“Give me a Break!”

Week after week we plug in, warm up, rehearse, and play. For many, like myself, it has become so much of a routine that when it comes to Sunday we do it automatically. I’m not saying that our worship is not sincere or entirely automatic, but the process of getting to that point is. Weekly we serve alongside faithful team members who consistently use their God-given talents in service to the congregation and it’s Sunday worship. Sometimes it becomes all too easy for us to get caught up in “Sunday routines,” our musical abilities, and the never-ending quest for musical and Godly excellence and we forget to take care of and cherish our most valuable gift… the people around us.

Are we working our volunteer teams to death?

Below, I will give several reasons why I prefer “Team Rotations” when it comes to volunteer activities and services. Keep in mind that full rotations are not always an option in every church and within every service or ministry opportunity. But… when rotations are or become an option I would encourage you to take these points into consideration before making a decision one way or another. So… in what ways does a volunteer team rotation help?

  • Provides opportunity for new membership and mentorship.

If you are like myself or most churches you are always in dire need of more volunteers. We constantly advertise the need and ask around, but never show our congregations the availability of joining new opportunities. When we do worship team rotations (or even media/ tech teams for that case) we are consistently showing our congregations that we have a desire to include new people into our ministries and help them grow into a new position. Not only do we show an inclusive mentality or spirit by providing an opportunity for people to serve, but we also provide an opportunity for ourselves or other “seasoned” members of the ministries they are joining to mentor them and to help them grow. In doing that we are extending the reach of our ministry beyond just a few people and reaching out through new people and new avenues. If we are seeking quality and longevity doing a rotation is the best option by my opinion because we get to mentor, grow each other, and bring in newer members of all ages to serve.

  • Provides opportunity for Worship Team members to get to worship in other ways.

As a worship pastor I can tell you that many times I have felt totally out of place in a worship service where I was not on the stage or had noting to do with the music, planning, production, etc. That shouldn’t be the case. I have heard and even said many times, “I worship through my music.” That is true, but that shouldn’t be my only avenue or method of worship. Instead we should be always worshipping through whatever means is available to us. By rotating on and off the stage we are providing our members the ability to worship through avenues other than leading the worship, and the opportunity to worship alongside their brothers and sisters in Christ instead of having to always lead. It is good to have a break… we may feel uncomfortable with it at first but I guarantee you that in the end it will be beneficial. This method not only provides a break from the routine; but it also gives members time to worship with their physical and spiritual families.

  • Prevents burnout.

Every person is susceptible to burnout… even if they think they aren’t. While using our abilities each and every week we are constantly giving and giving and pouring out all that we are before our congregations while leading them in worship and sometimes we just don’t “take in” enough in return. I have found that I have lost my joy in leading worship before without even knowing it! By allowing breaks for rotation we are allowing and providing periods of refreshment where our team members can be poured into consistently with nothing to be expected of them in return. We aren’t a never ending well of resources and neither are our team members… we can’t expect anyone to give and give without a time of refreshment and refilling.

Hopefully this provides some food for thought and together we can build up our volunteers and increase the longevity of their ministries and the ministries of our churches collectively. In the end, we must take care of our people… they are our most valuable and least replaceable resources.

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Want to be a better Worship Leader? Well… who doesn’t

The title says it all… I’m not sure if I have ever met someone who didn’t want to be better at whatever they did. But complacency is a dangerous thing and it creeps in when we least expect it and can steal our joy and our determination and commitment to excellence and improvement. The Bible calls us to be excellent and to do everything as if for the Lord. Below I have explored just a few ways or attitudes that can help us become better worship leaders. This list isn’t exhaustive and isn’t a “quick fix” or a step-by-step method to improvement. But… if we commit ourselves to doing these few things I would struggle to say that you, and those around you, won’t notice a difference!


Love Worship!

This may seem obvious but worship shouldn’t just be a job or part of our jobs… it should be a lifestyle that we love and enjoy. Our worship shouldn’t be dependent on our circumstances, work-load, preferences, congregation size or involvement. We should be worshippers on and off the stage and all our worship should be sincere. What we do from the stage on Sunday mornings should just be a normal outflow of what we do all week… each and every day. Our personal lives should echo and resemble what we do on the stage. If we want to be better worship leaders we should stop playing games with our personal worship, because it is exactly as important as it sounds.

Never Stop Learning.

This particular point comes natural for some and is a distant thought for others. We shouldn’t stop pursuing excellence or the betterment of ourselves as worship leaders when we find a position or job. Outstanding worship leaders value training and love learning. Feel like you’re in a “rut” or afraid that you might be developing one? My response to you would be: Don’t get complacent or content where you are… continue moving forward, learning, and becoming a better worshipper and lead worshipper. This point doesn’t mean the same thing for every person in every situation, you don’t have to go to seminary to learn… there are a variety of blogs, podcasts, books, seminars, and resources out there that you can dig into for free! Let’s not become complacent, let’s not shy away from feedback, and let’s never claim to know-it-all.

Be a Team Player and Create Space for Others to Serve.

