How Will They Remember Your Worship Leadership?

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legacyThere will come a time when God calls you to a new worship ministry position; you’ll be forced out of your present position; you’ll voluntarily step aside for a season; or you will retire from worship ministry completely.

So if or when one of these scenarios occurs, what will your church remember more about your worship leadership?

Will they remember…
  • How many new songs or new people’s names you knew?
  • How you uplifted or undermined your pastor?
  • How much you loved playing with your kids or playing your guitar?
  • How much theology or musicology you knew?
  • How you strived for harmony or sowed dissonance?
  • How you were too busy or welcomed divine interruptions?
  • How obsessed you were with fixing broken relationships or wrong notes?
  • How you controlled or empowered worship?
  • How you were a lifelong learner or didn’t need to learn anything new?
  • How you were threatened by evaluation or thrived on collaboration?
  • How you treated them as passive spectators or active participators?
  • How you planned and led with them or your next place of ministry in mind?
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Please Stop with the Worship Revolutions!

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Revolution

In the rush to do something new and fresh or in an attempt to imitate another congregation, worship planners and leaders sometimes radically change the worship practices of their church. With total disregard for the foundations that framed their existing practices they arbitrarily blow up their worship without considering where the pieces might land.

Worship change by revolution always causes unnecessary pain and relational conflict. So maybe if adjustments are indeed necessary, what most of those congregations actually need is not a revolution but instead a reevaluation.

Revolution is the forcible overthrow or renunciation of an existing system or structure in order to substitute another. It is the repudiation and thorough replacement of what presently exists without considering what still holds value. This radical and pervasive change most often occurs suddenly without giving consideration to the potential fall-out. And in a revolution…one side always loses.

Reevaluation is the contemplation or examination of something again in order to make adjustments or form new opinions about it. It offers a congregation an opportunity to consider how they can prayerfully add to rather than randomly take away. Reevaluation gives them time to change or get better at what they are presently doing through a unified process of rethinking, revisiting and reinvestigating. And in a reevaluation…all sides are considered.

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Facing Worship Leader Ageism…Stick the Landing!

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gymnasticsA gymnastic competition can be won or lost in the landing. So even if you flip, vault, tuck and twist well during the routine, it isn’t considered a success unless you can also stick the landing.

Halftime is over and some of us are even well into the last quarter of our worship-leading career. We’ve accumulated decades of knowledge, experience and practical application so we know how to work smarter. But just working smarter doesn’t seem to be helping some of us finish well. So how can we stay viable, battle ageism and keep from coasting in order to stick the landing?

Learn something new – When we lose the resolve to learn, we lose the resolve to lead. Depending only on what we once learned means we’re only prepared to lead a worship ministry that no longer exists. So it’s never too soon or too late to learn something new. Eric Hoffer wrote, “It is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

Force Quit – Computer programs are sometimes slow or can even freeze up and become unresponsive. Selecting Force Quit reboots and reinstates the original well functioning settings. Quitting doesn’t mean we stop doing worship ministry or have to leave our present position. It just means recalibrating for a fresh start where we are now.

Study a foreign language – Famed basketball coach John Wooden stated, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” So even though we might be fluent in previous worship languages, we also need to learn the musical and technological vernacular of modern worship and what might follow it.

Get another job – Agreeing that worship leader ageism is unjust or theologically suspect doesn’t change its reality. So we can choose to live in a constant state of fear in the second half or we can proactively prepare in case ageism does occur. Learning additional marketable skills doesn’t compromise our calling, it actually enhances that calling beyond choirs and chord charts. And retooling could allow us to extend our shelf life and stick the landing where we are now or where God might call us next.

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If Only Is Holding Worship Hostage

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if onlyWe use if only statements to express a strong desire for things to be different. Those two words are sometimes uttered to nostalgically hold on to the past in order to place stipulations on the present. And they are also used just as often to discount or disparage the traditional in an attempt to elevate the modern.

So when it comes to worship, these two words are often voiced to selfishly hold a congregation hostage until certain demands are met:

If only we would sing more or less hymns.

If only we had a younger worship leader.

If only the songs weren’t so trite and repetitive.

If only we still had a choir.

If only our services were more creative.

If only we had a better worship band.

If only the volume wasn’t so high and lights so low.

If only the attire wasn’t so casual or formal.

If only we were still holding a hymnal.

If only they would let my granddaughter sing a solo.

If only we were like that other church.

If only we still had special music.

If only the song sets and sermons weren’t so long.

If only the people looked and spoke more like us.

