Worship Musician Safari Bingo

If you’re visiting a new church this weekend, chances are you might find yourself awkwardly standing off in a corner somewhere pretending to be really busy on your phone, after the church greeters have done their obligatory greeting script of ‘what’s your name,’ ‘is this your first time,’ and, if it’s a college, ‘GenX’, Kaleo, young adult, or post-’anything’ service, ‘how’s your purity.’ (By the way, I think generation X is technically 40 years old now.) Well, stand awkwardly in the corner by the bookstore pretending to decide what coffee to order no longer! I’ve got the game for you. It’s called ‘Worship Musician Safari Bingo’, and it’s the perfect cure for awkward standing because you have to walk around purposefully to play it, and everyone knows that the best cure for awkwardness is appearing to have something to do. Hey, that’s why most of us started serving at the church anyway…so that we weren’t standing around awkwardly anymore. Stick us into a new church where we’re not ‘on staff’, and just watch the awkwardness (and a little bit of terror) immediately overtake us. ;)

So here’s how to play Worship Musician Safari Bingo. Turn your bulletin over and make yourself a little 3×3 panel of square boxes. Sometimes you don’t even have to draw one, you can just use the church’s giving chart. You place one of the following categories into each box, and then search around the church like you’re the volunteer security looking for unruly youths, all the while making check marks on your bingo sheet when you discover the following:

1. Center Square: The Keyboardist

The keyboardist goes in the center square because this member is the most difficult one to spot. It may be a male or a female, and of any age. Most often, you will not even remember having seen a keyboardist on stage. They’re like the phantom pad-holders. Sometimes, even their own fellow worship team members will not even know they exist. If the team is a young-looking, rock-sounding team that plays mostly Hillsong, Jesus Culture, and Coldplay, whether or not the songs are singable or even worship songs to begin with, you may be in luck. In these instances, the keyboardist will most likely be the hipster-est of the hipsters. You’ll need to try to search out the worship team first. They usually refer to themselves and are referred to as ‘the band’, so as you pass huddled groups of parishioners, see if you can catch conversation fragments referring to them as such. As you get closer, start looking for the trail of pastry droppings too top shelf to be the church’s own refreshment offerings. Follow the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf trail until you get to the first group of people showing an exorbitant amount of collective chest hair and shoes that look like an elf would wear them. If they are truly the worship band, their pants will usually be rolled up above the ankle so that you can read the name ‘Tom’ on their shoes. Don’t worry about what this means. Now, slowly train your eyes from that group to the nearby surrounding shadows close to the stage. If you’re lucky, you may spot the keyboardist. He will be the only one too cool for Toms shoes, instead wearing something that you think you once saw your grandfather wear to take his morning constitutional. If he is speaking (on the phone, never to anyone actually in the room), he may even use phrases like ‘morning constitutional.’ If you venture closer, you may be lucky enough to make out some of the causes printed on his seventeen bracelets. Don’t worry, he can’t see you through his hair. If you could see his eyes, they would be looking off into the distance somewhere, as he maintains his aloof yet possibly slightly wounded somewhere in the past persona. And then if he is subconsciously murmuring Mumford & Sons lyrics, or some band you’ve probably never heard of, you’ve got him.

If the worship team is a more traditional team, you may just want to go ahead and leave this square blank. The only time you’ll ever have a chance to find him, is if he is actually on the stage, playing his keyboards with none of the other band around, as this is more than likely the only time during the service that he or she has actually been able to hear themselves play.

2. The Electric Guitarist

He is usually the reason the keyboardist cannot hear himself play. The loudness of his amp is usually only matched by the loudness of his voice. If he is being quiet at the moment, simply wait for someone to mention that tone is in the hands not in the gear, and that should take care of the quietness. It is often a male, and he will usually be the most gregarious of the group, so you may be able to spot him talking with actual members of the church. If he is, look for the loudest member of any conversation pontificating on any and all subjects. There is something about knowing tone and diminished chords (or at least listening to Hammock and John Mayer) that also makes guitarists think they know everything else.

If per chance he is not in any group, merely wait for any other instrumentalist to start practicing or for the house music to come on, and then listen for sounds of an amp cranked enough to be heard in stadium, as the electric guitarist shows the 4 people waiting in the worship center that he can solo over anything.

