Our expression of worship within the church today can take many forms. The two-sided nature of worship (and Christianity for that matter), is that it is all about God and people. So whilst our worship is all about glorifying Jesus, we also need to meet people where they are at, and be willing to adapt ourselves to their context.
Here are fIVE things I have learned about worship in a smaller setting.
1. Play to the room
There is a saying amongst musicians that we ‘play to the room’. This means we make decisions regarding our equipment, set up and musical posture according to the room – the physical space – we are playing in. So, the way you approach a school hall with 100 people in attendance, has to be different to the way you approach an auditorium with 1000, or a stadium with 10,000. This means 2 singers instead of 5, 1 guitar instead of two and a stripped back drum set up. Less is more.
2. Make the songs your own
Just as we change our physical set up to suit the room, we also need to make sure the songs suit the room. Songs that are easy to sing, not too wordy and are easy to build tend to work well in a smaller setting. Music can always be adapted to suit a context, and we need to make sure we approach the songs as per the setting. Change the arrangements, flip the order, slide into the next song without finishing the current one. Don’t follow a formula, make the songs your own. If you own them, so will the congregation.
3. Protect the flow
When you’re in a smaller setting, it can be harder to gain momentum in a set, because the atmosphere can feel a bit more on the empty side to begin with. In a smaller room, you can hear yourself sing, so people in the room tend to hold back. Practical elements like doing your songs in the same key, and at similar tempos can aid transitions and make momentum easier to gain. When the set flows easily, you are minimising the opportunity for people to lose focus or become distracted in-between songs.
4. Space on purpose
When you are playing on more acoustic instruments, your dynamic range gets shortened. Meaning, your ability to build and increase intensity on your instrument is less than normal. In this case, I find that you can sometimes have an ‘all or nothing’ approach to create interest in a song. For example, maybe the song starts with keys and percussion, and then acoustic joins in the first chorus. Or bass only enters in the second verse. Leaving this space gives you more room to move and build within a song.
5. Communication is everything
As musicians, we are so relational. If we weren't, we would just be 'bedroom YouTube' musicians, and where is the fun in that?! Remember to over-communicate. This happens before, during and after the set. Not sure how to play a song? Ask. Not sure when the meeting leader is getting up? Ask. Not sure where the worship leader is going? Ask. See the pattern here? Don't be afraid to communicate! Relationship within a team is super important, and makes the whole process a lot more fun! When we speak openly, we leave less room for error, and more space for worship.