Language Matters

I was reading 1 Peter 4 and was struck by verse eleven.

“If you have the gift of serving, do it passionately with the strength God gives you, so that in everything God alone will be glorified through Jesus Christ. For to him belong the power and the glory forever throughout all ages! Amen.”

What stood out was the beautiful description of serving—empowered by God, full of passion, for the King’s glory alone.

Oh, that our worship teams would always fit that description!

Can we call them to that identity?

I often hear leaders refer to their teams as volunteers.

I don’t think “volunteer” is a bad word. It does speak of a willingness to do something. But I’ve heard it used so often as the excuse why you can’t ask more of a group - “they’re only volunteers.”

“Yes,” I think, “that’s why you can’t ask more of them - because you see them (and they see themselves) as mere volunteers.” Does this word, this identity, enable them to feel a sense of “deserving to be thanked” because of their own good graces they have chosen to chip in for the cause.


All I’m asking you to do is consider if there’s a better word to use than volunteer when referring to your team. The etymology of the word comes from military service. It fits military service or community service. But when it enters the house of God, I feel like it falls short.

Besides, you don’t want to tick off your Calvinist friends. :)

And what would you replace “volunteer” with? “Team?” Too generic. “Servant?” Too churchy. “Family?” Too cliquey. “Worshiper?” Hmmm…

Let’s try this out. I went to the Worship Leaders + group on Facebook and searched for posts including the term “volunteer” and switched it out with “worshiper.”

  • I keep asking my worshipers to show up on time, but they are always late.
  • We have such a limited number of worshipers available for this Sunday.
  • Do I require too much from my worshipers?
  • For those of you with largely worship-based ministries, what is your worship turnover like?
  • I know that we’re all worshipers, but we’re all a pivotal part of the worship service.
  • My five worshipers on ProPresenter, four worshipers on lights, four worshipers on video, and two worshipers on the soundboard are more than capable of covering things.
  • Have any of you ever asked a worshiper to step down or worship elsewhere? The team I inherited has a few worshipers in places that they honestly shouldn’t be worshiping.
  • To participate, we ask our worshipers to attend the weekday rehearsal and be in attendance for at least two Sundays in the month.
  • We are having difficulty finding worshipers to run slides on Sunday mornings. (Our entire team is worshipers).
  • I have a great group of worshipers that make this service possible. That being said, a few of my worshiper musicians have decided to step away, and, being a mostly traditional church, my worshiper base within is tapped.

Hahahaha…I hope you LOL’d at several of those. How does this make you think differently about your language? Will you keep using volunteers, or might there be a better term?