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The 5 Greatest Expressions of Worship in the Bible

The 5 Greatest Expressions of Worship in the Bible

By Tom Curley   |  August 31, 2012

Today's guest post is from Tom Curley. Tom is the Christian Arts Pastor and Lead Worshipper at Northridge Church in Pensacola, FL, where he has served for 15 years. You can email Tom at tcurley@northridgechurch.org

As I read the Bible, I am amazed at the different ways that people have expressed their worship to God. In most churches, worship is usually expressed in singing accompanied by instruments. As a worship leader and musician, I began to search the scriptures for amazing expressions of worship that fit this definition of worship.

One good example would be the dedication of the temple as recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:1-6. With huge choirs singing, the Levites playing their instruments, and the priests playing their trumpets, surely this must be the greatest worship service in the Bible. But after more consideration, it did not even make my top 5.

The following are my picks for the 5 greatest expressions of worship in the Bible. I’d love to hear your choices as well.

5. Paul and Silas singing in the prison: Acts 16:24-26

Surprisingly, this is my only choice that includes singing. However, this is no ordinary song service. Considering that this duet was coming from two men who were beaten, bruised, and in shackles, their worship was pure, heartfelt, and honest. This song caught heaven’s attention and when God started tapping his foot to the music, amazing things happened.

When we are faced with trials and hardships, let’s remember that Satan may buffet our bodies but he can’t imprison our praise!

4. The woman with the alabaster box:  Luke 7:36-50

Some of the greatest worship can come from the most unlikely source. This woman was an outcast who had been used and abused. But something about the words and actions of Jesus caused her to bring her most valuable possession and pour it out in an expression of love and worship. In one moment, she pressed through fear, prejudices, shame, and created one of the most intimate moments of worship in the Bible.

When man’s opinion has declared us “guilty”, there is One who can be touched by our worship and forgive our sins!

3. The widow’s mite: Mark 12:41-44

This simple act of giving an offering in the temple caught the attention of our Lord. It wasn’t how much she gave, but, rather, how much it cost her personally that moved Jesus to say, “She gave more than anyone else.”

What moved this woman to give everything she had to God remains a mystery, but what is clear is that God considers our giving an act of worship.

People will judge the size of our God by the cost of our worship. If we can stop holding so tightly to our money and possessions, and allow the Christ-like character trait of generosity to manifest in our lives, we may discover a deeper worship encounter than we’ve ever known.

2. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac: Gen 22:12-14

This act of worship ranks second in my list even though there were no instruments, singing, lighting, or sound system involved. Abraham pleased the Lord, and went on to change the world, because of obedience.

Obedience is something we usually only mention to small children or when referencing our pet’s training. However, obedience, in the eyes of God, is even greater than any sacrifice or gift we could give Him.

It may be that our own greatest act of worship may not happen on Sunday morning but on Thursday afternoon, when God whispers to us, “Tell the cashier that’s ringing up your groceries that I love her”.

God grant us the grace to begin obeying the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In obedience, we will reach new heights in our worship experiences.

1. Jesus’ surrender to God’s will: Luke 22:41-43

On the evening of his arrest, Jesus prayed for another option, if possible, than the cross. But then, he uttered the most amazing worship statement ever known when he said, “Not my will, but yours”. This statement of complete and total surrender from the lips of my precious Savior humbles me and makes me love Him even more.

Yes, I will keep singing songs of praise and playing music on instruments but I also hope that I can begin to step into the deeper realms of worship that are found in giving, sacrifice, and surrender.

The Only Way Most People Learn

The Only Way Most People Learn

By Jon Nicol   |  August 30, 2012

My seven year-old son learned a brutal lesson last week: not all his "friends" can be trusted.

We live in a neighborhood with a lot of school age kids. This summer was the first time that Aedan was allowed to venture out to play with them. One neighbor has a treehouse they play in.

Aedan decided to take a number of his "guys" (a mixture of Star Wars and Power Rangers action figures. And as a Star Wars fan, please know that I abhor the very presence of Power Rangers, let alone the mixing of the sacred and profane.)

As a boy who is way too much like me, Aedan got distracted and ran off to another activity. Returning a couple hours later to the treehouse, all his "guys" were gone.

We knocked on a couple a neighbors' doors that he had been playing with and asked if they had "brought them in for safe keeping" (i.e. giving the little thieving turkey a chance to come clean without an admission of guilt). No luck.

When it finally hit him that his "guys" were gone, and that a "friend" probably stole them, he was devastated. And I wanted to go break the head of the kid who broke my boy's heart.

Looking back on the situation, I remembered Aedan leaving with his Clone Wars lunchbox turned "guy-carrier" and wondered if I shouldn't stopped him. Now I wish I had. But…

He wouldn't have learned so deeply and truly.

Now he knows experientially that these neighborhood kids can't be fully trusted.

I could have told him that he could easily lose his Power Rangers if he took them to another kid's yard. But that would have been my years and experience talking.

Now he has his own voice of experience talking. It was hard earned for him. But in this area, it's more effective than mine.

There are a ton of ways to look at this in a leadership setting. But I want to apply it less obviously to something I've been thinking about a lot: worship expression.

Worship ExpressionsI'm embarking this Sunday on a 10 - 12 month endeavor with my congregation to look at physical expressions of worship throughout scriptures. Each week I plan to take anywhere from 1 - 5 minutes out of our "worship through music" time and teach on a particular Biblical expression of worship.

There will be some in my church who will try the different Biblical expressions, like lifting hands, just solely based on the teaching. But I suspect most won't.

For most people, they're going to need an "experience" that goes beyond them hearing, "lifting hands is Biblical, here's why..." before they will try it. I'm not sure what that experience will be. Maybe...

...a powerful worship event when they're out of the norm of Sunday morning. A Women of Faith conference or PromiseKeepers-type event come to mind. I imagine many men became more expressive worshipers in the late 90s/early 2000s because of PromiseKeepers.

...a dependence-producing trial. Like a loved one who is extremely ill, or injured in an accident, or someone's own dark night of the soul where all they can do is seek God. Often through these dark trials, people discover that Biblical postures of prayer and worship are actually relevant.

...or maybe it'll take the moving of His Holy Spirit in such a way during worship that standing still with our hands in our pockets seems absurd.

Let's face it. For most of us, we learn when we:

  • leave our routine
  • are thrown out of our comfort zone
  • are shaken out of our small faith box

When it comes to learning deeply and truly, experience teaches our hearts far better than facts that inform our heads.

How to Recognize Burnout On Your Team

How to Recognize Burnout On Your Team

By Jon Nicol   |  August 28, 2012

Lois* was fried. Not only was she the the go-to accompanist for our church, but also for several community music organizations. After she began a grueling graduate program, her cast iron pan was searing.

She tried to honor her commitment to the worship team. But the skipped rehearsals, last-minute no-shows, constant tardiness and frequent emotional "moments" told me something needed to give.

And despite all that, I didn't want to lose her. I was constantly in need of musicians, especially ones of her caliber. But of my many mistakes in ministry, thankfully this situation wasn't one of them.

I initiated a conversation with her and asked if it would ease her burden to be released from her commitment to the worship team. She was beyond on trying to feign a desire to stay. Her "Yes, please!" came out with a mix of desperation and hope. We decided on an indefinite sabbatical. She would initiate coming back on the team when she was ready.

