A New Opportunity to Connect with Other Worship Leaders – an Update

We are all looking for ways to connect with other worship leaders, and last week I introduced a new opportunity to you, a Tweetchat centered on worship.

I have never done anything like this, but it is very simple and super fun.

Yesterday evening I hosted the second #worshipchat Tweetchat, and I had a blast interacting with friends across the continent.  I also made a new contact in the process.

If you are unfamiliar with Tweetchats, just think of an open air chatroom utilizing Twitter, led by a moderator, and organized using a unique hashtag.  For Twitter newbies a “hashtag” is a keyword preceded by the “#” symbol.  In this case we are using the unique hashtag #worshipchat.

Last night we talked about appreciating volunteers, and soon I plan to write a blog post digging into the comments.  After sharing ways we had felt appreciated in the past, we all agreed that the attitude and heart of a leader is the key component to making a volunteer feel valued.

So stay tuned for the blog post coming up shortly.

Our next #worshipchat Tweetchat is this coming Monday, August 13, at 8 pm EST.  Simply go to this Tweetchat room and you will see all of the comments organized.  Or you can simply send Tweets from your account, making certain to include “#worshipchat” in all of your tweets.  You can actually type “#worshipchat” into the Discover search field within Twitter and follow that way, but the nice thing about the Tweetchat room is that #worshipchat is automatically added to every tweet without you having to maunually enter it in.

In the meantime, share a brief story with us here in the comments below.

What have leaders done in the past to make you feel appreciated and valued?

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3 Truths on How to Place Your Singers on Stage

As a worship leader and planner I have often struggled with placing my vocalists. Juggling singers’ egos with stage layout concerns can be an interesting experience.

The question I received at the beginning of rehearsal that night was predictable and expected: “Why are we standing back here instead of out front? I’m a worship leader just like you.”

Ever hear that question before?

I prefer to use different stage setups from week to week to keep things a little fresh, but musicians – especially singers – can really struggle with that kind of change.

The perception is that stage placement denotes value, but the drummer is in the back every week and he is not worried.

The singer will most likely also bemoan the loss of a close connection with the audience because they are further apart. So is the bass player usually, but singers will say that the difference has to do with communicating lyrics.

Here’s the truth of the matter:

1. The primary connection with the congregation comes from the main worship leader. Other connections are secondary.

2. Too many people up front can obscure the leader, making it hard for the congregation to know who to follow.

3. Most importantly, behind all of the Christian jargon stage placement is a matter of ego and the heart. John modeled a right attitude when he said of Christ, “He must become greater, and I must become less.”

Musicians – singers especially – need to check their motives before complaining about where they are standing on stage.

Of course, worship leaders should ask the same question of themselves as they plan. Worship is about Christ, not our ego.

How have you dealt with staging your vocalists?

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?

5 Awesome Ways to Waste Rehearsal Time

As worship leaders we are always thinking about how to save rehearsal time, or at least I am.

This past week I was not the worship leader; I was a band member.  And it was fun.  I discovered it can be a lot of fun wasting rehearsal time, and so I decided to share some of the ways I love to waste rehearsal time.

Ready?

  • Practice your favorite riffs.  Isn’t it a blast to pull out your favorite lick from your favorite song and just blast it through the sound system?  I love testing out the really deep movie soundtrack pads on the synth to see what rattles from the low frequencies.  Or how about a bit of The Maple Leaf Rag on the piano?  Definitely fun.
  • Brag about your new girlfriend.  Um, yeah, this is a blast.  It’s not like I’m going to leave my life at the door.  My week and my life walk right in with me and I love to share it with those around me.
  • Tweet pictures of the band.  This is a new favorite for me.  I am a latecomer to the world of Twitter, but I love the idea of sharing my life with my friends and followers.  On Sundays I love to tweet comments from the message and text thoughts to friends who are not in town because I feel like I am getting to go to church with them.
  • Show off your new favorite chord voicing.  When I find a very cool voicing for a chord I love to play it.  A lot.
  • Break into a jazz improv session.  Sometimes a particular line of music will strike me and at an opportune moment I will goof around with it.  Sometimes the drummer and bassist will jump in, too, and we will all end up laughing.

About now some of the musicians who have worked with me are probably scratching their heads and wondering, “Where in the world is Maurice?”

