Leadership and Team Development

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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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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?

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.

[Video Blog] What It Takes to Change Your Team

[Video Blog] What It Takes to Change Your Team

By Jon Nicol   |  July 12, 2016

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...

How To Change The Bad Habits In Your Worship Team, Part 2

How To Change The Bad Habits In Your Worship Team, Part 2

By Jon Nicol   |  May 5, 2016

In part one, we talked about what habits are and why they matter (good and bad) to your team. You'll want to read part one if you haven't already.

Let's dive into the step-by-step process for leading your team towards healthy habits.

How To Develop A Healthy Habit

1. Determine Your Why, What & How

Too often we have an idea that some bad habit needs to change, but we don’t take the time to articulate exactly WHAT that change looks like, HOW we’re going to get there, and WHY it matters that we change.

The HOW and WHY are crucial. Too many leaders stop at the WHAT—they tell people what the vision is, and then expect them to get on board.

But people are so much more willing to go along with change if they understand why they need to make the change and how it’s going to come about. So make sure that BEFORE you go public to your team, you’re crystal clear on the What, the How, and the Why.

How To Change The Bad Habits In Your Worship Team, Part 1

How To Change The Bad Habits In Your Worship Team, Part 1

By Jon Nicol   |  May 4, 2016

Habits
That word for the longest time had only a negative connotation for me. I’m not naturally wired to crave routine, focus on details, or have any discernible self-discipline whatsoever.

Whether I was being chewed out by my mom for my “habit” of leaving the kitchen cupboard doors open after looking for a snack or chiding myself for not having better study habits in college (the last minute and I were very, very well acquainted), all my habits seemed bad.

Failing Forward: How to Mess Up The Right Way as a Leader

Failing Forward: How to Mess Up The Right Way as a Leader

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  April 13, 2016

Fact: 100% of leaders mess up.

Even the most seasoned, exemplary influencer still says and does things that fall short of perfect.

As a Christ-quoting leader in ministry, I don’t take my trip-ups lightly; in fact, I tend to feel embarrassed, discouraged, and down on myself when I realize I haven’t been practicing what I preach in some area. But I’m learning that messing up can actually give me helpful feedback and spur my leadership skills.

So, since we’re all in this boat together, let’s talk about how we can make the most of our failures.* Here are three tips for turning our common failures into catalysts for growth:

What To Do When Your Singers Sing Too Much

What To Do When Your Singers Sing Too Much

By Jon Nicol   |  March 30, 2016

Note: I posted a shorter version of this to a couple of Facebook groups I run and found it struck a nerve. So I thought I’d expand on this topic here in the blog. Enjoy it or hate it. And please comment either way.

An Aural Assault

Several years ago, I was between churches and offered to do some “pulpit fill” in some churches brave (or desperate) enough to hire an out-of-work worship leader to preach.

At one church I preached at, they just had a guitarist, drum machine, and six to eight vocalists.

From the pick-up note of the first song to the final rubato whole note of the last song, every singer sang every...single...one...of...those...notes.

And it was not a short set.

After I finished preaching and was driving home, I thought about why that musical worship experience made me want to curl up in the fetal position under the pew with my hands over my ears.

7 Ways To Survive The Crazy Stress of Easter

7 Ways To Survive The Crazy Stress of Easter

By Jon Nicol   |  March 9, 2016

Let’s face it, worship leaders, it’s our Super Bowl. Easter Sunday is THE "big game" for many of us.

But with so much preparation and so many moving parts, sometimes you can feel more like the tackling dummy than the starting quarterback.

So as we count down the last three and a half weeks before Easter, let me give you seven ways to get through this season with at least a smidgeon of your sanity remaining.

Why You Should NOT Lead a Worship Team Without This Document

Why You Should NOT Lead a Worship Team Without This Document

By Jon Nicol   |  January 27, 2016

Wait, what key is this song in?

Umm…I lost my place in the bridge. Well, and in the instrumental. And in the second chorus, too.

Can we listen to this song before running it again?

What do you mean I’m not playing my part? I’m playing the chords written on the chart!

Those are all questions and comments that you’ve probably heard at rehearsal. And they pretty much signify that people haven’t practiced.

Jealousy in Worship - Why It's Twice as Deadly

Jealousy in Worship - Why It's Twice as Deadly

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  January 13, 2016

There’s a well-known list (as well as a super creepy 90’s movie) known as the “seven deadly sins.” I don’t know just how biblical it is to call just seven sins deadly, but Jealousy definitely deserves to be on that list.

Have you seen jealousy sneak into a team before? Have you ever had to fight it in your own heart? Here are some serious reasons why it’s detrimental for a worship community.

Workaholic Worship Leader: 3 Tips for Keeping First Things First

Workaholic Worship Leader: 3 Tips for Keeping First Things First

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  November 18, 2015

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only recovering workaholic in ministry. The fact that you clicked on this title probably means you're wrestling with this issue. But if you're not, remember: denial is one of the symptoms. :)   

Having a willing-to-serve personality is mostly a huge blessing, but now and then it makes it harder for me, and all of my servant-leader brothers and sisters, to keep a healthy balance of life’s activities.

In ministry, there’s no end to the list of people's needs. And it’s such a righteous cause, that it almost feels godly to be slightly workaholic - you know, skip some date nights and Sabbaths - all for the Gospel of course.

Who's Number One

But I’ve been thinking about this question lately: Where is my "number one" ministry?

Why I'm Giving You Half My Paycheck (And Other Big Changes Around Here)

Why I'm Giving You Half My Paycheck (And Other Big Changes Around Here)

By Jon Nicol   |  November 4, 2015

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post called, "Why I Fell Off The Planet." It explained my almost complete disappearance from the blog and podcast for a couple months due to stringing too many “sprints” back-to-back without enough rest.

Well, I’ve done it again. Disappeared, that is. And I was sprinting, but this time it had an end in site. So why did I disappear for about month and to what end?

4 Ways to Disarm Division On Your Team

4 Ways to Disarm Division On Your Team

By Andrea Hamilton Binley   |  October 9, 2015

Practical steps to follow Romans 12:18, "...live at peace with everyone."

Dear Worship Leader, Just Sing the Dang Melody!

Dear Worship Leader, Just Sing the Dang Melody!

By Jon Nicol   |  September 3, 2015

A reason why people stop singing in your church...

Six Ways to Grow an Engaging Worship Team, Part 2

Six Ways to Grow an Engaging Worship Team, Part 2

By Jon Nicol   |  August 17, 2015

Part 1 of this post looked at the first four ways we engage. (Click to read Part 1) Each of those facets of engagement had to do with others: God, leaders, other team members, and the congregation. But now we’re looking at two other ways team members engage.

Six Ways To Grow An Engaging Worship Team, Part 1

Six Ways To Grow An Engaging Worship Team, Part 1

By Jon Nicol   |  August 14, 2015

That movie was super engaging.

My boss and I engaged in verbal sparring that ended with my resignation.

Engage the tractor beam.

Omigosh! You got engaged!

We were so engaged in conversation that we missed our exit.

I have an engagement with a bacon cheeseburger after work.

The word engage is rich. In various forms, it can be a noun, a verb or an adjective. Between those different forms, the dictionary has upwards of fifteen different definitions. I think the richness of the word suits it perfectly to describe a healthy worship team: Engaged.

[Video] Get Your Team To WANT To Prepare

[Video] Get Your Team To WANT To Prepare

By Jon Nicol   |  January 9, 2015

The missing element in the war on unpreparedness...

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