All Posts in Resources for Worship Leaders

August 28, 2013 - No Comments!

Worship Resources Pt 4: Developing A New Band




Band Development Process

Many people have asked me what it looks like to "build a band".

I should preface that at Living Stones Churches, we use the band model at some of our locations, and the team model at others.  Neither is "better" but they both have pros and cons.

When we build a band, we're looking for someone theologically grounded, musically gifted, and spiritually submited to lead it.  I detail that a bit in this piece for the Resurgence.  But building a band is more than just raising up (or finding) a great band leader.  That's why we have a development process.

The process addresses the logistical needs of an efficient practice, establishes their song catalog to ensure theological depth, thematic diversity, and congregational familiarity. 

Download our "Band Development Process" for free here.

If you use part or all this, be sure to comment below with your thoughts.

August 21, 2013 - No Comments!

Worship Resources Pt 3: Feedback Loops

Feedback Form for Bands/Teams/Leaders

Anyone who has read a leadership book published in the last 50 years knows that feedback loops are essential.  The people you lead need to know what the "win" is.  If you don't define what the "win" is, you can't measure it.

Sadly, most churches only have a vague collection of ideas for what a "win" is on Sunday.  Very few have spelled it out in a way that can be assessed and measured.  We're quick to spiritualize this, and while I agree that no man can know the full extent of what God is doing in the room, there are certainly things we can watch for and assess for growing in our efficacy, leadership, and faithfulness.

Sometimes a worship leader is a little off, and you don't know how to nail down what it is.  Maybe you are the worship leader and you want to get honest feedback from your peers or your lead pastor. 

Asking questions like, "How can I lead better on Sundays?" or "Is there anything I do on stage you wish I would stop doing?" are great discussion starters.  Now, I only recommend these conversations if you actually believe that Jesus loves you, has saved you, and won't let go of know like the songs you sing?  Otherwise any critical feedback will likely send you into a shame spiral.

A good feedback loop that includes critique and praise can be life giving and a way to avoid plateauing in your leadership.

Our "Feedback" document includes forms for band/team leaders as well as the band/team as a whole and is available for free here.

If the feedback document is helpful to you, comment below. 

August 14, 2013 - 2 comments

Worship Resources Pt 2: Application

Worship Application

You know the guy.

He approaches you after a Sunday service and starts talking about how he used to lead worship at a huge church, and he grew up down the street from Switchfoot, and he has a bunch of gear he wants you to know about.

Also, he wants to join your worship ministry.

Where do you start?  What action step do you point to so that he knows what is expected?  We use a printed application as a starting point.  We have them on hand at the church info counter at all times.  Of course we want to really get to know anyone that comes into the worship ministry, both because of it's biblical importance, and the visible nature of anyone serving on stage.  You don't get to know someone filling out a form.

That said, the simple application, actually weeds out some of the folks that might be toxic for the ministry, while getting the folks you want to join a way to think through what they are walking into.  It serves as the first step in the process of getting involved.  It's designed to be just that: a first step.  Not bulletproof, but a helpful tool.

If you find the document useful, be sure to comment below.

Download the "Worship Application" for free here.

August 7, 2013 - 1 comment.

Worship Resources Pt 1: Auditions

Worship Band/Team Audition Kit

I know you probably have more worship leaders and volunteers than you know what to do with.

But most churches I know are struggling to get worship leaders and volunteers identified, recruited, trained, and discipled.  Worship team member recruiting is tough.  It's demanding in terms of time and specific in terms of gifting…and that's not even considering the expectations on a music leader.  In many ways, we are asked to be a theologically trained, public speaking, musically inclined entrepreneur. 

At Living Stones Churches, through years of experimenting and making mistakes left and right, we have a pretty robust and thorough process of getting new worship volunteers and leaders on board and on stage.  We'll be posting several documents we use to train leaders and build bands.  None of this is a replacement for relational discipleship, but it's a good system to get you rolling on developing and assessing what you have now, and clarifying what you want for the future.  They are living documents for sure...they are changing all the time.

If you find this helpful, be sure to leave a comment!

Download the "Worship Band/Team Audition Kit" for no charge here.

July 3, 2013 - No Comments!

Q&A Series: Part 2 – How to Lead

How do you actively encourage your congregation to sing?
BIG IDEA:  Show how beautiful/awesome/worthy Jesus is.

