Everybody knows that ministry isn't for the faint of heart. I've experienced challenging circumstances in my life as a leader. Chances are, you have too. Those seasons have threatened my optimism and made me question my calling. Beyond that, a tough trek through the valleys of life can take their toll on teams.
Just like individuals, God never promised that teams would be immune to hardship. Those difficult seasons have the potential to derail even the healthiest of teams. I've experienced this threat many times - even recently. Each time, I return to four guiding principles that have always helped me through high-stress times.
So many churches continue to make the decision to become multi-site and, if it's done well, it's an effective strategy on a number of levels. If it's not, you're probably signing up for a lot of headache.
Like many others, our first steps on the journey of becoming one church with multiple locations came because of opportunity, not necessarily because of strategy. We've experienced God's faithfulness in more ways than I can count, but we've also paid a lot of "dumb tax." Knowing what we know today, there's one question I wish we would have asked (and answered) at the outset.
Last year, one of our teams created an element for a worship service that didn't work. For as much as I talk about the importance of cultural awareness, we created something that didn't resonate with our people. We simply missed the mark.
Somewhere along the way, people actually started reading what a tall, bald, middlebrained leader had to say and the foremost publication in his field included his blog an Editor's Pick for "Best Blogs of 2014"
Then, in his infinite wisdom and inexhaustible brilliance, the tall, bald, middlebrained leader did something profound: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Over the years I've had several colleagues ask me for advice about how to appropriately address leadership issues with their overseer. Like myself, these friends have served (or are currently serving) in subordinate ministry roles.
While I would never presume to understand the unique circumstances that senior leaders experience, the sad reality I've discovered is that there are indeed (legitimate) times when the subordinate wants to pursue a healthier leadership path than the overseer and this creates an extremely difficult paradox. Whether it's one particular decision/issue or a more broad and chronic cycle of questionable leadership practices, these are challenging waters to navigate for both the overseer and the subordinate.
Worship leaders love to discuss congregational engagement. And for good reason – one of our most sacred responsibilities is to lead people into an experience where they’re able to encounter the real and living God.
I’ve noticed in recent years, however, that this conversation often comes with a remarkably similar set of talking points. It’s generally assumed that (1) if the congregation can’t hear themselves, (2) if they’re unable to sing along, and (3) if the accompanying experience is too flashy or professional, then the resulting experience isn’t (or can’t be) worship.
I have a few additional questions I’d like to offer the discourse.
Without fail, 90% of candidates who apply for positions in churches won't make it past the initial review or first-round interview. Here are some of the reasons why, along with a few tips for landing a great new ministry role.
Like many other worship ministry leaders, I like to keep my finger on the pulse of what's working well in the Church and what's not. I seek out opinions and information from a variety of sources - relationships with other ministry leaders, blogs, social media, magazines, my own experiences, and more.
Every once in a while, I encounter a topic that seems to garner a fairly strong consensus of opinion but about which I disagree. My opinion on the selection of song keys and the use of two-octave worship songs seems to be one of those right now.
We've all experienced it - a great worship gathering led by a gifted leader and team. The experience was replete with beautiful, transcendent moments when people's hearts were meaningfully connected with God in worship.
The only problem is that the vocalists on stage had their eyes closed the entire time.
Today over lunch, I had a conversation with a fellow worship leader that has become recurring. If I've had it once over the last year, I've had it at least ten times: why is it so hard to find good electric guitar players? As a worship and arts ministry leader, this is an issue I've pondered at length. I became even more glaringly aware of its significance when I became an adjunct college instructor and started to notice an increasing scarcity in actual electric guitar players. Even more alarming, I've experienced an astonishing lack of interest to learn. Why?
In the mid to late 1990s, the "Modern Worship Revolution" was in full swing. I was finishing up college and the very first Passion album (Live Worship from the 268 Generation) was being released. Rock bands were becoming increasingly common in churches and the church music landscape was evolving significantly. We were being introduced to the likes of Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Charlie Hall, Lincoln Brewster, and Hillsong. It was a good time to be an aspiring worship leader.
Several months ago, I attended a large gathering of worship leaders and during one of the sessions, someone introduced themselves by saying, "Hi, I'm __________ and I'm a recovering thematic worship planner." I didn't realize that thematic worship planning had become taboo and lots of questions began to flood my mind.
Why in the world would he say that? And what did he mean? Have worship leaders really begun to abandon the potentially beautiful connection between the music and the message? Doesn't that do a disservice to the people we lead?
There's a recurring debate amongst worship leaders, lead pastors, band members, church leadership, and congregations at large - should we sing (a) familiar worship songs that our people know or (b) new songs? I think any seasoned worship leader will know that the answer is yes. Both. Yet in many places, a debate still persists and this is evidence that many churches haven't yet achieved a balance that helps their attendees connect meaningfully with God in worship.
Recently, I had a conversation with a college student who was required to interview a worship ministry leader for one of his music ministry courses. Over the approximately 90 minutes that we talked, we had a great conversation but I was intrigued by one of the final questions he asked:
"I've noticed that sometimes when you lead worship, you lead from the piano but this past weekend you led with no instrument. Why?"
Recently, I was asked about my "passions" and while I consider myself a very passionate person, I had never really sat down, given it intentional thought, and come up with a list. So I took some time to ponder it and here are my thoughts.
Group singing is becoming increasingly countercultural in our society. Over the last several months, I've had this conversation several times with colleagues and friends in vocational worship ministry. While attending a gathering at the Upper Room here in Minneapolis, I also heard their teaching pastor brooch the topic briefly in a series on worship and I appreciate the fact that there seems to be an increasing awareness of this phenomenon in church leadership.
Recently, I heard someone use the term "worship practice" when referring to a music rehearsal. At the time, I wasn't sure why it didn't settle right with me but I began to process through it and now understand why it bugged me so much.