As a last resort for filling this spot in on your bingo card, stand in the middle of a crowded area and yell, ‘The sound guy’s right! You should plug straight into the direct box!’ and then run. The man chasing you is the electric guitarist.

3. The Drummer

The drummer takes the role of comic levity in the band, whether he actually is or not. He may be sarcastic or goofy, or take turns between the two. You can find him by listening for the guy quoting off-color movies or jokingly putting down other members on the team, but then getting instantly serious and giving hour-long ‘I-know-theology’ prayers as soon as the worship leader says it’s time for the pre-service meeting. More than likely, he will be wearing a low-riding beanie, a rastafarian dread cap, or some sort of head covering.

Often times you can spot him or her wandering around the church as if lost, as they usually need new direction every 4 to 5 minutes.

4. The Background Vocalist

This is the only member of the worship team who will predominantly be female on the majority of teams. This bingo spot is almost worth double if it’s a younger team. On these teams, if you find the background vocalist, you will almost always find one or more male members of the team in her presence. She will be the prize of all the unmarried members. Just look for the young girl wearing a scarf no matter the outside temperature next to guys also wearing scarves and/or mustaches doing the worst job in the world of trying to be near her will still acting aloof. This is the most fun to look for.

If it is an older, more mature-aged worship team, this can be one of the most difficult bingo card positions to fill, as she will more than likely be involved with conversations with others from the congregation due to the fact that the rest of the male musicians have no idea how to include someone in a conversation who isn’t interested in the lack of artistry in current Christian music, the best boutique oil for their car, or their early days touring with White Snake.

5. The Bassist

Many have tried. Few have succeeded. He may be the peering eyes from behind the door to the church kitchen. He may be hidden behind a giant stack of speakers bigger than him. He may even be posing as the guy handing you your coffee. You’ll never notice when he’s there, but should he leave, you will suddenly feel a lacking in the overall presence of the room, and everyone else will start to feel slightly emptier. He is the phantom, the hero, the presence…he is the bass player.

6. The Worship Leader

The worship leader can be a difficult one to spot. Worship leaders may be male or female. They may be up in the sound booth discussing their need for more high end reverb on their vocal channel with the sound guy, because they developed a slight feeling of discomfort in their throat the night before. They may be in the church kitchen, asking a volunteer to warm up some water to 83.5 degrees for their voice. They are often on what they describe as ‘the front lines’ of the battle for people’s souls. You might look for this front line of the battle by looking for someone talking with people about their real life issues, or out front serving coffee and smiles to people who may not have had one all week, or serving in children’s ministry. But you would be wrong. The worship leader is on the front line of playing their guitar in their office, preparing for the service to start. You may be able to be tipped off to them by looking for the person with in-ear heaphones dangling from their shoulders, or a wireless guitar pack in their back pocket. They will often have a very somber look on their face that you might recall seeing on the faces of bands in Rolling Stone magazine who believe that the charity to which they donate is changing the world due to their music. The logic doesn’t make sense, but that’s okay. They are the one member of the team who you can be sure is somewhere around the church, due to their facebook artist upcoming show page listing them as having a gig at this church, at this time.

Find the guy or gal who looks as if the have worked very hard at dressing to make it look like they have not worked very hard at dressing, and you may have found your worship leader. If their eyes look like they could break into calculated Sunday stage tears at any moment, you can just go ahead and check the box right then and there. (And no, I’ve never fake cried while playing worship; but I have thought to myself how nice it would be if some tears were to happen to fall at this moment. ;) )

7. The ‘Electric Guitarist 2′

‘Electric Guitarist 2′ is supposed to mean the same thing as ‘Electric Guitarist.’ But everyone knows better. The ‘Electric Guiatrist 2′ is the guy who gets stuck with all the rhythm parts to support ‘Electric Guitar 1.’ This member can usually be found by following the sound of soft crying into one of the bathroom stalls. Quietly check your bingo card and move on.

8. The Sound Guy

Long hair. New Balance cross-trainers. Aerosmith t-shirt. Bingo.

