On Excellence...

In ministry we often talk about being people that prioritize excellence. In my context as a worship pastor, that looks like playing the part absolutely correct, or hitting the entrances, exits, and cues with precision. We want to have clean, inspiring spaces that are comfortable and inviting to our people. Our parking and welcome teams should be smiling, inviting, and helpful. Our leaders should be connecting, our stage presentation should be flawless, and our follow up should be consistent.

All of this is good and necessary, but instead of focusing on excellence in the things we DO, we should first focus on excellence in WHO WE ARE.

Here are 4 characteristics of leader with an excellent spirit.

1. A leader with an excellent spirit is HUMBLE/TEACHABLE.
There are few things as frustrating as trying to deal with someone that thinks they know it all. Maintaining a humble, teachable spirit keeps us learning, keeps us seeking, and keeps us improving.

"If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves."

"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid."

I am convinced that as leaders, we should maintain the attitude that we can learn something from anyone. be open to criticism, even if it’s not delivered in the best way (See “How To Deal With Negative Criticism”).

2. A leader with an excellent spirit is MOTIVATED TO IMPROVE.
To improve you have to be honest with yourself. Understanding who you are as a leader, your strengths and weaknesses, the way you process information, and your personal rhythm are so important, understanding that God wants to work in you and change you to be more like Him. Don’t internalize the things that God might want to change in you. Saying, “I’m just a late person,” or “I just yell when I get angry,” might be true most of the time, but are not the way that God wants you to interact with the world. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the things that you’ve internalized that He might want to change.

There are many different ways to gain a more accurate understanding of your self. DiSC tests, Meyers-Briggs, Enneagram, and others are all ways to give you a snapshot of your personality and how you process things. Well worth 15-20 minutes to take a test (Check out 16 Personalities for a free Meyers-Briggs personality inventory).

3. A leader with an excellent spirit is INTENTIONAL.
An excellent life takes excellent planning. Do you have a vision for your life and ministry? What do you want to see built into your life and the lives of those around you. Nothing truly great happens by accident.

1 CORINTHIANS 3: 12-15
12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

What are you using to build your life with? God showed us INCREDIBLE intentionality in the construction of both the tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple-which were both meant to host the presence of God. Today, the temple is you and I. We should approach our lives with intentionality and vision.

Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it; but that it’s too low and we reach it.
— Michaelangelo

4. A leader with an excellent spirit knows how to PRIORITIZE THE IMPORTANT

A leader with an excellent spirit avoids wasting time on things that don’t matter. There are so many things to do in ministry-reaching our community, building relationships, building our families, and the list could go on and on. Let’s be people that make the most of every moment, which includes knowing how to say “no” when the need arises, remembering that God has called us to live and walk in love towards one another.

1 TIMOTHY 6:20-21 (NLT)
“Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge. Some people have wandered from the faith by following such foolishness”

TITUS 2:10 (NIV)
"...in every way...make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

A leader with an excellent spirit will be a person who naturally produces things that are excellent. If we can focus on having an excellent spirit (WHO WE ARE), we will naturally do things that are excellent (WHAT WE DO). On the other hand if we focus on producing excellence without first focusing on who we are internally, we will burn out and become frustrated. Let’s be people that live with an excellent spirit!

4 Ways to Be a Better Worship Pastor This Weekend

Every worship pastor can improve in their leadership.  There's always room to grow, do better, or serve more effectively.  Here's 4 ways to be a better worship pastor this weekend:

Pray for your people.  Take time to walk through your auditorium and pray for the people that will be filling the seats on Sunday.  Pray that they will experience the presence of God as you worship and hear the word.  Pray over your musicians, singers, and tech staff.  Ask God to meet them as they prepare for weekend ministry.  Pray that God would bless their families and give them favor in their workplaces.  Pray for your pastor-that God would fill them with his Spirit as they prepare and write their message for the weekend.  Ask God to speak to you and lead you as you lead the people in worship.  The work you do is so important. Don't neglect the true source of power for your life and ministry because you have a lot to do. 

Do you know why you're singing the songs you're singing?  Have you spent time getting the truth of the songs into your heart? Seek God for something specific that he might want to share in your worship sets.  Take time to think/pray through your transitions.  What verse could you share?  What exactly would you feel like God is leading you to say?  Being Spirit-led and being unprepared are not the same thing.  Take time and seek God before you step on stage. 

The worship pastor should be the one that knows the music the most.  It's frustrating for everyone if the worship pastor or worship leader is unprepared musically.  Sit down and run through the songs before you get to rehearsal.  What creative elements could you bring to the songs you're singing this week?  Memorize the music so you can listen and direct without having to focus so much on playing/singing the right chords and words yourself.  It might sound weird, but the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to be spontaneous in your worship.  It takes a lot of work beforehand to be spontaneous.  When you and your team know where to go musically, you can begin to think about expanding creativity within your songs.   

