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by Eric Barfield
With all the demands placed on modern worship leaders, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed coming into the mid-week worship practice, let alone Sunday services. Here are 7 easy ways to make your worship prep less stressful, so you can focus more on what’s really important:
Many times what most stresses us out is not our work, but are lack of managing our workload. Make a schedule at the beginning of the week, and give yourself time to get everything done. Remember to leave time open for unexpected tasks, and don’t jam in too much.
Now that you’ve given yourself a schedule, start cutting out work that simply isn’t important, or can be avoided without damaging your career or those around you. If you’re like me, this is difficult since I often feel that everything on my todo list is important, but it’s absolutely essential to keep your workload down by taking a hard look at what is really necessary. Be ruthless!
Does your task absolutely require that you do it? If it doesn’t, hand it off to someone else. For instance, I often hand off scheduling, bill paying, and other items to keep my workload manageable.
Group common tasks together (i.e. worship planning, song prep, and sheet music assembly for several Sundays). By staying in the same frame of mind, you’ll be able to finish your tasks sooner than if you split the same items into shorter times throughout several weeks.
5. Prep in Advance
Worship leaders often fall into the trap of throwing things together at the last minute, making them feel stressed. Give yourself artificial deadlines, and you’ll come into worship more relaxed and focused on Him. For instance, if you know the choir needs music next Friday, set a todo to finish the sheet music by Monday, and then give yourself time in your schedule to do it.
In addition to rehearsing at home, make sure you give yourself time before everyone shows up to rehearse at the building. If you can, check mics, your gear, and even the powerpoint before everyone arrives for practice to keep from having unexpected problems arise during practice or service.
7. Don’t sweat it
We often give ourselves permission to stress out about stuff that really isn’t that big a deal. We need to constantly rely on Christ as our rock of stability, and choose to relax in His peace instead of our own strength.
By Keith Elgin
For the past few years, I’ve been on staff at Vine Church, a new church community right outside of Washington, D.C. At the same time, I have my own band that travels to play music or lead worship at conferences and venues in the Eastern U.S. As time has passed, our church community has evolved; Our worship team has expanded; Our community involvement has increased; I’ve received more notoriety as a musician; We’ve played on bigger stages; And so on. But I’m constantly asking myself how true success is measured or attained.
I keep coming back to vision and relationships.
I’m not sure if there is a term as “relational leadership” as it relates to this, but that’s the type of leader I want to be. And that’s the type of leader Jesus was and is (and is to come?)
Over the past year, I’ve been keeping notes of things I learn as a leader. Not all of them will apply to everyone in everyway. But the ideas and concepts are important, whether you’re a church leader, CEO, quarterback, lead singer, office manager, doctor, etc.
1 – KEEP THE VISION IN FRONT.
Know who you’re called to be (both as a leader and as a church community) and it will make decisions and actions easier. I don’t think anyone is called or sets out to be a big jerk. And I don’t think anyone sets out to get off line from where they’re headed. But it can happen easily if you aren’t constantly recalling the vision to yourself and your team.
[You may have to pass up on good opportunities or ideas.]
2 – KEEP PEOPLE FIRST.
Of course when you’re the leader there are times where you have to lead/make tough decisions/hold people accountable. But if they are important to you they will feel important to you. If you set out to make them feel important so that they will work harder, they will sniff that out and know that they are just cogs in your church machine. That is not only offensive, but counterproductive to the vision. Instead – actually care about them and what’s going on in their life and they’ll likely want to be on your team. Then together you can pursue the vision.
3 – MAKE OTHER PEOPLE’s PURPOSE YOUR PURPOSE.
If you are interested in how people can serve your purpose, you and they will be frustrated. If you help them figure out their purpose (both personally and as part of the team), they will be loyal and you’ll both end up fulfilled. And this unity will propel the vision forward and draw other people in.
4 – LEADERS ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THEIR TEAM.
It might sound a little cliche, but we have to constantly remember that leaders are only as good as the team around them. Nobody can do things completely alone. Everything is a team effort. Make sure you continually remember that and state it to everyone. Look at someone successful and 100% chance they have a team around them.
[Think of famous athletes we know by a single nickname: RGIII or Lebron. Or think of an athlete that competes alone – like Tiger Woods. Or a solo musician – like Johnny Cash. They are mentioned by name, usually by themselves and many times are in front of people by themselves. But RGIII wouldn’t be who he is without his family, coaches, offensive line, etc. Lebron didn’t win a ring until he teamed up with Wade and Bosh. Tiger has coaches, doctors, caddies, etc. Johnny has a band, producers, promoters, etc.]
