Today we’ll hear from Gabrielle on how dance is a form of worship and praise, and why a dance ministry is a beautiful addition to a church.
So Gabrielle, how did you get started with dance ministry?
I started taking dance lessons when I was four, but liturgical dancing was something I did not start doing until I was in middle school. I joined the choir at my school, which eventually led to me participating in the gospel choir. Many of our songs were accompanied with moves, so it was like a “gospel show choir.”
One Easter, I somehow ended up teaching Kirk Franklin’s “Hosanna” to a group of girls at the church. Fortunately, I had learned the choreography from my choir at school, so I only needed to make a few changes. From there, we started a dance ministry at the church.
For many, dancing at church is something they have never seen before. How would you say dance is a form of worship?
I think dance is a form of praise as well as worship. As praise, dancing is a lot of fun, and it creates an atmosphere of jubilation and communal praise. If God inhabits the praises of His people, then I think He has an awesome time being in the midst of us glorifying Him through song and dance!
I view worship is a way to connect to God and encounter His presence in an intimate way. Some people do that by taking in nature, others offer up a song, and others meditate. Dance is just another means to an end. Every move you make allows you to focus on God, open up your heart to Him, release your deepest thoughts to Him, war in the spirit realm, and ultimately, let go of anything that is weighing you down through a spiritual catharsis. I love those intimate moments!
Amazing! Tell us about the dance team! Is there a strong fellowship among you?
We are blessed to have women from all over the world come together with one common goal: to minister through movement. New friendships have formed, gifts and talents have been unearthed, and people have experienced both spiritual and personal growth.
As with any group, differences will arise. And with eight nations represented and so many varied experiences, we each come to the ministry with our own perspectives, techniques, values, and expectations. But what has been our saving grace is where we place our focus. In short, we preach “purpose over personality.” When we understand our unified purpose to exalt the Father, glorify the Son, and set the atmosphere for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself among us, then we can die to self and our own desires.
With eight different nations present you definitely have a diverse team. Have you encountered cultural differences through leading this ministry? I’m sure different cultures respond differently to the way dance is used.
Everyone on the dance team thus far has come from a culture where dance is incorporated, be it religious, traditional, secular, etc. However, when people come from cultures where dancing is graceful, it can be challenging when a song needs more intensity and passion in the moves. And the opposite is also true; there are times when the dance calls for grace, and it is difficult for some to soften the moves if ladies come from backgrounds where dancing is more vivacious.
Not all Christian denominations worship through dance. Would you say dance at church could become a point of disagreement among a congregation? How can we include dance in corporate worship, so it doesn’t become a stumbling block or point of dissension?
I have been attending BICF City Church for five years, and I think that within the last year, it is truly starting to reflect its diverse congregation. Take the praise and worship experience on Resurrection Sunday for example. The various languages, different cultural influences, different instruments, and the various styles of dancing all created an atmosphere where differences were appreciated and not used as a means to divide. We were one body of many nations celebrating our one risen Savior through many different ways.
To your point, however, I believe that dissension in the church is a matter of the heart. I understand that differences will arise, but when they arise, the root of them is what leads to disputes and quarrels among us. If the root of our issue is out of preference and not purpose, then we have to examine our hearts. Are we driven by religion or are we allowing the Spirit of God to move in any way He sees fit to reach us?
We have liberty in Christ, and I think that liberty allows us to worship God in various ways. When we start to create stipulations for worship, we are basically trying to play God and limiting our ability to connect to God in a new way.
One thing that is important to note about BICF is that it operates in decency and in order. Before the dance ministry ever had a single rehearsal, it became a matter of prayer for me, which I then took to Ben, our worship pastor. It was only after approval from leadership and hearing from God that this was His will that the dance ministry started.
So, before we look at the church in contempt for allowing a dance ministry, or any ministry that we may not feel comfortable with, I would challenge us to pray about our heart posture and ask God to open our hearts to the new things He is doing in His church, understand the liberties that each of us has in Christ, and trust that God has put leaders in place who are attuned to His will for the church.
The beautiful thing about BICF is that in a communist country like China, we can worship God freely without persecution. Why not come into His presence with an open heart to see God reveal Himself in a new way to us?
I admire how intentional and prayerful the church was about this decision. So if a church agrees to start a dance ministry what are some guidelines they should follow?
To start any ministry, pray and ask God if this is what He has called you to do. For me, God made it very clear when I had two prophecies spoken directly to me.
On one occasion, a man on Julian Adam’s team came and told me about how he saw me dancing in the streets and how it would lead to breakthrough. Then, a woman from Bethel told me that she saw me as a dancer who danced with such joy and power.
