Dear Worship Leader

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Dear Worship Leader,

Because I speak every week and have done so for the last 10+ years, I’ve seen a lot of worship leaders. From camps, conferences, church services, student and college ministry, it takes all kinds. Most of them are great. Some of them, not so much. Most of them have great hearts with a desire to lead a group of people into the presence of Jesus to worship, others, not so much. I thought I’d share some thoughts as a person who preaches and worships in church on a weekly basis, sort of my viewpoint of you and some requests.

  1. It’s not about you. I know worship leaders would never say it is about them or preachers either. But sometimes, it seems like it is more about you than Jesus. We are not there to watch you worship. We are not there to see how amazing you are or how incredible your voice is or that killer drum or guitar solo you just nailed. If that’s all people talk about at the end, it failed.
  2. Talk normally. So many worship leaders when they talk between songs sound like they are trying to seductively get me out of my clothes. If your voice sounds like Barry White normally, then great. If not, talk normally. Don’t breath heavy, make weird pauses. I leaned over to Katie at one worship service recently and told her I felt like the worship leader was hitting on us. It shouldn’t feel that way.
  3. Everything you say, pray and the songs you sing teach me about God. When you pray, think through it. When you talk about asking for more of the presence of the Holy Spirit, is that possible? Or do we need to be more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit? Make sure you know what the Father, Son and Spirit do. When you make it up on the fly, you make theological errors that we in the seats listen to and believe. After all, you’re on stage. As for lyrics, make sure they are theologically correct. Also, what does it mean to sing to the heart of Jesus? When you tell us to sing this straight to Jesus I wonder who we’ve been singing to this whole time. A lot of what is said on the latest Hillsong and Passion album sound awesome in an arena, but when there are 25 people in a church planet, we don’t want to shout to God.
  4. Pray normally. When you pray, do you say God or Jesus over and over. Dear God, we love you God. Thank you God. God, your presence is so amazing God. Oh God. If that’s how you pray, great. If not, pray normally. The way you pray teaches the rest of us to pray and if it doesn’t sound normal, it communicates a normal person can’t pray. Also, when you pray, I learn theology about God.
  5. Don’t repreach the sermon. There is nothing worse than preaching a sermon, one that I as the preacher has thought about for anywhere from 1 week to 8 months just to have a worship leader come up after me and on the fly repreach it in 5 minutes and make me wonder, “Why did we just sit here?” Or, when you repreach it incorrectly? I remember speaking at another church and the worship leader came up and tried to make my point, but missed it. Showing he wasn’t really listening.
  6. Your dress reflects your heart. This is for men and women. If your dress is distracting, revealing or over the top, no one is paying attention to Jesus. They are looking at you. What you wear, how low cut it is, how shirt your skirt is, how tight your shirt is, all reflects your heart.
  7. Don’t make us stand forever. I know people stand forever at a concert, but once you start getting to 15, 20, 25 minutes of straight standing people start checking out because it hurts. Knees, back, necks, they all start to ache.
  8. When you sing high, men stop singing. If you are a worship leader, you probably have an incredible range. That’s awesome. You can probably sing all the songs exactly as they are recorded on the CD. That’s awesome. The problem is few other people can, especially men. When you sing too high, men stop singing and check out.
  9. Explain what we are doing. Why are we standing? Why are we reading this prayer? If you want me to do something, tell me and explain it. Don’t assume I want to do the thing you want me to do. You’ve spent all week thinking about it, working on it and I just heard about it.
  10. Sing songs each week. I love new songs and if you lead worship, you get tired of songs quickly. The reason? By the time you teach a song to a church, you’ve listened to it 100 times. The problem is, most people do not listen to worship music throughout the week. They don’t know the songs. So, if you teach a song and the following week don’t sing it again, we forget it.

I love worship leaders. I love that at Revolution, almost half the service is music. I want you to be great. If you don’t serve with a pastor that wants you to be as great as possible, go find a new pastor to work with. The people who show up each week show up wanting to meet Jesus and you are a big part of that. You help us encounter Jesus in a personal, emotional and logical way. I want you to be great and I don’t want anything to stand in the way of you being the worship leader God called you to be.

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How to Survive Monday as a Pastor

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It’s Monday.

Which for most pastors, worship leaders, kids and student pastors, means the hardest and worst day of the week. Pastors even call it bread truck Monday because of a desire to go and drive a break truck or because they feel like they got hit by a bread truck. For a few reasons:

  1. What we do is war. In the spiritual sense. You may have had to deal with a relational battle yesterday. You prayed with people, counseled people and are carrying their burdens and weight. You have shepherded them through difficulties, wept with them, challenged them to walk away from sin and watched people destroy their lives one step at a time.
  2. You problem slept terribly on Saturday night as you thought about the day, got up early and then slept poorly on Sunday night as you were simply too tired to sleep.
  3. Leading worship, preaching, talking with people is incredible, awesome, the highlight of my week and incredibly exhausting all at the same time. You physically have nothing left after a Sunday. You probably have nothing left spiritually, emotionally or relationally to give as well.
  4. There is a good chance you woke up on Monday to a pile of emails from angry people, people leaving your church or thinking about leaving your church. You may have some fires brewing that you are wondering if you can handle. An elder that is a thorn in your side. And you are tired.

