Mentoring Bobby

We met for breakfast. He sat there, cutting the whites off of his fried egg. I mean, all of them. Every miniature triangle. Until there was only a glorious orange orb of yolk left.


“What are you doing, Bobby?” I had to know.


“Oh.” Sheepish grin. “It’s how I always eat my eggs. I save the yolk so I can eat it in one bite.”


I’ve tried. Whether it’s the skill or the patience that I lack, I don’t know. I’ve never been able to experience having an entire yolk fill my mouth in one magnificent pop.


“So, a bit about me.” I started. “I’ve been leading since …it’s been a while. Well, I started the summer I graduated from high school…1990.”


Another sheepish grin. “That’s the year I was born.”


Blush. (I’m not old. I’m NOT old!) “Wow, that’s crazy, man. I’ve been leading worship as long as you’ve been alive. So that’s what it feels like to be Tom Kraeuter.”


Bobby looked confused. “Tom who?”


I pressed on. “I know we’ll be able to learn from each other. Of course, I have learned some things that I’ll gladly share with you, but I don’t see myself as an expert. I’m a lifelong student, always learning, always growing. Can you give me some pointers on that egg thing before we get started?”



~



In 2013, I spent six months in a very intentional mentoring process with Bobby. I was leading one of the worship teams at his church as part of a worship coaching program. The pastor and I decided to find a new leader to take over this team by the time the coaching program ended.


We chose Bobby. He had never led a team before and had only led worship at the church once… for a special Thanksgiving service. He was green. A great heart, talented musician, humble attitude, but a newbie leader.


Since that team (affectionately known as “Team 3”) led once each month, we laid out a plan that looked like this:



January

Coaching Moment* with Bobby

Bobby plays electric guitar on Team 3, and I lead


February

Coaching Moment with Bobby

Bobby plays electric guitar on Team 3, and I lead


March

Coaching Moment with Bobby

Bobby leads one song for Team 3 for a Sunday morning service, and I lead the rest


April

Coaching Moment with Bobby

Bobby leads half of the songs for Team 3 for a Sunday morning service, and I lead the rest


May

Coaching Moment with Bobby

Bobby leads half of the songs for Team 3 for a Sunday morning service, and I lead the rest


June

Coaching Moment with Bobby

Bobby leads all the songs for Team 3 for a Sunday morning service, and I just play on the team


*Coaching Moment

A Coaching Moment is a 2-hour conversation. We reflect on past leading, plan on future leading, discuss a chapter in a book, talk philosophy of worship, and allow time for questions.



Bobby did great. Each time he stretched to reach the mic, he grew in confidence. His direction to the band improved. He even facilitated team interaction on a personal level. He’s walking into his potential.


~


What helped make this mentoring work well? As I reflect on the process, here are a few principles I discovered.


Invent A Need

Most mentoring requires us to create an artificial need. I could’ve led Team 3 on my own just fine. Sure, I had the goal of handing the team off to a new leader, but that could’ve been to one of the current leaders. I had to pretend there was this hard deadline, this impending void. It helped me be intentional. It also helped Bobby take it seriously.


Take Your Time

Six months felt about right. One month would’ve been ridiculous, even if we would’ve led every week. Two years would’ve felt too much like the semester that never ends. Six to twelve months allows time in between leading to reflect. It removes the hurry and the frenzy. It broadens the experience of more of the Church calendar. It builds slowly, more like a real team requires. It allows the leader to grow personally, rather than just in the skill of leading. It outlines a clear beginning and end. It might weed out an impatient leader. It amplifies the importance of the process. Make sure you’re both clear about the timeline. Put the dates in your calendars.


Create A Safe Place

Trust is essential. The best worship leaders are vulnerable. They are appropriately transparent. They lack pretense. They set congregations at ease while spurring them on to grow. They have a Biblical view of God. They have a healthy sense of who they are. They have poise, even in the struggle. To reproduce these traits, we need to model them to the leaders we mentor. The only litmus test for this is how they feel when they’re with us. Do they feel safe? Can they ask hard questions freely? Can they struggle? This one may challenge you as a mentor more than any of the other principles.


