Big Questions
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Q Our church takes an “all are welcome” approach to worship leadership. While I appreciate the desire to include everyone, sometimes our services suffer because of inexperienced or unskilled musicians. Is there a way to strike a balance?

A We all want our congregations to participate in worship, but there are different ways of achieving that goal.

Some churches believe that anyone who wants to take part should be included in the rotation of singers, instrumentalists, and Scripture readers. Unfortunately, people are not always good judges of their own talents.

Other churches take an “excellence above all” approach: auditions weed out all but the most developed musicians and speakers. This certainly leads to more polished worship services but it also leaves out many eager would-be leaders. It can also lead to worship that is more of a show than an expression of the congregation’s heart.

The first step to finding a balance between these approaches is recognizing that participation begins with the people in the pews. If the pianist has such bad timing that the congregation can’t sing along, or if the choir’s performance is so pristine that people simply listen in rapt amazement, it keeps the congregation from taking part in worship.

The skills of music making, public prayer, and Scripture reading are God-given talents that need to be discerned and fostered, like any other gifts that build up the body. But this doesn’t stop with identifying the most seasoned leaders. We should also create opportunities for the least experienced worship leaders to grow. Creating space for the 8th-grade flutist or immigrant Scripture reader is a beautiful expression of the congregation’s diversity and develops the next generation of worship leaders.

About the Author

Greg Scheer (gregscheer.com) is a composer, author, speaker, and music associate at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. His latest book is Essential Worship (Baker, 2016).

See comments (1)


I attend the Montreal CRC, and in our church when the choir sings, they rehearse a special piece that they sing with the pianist.  Otherwise, they go back to their seats and sing as part of the congregation.  We do not have a permanent choir because no one has the time to do weekly rehearsals.  One of our members is a choir director, but she directs another choir full time, so she usually will get a choir going for special occasions such as Christmas or Easter, and that's about it.  For the rest we have two women who play the piano--no organ--and one band to lead worship.  That's all.  But it gives budding talents opportunities and donesn't deprive church members from singing because nobody feels inadequate compared to others.