We can’t do it all on our own… well maybe you can but I’d personally like to choose not to. Within our ministries we should work hard to create a team mentality and we should model servanthood through all that we do. If we want to get better at our craft we must surround ourselves with others who are willing and able to serve. The role of a worship leader isn’t just to lead corporately, we should minister individually as well. We should be open to including others and look for opportunities to encourage and to empower. If our desire is to improve ourselves and our ministries then we must be secure enough about our own calling, position and place, to “give up” a little when it comes to leading.

Be Happy Where You Are.

Sometimes it’s easier to say that, “God has us where he wants us” than it is to believe it. But I assure you… all things occur according to His will. Never stop pursuing Him. Excellent worship leaders are grateful and excited to serve wherever they are. Our happiness and contentment should not be determined by the size of our congregation, the appearance of our building/sanctuary/ stage, the number of Facebook likes or followers we receive on our Twitter accounts or blogs. Our joy should come from Christ alone and our ability to serve Him. Let’s serve faithfully and be joyful servants where we are.

Don’t Depend on Yourself!

Often times we can depend on ourselves and our talent more than the Spirit… I’ve done it. Our worship shouldn’t be talent or performance based, it should instead be authentic and pure. If we want to be better worship leaders then we must stop banking on our own talent and experience and start relying on God and His Spirit. Remain vigilant and obedient and allow God to work through you and your team on a weekly basis. The church doesn’t need another rockstar… it needs some faithful servants.


Give me some feedback and maybe some other points that you can think of below! Thanks all! Stay safe and warm.

What is hindering our congregations from Worshipping

Every worship leader has had a moment where they really felt the Spirit moving through the words of a given song only to open their eyes and see the congregation staring back at them with the “deer caught in headlights” look. Isn’t it frustrating and confusing? Sometimes it can seem like the more we pour ourselves out into leading our congregations in God exalting worship the more blank stares we receive. It’s almost like the connection is lost in the moment, or like our congregations just don’t get it.

First off, I want to make it very clear that we need to be careful not to judge the effectiveness or the “level” of our congregations worship by the people’s outward response. Because, a response is something that is very unique to every individual… I may respond to a particular situation entirely different than you do. My response being different than yours makes it no less of a response. If our worship is truly as it is called to be then it will bring about new revelations about our Savior and require a response from each and every individual. As I said in my last blog post, “The Bible tells us that worship is not just to engage the audience, but to have them change as a result of it.” I say all of that as a preface to this blog or list to make it clear that just because we don’t see a physical or outward response during our corporate worship doesn’t mean that something is wrong with us our congregations… sometimes God is working behind the scenes of a stone cold face.

That being said, we do have the desire to do all we can to invite authentic worship during our gatherings. Often times that may mean reevaluating the things that we are doing… if you feel your congregation is struggling to worship on Sunday take a look at these things and see if anything we are doing as leaders is fostering a difficult corporate worship environment.

1) Are we providing a context to our worship?

People lead busy lives and sometimes church becomes just another thing on our schedules. When we gather on Sundays are we providing a proper context to our worship or are we just “diving in” and hoping that people follow? I’m not saying that we must always go to a traditional “call to worship” but I am saying that we need to provide an environment that focuses our worship from the beginning. As worship pastors we must be just that… we must pastor and lead our people to the throne room of Christ each and every time we come together. Without context our congregations will struggle to worship every time.

2) Are we leading worship or performing?

Excellence is something that I strive for and I believe we all should… but sometimes we can lose focus of the heart of our worship in the pursuit of excellence. Our excellence is absolutely important, but if it’s not balanced with genuine worship then we have missed the mark and we have done nothing more than perform for an innocent captive audience. The idea of leading worship is entirely different than that of a performance because it requires us to lay our own preferences aside in order to better serve our congregations. If I play the newest songs to perfection with a click track and all original loops but sing them to high for my congregation to sing along then how have I served them? I don’t want my congregation to go into Sunday morning like a crowd heading into a concert…

I want my people encounter God through their worship on Sunday and be changed because of it!

3) Are we singing songs that our congregations know?

Just from reading the title to this point some people will say, “We can’t always stick with what is familiar!” To that point I would have to agree, but we don’t have to force feed new material to our congregations each and every week. When a song isn’t immediately familiar, people listen. It doesn’t mean they’re not worshiping and trying to sing along, it just means that they’re watching the screen trying to figure it out. If we play a new song each and every week and never allow our congregations time to learn the songs that we sing then we create a congregation of screen watchers and eliminate any freedom they had to worship without being glued into a staring match with the screen. When our congregations begin to learn and remember the words to the songs that we sing then they can begin to carry those songs around with them on a daily basis within their hearts and minds and allow the words to soak in and affect them to their very being. By allowing them to learn and enjoy familiar songs we create an environment of expectancy when we gather to worship. People look forward to singing to God the song that has been on their heart and mind all week.

4) Are we connecting with our congregations?

How well do you know your congregation? Are you honed into the pulse of your people? Are you singing songs that reflect the environment within your body of believers? Or are we settling for the “trendy” or “traditional” thing to do? At any given time our churches might not be worshiping because they simply aren’t connecting with us. This connection can take time and concentrated effort to establish… but once we have tapped into that pulse then we can work to truly meet our people where they are and serve them better through our choices and what we do.

