All Posts in Resources for Worship Leaders

April 05, 2016 - No Comments!

Confession: He Provides

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Here is a little something I wrote for last Sunday as we looked at Jesus’ unexpected provision in the book of Mark:

A Prayer of Confession For Repentance

We forget that you are over all, and love us dearly. We try to take things into our own hands instead of trusting you.
Response: The Lord is good and provides for his children. 

 //

We store our treasure and carry anxiety that we will go without tomorrow, even though our yesterdays are packed full of evidence that you care for us.
Response: The Lord is good and provides for his children. 
 //
Our hearts are full of worry when we lack and full of pride when we have. We take credit for the things we have and forget that even our abilities, intelligence, and work ethic have been given by you.
Response: The Lord is good and provides for his children.
//

February 01, 2016 - No Comments!

Jesus As Healer

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(I wrote this for our gatherings this last Sunday.)

Jesus is alive. He is with you at this moment. He is our healer. He is willing. He is able.

Today we will look at how Jesus did some unexpected healing.  The beauty of Jesus is that he is full of depth. There are thousands of reasons to give our all to Jesus. This is why we gather to worship the same  triune God every Sunday, but rarely for the same reason. This is why a weekly rhythm of corporate worship is always fresh and never tired. The aspect of our Savior that is reason for today’s worship is Jesus as our healer.

“We don’t have to simply clamor around the crowds watching the miracle carnival.”

The thing that stands out to me in the stories of Jesus healing is that most often, someone goes to great lengths to get to Jesus. They pushed the crowd. They would drop down their friend through a hole in the ceiling. They will do whatever it takes. Some would call them desperate. Many surely called them foolish. We know, because we have the luxury of looking back on their lives, that they were indeed the smartest people in the room.

But this is where our story differs from theirs. We don’t need to run to town to catch a glimpse. We don’t need to hope the rumors are true. We don’t have to simply clamor around the crowds watching the miracle carnival.  We can relate to him and be known by him in the comfort of our desk at work or the driver’s seat of our car, or the rocking chair in our newborn’s room.

Jesus is alive. He is with you at this moment. He is our healer. He is willing. He is able.

Some of us have never asked Jesus for healing because we don’t think he’d ever say yes. Some have asked for healing and he has said “not yet” because he cares more for the part of us that will last forever and knows that when he works through our circumstances (including pain) that we are transformed. Can we trust that whatever his answer is to our pleas for healing, he’s answering the question the way we would if we knew everything? If you want healing from God, then rest in his goodness and timing.

Jesus is alive. He is with you at this moment. He is our healer. He is willing. He is able.

September 29, 2015 - 1 comment.

Blocks: Use A Song Catalog

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(Continuing in my series about leading worship in a replant, I’ll discuss something any worship ministry can benefit from. This week we’ll look at WHY catalogs are helpful. Next week I’ll unpack HOW to build a catalog.  Stay tuned…)

What’s A Catalog?

When worship leaders reach out for coaching wanting guidance or input on their worship ministry, one of the first things I ask about is regarding the use of catalogs.  Most are familiar with the concept but pick songs for their congregation with little attention to frequency, consistency, or breadth.  The top 10 CCM songs are not a thoughtful or even helpful way of choosing songs for Sunday.  Using a catalog hlps your congregation, your musicians, and is a great tool for worship leaders to balance the “worship diet” of their church.

First let’s define the term for our use:
A catalog is a set bank of songs used for a set period of time at a set location that balances the worship diet of your congregation.  For example, we use a catalog that changes every 3 months, of around 25 songs at Doxa.

Here’s a quick rundown on a few of the tested advantages I’ve seen play out:

1.  It’s helpful for your congregation (and guests).

It’s very hard to encourage participation in the congregation if they are constantly learning new material. They need to have several reps of the same song before it becomes familiar to them, and this happens long after the musicians (because we’ve practiced it several times for every single time they hear it on a Sunday). In addition, if someone new comes to our church for several weeks in a row, we want them to begin to recognize the music and feel an active part of our gatherings.  Our songs are a part of our shared culture and language.  We say, “a guest should recognize several songs if they spend a month with us”.

2.  It’s helpful for your teaching pastor.

In many churches, the teaching pastor has ten times the theological training that the worship leader does.  This is highly problematic, but that’s another post for another day.  Giving your teaching pastor a voice into the songs you use for Sundays is a great checkpoint, especially if they aren’t musically inclined.  Using a catalog can help you work on the worship menu together and gives you a fighting chance at tying in the music with upcoming teaching themes.  It also allows for your teaching pastor to request songs more easily when he has the catalog in hand.  The benefits for planning services with a catalog are numerous.

