Let me give you an ulcer: You’ve just been asked to lead a worship ministry full of people who
- Routinely "no-show" at rehearsals.
- Give late-notice call-offs.
- Don’t bother finding a replacement.
- Don’t respond to scheduling requests.
- Have availability issues. (Like, “I only can be scheduled every 3rd Sunday that falls immediately after a 2nd Saturday, and only in odd-numbered months...")
- Require you to scramble for at least one last-minute replacement weekly.
A team with this much dysfunction is more common than you think. I’m amazed at what some worship leaders put up with from their team members. But even if your team only has a fraction of the above infractions, you still have some very real commitment issues.
It’s why you need a fantastic scheduling process. In fact, if you get it right, you can raise the commitment level of your team. More on that in a second.
Here’s how I used to think:
- If a team member doesn't practice, he's a slacker.
- If someone shows up chronically late, she's uncommitted.
- If a soprano cancels at the last minute and leaves me scrambling to find a substitute, she’s an inconsiderate diva.
- If the congregation doesn't sing and participate, they’re unspiritual.
- If team members are talking about each other behind their backs, they’re uncaring gossipers.
- If a team member just can’t cut it musically, he’s a liability.
- If the back row musicians bury their heads in their music stands, they don’t care about platform presence.
- If a leader introduces a new song that I didn’t OK, she’s a rogue agent and doesn’t respect my leadership.
People need to take responsibility for their actions. It's their fault. Right?
Well, yes, but...
Person in the lobby after church: So when was the last time you had an Easter Sunday off?
Me: Hmm…probably not since the Clinton administration.
That's right. I stepped aside on Easter Sunday and had my volunteer leaders carry the day. You might be wondering why I committed the worship leader equivalent of career suicide.
There were three big reasons.
How does a worship team measure success? What does winning look like?
For some worship teams I’ve led, we asked, “Did we avoid a train wreck?” If the answer was yes, that Sunday landed in the “win" column.
Avoiding a mid-song meltdown is a good thing. But once you move past mere musical survival, what does success look like?
It’s the beginning of rehearsal, the band and vocalists are ready to go and—“Whoa! Wait, where’s _________?”
Whichever person it is—drummer, guitarist, sound tech, alto—it doesn’t matter. The team isn't ready. That’s bad. But it could be worse.
You scan the platform at the start of rehearsal only to find half the team NOT there, and the other half are still setting up. But it gets worse than this.
You, the leader, fly in late and attempt to jumpstart a rehearsal to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, you find the team is following your lead. (See the “Worse” scenario.)
Whatever we call it, it’s hurting our worship teams more than we think. So we’re going to look at eight ways that lateness is damaging our ministries. Then, we’ll dig in to few practical steps that leaders can do to change this culture-corroding issue.
Relying on the Rockstar
Ever had a super-talented musician come along that kicked up your worship team’s sound several notches?
- Maybe it was a drummer who brought a newfound drive and energy to your sound.
- Or a keyboard player who could (tastefully) fill and improvise.
- Or a bass player who could lay a foundation like you never had before.
- Or a guitar player that could actually play the riffs from the recording.
Admit it—secretly, you wanted to schedule him or her EVERY week. I know I did.
In too many churches, the worship team is the most spiritually immature ministry.
That sounds harsh, I know.
But think about the two-fold purpose of the worship ministry: To worship God and to help others worship God.
Now think about some of the issues that can plague the typical worship team:
Submission to authority is NOT a fun topic. But if you want a healthy worship ministry—you’ve got to deal with this issue head on. Because if you have team members who won’t submit to your authority or the church’s authority, your ministry will suffer.
In this training today, we are diving into the first 2 lessons from the Worship Workshop class, Healthy 201: Understanding Authority, Submission, Conflict And Confrontation.
Do your team members REALLY know how to fulfill their role as lead worshiper on the platform? And do they know how to prepare for that? And do you techs know that they ALSO play a role as lead worshipers.
This episode is going to give you some practical training to help develop your team members as lead worshipers.
Click here to download.
In this episode we interview Gateway vocalists/worship leaders Jill Brewer and Anna Byrd. We get into topics like:
- pop vocal technique
- lead vocal teams
- vocal health
- fears and insecurities vocalists face
- Star Wars (yes, Star Wars)
About Jill Brewer:
Jill and her husband, Robb, both serve on staff at Gateway church. Robb is an Executive Pastor at the Southlake Campus, and Jill is the Associate Director in Worship Development over vocal development.
