How many times will you lead worship in 2017?

I took stock. I noticed. I paid attention. I realized that I've been leading three to four Sundays a month over the past twelve months. That was ok for then.

But it was time to change.

It was time for other leaders to step up and be launched.

That's where I found myself at the end of March. I had led 10 out of 13 weeks of 2017.

My goal for the next three months? 3 out of 13. That's right. I wanted to lead only three times in the next month. How was I going to make that huge switch?

The same way you can.

But you won't unless you're intentional about it.

And I'm ending up only leading twice in these three months. April 16 and May 28. #dudeperfect

Why would I do such a thing? I’m in launch mode, that’s why. My main goal for 2017 is to be a great resource and equipper.
 
Oh, I could totally just keep leading most of the time. It’d be “fine.” I just wouldn’t be doing my job of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. It feels like I’m creating an artificial need to do this, but it’s anything but artificial.
 
It will shift my energy from planning services to developing leaders. That’s a pretty significant shift. If you’re a primary leader, I dare you to consider it too.
 
I looked through PCO (that’s Planning Center Online…welcome to the 21st century), identifying anyone who had potential to lead. I’ve asked eleven of them to prayerfully consider if God would be wanting them to lead worship. I’ve begun to schedule those that said yes. On the weeks they lead, I’ll meet with them, using the time that I would’ve been spending planning the service. I’ll walk through the process of planning, help with arrangements, give prayerful support, and be generously encouraging.
 
You may already have six reasons why you can’t do this in your church. But what if your reasons are really excuses in disguise?

INSPIRATION

You may need some inspiration. I wrote a chapter in a book called Mentoring Worship Leaders. The ten stories of how ten different leaders mentored other leaders will take the should out of the phrase “I should mentor leaders!” But let’s pretend for a minute that you would actually consider this idea enough to put some thoughts down on paper to make it a reality. Remove any pressure of ACTUALLY implementing this for now, just go through the exercise.

PRAY
“God, who would You have lead worship for our church community for this next season?” Make a list with your impressions.
 

ASK
Talk with or email your team. This is basically what I sent them:

I have carried the lion's share of worship leading over the past couple years. It's time for more of you to step up and out and begin to lead, because I'm shifting my role from being the primary leader (who leads by default), to being the primary equipper (who leads strategically). I'd like to lead about once a month (rather than 3-4 times a month). And I'd love to invest energy and time in helping you feel confident in your worship leadership!
 
Some of you may have never been the primary worship leader for a given Sunday and some of you have had a long break since the last time you led. I would actually love to pair you up with each other to lead together, so that less pressure is on each individual.
 
What I'd like you to do is prayerfully discern whether the Lord would have you to be open to the possibility of leading. That means I want you to ask God "Is there any way that You'd like me to consider leading worship in this next season?" Simple as that.
 
Then I'd like you to share with me what your impression is AND what you would feel like you need to be comfortable with leading.
 
You have each contributed in some significant way to the life of worship here, and I'm asking you to press in deeper to what God is building!

FOLLOW UP
They may or may not respond. Check in to see if they are engaging with the Lord and what they are hearing. If they’re not hearing anything but are open, I may suggest trying it out one time. Sometimes that will clarify if the Lord is directing. This is a discerning time, and sometimes it’s hard to discern in a vacuum.
 

EQUIP AND ENCOURAGE
I have to assume these potential leaders have ideas and passions, but also questions and needs. I want to champion their ideas and energy, while channeling that into what God is doing. Plus, I need to give clear boundaries and guidelines. This is most certainly a dance – giving freedom and allowing them to shape things while staying in the general culture of the house! For example, one leader may want to introduce two new songs on a Sunday when they lead. Not only have we decided not to do that, but they may not be songs that we want to incorporate into our regular rotation. AND they may bring songs that I wouldn’t ever want to do. BUT I need to pay attention to that because they could be seeing something I’m not and those songs may really resonate with our congregation. So I want to be careful to not squash them while setting them up to succeed. It’s a dance, isn’t it? And one that requires discernment. One thing that might help is to think of how we pick songs. Sometimes it’s a real spiritual process and all things seems to be pointing to this song with the Hand of heaven on it…and sometimes, I just like the groove and think it might be a good song for us to sing. (If I’m being honest here!) So relax.

LAUNCH (BUT NOT IN A VACUUM)
Next I start asking leaders for certain dates. I want to get the calendar filled up EARLY! This will give more time for them to select songs and prepare. It’ll also allow us to find times to meet and plan together. And I’m scheduling myself to be on the team with them. We don’t have a ton of seasoned players, so I want to make sure that I’m lending my strength to them. If there is a week where I won’t be on the team, I’ll at least come to rehearsal to coach and support them.
 

FEEDBACK FAST
I’ve long used the phrase “Timely Specific Feedback.” Feedback on Thursday after a new leader has led on Sunday is…kind of irrelevant. A simple “good job” is…nice, but really weak. I want to give them something specific that I noticed and I want to do it within 24 hours at the MOST. We all tend to fill voids with negative, so I want to make sure they have positives to “store up in their hearts.” In fact, to keep myself accountable to what’s in my heart to do, I have reminders that pop up on my phone that say “Affirm 3 individuals - tell them their value to the team.” It comes up right after church and before rehearsal.
 

DISCERN
At some point, it’ll be necessary to look further ahead and discern if each leader should stay in a rotation for 2 years or just lead “occasionally.” This whole process requires open, frequent communication so that everyone stays on the same page. And it’s a two-way discernment process.
 

TRAINING
I’m putting this step here because if we start training right away, the new leaders won’t have much “real world experience” to work with. I don’t think they’ll have enough hunger to drive questions that are essential to a good training experience. They already have enough skill to sing and they’ll be growing in band and worship leadership each week since I’m working with them. So after they’ve led once or twice, we’ll go through a book study together. Zac Hicks’ book The Worship Pastor will be a great choice. Other good ones would be Dan Wilt’s How To Lead Worship; Doxology and Theology that Matt Boswell compiled; or Tom Kraeuter’s Keys to Becoming an Effective Worship Leader. There are many more good choices out there, praise God! Whatever book you use, it will serve two purposes (of equal importance to me):


  1. Giving the leaders a solid, biblical grounding of worship and leadership AND
  2. Building a core of leaders who know each other, champion each other, challenge each other, and partner well together. So often leaders at churches don’t ever talk deeply together about worship.

 

TEAM CULTURE

I want to establish the culture that we’re a team of leaders, right from the beginning! It’s too easy to end up feeling alone, have separate repertoires of songs, die in the cycle of comparison, or not grow in the way you lead at your church. So I’m establishing a monthly meeting with all the worship leaders. This will likely become quarterly, but to start off it’ll be monthly. I’ll provide value, go overboard with encouragement, and teach the art of feedback. You can read more in another Fertilizer here.
 
And maybe you’d like help with this process. The coaches at Ad Lib are here to help, just email us at info@adlibmusic.com and we’ll get started!
 
-Dave