If God offered to change anything in your church, would you ask for numerical growth? More leaders? More people giving? More people arriving on time on Sundays? Would you ask for something to be removed or added so that you could experience growth?
These are obviously good things and many a godly man and woman has sought God to bring these changes. But I am reminded this week as to the dangers of believing that growth defines your ministry as worthy, faithful, or godly.
I reached out to my friend Matt Boswell recently and asked what his highlight was from the recent Together For The Gospel conference was. The video below is what he passed along. After watching it, I completely understand why he picked this as significant.
Having worked for a church that made the “fastest growing churches in America” list a few times, I can tell you first-hand that rapid ministry growth is not to be coveted or idolized. It’s not sexy or fulfilling. While not antithetical, it’s also certainly not a metric for faithfulness or maturity. The leaders that I served with look back on those seasons of soaring numbers with a mix of gratitude and sorrow. It took a lasting toll on each of us and we’d certainly navigate things differently given another chance.
It is perfectly possible (and I would even argue, perfectly common) that your church may not be exploding in weekend attendance and you could be doing exactly what God wants you to be doing. It’s also possible, and common, that you could be blowing up on Sundays, with spontaneous baptisms falling out of your pockets and be missing God’s call almost completely.
Doxa Church where I serve has grown slowly and steadily over the past year. Our challenges are many. A replant is a very unique animal. That said, I am both grateful for the new life and the rate at which we are experiencing it. The logistical demands and painful choices that naturally spill out of a church experiencing “explosive growth” is something
Watch the video and see what the Spirit tells you as you listen.
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
(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.
Happy New Year.
2015 was a year full of challenges and transitions for sure, but also a time for growth and hope. I’ve been in my new position here on the Eastside for 8 months, and we turning a few corners in some of our biggest challenge areas. We’ve launched an arts ministry, auditioned and activated 25 music team volunteers and overhauled the tech ministry.
I’m often asked about where to find new music…and I should note that it’s usually not just referring to songs useful for corporate worship. This post from Product Hunt will get your wheels spinning and some fresh content in your playlist. The benefits of listening to many different genres of music can not be overstated. It’s fuels our creativity, teaches us how to exegete our culture, and helps us develop our craft (albeit mostly in method and not in content).
2016 is going to be an important year in the lives of your leadership. I have a couple of coaching slots open for the spring, so if you’d like to grow as a worship leader, contact me and we can discuss what would best serve your needs.
All the best to you and your loved ones as we dive into another season of God’s faithfulness to us and the rest of his kids.
(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.
“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!
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.
Last week my wife went all out and made a taco meal unlike any she has attempted. It was incredible. I was driving to the church building last Sunday morning down the 405 in the Seattle area and reflected on how Sundays are similar in some ways to the meal we shared.
Sundays are like a family dinner.
You gather together with largely the same people in regular rhythm. You gather to receive. Those present all chip-in to make sure the meal happens. Even though you know how to (and should) feed yourself during the day, in the evening you come expectant that you will leave nourished and there will be something special about gathering around the table.
At the same time, Sundays are not like a family dinner.
You usually don’t conduct an adoption ceremony between dinner and dessert. You typically don’t turn from a dinner time story to see a baby delivered in the kitchen. No one wakes from a coma while the condiments are placed back in the fridge. And yet, this is the reality of the saints gathered. Miracles happen. People are born again. Someone who has been going through the motions for years finally has the light bulb burn bright. A marriage in the room comes off the cliff and heads towards health. Someone longing for community meets a group leader and begins a beautiful friendship. Sometimes it happens during a sermon or a song, but by God’s unmerited grace these things happen.
The fact is, there are no “normal Sundays”.
This is helpful for those of us that have played a role in ministry on Sundays for a while. I’ve led over 1,000 services, which means more than 1,000 times I’ve woken up, got dressed, and showed up to a building, often earlier than my body was willing, to prepare a team of musicians to sing some simple songs over and with people of varying types: people I have cried with, people I have never seen before, people that sing every word, and people that stare at me with arms crossed as though they are actively imagining how to murder me in the parking lot.
When you are on a church staff, you hopefully put a bit of planning into the church calendar year. In these conversations, you hear seemingly harmless phrases like “peak weekends” or “down time” or “low-attendance Sundays” (here’s looking at you Father’s Day) and while I’d be the first in line to say that planning around these patterns is not only okay, but wise, I’d also say they can build a subtle case for Sundays that don’t matter. That’s simply not the case.
When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14
Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10
Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. Ephesians 5
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2
The bible’s simple but emphasized language for what Sunday’s should look like should apply to every Sunday we put on for the church (read people) that we serve. In light of the sheer importance of what happens on Sundays, we should readily accept that there are no throw-away weekends. Whether you greet at the doors, chase tiny unregenerate humans around, or move the sliders on a piece of equipment so that all gathered can hear the gospel clearly, every Sunday matters.
This post is part of a new series I am writing called “Blocks”. Because I myself am rebuilding a worship ministry here, it seemed an appropriate time to write these ideas out: for my own clarity, for my team’s understanding, and for your consideration. If you’d like help developing your own scorecard, or just want better Sundays, contact me for a free coaching call.