Be Present
Worship pastors have a lot of things to think about on any given Sunday.  But let's not forget the main reason we're there-to shepherd God's people.  It's tempting to check out, hit the green room, and browse on your phone between services, or disconnect during the message.  Resist the urge to disconnect from your people, and get out there and greet them. Pray with them.  Hear their stories.  Show support for your pastor by sitting in the auditorium and listening to the message.  Your greatest ministry of the weekend might just be something you say to someone while you're not on the stage

Let's remember that what we do is much more than notes, chords, and lyrics.  We're in the business of life-change, of leading people to declare the truth of God's word in their lives, to look past their current reality to God's greater reality for their lives.  It's our honor and privilege to be filled with the Spirit, on our game, and ready to do whatever God may ask us to do.  Let's not neglect the "ordinary" moments of tuning our hearts each week to hear what God would say. Let's prepare the soil of our own hearts to be able to lead effectively. 

Your Worship Service is Too Boring. Here's why...

As worship leaders, we need to guard against falling into a stale, predictable pattern in our worship leading. Reading the gospels, it's clear that Jesus' ministry was anything but predictable!

But we can easily do things over and over again, just because "that's the way we've always done it."

On the flip side, there can be times where too much unpredictability can lead to confusion and chaos, which is counter-productive as well (1 Corin 14).

Our goal is to "do what we see the Father doing" (John 5:19), and speak words of life and love to those around us-to lead others to the cross, and perhaps share something fresh that God has done in our lives, to model what it looks like to worship Jesus, and be moved by His presence and power.

As worship leaders, we're called to serve, not to be served. So pray, seek the Lord, and bring something fresh to your congregation this Sunday!

4 Reasons Auditions Will Help You Build A Better Worship Team

Do you audition the people that are involved in your worship ministry? It will help you serve your people more effectively, and can save you some trouble down the road.

Here are the reasons why I encourage every worship pastor/leader to hold auditions for new members of their worship teams:

1. Personal Contact
Taking 20 minutes to meet with potential worship team members provides an opportunity for you to talk with them, and find out who they are, how they want to be involved, and what they ultimately want to do in your ministry. People want to know that you care for them. Providing a time to talk together helps you to show that you care about their spiritual growth.

2. Skill Assessment
Each person has unique skills and abilities that can be used for the glory of God. Everyone has a desire to be used and included in the work God is doing at your church. However, that doesn't mean that each person wanting to be involved in your worship ministry is equipped to do so.

I met with a very kind, shy lady who's hearts desire was to sing a vocal solo. We met, and she confided in me that she was deathly afraid to sing in front of people! It was true, and she couldn't even sing in front of me for the audition without tearing up. While this lady had a heart to minister in music, it was obvious that she was better gifted to serve in another area. Now, we could have worked and worked to get this lady to the place where she may have been ready to sing a solo, but it would have taken much work, time, and tears! An audition will give you an opportunity to place people where their natural gifting will be used effectively. Serving people means directing them to ministries where they can succeed.

3. Ego-alert
The very act of auditioning for anything is a humbling experience. We do our best to make the audition experience as un-intimidating as possible. However, it can be a bit scary. I think that this is good, because it provides an opportunity to see where a person's heart and attitude is at. Talking for a few minutes can give you a good idea why someone is really there. Statements like "I'm a really good singer", "All my family and friends say that I'm really good", or "I know I'm better than most of the people on your team" are immediate red flags and should be carefully considered when thinking of adding people to your team.

4. Team Unity
Each person that you add to your team adds a new dynamic musically, spiritually, and emotionally. If you know your team, you'll know what type of personalities you have, and how they respond to each other. Team unity is so important in worship, and thinking/praying through each potential new member can save you some trouble down the road. Don't just add someone because they have the "chops" to play with your team. Think "how will this person flow with me and my current team?"

Auditions should be an important part of your team building. As a worship pastor or leader, your job is to serve your people first. An audition process is a great tool to help you serve and lead.

Why You Should Memorize Your Music

I can almost hear you groaning through the computer screen.  "Memorize my music?  You must be crazy?  What do you think, that I have nothing but time to sit around and learn worship songs? I'm not a professional musician.  Why would ever want to memorize my music?"

All good questions, and I'm glad you asked...er,...that I asked, for you.  Well, whoever asked, just give me a chance to explain before you rage-close this page and never return.

1.  Memorizing music improves our skills:  When you memorize your music, you're learning about it. What chords go together, what chords don't.  Get enough songs in your head, and you'll start making connections about key signatures, which chords typically follow each other, and their function within a song. Once you have feel for key signatures, and which chords occur in different keys, you'll be in much better shape if your worship leader throws a song in last minute. 

2. Memorizing music helps us play better together: Knowing your music allows you to really listen to what the other worship team members are playing.  Instead of burying your head in your stand, notice the different parts and adjust your own part, if need be.  You will begin playing together as a team, instead of a bunch of individuals trying to hit the right notes.

3.  Memorizing music makes the stage look cleaner: There's nothing worse than a cluttered, stand filled stage.  Get rid of the stands, and give yourself an opportunity to see how the songs are connecting (or not connecting) with your audience. 