I even promised her that I would do everything I could to guard her time away. It didn't take long for that commitment to be tested. Our musician-starved situation caused a few people (including the senior pastor) to suggest, "Hey, let's called Lois. She's had a month or two off."

No way, José. (Actually my pastor's name wasn't José. Remember, names have been changed…)

She might've come back just to fill in and been OK with it. But that wasn't the point. The point was to give her space to get healthy.

As you're leading your worship ministry, here are some signs that burn-out is either on its way, or already hollowing out a team member:

1. Frequent moodiness.
This could be a lot of things. But it's a sign of something. Pay attention and ask questions.

2. Diminished preparation for rehearsals and services.
Lack of practice is always cause for concern. But be very mindful of the person who used to prepare well then suddenly stops.

3. Disconnected from others.
If you're once-friendly drummer comes in and doesn't engage with the team, there might be something going on.

4. Disconnection from God.
This might be tough to gauge, but you'll likely pick up hints.

5. Me-focused.
Often we think someone's just a jerk. But really, they're just so emotionally spent that have no capacity for empathy with others.

6. Talks about all the stress in his/her life.
Lois's burnout wasn't a surprise to anyone. We had been hearing about her workload for months.

7. No shows/shows up late, etc.
On the surface this behavior seems due to the excessive activities and stress. I'm no psychologist, but I have to wonder if it isn't also a subtle cry for help. Or even a subconscious attempt to get removed from the team.

8. Complaining.
When we run on empty, the only thing that seems to flow out naturally are gripes.

9. Apathy
It's easy to stop caring when you're fried. Ministry loses it's meaning, so why bother doing it, or at least doing it well.

10. Tired/Lethargic
Our bodies aren't wired for constant stress. Rest and margin were prescribed by God both in creation and in the Law.

And Jesus gave us a perfect example of that "advance and retreat" model. But our culture finds it as foreign as these delicacies.

Again, so many of these signs could also be point to something else. But if you see a few of them, be concerned. And don't wait to long to intervene. Looking back on the situation with Lois, I probably should have stepped in sooner. But we able to get her some respite before there was a total meltdown.

And by the way, I since moved on from that church, but I recently heard that she's returned to the team. And her one-lost passion for worship ministry has been renewed.


Don't Let Your Budget Drive Your Mission

Don't Let Your Budget Drive Your Mission

By Jon Nicol   |  August 27, 2012

For many of us, the calendar (or our executive pastor) is telling us to start thinking about next year's budget. Statistics show that 98% us feel we should have at least 73% more money in our budget. Alright, I just made that up.* But no matter the church size, we all wish we had more to work with.

And here's the problem: we can often allow the lack of funds to subtlety distract us from our mission. We tend to think of a annual budget as simply a list of money-sucking items and events. But what if we looked at it as a tool to advance our mission?

We need to ask these kinds of questions:

What's the most important thing for this ministry?
Does my worship budget reflect that?

Do I believe training and development are important?
Then how much money am I dedicating towards it?

As a leader, do I budget money to care for my team members?
Could I carve out some funds to take each of them out for coffee this year. Or to buy a card and send it. Or maybe I could surprise my overworked head tech with some cash to hire a babysitter and a gift card to Olive Garden.

Where do I need to practice frugal stewardship?
I want a new __________. But can I live with the existing one for another year? Is there something I can go without this year that I spent money on last year?

If I'm committing to start something new - a video production ministry, a drama ministry, an outreach initiative towards musicians in the community - is it in my budget?
It's great that I want to start those things, but am I willing to sacrifice a piece of my pie to it?

Sure, there'll still be the nuts and bolts items you'll need to think about. But as you create next year's budget, consider shifting your perspective. It will help you be more intentional about letting your mission drive your budget.

Rather than the other way around.

Why the Conversation and Content Are Getting Better

Why the Conversation and Content Are Getting Better

By Jon Nicol   |  August 24, 2012

I just wanted to take a time out to tell you about two upgrades to WorshipTeamCoach.com that could (and hopefully will) serve you as a worship leader/musicians/etc better.

Better Interaction

The website-voodoo people at Spire who make my site pretty and run well have helped me upgrade my "Oh-So-2003" blog comment system to Disqus.

Why does that matter for you?

My old static comment system was like an intercom. One faceless person talking at a time.

Disqus is a dinner party. You may start out talking about what the host brings to the table, but pretty soon, you can branch out on you're own side conversations.

Disqus gives you the ability to reply and talk to other commenters. Comments are updated in real-time, so you could basically chat with other users. (However, if you start an online romance in my comment section, I'll probably ask you to take it over to ChristianMingle.com. But if you end up marrying, feel free to name your first born after me.)

Through Disqus, you'll also be notified (if you want) when someone else posts on a topic you've commented on. And you can track the different comments you've made on any site that uses Disqus (of which there are a bazillion - that's a "one" with a kajillion zeros behind it).

Bottom-line, the conversation is going to get better here WTC. Whether you love or loathe something written, you can easily add your insight and value to the conversation. Plus, with Disqus's profile system, we can get to know each other better as we discuss the blog posts and others. Again, if you want:

You can remain anonymous with Disqus. But I'd rather you didn't. It's too tempting to get mean when you're anonymous. I'm all for debate and disagreement, but don't get ugly. "Knowing" each other keeps us accountable to make constructive contributions - and fewer snarky comments.

One last note on Disqus: temporarily, the upgrade has wiped out the previous comments you and I have made on blog posts. But don't fear, I'll be working with my website-voodoo-gurus to get those comments back in.   

And the second upgrade is...

Easier access to the content you want

HUGE example: 28 Ways to Create Great Segues. This is a series I wrote over the course of 2 years. You may have been one of the people who google-stumbled their way onto one of 28 Segue posts, then wanted to read more.

Good luck with that.

The search feature on my site does OK, but it was tough to find them all. As a result, I got lots of request for an easier way to find them. In fact, if I had a dollar for every email I got asking for these all in one place, I'd be, well, still a thousandaire, but with the ability to splurge for the Awesome-Blossom appetizer when I go Chili's. And order a Diet Coke instead of water.

I enlisted the help of Laurie K - an highly organized, motivated, chocolate-loving, virtual tech assistant who cleaned up all those old Segue posts and created an index to easily jump to each one (with easy access back to the handy-dandy index.)

There might've just been cyberspace standing ovation given for Laurie just now. I know I was.

She's going to be repeating her feats of sheer awesome-ness with some other indexing and clean-up projects. So if you've got some suggestions for improvements to WorshipTeamCoach.com, please shoot me an email or drop a note in the comments.

By the way, did I mention I have a new comment system?


Worship Leader: Two Huge Reasons Why You're So Busy

Worship Leader: Two Huge Reasons Why You're So Busy

By Jon Nicol   |  August 23, 2012

1. You don't say no enough.

To people at church that expect you to do all and be all.
But isn't that what Paul said to be?

No. No he didn't.

To your senior pastor when he says, "Hey, do you have time to…" take on a task that's outside both your wheelhouse and job description. If he requires you to, then respectfully ask which other projects you should stop working on.

To that talker on your team who stops in to just chat. And chat. And chat...

To your kids. So you want to be in two overlapping sports, a traveling club team, and the school band? And you won't be driving for two more years?

To yourself. I can take on this one more project, can't I?

No, you can't.