9. Acoustic Guitarist

Just follow the smile. This is the one guy or gal who really isn’t sure why they’re there, as the worship leader never, ever, ever, stops strumming their own acoustic. But they’re happy to be there nonetheless. So happy sometimes, especially for no one hearing them, that you have to wonder whether they know something the worship leader doesn’t. As in, the pastor has assigned them to shadow the worship leader and learn all the names of everyone on the team so that he is able to step in when the current worship pastor is…uh…’led in another direction.’ Because every lead pastor can only take so much hair gel and worship songs ‘off my latest cd.’ But by the time the worship leader has been ‘called to another ministry’, rest assured that the acoustic guitarist has spent so much time shadowing him that on that first Sunday, in steps a Toms-clad, Brewster fo-hawked, Taylor-playing new worship leader who leads off the set with a song from his just recently recorded album. And so the cycle continues.

————

The point, of course, is that the cycle doesn’t have to continue. This is an exaggerated, and unfortunately sometimes not-so-exaggerated, version of my experiences playing at various churches over the last 7 or 8 years. This is not necessarily indicative of any one church or any one person. I hope we’re all able to have a sense of humour about ourselves, find a little piece of ourselves in here, and hopefully then use that mirror to clean some stuff up. I’ve seen these folks, I’ve been these folks, I am these folks. But we don’t have to be. Church can be more than a stage with people like us who believe themselves to be there simply to serve God and serve the congregation, but if we’re honest with ourselves, would be mortified if the pastor or elder board ever let us know that the church would be taking a year off from worship bands and instead singing accapella hymns led by no one. Mortified, or maybe we’d be at a different church within the year. Church can be, and should be, more than just a worship band and a preacher. Those things are fine and good and often times necessary; but they can become the focus. Our only focus. And God is more than that.

Splendid.
Karl.

58 thoughts on “Worship Musician Safari Bingo

  1. its 3×3 bro!

    Also no acoustic at my new church…weird. But do I get extra credit for the bass player sitting on a stool the entire set looking like he is missing out on something much more important than playing music one note at a time.

  2. This gave me a much needed chuckle Karl! A lot of its really true….like the electric guitarist being loud bit. I am very easily the loudest person in a room most times haha. Also I laughed at the DI box stuff (should I admit that I use one on sundays and plug into the PA?) haha

  3. “You’ll never notice when he’s there, but should he leave, you will suddenly feel a lacking in the overall presence of the room, and everyone else will start to feel slightly emptier. He is the phantom, the hero, the presence…he is the bass player.”

    I wanna get that tattooed on my back. lol

  4. That DI box stuff brought tears to my eyes. Probably one of the funniest things I’ve heard all week. Its unfortunate, to say the least, that I am one of the poor souls who must plug his electric into a DI box.
    I do, however, run it out of the “cabinet emulator” output of my amp.

    Does that count? haha

  5. I have to admit I like when I’m scheduled to be Electric guitarist 2. I like playing rhythm, it gives me a chance to jump around a bit more and sing along. Of course, I like playing the lead bits when I’m on, I just have to concentrate a bit more.
    Here’s a good tip if you have to DI in your church: if you run a seperate head and cab, and quite frankly, you should :) Run the head into the DI input and send the return into your speaker cab. Then run the XLR out to your board. You get to hear how good your Alnico blue’s sound and the sound guys get a signal that is easy to work with. If sound levels are a problem in your church, which is probably why you are being asked to run into a DI, you can angle the speaker cab up directly at your head which means you can enjoy it with less volume ( and you might find you turn down the treble on your amp when you hear it that way).

  6. Classic post Karl.
    Recently we’ve moved state and have been trying out new churches and I’ve found myself doing exactly this (minus the bingo card)

    Love the part about the drummer needing redirection every 4-5 minutes!
    And +1 on the phantom bass hero :)

  7. Shawn–hehe Then how do I find you for bingo? But seriously, if it’s giving you good tone, rock it. :)

    Zach–haha Do you play bass as well?

    Kyle–I think as long as there’s an amp involved in there somewhere. ;)

    David–thanks. :)

    Mark Colvin–I agree actually! Good rhythm guitar is definitely an art, and a fun one at that. Way more difficult than people think.

    On the amp/direct box thing, does that do anything funky to your impedance?

    Baggas–I just saw on your post on the other post that you moved to Tasmania. How are you liking it?

    And I love drummers. :D

    • Hey mate, loving Tasmania so far. It’s really different to Perth, which is this big sprawling summery city (kinda like LA but not quite so big). Hobart is like this small funky city at the end of the earth, where you can never quite forget that you’re on the edge of the wild.