The call of a worship leader is a tall order.  As a broken vessel yourself, you stand in front of your local church, a mix of godly, confused, thriving and discouraged people and try to lead them in something they don't do anywhere else; corporately sing together.

That said, I am often surprised at how often I hear it spoken about as though it is a burden.  Many worship leaders speak as though it is their responsibility to prove Jesus is a person worthy of song.  This is only partially true.  Your job is to point to what is already beautiful and glorious, not make it so.  This only works if you yourself are spending time with Jesus, enjoying him.  Not just searching the scripture for a song lyric.  Not just whizzing over a few verses to lead bible study.  Worship him with your heart before you pick up an instrument.

For the burdened worship guy, I have some good news: you're not the mediator.  You don't stand between Jesus and the people.  You are the people.  Enjoy him and sing to him in a way that is mindful of the musical talents and literacy of the room.  Sing songs that you're Dad can sing.  Balance the celebratory and the contemplative. 

Sing things that are true and helpful.  Indicate who Jesus is and what he has done, before you expect them to respond.  Remind the people of the gospel.  We are all forgetful of the great things He has done.  Almost no one shows up on Sunday ready to worship in spirit and truth.

Be Prepared
One of those most distracting things in worship is lack of preparation.  Keller has said "horizontal sloppiness distracts from vertical worship".  Quality matters, but is never a substitute for your need of the Spirit.  You can nail the transitions, build the bridge up higher than the ceiling, and weep/sweat uncontrollably, but if the Spirit isn't isn't involved you just participated in an over-produced gym workout.  Prepare as though you're about to encounter the king of the universe.  Pray as though the Kingdom won't move forward an inch without the 3rd person of the Trinity.

Practice until you can't get it wrong, not until you get it right.  Pray for your preparation time, not just Sunday morning.  Give space for people to confess sin and remember the gospel before you step on stage.  Know your transitions between songs and other liturgical elements.

Teach With Intentionality 
Whether it's physical expression or simply singing aloud, it's your job to show/teach/exemplify that corporate worship is biblical, historical, and helpful.  Singing with God's people is normative.  Use scripture to lovingly encourage your people.  Don't be a bully.  Don't scold them for not doing something you want them to do...that just means you haven't led them there.

Meet with your lead pastor and discuss what specific area you'd like the congregation to grow in.  Plan transitions and song content around that discussion.  Ask if your teaching guy would be willing to address corporate worship issues on occasion from the pulpit.

Long Haul
Many of the observations visitors make about our community during worship have been the result of my last 10 years leading people I love and pray for.  I've tried things that have failed miserably.  There is much I would do differently.  But it takes many small victories to see traction in the worship culture of your church.  Don't expect a major shift because you spoke for two minutes between songs.  It's a long process, and we should be as gracious with our people as God has been with us.

June 16, 2013 - No Comments!

Q&A Series: Part 1 – Songwriting

Over the past few years, I have been honored to connect with worship leaders all over and hear about their challenges and hopes for the future.  Most often, these conversations happen i the context of a coaching call.  Plenty of great worship blogs exist but I thought since I hear very similar questions consistently, it would be worth it to post some of the conversations here, stripped down, summarized, and aggregated for easy digestion.  My hope is that this might help someone in similar trenches.

What has most helpful in writing songs for your local church?
BIG IDEA:  Songwriting is a discipline.

I was watching Bruce Springsteen on Storytellers recently, and he spoke about how you never know when creativity will "pass through" so it's your job to be ready when it does.  I think there is something profound about being ready for the Spirit of God to move, rather than attempting to force Him into your calendar.  To be ready, you have to see writing as a discipline, not just a whim, or a day that you feel like it with a little space on the schedule.  Do it when you feel like it.  Definitely do it when you don't.  See it as brushing your teeth, not visiting the dentist.

Vary your inspiration.  Don't listen to the same two records 24-7 when writing or your stuff will
always sound like someone else's stuff.  Inspiration is necessary, imitation is nugatory.  What are you trying to say?  What is God doing in and around you?

Find a location and time that stir you.  It's hard to pick out melody at the local coffee shop, but that might be a great place for lyrics.  If you're a zombie before 10:00am, don't slate that time as "creative outpouring".  Some write better with others and some by themselves.  Do both.