If only we talked about money less and politics more.

If only the text and tunes weren’t so archaic.

If only our present leader was more like our previous leader.

If only worshipers can hold a congregation hostage to styles and structures by constantly pointing the conversation back to themselves. What they need, what they like, what they want, what they deserve or what they’ve earned often determines their level of participation. But when if only stipulations beyond the revelation of God must be met before congregants are willing to engage in worship, what they are actually worshiping may be their own selfish desires.

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10 Signs You’re Having an Affair with Worship Ministry

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affairWhy are worship leaders finding it so difficult to balance family and ministry responsibilities? It’s possible those demands and expectations are church or church leadership imposed. But it’s also equally likely they are self-imposed. Some of us are willing to sacrifice almost all waking hours away from our spouse if it means we will have the largest choir or most renowned worship band. Our biblical call to lead others to be a living sacrifice will never ask us to sacrifice our marriage. Doing so would be a sign we’re having an extramarital affair with worship ministry.

10 Signs You’re Having an Affair with Worship Ministry
  • You always ask how something might impact your worship leading before asking how it might impact your marriage.
  • You find more in common with worship team members and consequently, compare your spouse to them.
  • You expect your spouse to have the same passion for your worship leadership as you do.
  • You attend worship conferences in exotic locations but never have enough time for a romantic weekend getaway.
  • Most text messages are to/from band members instead of your spouse.
  • You spend your evenings on YouTube, Spotify and Planning Center so you’re not really home emotionally and relationally even when you’re home physically.
  • You assume leading worship is a higher calling than what your spouse is called to.
  • You have a different spiritual persona on the platform than you do at home.
  • The newest song text instead of the name of your spouse is on your lips when you go to sleep.
  • The affirmation you get from leading worship feeds you more than the affirmation you get at home.
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When Ministry Is Hard…Remember

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RememberWhen ministry feels like being caught in the force of a riptide that pulls you away from the safety of the shore; When the current drags you under again and again and rolls you around on the sandy bottom; and When it seems to take longer each time for the undercurrent to release its grip and allow you to gasp for air…Remember that He reaches down from heaven, takes your hand and pulls you out of deep waters. (Psalm 18:16)

When you worry if your children will even like church when they are no longer required to attend…Remember that Jesus loves your children too and wants them to inherit the Kingdom of God. (Lk 18:15-17)

When your ministry shelf life seems to be moving quickly toward the expiration date…Remember to run this ministry endurance race by fixing your eyes on Jesus since He is the source and perfecter of it. (Heb 12:1-2)

When congregants target your family because they are upset with you…Remember the Lord is your strength and defense so you don’t have to be. (Ps 46:1)

When you are tempted to quit every Monday morning…Remember to be strong and don’t give up, your work will be rewarded. (2 Chr 15:7)

When you have to schedule your family vacation after the youth mission trip, children’s camp and Vacation Bible School, but before the fall kickoff…Remember to learn from Jesus’ example of rest by wearing his yoke, not your own. (Mt 11:28-30)

When the senior adult potluck dinner is the only date night with your spouse…Remember that New Testament church leaders were required to first demonstrate faithfulness at home before being considered for ministry. (1 Tim 3:1-13)

When you are the latest forced termination victim…Remember to be confident and courageous since the Lord will be with you wherever you go. (Josh 1:9)

When it seems like no one is holding your rope, standing in the gap or watching your back…Remember you have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding you. (Heb 12:1)

When you are always the first one to arrive and last one to leave…Remember you are doing it in His strength, not your own. (Isa 40:29)

When your creativity has been exhausted and burnout is causing you to coast…Remember that He is the potter and you are the clay so it’s the work of His hands, not yours. (Isa 64:8)

When you are attacked for initiating much needed change…Remember the Lord hates those who stir up conflict in the community. (Prov 6:16-19)

When you don’t have the resolve to take care of yourself spiritually, physically and emotionally…Remember that He renews your strength when you are worn out and increases your drive when reserves are depleted. (Isa 40:29-31)

RememberSince we have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-3)

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An Open Letter to the Potential Pulpit Bully

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bullyingDear Potential Pulpit Bully,

When Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “bully pulpit,” he observed that his position of influence as president gave him a unique platform from which to persuade, exhort, instruct and inspire. Roosevelt famously used the word bully as an adjective meaning great, superb, excellent or wonderful.

As a pastor, you have been given a similar position of influence from which to speak out, advocate and encourage. Your unique bully pulpit gives you a platform for persuasion, exhortation, instruction and inspiration. It is dangerous, however, if you choose to invert that bully pulpit from a place of influence to a position of control. Transposing from advocacy to autocracy will degrade your platform from a bully pulpit to the platform of a pulpit bully.