I was amazed when they told me these visions. I held these things close to my heart, in tandem with prayer. I felt like this is how God called me to serve.
Secondly, I would say go to your spiritual leader to seek guidance. Be sincere and just explain what God has laid on your heart. Have your heart prepared for whichever way the Lord allows the leader to respond.
Next, seek support. I went to Kaliyah because I knew she had technical training beyond my experience and I knew that she was creative.
Finally, prepare your heart and mind for what you are about to commit to doing. Being a leader is no easy task, and you need to make sure that you are ready spiritually for what lies ahead.
Sounds like you really stepped into that role! What do you love about this ministry?
Learning the moves can be quite entertaining, and I enjoy the lightheartedness of simply coming together to dance for Jesus. Many times, I come to practice so tired and not wanting to do anything but sleep, yet I leave in high spirits.
I also love that we are from all over the face of the Earth. That was my heart’s desire: for the ministry to reflect the world, and yet, when we minister, we are all one.
Last, everyone on the team genuinely wants to dance as a form of worship, and that truly means so much to me as a leader. At our first practice, I told everyone that I wanted our anchor scripture to be John 4:24, “For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (NLT). When we come together with a worshipper’s heart, ready to worship in spirit and in truth, it is absolutely beautiful. I just know that it is pleasing to the Father!
Amazing! What do you find challenging about leading?
There are two big challenges. The first challenge is trying to get everyone to operate with a spirit of excellence, whether that is at practice or on the stage. No, we are not perfect, but we should have the mentality to give God our best.
Colossians 3:23 states, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”
It’s important that we understand that every move is an act of worship to God; as such, we should want to give Him all that we have to offer. This spirit of excellence calls for punctuality, a serious commitment to learning the moves, and an understanding of what we are tasked to do for the Kingdom.
The second challenge deals with interpersonal skills. With ladies from such different backgrounds, cultural norms, levels of experience, preferences, and perspectives, it takes effort to maintain a spirit of unity that we have among us.
Any leadership position challenges and stretches us as Christians. How has leading this ministry personally challenged you in your faith journey?
Whoa. This ministry has definitely impacted me spiritually. For one, it gave me a way to serve the body. I had a desire to serve but I had not reached out to anyone, needed more skills, or simply lacked passion. With dancing, however, I found my place in the body. And when I dance, there is an inexplicable joy that takes over my entire soul – unless it’s just a moment of euphoria right before I pass out. Just kidding!
Secondly, God has used this ministry to embolden me as a leader. Initially, I came into the ministry trying to be very accommodating, not wanting anyone to feel pressured to dance a certain way, hearing out everyone’s opinions, and trying to appease everyone. That was heavy, but I didn’t want to be labeled as too aggressive or overbearing.
Now I understand that my role is to lead, not to accommodate. God gave me a heart of compassion, so I can still lead from a place of love. When a decision needs to be made, though, I lead with the authority that God has given me when He called me to this ministry. And honestly, people look for that in their leaders–confidence and direction. In addition, the ministry has taught me that leading does not mean I have to have it all together, nor do I have to do everything on my own. I just need to be a willing vessel, knowing that I can reach out for help and get support when needed.
Thirdly, leading this ministry has refined in me a worshipper’s heart. It’s one thing to dance by yourself. But when you have to lead a ministry, you reach a new level of intimacy with God because you need that peace and guidance that only comes from Him. For me personally, it is in the secret place that I experience breakthrough as I dance unto Him and over my circumstances.
I truly believe that He sees my heart and my earnest desire to serve Him with my whole heart. That desire to use everything I have to bring Him glory is the essence of a worshipper’s heart, and that is what I hope He births in everyone in the ministry.
The dancers really added to Easter Sunday service this year. What other services does the team dance at?
Easter was amazing! It was literally people from so many nations and tongues praising and worshipping Jesus!
Ok, back to the question. We usually minister at Christmas and Easter services. This year has presented some new opportunities. We collaborated with AOM’s Dance Ministry, Unleashed, to minister during Unity Sunday. We also participated in a worship night for BICF’s young adult fellowship, The Embassy. So, God is opening doors and allowing the ministry to flourish for His glory and our good.
Awesome! Some readers might be reading this and wondering if there is space on the team for them. Who can join dance ministry?
Great question! Anyone and everyone can join the ministry. Men, women, and children are all welcome. No previous dance experience is required.
Well if that’s the case, maybe I’ll try out! Well, Gabrielle, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us about this awesome ministry! I’m sure a lot of us look forward to seeing the team on stage again!
If you are interested in finding out more about the dance ministry, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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