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Worship Team Dictionary (for fun!)


A new worship team member once confided to me that she felt like a stranger in a strange land. “Learning these songs is easy,” she said, “but I need a translator to help me understand all the jargon!”

What “jargon?” I had just told her the chord chart was in Dog, but we’d be starting in Cat, so she should hold back her groove until the transpo. I asked her to open her voicings and get ready to skate over the signature while we resolved into the target key of the next tune of the ballad salad.

It seemed plain enough to me. Don’t people speak English anymore?

Loving shepherd that I am, I started a glossary to help her and others. Unfortunately, laughter kept overtaking me, and I was forced to shelve the project.

So no, Barnes and Noble will never feature a Worship Team Dictionary. But all this reminds me that the same words that might confuse people can also provide some insights about the nature of a musician’s work. As you read the following, some of the definitions may resonate with you. Most are just fun. Some are intended to provoke a bit of thought. Certainly, none are meant to hurt any feelings, so please receive them in the spirit offered.

And, should I fail to land in the pocket, please just vamp with me until we get to the turnaround…

ALTOS and BARITONES (ahl-toez and behr-i-toenz) People who complain that the songs are too high until they learn to harmonize.

BALLAD SALAD: (ba’-lud sa’-lud) A worship set of quiet songs intended to foster a gentle flow of worship and meaningful encounter with the Lord. The Ballad Salad generally follows the up-tempo moments of celebration (see also Rocking the Flock).

BIG KAHUNA: (beeg’ kah-hoo’-nah) Lead Pastor whom God has placed in authority over you. Honor this man. Submit to him graciously unless he asks you to break one of the 10 Commandments.

BLACK HOLES: (blak-hoelz) The dark vacuum around people in the congregation who steadfastly refuse to connect with God during worship. Sometimes accompanied by contemptuous facial expressions. If you can intercede for these individuals during worship, do so, but otherwise avert your attention to avoid being sucked into their gravitational pull. (See also Super Novas)

BLANDED WORSHIP: (bland’-dud wur-ship’) The uninspired result that comes when we approach corporate worship with the pathetic goal of avoiding any criticism.

BLENDED WORSHIP: (blend’-dud wur-ship’) The astonishing result of a tapestry of praise that’s been skillfully and lovingly woven together with worship ideas from the past and present. “All Creatures of Our God and King” can flow seamlessly into “Here I Am to Worship.”

CHECK UP FROM THE NECK UP: (chek’-uhp fruhm thuh nek’ uhp) Important moment during rehearsal when we lower our boundaries and get honest about how we’re really doing. Often involves prayer and teaching. (See also The Hot Seat).

CHOIR: (kwy’-ehr) A disciplined group of singers who sacrifice untold hours away from home to master the intricate details of a three-minute choral arrangement. Their performance is intended to delight and inspire a room full of listeners who would statistically avoid choral music.

CHORD CHART: (kord’-chart)

A document that contains lyrics and a few vague musical suggestions. May or may not indicate the proper key, time signature, or even the proper moment of the chord change, but gives musicians something to look at while the song goes by. Particularly frustrating to pianists, who prefer being told exactly what to do. Ideal for guitarists. (See also Sheet Music)

DRUMMERS: (druhm-merz) Terrific people who worship God by hitting things. Churches often keep them in Plexiglas cages.

EARLY SERVICE: (uhr-lee’ surv-us’) A service in which attendees may appear zombie-like. While unnerving to worship leaders and teaching pastors alike, the event is generally harmless.

FRISBEE STYLE: A deliberate approach to worship leading in which the leader’s role is “handed off” from song to song. A good way to mentor new worship leaders.

GROOVE AND FLOURISH: (gruev and flehr-ish’) The mark of a good musician interacting with other players. His or her part should land subtly in the pocket, submitting to other musicians; this is “groove.” “Flourishing” occurs when a player discovers the perfect moment to emerge from the groove with a few cool, inspiring licks.

HAND-BURGER: (hand-ber-ger’) The painful result of carrying musical gear through a narrow doorway and not paying attention.

HOT SEAT: A chair placed in the center of the room for a member of the worship team who needs prayer; the rest of the team gathers around and ministers to them. (See also Check up from the neck up.)

HUMILITY: (hew-mil-ih-tee’) The beautiful quality in a talented artist of considering others more important than him or herself. Closely associated with servanthood. Rare.

HYMNS: (himz) Historic praise music. These are usually boiled down to 4-part arrangements on a single page, devoid of any intelligent rhythmic flow. Lyrics are often stunning, and many of the melodies are almost as powerful as the timeless truths they carry. These songs are infused with the heart-cry of a billion Saints and should be treated accordingly. Ignore at your own loss.

IN THE POCKET: (in thuh paw-kett’). The subtle groove created by mutually submitted musicians.

OPEN/ROOTLESS VOICINGS: A stylistic practice of both guitarists and keyboardists in which primary notes of a triad are substituted or dropped altogether to create versatile textures. Can be puzzling to newbies who briefly wonder why a C chord might contain only a D and a G.

ROCKING THE FLOCK: (raw-keeng’ thu flawk)

The effect of an up-tempo praise song on God’s people.

SEVEN-ELEVEN MUSIC: (7-11 mew’-sik)

Praise songs that repeat the same seven words eleven times or some similar configuration. These are generally enjoyed by youth, but found annoying by older adults.

SHEET MUSIC: (sheet mew’-sik)

A document containing detailed instructions for a musical arrangement. Perfect for keyboardists. Particularly frustrating for guitarists, who a) hate to be told what to do and b) usually can’t read it anyway. (See also Chord Charts)

SIGNATURE: (sig-nuh’-chur) A musical phrase that helps define or set up a song, most often heard in the introduction. Well-known signatures include the opening 6 piano notes of “Shout to the Lord.” The signature often forms the “turn-around” for the piece and the closing notes, as well.

SUPER NOVAS: (soo’-pehr noe-vuz’) People in the congregation who visibly connect with God during the worship events. Not a dependable indicator of their maturity, but impossible to miss and a joy to observe. (See also Black Holes)

THE THRONE-ZONE: (throewn-zoewn) The place we’ll spend eternity, and therefore the place we should spend every possible moment on planet Earth right now.

VIBRATO: (vi’-brah-toe) A technique used by singers to help hide pitch problems.

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