We've had a theme the past few months for our campus worship team: GET FREE.
My players are great. They show up prepared, they come with great attitudes, and they enjoy being around each other. But sometimes they're timid. They know the material and they watch the congregation very closely, but they're very often afraid to step outside the arranged order and improvise.
For the past couple months, I've been encouraging my team to be more bold in their playing, telling them that I trust them as musicians enough to let them be creative in the worship set. I think those can be powerful, Spirit-led moments and I want my people to have the chance to go after that.
But I'm reminded over and over that I have to do my part, too. I have to make sure my team feels safe branching out. I have to help them learn to discern those spontaneous moments and I have to teach them what to do musically in those settings. But most of all, I've got to reassure them.
I have to build some foundations for my team - some dependable elements that I'll take care of as the worship leader. As I free them up, I also need to model both the boundaries and dynamics of what we're doing.
Last week, we did a tune of mine called Hallelujah For The Cross. I told the team that I expected the congregation to sing out on the song and that we might stretch the ending of the song. I told them to feel free to go after the song...that if they wanted to keep playing the song, to go for it. And then...I realized I had to reassure them.
You see, the song ends with a tag. We tag the last three lines, going to the VI chord. I realized that if we kept going after the ending of the song, they wouldn't know if to play a "normal chorus" or the "ending chorus" with the tags. So I made a decision and told them during rehearsal...
"If we keep going on that song, I'll to the 'tag chorus' every single time. Know that!"
Now to some, that might seem like too much planning or preparation, but for my team - where they are now - that was just enough reassuring to free them up to play a bit more spontaneously than normal.
Leadership is never dictating. It's reassuring. That's the only way you're people will feel safe enough to take chances!