Keep it Simple

Published on May 1, 2017 by Paul Ryan  

I’ve noticed an encouraging trend in churches. More and more, youth are participating in leading worship. Youth are reading scripture, speaking prayers, and designing multimedia presentations. Youth are also joining worship bands. With a voice, guitar, bass, piano, or drums many youth are entering adult teams or forming their own groups. Through participation in worship teams, youth are growing in musicianship, practicing leadership skills, and serving God.

Youth worship teams, though, are not without their challenges. We often have high expectations for the musical leadership of our services, and at times involving youth leads to potential mistakes or distractions. Rather than a deterrent, we can see this as an opportunity to mentor and coach the youth in leading worship.

Over time, I’ve discovered four simple practices that often lead to success for youth teams. These can be summarized in three words: Keep it simple!

1. Work with simple instrumentation. A team doesn’t need to have a piano, bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, electric guitar, violin, and a host of singers to lead well. In fact, one of the best youth worship groups I’ve observed was a guitarist/singer and keyboard player.

2. Utilize songs with simple chord changes. This is a great aspect of Praise & Worship music. A guitarist can master four chords and play many of the most popular songs. Hymn arrangements can also be made simple. Assign only one or two chords per measure. The hymn will be easy to play and it will sound better, too.

3. Play simply. For example, pianists often feel that they need to play everything – the melody, harmony, bass, and rhythm all at the same time. When playing with a band, a pianist only needs to play chords with the right hand. Let the bass guitar play the bass, the rhythm guitar play the rhythm, and the vocalist sing the melody. The pianist needs only to take on these other roles if other instruments are not present.

4. Simply lead. Keep in mind that the central goal of the team is to lead the singing of the congregation. Good musicianship is a part of the equation, but the summation of all the team’s efforts is simply to help the congregation sing well. If the congregation is participating in the songs, the team is serving its role. With this in mind, focus on congregational entrances, establishing a solid bass line, maintaining a consistent tempo, and providing a clear melody. With these in place the congregation can participate well.

There is certainly more that can be said, but these are the basics. If a youth team keeps it simple they will enjoy a lot of success. People will be led in singing, and the team will have the great joy of serving God and the community.