So what do you do? This happens almost every Monday. Because of this, many pastors take Monday off. If you do, that’s fine. But I feel like that is making a hard day worse. Your family doesn’t want you around if you are going to be angry, grumpy and have a short temper.

Here are few things that have helped me and my family survive Mondays:

  1. Get out of bed. Some Monday’s are great to sleep in, but I often find that getting out of bed and getting rolling is a better idea. If I stay in bed too long I feel sluggish, no matter what day it is.
  2. Know that Tuesday is coming. Most of the things that seem insurmountable on Monday look easy on Tuesday. I’m amazed at how often I get stressed about things and in 3 weeks time I have forgotten about them.
  3. Get a workout, bike ride, hike or run in. I know, you are tired and can barely move. The adrenaline from preaching is hard to deal with the older I get. I actually do yoga every Sunday morning before preaching just so I can move on Monday because the adrenaline kills me. But get going, do something active. It gets your blood moving and you are in a better mood afterwards.
  4. Take a nap. You should take a nap on Monday. You will probably have very little steam by the end of the day, so lay down.
  5. Work on your soul. Read something that speak to your soul. You preached your heart out, gave everything you had to students and kids, led worship with everything you had, now you need to feed yourself. Monday is a great time to listen to a sermon by someone else to be challenged.
  6. Don’t be around anyone that makes you angry. On Monday, you have a short fuse so do yourself and others a favor and only be around people you like. The fallout from not following this can be bad for everyone involved.
  7. Do administrative stuff. Don’t have a meeting on Monday, don’t counsel anyone. I know lots of leaders like to evaluate on Monday because it is fresh, write it down and talk about it on Tuesday. Return some emails, blog, following up with guests, new believers, those are fun and invigorating for a pastor.
  8. Serve your wife. You were probably a bear to hear at some point on Saturday or Sunday. She was a single mom on Sunday with your kids while you worked and she is just as tired as you are. I know you don’t believe me and think your job is harder, let’s say it is even. Ask how you can serve her.
  9. You have the privilege to do it again in 6 days. That may not seem like a privilege on Monday, but believe me, it is. God has chosen you to preach, lead worship, teach, counsel, shepherd, set up, greet, help kids follow Jesus, talk with students through hard situations. He chose you and uses you. So, when Monday is hard, remember, God could’ve picked someone else. And you could’ve said no. Since God called and you said yes, get back up on the horse and get ready!

And if none of those help, just watch this and remember, your life isn’t this bad. Probably.

What ideas do you use to survive Monday?

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One of a Pastor’s Most Important Public Tasks

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Every Sunday morning around the world, churches gather for community, equipping, communion, singing, prayers and preaching. The pastor is involved in many of these things and leads many of them.

From up front.

Yet, one of the most important tasks a pastors does is public and yet it does not happen on the stage. It happens while he is surrounded by his church, during the singing.

Why is this so important?

The pastor sets the tone for the church. The church becomes a reflection of the pastor

If you look around and see that people are not engaging in worship, there are a few reasons that is happening, but one of them is the leader is not engaging (the leaders on stage and the leader in the congregation, the pastor).

Is it that simple? No.

But I often see pastor’s looking around, not singing, checking their notes or even not in the room until it is time for them to preach.

These things communicate.

Loudly.

They tell your church, the corporate singing and prayers are not the most important thing we do, because I’m not participating. I’m not even here for it. I’m looking at my notes for the important part.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Preaching is incredibly important. Personally, half of my week is spent on preaching.

But pastor, come on. You have all week to prepare your sermon. Looking at your notes for 10 minutes right before you go up to preach is not going to make a difference.

There is another reason this matters.

This gets to the heart of the pastor and how prepared he is to worship. Is he scatter brained when he walks into church? Has he prayed his heart up so he is ready to enter the presence of God? Is he ready to be fed in worship?

I know this is hard. It is hard to connect in worship in your church as a pastor, when you are about to preach, but when you do, your sermon connects in a way it doesn’t otherwise. You are also modeling to people how to worship as many of them don’t know how to connect with God corporately. Men are wondering, why do we sing? Why do people close their eyes? Why do they raise their hands?

And worship leaders, for the sake of your men, stop singing love songs to your boyfriend Jesus.

This task of being a lead worshiper in the congregation is one of the most important tasks a pastor has on Sunday morning. It impacts things you don’t even see and sets the tone for things you wished would go better, like the response of your church.

So pastor, this Sunday. Lead from the congregation. Help get things moving. Sing loud. Raise your hands. Clap along. Help lead from off the stage.

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One Way to Make Church Memorable

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Every pastor when they write a sermon and preach it want people to remember it. Most people though forget most of what is said in a sermon. This is why it is important to have one point instead of five.

You can use visuals, video clips, readings, stories and a host of other things to make your sermon and church memorable.

One thing that we do at Revolution that helps to make church memorable is to line up the songs with the sermon. 