There is no virtue in bullying disguised as righteous indignation. So pastor, if you give in to that temptation you’ll believe all problems originate in someone else’s office. You’ll reject cooperation, compromise and kindness in order to guard territory and filter information. You’ll outgrow the need to learn anything new. You won’t share ministry because accountability will threaten your position of authority. And collaboration will always be suspect because you’ll view those with different perspectives as insubordinate.

Once you adopt an attitude of entitlement and invulnerability you may achieve compliance from others but rarely buy-in. So even those within your so-called inner circle will submit to your leadership out of fear not friendship, out of caution not loyalty, out of submission not conviction. As a result, your position will also be one of profound loneliness.

So pastor, is being a pulpit bully really what God intended when he called some to be apostles, some to be prophets and some to be evangelists? Maybe giving in to that temptation is just the fear of losing control of something that was not yours to begin with. So it’s still not too late to realize that the final word doesn’t always have to be yours. There’s time to pray and plan together with others as partners instead of pawns. It’s never too late to pastor with an attitude of mutuality with no ulterior motive. And when you do, your church and staff relationships will never be the same.

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Some Worship Leaders Should Just Quit

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QuitChristianity Today recently published an article indicating that nearly one-fourth of all active ministers have been forced out at some point in their ministry. These termination statistics remind us that the choice to stay is not always ours to make.

But what if we are or aren’t doing some things that are contributing to an early ministry departure? Aren’t we called to do everything we can possibly do here instead of just hoping it will be different when we move there?

Relational instead of musical deficiencies seem to be at the root of many forced worship leader terminations. And yet, most worship leaders spend the majority of their time just trying to improve themselves musically. The reality is we can never learn and teach enough new songs to make up for relationship and leadership failures.

So it’s time to quit doing or not doing those things that might be contributing to your discontent or the discontent of those to whom you are accountable.

Quit…

  • Coming in late and leaving early.
  • Blaming others when you drop the ball.
  • Using artistry as an excuse for laziness.
  • Depending on music alone to fix relationships.
  • Assuming all problems began somewhere else.
  • Trying to pastor from the platform alone.
  • Looking for shortcuts or excuses and pay the rent.
  • Coasting at the beginning of the week and scrambling at the end.
  • Coming to rehearsals and meetings unprepared.
  • Trying to make changes without seeking buy-in.
  • Expecting others to change first.
  • Viewing relationships as artistic interruptions.
  • Holding volunteers to a bar you aren’t trying to reach.
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Preemptive Strike: Evaluating Worship from the Inside

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evaluationSome worship leaders don’t consider evaluating their worship services until they receive complaints about something they are or aren’t doing or singing. Consequently, their responses are usually defensive rather than evaluative.

A preemptive strike is an action that is intentionally initiated to keep another inevitable action from occurring. It is preventive and proactive in order to deter a more unfavorable action or attack from transpiring.

Evaluation is already occurring in the halls and parking lots. So why wouldn’t we want to preempt those conversations with a process that encourages worship renewal instead of just as a response to worship conflict?

Evaluating worship from the inside is an internal process of enlisting individuals and groups from within your congregation to regularly evaluate present worship structures and practices.

Inside or internal evaluators already understand the culture, doctrines and personnel assets or liabilities that frame your worship preparation and implementation. So they have a vested interest in the process and results since it too is their church.

One area of caution, though, is since the evaluators have a more personal interest there is sometimes the danger of ideological evaluation. Those evaluations can be based on likes, dislikes and styles instead of biblical and theological content. But the benefits definitely outweigh the risk of encountering the occasional ideologue.

Implementing a process of internal evaluation requires a level of humility and sacrifice from leaders. Those leaders who willingly and selflessly share the responsibilities will no longer receive all of the credit for successes but they also won’t receive all of the credit for failures. Consider some of the following preemptive evaluation suggestions:

INTERNAL EVALUATION SUGGESTIONS

  • Develop an evaluative team for worship planning and follow-up evaluation. Include musicians, theologians, technicians, artists, etc.
  • Video the platform personnel (including the pastor) as an evaluative tool for the team. Look for: genuineness, preparedness, idiosyncrasies, platform presence, vocal clarity, language clarity, etc.
  • Video the congregation before, during and after worship services to evaluate how or if they are participating.
  • Enlist multi-generational and multi-ethnic congregants to respond to questions regarding the relevance of worship to their generation or culture.
  • Ask evaluation team members to sit in various places during worship services to consider volume, balance, pace, flow, content, congregational participation, etc.
  • Enlist non-musicians to respond to musical questions.
  • Ask an educator to evaluate language and grammar usage of platform leaders.
  • Encourage non-technical congregants to respond to projection, sound, lighting and other technical/logistical questions.
  • Implement platform personnel peer-to-peer evaluations.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t attempt to evaluate too much at a time.
  • Design evaluations to minimize the focus on style and personal preferences. Avoid “I like” or “I don’t like” questions.
  • Ensure evaluations aren’t used to manipulate or provide justification for biases.
  • Evaluate strengths as well as weaknesses.
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Uptight Worship Leaders Need Fartleks in 2017

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runningFartlek is not a middle school bodily function joke. It is an actual running term of Swedish origin that literally means “speed play.” Running fartleks involves varying the pace throughout your run, alternating between sprints and slow jogs.

Unlike traditional interval training that involves specific timed or measured segments, fartleks are intentionally unstructured. Adding them to your training plan is a fun way to give new life to monotonous distance runs as well as rigorous speed intervals. Fartleks offer a runner the opportunity to experiment with various paces, ultimately increasing your speed and stamina.

Most worship leaders just ended another year of busyness that culminated in a flurry of seasonal rehearsals, presentations and extra services. And since ministry often sanctifies busyness instead of freeing us from it, we probably ended this hectic worship season by immediately starting another one. So some of us are undoubtedly wondering if we have enough left in the tank to do it all again. The question we need to ask as we begin 2017 is, “am I ready to run a healthy race that also includes margins of recovery between those seasons of going all-out?

Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:28-30, The Message).

So if your 2016 worship leadership seemed joyless and you were constantly frustrated when those you led seemed to lag behind, then maybe it’s time to lighten up. Add some speed play to your rigorous schedule so you and those you lead can again experience the joy of worship leadership and have enough endurance to still be in the race at the end of 2017.

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The Attention A Worship Leader Craves

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RelationshipsMost worship leaders hunger for the investment of and healthy communication with their senior pastor. But they don’t always have the freedom to initiate that relationship or those conversations until the senior pastor starts them. Consequently, planning, preparation and evaluation is often by trial and error that can be discouraging to the worship leader and frustrating to the senior pastor.

Worship leaders crave the attention of a senior pastor who values and creates a culture of healthy communication, sacrifice and trust that isn’t guarded, territorial, defensive or competitive. In other words, worship leaders long for the relational bond of shared ministry with a senior pastor who is confident enough in his own abilities and limitations to humbly admit publicly and privately that he can’t get it done alone.

The Pastor’s Attention A Worship Leader Craves

  • A collaborative spirit that is complementary, not competitive.
  • Grace that welcomes disagreement without fear of retaliation.
  • Approachability, availability and accountability.
  • Respect for the calling and leadership of others even when radically different from their own.
  • The capacity to affirm in public; correct and coach in private; and pastor in both places.
  • Enough humility to acknowledge that shared ministry doesn’t threaten but instead strengthens.
  • A desire to initiate significant conversations about vision, dreams, expectations and evaluations.
  • A yearning to invest in the personal and spiritual development of others with no ulterior motive.
  • Loyalty, trust and respect.
  • The confidence to acknowledge the sermon may not always be primary.
  • The resolve to work toward a common philosophy of worship.
  • A prayer intercessor for and with ministry colleagues.
  • Authentic transparency and vulnerability.
  • An appropriate sense of humor.
  • Full engagement in worship, spiritual disciplines and family.
  • True friendship.
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20 Ways to Pray for Worship Leaders

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twenty

Ways to Pray for

Worship Leaders

 

 