The point isn't to become a NO-slinging ogre. You need to determine what you want to say an adamant YES to, like

  • growing a strong, healthy family
  • nurturing close friendships
  • reaching lost neighbors
  • building a great worship team
  • developing intimacy with Jesus

Say no to the things that compete with and encroach on these things.


2. You've created a Sunday Morning Monster that roars to be fed.

You've gotten accolades and attaboys (or girls) for services that have gone stellar. And so you chase that like a junkie trying to duplicate his first high.

Do we need to continually seek to improve? Grow? Change? Yes. But not because we're trying to live up to the demands of a performance-driven culture (that is very much alive and well in many most of our churches).

If you've got a Sunday Morning Monster, draw a line in the sand after this weekend. From there, begin to look at what you can nix and forget.

Do you need to do seven songs? Maybe do just five songs. Then spend some time in a one or two just creating moments to breath, receive, or confess within those five.

Do you need 9 musicians on stage every week? Try a four-piece band again with one BGV. Or just a piano and guitar and singer. It can be refreshing to strip away the excess occasionally.

Special music every week? Is it really that special then?

But the biggest thing to purge that will diminish the roar of the Sunday Morning Monster is the lie that you are your success (or failure).

If you mentally beat yourself up after a service does't go as planned, you've bought the lie.

If you ride the high of a great service for a day and half, only to crash when it comes to starting over on Tuesday, you've bought the lie.

Telling yourself over and over that the lie is not true is using aspirin to fight appendicitis. You need the Great Physician to heal the wound that has given birth to this lie. Only then will the truth be able to sink from your head to your heart and replace the lie.

And by the way, the wound-healing, heart remedy prescribed here just might also help your inability to say No.

10 Outstanding (and Old Testament) Reasons to Stand in Worship, 2

10 Outstanding (and Old Testament) Reasons to Stand in Worship, 2

By Jon Nicol   |  August 22, 2012

In September, I’m starting a one-year (or so) journey with my church through the Biblical expressions and postures in worship. I’ll be writing blog posts as one way to prepare for that. You can read more about this journey and find future posts on this page.

This two-part post kicked off with this question:

Why do we stand so much!?

Worship ExpressionsCheck out the reasons given in part one...now for part two:

6. We Stand to Proclaim

One important element of worship is proclaiming. We declare and proclaim the truth about God and His mighty works. More than once, God told Jeremiah to stand and proclaim the truth to His people. Chapter 1 verses 16-17 is one example of that:

"I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me, in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made.

“Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you."

It’s hard to imagine a prophet proclaiming of God’s truth while reclining in a padded pew. Sure, we don’t often regard ourselves as prophets, but we are nonetheless proclaiming truth in our worship. And standing to do so is quite appropriate.

7. We Stand to Thank & Praise

1 Chronicles 23:30 describes one of the duties of the Levites: “They were to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening.”

During the dedication of Solomon’s temple, we see this:

The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the Lord’s musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the Lord and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, “His love endures forever.” Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing.” (2 Chronicles 7:6)

While Levites played the instruments that had accompanied David’s praise, all the Israelites stood in worship.

Another place we see this expression demonstrated is in Nehamiah 9:5. The Israelites had gathered for confession and worship. The Levites told them:

“Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”

And then they began to praise God as they stood:

“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord.

8. We Stand to Confess

And in this same passage in Nehmiah we see that earlier in the day, before they stood to praise, they also stood to confess their sins.

In fact, it says they “stood in their places and confessed their sins”…for a quarter of the day.

It's probably worth mentioning here that this passage is NOT prescribing THE way to confess sins. Certainly kneeling is appropriate. And I don't think sitting would negate 1 John 1:9.

9. We Stand to Petition & Intercede

Often times, we think of petitioning and intercession as going to God on our knees. And that’s certainly an appropriate posture. But there are more than a few scriptures that suggest standing as valid posture.

In Genesis 18, Abraham is petitioning the Lord to save Sodom. It says “Abraham remained standing before the Lord” as he made his famous spare-Sodom-if-you-find-50/45/30/20/10-righteous-people-in-the-city negotiations.

Abraham was both figuratively and literally standing up as he petitioned the Lord.

It reminds me of the well-known “stand in the gap” phrase from Ezekiel 22:30:

“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”

While I wouldn’t forgo kneeling, there might be something to this standing to petition God and intercede for others. It almost feels like boldness to stand before the Lord. Which just might be biblical. (And I also love the wording of this version, too.)

10. We Stand to Both Pronounce and Receive Blessings

How many of us in our churches “stand to receive the benediction” without really thinking about it.

But it seems like standing is Biblically-driven here, too. When the ark was brought into Solomon’s temple, God’s presence in the form of a cloud filled the place – to the point the priests had to stop working. In the midst of this, we see this happen:

“While the whole assembly of Israel was standing there, the king turned around and blessed them.” (1 Kings 8:14)

Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t think any of these examples negate other postures that can be taken. And we’ll be exploring these other postures and expressions in this series. The bottom line for me, right now, as I begin to take my church through this journey is this:

Posture and physical expression matter in worship. We need to be intentional about it.

A commenter* on yesterday’s post referred to the point C.S. Lewis made in The Screwtape Letters. It’s a great quote that we’ll end on today.

The veteran demon writes this to his nephew: 

“At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls” (Letter IV).


10 Outstanding (and Old Testament) Reasons to Stand in Worship, 1

10 Outstanding (and Old Testament) Reasons to Stand in Worship, 1

By Jon Nicol   |  August 21, 2012

Worship ExpressionsIn September, I’m starting a one-year (or so) journey with my church through the Biblical expressions and postures in worship. I’ll be writing blog posts as one way to prepare for that. You can read more about this journey and find future posts on this page.

So this posts kicks us off with the question:

Why do we stand so much!?

Ever heard that one, or some variation of it in your church? If we'd dig into scripture, we’d probably start asking the question,

“Why don’t we stand MORE?”

I perused through the Old Testament and looked for times when God’s people were standing in some act of worship or other encounter that they had with God. This wasn’t an in-depth study by any stretch. It was more of a “fly-over” observation. But it still gave me plenty of evidence that standing is a Biblical posture for worship.

Here are 10 reasons why:

1. We stand in reverence in response to God’s presence.

In Exodus 3, Moses stood before the burning bush through which God spoke to him. God only commanded him to take off his sandals. God’s presence had made that particular piece of rock holy.

Later in Exodus (chapter 33), we see God’s people stand whenever the pillar of cloud (God’s presence) was at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.

2. We stand in awe in response to God’s presence and deeds.

Solomon gives us instruction on approaching God in worship: keep your mouth shut (OK, “words few”) and stand in awe.

 We are to marvel at His awesomeness—something that doesn’t seem right to do while casually sitting. (Ecclesiastes 5)

Habbakkuk’s prayer also gives us reason to stand in awe:

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. 

Renew them in our day, in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.
(Habbakuk 3:2)

3. We stand to show respect for God’s Word

Nehemiah 8 paints a vivid picture of this when Ezra the priest reads the Law of Moses to the people:

Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 

And by the way, from an earlier verse, it seems like they stood from daybreak till midday. So point that out to your folks when they complain about standing too long.

4. We stand as a symbol of God’s salvation, deliverance and provision

“Who can stand in God’s holy place?” the psalmist asks. The answer is the one who has clean hands, pure heart, etc. (Psalm 24) We only have this purity through the saving work of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Psalm 40 is another indication of standing as symbol of God’s salvation:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
    and put their trust in the Lord.