3.  It’s helpful for the worship leader.

Every worship leader has a certain number of songs they could play at any moment.  There are another group of songs that with a quick glance at a lyric sheet you could pull off.  Still other songs would require the chord chart to be in front of you and several practices.  This is true because depending on many factors, you only have so much memory recall to allocate towards the songs you are playing.

If you utilize a catalog, you can prepare smarter.  Rather than just prepare for the looming Sunday, use rehearsals to play through a portion of your catalog.  This can mean it’s never been more than a few weeks since you’ve played an active catalog song.  I can’t overstate how helpful this is.  This saves time previously spent trying to remember that one tune you haven’t played for months.  It creates space in practices for praying together, writing and creativity with your band or team, not to mention polishing the songs that need a little extra work.

4. It helps with a balanced worship diet.

Using a catalog is a great way to ensure a “balanced diet” for your congregation.  The Psalms are full of a breadth of human emotion.  With a catalog in place, it’s easier to intentionally have songs in rotation that cover celebration, despair, doubt, gratitude, and confession.  Here is a sample of some of the balances we are striving for in our catalogs:

  • a.  Subjective vs. objective (How we feel or respond vs. what is unchanging and true)
  • b.  Indicative vs. imperative (Reminding what Christ has done vs. what we do in response)
  • c.  Celebrational vs. contemplative (both in lyrical content and in musical mood)
  • d.  Individual vs. corporate (I and me vs. us and we)

A warning: many have moralized (or demonized) different categories of songs in recent years, which speaks to both an ignorance of the Psalms as well as church history.  Yes, let’s sing about what God has done and who He is.  But giving language to our response is essential to.  The common notion that all the old songs were rich and godly, and the modern contributions to praise music are empty and man-centered is problematic.  For example, in the hymnals I have collected from the 1800s, the most common first word found in the song titles is “I”.  Balance is key.

Try A Catalog Out

These are only some of the benefits but it’s clear to see that catalogs are a incredibly useful tool for worship leaders.  Create one from scratch or use PCO, but figure out a way to implement a catalog for greater clarity and intentionality in your worship ministry. You can download a sample of one of our catalogs here.  I’ll post next week on how to build a catalog, so watch for that.

What benefits or challenges have you seen?  Comment below.

September 24, 2015 - No Comments!

Song Spotlight: “Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted”

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Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” was originally written by Thomas Kelly in 1804 from a passage in Isaiah 53.  Kelly wrote over 750 hymns in his day…no small contribution!  He set out to be a lawyer but quickly felt a pull towards vocational ministry and started at an Anglican priest.

Our version has the language modernized a touch, and uses part of a verse as a bridge format to provide some variation in the road-map.

The song is very fitting for communion times in a Sunday service, and the depth and weight lend it to being used in Good Friday type services.  A PCO chord chart is available here for download.  You can buy “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” from the album “Hopefully Broken” on iTunes.

Kevin DeYoung has a helpful write-up on the author as well found here. Let us know if you use this in your worship gathering!

July 08, 2015 - No Comments!

Blocks: Ask The Right Questions

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Over the last 17 years, I have had a host of influences in regards to leadership.  I’m thankful that these influences have come from very different “tribes” in the church world, and in some cases, not from church leaders at all. This diversity in perspective is something that’s immensely helpful.  People outside your own camp often ask different questions than you would, and that is incredibly valuable to any leader.

One thing I heard from Andy Stanley years ago, was that you can tell what an organization values, by the questions it asks.  I suspect that this is why one of the most common resources I am asked for is our Sunday Scorecard.  In the midst of rebuilding a worship ministry, it was a great time to revisit that tool, and establish a foundation for what we care about on Sundays.

Below are a few tips in building your own scorecard for Sunday gatherings:

1.  Use your church vision and mission statements to frame the scorecard.

This ties your feedback to how it supports or detracts from the mission you have collectively agreed upon.  I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important this is.  Your volunteers and leaders will create cultural momentum if they know how their task fits inline with the greater vision.  This is not solved by a scorecard alone, but the scorecard is a GREAT place to reinforce that vision.

2.  Be sure to cover every area of a Sunday you want to grow, not just preaching and music.

Sundays are more than a message and some music, so use the scorecard to evaluate and give feedback to other areas that people encounter.  Examples would be: kids ministry, greeting team, hospitality, ushers, etc.

