Paul Burton stepped into the worship role at Champions Centre five years ago. One of the things their pastor, Kevin Gerald, had requested of Paul was that there be young people involved and a lot of energy. So Paul was tasked with figuring that out.
This was at the time when Hillsong United was getting huge. So the team took their cue from that. They essentially went to school. They watched tons of videos of worship, trying to figure out what energy in worship looked like. They then did the hard work of introducing it to their team.
In the beginning, there were a lot of weekends when Paul was the only one jumping around and moving on the stage. In fact, it took about two full years of intentional coaching before the team saw the energy level of the worship team get to where they wanted it. It took a while for people to latch on.
And for their church, it was a bit of a culture shock because people weren’t used to seeing it. To fix this, Paul targeted some young people in the congregation who could help bring that energy to the stage.
Their philosophy of worship is that when you’re on stage – yes, you’re worshiping – but you’re also looking. Whenever the team saw someone in the audience who seemed to have the type of passion they were looking for in worship, they would approach them after service and see if they would be a good fit for the team. Once they started getting a few people on the team who had the type of energy they were after, it naturally became more and more part of the service.
Even still, five years later, they spend a bit of time in rehearsals working on their stage energy. They have had conversations with people that sound like, “Maybe you shouldn’t jump because it looks a bit weird. Perhaps, instead, move your shoulders side to side.”
The team doesn’t want someone to jump around if it’s going to feel inauthentic for them to do it. Then it becomes more about show. Instead, they just want the worship team members to be themselves on stage – to express their life and energy within the church during the worship team.
And they have a broad spectrum of types of people on their team. They have some girls and guys who are more internal when it comes to their worship style. The team doesn’t want to strip that away from them. But they work with them to find a couple of things they can do to help draw people into worship and still be themselves.
Another thing they’re intentional about when it comes to the DNA of the church is getting men involved in expressive worship. Women tend to express their emotions differently than men do. But when Paul moved into this role, pastor Kevin was passionate about male leads.
So the team intentionally went after guys in the army – guys with muscles. But guys who were also worshipers who could sing. Paul even said things to them like, “Wear a t-shirt. Show off your muscles. Show that you’re a man. People need to see you worshiping.” The goal, of course, wasn’t for the sake of showing off the muscles. The goal was to show the men in the congregation that real men worship.
When the team first focused on this approach, there were sometimes weekends in a row when they didn’t even have any female solos from the stage. They wanted to help get the men to be expressive in worship and dive into it, and that meant giving men a chance to see other men lead.
Their goal is to set up the worship team as an example of what’s okay for people to do – to be the example.
How this Translates to the Congregation
While the energy on stage is pretty big, the energy in the congregation isn’t that bad either. If the worship team is at 100%, the regular church attender in their congregation is probably at a 50%. This, of course, is their regular attenders.
From the stage, the team will often see guests who don’t get it at first. They’ll often stand there, looking around, and obviously be asking, “What is this?” But once they get plugged into the life of the church, they often see them shift into the DNA and expression of worship in Champions Centre.
That’s their goal with worship. They want to create an atmosphere where it’s safe and encouraged for people to express their hearts through worship. Nobody will ever feel silly singing their lungs out and jumping around, because that’s the atmosphere they’ve established.