The bare essentials of church music

Jodie McNeill

You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to be a part of a church music group.

After all, everyone just needs to follow the music, play their bit, and ensure they stop at pretty much the same time as the other musos.

However, if you’ve ever been a part of a church band, then you’ll know it’s a bit more involved than just that.

This experience often happens when you visit another church or listen to the music in a large conference, and you notice that the musos seem to have a degree of quality that surpasses the kind of noise your band normally generates each Sunday.

In my experience in church bands over the years, it seems that there are a number of fairly simple, yet very powerful ways to improve the quality of the ministry that the musicians are delivering to the congregation.

At this year’s TWIST Away Conference on Friday 19th August to Sunday 21st August 2011 at Port Hacking, we’re focusing on getting the bare essentials right.

As we put together the various hands-on training seminars, I’ve been trying to reflect on what the various issues are that our everyday, garden-variety church bands need to grow in.

Here’s my list. What would you add?

  • What songs should you choose;
  • What to sing when you’re a backup singer;
  • What to say when you’re introducing a song;
  • How to make a selection of different instruments work together well;
  • How to be loud and quiet at different times in a song (i.e. ‘dynamics’);
  • What’s the best time, place and way to practice songs and introduce new material;
  • Should we play songs in brackets, or is it fine to do one at a time;
  • Is it helpful to clap, raise hands, close eyes and even dance, or is it better for the congregation to remain more composed;
  • How to know if the song you’ve written is good enough to teach in your church;
  • How to operate the sound desk in a way that takes advantage of its basic features;
  • How to use congregational music  in ministry to youth and children;
  • Is it OK to use a backing track, or does this contravene some sort of United Nations charter;

I’d love to hear if you’ve got other ideas that you’d like us to consider training in at this year’s TWIST Away. Put your ideas in the comments below, or flick me an email.

Jodie McNeill helps run the TWIST Away Conference. Details at 

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