Month: April 2023

5 Crucial Lessons I’ve Learned in the Last 10 Years of Worship Leading

There have been many hills and valleys over the years and each one brought some lesson for me to learn from.

After coming to a saving faith in college, I quickly started serving on worship teams. First as a guitar player and soon as a worship leader. I have had the chance to serve with so many incredible people that I am so thankful to call friends. Throughout these different environments and roles I have learned a lot. Today, I want to share some of those lessons I learned; some the easy way, some the hard way. (Cough) Okay…usually the hard way.

1. Stay Submitted to Your Senior Leaders

You can sacrifice your time, your money, your relationships at the service of your ministry but it is truly all for nothing if you are not obedient to the Lord and your leaders. Making the decision to be obedient will do tremendous things for your relationships. It shows the people around you how to serve well and shows the people you serve how much you honor them.

So much of our role as worship leaders is based in close relationships.

Your relationship with your pastor, your co-workers or co-volunteers, and your team to name a few. The more you can buy into the vision your pastor has for your church the more that vision can come to fruition & the stronger those relationships become.

Submission is easy if you agree with everything, but it really matters most when you don’t agree.

Every ministry within your church should all be running after the same overarching mission. God’s heart for your church is that your team affirms the overall mission He’s laid in the heart of your senior leaders. All throughout the Bible there are great examples of honoring and serving your leaders well, seeking to serve and honor your leaders as people like Daniel and Joseph did. I truly believe that there is significant blessing that’s poured out when we are committed to doing this well.

2. We are All One Little Justification Away from a Massive Moral Failure

We need to always be conscious of how to approach things like faithfulness, honesty, integrity, purity, diligence, dedication, and kindness in all moments. A little bit of rudeness here, a little deception there builds on itself and will seep into your ministry.

So many of the major moral failures we’ve seen from prominent leaders throughout the years began with little compromises they made early on.

As leaders we can not get into the habit of justification. That’s something we really have to protect! Justifying using the church card for an extra coffee you might even technically deserve quickly turns into justifying embezzling way more in the future. Don’t believe me? I have a friend who watched that exact thing go down. The worst part, the person who did it was and is a phenomenal pastor; it was justification in the small things that lead to justification in the unthinkable things.

On a positive note, the good habits built everyday will also become pillars of your ministry.

None of us is perfect, but we serve a perfect God that imparts grace that empowers us to do beyond willpower. Willpower is fragile compared to grace, where you are weak he is strong.

3. Quality Gear Does Help, But it’s Not Everything

Much of what I have written about for Worship Online has been about gear. Gear is cool, fun, and so easy to waste a night shopping for the dream rig only to change it three months later when the next thing comes out. There will always be new gear coming out that feels like a need, but trust me, there has been plenty of incredible music made without Strymon, Nord, or Gretsch.

Quality gear does help and really does make things better, but only to a point.

That point is for you to have an honest conversation with yourself regarding your personal situation. Touring the world, playing large venues every night as part of a very high level production team? The spaceship pedalboard makes a lot of sense… but only to an extent.

(sidenote: I know touring acts playing arenas every night with pedalboards that would make the worship guitar Facebook groups laugh, but the tone they get from their board is better than 90% of the people in those Facebook groups.)

Church plant, one person worship team, in a hotel conference room? Just make sure you are in tune and people can hear you. Those are obviously two extremes, but find your place along that spectrum. 

The most important thing here is, learn to maximize what you have.

You don’t have to have expensive gear to sound great. We are in the middle of a series with Chad Carouthers proving this very point 8 guitar pedals that are almost all under $50.

4. Anticipating the Unexpected is the Best Kind of Preparation

I grew up playing football. As I got older, the more serious the preparation became. Two-a-day summer practices, film study, weightlifting, and game-planing. Game-planing of all of those was the most complicated. You would spend hours of study and repetition to prepare for the best approach to a very specific situation in hopes of success.

Things would get really interesting when the other team would do something we hadn’t prepared for. What separated the good coaches from the not-so-good coaches was their ability to adjust and succeed despite the change.

