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On a Sunday in November, unfamiliar faces met churchgoers at Peace Community Christian Reformed Church in Houston, Tex. Absent were the faces of their typical worship team. The pastor, Dave Horner, was also missing.

Sunrise Community’s worship team at a neighboring church.

Instead, worship leaders from Sunrise Community Christian Reformed Church (Austin, Tex.) and Rev. Mark Hilbelink led worship.

All were participants in the annual Worship Swap. Instead of just exchanging pastors, for the past three years Sunrise Community and other area Christian Reformed churches have been swapping pastors and worship teams.

They travel to each other’s churches the night before and then lead worship in the morning.

“It’s basically just an expanded version of a pulpit exchange,” said Hilbelink. “So far, over three years, we’ve done two straight-up swaps (pastor and band), one with New Life and one with Peace. We’ve also done two ‘touring’ exchanges—where we simply send our pastor and band to another church and volunteers cover those positions back home without the other church sending anyone our way. We’ve done one of those with Stephenville CRC and with Chelwood CRC in Albuquerque.”

Hilbelink sees huge dividends from the experience. “Taking the bands and letting them experience another church really helps them grow as leaders. They get to see some new things we could try and some things to be thankful for about our church,” said Hilbelink. “But going on tour also pays huge dividends for the cohesiveness of our bands—everyone agrees the time in the van and staying overnight have been some of the most transformative time we’ve ever spent together.”

Roman Garcia, worship pastor at Sunrise Community, sees another benefit. “One of the great things about band swapping is the encouragement and grace we get from the unfamiliar congregation.”

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