How Your Worship Band is Killing Your Event
Your worship band is killing your event and you do not even know it. I know people might tell you that who you bring in for worship doesn’t matter, but they’re wrong. This is a myopic view. Yes, the speaker might matter more in most cases, but worship still matters. The problem is, a bad worship band doesn’t affect your numbers the year they’re there. They affect the passion, excitement, and yes, the numbers, the following year when people go to a different event.
I’ve seen a lot of good and bad ministry events. More than 4,000 since I started running events and serving worship leaders. So I’ve seen the best and the worst. I’ve served with the biggest and best Christian worship leaders. I have ministered alongside those people that had the gift of worship (even if they never wrote a song played weekly in church). My ministry has also placed speakers at events where the worship bands were terrible (like really bad). One story from my early days was when a worship leader literally turned a chair around on stage and straddled it. He led worship from this position (I’m not kidding).
Choosing the Right Worship Band is Vital…
Choosing the right worship leader for your event is vital to the longterm success of your event. Notice I said “longterm.” This article has nothing to do with whether your event drew a large crowd this year or whether ticket sales improved this year. I’m talking about how the demand and passion for your event changes from year to year.
Now, before you judge me and this article for having the wrong motives. Let me make this personal. Have you ever attended a church where the worship was just, I don’t know, BAD? Maybe the musicians hit bad notes or the singers were off key. Or perhaps it felt like a performance. What did you say afterwards? How did you feel about attending this church again? I realize that some of you can overlook this but I’m telling you, most of us can not. Worship matters and in USA, where there is a church on every corner, the quality of worship matters.
Christian events are impacted in a similar way. Now, there are a lot of things that derail a great idea or a great event. Some churches run out of money or give up on a great concept before it has had a chance to grow. Many brought in a terrible speaker one year and it drove away the audience. Others failed to invest in a good sound system or enough marketing and their events faltered. While the speaker may matter more in the overall equation, too many well-intended Christian events fail to realize that worship matters too.
Sacrificing Worship to Save a Buck
I was a part of a college event a few years back and was allowed to choose the band for the first year. I chose Sixteen Cities which was led by Josiah Warneking (now leading Revenant Worship). Everyone at Reach Your City knew Josiah was the real deal and he would connect well with college students. We also knew he always traveled with a female vocalist which would effectively draw in and help lead worship for the female audience.
College events like this that draw unchurched people as well as students from various churches must have an effective worship leader. They need someone to engage them and guide them through songs that may be unfamiliar to them. Revenant Worship came in and knocked it out of the park. Even though the sound system was mediocre, the college students loved the worship. They turned in evaluations giving the worship band some of the highest marks I’ve seen at any event (one a 1-5 scale, they scored a 98% with no negative marks).
The following year, attendance went up by 30% (take note, last year’s numbers are always a testimony to how well you did the previous year). In year two, the speaker, production, format, location, etc. was pretty much unchanged. Only one thing was different, despite my objections, the leadership chose another worship team to come and lead (likely to save money or to move money into another idea for the weekend). At the end of the weekend, the worship team was struggling to get a 70% approval rating (which honestly, was really kind) and the entire dynamic of the sessions was damaged.
Last Year’s Worship Band Impacts this Year’s Numbers
Despite the bad worship band, the leadership probably thought things were on track because attendance numbers were up 30%. They had no idea that the momentum and excitement for this event had just shifted. By this time, I was no longer involved but in year three, I heard that numbers stagnated. College students still came, but attendance was the same or close to the same as year 2. The growth and momentum was gone and what could have been another year of 20-30% growth became a year of simply trying to maintain.
Churches have a terrible reputation for mediocrity. I wish it wasn’t so but when I look at hundreds of conferences, camps, and events, you must be the exception to the rule. Here are some ways you can do that.
How to Choose a Quality Worship Leader:
- Seek strong referrals from people who know worship leaders and/or events. Do not seek referrals from people who may have attended one or two events but those who attend lots of events.
- Who has used this worship leader/band before? What do they say?
- Verify they’ve done a great job for similar audiences. You do not need the world’s best worship band for youth if your audience has blue hair.
- Beware of local bands or local referrals (i.e. my son Jimmy has a wonderful band…).
- Look at their schedule. Are they busy and in demand?
- Go and see them live first (a great way to ensure you bring in the right worship team).
- Make sure you have an evaluation form after every event with a numbered scale for how attendees liked the worship band. This is hugely valuable to you if you plan to run events over many years.
- Bring in a consultant to advise you or a ministry to run your events for you (like Reach Your City). Not only will they save your entire staff a ton of time, but they can help you increase revenues. Oh, and your audience will thank you for it.
- If you have the funds and are running a ticketed event, you could host a worship band that draws more attendees to your event right away. These groups typically have songs on the radio and can draw large numbers to events where they headline. Be careful though, some artists have huge songs but no one knows their name. Make sure you bring in a worship band that has real, proven drawing power.
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