Many of us prepare for a service with an approach of everything going according to plan, but how often do things not go according to plan? Often.

Pastor asks for the band to come up when initially that wasn’t the plan. The tracks computer shuts down unexpectedly. The drummer doesn’t show up! You feel strongly on your heart to take the worship service an entirely different direction.

These are just a few things that are very common. How you prepare for the unexpected by teaching your team how to flow spontaneously, having a back-up click metronome next to the tracks computer, and things like this helps you be ready for anything unexpected that comes your way; whether it be the leading of the Holy Spirit or the leading of the worship fail monster.

5. Minute By Minute, Breath By Breath I Need Him

Over the years I have had so many conversations with other worship leaders that were from a place of stress and being worn down. We wear the effect of our situations differently than so many people, because we see so many different stressors. The most constant thing about what we do and who we are is the faithful Father we love and serve.

It is amazing to me how easy it is to get caught up in all the day to day things and somehow take our eyes off the Father; despite that we spend so much time saturated in songs about Him, teachings about Him, serving His people, and having meetings about how we can better serve His people.

All this shows me is that I need him minute by minute, breath by breath. No time spent focusing on God is wasted time. He is the only true source of peace we have and he eagerly waits for us to go to him seeking that peace. 

I hope the things that I’ve learned, often through doing things wrong, will help you avoid the same mistakes that I’ve made.

But in the same breath, you can’t be a perfect leader, so don’t hold yourself to that standard. The success of your life is determined by who you are in the Lord as a child of God. That status doesn’t waver, so remain in Him and obedient to the call. Outside of that, be the best you can be and give yourself grace as you become better and better.

Written by Michael Waring

Article taken from here.

Building a Healthy Staff Culture

If you are a leader, one of the things you must always think about is culture. The culture of your church or business. The culture of your staff and team.

The problem with culture, though, is that it isn’t always written on the wall. As one author put it, What You Do Is Who You Are. Which means you are continually building culture.

You are creating it through your interactions, personally and in meetings. You are creating it through how you spend your money and time. You are creating it through how people work in meetings. You are building it through how you handle your own emotions. You are creating it through whether or not you burn out or if you are healthy.

While culture is a squishy thing, a leader must pay attention to it because if you aren’t, your culture will get away from you.

The reason is: Whatever culture you create at work, people will emulate.

If you look around and see dishonest, burned out, or backstabbing people. That’s the leadership and culture.

If they’re honest, balanced, and humble, that’s leadership and culture.

If the marriages in your church are falling apart, that’s leadership and culture.

Those closest to the leader emulate the leader and his or her life and pass those things on. Yes, people make decisions along the way, and a leader isn’t responsible for everyone’s personal choices, but the reality is that a leader shows what makes someone successful or what is allowed.

For example, very quickly in a new job, you learn what it means to be successful somewhere. Can you be late on things? Who holds the real power at a church (hint: it isn’t always the person with the title)? How do things get done?

All of this goes back to culture.

That’s why Henry Cloud famously said: “A leader gets what he or she created or allows.”

Culture will end up determining if you are successful in reaching your goals. But it will also determine where you end up as a leader or a church.

And this is the most important reason to pay attention to it. Because you may not like where you end up, you may not like the church you become.

Written by Josh Reich

Article taken from here.

To Hire or Not to Hire

The unique challenges of the Covid pandemic highlighted how churches must reallocate personnel dollars in the future. As more ministry shifts online, churches will need to beef-up their digital ministry staffing. Additionally, volunteers saw unprecedented expectations placed on their shoulders during the pandemic.

These changes have left many church leaders wondering–what should be a paid position and what should be a volunteer position?

Truthfully, this is a timeless question that churches should have been thinking about more critically for years. Large churches or churches with significant incomes tend to hire out every position they can. It is not uncommon for churches of 1000 in average weekly attendance to pay all of their musicians! By contrast, smaller churches or churches with fewer means tend to wait as long as possible to hire a position, often burning out the same handful of volunteers who do most of the work.

