A Case for Stripped-Down Worship

I was talking to a guitarist friend recently who plays at a very contemporary church. The bass player and drummer couldn’t make it on a Sunday and the worship leader was frantic. How could they possibly worship without a full band?!

Typically, I want my praise set to sound as elaborate and professional as it can—driving electrics, keyboards, loops and tracks … the works.

Seeing as many people involved as possible with the best sound possible is the general goal, and should be the norm. However, on this foundation of your music program, it’s a nice change of pace to occasionally strip things down. It might also be a necessity, as in my friend’s situation, when some band members are simply not available, and in summer months when players are on vacation.

Which songs work well in an acoustic setting? Some modern worship tunes are built around the drums, a specific groove or guitar lick and won’t translate well to an unplugged feel. A drum loop or simple track (with strings, pads and/or synth effects) can help fill out an uptempo acoustic praise song that needs a little energy.

So, yes, you really can worship without a full band (or without a band at all, as Matt Redman learned)—your congregation will enjoy the change of pace (and without the added decibels, they may actually hear themselves sing.) Try an unplugged Sunday in the next few weeks—your band might be playing for extra Christmas services, so it’d be nice to give them a break before the hectic holiday rush. Plan your praise set accordingly, but have a few alternate tunes lined up in case you discover the ones you’ve picked won’t work without the full band.  

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Arranger/composer Don Chapman is the creative energy behind several websites devoted to contemporary worship: HymnCharts, WorshipFlow, and WorshipIdeas.com. He's the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas newsletter that is read by over 50,000 worship leaders across the world.