(additional scriptures for this: Psalm 18Psalm 20:7-9)

5. We Stand as We Seek, Search and Prepare to Move

This is what the Lord says in Jeremiah 6:16:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
    ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
    and you will find rest for your souls.

There’s a sense of standing to seek and search for God’s will. And then as we find it, standing allows us to be ready to “walk in it.”

In the same way, Jehoshaphat stood and called upon God when the Ammonites, Moabites and Meunites surrounded Judah. Jehoshaphat said these amazing words:

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

And immediately following those words, the writer of 2 Chronicles tells us this,

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

Part 2 coming soon.

Band≠Worship, Part 5

Band≠Worship, Part 5

By Tom Curley   |  August 20, 2012

Today's blog is a guest post from Tom Curly.

I'm With the BandWorship Team
How to keep your church worship ministry from becoming just another great band

If you have been reading along with us in this series, you know that we are focusing on how serving in a local church worship ministry is different than being “in a band”.

The last difference that we are going to discuss is that a band is about performing whereas a local church worship ministry (LCWM) is about facilitating.

A musician with a “band” mindset is interested in...

...having a place in the worship set for his Jack Black “School of Rock” guitar solo...

...shopping for his next “rock star” shirt to wear onstage, and...

...asking his buddies to make sure he is heard in the mix (and if not, to go to the sound operator and let them know of their ghastly oversight).

And his hoped-for response from the congregation is “The band sounded great today!”

For a worship team, facilitating worship for the congregation takes priority over personal musical preferences. The hoped-for response from the congregation is “Wasn’t God’s presence felt here in worship today!”

I tell my team to think of our church families as weary travelers who have spent six days walking through this broken and depraved world to make it to our sanctuary on Sunday. Our task is to wash their feet with our worship and lead them to the refreshing presence of the Lord.

Our worship service should begin with strong leadership that arrests the attention of every attendee away from the distractions of this world and its problems and lift it towards our glorious King who can solve any problem! And as we carefully guide our friends along the path to His presence, we purposely begin to become less and less visible so that all they see is their precious Savior. We must decrease so that He can increase.

At this holy moment, clever modulations are inappropriate, amazing vocal acrobatics are distracting, and impressive displays of instrumental virtuoso only cloud the view of One who is perfect and altogether lovely.

And so, my fellow worshippers, there is nothing wrong with being in a band if that is what God has called you to do. I am thankful for all the wonderful Christian bands that provide us with great music that inspires and lifts us up.

However, if you volunteer in a local church worship ministry, don’t approach your opportunity to serve with the attitude of finally “making the band,” but, rather, take on the attitude of Jesus who spent his last evening on earth washing the feet of his friends and, in doing so, provided a beautiful illustration of what true ministry is all about.

Tom Curley is the Christian Arts Pastor and Lead Worshipper at Northridge Church in Pensacola, FL, where he has served for 15 years. You can email Tom at tcurley@northridgechurch.org

Why You Really Need to Ask for Help More Often

Why You Really Need to Ask for Help More Often

By Jon Nicol   |  August 16, 2012

About a month ago, I sent a "help wanted" email to everyone in my mailing list. I was looking for assistance with some time-consuming work on the worshipteamcoach website. I was hoping for one or two people who might be willing to help with some updating, clean-up, etc. on the site. I got deluged with not just people willing to help, but very qualified people to help. I was humbled by the response.

It's something many of us leaders need to be reminded of:

Ask. For. Help.

Ask for help, especially with those things that drain your energy. "But," you might protest, "shouldn't I really be unloading my tasks of drudgery on someone else?"

If you're "unloading" on the right person, the answer is YES. The right person won't view those tasks as drudgery. They might actually find them fun.

When I ran my old cell phone through the washer and lost all my contacts (along with use of the phone), I needed to re-enter all these numbers into my new iPhone. (By the way, "stupid move = chance to buy a new iPhone"…yeah, my wife is still not happy about that one.) The thought the thumbing all those numbers into my phone made me want to bury myself in a bean bag chair and watch Happy Days reruns.

I decided to ask my assistant at church. It's not really in her job description, so I felt a tad guilty asking. But she agreed. When she brought my phone back she casually mentioned that it was fun.

"I'm sorry, I thought I heard you say that 'it was fun.'"

Turns out, for her, it was. Really?!

Back to asking for help with the website. One project that would have taken me weeks to trudge through, my newly-minted virtual-assistant-working-out-of-the-goodness-of-her-heart did in a couple days. And had fun doing it. Seriously?!

Yep. Then ask about doing more projects.

Here are a few things I'm learning:

1. Most people like to help out others.
2. Especially when the task is in their wheelhouse.
3. And even more so when they believe in you and your mission.

So try it this week. Look at your to-do list. Find that one task you've been avoiding. Then ask someone else to do it.

You might be surprised. And find yourself with a smaller to-do list.

The Redundant Worship Leader (Who Repeats Himself)

The Redundant Worship Leader (Who Repeats Himself)

By Jon Nicol   |  August 14, 2012


Let's face it, if we worship leaders were an eloquent bunch, we'd be preachers instead of the music guy (or girl). Most of us feel more comfortable hiding behind our microphones - that are best used when we sing in them. Not talk.

When we start shooting from the hip, one of the most common blunders is something I saw on a gas pump recently:
Please Prepay in AdvanceI won't tell you which gas station I saw this at, only that it had a circle and a K in it's logo.

I guess they figured "pre-pay" wasn't clear enough. They want their customers to do so "in advance."

Let's face it, worship leaders. We commit the same sin of repeating ourselves.

Let me give you a picture of this. All I had to do was dismiss the kids to their worship time:

Kid's, you are dismissed to Kid's Worship.

So far so good.

Ages 4 years old through 6th grade, you can go head on out.

Ok, the age part was probably helpful.

Alrighty, as the kids, ages 4 years old through 6th grade are heading out to their classes, the rest of us will remain standing and continue in our worship through music.

At least I didn't say anything about the kids leaving again. Oh, wait I did.

So remain standing as we sing this hymn, "Rejoice. the Lord is King."

You should probably just start the song, Jon.

Alright, let's sing "Rejoice, the Lord is King." Let's sing out. In worship. As the kids are leaving. Here we go. "Rejoice the Lord is King." Sing it out with me.


Some of you might think that's a tad exaggerated. Others of you know from painful experience the trap of the verbal-segue death-loop: I can see the exit. But for some reason, miss it. So I circle back around only to miss it again. I'm trapped in the spin cycle of redundant blathering.

The unscripted verbal segue is dangerous ground. If you plan to move from one worship element to another by talking, actually have a plan.

And if you find yourself talking "off the reservation," just pray hard and follow the KISS method. That means Keep It Short/Simple.*

(Oh, you thought it meant wearing black and white face paint, platform shoes and blowing fire out your mouth? Yeah, me too the first time. Kinda disappointing, isn't it?)

So stamp out redundancy and stop repeating yourself repeatedly.

Band≠Worship, Part 4

Band≠Worship, Part 4

By Tom Curley   |  August 13, 2012

I'm With the Band – Worship Team: How to keep your church worship ministry from becoming just another great band

If we were to look at popular secular and Christian bands as sources of information on how to create a great worship band for our church, we would have to exclude almost all women, anyone older than 40 or younger than 20, anyone that is not handsome or beautiful, and any musician or vocalist that does not have “recording studio” quality talent. While these criteria may work best for selling CD’s, they are not good guidelines for selecting worship ministry participants.