The right balance is in-between these extremes. Rather than make a comprehensive list of which positions should be paid and which should be a volunteer (which could vary from church to church), use these three guiding principles to help you know when to hire.

Principle 1: The position involves shaping strategy.

Our Leadership Pipeline Design process emphasizes that volunteers are capable of higher-level leadership skills than most churches assume. Volunteers can coach, manage the schedules for other volunteers, and delegate tasks to frontline volunteers. We call these “L3 Leaders” or volunteers at the Coach Level.

Churches often think that staff should do 100% of the coaching, scheduling, and delegating. But even in a midsize church, this expectation is unrealistic. Consider that a Children’s Pastor in a mid-size church could have hundreds of volunteers. How is he or she supposed to manage the schedules or coach that many people? Hint: it’s not possible.

Any paid staff person should be at a position that requires strategy development, not just management and task execution. A focus on strategy does not mean that staff sit in their offices all day and don’t manage people (they do!) or don’t execute tasks (they do, but should focus on fewer tasks). However, healthy churches understand that ministry staff positions primarily exist to bring strategic thinking and leadership leverage to a specific ministry.

If a position does not require translating church-wide vision into ministry-specific strategy, only volunteer management or task execution, it is not worth hiring out. Volunteers can do it.

As a church gets larger and complexity increases, the need for strategy development increases. It’s reasonable for a large church to have staff in production or marketing. But the same principle applies–don’t hire people to run the camera or press next on ProPresenter. Hire the people who are shaping your digital production strategy, and leverage volunteers for the rest.

Principle 2: The position requires safeguarding theology.

This principle can be tricky. Even your children’s ministry volunteers that work in the preschool classroom, to some extent, are safeguarding theology. Indeed, small group leaders and Sunday school teachers are defending theology.

However, this principle’s intention is not just teaching proper theology, but making high-level theological decisions. For example, children’s ministry volunteers should not choose the curriculum–someone at the staff level should. Small group leaders should not select their content–a staff leader should.

Many churches are failing in this area. Too many churches are giving up this responsibility! They let small group leaders hop on to Right Now Media and select their group’s content without much oversight. This abdication is dangerous.

I worked with a church that touted its commitment to Biblical teaching as one of its highest values. When I visited a Sunday School class, I heard one of the worst theological breakdowns of Genesis 3. Afterward, I confronted the elders who confirmed that Sunday School teachers were “on their own” for writing content.

When ministry staff are too busy executing tasks, they abdicate their responsibility to safeguard the theology taught by the volunteers beneath them. If a role requires ensuring that theology taught downline is proper and Biblical, it is likely to require a staff member.

Principle 3: The position manages significant financial obligations.

It is common for lay leaders to spend budgetary funds. A youth volunteer might need to pick up snacks, or a production volunteer might have to grab a cable from an electronics store. But if a non-board level position requires the development of a budget and its day-to-day management, this is likely a staff position.

Volunteers should not manage budgets because it is impossible to hold them accountable the same way a staff member can. If a volunteer mismanages a budget, you can remove them from the position, but they might remain at the church. They might complain to others or mobilize the congregation to antagonize leadership. Staff members have a higher degree of oversight through meetings, and more importantly, you can fire staff for gross misconduct.

Major ministry budgets should be managed by staff, not volunteers.

What about administrative positions?

As a general rule, I consider administrative positions as extensions of ministry staff. A senior pastor’s assistant is an extension of the senior pastor’s role, in that he or she handles tasks that otherwise only the pastor could do. For example, an assistant may manage the pastor’s schedule, filter email, and perform initial sermon research.

A ministry assistant in a smaller church, likewise, may take on some tasks that are difficult to outsource or delegate to a volunteer. For example, he or she may take deposits to the bank or post office. These tasks might require a higher degree of accountability than could be expected of a volunteer, but would overburden ministry staff.

Bonus note: what to do about the gray.

Your church may have needs that don’t fit into clean categories, or your church might lack volunteers with the necessary skills to execute needed tasks.

