn and say, "hi" to someone in their section, our team comes down off the platform and participates. Most of the time, the team returns to the platform to continue leading the service, but that moment makes a bold statement that we are not professional Christians.
Sitting in the service
The green room is a place to regroup; it is not a sky club for the elite musicians to hang out, nap, or surf online during service. We participate in the rest of the service and we intentionally come down off the front of the platform and back up via the front of the platform, as opposed to going around back, through the green room.
1. We all need to grow. Part of the way we grow is to be a part of the community together when the community is together, and also when we are reflecting on God's word. We also need to be hearing the heart of our pastor; when we lead, we need to lead with that same heart, vision and authority.
2. We almost always have a worship time in response to God's word. That time is also hardly ever prescripted. This means that if we are actually going to continue leading people from the place God moves us to in a given service, we have to be moving in the same direction, having a sense of what is needed and where we could or should go. That only happens by participating in the experience.
3. Walking up and down the steps on the front of the platform is yet another little subtle way to break the barrier between congregation and band. It communicates in a subtle way that we are no more significant or important than anyone else.
When we offer prayer times, inviting prayer teams to the front and extending an invitation for people to come and be prayed for, our team is a part of that. Now, I can say two things that I have seen as we have done this. First, everyone feels intimidated and under-qualified before they go to pray for someone. But secondly, every single time they do, they come back blown away that God used them to minister to an individual in a way that went far beyond a song they sang or played.
Mostly, our vocal team has been the ones to go pray, as the musicians are usually playing and flowing with worship music behind these times, but it's not uncommon for a musician to abandon their post because they feel a sense that it's their time to step up and pray.
The 15 after
At times, we have had a "no platform rule" for the first fifteen minutes after the service. The tendency for other musicians is to come up on the platform to connect with the team. However, this leaves every musician very isolated from outside engagement. So for the first 15 after the service, we leave the platform and have those same conversations down front, just like everyone else.
We have a tendency to want to be isolated and separated from the rest of the people, but we don't have to live as subjects of our tendencies. I believe there is so much in store for our churches and worshiping communities if we can get this right!
Let's be separatists no more.