3.  Make sure there is space for both constructive critique and positive affirmation.

Find people who naturally see the wins and also those that can see what needs improvement.  Have them both fill out your scorecard.  Instruct them to be honest and gracious.  It’s essential that you make sure that anyone responsible for the area of ministry discussed is roped into the conversation at some point, and appropriately encouraged/challenged.  It’s helpful to have measured questions (yes/no or scale of 1-5) along with open ended questions for comments and specifics.

4.  Have people in different roles and level of responsibility fill out the scorecard each week.

This is essential because a volunteer will see and hear things through a very different filter on Sunday.  This kind of 360 degree approach ensures a wider perspective and that the leadership stays connected to the front lines of ministry.  Did the sermon make sense to those that weren’t at the church staff meeting where the teaching pastor explained his main point?  What did “non-musicians” think about the set-list?  I’d also encourage you to have a diverse team build the scorecard together to start with.

I hope this is helpful as you think through your own scorecard.  Ask the right questions and you will continue to see the right results.

 

See a live sample of my scorecard here.  You can see the other resources I have developed here.  If you’d like help developing your own scorecard, or just want better Sundays, contact me for a free coaching call.

March 09, 2015 - No Comments!

Free Worship Leader Resources

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I’ve recently added some free tools for worship leaders, including a sample Worship Application (detailing expectations), some Memory Verse Cards for worship volunteers, and a Worship Catalog Balance Tool that is really helpful in rounding out the selection and genre of songs you use on Sundays.  Check it all out over at the Resources page.

For far less that the cost of a typical conference, you can have highly personal and customized worship coaching for 6 months.  Learn more here or request a free coaching call here.

August 25, 2014 - No Comments!

Worship Ministry Essentials Part 3: Bring Identifcation

After meandering through the corn maze of ropes and suitcases on wheels, you finally approach the counter.

The ticket agent is distracted. You throw your luggage on the scales, waiting for her attention. Anxiously, you check the time, glance at the container of unused bag tags and the pen chained to the counter, then back at the time again.  Finally, she turns and asks the most important question of the day.  No matter what you’ve paid or sacrificed to be standing here now, your response will determine your destiny.

“Can I see your ID?”
Whether your traveling, heading into a warzone, grabbing concert tickets at will-call, or using your credit card to buy a really old new vinyl record, your ID is an essential item that goes with you everywhere.  The same is true for the worship stage.

Continuing in our series about the most important facets of worship ministry, this time around we’ll look at why gospel identity is important for all believers, but especially essential for those in worship ministry.

WHY IDENTITY MATTERS
Jesus repeatedly point out that who we are must precede what we do.  We get into dangerous territory when “what” comes before “who”.  Keller addresses the difficulty of doing ministry without a clear picture of identity:

“At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.” 

You can’t do what God has called you to, without a clear understanding of who he has called you to be.  Paul Tripp adds this:

“I will either get my identity vertically, from who I am in Christ, or I will shop for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of my daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that pastors are particularly tempted to seek their identity horizontally.” 
So before we jump in, lets briefly define gospel identity:

Gospel identity is the recognition in the believer that they have been created by God, participated in the Adam’s rebellion in nature and action, atoned for by Christ when he died in their place for their sins, and now belong forever in God’s family, both during current sanctification and in the future in God’s perfect heaven.

 

WHO YOU ARE (AND WHO YOU ARE NOT)
Worship leaders have several fake IDs they can reach for.  We can try to emulate our mentors or heroes in the worship world.  We can try to be what we think the people we’re leading want us to be.  We can try to play the role of mediator, carrying the weight of connecting the congregation to their Maker.

Knowing your gospel identity will put guardrails between you and the deadly cliffs of being anything outside of what God has asked of you.  Rather than entertaining God’s apathetic sheep like a rockstar, you can pastor them through tough Sundays because you are a shepherd.  When you don’t see yourself as the God-man standing between creator and creation, you can lead your people faithfully as a worship leader rather than a worship mediator.
Additionally, if you don’t expect to be impressive or perfect, then feedback from your staff or volunteers won’t be crushing, because they aren’t shattering the fragile glass ornament of your ego.  Instead those remarks are received as constructive and useful for consideration in our growth.
AN EASY AND ESSENTIAL CHALLENGE 

Knowing and believing that you are forgiven and under God’s grace will drastically change how you lead on stage. You’ll be free to express gratitude, brokenness, and joy on stage because you aren’t captive to the opinions of others. You can rest knowing that God’s work moves on despite your imperfect execution or that moment you forgot the lyrics to verse two.