Use A Book

Bobby and I read through Dan Wilt’s book “_How To Lead Worship Without Being A Rock Star,_” but there are lots of great books available. I like this one because it’s thoughtful without being seminarian, thorough without being more than 114 pages long, and broad enough to be fitting for any church context. Going through a book will help give you focus, a sense of movement, and it will bring up lots of great discussion questions. It also teaches the leader to be a reader. It connects them to the broader community of worship leaders outside of just one local church.


Other books:

The Worship Pastor (Zac Hicks, Zondervan, 2016, 224 pages)

Becoming a True Worshiper (Tom Kraeuter, Emerald Books, 2006, 112 pages)

Worship Matters (Bob Kauflin, Crossway, 2006, 304 pages)

Exploring Worship (Bob Sorge, Oasis House, 1987, 297 pages)

How to Worship a King (Zach Neese, Gateway Create, 2012, 271 pages)

Pure Praise (Dwayne Moore, Group Publishing, 2008, 176 pages)

Unquenchable Worshipper (Matt Redman, Regal, 2001, 128 pages)

The Heart Of The Artist (Rory Noland, Zondervan, 1999, 352 pages)


Empower (Read: Give Power)

Maybe it’s letting them choose a song, shape an arrangement, call for a repeat of a section, read a scripture, say a prayer, lead the team devotional…the goal is to give away your power, your control appropriately. They need to feel the weight of what it means to lead while you’re still with them. They need to experience having the leadership of something significant without the whole thing resting on their shoulders. If their first time to lead on their own is full of “firsts,” you’ve held too tightly to your control. Give away as much as you can before everything is on the line. It will make them more powerful when they do lead. One of the first times Bobby led, the team was sitting in a circle, taking notes for the arrangements of the songs. “I want the piano to come in softly on the chorus _after_ the second verse. Oh, and right hand only.” Guess who was his piano player that week? Me. I knew he’d been properly empowered.


Connect The Dots

Nobody knows what you’re thinking, planning, or expecting. You’re used to being in your head, but no one else is. You need to model clarity and excellent communication with those you lead. Get great at talking about what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and why you’re doing it. I remember a pastor once asked me why I thought the author was asking us to affirm a particular line in a song. It reminded me that every song I choose to lead means I’m asking the congregation to affirm certain truths, to make specific declarations, to utter scripted prayers. Great leaders make connections for those they lead. Why is this important? How does _this_ affect _that_? Why would saying this _now_ be helpful? We are interpreters of moments that we could otherwise miss. If we make it flawlessly through the songs, yet don’t engage the congregation or give them a moment with God, was that a win? If we learn to transfer this skill to new leaders, it will be a gift to future congregations of worshipers!


Listen For The Voice

It’s not just all thinking or feeling. Revelation is real. His sheep hear His voice. One of the practices I’ve integrated into my leading life is making a list of five blank lines. Then I ask God to tell me five things. I expect that whatever pops into my head (so long as it’s not contrary to what is revealed through scripture) is likely God talking to me. I write it down. It’s a simple exercise, but it helps me to grow in hearing His voice and being confident in that relational dynamic. How will you model this? How does this happen while choosing songs? What are the dynamics of this during worship? How do you carve space for yourself to listen while in the middle of worship service with everything pulling at you? What do you do when you think you get a nudge? What fits within your church culture? I also challenge you to ask God for five specific things each time before meeting with the worship leader you’re mentoring.


Focus On Building Confidence

Rather than skills and crafting perfect sets, we want a growing sense of “God is helping me to do this… I’m beginning to believe that I’m actually called to this.” You can learn all kinds of ideas, tricks, and skills from books, blogs, and videos. Confidence, on the other hand, comes from someone believing in you when you take a risk. Having a series of small wins gives a feeling of traction.