As a worship leader, it took me years to learn this truth: A “band” can be gender, talent, looks or age prejudiced but a local church worship ministry (LCWM) is open to all.

A worship team that only includes “perfect” people sends the wrong message to the congregation.  It conveys that if you don’t look a certain way, there is no place for you to minister at our church.

While the culture of this age puts priority on talent and looks, I suggest the following criteria for selecting worship team members:

  1. Are they faithful?
  2. Are they dependable?
  3. Are they humble?
  4. Are they teachable?
  5. Are they servant/leaders with a passion for God?

Remember  that the temple worship instituted by God included participants that were old and young, teacher and student. (1 Chron. 25:8)

Another difference between “bands” and  local church worship ministries (LCWM) is that a band has “band” goals but a LCWM has church family goals as defined by the senior pastor’s vision and the local church’s mission statement.

If your worship team members’ expectations are to record CD’s, make a name for your worship band, travel and give worship concerts, but your senior pastor has expectations of the music ministry providing worship for the seniors’ Christmas banquet and the homeless shelter outreach, then someone is going to be disappointed!

A LCWM cannot do its own thing and operate as an independent group within the church. The function of the worship team is to serve the church family by facilitating worship for all its members. You may find that as you focus on serving your senior pastor and your church family, God may open doors for you to make that recording you’ve always dreamed of!

When was the last time you invited the senior pastor to a worship team rehearsal to share from his heart his vision for music in your church?

If we don’t clearly communicate the vision and mission for our worship ministry to our team, we can only expect that our volunteers will fill in the blanks with their own personal dreams and ideas. Remember, like the “Blues Brothers” we are on a mission from God!

Worship Leading Requires What Gift?!

Worship Leading Requires What Gift?!

By Jon Nicol   |  August 9, 2012

At a previous church I served, we spent a season trying to get everyone to understand their spiritual gifts. I pretty much knew mine. Leading, teaching, encouraging - you know, the cool ones. Not like the gift of helps. Yeah, like I want to go stack chairs…

This particular inventory involved the typical multi-question assessment. You know the kind: after one perusal of Romans 12 & 1 Corinthians 12 you're able to tweak the results. "I think I'm feeling kinda 'prophet-y' today."

But this gift inventory included a twist. Two other people were to complete an assessment on me. Guess what "top 5" gift they both came back with? Hospitality.

Hospitality?! That's a girl gift!

(That was my exact thought…yep, I'm a pig.)

But as I read the description, "seeks to make others feel welcome and at home," I thought, yeah, that's me.

Crud. I wanted to be a prophet.

Here's the thing, though. My gift doesn't manifest itself in organizing potlucks, going on hospital visits, or hosting Pampered Chef parties. But my hospitality radar does blips big-time on Sunday mornings.

I want people to come into worship and feel welcome. And when somebody does or says something that's contrary to that, I have a visceral reaction. For example, I've heard worship leaders "invite" people to worship by saying, "Alright, stand-up."

Ooo…that really brings me into the presence of God.

Instead of standing, want to go up and administer a Cobra Kai "sweep the leg" on the dude. But I don't have the gift of administration. Or a knowledge of karate that goes beyond watching Ralph Macchio movies.

The bottom line to this rant is this: whether its our "gift" or not, one of the roles we worship leaders play on Sunday morning is "host."

Here's are some ways that "worship leader as host" can play out:

Be conscious of the environment before people even come in: lighting, temperature, sound, the presence of greeters that are truly friendly and ushers that actually help people to their seat (are there any of those left?). We want people, especially guests, to experience a welcoming atmosphere.

Be intentional as the first "upfront" people connect with during a worship service. Welcome them warmly and genuinely. Look them in the eye. It's scary how many introverted musicians become "worship leaders" and yet can't even engage the congregation with eye contact.

Be the friend that invites them through the door and into the party. And think about a few of the places that we're walking people towards:

  • the throne room of the Almighty
  • the table of our Lord
  • the feet of the Teacher

That's a significant role.

So what if your hospitality gift registers about as high as my gift of helps? You basically have two choices:

One, learn some behavior.

Two, get someone else on the team to carry some of the "host" responsibilities.

It will likely require a little of both.

21 Comments to Motivate Your Worship Team (to Quit)

21 Comments to Motivate Your Worship Team (to Quit)

By Jon Nicol   |  August 8, 2012

As worship leaders, we have countless moments when what we WANT to say to a team member is absolutely what we should NOT say.

So while we bite our tongue, take thoughts captive and count to 10 silently before speaking, I'm going to say what we've all thought (and maybe even blurted out in our weaker moments). And if you really want to frustrate, belittle or downright hork-off your team, feel free to use these following statements to...

...develop great musicianship:
"So…exactly what key were you in during that song?"

"You say you're self-taught? It shows."

"You do realize we're suppose to all play in the same time signature, right?"


...ensure smooth sound checks:
"Oh, you need more of your voice in the monitor? Do really think that's going to help?"


...encourage excellent platform presence:
"Not sure if you heard–it's now legal in our state to look somewhere besides your music stand."

"Next time you fist-pump or pogo-stick jump, consider doing it in time to the music."

"Did you hear the news? They just added joy to the fruit of the Spirit. Care to try some?"


...speak truth to the auditioning musician:
"You know the student ministry needs someone to drive the van."


...admonish the drummer with less than steady tempo:
"So, did your Ritalin wear off during that song."

"I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine. His name is Metronome."


...ascertain vocal problems:
"So you're saying your voice issues this morning are due to dairy. Did you eat a cheese wheel for breakfast?"

"Killer vibrato. By any chance, were you raised by mountain goats?"


...rein in a keyboard player:
"Wow. You overplay better than anyone I know."

"Do your fingers get sore...since you're using all ten of them all the time?"

"The bass player would like to express his deep appreciation for you playing his part for him."


...develop the guitarist:
"Frets 5 - 15 called. They want you to play up on them sometime."

"Yeah, why don't you add some delay to that song. I'm sure it can't get worse."


…motivate them to practice:
"Wow. So is this the first time you've pulled your instrument out of the case this week?"

"I'm sure God is OK with your mediocre efforts. You know, since He didn't really do that much for you."

"You're right, 'Worship is NOT about us.' But I didn't realize that was rationale NOT to practice."

"Sure, you can skip rehearsal. You'll forget everything we work on by Sunday morning anyway."

Wrapping up:
To those of you who don't have thoughts like this rise up - you are blessed. Please pray for the rest of us. Sarcasm is verbal nicotine: easy to start, tough to quit.

So let's make a pact together: To stop and breath deeply. To pray for strength to hold our tongues. And to speak only when we're sure the truth will be tempered in kindness.

Six Tips for Scheduling in a Small Church

Six Tips for Scheduling in a Small Church

By Jon Nicol   |  August 7, 2012

Some practical ways for smaller churches to make their musician scheduling process better...

Worship Team Devotional: Walmart Worship

Worship Team Devotional: Walmart Worship

By Jon Nicol   |  August 3, 2012


Not to us, O LORD, not to us
but to your name be the glory,
because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

I needed water softener salt. My town's water can turn a black t-­‐shirt charcoal gray in a single wash. A musician needs to protect his black t-­‐shirts.