Jesus repeatedly points out that who we are must precede what we do. So then, who are we? We’re broken people that God delights in using.  We are treasured sons and daughters in His family. We are servants to the highest king to have ever taken a throne.
There’s certainly a lot more to be said on this topic, but for the sake of brevity remember: we can’t lead others in worship very effectively if we don’t first know who we are.  Knowing our identity gives us reason to sing ourselves and the boldness to ask others to do the same.
No matter how long you have led worship (and I would argue the longer you’ve led the more likely you are to err on this issue), I’d challenge you to do something simple.  Next Sunday, just before you take the stage, check your ID.  In those last moments while people are finding their seats or the pastor on stage is making announcements, whisper to God, “I am yours, and I belong to you”.  Remember who Christ is and who you are too.

August 08, 2014 - No Comments!

Worship Ministry Essentials – Part 3: Bring your ID

After meandering through the corn maze of ropes and suitcases on wheels, you finally approach the counter.  

The ticket agent is distracted. You throw your luggage on the scales, waiting for her attention. Anxiously, you check the time, glance at the container of unused bag tags and the pen chained to the counter, then back at the time again.  Finally, she turns and asks the most important question of the day.  No matter what you’ve paid or sacrificed to be standing here now, your response will determine your destiny.

“Can I see your ID?”

Whether your traveling, heading into a warzone, grabbing concert tickets at will-call, or using your credit card to buy a really old new vinyl record, your ID is an essential item that goes with you everywhere.  The same is true for the worship stage.

Continuing in our series about the most important facets of worship ministry, this time around we’ll look at why gospel identity is important for all believers, but especially essential for those in worship ministry.

WHY IDENTITY MATTERS
Jesus repeatedly point out that who we are must precede what we do.  We get into dangerous territory when “what” comes before “who”
.  Keller addresses the difficulty of doing ministry without a clear picture of identity: 
“At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.”
 

You can’t do what God has called you to, without a clear understanding of who he has called you to be.  Paul Tripp adds this:


“I will either get my identity vertically, from who I am in Christ, or I will shop for it horizontally in the situations, experiences, and relationships of my daily life. This is true of everyone, but I am convinced that pastors are particularly tempted to seek their identity horizontally.” 
 
So before we jump in, lets briefly define gospel identity:

Gospel identity is the recognition in the believer that they have been created by God, participated in the Adam’s rebellion in nature and action, atoned for by Christ when he died in their place for their sins, and now belong forever in God’s family, both during current sanctification and in the future in God’s perfect heaven.

WHO YOU ARE (AND WHO YOU ARE NOT)
Worship leaders have several fake IDs they can reach for.  We can try to emulate our mentors or heroes in the worship world.  We can try to be what we think the people we’re leading want us to be.  We can try to play the role of mediator, carrying the weight of connecting the congregation to their Maker.  

Knowing your gospel identity will put guardrails between you and the deadly cliffs of being anything outside of what God has asked of you.  Rather than entertaining God’s apathetic sheep like a rockstar, you can pastor them through tough Sundays because you are a shepherd.  When you don’t see yourself as the God-man standing between creator and creation, you can lead your people faithfully as a worship leader rather than a worship mediator. 
Additionally, if you don’t expect to be impressive or perfect, then feedback from your staff or volunteers won’t be crushing, because they aren’t shattering the fragile glass ornament of your ego.  Instead those remarks are received as constructive and useful for consideration in our growth.


AN EASY AND ESSENTIAL CHALLENGE 
Knowing and believing that you are forgiven and under God’s grace will drastically change how you lead on stage. You’ll be free to express gratitude, brokenness, and joy on stage because you aren’t captive to the opinions of others. You can rest knowing that God’s work moves on despite your imperfect execution or that moment you forgot the lyrics to verse two.  

Jesus repeatedly points out that who we are must precede what we do. So then, who are we? We’re broken people that God delights in using.  We are treasured sons and daughters in His family. We are servants to the highest king to have ever taken a throne. 


There’s certainly a lot more to be said on this topic, but for the sake of brevity remember: we can’t lead others in worship very effectively if we don’t first know who we are.  Knowing our identity gives us reason to sing ourselves and the boldness to ask others to do the same.  