  1. Pray that they never sacrifice their family for ministry since their family is ministry.
  2. Pray for them to prepare for Sunday by focusing on worship as primary and music as secondary.
  3. Pray that they will help us focus more on the creator and less on their creativity.
  4. Pray that Scripture and Prayer instead of song selections frame their worship preparation.
  5. Pray for healthier ministry staff relationships.
  6. Pray that their days off and vacations provide rest that is free from church responsibilities.
  7. Pray for their spiritual, physical and emotional health.
  8. Pray that they’ll be able to sift through the many responsibilities that compete for their attention and focus on the ones God wants them to do.
  9. Pray for them to wake up every morning feeling unqualified in their own power to do what God has called them to do.
  10. Pray Ephesians 4:29 over them, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  11. Pray for them to daily recommit to their call here instead of dreaming about what it might be like to be there.
  12. Pray they never confuse leading music with leading people.
  13. Pray for them to have enough humility to engage us as participants instead of audiences.
  14. Pray for the protection of their marriages.
  15. Pray for trusted leaders to hold them accountable and protect them.
  16. Pray for their almost insurmountable task of trying to stay current musically, technologically and culturally.
  17. Pray for a great cloud of witnesses to surround them so they can fix their eyes on Jesus and run with endurance.
  18. Pray that they will have the courage to ignore the loudest voices if not God’s.
  19. Pray for their wisdom to select old and new songs that will help us respond to God’s revelation with biblical, theological and doctrinal integrity.
  20. Pray that they will have patience and persistence when it seems like none of us are completely happy with their musical selections.
  21.  

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A Letter To My Younger Worship Leading Self

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letterDear Younger Worship Leading Me,

In a few decades you are going to look back at your years of worship ministry with a desire for a second chance to handle some things differently. You will think about certain services, special events, entire seasons of ministry or strained relationships and long for another opportunity to make some adjustments.

The reality is that it will be impossible for you to go back and make corrections to most of those situations. But with a little humility, resilience and resolve now, you have an opportunity to get some of them right the first time. So here are a few things you are going to learn.

Surround yourself with people who will stretch your thinking and actions but also hold you accountable. Taking necessary risks might cause you to make some mistakes but the discernment of others will help protect you from your own stupidity. It might be exhilarating when you succeed alone but it won’t be when you fail alone. And you will sometimes fail.

People will always remember how you treat them when you’re off the platform more than how you lead them on the platform so know more people’s names than new songs. Consider their interruptions as divine appointments instead of distractions. Drink more coffee with senior adults and ask their opinions before initiating change. Be more patient with needy people and chronic takers. And remember to thank those who make sacrifices to invest in you, your family and your ministry.

Be on the front end of learning newer musical and technological languages. But don’t assume it’s always appropriate to be an early adopter of them. Being conversant in a language doesn’t mean it should be used when it doesn’t fit the voice of your congregation. Learn more theology than musicology and practice leadership development more than you practice your guitar.

Always ask how something might impact your family before asking how it might impact your worship leading. Leave more things at the office when you go home and be home when you are home. Taking a Sabbath each week will not only help your spiritual and physical health, it will also help the relational health of your family. Stay longer instead of bailing for a new place of ministry every couple of years. If your ministry frequently moves your children away from their friends and foundations, then how can you expect them to even like church when they are no longer required to attend?

What you know about worship leading now won’t be enough to sustain you through your entire ministry. So read more, study more and ask more questions. Be a lifelong learner who understands it’s never too soon or too late to learn something new.

Finally, I know it is sometimes overwhelming to balance the stresses of ministry and family. So when leading worship is discouraging; when it seems like no generation is ever completely happy; when you can’t sing too many or too few hymns; and when you wake up on Monday morning and wonder if this is really worth it; you can rest assured that you’ll also be able to look back at those decades of ministry and acknowledge with certainty that it was.

Sincerely,

Your Older Worship Leading Self

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Treating Worship Sickness Before A Diagnosis

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treatmentTrying to fix worship by randomly changing the songs is like a physician arbitrarily treating an illness before a diagnosis. Worship health and consequently its renewal will only occur by evaluating our worship principles first before we ever consider changing our worship practices.

Diagnosis is the process of determining by examination and evaluation the nature and circumstances of a diseased condition. Treatment is the administration and application of remedies once the diagnosis has been determined. We seem to continually invert these two processes.

So instead of evaluating our worship health based on biblical foundations, theological tenets and historical precedents, we often attempt to heal it through song selections, stylistic adjustments and personnel firings or hirings.

Intentional evaluation before indiscriminate implementation can provide a constructive process for a congregation to verbalize foundational worship principles. Once those deeper biblical and theological principles are solidified they can then set treatment goals for their worship practices in response to the actual diagnoses.

Trial and error treatment focused on style and service mechanics will continue to consume the energy of worship planners and leaders unless an organized diagnostic plan is put in place. The end result is often exacerbated worship unhealthiness that is much more contagious. But if instead we ensure that our diagnosis always precedes the treatment, our worship renewal prognosis can’t help but be more hopeful.

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Open Letter To Pastors Who Choose Not To Sing

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open letterDear Non-Singing Pastor,

We depend on you as the primary worship leader of our congregation. We agree that your leadership centers more on worship through the Word and Table than through the music. And we understand and affirm that worship can’t be contained in one expression such as music.