Too much distraction can derail any effort to have a productive and timely rehearsal, but ultimately these are the things that make rehearsal fun.  Talking about your husband or the cute thing your son did or some rough thing at work takes time, but those conversations are the building blocks of relationship.

Dare I say we should encourage these things?

I have led plenty of rehearsals that were tight and efficient and which were not personal or relational.  I have also attempted to lead rehearsals where there was too much relating and personal stuff going on.

I would rather end up on the side of relating too much than on the side of being too efficient.  Life is about people, and so is worship leading.  Music is secondary.

If you want to make your rehearsals a little more relational, try one or more of these things:

  • Begin rehearsal with a 5 minute devotional followed by prayer for each other.  Keep the devotional to a thought, and then pray for any prayer requests the team members have.  Include the technicians.
  • Cultivate a structured but loose rehearsal.  Know what you want to do and how you want to do it, but allow room for laughter and life.  At past churches little impromptu jam sessions have turned into tunes we used as instrumental pre-service music.
  • Stop in the middle of a song and ask someone what the lyrics mean to them.  Create opportunities for people to insert their lives into the songs.  As a result the musicians will play and sing more from the heart, drawing the congregation in.

There are many ways to make rehearsals more relational without giving way to anarchy.  What has worked for you?

“We Don’t Have Enough Time for Music in the Service!”

Worship leaders, senior pastors, missions committees, and other church leaders are constantly jockeying for time in the services.  Worship leaders want more time for worship music, but the missions people want to keep the church’s missionaries front and center, and every ministry in the church wants time as well.

I have been playing on worship bands since I was 14.  Back then my dad was planting a church.  Because we were a small church we only had one service.  Also, because my dad, the pastor, loved music, worship music was always a priority.

When my former wife and I left for grad school the church service included about a 45-minute block for worship music at the front of the service, as well as a song after the message.

When we arrived at a new church in Rochester, NY, the service included a 15-minute block for worship music up front with an offering song and a song after the message.

Talk about culture shock and experiencing the polar ends of the spectrum.

The church in Rochester had about 1200 adults attending at the time and had 3 60-minute services in 2 styles.  My dad’s church had grown to 60 people and had just one service that varied in length.

At first I felt things were stifled with the small amount of time, but as time went on I grew comfortable with the change.

Now, 14 years later, a 45-minute block of uninterrupted worship music can even seem a bit long at times.

So I have to ask myself two questions:

  1. What contributed to the change in my thinking?
  2. Is there an optimal length of time for worship music in a service?  Why or why not?

I believe several changes occurred in my thinking and perspective.

  1. Before I moved to New York I believed I as a worship leader created space in the service for the Spirit to move.  Now I believe that the Spirit creates room for himself in the service; we only create room in our hearts.
  2. Before I moved I believed that certain elements in a service had more to do with worship than others.  Now I believe that no service element is in and of itself worshipful.  Elements become worshipful only when the heart of the person is already worshipping.

So is there an optimal length of time for worship music in a service?  You may have guessed by now that this is not the right question.

Instead, ask this question:

What will enable us to create room in our hearts for worship and for the Spirit to move?

Truthfully, you may not like the answer.  Matt Redman has described the now famous story of how his pastor felt their worship music was distracting from the worship service itself (my words).

In a move that would rock any church, he removed the band and sound system from the service for a period of time.  People would simply sit and share songs or Scriptures from their seats as they felt led to do so.

And this was at Soul Survivor, a very large church in England.

Eventually they began add music back in, but their hearts were different.  Matt wrote The Heart of Worship out of this experience.

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
and it’s all about you
it’s all about you, Jesus
I’m sorry for the thing I’ve made it
when it’s all about you
all about you, Jesus

The next time you feel tempted to launch into a heated discussion about how the service needs more time for music, stop a moment and ask God what would best help you and those who come to open their hearts to the Holy Spirit.  You might be surprised at the answer.

How have you solved your church discussions about time for worship music in the service?

Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians

Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Chances are you have heard these sayings more than once.

Chances are you laughed and forgot about them.

Nothing could be truer, however, in leading music rehearsals.

The guitarist thinks the tempo is too slow.  A bass is certain the tenors are flat.  The first violinist insists that the phrase should be played “just so.”

You are the chief, not them.  And they know it.

Just remind them and move on.

Your blood pressure and the quality of the music will improve immensely.

How do you lead when your leadership choices are being challenged?