My wife needed some spices for something she was making. Two diverse items + one trip = Walmart.


After getting the spices, I made my journey across the retail labyrinth to where I thought the salt should be. First mistake: thinking. I shoulda' asked.

After something that resembled the children of Israel wandering in the desert, I finally found a human with a navy blue shirt and asked him to point me to Sinai, er, softener salt.

He said, “The Garden Center,” and went back to ignoring me.

The Garden Center...of course! How did I not make that connection? I actually can see my lawn and garden from the basement window next to my water softener, so I can't believe I missed this one.

But seriously, it makes perfect sense for Walmart to stock their salt in the Garden Center. There's plenty of room for Walmart to maneuver the heavy pallets in and out with forklifts and pallet jacks. The heavy duty shelving made for mulch and fertilizer are also an ideal place for Walmart to put the salt. It all makes sense. For Walmart.

How much do worship teams do for the worship team?

  • Let's stick with these songs because we know them.
  • Let's do a bunch of new songs because we're bored.
  • Let's keep pushing the monitors hotter and hotter because we all need a bit "more me".
  • Let's keep these music stands high and center so we can see the music. We just don't have time to learn the song.

More brutal yet...how much do I, as the leader, do for me?

  • This key is far more comfortable for me.
  • Let's pursue excellence. (Read: Don't make me look bad)
  • We need to do this song, it really moves me.
  • Let's just let her sing, because telling her the truth would make her (actually, me) uncomfortable.

The leader serves the worship team. The worship team serves the congregation. We all are there for God’s glory. Anything else and we're putting softener salt in the Garden Center.

“How much do worship teams do for the worship team?” Do you think we’re guilty of any of those examples listed below that question? Which ones, and why do you think that?

What are some other things we’re doing “for the worship team” – for our comfort or convenience?

Which of these things are heart attitude issues for us, and which ones are simply poor habits or practices we’ve gotten into?

After reading Psalm 115:1, how do we rob God’s glory with these attitudes and practices?

What are some things we can do THIS WEEK to turn these behaviors and attitudes around? How about over the next few months?

Optional for the leader – discuss with the team some things that you’ve realized you’re doing “for you” and how you’re working on that. You may even want to open the discussion with that. Openness and vulnerability from you could open your team. Besides, our teams see our issues often before we do.

Not to us, Lord, but to Your Name be all glory.

Forgive us for what we do in Your Name to promote ourselves. We’ve tried to steal the glory due for you.

Forgive us for what we do in your name for our own comfort. We’ve missed the opportunity to serve and minister to others you’ve brought to us, robbing them of a chance to experience Your glory.

Father, thank you for your love and faithfulness that was displayed to us through Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, empower us to show Christ’s love and faithfulness as we lead in worship.

A Worship Tool You'd Be Crazy Not to Use

A Worship Tool You'd Be Crazy Not to Use

By Jon Nicol   |  August 2, 2012

A tool to help you plan songs and scriptures for worship...

10 Secrets to Grow Your Worship Team

10 Secrets to Grow Your Worship Team

By Jon Nicol   |  August 1, 2012

Trying to grow a worship team can be like nailing Jell-O to the wall...

Band ≠ Worship Team, Part 3

Band ≠ Worship Team, Part 3

By Tom Curley   |  July 31, 2012

I'm With the BandWorship Team:
How to keep your church worship ministry from becoming just another great band

When I was a teenager, I had the opportunity to join a worship band in a local church. I brought with me the experience and expectations of “being in a band,” and this way of thinking continued as I later became the lead worshipper. My personal music paradigm was opposite of Romans 12:2  which says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world.” NLT

Thankfully, God in His amazing grace helped me to see a clearer picture of music ministry in the church and how it is more than just having a great “band.”

One difference that I learned was that a “band” is an exclusive, privileged group but a local church worship ministry (LCWM) is about serving.

Our culture tells us that a band is all about the elevated platform, the spotlight, the exclusive backstage area, the arrival by limo and the autograph session. Though your average church musician will not arrive by stretch limo, this mindset of band exclusivity can still invade the church.

It will often manifest itself by band members asking, “Where is my bottled water?” Now there is nothing wrong with bottled water and vocalists and drummers can certainly use hydration, but lately it seems that all church worship teams are sponsored by Dasani. Between songs and especially at the end of the song service, every musician and singer whips out a bottle and starts chugging away in front of a congregation that may be just as thirsty but not as “privileged.” (By the way, I am a worship leader with a water bottle, not a disgruntled congregant!)

Another manifestation of this “band exclusivity” mindset is when some worship bands leave the sanctuary as a group after the worship to go to a room to wait for the sermon to finish so they can come back and do the closing music. I visited such a church one time, and all I could think about was how the pastor must feel as he watched his worship team leave for java and donuts instead of staying and supporting the ministry of the Word.

“Band exclusivity” is also projected when the worship band informs other ministry leaders in the church that the band members are unavailable to serve in the nursery or other service areas of the church due to the higher priority of their presence on the platform on Sundays.

Remember, any action or activity that separates the worshipers on the platform from the worshippers in the congregation only contributes to the perception of the worship band as an exclusive insiders “club.”

God’s Word tells us that we should prefer others above ourselves. (Romans 12:10) We should follow the example of Jesus who “made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7).

Put this into practice by giving your worship team opportunities to serve the church and community without using music! Serving may not develop a tighter sound in your band but it will develop something greater: character.

Other ways to lessen the distance between the worship team and the congregation include being more discreet with the band privileges such as the water bottles and personal cooling fans, or try putting the band off the platform and on the ground floor for a real “we’re in this with you” worship experience! Also, having multiple worship teams allows each volunteer to have as much pew time as platform time to help keep a healthy perspective.

As we focus on serving, we will see lives changed God’s Kingdom come on earth!

Unleash Your Sneezers

Unleash Your Sneezers

By Jon Nicol   |  July 30, 2012

One of my drummers came to me after the service. “Did you know Lisa Jones* has really great voice? I was sitting in front of her during worship – she was harmonizing and everything.”

No. I did not know that. Hmm…

The best recruiters and promoters for your worship team are your worship team. Seth Godin calls them "sneezers."

They’re connected with people that you’re not.

They hear people that you don’t. Think of them like embedded moles spying for your team. (Sorry, I'm watching 24 on Netflix right now…)

And if they love being a part of it, they want others to experience it, too. They won’t be a “recruiter” or a slick salesman. They’re just sharing the love. Hence, sneezing...

Just make sure they understand the qualification process. You don’t want them “signing up” someone before you have a chance to qualify him.

Go ahead. Unleash your sneezers.

Asking Questions

Asking Questions

By Jon Nicol   |  July 27, 2012

A new WorshipTeamCoach tool that features you and your questions...

Band ≠ Worship Team, Part 2

Band ≠ Worship Team, Part 2

By Tom Curley   |  July 26, 2012

Today's blog is a guest post from Tom Curly.

I'm With the BandWorship Team:
How to keep your church worship ministry from becoming just another great band

The musicians of our generation are band experts. We have grown up consuming the bulk of our musical entertainment from groups of four or five guys playing bass, drums, guitars, and keyboards.

As a teenager, I remember idolizing bands and wanting to be a “rock star” myself. My musician friends and I spent a lot of our time forming bands, naming our bands, creating cool graphic art of our band’s name and trying to find a place to perform. (We probably should have spent some time practicing!)