But it is evident from Scripture that singing is a significant response to God’s revelation (Ps 63:5; Eph 5:19: Col 3:15-17). When writing about the future of Jerusalem, the minor prophet Zephaniah wrote, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17).

When the circumstances of life discourage us from verbalizing our songs, the Father surrounds us with songs of deliverance (Ps 32:7). And when we can’t find adequate words to express our love to the Father, Jesus as our worship leader sings with us (Heb 8:1-2; 2:12). So if the Father is singing over us and Jesus is singing with us, we have to ask how you can keep from singing?

When you choose not to sing it causes us to wonder if you really view the musical worship elements as an optional appetizer before the main course or the warm-up band before the headliner. And when you study sermon notes during the service instead of singing it gives us the impression you are unprepared, reminiscent of a freshman cramming for a final exam.

Pastor, we long for you to teach and model for us what active and fully engaged worship through singing looks like. We desire worship that is a continuous conversation with a variety of worship expressions instead of our stand-alone elements of music and preaching.

So in humility we ask that you join us in full-throated singing so that all of our voices, including yours, might unite in communal utterances of praise, thanksgiving, confession, dedication, commitment, lament and response. And when this occurs our songs will communicate vertically and horizontally in a unified voice so compelling that it can’t possibly be silenced (Ps 30:12).

Sincerely,

Your Worship Musicians and Congregation

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5 Questions Before Considering A Ministry Move

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Questions

If the choice to stay in your present ministry position or leave for another one is within your control, then you should be asking some fundamental questions before considering a move.

  • Has God released me from my call here?

Another place of ministry may seem more convenient, appealing, challenging, fulfilling and rewarding. But until God releases you to go there…stay here.

  • Am I running from something?

God didn’t promise that you’d always be happy, revered, loved, appreciated or followed. So if you are running from ministry or relational dysfunction that isn’t resolved here, what makes you think it wouldn’t follow you there?

  • Am I running to something?

If you are interested in another ministry just because it’s bigger, better, more prestigious or prominent, then your motivation might be ego instead of calling. If greener grass or several rungs up the ladder is the new you are running to, then you’ll inevitably be disappointed and so will they.

  • How might it impact my family?

Only considering your own ministry desires, needs and wants without recognizing how it might affect your family is not a calling, it is conceit. If your ministry frequently moves your children away from their friends and foundations, then how can you expect them to even like church when they are no longer required to attend?

  • Am I ready to leave well?

If you go out swinging when you leave here it will follow you when you get there. Leave with Ephesians 4:29 on your lips: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

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5 Reasons Worship Leaders Are Losing Their Jobs

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reasonsChristianity Today recently published an article indicating that nearly one-fourth of all active ministers have been forced out at some point in their ministry. It is true that staying in a current ministry position may not always be within our control. But what if we are or aren’t doing some things that are contributing to our positional demise? Aren’t we called to do everything we can here instead of just hoping it will be different when we move there?

Relational instead of musical deficiencies seem to be at the root of many forced worship leader terminations. And yet, most worship leaders continue to spend the majority of their time just trying to get better musically. We’ll never be able to learn and teach enough new songs to make up for relationship and leadership failures.

5 Reasons Worship Leaders Are Losing Their Jobs

They equate leading music with leading people

Meaningful relationships develop as we place more focus on people than projects. What will our congregants remember most…how we led them musically on the platform or how we treated them to and from the platform?

 

They aren’t learning anything new

Ageism often gets the blame for this one. Even though ministry ageism is theologically suspect so is not learning anything new. A lifelong learner is one who understands it is never too soon or too late to learn. What we once learned is not enough to sustain our entire ministry.

 

They’ve confused calling and convenience

What is compelling us? Convenience responds with, “This is what I like to do.” Calling responds with, “This is what I was created to do.” If we lead worship just because we love to play and sing, because we need to supplement our income, because we enjoy being up-front or because we aren’t trained to do anything else, then our compulsion might be out of convenience instead of calling.

 

They can’t get along with their pastor

Even when we win a relationship conflict with our pastor, we lose. The relationships exemplified by the Acts 2 church as they spent time together, had everything in common, broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts is often foreign to pastors and worship leaders. What could occur relationally if we resolved to buy-in to our pastor’s leadership as long as it wasn’t immoral, illegal or unethical?

 

Their family isn’t their ministry

Scripture reminds us to love God first, then our neighbors as ourselves. Our closest neighbor is our family. We must never sacrifice family for ministry since they are our ministry. Instead, we should first ask how something might impact our family before ever asking how it might impact our job.

