Why You Shouldn’t Read This Blog

I get tired of headlines that say, “How a One-Legged Man Won the 100 Meter Dash and So Can You,” and other such ridiculous stories.  Usually they end up trying to sell you something.  The title should be more like “Why You Should Let Me Sell You Something You Don’t Need.”

So in the interest of truth in advertising, I decided I would tell you why you shouldn’t read this blog.

  1. Because I have it all together.  Definitely not.  I am as broken as the next guy.
  2. Because you need a quick fix.  There is no such thing as a quick fix.  As one person from copyblogger said, “Shortcuts are always the longest.”
  3. Because I am the best at what I do.  No, you can probably find quite a few people who are better at this than I am.
  4. Because your mother told you to.  Um, yeah, this is not a good reason, unless your mother is a personal friend of mine.  In that case, maybe.

On the other hand, here are some reasons why I would hope you and others would read this blog.

  1. You need encouragement.  We live in a very negative world.  The media always seems to be looking for the next shooting or scandal.  I want to be a place where you can find something positive to chew on.
  2. You want to become a better worship leader and musician.  I want you to avoid pitfalls that I have conveniently found for you.  I am also passionate about worship, worship leadership, and music, and I will give you everything I’ve got in the hopes of helping you get a step ahead.
  3. You are a new leader.  This blog is definitely for you.  I remember stepping into my first full time worship leadership job and discovering over time how green I was.  I needed some place to go to get my questions answered.  Fortunately God provided a friend or two on staff to support me.  If I don’t have the answer I will find it, because I want you to have the support I would have wanted.
  4. You need to be reminded that God is faithful.  He is.  I can promise you that, and I will continue to remind you.  I know this by experience.
  5. You need to know that good things can come out of failure.  As Seth Godin says, failure and being a failure are two different things.  God uses our failures and mistakes to help us grow.  I know.  Going through a divorce was the most difficult thing in my life, but it probably has been the best growth experience I have ever had.

So now you know.

And I hope you stick around and invite your friends to read this blog for all the right reasons.

Networking 101 for Worship and Music Leaders, and a New Opportunity

One thing they didn’t teach me in college is how to network with other leaders.  If they offered the class, no one told me about it.

In fact, at my first church job I was a little afraid to meet other leaders because I felt like such a newbie, an outsider.

Yes, I had a Master’s degree from the Eastman School of Music and my father was a pastor, but I still felt like I didn’t have the level of skills of my colleagues around town.

Slowly, though, I realized that I needed to reach out and seek encouragement as well friendship from like-minded leaders.

In fact, I have a new opportunity for you to connect with other worship and music leaders, but more on that later.

The key here is “like-minded.”  I don’t have any time for arrogant self-promoters, and there are plenty of them in the church world.  I don’t operate that way, and I can’t stand those that do.

Here are a few of the ways I search for potential leaders to befriend.

  1. I research the other churches in town.  What churches are like-minded?  Which ones are pushing the edge of creativity?  Which churches have a reputation for excellent music?  Once I find the churches I research their worship and music departments and reach out to the worship and music leaders.
  2. I ask my friends.  I just moved to Sarasota, FL, last fall and my friend and boss is very connected here.  Hanging out and talking with him naturally puts me in contact with other leaders.
  3. I attend conferences.  Several of my favorites in the past have been the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and the Willow Creek Arts Conference.

Here are some of my favorite ways to get to know other leaders. 

  1. I Google them.  In fact, I Google everybody.  If I am going to meet someone completely new, I will plug their name into Google and see what comes up.  Sometimes I find the most interesting things that can lead to great conversations.
  2. I treat them to coffee or lunch.  I enjoy sitting down one-on-one with another leader and asking them about their ministry and work.
  3. I friend them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to see what they’re talking about.
  4. I arrange a lunch for several leaders.  Getting a few other leaders together for lunch can invite some great conversation.
  5. I attend their events or churches when I get the chance to check out what they’re doing in person.
  6. I listen to any recordings they have made.

A New Opportunity

Recently I was talking to a professional social media friend about networking and she mentioned Tweetchats.  I had never heard of them.

A Tweetchat is where a group of people converse about a topic using Twitter.  They mark every post with a particular hashtag (a hashtag is a word preceded with the “#” symbol) so that others can follow the conversation.  By logging into Tweetchat each person can enter the hashtag into the field at the top and see just those comments, or you can use a tool like Hootsuite to sort the comments.  Both are free.

My friend encouraged me to do one on worship, and so I am.

I am really excited about doing this, although I have just the slightest bit of apprehension since I have never led one before.

Join me this coming Monday, July 30, at 8 pm EST for a Tweetchat.  Just include the hashtag #worshipchat in your comments.

I will have some questions to guide our conversation, but the main goal is simply to provide a place for like-minded people to meet while discussing worship and worship music.

I hope to see you there.

Again, join us Monday, July 30, at 8 pm EST for a #worshipchat Tweetchat.  I can’t wait to meet you!

How do you find and network with other leaders?

How Many Worship Leaders Should We Have?

Some churches emphasize having one primary worship leader for their church.  Other churches work hard to have many different worship leaders, rarely having the same person up front from one week to the next.