Know the channel.  Are you writing this for yourself?  Your family?  Is this song meant for the Sunday stage?  I would argue there are going to be slightly different criteria depending on the format you plan to deliver the song.  I strongly discourage trying to write for the global church unless that platform has been given to you by God (and confirmed by those around you), but there is a whole generation of worship leaders trying to be the next _______.  Faithfulness is what we are called to, not influence.

Lastly, present your song with printed lyrics to a few people in your life that are theologically astute.  It's even better if they aren't artists (although anyone who crafts sermons is doing artistry).  Receive what they have to say with humility.  If your song is for the church, clarity matters.  We should strive to say timeless truths in a fresh way, but we can confuse people while trying to capture mystery.  Songwriting for the church is a delicate dance.

This quote list from the world's best songwriters is worth a read.

Recommended resources:
Bob Kauklin's "Worship Matters"
Paul Zollo's "Songwriters on Songwriting"

March 9, 2012 - 2 comments

Lighting the Congregation in Worship

Got this email this week:

Hey Donald,
I appreciate all that you guys are doing over there keep it up! In a recent conversation I had about whether or not you should turn the house lights down during worship in order to draw people into a “deeper and more meaningful” worship...I responded to this person by saying its not important if the lights are up or down its simply a matter of preference and really rather trivial because if you haven't been thinking about and living for Jesus during the week turning the lights down during a song set is not going to make anybody's worship deep or meaningful.

They responded “Living Stones does it” I have to ask you is it simply a technological issue (especially at your downtown campus) because you have the big screen, the lights, projectors and such or is it a theological issue? I look forward to your response.

Short answer:
Both, but that is less true today (Mar 2012) than it was five years ago.

Longer answer:
Well Brad, great question. This past year I had a conversation with a seasoned worship veteran, Bob Kauflin on this topic. His insight was great; churches have swung back and forth on dark vs. bright sanctuary lighting every 20 years or so. And for the record, you nailed it. Lights don't mediate or compensate for someone who worshiped other things all week.

What you will hear from many worship leaders is that they want everyone in the room to forget what's happening around them. It's as though the best possible scenario in a room of 500 people is 500 phone booths with 500 pairs of headphones. I get what they are saying, but I think we lose something key to the church gathered if we tell people it's all about their solo worship time.

One of our biggest challenges historically was getting the typical Living Stones attenders to not worry about what people around them were thinking and just engage with God freely during corporate worship. This is good in principle, but you don't see a lot of "phone booth" type worship experiences in scripture. Five years ago we were pretty committed to a dark sanctuary, but these days we go somewhere in the middle.

Corporate worship is designed to refresh the saints, equip them, and encourage them to mission, which can't happen if you can't see and hear what's going on. In other words, seeing others respond to the truth of scripture in songs is a godly reason for keeping the lights up. I don't know that seeing everyone is necessarily essential, and there has to be some balance here.

For example, I do think there is a place for loud instrumentals in the corporate worship diet (particularly with scripture on the screen) and that a well trained congregation benefits just as much during non-vocal musical worship, contrary to popular thought. Singing is only one part of the congregation's response, and it's a silly overstatement to say that if they aren't singing, worship isn't happening. That however, is another post for another day.

I encourage our band leaders to model physical worship when they are not on stage, not for show or for the praises of men but because as leaders, people are always watching us. Even when our hearts are hard and dull, God is still worthy of our all. Seeing others express their love towards Him can be helpful in reminding my own heart of who He is, and how little my circumstances matter to my worship experience.

Technologically speaking, our stage lights can't hit the back wall that we use for projection so our lighting settings reflect that (no pun intended). During the sermon we make sure the house lights are bright enough to make sure anyone of any age can read the bibles around the room.

In summary, we're working on finding the balance. Hope this helps.

June 1, 2011 - No Comments!

Jonathan Edwards on Bodily Worship

I don't suppose that any understanding men, of whatsoever sect or opinion, will say that God is really pleased with bodily worship as such, that is, that merely such and such gestures and motions of body are what delights him as a part of virtue; but only as they are helps to the exercise of real virtue and the worship of the mind. Now there is an indissoluble, unavoidable association, in the minds of the most rational and spiritual, between things spiritual and things bodily. Thus when we are joyful and express our joy, 'tis natural to do it with a lively voice; and when we express sorrow, to do it with what we call a mournful voice. This is natural to us, and the association becomes much stronger by use in other matters.