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Building A Wall And Asking Senior Adults To Pay For It

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wallSenior adults are probably not as averse to church change as much as they are to feeling marginalized through those changes. Their opinions are no longer needed or considered and their convictions seem to be overlooked as antiquated. I can imagine some seniors view change as building a wall to separate what was from what will be.

It appears that the price paid through their years of blood, sweat, tears and tithes is now being used to build a wall that will sideline or keep them out completely. When your horse dies…stop riding it may be a great adage to challenge congregations attempting to reach an ever-changing culture with never changing practices. But it doesn’t offer much comfort for the pain and grief of those who loved the horse.

Change is sometimes necessary when a church considers the culture and context of those present and those not present yet. But in an effort to initiate change, some congregations push to do anything different than what was done in the past.

Congregations often change their worship and discipleship styles and structures without ever evaluating their existing people and practices. That lack of planning and reflection can often cause unnecessary transitional pain as a result of the depreciation of what was.

Since change is often essential in order for churches to progress, the automatic assumption is it will always require incorporating something completely new. It is possible, however, that the only new necessary for congregational health and growth is to do what you are already doing…better.

Chip and Dan Heath wrote, “We rarely ask the question: What’s working and how can we do more of it? What we ask instead is more problem-focused: What’s broken and how do we fix it?[1] Maybe the change most of our congregations actually need is not a revolution but instead a reevaluation.

A revolution forcibly overthrows an existing system or structure in order to substitute another. It replaces what presently exists without considering what might still hold value. And in a revolution one side always loses.

A reevaluation, however, considers or examines something again. Reevaluation allows a congregation to consider change by rethinking, revisiting and reinvestigating. It systematically and selectively preserves valuable elements for re-use.

Most of us like to blow things up, so our initial response when things don’t seem to be working is to completely destroy existing practices for the prospect of future success. Maybe a reevaluation instead of a revolution would allow us to tear down those walls between our generations. And maybe church change conversations should begin with how we can prayerfully add to rather than arbitrarily take away.

“Any change can be approached as either a threat or an opportunity, either a cause for celebration or a reason to despair.” Craig Satterlee

 

[1] Heath, Chip and Dan Heath, Switch:  How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (New York: Broadway Books, 2010), 55.

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Getting Older: The Worship Leader’s Third Rail

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third railAgeism has impacted or probably will at some point impact most of us serving in worship leadership. Churches seem to be on the lookout for a younger platform presence or fresher image from those who lead.

Forced termination or demotion as a result of the ageism epidemic reminds us that where we serve is not always ours to control. What we can control, however, is that we are prepared to continue to serve even if it is no longer here.

So what if we find ourselves only prepared to lead a ministry that no longer exists? What if what we once learned is not enough to sustain us through our entire ministry? What can we do that will allow us to continue?

Learn Something New – The end of learning new is the beginning of leading old. A lifelong learner is one who understands it is never too soon or too late to learn something new. Famed basketball coach John Wooden stated, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” So if you haven’t yet learned the language of capos and cajons, it’s not too late. Eric Hoffer wrote, “It is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

Extend Your Shelf Life – Shelf Life is the length of time items are given before they are considered unsuitable for use or consumption. It is the time in which the defined quality remains fresh, acceptable, viable, usable and effective under normal or expected circumstances. Increasing our shelf life encourages us to recalibrate or fine tune for the potential of a new reality. It necessitates a rededication or recommitment to our base call to ministry instead of focusing solely on our present position. And it often calls for a reboot or restart that will reawaken our drive.

Get A Real Job – What if you were asked to step aside from worship ministry and opportunities were no longer available for you to lead worship full or even part time? Some of us have found ourselves in a similar situation only to realize we aren’t trained or training to do anything else. Getting a real job means we are prepared vocationally to take care of our family and financial needs even if we need to step aside from leading worship. Learning additional marketable skills either inside our outside the church doesn’t compromise our calling. In fact, retooling can enhance that calling by expanding our influence beyond choirs and chord charts.

Agreeing that worship ministry ageism is unjust or theologically suspect doesn’t change its reality. So we can choose to live in a constant state of lament or we can proactively prepare in case it does occur. Like the third rail, how we approach ageism has the power to propel or terminate our future ministry.

Death is inevitable but decomposition before then is optional

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Play the Ball Where the Monkey Drops It

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golfWhen the British colonized India in the 1820’s they also introduced the game of golf. A unique problem was quickly discovered, however, after building the first golf course in Calcutta. Monkeys in the trees surrounding the course would drop down, snag the golf balls from the fairways and then carry and drop them in other locations.