Is there a “best way” when it comes to the number of worship leaders you have up front?

I think there is, but the answer is not as obvious as you may expect.

(My 7 year old son just looked at my title and said, “About 10.”  Let’s take his comment under advisement.)

First Example

In my first church job the senior pastor and I pursued an environment with one primary worship leader who was on staff, adding other leaders every 4-6 weeks.  Up until that time we had four worship leaders who led once a month, one of them being on staff.

Needless to say, moving to one primary worship leader was a radical change.  Here were some of the reasons for our decision:

  • We wanted a strong bond between the worship leader and the senior pastor.  To do this the senior pastor needed to work with the same person every week.
  • We wanted to improve the service flow and production.  By having a staff member be the primary worship leader the senior pastor could also work one-on-one with the worship leader during the week to intentionally craft the service experience.  While you can do this with multiple volunteer leaders, having the leader on staff cuts out a lot of potential miscommunication.
  • We wanted to communicate a unified vision.  The senior pastor was new and the church had been without a senior pastor for three and a half years.  By working closely with one primary worship leader the senior pastor could be more effective in communicating the vision of the church at a critical time.

Second Example

In 2010 I began working for a different church.  This church strongly emphasized multiple worship leaders.  I eventually became the Music Pastor, but I only led worship once every 4-6 weeks.

We pursued multiple leaders there for some of these reasons:

  • We placed a high emphasis on serving.  Our goal was for every person to use the gifts God had given them.  We found out about every person with gifting in music and worship and sought them out.  We also held regular church-wide auditions.  Our standards were high, but we found some excellent leaders and were able to live out a culture of service in the way we led worship.
  • We measured successful leadership by how well we trained leaders.  Every leader was expected to replicate themselves as much as possible.  If we were not delegating we heard about it.  The view was that by not delegating we taking away someone’s opportunity to use their God given gifts.
  • We had a highly effective communication structure.  We could have multiple leaders because over the years this church had built a strong and effective way of communicating with the leaders, and the leaders knew what to expect.
  • The pastor wanted primarily guitarists to front the band and I am a keyboardist.  I accomplished this goal by staging the guitarists forward and acting as Music Director on the weeks I was not leading worship.

Conclusion

How many worship leaders should you have?  By now you have probably guessed my answer.

Every church is different.  They are all in different seasons at different times, have different leaders and expectations, and have different challenges to overcome.

Here are some questions you can ask to decide how many worship leaders your church should have:

  1. Do your worship pastor and senior pastor have a highly effective communication structure in place?  Effective communication is always important, but becomes even more paramount with multiple worship leaders.
  2. Are your worship leaders all 110% supportive of the vision of the church?  Better to have one good worship leader sold out on the vision than 5 stellar worship leaders who don’t really get it.
  3. Does your church actually have more than one excellent worship leader?  If they’re not available your decision has been made for you.  Start praying.
  4. Do you have a primary worship leader who is burning out?  Some leaders do not have the bandwidth to lead well every week.  In that case, definitely find some excellent alternate worship leaders to protect your primary leader’s health, and pray that your leader is humble enough to accept it.
  5. Is the church struggling to deal with transition?  Sometimes, not always, it is helpful to have just one worship leader during a time of transition.  Other times having multiple leaders during transition helps the congregation see that they are not being cut out of whatever change is happening.
  6. What kind of look does the church want up front?  If you have a guitarist as a worship leader but the senior pastor would prefer to have vocalists without instruments as worship leaders, then make the necessary adjustments.

How have you decided how many worship leaders to utilize?  What other questions did you ask?

Four Great Times NOT to Make a Decision

One of the most important skills we can learn is when and when not to make critical decisions in our lives.  By important, I do not mean what shoes to wear (ladies) or what sports game to watch (men). I am talking about decisions that have the potential to set or wreck the direction of your life.

In 2009 I went through a divorce, and the emotional rollercoaster since then has been enormous.  Soaring moments of success have been followed by abysmal depths of despair, both personally and professionally.

I went from being the leader of a large worship ministry to a part-time music director.  After having worked back up to a full time music pastor position, I needed to move out of state.

After moving I was not doing what I really loved; instead of leading worship and music I was laying stone.  Then I transitioned to a part time position playing organ and conducting choir, while continuing to do masonry part time.

In addition to masonry and my role as organist and choir conductor, now I also do copywriting, arranging, and mentoring.

In another post I will talk about how God has used every one of these life changes to radically transform and grow me emotionally and spiritually. 

That transformation, however, was accompanied by wild swings in my emotions and in my walk with God.

In the middle of this chaos I have often returned to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) guideline.

Using the acronym “HALT,” AA teaches men and women to make decisions at appropriate times and to avoid the temptation to return to alcohol.  I have found this tool enormously helpful when I have been trying to manage life in difficult times.

Here are four great times not to make a decision.

When I am Hungry.  When I am hungry I lose the ability to think creatively, problem solve, and focus.  I know that I need a lot of protein to give my mind staying power, so I keep a few relatively healthy snacks on hand like beef sticks (I said relatively), protein bars, and almonds.

