So you want to play drums in church?

DrumsetOK, you’ve decided to follow the urging of the Holy Spirit and become a worship drummer.  You’ve got the skills, equipment, experience, and the willingness to serve, but you’ve never played on a worship team or played worship music. I’m here to give you a heads up. This article is addressed to all you drummers who are considering or are new to worship ministry.

This musical endeavor is nothing like being in a band with the same 2 to 4 other dudes. In most cases a worship ministry is a revolving door of musicians and vocalists. They come in all ranges of skill level and spiritual maturity. Many have their hearts in the right place, but on occasion there are some whose egos go to 11. That alone creates a “large family” like dynamic. Imagine being a child in a family of two parents and 10 or 12 children. You really don’t have any choice of who’s going to be there with you or with whom you will share a room. There will be siblings who you bond with and there will be those who you don’t. Some will have drama in their lives (and between each other) that you might not want to be involved with. Believe it or not, worship ministries all over the country have the same kinds of dynamics.

As a teenager I just wanted to play drums. I was 17 and my parents wouldn’t allow me to join a band. So, my only choice was to play with the worship team. No one told me that I would be joining an ensemble of people who also wanted to worship God with their talents, but were also living lives full of challenges and hardships (some greater than others, by far). Of course, as a teenager none of this affected me or was even on my radar until I was in my early 20s. Sure, I was aware that other teammates were experiencing “life” as it were, but I never saw myself as being part of their experience. And that’s where I had it all wrong.

You see, they call it a team for a reason. You will be working in unison with other musicians on a common goal of leading God’s people to the foot of His throne to worship Him. This in turn makes you and your teammates targets for the enemy. The best way (that I have seen) for the devil to break up a team is to attack members individually. The only way to combat this is to be involved in each other’s lives and lift each other up in prayer during the tough times. Compassionate, involved, loving, truth speaking, hard-praying, musically skilled team members are what it takes to have an effective worship ministry. Not ultra-chops musicians. You’re not up there just to been seen and rock out. It has nothing to do with your ego. You’re up there to serve God and His people by creating an environment where they can worship Him freely.

All the dynamics of life can be found in a worship team. In the last 25 years I have been witness to every kind of painful and disappointing life situation you can imagine, including suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, abandonment of faith, divorce, adultery, theft, bickering, feuding between team members, miscarriage of a child, and terminal illness. Also, in the last 25 years I have been witness to and experienced every kind of joyful life situation you can imagine—births, marriages, miracles of healing, camaraderie, the intense movement of the Holy Spirit, prayer and words of wisdom, good food and celebrations, rejoicing with others when God blesses lives and families, laughter, amazing musicianship, discipling, mentoring, and friendships that will last a lifetime. I even met my wife while serving in worship ministry!

I’m writing this to you because I want you to be excited and prepared, not because I want you to be afraid of what you might experience. If serving in worship ministry wasn’t rewarding and fulfilling, I would have most likely given it up years ago. But, it seems that every time I try to find an excuse to walk away, God finds a way to bring me back to it. So much so that I have never been involved in any musical endeavor outside of the worship ministry that has really ever taken root. At this point in my life, I have resolved within myself that I will never become the replacement drummer for Stryper. My place is in worship ministry and there I will stay. I hope you have the same fulfilling experience that I have had.

Peace, John  I Corinthians 10:31  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

4 thoughts on “So you want to play drums in church?

  1. Hi John,

    I am learning to play the drum set. I want to learn worship songs and possibly help on a worship team. I am female and the blog I read that Ann wrote, sums it up for me as well. I am wondering if you have a lead on where I can find current worship music drum notation? I also wonder if you know of a networking group of female worship drummers who support each other and share valuable information. Thanks in advance for it! Bev Gerlitz Of Salem OR

    1. Hi Bev, I’m very sorry to be responding to you so late. In general you will not find notation for drums when it comes to worship music. This is where you must use your ears and your intuition. The best advice I can give is for you to learn the song by ear and then write down what you hear. Worship music is very formulaic and can be broken down into parts such as intro, verse one, verse two, chorus, bridge, and so on. Focus on each section of a song and learn accordingly. If you are already a musician and have training on another instrument this is where your skills in notation writing will come in handy. It is best to make small notes rather than write out a complete song. Often times song arrangements tend to change based on the intention of the worship leader and most worship leaders allowed drummers to have a certain amount of freedom when interpreting drum parts. I have never played for a worship leader that has required me to play the drum part note for note from the recording.On the topic of female worship drummers networks, I don’t know of any currently. But, this may be an opportunity for you to start something on your own. Maybe you could create a blog or a discussion board where female drummers could inspire one another. I hope this is helpful to you and I thank you for visiting my website. Peace, John

  2. The book is brilliant for an aobtluse beginner, but I am a beginner at drums, not at music in general, so I found some of the pages were wasted on me, such as notation and how to keep a rhythm.However, the excercises are very good, and by the end of the book, i’d really learned something. I just wanted a little more

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