Monday, December 9, 2013

Playing on a Worship Team with Your Spouse

When I was in my 20s, music was my life.  I really felt like I was called to some capacity of music ministry, and I did everything in my power to “make it” as a full-time musician short of moving to Nashville.  The music that I was playing at the time was Christian-based music, and I found myself in a variety of venues almost each week.  I think at one time, I was playing in two different bands in addition to playing on a praise team at church.  I was usually either working full time or part time, and I was in and out of college during this time as well.  To say I was busy is an understatement.  It was not an uncommon week to have college classes 4-5 days a week, work 20 hours a week, have a couple of rehearsals, and about 2-3 gigs, then have to play worship music on Sunday mornings.  

During this time, I had always dreamed of marrying someone that would do music with me.  When I met Marci, we were both on the praise team.  Within a couple of years, we were engaged and married.  During our engagement, I asked Marci if she had ever thought about playing an instrument on the praise team, and she mentioned that she might want to give the bass guitar a try.  So for her wedding present, Marci got her first bass guitar and that was that. 

Fast forward to now:  A little over 11 years and three kids later, we are still at it.  So what has this experience taught me?  What’s it like to being married to someone else on the praise team? 

First and foremost:  This is NOT for everyone.  I’ve been a part of bands/groups/teams in which there were married couples on the team.  Some have been great to work with.  Others fought like cats and dogs and brought their problems with them to practices and performances.  Listen, if you don’t get along with your spouse, as in you are both having some serious issues, do not be on a praise team together.  I would even go as far to say that if you are having major marital problems, I would advise to not be on the praise team at all until your house is in order.  Your family should come before anything except for Jesus himself.  Your marriage and home life should be a much higher priority than church life, including playing on a praise team.  Your marriage does not need to be perfect; no one’s is.  Everyone has his/her moments and seasons.  However, major issues need resolution before being involved in a worship ministry.

I’m going to avoid as much lovey-dovey stuff as possible, and try to speak rather practically about being on a team with your spouse from my perspective.

The Good:

First and foremost, there’s nothing like worshiping together.  I could probably write a book on this.  I’ll just have to say it’s pretty awesome.

Second, because we are married, we have had to learn communicate; as a result, we’ve sort of developed our own vocabulary when discussing bass guitar/kick drum patterns (for those of you that aren’t musicians, the kick drum and the bass guitar play a lot of the same patterns…most of the time anyways). I’m not going to bother trying to go into some of these things because it would make no sense to write them down.  We also do a pretty good job of working through parts together and helping each other out.


Third, our kids get to watch us.  It’s sort of strange to think that our kids have never known us to NOT play music together.  This is a picture of Marci teaching bass lessons at church back when we first started MPBC.  Little Aedan is helping her with the sheet music:

This is a picture of Marci with Aedan strapped on her back when he was much younger.

Here’s Everett following suit, taking Aedan’s place on Marci’s back:

Here’s one of Emma Kate helping me play as I was working on songs:

The Drawbacks:

While it is a huge blessing to be able to play with a spouse, there are some drawbacks to playing together.  First, there is an incredible amount of juggling we have to do in order to make each week happen.  Here’s what we go through on a week-to-week basis: 

Wednesdays: I sometimes go straight from work to home (I have about a 45-50 minute commute on a good day), scarf down supper in about 10 minutes, load the car with kids, go to church at 6:00pm, come home after services/classes at 7:30 and leave Marci at church for choir practice.  I then wait on Marci’s folks to show up while listening to our worship music for that week and/or charting out new music to be played that night, get back to church between 8:00/8:15pm.  We can sometimes get out of practice between 9:30/10:00pm, but it’s been known to go longer.  We usually make it home by 10:30pm.  These days, I just meet Marci at church after I get off of work, but now she actually has to pack my supper along with 3 kids and all of their stuff.  Needless today, we are pretty exhausted by the end of the night.

Sundays:  We leave the house at 7:30am with three kids in tow (with church clothes packed), go over to Marci’s parents’ house to drop off the kids, and then we have to be at church at 7:45am.  During invitation of first service, either Marci or I sneaks out, drives over to her parents’ house, picks the kids up, drives back to church for Sunday school.  After Sunday school, we go back to the Reach Center, and play for second service.  For second service, Marci has Everett strapped on her back with her bass guitar strap run underneath her carrier (We’ve not quite figured out how to keep Everett from playing with her in-ear monitors yet, but we are working on it).  The older two kids are usually sitting on the front row so that we can keep an eye on them.

We’ve run into a variety issues when doing all of this.  What do you do when one of the kids gets sick?  What if they mess up their clothes?  What if Everett decides, for whatever reason, that he wants to cry all through the worship set?  What if the kids get hungry because they skipped breakfast and Marci and I are on stage?  What if one of the kids gets up and runs to the bathroom 4-5 times during the set?  Couple these issues with unavoidable technical glitches, like what if Marci’s bass pickups go out again?  What if the plug-in jack starts crackling?  What happens if I drop a stick, forget a last-minute change, or botch the welcome time…again?  I think that we’ve had all of these happen at least once.  Oh yeah, during all of this, we are supposed to be concentrating on leading people in worship because it’s not about us, right?

When we are on the same schedule, we can just get plain tired.  When we get home, we still have to cook food for the kids, clean the mess, etc. – all the things that goes along with raising kids.

Don’t get me wrong; I would much rather be playing with the team than not, but it can be refreshing when Marci and I both have the “day off” and can “just be members.”  It’s amazing how relaxing it can be to simply show up to church and then go home.  At the same time, I’m sort of blown away that this is probably how the majority of people that come to church do it.  They show up, and they leave.  No practicing anything through the week, “optional” Wednesday night services, and just being a member without being involved. To be totally transparent, it sort of bugs me a little – show up, get fed, and go home, then sit around and possibly wonder why God isn’t using them.  Anyways, I’m getting too far from my original post.

I’ll close with this:  A few weeks ago, we saw some folks that attend our church out in town.  We stopped to talk for a while, and the gentleman said, “Wow, I’ll bet that y’all just sit around and play music all of the time.”  No.  I mean, ummm, no.  While it would be a lot of fun to do that, there’s no way we have time or the energy.  

Being on the worship team with your spouse can be a huge blessing; I know that it is for me.  It can also be challenging if there a lack of stability.  Juggling each week can be shaky at times, but the blessings that we receive from serving are uncountable.  It is a privilege and an honor to serve Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, and I am doubly blessed because I get to serve with the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  


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