Know what your body needs to function properly and keep things on hand to take care of yourself.

When I am Angry.  When I am emotionally overwhelmed, worried, angry, or experiencing anxiety, I lose my ability to clearly distinguish how I really feel about an issue.  I am learning in confrontational situations to keep my mouth shut and simply say, “I don’t know what to think right now.  Can I get back to you on that?”  That way the person knows that I heard them, but also that I need time to process what I have heard in order to give them a good and honest answer.

Learn what situations and issues set you off emotionally and decide ahead of time how you are going to respond.  When you are in the middle of an emotional situation is not the time to be thinking about how you should respond.

When I am Lonely.  Of these four situations loneliness is my biggest trigger.  God wired us to be in close loving relationship with him and with others, and when we do not have those relationships we look for something or someone else to fill the void.  That “filler” can be alcohol, drugs, porn, ice cream, self-pity, or any number of things.

Loneliness is particularly an issue for those who are single or single again, or who are in an emotionally estranged relationship.  Don’t be naïve.  Learn your preferred “filler” and decide ahead of time how you are going to deal with it. 

When I am Tired.  If I am tired mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or physically, I am not at my best.  Tired people do stupid things.  After 10 pm my mind can go to mush in the simplest discussions.

Know how much sleep you need at night and get it.  Take a 20 minute nap at lunch.  Take a walk to rest your mind.

By recognizing when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired and by responding wisely you can avoid making costly mistakes and decisions.

As a Christ follower I will also say that just following “HALT” is not enough.  I have found that I am much more peaceful and clear-headed when I begin the day by reading Scripture and speaking with God. 

When life is complex, God remains simple.  He loves me, and that is enough.

How have you avoided making mistakes and bad decisions when you have been Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired?

How to Become the Most Valuable Person on Your Creative Team

This Sunday Geoff Talbot’s blog Seven Sentences: Creative Inspiration for Daily Life will post my take on How to Become the Most Valuable Person on Your Creative Team.

Each post on this Seven Sentence Creative Blog is roughly seven sentences long, which generally communicate more than many of us say in seven paragraphs.

How have you made yourself a valuable creative team member?  Check out the blog on Sunday and leave a comment.  I would love to chat with you.

How to Make Your Quiet Time Creative

I love quiet time with God, but often I find it helpful to do something creative with my time.  I am a creative person, after all, so why shouldn’t I?

Innovation

The basics of time with God:

  1. Scheduled – If it’s not on the calendar it won’t happen.
  2. Time – It has to be more than a passing prayer or thought.
  3. Alone – Remove distractions.
  4. Bible – God speaks most often through his Word.
  5. Prayer – Speaking with and listening for God.
  6. Journal – Often it helps to write down your thoughts.

In reality I could simply read the Bible, speak to and listen for God, and journal every day and probably have a good relationship with God.  Ultimately exclusive time with him and a heart inclined to him are all that are needed.

But if I am honest I sometimes can slip into routine and take God for granted.

Here is where creativity comes in.

Creativity can:

  1. Refresh your interest by breaking routine.
  2. Reframe old truths in new light.
  3. Reveal new truths because your mind is working differently.

Recently I decided I wanted to do something different, something creative.  The verse of the day on my YouVersion app was 1 John 4:18-19 (CEV):

A real love for others will chase those worries away.  The thought of being punished is what makes us afraid.  It shows that we have not really learned to love.  We love because God loved us first.

This verse really struck a chord with me, so I decided to dive into it a bit more.  Here is what I did:

  1. I read the verses in several translations to get a full picture of the verse’s meaning.  I usually read the Amplified Version (AMP), the New International Version (NIV), the Contemporary English Version (CEV, and the English Standard Version (ESV).  Sometimes I also read The Message (MSG) translation.
  2. I wrote out how the verses impacted me in light of what I was experiencing in my life.
  3. I wrote out my conversation, or prayer, with God.  I have found that writing out my prayers can be very illuminating.
  4. I wrote a song based on those verses.  So far I have only two verses and a chorus (it needs a Bridge), but I felt like I was able to put into song form the encouragement I needed that day.

Here are the lyrics:

When I am afraid
I will trust in You
When life is hard
I will trust in You
When feelings fade
I will trust in You
When friends betray
I will trust in You

Your love is deeper
Your love is fuller
Your love has overcome my every fear
All of my worries
All of my trouble
Your love has overcome my every fear

When I am alone
I will trust in You
When I am wrong
I will trust in You
When my words fail
I will trust in You
When hope is gone
I will trust in You 

Your love is deeper
Your love is fuller
Your love has overcome my every fear
All of my worries
All of my trouble
Your love has overcome my every fear

What creative things have you done during your quiet time?

Give Me Patience, But Hurry

Every one of us has felt this way. Today I was visiting a friend and her late husband had placed this plaque on the wall:

20120713-231629.jpg

Good things come to those who wait, but usually our waiting has a schedule, which really is not waiting at all.

This past Sunday pastor Verne at Abundant Life Church said we need to give God time to finish the process he is working. If we do not wait we do not allow him to finish what he is doing.

Where in your life do you need to wait patiently and let God finish what he has started?