They have 4 kids ranging from 21-14 years old, and all 4 kids are involved in worship teams across the different Gateway campuses.
While studying Music Education at Texas Christian University, Jill started teaching voice and piano privately, and has now been doing so for 25 years. The last 8 years or so have been devoted to learning and teaching the Pop-Style vocal technique that she learned while studying with Brian Schexnayder. This technique is what all of Gateways vocalists are using, and what is also being taught in Gateway’s Worship Team Academy, a training ground for developing the next generation of worshippers.
Connect with Jill at jill.a.brewer [at] gmail [dot] com
Anna Byrd is a singer/songwriter and Worship Leader at Gateway Church. You can learn more about her at annabyrdmusic.com
Download the Gateway Vocal Chart samples that Jill talked about.
Want to make killer charts? Here's how...
Today’s interview is with Mike Harland of LifeWay Worship. We discuss the crucial topic of discontentment. It’s a slippery slope that will lead to the ruin of both your ministry and your family.
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3
So if you haven’t read parts 1 and 2 of this series, you’ll want to do that to have context for this post. We’re talking about what it takes to be a healthy team member. And we’re looking at it from the perspective of the different ways they should be engaging.
Up to this point, we’ve looked at ways team members engage with others: God, leaders, other team members, the congregation they’re leading, and their overall connection with your church.
The final two of the seven ways to engage are NOT about engaging with people. But they’re crucial areas team members need to connect, commit and engage.
Today’s main training comes from our Director of Coaching, Jerimae Yoder. Besides being a full-time worship leader, Jerimae is an accomplished coach. He gives us some amazing insight on how to deal with tough situations that, frankly, would be easy for us blow up and make worse.
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3
So if you haven’t read part 1, you’ll definitely want to jump over there and read that first.
So first, your team members need to be engaged with God. They don’t need to be spiritual giants, and they definitely don’t need to be perfect, but they do need to be in process. That is, they’re actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus.
And then your team members need to be engaging with you, the leader. There’s a respect and a healthy submission that needs to take place. Also, we talked about how you as a leader need to invite and embrace healthy, ideological conflict.
We’re going to have differences and issues with each other. So let’s talk about them openly and in a healthy way.
And not only do your team members need to engage with you in a healthy way, but they also need to engage with each other. And that’s the third way team members needs to engage:
PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3
Do you have some worship team members who are…
Uncommitted to your worship ministry?
Unprepared with their music?
Unspiritual—that is, they just don’t seem to deep?
Unconcerned for other team members?
Unconnected with your church?
Unreceptive to your leadership?
Unavailable when you need them?
Unresponsive to your scheduling requests?
Un-on-time…all the time?
Now, you might have one or two team members who fall in every category. (They’re called “complete-slackers-that-my-predecessor-invited-on-the-team-and-now-I-can’t-get-rid-of-them.”)
But likely, you have a lot of team members who display a just few these unhealthy traits. But even the presence of a couple of those unhealthy traits makes them a less-than-productive team member. And putting a few of them together makes for an unhealthy team.
Dear Awesome Worship Leader,
Thanks for your interest in our new online course, 10 Steps To Dismantle Your Worship Team Before You Move on To A Larger Church That Pays More.
Below is a description of each of the ten training modules. We believe this coaching course will benefit you as you work to demoralize your team at ___________ Church (insert whatever trendy metaphor your church has chosen to be known by).
In this session, you’ll learn to say spiritual-sounding things like, "You know, Jesus died on the cross for you. Don’t you think you can practice a little for him?”
It’s a powerful motivation, and it helps people embrace that wonderful theology of salvation-by-works.
There aren't too many words in the English language that rival this word for brevity, and few rival it in power.
No can be heart-crushing, but also life-liberating. It can save you from immense pain, or start you down a path of destruction.
It all depends on what you’re saying no to.
As a leader of a worship ministry, it’s a word you have to get comfortable with.
Every few months, I hear this from a worship team member:
“Omigosh—we’re doing this song again!?” Yes. Yes, we are.