So we are necessitated to join some gestures to some habitudes of mind in common affairs, as uncovering the head, and some other gestures besides fitting with reverence. Thereby there grows a strong association, so that if one be restrained the other will unavoidably be restrained too. So that some bodily worship is necessary to give liberty to our own devotion; yea though in secret, so more when with others.

'Tis necessary that there should be something bodily and visible in the worship of a congregation; otherwise, there can be no communion at all.

...So many as are thus necessary, we are allowed in gospel worship, and more [than that] are contrary to its nature; for the gospel supposes the church to be no longer an infant, but as come to the stature of a man. Wherefore the weak and beggarly elements are rejected, and the childish bodily ceremonies cashiered, as being fit only for children, and unworthy of those who are come to riper years; and the worship that is now required of [us] is only that which is manly, rational and spiritual.


Love this. Really, really love this.

January 19, 2010 - 2 comments

The Balance

The past 3 months have been a blur.

When shooting photography, images can come out blurry if the subject or the camera are moving during the shot. It has felt like everything has been moving, and moving very, subject, me, you, and everything else.

I like to think that for most things in life, if I invest much time in thinking about them, eventually something comes to fruition. A song idea becomes at the very least an ugly recording on my laptop. A craving for cheap, spicy chicken leads to the local Wendy's drive-through. A home project eventually materializes, an old friend gets called at some point.

Passion and rest. That's one I have spent countless hours wrestling with, and I'm not sure that it has come to any kind of fruition...yet. I see a balance of these two areas in the Scripture and yet can not wrap my mind around what it is supposed to look like in my life.

The two are intertwined, and in fact spun together into a symbiotic relationship that I have not navigated well. They need each other. Without each other, a host of dangers become apparent. I have felt a strong urging for some time that God has wanted me to revisit the conversation of how passion and rest coexist. All that I do know is that I don't know much about the balance of passion and rest.

I know people who rest a lot and it makes me anxious about the lack of urgency in their life. Sloth seems contagious and I typically spend very little time with these kind of people because I feel like I might catch something. It makes me wonder about the stewardship of the hours and days God has given us, and the stories Jesus told about all of us being accountable for what we have, including our time.

I know people who rest very little and they choose a slow and poisonous death. 'Riding it till the wheels fall off' is romantic but completely impractical because the wheels do in fact come off and now you have a vehicle traveling at high speeds with passengers on board and pedestrians around and everyone's life is in danger.

I error with the latter group. I have in fact realized recently that I tend to run in circles of people who live 100mph most of the time. Athletes trying to make the pros. Professionals making the next deal. Musicians trying to make a career. Ministers trying to pour themselves out for the Gospel (a more noble cause, but a group that needs the balance even more because of what is at stake).

I have a really hard time resting. There are many reasons for this, some chemical and some deeply embedded in my heart. My A.D.D. doesn't help my efforts to slow down, but neither does a flesh pattern that seeks approval and worth in productivity. Medication could help my attention deficit, but will not change my heart condition. Yet, I still feel like God is asking for me to do the hard work of figuring this out. I guess He is not impressed or dissuaded by my excuses.

If we ignore God's leading in our life, He will often bring about circumstances that allow us to take Him seriously. This is important for Him to do, because we are not very good listeners and we often are not very good caretakers of ourselves and others. In the last few months I have seen mental, physical, and spiritual manifestations of the pace of life I keep. Sleep issues. Lack of mental retention. Chest pains. Tripping over my words. I even got out of the shower with shampoo still in my hair. This is not normal. I have felt out of balance, like the scales have been tipped for so long that the scale itself in rusting into a dangerous position.

As if all that wasn't enough: I was cleaning the American icon that is the kitchen junk-drawer and came across a small plastic tube that is found in a carpenter's level. Whatever casing it fell out of has been rendered useless for it's only purpose in the universe...showing what is level and what is not.

I took that as not a coincidence but a comical and poignant reminder from God that I too need rest. Pray for the leaders of Living Stones as I see a weariness in the mirror and through office windows that can only be remedied by our Rest.

"Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. Now we who have believed enter that rest..."
Hebrews 4:1-3