      Found a good church after a couple of strike outs. Won’t tell you my bingo scores. The main guitarist is a kindred spirit – first guy I’ve met in church who understood the meaning of words like “Strymon” “Tim” “King of Tone” “The Gear Page” etc – and he has a custom made purple AC30 clone specially made for him.

      Haven’t joined the worship team yet. Have had a couple of invites once the pastor forwarded my blog URL around the church (so much for maintaining my anonymity :) )but I’m waiting for the green light from Mrs Baggas, who is quite enjoying me not being involved in the band at present..

    • The DI thing is not safe with a regular DI box. Assuming the DI has an input impedance of 1Mohm plugging your guitar amp straight into it will put a huge amount of power into the input of the DI box which which could lead to: interesting smells, broken equipment, an unhappy guitar amp and also maybe a small fire in the DI box and/or broken output transformer in the amp if you’re unfortunate.

      Assuming the return is just literally your input signal then the speaker load will definitely reduce the power through the DI box but the voltage across the input to the DI will still be huge. If it’s an active DI box then it won’t be happy, if it’s a passive DI box then it may work but the transformer may be very unhappy.

      Basically you shouldn’t be doing this even if you can get away with it unless the DI has been designed to cope with it. As far as I’m aware there may be some that can perform this function :) Don’t go plugging the output of power amplifiers into line level equipment!

      • Thanks, James!

        Ya, sounds like something that a Fender or other solid state rectifier amp might be able to get away with, but not the majority of amps. And probably wouldn’t be too easy on any of them.

        But Mark, as one of my music professor’s used to tell me, if it’s working, just enjoy it and don’t ask why. ;)

        • Hmm, thanks for that. We are using a Radial JDI to do that. The tech in question said he got the idea from one of their ads. I really hope nobody damaged their amps in anyway! I will confess to having the usual gear page level of ignorance when it comes to electronics and how things actually work. Thanks to James for the heads up on this.

          • The only DI I can think of off hand other than the radial that can do this without any issue is the Countryman Type 85, which has a switch you can change from “pickup” to “speaker” and I agree wholeheartedly…you should all try this sometime. It sounds great!

          • I’ve been looking at the Frenzel amps that have a line out but I keep think, there is NO WAY I’m telling our sound man about that! Lol

          • Haha Im not allowed to use an amp and cab, so right now I am plugging into our system but my worship leader and sound guy (my sound mentor) are okay if I bring one with an XLR. Which I am considering since my Tweaker 40 went down.

  8. Right on! Edge of the wild sounds cool. :) And my wife would love that also. Right now, my church is kind enough to give me a few weekends a year where I do nothing but show up to church with my wife as if we were a ‘normal couple.’ haha It’s really, really nice.

  9. BINGO!

    It’s not even Sunday yet.

    It’s a funny, odd, and frustrating culture we worship musicians tend to create. But, worth it… sooooo worth it.

  10. Also– if any of these people are missing, check the parking lot before giving up. There’s a good chance they could be in their car listening to Bon Iver…

    Ok, I’m done…….. haha

  11. Straight up and down, diaogonal, 4-corners … I got bingo in all ways possible!!! :)

    I like the bit about the bass player ’cause it’s the closest to the truth … not by much, though. Haha

  12. Classic! Classic Karl! I’ll probably read this one 3 or 4 times in the next couple of days and then copy and paste it into an email for me mates on the worship team. Well done sir! And…so true…

  13. I just read this at work and people were coming to see what I was laughing uncontrollably about… The DI thing absolutely killed me. That was amazing.

    The bass player bit reminded me of the movie That Thing You Do. If you watch the credits it just says T.B. Player. They never gave him a name!!!! and I didn’t notice until watching the credits! Classic bass player…

    I wish we had a ‘keyboardist’ and a consistent Electric 2 position. We have 3 guitar players, one just had a baby and hasn’t been on for a while and the others, including me, are also worship leaders. Usually the only time we have acoustic and electric is when one of us is leading and playing acoustic and the other is playing electric. I’m really praying for another guitar player. Anyone interested in moving to Pittsburgh? Karl? ;)

    • If you were closer I would come by on the weeks I dont play. We have an A team and B team. I am on A team and for every two weeks we play we get on week off and thats when B takes over. And agreed about Rhythm everybody wants lead because lead players are the famous known ones not the Rhythm guys haha

    • I wish I could move back to Pittsburgh. Go Steelers!

