images (1)“No music stands on stage” is one of those worship rules that we’ve all heard. Now, I don’t know the rule’s origin, but I do know people that follow it with a vengeance!

It’s a good rule. The absence of music stands makes for a cleaner stage, better lighting and more prepared musicians. By enforcing that kind of rule, you raise the bar for excellence and put some healthy pressure on your team.

I’m neither pro-music stand or anti-music stand. My point is more subtle than that. You see, I think churches are still too obsessed with copying what other bigger, more famous churches do. I want worship leaders in small, local churches to realize that every church is different.

Don’t believe me? Take a month off and visit four churches within a five mile radius (or 20, if you don’t live in the South.) You’ll find out that no church is exactly like yours!

When it comes to music stands, there are some good reasons why some churches should leave ’em on stage.

Many of use volunteer musicians. That means our teams are comprised of folks with full-time jobs, and in many cases, very stressful full-time jobs. And yet these people serve; they learn their music, they lug gear to rehearsal, they’re prepared on Sunday and they keep coming back for more!

Why in the world would I threaten these people about something as silly as music stands? My team is good with music stands. They make notes, they remind themselves of changes, they write down effects and patch settings. I start pulling stands off the stage and all of sudden, everybody gets frustrated because the quality is gonna’ drop.

I recently had a conversation with a young worship leader who tried very delicately to avoid calling me “old.” Believe it or not, that didn’t bother me. Because I am getting old. And you are, too.

You know what happens when worship leaders get old? They start forgetting stuff. Like lyrics. Or chords. Or where they put their keys. Before you start making all sorts of rules about knowing the material, leave a little room for grace. Because it might end up that you need it more than anybody.

You know who else uses a stand?

YOUR PASTOR. How many people walk out of your service going, “Gosh, that preacher must have been totally unprepared! He had to use a stand!”

Guess who else uses one? THE PRESIDENT. “Washington is abuzz tonight with accusations that President Obama doesn’t care about our country. The proof? He used a stand.”

See how dumb that is? If you’ve got important stuff to say and do, use a stand.


Do you have a “no stands” rule at your church? Why or why not?



  1. Bob Whitton

    We/i use stands. Always have. Like you mentioned, I always want to be considerate and cautious with the volunteers and the fact that their lives don’t revolve around the music team and playing. Full time jobs, full time families, full time lives, I’d rather have a happy, refreshed team than a stressed out tired team. If you can tell that they aren’t even coming remotely prepared then I mention something about practicing or at least listening to the songs before hand. Sure having music stands doesn’t look professional, but it’s not a profession for most people. I’d rather have my team hit the right notes than look pretty. Anyways, this is actually a touchy subject for me if you can’t tell. The last church I worked at was very performance oriented. I went around with my fellow staff members about the stands. The lead pastor even warned me that we weren’t allowed to smile during the service if we made a mistake. Yikes!

  2. johnnydrummer

    Music stands are ENTIRELY professional. Professional musicians don’t have the time to play four songs over and over and play them from memory like a showcase band. Caring about trifles like that is, IMESHO, the mark of a worship leader entirely clueless about what he’s doing. Who cares how it looks? No one should be looking at the band!

  3. Frank

    This brings up a toughy – perception.
    Like it or not, perception is an important aspect of a church service (or any other area of a church, for that matter). I am reminded of 1 Cor. 9:19-23 where Paul focuses on grace and self-sacrifice “to win as many as possible.” Since any given church service can “serve” all spectrum ends (the skeptical newcomer is going to see things differently than the gracious church member), what “product” will be presented to that spectrum?
    No music stands? No sandals? No tattoos? No neckties? No skirts? Red carpet? Green carpet? Hats?
    For my take, “professional” (however one defines that) isn’t the priority – engaged is.
    Regarding the “no-stand” thing, it is likely relative to the role one plays. A drummer (myself) gets away with a lot more than an “up front” leader might. I suppose that’s why vocalists often rely on a monitor (where available) providing lyrics and the semi-recent advent of tablet usage on mic-stands. They’re still getting help that volunteers often welcome, it’s just not as obvious/distracting.
    Serving people will always create tension. God is in the tension.

  4. Aaron

    Good post. I like the points you bring up, Todd.

    My question, we have found that some musicians will use a music stand as a crutch, or hide behind it. They don’t really need the music in front of them for most songs, but they stare at it whenever they are playing, and don’t connect with the congregation. Using your analogy, it is the difference between the pastor having a stand and using his notes versus reading his entire message from his notes without looking up….

    How do we overcome that without going overboard outlawing stands?

  5. Don

    We have co-worship leaders. In other words we all help each other out. We cover so many different songs literaly hundreds there is no way to memorize every one of them. And we all have jobs outside the church. So yes we use stands. In my opinion if peoples hearts are right and they are there to worship The Lord they are not going to care whether you have a stand or not. It is all about worshiping God.

  6. Greg Johnson

    Music stands for musicians? Yes. For worship leaders? No way. It is a crutch, an excuse to be unprepared and a barrier between worship leader and congregation.

    • toddwright

      I use a music stand. You think I’m using it as a crutch? That means I’m unprepared?

      I tend to think a worship leader wearing a scarf is a bigger barrier than a music stand.

  7. johnforbis

    If I was a touring worship leader, doing the same setlist every night, I’d say NO WAY to the use of music stands. However, I’m not a touring worship leader, I lead at the same place every weekend and we have a boatload of songs we run through our setlists.

    If the only thing I was responsible for each week where preparing the 4-5 songs we do – I could see saying no to music stands, but alas, there are a LOT of other “todo” items in any given week that have absolutely nothing to do with the songs in that week’s setlist.

    My encouragement comes from watching professional musicians on shows like American Idol who use music stands all the time…and I’m not even an American Idol fan. 🙂

    It’s so easy for the church these days to get caught up in performance/competition that we forget the main reason we do what we do, it’s to create an atmosphere where people can sense the amazing awesome presence of the One True Living God in our worship gatherings. I personally don’t believe that having music stands on stage has anything to do with that, but then I’m not all that smart, I’m just the music guy.

    I’d also love for someone to do a survey of people leaving church and ask them, “Did you notice if the band used music stands today or not?” I’m gonna guess the number would be really, really high of people who had no clue if there was or wasn’t music stands…just a thought.

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