Worship Blog

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Five Reasons You're a Stressed-Out Worship Leader

Five Reasons You're a Stressed-Out Worship Leader

By Jon Nicol   |  August 21, 2018

I know, only five reasons? Find out if any of these reasons are stressing you out.

13 Rules For Frustrating Your Worship Team

13 Rules For Frustrating Your Worship Team

By Jon Nicol   |  August 9, 2018

Passing On My "Wisdom"

At some point in one's life, one realizes, “Wow, I’ve been doing ________ for how long?"

And in those moments you reflect on the fact that, indeed, “My wisdom and experience might be worth passing on to others."

Looking back over my own career as a worship pastor, I can see glimpses in my formative years of what I might call genius (if I weren’t so humble).

I had the natural talent, spiritual gifting, and unfounded confidence to exasperate even the most grace-filled of my team members.

Admittedly, these abilities have waned in my later years. But I can still draw from that deep well of aggravating behavior.

So it is with the utmost humility that I submit to you a sort of “rulebook" that encapsulates my two decades of frustrating worship team members.

My 13 Rules

Rule #1: Planning Your Setlists
Plan your setlist a day before rehearsal. Remind your team that they’re required to find time within the next 26½ hours to practice these songs.

Also, don’t bother giving your projectionist/video tech the song list until the Sunday sound check. He doesn’t need much time to build it out.

Rule #2: Arranging Songs
Arrange each song differently EVERY time you schedule it. Your band (and video tech) will appreciate the extra work that requires.

Rule #3: Managing Your List
Curate an active song rotation of at least 378 songs. And, please, make sure you never repeat any song often enough for your team (or congregation for that matter) to really know them.

Bonus: Populate that list with as many of your God-breathed originals as you can.

Rule #4: Personal Practice
As the leader, you’re entitled to "wing it" at rehearsal. Let’s face it, learning the songs by rehearsal requires a fair bit of work, and you have a lot going on. You’ll have them down by Sunday.

And if you don’t, that’s what the confidence monitor is for, right?

Rule #5: Introducing a New Song
When you introduce a song, make sure your team only has a few days to learn it. Oh, and change the key right before rehearsal since you just discovered it's too low for you to lead.

Rule #6: Scheduling Team Members
Team members yearn for erratic scheduling. So here’s a quick, practical guide:

  • Create the team schedule three months ahead.
  • After that schedule runs out, plan week-by-week for approximately two months.
  • Then schedule five months ahead.
  • Repeat, randomly.

Additional Tip: Make sure you never ask your team members how much they want to serve or when they’re available.

Who has time for that?

Rule #7: Running Rehearsals
Never start rehearsal until the final person shows up, even if they’re 20 minutes late.

To kill time, tell some stories about your band from your college days—especially that one time you opened up for The Newsboys.

They never get sick of that story.

And here’s a free tip on how to deal with tardiness:
If the late-arriving team member is a friend of yours, let it slide.

If you they’re not one of your favorites, a “nice of you to show up” says enough without engaging in some emotionally-messy conversation. 

Rule #8: Fostering Band/Tech Relationships
Encourage each of your team members to dictate their monitor needs to the sound person at anytime during rehearsals and sound checks.

Audio engineers LOVE hearing, “I need more me."

Rule #9: Qualifying New Team Members
Value musical talent over character. When you’re assessing a potential new team member, it’s all about sounding good.

And certainly, don’t involve your current team members in the qualification process. They might see, hear, or intuit things that you’ve missed.

That could make you look bad.

Rule #10: Assimilating New Team Members
Once you put a brand new member into the rotation, your job is done. Let her figure it out from there. If she's lucky, someone might see her floundering and offer to help.

But with the team culture you’ve created by following these rules, it’s doubtful.

Rule #11: Encouraging Team Members
Only praise and encourage those team members who you deem to be musically exceptional (or if they're one of your favorites).

For the rest of the team, a vague “Hey, nice job today” as they're walking out of church will suffice.

Rule #12: Spiritual Shepherding
Every so often, you may get a twinge of guilt that you’re not focusing enough on “spiritual things.”

So occasionally, spend the first 52 minutes of rehearsal talking at them about whatever theology of worship stuff you remember from Bible college.

Consider reading aloud lengthy passages from John MacArthur's The Highest Priority.*

And by the way, you’ll still want to get a full rehearsal in. Just run rehearsal an hour later to make up the time. 

Rule #13: Leading Spontaneous Worship
If you want to linger in a moment at the end of a song, just signal your band with a random chopping motion of your hand.

If the electric guitarist doesn’t drop out, shoot him a dirty look.

And what if your team has no idea what to do while you’re singing random Matt Redman lyrics and swaying side to side?

It doesn’t matter. You’re having a Jesus-moment.

More Practical Help

So there are my 13 Rules For Frustrating Team Members. I hope you appreciate the relational wreckage and organizational bedlam I've caused to bring these to you.

Now, if you’re feeling like this list is more of a cautionary tale and something to avoid, that’s your prerogative. And if you were hoping for some practical help in that direction, I can offer you this:

One of the ways that I lost some of my ability to frustrate team members was to develop and implement good ministry systems and processes.

I know, systems? Really?!

My 24-year-old self would be punching me in the forehead right now for even talking about organizational systems. But if you persist in eschewing these thirteen rules, you may want to check out this free resource:


Get a Systems Checklist for Free

When you get access to this free checklist, you’ll learn...
What systems are...
How they help you get more done AND change team culture...
And which eight systems are essential to your worship ministry.

Click here to learn more


 

If you’re a complete tool or jerk-face to your team members, it might be too little, too late.