      I am at a small church in Virginia and unfortunately, we haven’t had a drummer since December. I miss playing with a full band.

  14. “And then if he is subconsciously murmuring Mumford & Sons lyrics, or some band you’ve probably never heard of, you’ve got him.”

    I laughed out loud aka lol’d

  15. 30+ years of playing guitar only to discover today that I am a keyboardist…

    …time for some serious introspection (wait, that merely confirms the conclusion!)

  16. Zach–agreed. And nice Bon Iver reference! ;) Did you catch the Bon Iver ‘appearance’ on SNL congratulating Beyonce on her baby? ‘Bon Iver put himself to sleep!’

    Rhoy–haha I just couldn’t make fun of bass players, because I love them so much. Seriously, without bassists, 90% of what we guitarists do falls flat.

    Mark–:D Thanks, brother. All I did was observe. ;) Ok, and a little embellishing.

    Josh–haha Nice call on That Thing You Do! I didn’t notice until some friends and I were trying to figure out what the bass player’s name was in that movie. And then we finally checked and were like, oh we’ve already got it right. haha

    And I wouldn’t mind playing a little in Pittsburgh. If I’m ever out there, we should jam!

    Shawn–totally agree on the rhythm guitarist. Hard to play, but yet hard to get famous off of. :)

    Art–hehe Ashamed to say that I’ve been that guy. IN my younger years, of course. ;)

    JRush–lol Now that’s awesome! Good form, brother!

  17. I’m having an identity crisis, here. I try and cover so much of everything I don’t know who I am any more!

    Guess it’s time to buy a few pedals to remind myself.

  18. Because I like you guys here, I’m going to sell out all my bass playing brethren and let you guys in on a little secret.

    We know that the general public will never recognize what we do as something amazing and we’re ok with that because we’re too insecure to know what to do with any real attention. However, we know our role musically and, despite our insecurity, we also have a God-complex which allows us to feel like the musical puppet masters we are.
    Enjoy!

  19. Whoa, Matt,deep. For a second i thought you were Caleb — philosophical and all that. You know, I feel more like I do now than when I first started posting here. :-)

  20. Naal–lol The cure for all ailments.

    Randy–your pastor must be overjoyed! I know mine would. haha

    Jfarabee–we might secretly be the same person, bro. ;)

    Peter Yock–hehe Thanks, man!

    Matt–hahaha I knew it!! ;) ;)

    Randy–lol

  21. “shoes that look like an elf should where them.” Hilarious, yet accurate.

    You forgot to mention the other reason the pants are rolled up. It’s so they don’t get them caught riding their fixed gear bike (or they want you to think they ride a fixed gear bike).

  22. haha I must credit one of my guitar-playing friends, Shane Lonn, with that. We were talking about shoes one day and I mentioned Toms, and he asked that very question. ‘Are those those shoes that look like an elf would wear them?’ hehe

    And nice call on the bikes!! Totally should’ve put that in there!!

    • I was watching a video and it was talking about pedalboards for worship. The guy is the stereotypical new age worship guitarist haha

      Fantastic video BTW

        • Dude! This video (I subsequently found this blog :) ) is what really got me into taking tone and effects seriously. I didn’t understand anything about a signal chain till I watched this. Great video.

          • He has my ideal pedalboard haha. Blue LEDs and everything. It really is a great video, helped me understand delays a bit more.

          • Totally agree. I remember searching YouTube for pedalboard and found that video, one by Karl that lead me here and one of Andy Othling’s videos. Taught me everything I know! Lol

  23. Being the delegated bass player at my church (out of necessity) I absolutely love this…
    “You’ll never notice when he’s there, but should he leave, you will suddenly feel a lacking in the overall presence of the room, and everyone else will start to feel slightly emptier. He is the phantom, the hero, the presence…he is the bass player.”
    Probably the best description ever of a bass player!!!

  24. Funny stuff!
    I act more like a bassist but still have the shortcomings of a guitar player (that dude, I can change a lightbulb better than you attitude).
    Are there keyboard players out there who are doing the Skrillex bass wobbles? The hippest keyboard sounds I’ve heard in church have been from the youth band.
    The next bingo card should be for things worship leaders say. I think you’ve mentioned some of the phrases here before: (here) in this place, (here) (with us) this morning, joining us (this morning, this night). In this place is the equivalent of “in a world” or “in a time” used on movie trailers. :)

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