This seems like second nature to us, but I am amazed at how many worship leaders and preachers are not on the same page. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a worship service and the worship leader introduces a song by giving a 2 minute sermon that has nothing to do with the sermon and the point of the day.

A lot of times people will debate if preaching is the reason the church gathers on a Sunday or is it worship. I would say it’s both. If you don’t have both, you’ve failed to do something very important as the gathered church.

At Revolution, we use worship music to set up the sermon and then for the sermon to set up the response time and communion.

To make your church memorable, you have to do a few things:

  1. Decide to connect the dots for people. People come to church with their brains all over the place. They often rushed to get out the door, had a fight on the way to church, a screaming child. They are tired and stressed from the week. They fall into the chair at church exhausted and wanting to catch their breath. They need help connecting the dots. Talk about how songs connect to a sermon. In recent weeks at the end of my sermon I’ve talked about why we are doing a song that we are doing. You don’t always have to do this. But decide that you will do the work of working with your pastor or worship leader to connect the dots for your people.
  2. Plan ahead. If you want to do anything great or creative or connecting the music with the sermon, you have to plan ahead. You can’t decide on Wednesday what you will preach on this Sunday. Does the Holy Spirit change things? Yes. Two weeks ago I rewrote my sermon at 11pm on Saturday night. That isn’t a pattern for me. We plan about 15 months in advance to that the person leading worship can spend time in the passage and let the verses speak to them as they prepare a set list.
  3. Have a worship leader that cares deeply about theology. Thankfully this is becoming more and more important. In the past, being a worship leader meant you could play guitar and sing. The bar has been raised in churches, which is a good thing. Your worship leader does not have to have an M.Div. in theology, but they need to know theology, care about doctrine and be able to discern if worship songs are doctrinally correct. Some of the most popular worship songs today are theologically incorrect. And never miss this pastor: your church will often learn more about God from the songs they sing than from listening to your sermon. 
  4. Listen to the worship set while you prep your sermon. After talking through my sermon with Paul or the worship leader on Monday morning, when I get the final list, I will make a playlist for my iPod and listen to it in the car, while I am prepping my sermon or taking a run. I want the words to get into my head and my heart. This helps me connect the verses I’m preaching on to the songs we are singing, which helps to make church more memorable to someone when they leave the service.

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Links of the Week

  1. Stephen Miller on Worship Leaders, We Are Not Rock Stars.
  2. Ten things I want to tell teenage girls. This is sound advice for women of every age. 
  3. Steelers offensive line. The draft is next weekend and this is the year the Steelers need to stop outsmarting themselves and draft a quality offensive lineman. 
  4. Kevin Larson on How to raise up preachers in your church
  5. 5 things you should know about sexual offenders
  6. Thom Rainer on common traits of breakout churches.
  7. Mark Driscoll on Tips for better bible study
  8. Leadership podcasts you should subscribe to.

Links of the Week

  1. Michael Hyatt on How leadership at home affects the rest of your life
  2. 5 ways to move from selfish to a servant when you’re single
  3. Tony Morgan on the top 10 leadership mistakes
  4. 6 time management tips
  5. David Walker on What every worship leader wants their pastor to know. Makes me grateful for Paul and the relationship we have. 
  6. 3 common traits of youth who don’t leave the church
  7. Brian Tracy on How to influence people
  8. Top 7 church planting challenges
  9. Gloria Furman on What a pastor’s wife is supposed to be like. I did a series of blog posts on this topic and it is still my most read series ever. 

Worship Leaders and Speaking

I put a quote on facebook the other day that I figured would anger a few people, and sure enough, it did. Matthew Barnett, lead pastor of the Dream Center said, “You know you’re in trouble when a worship leader stops singing, pulls out a Bible and says, “I have a word.”

Here is the point, this doesn’t mean a worship leader should never say anything. The problem for many worship leaders is that they say things on the fly, not planning them out, in the emotion of the moment AND very few worship leaders have the gift of teaching. When they talk, they are actually moving out of their gifting and not serving the church well.

As a speaker, there is nothing more frustrating than getting off stage just to have the worship leader stand on stage and recap your message in 5 minutes. In fact, I have had worship leaders say, “I bet Josh would say that” after I spoke. The problem is that I didn’t say it.

Think about it like this. If Paul got done with a set at the end of the night, I walked on stage, picked up his guitar and started playing it and said, “I just love that song, why don’t we sing it again?” That’s what it is like when most worship leaders talk in a service.

This is one of the things that I appreciate about the relationship I have with Paul, we both do what we are good at. Let me say this, I could not do what Paul does. I have no desire to do it, but I know that if I did it would not serve God or our church well. I believe that worship leading is like a sixth sense. It takes amazing skill to be able to put songs together, to lead people in worship, to help them understand what worship is and how to worship God instead of themselves. He spends hours every week working on the 30 minutes of the service that he is on stage and all the details that go into that when it comes to sound, video and lighting. In the same way, speakers spend 10 – 20 hours a week working on a sermon.

What this gets into is the the teamwork that a pastor and worship leader have and living in their gifting to serve the church well together.