For example, many churches realized through the pandemic that they simply didn’t have the social media or marketing tools necessary to be successful. The knee-jerk reaction is to hire a staff person in instances where there is a gap between the skills you have on-staff or in volunteers and what you need.

However, two options may be better suited to meet the need:

1. Outsource the job.

When it comes to certain ministry needs, if your church doesn’t have the existing skillset available through volunteers, consider outsourcing. Companies like Church Media Squad, among others, handle graphic design needs. You can outsource custom video editing. If your church needs help improving record-keeping, look into virtual assistant services from a group like Belay that has a track record of working with churches successfully. Outsourcing is often cheaper than hiring on-site, gives you the flexibility to terminate a contract without the relational headache, eliminates overhead in taxes and benefits, and usually gives you access to talent above what you find on your own. Bottom line: if you cannot delegate critical, specialized tasks to qualified volunteers, consider outsourcing before hiring staff.

2. Put it off for now.

Ministry envy is real. It’s easy to look at the “cool” church down the street or online and think that you must be able to execute at the same level. You don’t. Do a few things and do them with excellence. Don’t worry about being on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and whatever social media company launches before I finish typing this sentence. Pick one and do it well. Leverage the assets you do have to execute well on a few things. As you get more qualified volunteers or financial resources to outsource, take your ministry to the next level. But don’t feel pressured to take on more than you can do well at this moment. There is no shame in that!

To hire or not to hire?

Leverage the three principles outlined above to determine if a role is better suited for a volunteer or a staff position. Your church has limited resources, and every staff member you hire adds an exponential layer of complexity to your organization.

Be sure to pause, consider, and plan before taking action in growing your staff.

Written By Scott Ball, Vice President and a Lead Guide with The Malphurs Group.
Article taken from here.

The Fallacy of the “3 Cs” in Hiring

There’s been a lot written about the “3 Cs” of effective hiring – character, competence, and chemistry. While these may be a good check-list, among other best practices for hiring, I believe one of these three can be misconstrued if we’re not keenly aware of the influences that affect its misinterpretation.

I couldn’t agree more about the priority of character in the hiring process. Whether it’s in a church setting or in a secular setting, character counts. No doubt, this is perhaps the most important trait to assess when considering a candidate for a position.

I also agree with the importance of competence. A candidate must have the necessary education, experience, and skills to do the job well. Many believe this is the least important of the three, because many jobs include skills that can be learned over time. Some, of course, require a deeper level of experience and skill and must be present from the beginning.

It’s “chemistry” that I believe is often misinterpreted in some ways. The misinterpretation comes when “chemistry” is used to define how well the pastor or the top leader “likes” the person. Do they have similar personalities, similar interests, or similar hobbies? I’ll call this “personal chemistry.” I think this is where the chemistry criteria gets off track.

Sure, it might be nice if two leaders who work closely together can play golf or go fishing together on the weekends. Or they can start every meeting talking about all the games from the previous weekend and the performance of their favorite athlete. But I don’t believe this kind of “personal chemistry” is necessary for there to be a good organizational fit.

Many organizations do reflect the personality of its leader, but most organizations should be more sophisticated than to only hire staff with whom the top leader can have a “high five” relationship. When a leader expects his closest team members to be too much like him, he misses an opportunity for some valuable diversity.

Perhaps the best interpretation of “chemistry” in the 3 Cs is when it’s used to refer to the candidate’s fit in the culture of the organization. Let’s call this “cultural chemistry.” Cultural factors in an organization can allow some leaders to flourish and others, while equally competent, to struggle or fail.  We should closely assess whether the candidate’s values and their vision line up with those of the organization. We should determine if there are factors that would create a significant misalignment with the team with whom they’ll be working. We should focus more on the candidate’s identity and less on his persona.

God made us with different personalities, passions, and interests for a reason. That kind of diversity can be very healthy for an organization. Those diffeences can complement the others on the leadership team. They can provide balance, perspective, and accountability. If we’re all essentially the same, even in our “personal chemistry,” some valuable contribution to the team is likely to be missing.

Written By Steve Smith, Executive Pastor at First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Article taken from here.