5a- RECEIVE CRITICISM.
5b- DEFLECT PRAISE
Take the criticism and deflect the praise. That is part of leadership responsibility. Give criticism to your team privately but give them praise publicly. When someone tells you a song or event missed the mark, take responsibility. Whether you planned it or not is irrelevant. When someone comes up after the worship service to talk about how great you sounded, be thankful, but give a simple reminder that it has a lot to do with the guitar riff and bass groove.
[This was never more apparent to me than during Kevin Durant’s MVP speech. He reached the individual pinnacle of his sport, yet he spent the entire 27 minute speech deflecting the praise onto everyone but himself. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxVAOoQeNJ8 ]
6 – IT’S BETTER TO DISCUSS THAN TO DISCOVER.
My friend Brandon said this to me one time and it was revolutionary to my relationship to my leadership style. If you have discussions up front about things, people won’t have different expectations. The responsibility is on you to be honest, as the leader. If you are not, and somebody has unmet expectations, and therefore is hurt/angry/upset, you can blame yourself. When you set expectations up front and make sure people are on the same page from the beginning, it will set you up for success in the long run.
[It will also make #7 and #8 easier]
7 – BE OPENMINDED.
People are different, have different experiences, etc. Have an open mind as a leader. Or you’ll only attract people like yourself. You might like it, but it’s not what the world needs and will not breed success. Life is a continual journey. We will never stop being refined. People are dynamic so leadership will be dynamic. So staying openminded is the only option.
8 – BE PATIENT.
Waiting is key. Quick reactions to solve problems are sometimes necessary, but making the right decision outweighs making the fast one. It might not be fun or feel good to have something hanging over you, but experiencing that over a short period of time is far better than making a decision that temporarily lifts the weight, but causes more trouble in the future.
9 – BE PRESENT.
The future is now. Yes God holds the world in His hands. Yes Alpha and Omega, but the Kingdom is at hand now. The Kingdom is present. We cannot control everything external going on around us, but we do have control over our present attitude and therefore reality. We always look forward to where we see the vision taking us, where the strategy will work, reaching the next goal, etc. But if we aren’t present, none of that will matter. How does the now relate to the future? How am I being shaped today in this moment?
10 – KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Many times we make leadership too complicated and overthink it. This list might even confuse you. Keeping it simple (#1 – knowing who you’re called to be and #2 – prioritize people) will not diminish importance, just confusion.
Are there some I’ve missed? What have you learned that you can share?
By Wade Huggins
Many times, the first venue for a new worship leader is at a youth gathering. What’s next? How do you best invite these students to join you in worship? I’ve had this conversation with many youth pastors, bands, and worship leaders. We all agree, students are not the easiest to lead in worship. Let’s be honest there is a lot to compete with in the lives of the average student today.
If you’ve ever felt discouraged after leading a youth gathering, you are not alone. So how do we best direct their attention away from so many competing interests and guide them towards fixing their eyes on Jesus? Here are a few things to keep in mind next time you step in front of a youth group to lead worship.
- Meet them where they are and be in that moment with them. I can’t stress how important this is. I remember an evening not long ago the students looked worn out. It turned out that most of them had just finished a long day of standardized testing. I knew that there was going to be no way to get them going and energized. They needed rest. It was a great opportunity to lead them to a place of rest in the presence of God. Then there are the nights where the students have all seemingly consumed two 12oz Red Bulls and are bouncing off of the walls. You may not have any chance of knowing where they are at until twenty minutes before things start. So plan for this. If you’ve planned and rehearsed for an energetic start to the night, but notice they need some rest, be willing to change your planned direction to best meet the students where they are.
- Give them direction. Some worship leaders like to think that if they just get up there and sing through the song, God will do the rest. There is both truth and myth at work in this philosophy. While you have to allow the Spirit to break through and guide the hearts and minds of students into worship, consider that it is through you that the Holy Spirit is doing that work. Be prayerful about the worship set. Find ways to give guidance in the spaces between songs. Use transitions to guide the student’s hearts and minds in worship. This can be as simple as guiding them to repeat a small phrase of scripture with you, or it can be a devotional thought, or it can be a simple scripture reading. Remember that you are taking a part in raising up the next generation of worshippers. Teach them how to unleash their spirit to worship God. Talk about why we sometimes raise our hands in worship. Talk about why we bow down. Talk about why we worship. Aaron Keyes has some great thoughts on the Hebrew words for worship and praise. Share some of these thoughts with the students. I have found them to be incredibly helpful and think you will as well.
