Why Does Every Church Have a Tambourine Lady?

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Ever had a surprise tambourine performance in your worship service? It’s a moment that can catch you off guard, leaving you unsure of how to respond.

It’s a phenomenon that seems to transcend denominational boundaries. Whether you’re in a staid Presbyterian congregation or an energetic Charismatic fellowship, chances are you’ve encountered the infamous “Tambourine Lady.” She’s the one who shows up with her own tambourine, ready to shake it with gusto during worship, often to the surprise (and sometimes horror) of the worship team. So, what’s the deal with the Tambourine Lady, and how should churches respond?

A Biblical Instrument

The tambourine, also known as the timbrel, has deep roots in biblical worship. In Exodus 15:20-21, we see Miriam leading the Israelite women in praise with a tambourine after crossing the Red Sea. The Psalms also mention the tambourine, with Psalm 150:4 urging us to “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing.” Throughout church history, the tambourine has been a staple in worship traditions, evolving and adapting to different eras and styles.

A Matter of Worship Style

The way a church approaches the Tambourine Lady often depends on their worship philosophy – and both are valid! Some churches prioritize order and structure, valuing the artistic merit and quality of their worship. These congregations might have auditions to make that only skilled musicians make it onto the worship team. The goal is to create a polished, professional sound that directs people’s hearts and minds toward God.

On the other hand, some churches place a higher value on participation and inclusivity. They believe that anyone should be able to sing or play an instrument in worship, even if their pitch is a bit off or their rhythm isn’t quite on point. The focus is on the sincerity of the worshipper’s heart rather than the perfection of their performance.

What type of worship fits your church?

To Tambourine or Not to Tambourine?

So, should churches allow the Tambourine Lady to do her thing? There’s no easy answer, and ultimately it depends on the church’s culture and values.

For congregations that prioritize musical excellence, the Tambourine Lady’s enthusiastic but potentially distracting playing might not fit the desired worship style. In these cases, some churches have found success by gently inviting the Tambourine Lady to join the worship band. You could explain that your band spends time each week rehearsing and it’s not fair to them to introduce a new element out of the blue that could throw them off (especially if that “element” is off beat!)  She probably will not accept so problem solved! If she does want to join, this approach allows her to express her worship while making sure her playing aligns with your musical direction.

However, for churches that emphasize participation over polish, the Tambourine Lady might be seen as a valuable addition to the worship experience. Her genuine expression of praise, even if it’s a bit unconventional, can inspire others to engage more fully in worship. Some congregations embrace the spontaneity and joy that a tambourine can bring, viewing it as a way to encourage people of all ages and skill levels to get involved.

Finding a Middle Ground

Of course, there’s a middle ground between these two approaches. Many churches strive to balance musical quality with opportunities for congregational participation. They might encourage the Tambourine Lady to play during certain songs or parts of the service, while also providing guidance on how to play in a way that enhances rather than detracts from the overall worship experience.

Some churches have found creative solutions, like having a designated “tambourine section” where enthusiastic worshippers can play together, or offering tambourine guidelines before worship. The key is to approach the situation with grace, understanding, and a willingness to find a way forward that honors both the Tambourine Lady’s heart for worship and the church’s musical vision.

At the end of the day, the Tambourine Lady reminds us of the joy and enthusiasm that should characterize our worship. While her playing might not always fit perfectly with the band or the service structure, her heart to praise God is something we can all learn from.

The best thing we can do is bring it to the Lord in prayer. What is His heart for her and what is His heart for your style of worship? Seeking God’s guidance and wisdom is always the right move, whether we’re navigating unexpected tambourine solos or any other worship-related challenges. So, before you make any decisions, take a moment to pause, pray, and listen for the Lord’s direction.

Who Is the Tamborine Lady?

The tambourine’s popularity in church services can be traced back to charismatic and Pentecostal movements, which place a strong emphasis on rhythmic, participatory worship. For some, especially older generations, the tambourine is like a time machine. It takes them back to an era when these jingly instruments were a common sound in church. It’s a nostalgia thing.

But the tambourine isn’t just some old-fashioned tradition. It’s the great equalizer of musical instruments. Anyone can pick one up and start shaking it, no matter how much (or how little) musical talent they have. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it lets everyone get in on the action.

This instrument is more than just a way to make some noise for the Tamborine Lady. It’s a personal expression of her faith. When she’s shaking that tambourine, she’s letting everyone know worship isn’t just something you watch – it’s something you do. It’s a celebration, and she’s leading the charge!

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From Worshipflow editor Don Chapman:

I like to listen to Youtube videos/podcasts as I drive around and have wished I could find a good, current playlist of all the top worship songs.

I can’t find any! So I made my own on the Worshipflow Youtube channel!

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