Having a modern worship service with a large band, modern songs and co-ordinated AV is all the rage, but takes a lot of effort. There is more to it than just putting names on a roster and getting people to turn up early on Sunday morning.

Not every church has the luxury of a large team of moderately talented musicians, or even marginally talented musicians, who can commit themselves to the music needs of the church.

Some churches have turned to using YouTube worship videos during the service. This is one way to ease the pressure on the music team – or at least give your lone piano player the week off.

But is YouTube Worship real worship anyway? Can we connect with God while we, essentially, watch TV? Can you really prepare the whole Sunday Worship the night before in your pyjamas while eating pizza?

But Is YouTube Worship Real Worship?

A live music team will play a fresh new song every time, even if it’s the same old song you hear every week, it is still new for today. And many will appreciate the human effort and devotion that goes into each performance as a sacrifice of praise.

But many of us have seen what happens to the burned out musicians who turn up and simply go through the motions. They have lost the heart for it. Performing live doesn’t always make it always more worshipful, just like being a recording doesn’t always make it less so.

Can you really prepare the whole Sunday Worship the night before in your pyjamas while eating pizza?

Yes. God can still inspire a YouTube playlist as much as a set-list for a live service. And God can inspire us in our pyjamas as much as in our Sunday best.

With YouTube worship one person prayerfully creates a playlist of videos and then on Sunday morning, they just have to press play. The church then watches and sings along and the service goes as normal. One person really can sit in down on a Saturday night and plan the whole thing out in their pyjamas.

You won’t get a smooth transition between songs with YouTube worship. But a quick jump from one well-presented video to the next is sometimes easier for the congregation to get past than a badly executed key change. So if your tiny team of musicians needs a break or if you are running a prayer night and don’t want to break out all the gear, maybe having a go at running YouTube worship night makes sense.

Can We Connect With God While We Watch TV?

Hymn books might still be around in some churches but chances are in your church the words are already on the screens. Some churches also have live footage of the music team on the screen so that the people in the back can see them properly. Not to mention the screens out in the crèche area for the mums to watch with their children. So would it matter if the footage is from a worship video instead?

But please don’t just use any old YouTube video. There is a world of difference between recording of live worship performed by professional teams at large conferences and a regular Christian music video. One is a recording of actual worship and the other is essentially an ad for their latest CD. Choosing the right video is key to it being worship rather than watching TV.

But maybe you don’t want the distraction of a band leading worship on a big screen. In that case, there are plenty of videos out there that are just the audio track and a pretty backdrop with the lyrics over the top and they are all nicely synced up. So there is no need to have someone on the computer clicking ‘next’ at the right moment throughout the song – and you never have to worry about them making a mistake and jumping to the wrong words.

Let’s face it … People are always going to grumble.

No one likes change. Ever. Once upon a time people thought it was impossible to worship to drums, or modern songs, or overhead projectors. So someone is always going to be unhappy.

YouTube Worship

YouTube worship makes it possible for a single operator to run the music without any musical knowledge. It is easy to create a list of pre-screened content and slowly add more songs over time.

Chances are something will go wrong either way…

Yes, things can go wrong with technology. An ad pops up (pay for premium), the wrong song was chosen and it’s a heavy metal band instead (check the entire playlist first), or the computer doesn’t work. Yep, that’s about it.

This means no volunteers fiddling with the buttons on the sound desk because they think the drummer is a bit loud.  No nasty surprises and impromptu off key guitar solos. No awkward ear piercing feedback from an amp. No dropping the sheet music as everyone flips to the next song. And the pastor can’t jump up on the platform to sing an old classic that no one remembers how to play.

It is all about God anyway.

We can worship with live music AND with YouTube, because worship is not about the sound or about the singing – its about praising God.

Teams have their place and videos have their place. Both can be done well, both can be done badly.

There is less room for error with the YouTube videos but there is also less room for spontaneity. A live music team creates roles for people and a way of serving and belonging to the faith community. It teaches us about patience, and about forgiveness and about respecting everyone’s contribution to worship.

And just because you have never done it before doesn’t make it wrong or ungodly. Perhaps starting with a video set at the start of a prayer meeting is a way to see if this suits your community, and maybe get out of the worship rut you might be in.

Kate Edwards is a School Chaplain, Kid’s Ministry Leader and aspiring Bible Scholar. 
Her special skills include playing Monopoly very quickly and attempting to make jokes about pineapples. 
You can find out more about Kate at her half-finished website www.thenurturedword.com.

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Author: CMM Staff