That’s huge because the most significant question most new leaders have is, “Do I have what it takes to do this?” I want to answer that question for them over and over and over. While it’s easy for us to get caught up in only giving tips and unloading all of our years of accumulated ideas, we must help them feel successful. Successful in trusting God and taking risks. Successful in playing a song through without creating a train wreck. Successful in praying a prayer during worship without fumbling. Successful in being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and the congregation and knowing what to do in moments of uncertainty. They walk into the process with a thousand questions about their ability to even do this. I want to answer that affirmatively as often as I can before the process ends.


Share Your Best Ideas Freely

But don’t stay philosophical and wax on about how the church this and the world that. Get practical too. How do you plan a set? What do you do first? Where have you found the last few new songs? What do you think through to arrange your songs? How do you choose how to spend your time at rehearsal? What’s your pre-service routine? How do you decide what to wear when you lead? How do you manage your emotions during the service? What best practices do you personally use? Where do you get new ideas for chord voicings? What does your debrief after the service look like? How do you worship off stage? What does your devotional life look like? What books are you reading? Open-handedly give everything you can think of that makes you an effective worship leader. Don’t hold back or save your “secrets” if they may benefit a new worship leader.



~



Mentoring sounds doable. So why don’t you do this right now? Ask the Lord for who to mentor. Once a name pops in your head, ask when to start. If you don’t hear anything, assume it’s now. Seriously.


Here are a couple of things you may need to overcome to get rolling.



Address the lies

No one may ever ask you to mentor them. It’s up to you to pursue them. Asking someone to be mentored by you is not saying, “I’m better than you.” Instead, it makes them feel valued and often relieved. You may say, “But I’m not the most effective worship leader.” But you’re already a worship leader. That’s enough. It may scare you when you look in the mirror and realize, “I’ve never done this mentoring thing before.” Oh please. Don’t act so old!


Answer Your Own Why

Unless you answer why you think mentoring a new leader is essential, you’re not going to do it. At least not wholeheartedly. And we need you to. Here’s my take on why it’s a worthwhile investment.


Stewardship

I have talent—things with which I was gifted. I believe the gifts I have are not my own. Rather, I’m a steward of them. What does the Owner expect me to do with them? Manage them? Yes, but not just that. Manage them for _**increase**_. The story of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 reminds me I have been given something of weight (talent) that I am given according to my ability. It isn’t a question about how much I’ve been given or even what effort I put forth, but what I actually do with it and Whose power brings it to life! One clear evidence I’m managing what I’ve been given for increase is, well, increase. If I was doing something alone at first and now there are two of us doing it, that’s increase. It’s so much better to use my energy to increase by adding others than it is for me just to do more.


Avoiding Burnout

Countless leaders are isolated and burning out. Leaders like you. We see it every day. At Ad Lib Music, we’re given in simple love and pure devotion to Jesus to eradicating isolation and burnout so that leaders bear much fruit. Mentoring someone will keep you personally from stagnation, isolation, burnout, and becoming dated. The best way to learn and grow is having to teach a concept or skill to someone. It will force you to reflect on your routine. It may be painful, but I remember one of my professors addressing this. She said that any teacher that will video themselves and invite a trusted coworker to evaluate and give feedback would be the most competent teacher after only six months. It’s a terribly invasive and vulnerable spot to put yourself in, but it may add ten years to your effective leadership. They’ll choose songs that you would never want to do. (for the sake of your congregation, that’s a good thing!) You also get to share why “Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble,” “Praise The Name Of Jesus,” or “Lord I Am Fondly” are meaningful classics to you. And remember how you were at the beginning? Nervous, excited, dependent, prayerful, passionate? Walking with someone who is there will help you recover the freshness and newness of the privilege of leading worship. It’ll be like discipling a new Christian. You’ll look at the scriptures with fresh eyes, you’ll want to tell others about Jesus, you’ll pray more, and you’ll see such growth!


Besides, they are asking for it. Your best worship leader might be just playing bass right now. Emerging generations need relevant voices. They need you to mentor the next round of leaders. Today. You can do it. Get after it!


(This Fertilizer is the chapter I wrote for the book Tom Kraeuter assembled called “Mentoring Worship Leaders”)