But for the rest of you dabbling in the occasional, low-grade frustration-inducing behavior, you’ll find The Eight Essential Systems Checklist to be a valuable resource.

Learn more here.

Leave a Comment Below

And I love to hear from you in the comment section below:

What’s one way that...

1) you’ve frustrated your team members in the past

or

2) you had a worship leader frustrate you.

I'm excited to hear about your experience with organizational mayhem and relational wreckage.

The Six Must-Have Elements of a Team Scheduling System

The Six Must-Have Elements of a Team Scheduling System

By Jon Nicol   |  June 6, 2018

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.

Why Everything In Your Worship Ministry is YOUR Fault

Why Everything In Your Worship Ministry is YOUR Fault

By Jon Nicol   |  April 25, 2018

Owning It

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...

Why I Didn't Lead Worship On Easter Sunday

Why I Didn't Lead Worship On Easter Sunday

By Jon Nicol   |  April 4, 2018

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 Do You Measure Success On A Worship Team?

How Do You Measure Success On A Worship Team?

By Jon Nicol   |  February 27, 2018

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?

Why Lateness Hurts Your Team (More Than You Think)

Why Lateness Hurts Your Team (More Than You Think)

By Jon Nicol   |  February 12, 2018

BAD:
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.

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.

WORST:
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.)

Late.

Tardy.

Unpunctual.

Not prompt.

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.

Average Musicians, Amazing Results...How?

Average Musicians, Amazing Results...How?

By Jon Nicol   |  January 30, 2018

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.

Is Your Worship Team The Most Immature Ministry In Your Church?

Is Your Worship Team The Most Immature Ministry In Your Church?

By Jon Nicol   |  October 10, 2017

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:

028: Authority Issues Might Be Killing Your Ministry

028: Authority Issues Might Be Killing Your Ministry

By Jon Nicol   |  August 8, 2017

Developing Your Worship Team, Part 3

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.

027: Developing Your Worship Team, Part 2

027: Developing Your Worship Team, Part 2

By Jon Nicol   |  July 28, 2017

How To Be An Effective Lead Worshiper

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.

025: The Vocalist Episode with Gateway Worship Leaders Anna Byrd and Jill Brewer

025: The Vocalist Episode with Gateway Worship Leaders Anna Byrd and Jill Brewer

By Jon Nicol   |  June 2, 2017

 

Download the Episode

Click here to download.

 

Episode Notes:

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

About Anna
Anna Byrd is a singer/songwriter and Worship Leader at Gateway Church. You can learn more about her at annabyrdmusic.com

Twitter: @annabyrd
Instagram: @annabyrdmusic

 

Gateway Vocal Charts

Download the Gateway Vocal Chart samples that Jill talked about. 

 

[Video] How To Serve Your Team With Great Charts

[Video] How To Serve Your Team With Great Charts

By Brendan Prout   |  May 25, 2017

Want to make killer charts? Here's how...

Why Discontentment Will Ruin Your Ministry and Your Family

Why Discontentment Will Ruin Your Ministry and Your Family

By Jon Nicol   |  March 10, 2017

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.

What Does a Healthy Worship Team Member (Really) Look Like? Part 3

What Does a Healthy Worship Team Member (Really) Look Like? Part 3

By Jon Nicol   |  February 28, 2017

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.

023: Diminish The Drama: How To Breath Life Into Difficult Situations On Your Team

023: Diminish The Drama: How To Breath Life Into Difficult Situations On Your Team

By Jon Nicol   |  February 22, 2017

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.

What Does A Healthy Worship Team Member (Really) Look Like? Part 2

What Does A Healthy Worship Team Member (Really) Look Like? Part 2

By Jon Nicol   |  February 20, 2017

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:

What Does A Healthy Worship Team Member (Really) Look Like?

What Does A Healthy Worship Team Member (Really) Look Like?

By Jon Nicol   |  February 17, 2017

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.

FREE Course: 10 Ways To Absolutely Destroy Your Worship Team

FREE Course: 10 Ways To Absolutely Destroy Your Worship Team

By Jon Nicol   |  February 6, 2017

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).

 

Module 1: How To Guilt People Into Practicing More
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.

How To Tell Someone

How To Tell Someone "NO" In The Audition Process (And Why You NEED To)

By Jon Nicol   |  January 19, 2017

No
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.

How to Love Your Worship Songs (Even If You Hate Them)

How to Love Your Worship Songs (Even If You Hate Them)

By Jon Nicol   |  January 5, 2017

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.

10 Mistakes Leaders Make Trying To Get Their Team To Practice

10 Mistakes Leaders Make Trying To Get Their Team To Practice

By Jon Nicol   |  October 11, 2016

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?

What’s The Difference Between Practice And Rehearsal? 6 Things Your Team Should Know

What’s The Difference Between Practice And Rehearsal? 6 Things Your Team Should Know

By Jon Nicol   |  September 8, 2016

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:

Being Present In The Moment

Being Present In The Moment

By Jon Nicol   |  September 2, 2016

Leslie Jordan Talks About The Journey of Poets & Saints

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.

[Album Review] Poets and Saints by All Sons & Daughters

[Album Review] Poets and Saints by All Sons & Daughters

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  September 1, 2016

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.

Loving God, Loving Your Church And How Songwriting Fits Into That

Loving God, Loving Your Church And How Songwriting Fits Into That

By Jon Nicol   |  August 12, 2016

An Interview With Andrew Marcus

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 Album Review

Housefires III Album Review

By Dusty Wallace   |  August 8, 2016

HOUSEFIRES III releases later this week on August 12. Here's Dusty Wallace's take on it:

First Impressions

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.

3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Leading

3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Leading

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  July 20, 2016

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.

1. Don’t forget the “quiet wheels.”

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.

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