As a worship leader we must be mindful of the things we do and environments we create when we cone together to worship corporately. A fellow blogger put it best by saying that we must, “become students of who we lead. We must pastor them, love them, pray for them, and pour into them.

How are the songs that we lead shaping the Gospel?

Each and every week people flock in and out of the doors of church buildings throughout the United States and around the world. Many have heard the Gospel proclaimed accurately, many have heard compelling stories or corny illustrations, and sadly many haven’t heard (or remembered) anything at all.

How many times have you left your respective sanctuary or church building and been unable to voice the main point or passage of the sermon in which you just sat under? I would dare to say that it happens more than we believe. I believe that on a typical Sunday if we were to give a survey asking church goers what passages were used or exposited from their pulpits I think we would be shocked at the results. I also believe if we were to give the same survey but instead asked which songs were sung from the stage the results would be much improved. I’m in no way saying this as a jab to our preaching or expositing of Scripture today… I am actually saying this to bring to light how important our song choices are on a weekly basis.

We live in an entertainment driven culture, so sermons or teaching just aren’t stimulating enough to keep some people connected. I found it interesting that researchers have discovered that the brain releases dopamine, a chemical related to attention and focus, when people watch TV or play video games because that “entertainment” is giving the them a “stimulus surge.” In a culture filled with this “surging” it is easy to see and understand why we have collectively become desensitized to things like sermons, lectures, meetings, etc. This lack of focus without “surging stimulation” can be seen first-hand in our sanctuaries and classrooms.

Interestingly enough, the brain also releases dopamine when stimulated with music!

I have said all of that to make my next point clear… our music is important. The songs that we sing will likely be remembered when all else is forgotten, and because of that we must work to make wise choices regarding what we sing and play in our limited time each week. Our music shapes the Gospel for our congregations on a weekly basis whether we want it to or not.

You may be thinking… Geez! How do I even begin to select music that is going to shape the Gospel for someone? Do not fret… below I have provided some helpful thinking points for when you are surfing the web, CCLI, or flipping through sheet music making your selections.

Are we singing for ourselves or for God? Revelation vs. Response.

Unfortunately, to have an “enjoyable experience” has become the leading motivation for much of what we do, and that includes our worship experiences. The idea or expectations of an “entertainment experience” have leaked over into what we do on Sundays and Wednesdays… especially in the modern American church. Our cultural context has somehow managed to define our worship services. Our worship has become more about ourselves rather than about pleasing and glorifying God. We have become horizontally focused rather than vertically focused. Our songs should portray Scriptural truths about God and provide focus on Him and what He has done… not necessarily on what we are going to do for Him. A response to Christ is absolutely important and should be included somewhere in our selections… but it shouldn’t be our primary focus. Our worship is about what we are going to do for Christ… it is about what He has done for us. The Gospel and who Christ is should be apparent in our songs. The Bible tells us that worship is not just to engage the audience, but to have them change as a result of it. We should work to reveal the Gospel through what we sing on Sundays and allow the congregations to decide their response to that revelation for themselves.

Me vs. We & I vs. Us

Our congregational worship takes place together when we gather together… our individual worship should be continuously happening throughout the week. If we hold that to be true then why do we still continue to place the emphasis on the “I” or “me” our corporate worship? Too many of the songs that we sing place emphasis on ourselves and our individual work instead of on Christ and His work through the church. Our songs should be inclusive both in words and meaning, we should sing songs that place emphasis on the church, or bride of Christ, as a whole instead of elevating the personal aspect. We aren’t isolated, we as believers should be dependent on Christ as well as each other and the charge that was given to follow and be disciples of Christ was given both individually and to the body as a whole. Let us sing songs that challenge us to walk beside each other in our pursuit of Christ and His glory here on earth. Let’s replace the “I” and “me” with “us” and “we” and watch the repercussions take place when people live out the words they sing.

Lyrical Content. Are our songs rich and true?

Do we pay attention to what we are singing? Do we pay attention to what we are telling our congregations to sing? Too often we trade a good groove or ear pleasing guitar lick or vocal melody for lyrical content and what we get is a ear pleasing song with no depth at all. If our congregations are only going to remember portions of our service, in which the preaching may not be part, then we need to be leading them in songs that are rich in content. Our songs should proclaim the Gospel, the saving message of Christ, and challenge us to live lives that honor and glorify Him. In a typical service I will personally try to include songs about our need for Christ and His sufficiency to meet that need, songs focusing on the cross and the price that was paid on our behalf, songs about what we as the church are to do now (our response), and songs about the freedom and joy we have in Christ. Now obviously all of these don’t have to be included in each and every service and things can be added and subtracted where there is a need. Most importantly, we just need to keep in mind that our songs inclusive in a way that they are clear in meaning to a first time church goer and illustrate the Gospel correctly and at the same time they should develop in meaning for the seasoned believer.

 

Hopefully with these things in mind and knowing that what we are communicating through our song choices we can be deliberate in picking songs that tell the Gospel story and challenge people to change accordingly. What we do is important. Let’s act like it.

So, what are you song selections communicating week in and week out?