- Don’t treat them like children. – This seems self-explanatory but the fastest way to lose a group of students is to treat them like they are kids. You would be surprised by how the phrase, “Hey kids!” causes them to immediately disconnect. Respect them by not treating them as children and they will be more willing to follow you where you lead them.
- Know why they may feel uncomfortable – In a room of students ranging from 6th graders to seniors in high school, honestly, you are going to have some who are very uncomfortable singing. I’ve found this to be especially true with middle school boys. Their voices are changing and some are embarrassed to sing. We need to be careful not to lead them to think that loud singing equals worship. That misses the mark. Instead of encouraging them to sing louder, try encouraging them to find words in the song that are really speaking to them. Give them direction to worship silently if they wish. The singing will come as their heart grows in worship for God.
- Invest in the lives of the students you are leading. – Be more to them than the guy or gal up there on the stage singing songs. Be their friend. Recognize that you are in a position of influence and use that influence to point them to Christ.
- Be Yourself – Students today see right through the façade. Authentically worship God as you lead. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. You are not Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, or Hillsong – don’t try to be. Be yourself and allow God to use you to lead the students in worship.
- Lead Familiar Songs – They want to sing songs they know and are more likely to engage in worship when they feel they know the songs. Sometimes it takes singing something over and over to really allow the words to be written on our hearts. Help them embody the songs through leading songs they are familiar with. Find two or three songs that the students really enjoy singing and try to sing one of them every week.
Now, go out there, be yourself, and lead the next generation of worshippers!
Wade serves as the Worship Pastor at First Baptist in Athens, TX. His primary hub for leading is the local church but he also leads worship at camps and other student events. He is in the process of completing a masters degree at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary. Wade loves The Lord, Kristin (his wife of three years), the church, the Texas Rangers, and a delicious sandwich every now and again.
Hit me up on on Twitter and Instagram @wadehuggins.
Several weeks ago, our pastor said he wants our church to be a singing church. Considering the plethora of articles and blogs written about getting the congregation to sing, the sentiment is a common one: How do we engage the congregation and lead them to worship together as a family with one voice raised in worship? I’m not going to address worship leaders, but rather, everyone else on stage. One thing that we can do to help the congregation engage in worship is remember, the rest of us are also worship leaders. But what does that look like?
Know the words….and sing them!
I confess that I have found myself so immersed in creating tracks, practicing parts, and dialing in the perfect guitar tone that I sometimes forget to listen to the words during the week. We need to pray through and meditate on the lyrics of the songs throughout the week, preparing our hearts to lead on Sunday. Then during the worship time, no matter what instrument we are playing, sing along! We can’t pretend everyone is only looking to the worship leader. We aren’t invisible. I love visiting a church and seeing a drummer singing his heart out when no one can hear him but God. How can we lead the congregation in worship as a church family if only one or two people on stage are singing while the rest of us stare intently at our charts or fingers? Which brings us to the next challenge…
Memorize the music
I know this may seem daunting, especially for volunteers with full time jobs and kids, but like anything else, memorization is a skill that takes practice, and over time it gets easier. We should eliminate anything that distracts someone from worshiping, and few things are more distracting than a player who doesn’t know the song. When the songs become second nature, we free ourselves to focus and reflect upon the lyrics and to engage the congregation in worship. On engagement….
Open Your Eyes!
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who never looked at you? It’s awkward! There will be times that our posture on stage is inward reflection or upward in praise, but our primary posture should be outward to the congregation. We are there to serve and guide them. People come into church with baggage and heavy hearts and we need to invite them into worship. Our facial expressions and stage presence need to communicate that we are excited to be there, that we are excited to see them there, that we welcome them to worship our Savior and God together. Singing with eyes closed the entire service isn’t very inviting and can work against our invitation to worship.
One of my favorite quotes I heard at a Seeds Conference (seeds.churchonthemove.com) is that the level of engagement and response in worship in the congregation will rarely exceed what is on stage. So let’s sing with hands lifted high and invite everyone into worship with us.
Andy Walker is a producer based in Nashville, TN. Andy has had the opportunity to play with several bands & worship artists, including Tim Hughes, Ben Cantelon and Luke Hellebronth. He’s played at countless churches & was a music director at one for two years. As a producer & writer, he’s had song placements on MTV and continues to work with indie artists, as a producer, mixer, or musician as well as creating resources for worship leaders. He lives with his wife and two kids south of Nashville.
(image credit: Christy Wilson: http://www.christyjoyphotography.com)