No matter how long you have led worship (and I would argue the longer you’ve led the more likely you are to err on this issue), I’d challenge you to do something simple.  Next Sunday, just before you take the stage, check your ID.  In those last moments while people are finding their seats or the pastor on stage is making announcements, whisper to God, “I am yours, and I belong to you”.  Remember who Christ is and who you are too.

July 25, 2014 - No Comments!

Worship Ministry Essentials Part 2: DNA

Any healthy forest has trees of different sizes.

Seedlings from decades past eventually grow tall and help the legacy of the forest live on by dispersing seeds of their own. If the distribution of new life stops, the forest has begun to die.

Strategies, methods, beliefs, and target audience make up a local church’s culture or DNA. Shelves of leadership books address the importance of having the right DNA in your organization. Worship ministry is no different.

DNA can encompass the “why” and the “how” of ministry. Some how-DNA will change with time such as music styles or methods. Other why-DNA will remain constant such as the centrality of Jesus (Galatians 1:6–9). Even though how-DNA may change, it’s still essential to define and defend what you want it to be now.

Replicators, Not Receivers

The worship stage is an essential platform for communicating DNA to the church, so teach those on stage to be replicators (think big trees) of your DNA, not just receivers of it (seedlings). Replicators are those who don’t just get the task done, but explain the vision behind what’s happening adding leadership momentum and coverage. Replicators lead their sphere of influence in seeing the greatness of Christ by doing what God has called your church to do.

Vision leaks (every 30 days according to some leadership gurus) so rain vision continually. People forget the why of your ministry long before they forget how to meet the expectations. Without why-DNA, leaders are left with the imperative to obey but without the truth that empowers obedience (2 Peter 1:3). This is dangerous to the soul and the ministry.

“Fresh vision rooted in the gospel helps minimize attrition and collapses.”

If you don’t create and manage your church’s DNA, you’ll waste valuable energy redirecting and repairing rather than progressing.

Replicating the Right DNA

1. Decide which hills you will die on.

What doctrines and philosophies are non-negotiable? Don’t drench your worship volunteers with different vision each week. Land on the core things you want them to live and breathe. Be careful of assessing participation in some areas but not others (e.g. valuing a band member’s musical abilities while overlooking a lack of a servant-like heart).

2. Start at the front door.

Make sure volunteers understand what’s important to you from the very start.
Whether you have a formal audition process or not, make sure everyone in the forest you oversee knows the DNA. Anyone putting roots down needs to be briefed with a chance to ask questions.

3. Create touch-points that make sense.

Establish a system of touch-points (meetings, hang-outs, videos, emails, blogs, etc.) between you and key leaders at regular intervals where you intentionally include DNA conversations (see worksheet below). Every system has a shelf life, so ask trusted leaders when a system needs patching, and when it needs an overhaul. Keller’s article on how communication is affected by church size is pertinent here.

4. Assess current leaders.

If you hear someone say something on stage or in a conversation that doesn’t reflect your DNA, pull them aside privately and help them understand why what they said may lead to confusion. Ask them to repeat back the “why-DNA” and “how-DNA” in their own words.

5. Call the fire department before the forest burns down.

Many people won’t confess that they have lost sight of the vision or that they are wrestling with sin until something explodes because of a lack of understanding of the gospel (Proverbs 28:13). Frequently invite everyone in the forest you oversee to say something when smoke appears, and teach them what smoke looks like (loss of traction in victory over sin, burnout, and relational breakdowns).

6. Don’t make DNA a weapon.

Your church’s DNA is likely a mix of biblical mandates, opinions, and specific callings for your church body. Don’t encourage (explicitly or implicitly) the bashing of other camps that do things differently. Good things are happening that aren’t your things, and that’s ok.

7. Be a replicator yourself.

If your leaders don’t understand their role or can’t articulate why you do things the way you do them then you haven’t done your job. Pray for God’s leading in establishing your church’s DNA. Invite the Spirit to lead changes to methods when needed. Work hard at equipping and caring for the whole forest, new seedlings and established trees alike.

Download the Resource

This is a downloadable PDF that includes an outline for leading a meeting or conversation covering DNA issues and a worksheet for developing your ability to connect how-DNA to why-DNA. Customize the resources to fit your context and address the DNA elements most important to your ministry.

July 15, 2014 - No Comments!

For Every Worship Leader…

I watched this when it first took a lap around the internet, and today I realized that every worship leader I know would be reminded that we should speak with clarity and conviction when leading God’s people.  This is why all our worship leaders are asked to write out spoken transitions in advance.