But “Bands” as we know them are not the same as a local church worship ministry (LCWM). An important difference is that a band is about ownership.  A LCWM is about stewardship.

A drummer with a “band” mindset gets concerned when anyone else plays “his” drums, even when the church owns the drums. Ownership mentality is concerned with “my music,” “my place on the platform,” “my equipment” and “my position” in the band. Ownership says “because of my years of faithful service, I deserve to play every Sunday.”

Even in worship ministries that do rotate multiple members, if one member is disgruntled because he wasn’t chosen to play on Easter Sunday even though he has been with the band longer than the musician that was selected, the attitude is incorrect and is more influenced by a “band” mindset of ownership rather than a mindset of stewardship.

A true stewardship approach to worship ministry says, “I am only holding a position of service for a season until God brings someone else for me to share this with or pass it over to.” Stewardship recognizes that we don’t own anything, nor do we have any rights to demand.

Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 9:17-18:

If I were doing this of my own free will, then I would deserve payment. But God has chosen me and given me this sacred trust, and I have no choice. What then is my pay? It is the satisfaction I get from preaching the Good News without expense to anyone, never demanding my rights as a preacher.”(NLT)

Paul knew he was “crucified with Christ” and as a “dead” man had no rights that he could demand.

Many musicians and singers with a “band” way of thinking feel that they are entitled to certain “rights” due to their degree of talent or their tenure on the team. I discovered this myself when our church changed to in-ear monitors and all instrument amps were removed from the stage in order to provide a cleaner sound for the congregation. This change took our worship team out of their comfort zone. Some team members were unhappy that they could no longer have their preferred equipment played at their preferred sound level and left the team. They could not fully see past their personal sacrifices to grasp the overall vision of an improved worship experience for the congregation. As a leader, I had to shoulder much of the blame because I had not done a good job in teaching about servant ministry.

One practical way to limit team members feeling of ownership is to ask the church to purchase most of the musical equipment. Back in the day, ownership wasn’t really an issue because the church owned the piano and the organ! However, today many worship team members feel overly possessive because they use their own personal equipment.  I’m not suggesting that churches provide a guitar for the guitarist, but they would do well to purchase the less personal items such as drums, instrument amplifiers, keyboards, etc…

Let’s teach our worship teams about stewardship and watch how God’s blessings pour down when we realize that everything we have comes from Him and belongs to Him!

To the Worship Team That I Encountered While On Vacation This Summer

To the Worship Team That I Encountered While On Vacation This Summer

By Jon Nicol   |  July 25, 2012

First, thanks. You really did well. I felt your hearts were in the right place as well as your talents. Second, even though you are all fairly young, you led with maturity and worked to connect with a crowd that was older than you.

But can I shoot straight with you about one big issue? It’s your song choices. Let’s start with your opening song:

No one knew it.

That would’ve been OK, but you invited us to stand. Which means we assume we’re suppose to sing along.

Only, no one knew the song (did I mention that already?).

Had you just opened the service with that song and let us listen, it might’ve been a better experience all around. We wouldn’t have stood there like screen zombies and you might not have been tempted to judged us to be people who don’t feel the moving of Holy Spirit.

Then there was the closing song. How can I put this?

No one knew it.

Which is OK. It fit the theme of the message and it was fun to listen to. But again, you invited us to stand. Don’t be afraid to let people just sit, listen and take a song in. Sometimes reflecting is more effective than fumbling.

My wife and I were invited to hang out with some friends last night. They had some other friends over that my wife and I didn’t know. But guess who greeted me at the door? My friend. And guess who introduced me to the people I didn’t know? My friend. And at the end of the night, who walked us to our car? My friend.

We liked the friends of our friends. We got to know them. But they weren’t the ones that set us at ease coming in and helped us exit feeling connected. My friend did that.

Familiar songs are like old friends welcoming us in. Connecting us to less familiar songs. Giving us confidence. Helping us engage. Making one last connection before we depart.

But you bookended the worship gathering with unfamiliar songs. Songs we didn’t know, didn’t feel connected with, but yet felt the pressure to attempt a sing-along. And I’m all for learning a new song. But you used the prime real estate of the service do so. It would have been great to have a familiar friend meet us at the door and later walk us out.

Now the rest of the songs were familiar and AWESOME. But a little too awesome.

Let me explain.

I don’t remember the order, but the line-up included Revelation Song, New Life’s Great I Am, Hillsong’s Hosanna and one I forget. But each song was a big mid-tempo anthem. Each one powerful and moving. Each an apex of worship expression.

And we climbed up and down four of those mountains.

By the middle of the third mid-tempo anthem, I was starting feel a little fatigued. When you kicked into the fourth one, I was looking for something to hold on to. (My wife had already sat down. But the morning sickness might’ve had something to do with that.)

If worship is a journey, you took us right to the Himalayas.

I don’t think we need some worship formula that prescribes two fast songs, a mid-tempo anthem, and a slow intimate song. But a little variety in our journey would have been nice.

It was just too much of a good thing. Like cheesecake or shrimp scampi. Ever had unfettered access to large quantities either one? The results are not good...

So those are my thoughts, dear Worship Team That I Encountered While On Vacation This Summer. Again, you did fantastic job of leading and your heart truly shined through. So take from this letter what resonates with you, and chuck the rest.

By the way, is anyone else hungry for shrimp scampi right now?

10 Symptoms of

10 Symptoms of "the ME's"

By Jon Nicol   |  July 24, 2012

A small worship band is a ripe environment to grow the virus that causes "the MEs.”

If I sit on the same spot on the same stage and play the same instrument week after week, who owns that spot?


I’ve now got a case of the MEs: Musician Entitlement Syndrome. Forget about me being open to new members. They can take my spot, but only when I’m on vacation.

Below are 10 symptoms of the MEs. Not all of them necessarily point to Musician Entitlement Syndrome. But there's an awful good chance they do. People suffering from "the MEs" just may display the following symptoms:

1. Showing up late.

2. Showing up unprepared.

3. Not showing up at all to rehearsal, but still expecting to participate on Sunday.

4. Getting tweaked when someone else is given a lead part, solo, etc.

5. Getting territorial when a new person joins the team.

Often manifested through...

6. Gossip.

Gossip is a form of...

7. Seeking validation. I try to validate my low view of Person A by getting Person B to agree with that low view.

8. Not wanting a Sunday off unless I'm on vacation.

9. Gets upset when the status quo gets upset. People suffering from MEs don't often like change...unless it clearly benefits them.

10. Reads a list like this one and thinks the blogger is a complete moron.

Time Versus Money In Worship Leadership

Time Versus Money In Worship Leadership

By Jon Nicol   |  July 23, 2012

Why tools like Planning Center Online are great investments

One of the hazards of a leading worship in a small church worship is valuing money over time.

It’s often necessary. If you don’t have the cash, you don’t have the cash. And so we spend another precious capital – time – to make up for our lackluster budget.

For example, while I was at a smaller church, I used to spend hours transcribing and notating lead sheets for songs I could buy on PraiseCharts for six bucks. I was saving my teeny budget to buy much needed equipment.

During that same time, I developed a site for my team to access the band and song schedule, download charts and mp3s, and check on any current news. Most of my team loved the convenience. I’m just glad the RIAA didn’t find it. I had about 200 mp3s on there I was technically “sharing.” (By the way, this well-intentioned form of piracy is now covered and legal.)