I have to regularly remind my team (and myself) of this truth: When we start getting sick of a song, that’s just about the time the congregation is catching on. Between personal practice, rehearsals, soundchecks and multiple services, we sing and play these songs 10 - 20x more often than the average Joe or Jane in our congregations.
So that puts us in a predicament: We can continually introduce new songs to keep things fresh for us on the worship team. Or, we can stick with the same rotation of songs week after week and month after month (year after year), so the congregation knows them well.
Does this sound familiar?
Several of your team members show up to rehearsal unprepared.
So what happens to that rehearsal? Most of the time is spent figuring the basics of the song—the form, the individual parts, starts and stops, who’s playing, and so on.
So then, during your Sunday morning warm-up and soundcheck, you’re still working out certain parts of the song. AND you have yet to have a full run-through of all of the songs, let alone practice any of the transitions between the tunes.
So you muddle through the first service. And then, finally, in your second service, things start clicking and feeling a little bit better.
And as you walk off the platform after the second service music set, one of your players inevitably says, "Gosh, it’d be nice to play that set one more time; it was really starting to come together."
Besides your sudden urge to punch that player in the forehead, what’s the problem with that picture?
Several ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I thought, "What would happen if my team (including me) showed up to rehearsal with their songs actually learned?" (I know, profound, right?)
Not long before that, I had inherited a worship team that had gone a year without a main leader. It had deteriorated to pitifully low expectations: "Please just show up sometime Sunday morning."
After a while, I succeeded in raising expectations about rehearsal (like, let’s actually have one). We even got to the point where people were showing up. But it was still a hot mess.
Enter the epiphany (of sorts).
So I set out on a crusade to get my team to prepare BEFORE rehearsal. I’ve chronicled that in more detail in other places, so I won’t go into it deeply here. But I will tell you one of my tactics:
I differentiated between practice and rehearsal.
In fact, I even came up with a mantra to help us with this:
Leslie Jordan talks about the new All Sons & Daughters album, Poets & Saints. It was birthed by trek across Europe exploring historical figures whose lives and work still influence us today.
And by the way, it's an incredible album. You can read a review of it here.
On September 2, All Sons and Daughters will release their fourth album, Poets and Saints. This special record is a journey into the lives and stories of Christ-followers that God used to wake up the world: like C. S. Lewis, John Newton, Saint Therese, Saint Francis, George MacDonald, and others.
They joined up with their pastor, author and speaker Jamie George, and traveled to Europe with a film crew to create an interactive worship experience inspired by ten famous Christian’s lives.
In this interview with Andrew Marcus, we talk about his new album, Constant, the journey to get there, and a whole bunch of other stuff. (Like, how to blame Paul Baloche when a song flops.)
HOUSEFIRES III releases later this week on August 12. Here's Dusty Wallace's take on it:
Just like their bio states, the overall feel is “underproduced,” but that by no means infers a lack of musicality or tightness amongst the band.
The beauty of this album for use in the church is the fact that musically, it is both accessible to the congregation and attainable to the worship team.
The sonic structure is warm and welcoming. There are no crazy diva-vocal-fills or dudes singing in a mezzo-soprano range. HOUSEFIRES demonstrates that their mission is to engage in moments with God, not to create some over-produced experience with lasers or fog machines.
This year is the first year that I have been a worship leader for over half of my life. Each life experience has taught me a lot, on and off stage, and as I think about all of the leaders God is raising up in the next generation, I have three words of advice I would give to the former me if I could.
Maybe you’re familiar with the tension of the squeaky wheels versus the quiet wheels. (The squeaky ones get the grease—that is, most of the attention)
I define the tension like this: the quiet wheels are your key, reliable volunteers. They show up on time and don’t get offended very often. They help your weekend services happen, and they don’t need a ton of acknowledgment of their awesomeness.
The squeaky wheels, however, often have last minute interruptions to their serving schedule, don’t get along with some of the other teammates, and often want to have conversations about negative things they see in the ranks.
What would you like to change about your worship team?
- Maybe they don't practice enough.
- Or they stare at the music stands the whole time.
- Are there attitude issues you're dealing with?
- Maybe you need more musicians.
- Or you need the ones you have to step up their game a little.
- Or maybe it's not your team that needs the most work, but your congregation—if you could only get them to sing and engage more.
Here's the thing, leading your church and worship team through change would be super easy...
Giving voice to where your congregation is really at...