First of all, this is not about religion. This is about church as a venue for playing music. I've been playing in a praise/worship group for the past four years, and not only have I had a blast doing it, it has helped me grow as a guitarist and musician.
If you don't want to have anything to do with church or religion, then what I'm about to say probably won't interest you. But since 84% of the US population claims some religious affiliation it could apply to a lot of you. So here are several reasons why you might want to consider playing in a church group.
1. LOTS of opportunities to play -Your best way to improve as a guitarist and musician is to play with other people and in front of other people. On any given weekend the number of churches having live music outnumbers all other types of venues by a huge margin. Small churches in particular are always looking for musicians. In addition to church services, our group also does occasional outreach gigs for youth groups, community events, and the like. Some churches pay their musicians. Most don't.
2. Opportunity to learn from and teach others - In most church groups the range of musicians can range from beginners to professional level. In larger churches there is often a rotation of musicians, so you could have the opportunity to play with a lot of different musicians. Some you can learn from, some can learn from you. Most of the music isn't real difficult, so even those with modest levels of proficiency can play it.
3. Appreciative audiences - Smaller churches in particular are appreciative and non-critical of musician's level of talent, so it can be a low-stress way of getting in front of an audience. Where else could a hack player like me play to an audience who are all singing along, waving their arms, dancing in the isles, and on their knees weeping?
4. Wide range of musical styles - Our group plays five or six songs each week, and they range from hard rock, to Christian "pop," to syrupy ballads, to gospel, to traditional hymns. You may not like all the music you play, but it is great experience to learn new styles. For instance I don't like playing traditional hymns. They aren't written for guitar, and are often in odd keys or unfamiliar modes. So you learn. Same with gospel. Most of it is painfully simple, so you have to get creative to make it interesting.
5. Good equipment - Many churches have professional level sound equipment and trained sound technicians. I play in a very small church, yet our sound system is better than 90% of bars that have live music. Larger churches have state-of-the-art sound systems and recording capabilities.
6. It's FUN!
So there you go... Those of you who are playing in a church group, please chime in with your experience.
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Why would you want to play in a church group???