Then I got a job at a larger church. I had a sizeable budget. An assistant. A relatively decent paycheck. I also had an inkling about some new online worship planning tools.  But I didn’t bother. I already had a system that worked.

Unfortunately, updating the site was decidely not in my assistant's wheelhouse – she thought DreamWeaver was a song and HTML was Mandarin Chinese written in Courier font.

So I continued to do all the work on my homemade site, slogging away 15 – 20 hours a month – sometimes more when there were lots of new songs to add (like at Christmas, the best season to have more administrative work…).

As the limitations of a static website started to wear on me, the ads for Planning Center Online begin to catch my eye. When I realized the cost of staying the same was greater than the cost of changing, I finally jumped ship to Planning Center.

It was then I realized how big of an idiot I was.

Let’s do the math. At that church, I was being paid around $20/hour. I would spend at least 10 hours every month to update and maintain my worship team’s website. So I was pouring $200 of my church’s money into this most basic site. I could have had Planning Center Online (PCO) for $30 a month.

This is why worship pastors never serve on finance committees.

But for you smaller churches with very little budget, $30 a month would eat up most (if not all of your funds).

PCO understands this, and has a graded plans. Most churches under 200 will find the lowest premium level, $14/month, to suit their needs. And many churches around 100 or less will likely find their “Forever Free” version adequate.

Even if you’re not as maniacally cheap as I was by creating my own site, PCO will likely reduce your administrative work enough to pay for itself. Chances are you probably spend more than 5 hours a month dealing with communication, charts distribution, and volunteer scheduling.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say your time is worth more than $3 an hour.

Run your own numbers. Even if you’re a volunteer. Estimate conservatively that PCO will save you ½ the time you’re spending now (with more effective results). I’m no Warren Buffet, but I’m guessing that PCO is a better return on your investment. And if I can see it, your church treasurer will see it.

And heck, if he’s too cheap to pony up the dough, pay for it yourself. Your time is worth far more than $15 a month.

So while I seem to be plugging Planning Center Online,* I’m just using it as a stellar example to make this overarching point: don’t overvalue money and undervalue time.

Figure out what your time is really worth, whether you’re paid or volunteer. Then you’ll be able to decide if premium tools like PCO, or PraiseCharts are worth it. You’ll likely find that they are.

*I’m not endorsed by PCO, but I have a feeling some of my readers think I am. I just think they make a fantastic product.

Band ≠ Worship Ministry, Part 1

Band ≠ Worship Ministry, Part 1

By Tom Curley   |  July 20, 2012

Today's blog is a guest post from Tom Curly.

How to keep your church worship ministry from becoming just another great band, Part 1 

Over the last few decades, thousands of local churches have changed their worship leading models from the traditional “choir, piano, and organ” model to the contemporary “worship band” model. This exciting approach to leading congregations in worship has brought a greater cultural relevance and a more modern sound that has helped the church to facilitate worship for a new generation of worshippers.

However, the “worship band” model has also brought with it a new set of problems that have frustrated many worship leaders. Most of these problems stem from the fact that the musicians and vocalists who volunteer to serve in a local church worship ministry only have a “band” model as a source of experience. These volunteers have great intentions and want to serve God with their talents, but they may need a better understanding of how playing music in a local church setting is different.

One distinction between “bands” and "Local Church Worship Ministries" (LCWM) is that a band is finite, a “closed circle” whereas  a LCWM is infinite, an “open circle.”

Most of us have been exposed to popular secular bands like the Beatles. This band was strongest as one unit: Paul, George, John and Ringo. When the Beatles split up, no individual member achieved success as great as the group enjoyed. (With all due respect, Sir Paul) In fact, no secular band has ever enjoyed long term mainstream popularity while constantly changing the key members of the band. Because of our exposure to this musical culture, we often assume the following incorrect statements:

1. Our worship team is strongest when it is “us four and no more.”

2. The ultimate goal of a worship team is excellence, which can only be achieved by the same group of musicians playing together for a long period of time so that they fully know each other’s playing styles and can together produce music that is “tight.”

3. Adding a new member will mess up the “chemistry” of the band.

The truth is that a LCWM is not a band, even when it looks like a band, and a LCWM must be an “open circle.” This means that our worship ministries, like our churches, must demonstrate inclusion instead of exclusion. God has called us to open the circle wider to train up new worship leaders, musicians and vocalists to be the lead worshippers for the next generation. How many musicians have disappointedly left churches when they felt they would never get an opportunity to serve unless a current band member died or moved away?

A great way to put this into practice is to have multiple volunteers at each position. Finding extra singers may not be difficult, but training and investing time in new musicians can be a challenge. Still, that is what we are called to do! Using a variety of musicians and singers is a “God” idea as revealed in 1 Chronicles 25:8, “The musicians were appointed to their particular term of service by means of sacred lots, without regard to whether they were young or old, teacher or student.” NLT

So let’s open up our circle and extend a welcome to new band members. In doing so, we will help expand the Kingdom of God!

Question: How have you dealt with the arguements of us four & no more, tightness and chemistry?

Coming up: Part Two - Ownership vs. Stewardship

The Good (and Bad) News About Small Church Worship Ministry

The Good (and Bad) News About Small Church Worship Ministry

By Jon Nicol   |  July 19, 2012

The unsugar-coated truth about worship ministry in a small church...

Five Reasons You Should Take LONGER to Qualify Musicians

Five Reasons You Should Take LONGER to Qualify Musicians

By Jon Nicol   |  July 18, 2012

I'm in the process of revamping my team's qualification process (our name for auditions/interviews/tryouts, etc). I'm purposely making the process longer. While there are probably more, here are five reasons why:

1. It gives the potential member and the team time to connect.

Invite the potential member (henceforth: PM) to participate in a few rehearsals, warm-ups and team meetings during their qualification process. It’ll help him come in as less of a stranger. It also helps prepare your team for the arrival of a new person.

2. It gives the PM a clearer picture of how the team and ministry operates.

Attendance at rehearsals, warm-ups, meetings, etc. is an important part of the process. Not only will the PM get to know the team, she’ll see how your ministry works. It will also make her first Sunday easier if she knows what to expect.

Or, she can cut and run if she doesn't like what she sees.

3. It gives you time to check references.

If the PM has only been at your church for less than 2 years, ask for references and contact info for leaders of other ministries he has worked in. You just might learn something that could save you a lot of head- & heartaches down the road.

4. It weeds out people who aren’t that serious.

 If they can’t commit to the 1 – 3 month process, you don’t want them on your team.

5. It allows you to be confident to recommend this PM for approval/affirmation.

If you don’t have an elder or leadership team that gives final approval, you should. They might know something you don’t. Plus, it communicates that you as a leader and the ministry itself are under the cover of God’s delegated (or constituted) authority.


Currently, our qualification process at Heartland takes about 2 – 3 weeks if everyone's schedules align. It will now likely take 2 – 3 months, or longer. (I know. I would’ve hated me 10 years ago, too.)

I’ll be writing more extensively on the how and why and what and when of creating a solid qualification process for new players. In the meantime, let me know how you do your qualification process. I’d love to steal – um, learn from you.

29 Worship Tools for Under $29, Part 12

29 Worship Tools for Under $29, Part 12

By Jon Nicol   |  July 17, 2012

The acoustic guitar reigned king of the worship team...but now it's someone else's turn...

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