4.  Memorizing music gets the songs into our hearts: Memorize a worship song, and you can "take it with you" anywhere you go.  Close your eyes and focus on what the words mean to you, how they connect with your own experience.  Tune your heart to hear what the Holy Spirit would say to you as you sing a song from your heart to Him.  When you have to focus on what chords come next, or wonder what the next lyric might be, it's difficult to hear anything else. 

Memorizing your music is an easy way to improve your skills, as a musician and as a leader.  Once you get started, you'll find that it's really not as difficult as you think.  Maybe you could start with memorizing one or two songs per set. 

Remember, it's about improving our ability to worship, and to lead in worship.  Start slow, and believe in yourself.  You can do it!  (I'm cheering for you, really!)


3 Reasons Skill Is Important for Worship Teams

Skill is important when desiring to lead others in worship.

What Skill Helps Us Do:
1. Skill Helps us Fix Our Attention on Jesus
If I'm not having to be totally focused on what chords/notes I'm singing or playing, my mind is freed up to focus on Jesus, the reason I'm worshiping in the first place. We focus on developing skill so we can focus more on God in worship.
Remember: the goal of practicing is not to do something until you get it right. In other words, do something until you can’t get it wrong.
Lack of skill leads to confusion, distraction, and irritation.

2. Skill Helps Us Serve the Church
God gives us gifts so that we can “serve one another” (1 Peter 4:10)
How do we serve one another in worship ministry:
-By leading clearly.
-By using arrangements that aren’t distracting.
-By possessing a calm, joyful countenance that expresses the hope that we’re singing about. “Those who look to Him are radiant.” (Psalm 34:5)
If we don’t have to think about the notes or parts, we’ll be free to look to the One we’re worshiping, and our faces will show it-and that helps people experience the presence of God.

3. Skill Multiplies Serving Opportunities
The more skill you possess, the more opportunities will be open to you.

So much of worship leading is preparation-spiritual, musical, and practical. Remember, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail!

5 Reasons to Get Better At What You Do

Skill is important in worship leading. Here are 5 things to remember about skill in worship:

1. Skill is a Gift From God, For His Glory
I Corinthians 4:7 says, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

The talents and abilities we have are gifts from God, to be used for his glory, not our own.

“All gifts from God are intended to direct our attention to God and create fresh affection for God.” C. J. Mahaney

2. Skill Must Be Developed
1 Chronicles 25:7 tells us that those who ministered at the tabernacle were those “who were trained in singing to the Lord, all who were skillful”.

If you don’t want to develop your gift, don’t practice.  Most people that you admire in music, art, sports, business, whatever, had to train,  practice, and learn for many, many years to get to where they are. 

3. Skill Doesn’t Make Worship More Acceptable before God
We need to realize our place before God, and understand that what we need most is God's undeserved grace to work on our hearts and lives.

1 Peter 2:5 says,  "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."

God is not impressed with our technical ability to play or sing. What impresses God is "a broken and contrite heart” (PS 51:17) that understands that we are weak and puts our faith in Christ, who saved and redeemed us.

4. Skill Should Be Evaluated by Others
If you really want to grow in skill, invite feedback from those around you. Remember, your family is supposed to tell you that you're great, even if you're not (thanks, mom)...so invite feedback from those who will give you an honest opinion, and not just an encouraging one.

5. Skill Makes Your Leading Less Distracting
How many times have you been in a worship service and heard a "clunker"-a note that's sung out of tune, a chord that wasn't played in the right measure, a drummer that loses the beat.  All of a sudden, your attention is not on the one you're worshiping, but on what you're hearing. 

Our worship leading should point people to the One we're worshiping. A missed note, a fumbled lead line, or an out of tune alto (sorry, altos) will take the eyes of your congregation off of Christ and on to you.  Skillful playing or singing, combined with the proper attitude will bring glory to God, and help your people focus on Him.  (Ask me about the time I put my capo on a half-step too low. Let's just say that when the band kicked in, nobody was thinking about Jesus...)

Our goal is to help people experience God’s presence. Be skillful, encourage skillful playing, and work on your own skills for God's glory!

Don't Set The Bar Too Low

Skill is essential for worship leaders, and worship teams. Our job as worship leaders is to serve our congregations, leading them to worship God, and to help people experience the presence of God.

Skill is not the not the most important element in worship leading, but it is discussed in God’s word:
-When Moses had to find men to oversee the construction of the tabernacle, he didn’t pass around a sign-up list. He chose craftsmen whom God had gifted with “skill and intelligence” (Ex 36:1)
-When David looked for a Levite to lead singing, he picked Kenaniah “because he was skillful at it” (1 Chron 15:22).
-Under divine inspiration, David wrote that musicians are to “play skillfully on the strings” (Psalm 33:3).
-David himself, as king over the people, “guided them with his skillful hand” (Psalm 78:72).
-Paul referred to himself as “a skilled master builder” (1 Cor 3:10).
(References from "Worship Matters" by Bob Kauflin)

Let's set the standard of excellence high in our ministries, and do our best to lead others into the presence of God!