In response, officials tried building tall fences around the fairways and greens but the monkeys climbed right over them. Attempts to frighten them just seemed to amuse and entertain them. Workers even tried to capture and relocate the monkeys only to have others appear.

A stellar drive down the middle of the fairway might be picked up and dropped in the rough. A hook or slice producing a terrible lie might be tossed back into the fairway. So golfers quickly learned that if they wanted to play on this course they couldn’t always control the outcome of the game. Resilience finally helped the officials and golfers come up with a solution. They added a new rule to their golf games at this course in Calcutta…Play the ball where the monkey drops it.

The elasticity of resilience is also a great characteristic for worship leaders to learn and develop. It encourages recovery with grace instead of overreaction in anger when the service doesn’t go as intended. Resilience averts relational catastrophe when people don’t do or plans don’t go as well as we prayed and practiced for them to. Even though worship leaders have the responsibility to prepare with excellence they must also learn how to present with pliability since the outcome of the service is not really theirs to control.

So the next time the organist and pianist begin a song introduction in different keys; the next time the lead guitarist forgets to move his capo; the next time the tech team doesn’t turn on your microphone or forward the text to the next slide; the next time the soprano section comes in too soon; the next time your bass player misses the first service because he forgot to set his alarm; or the next time your pastor cuts a well-rehearsed song right before the service to provide more sermon time…Play the ball where the monkey drops it.

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Playing Hurt: Leading Worship Through Pain

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playing hurtSuck it up. Shake it off. Take one for the team. These are adages we often hear from sports coaches and fans. Publicly acknowledging an injury can sideline a player and even threaten his/her future with the team. So players continue to play through their pain with the reality that it’s often easier for a team to replace than rehabilitate them. This same pattern of expendability is also evident in church culture. To save face, favor and financial security, worship pastors often sense a profound pressure to perform even when they might not feel like it. To secure their position, they often play hurt.

Most church members don’t realize the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual demands required to serve as a worship pastor. They may be aware of the investment their worship pastor has made in their own lives. What they don’t often calculate, however, is the cumulative time and energy those investments require when multiplied by the entire population of their congregation.

Worship pastors often serve as personal counselors, mentors, leaders, friends and spiritual advisors. They are usually the first ones called to musically and technologically marry children or bury parents. When the families of worship ministry participants are in crisis, the worship pastor is often expected to referee, repair and reclaim.

Additionally, serving as a worship pastor doesn’t necessarily mean you are immune from the personal struggles of life such as depression and anxiety, physical health issues, marital conflict, rebellious children and financial strain. With all of these personal and professional stressors, how can we not expect pain to eventually take its toll?

Church culture doesn’t often put safeguards in place to protect ministers from ministry. So if you are beginning to feel a slight twinge you might want to consider putting your own guardrails in place before the pain becomes chronic. The following questions might offer a place to begin:

  • How often do I engage in personal prayer or Bible study not related to the role or function of ministry?
  • Have I ever considered a sabbatical, ministry hiatus or leave of absence?
  • How often do I participate in worship when I am not the leader?
  • Do I listen to music for personal inspiration in addition to professional preparation?
  • Have I enlisted a confidential friend, mentor, coach or counselor with whom I meet regularly for processing and prayer?
  • Do I participate in an accountability group other than my church staff or personnel team?
  • How many days off do I take each week?
  • Do I take all of my vacation? Do I take church-related phone calls and respond to texts and emails while I’m on vacation?
  • How much time is reserved for home life? (Four nights a week? Two nights? Saturdays? Rarely?)
  • For married worship pastors: How often do I have a “date night” with my spouse?
  • For single worship pastors:Do I spend time with friends or family members on a regular basis?
  • Do I have friends who are not members of my congregation? Do conversations always circle back to my church activities?
  • Do I have an annual physical?
  • How often do I engage in physical exercise lasting at least 30 minutes? Am I heavier than my recommended weight?
  • How balanced is my diet?
  • Do I have interests or hobbies outside the church? Do I set them aside when I get too busy?
  • What would I willing to change or do to stay in ministry for the long haul?[1]

In his book Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro used surfing to illustrate how ministry longevity is possible. He wrote, “Veteran surfers possess an uncanny sense of the ocean’s currents and how waves behave. Their intuition tells them which ones to catch and which ones to let pass. They seem to discern which waves will carry them in and which waves will do them in! But one of the true marks of a veteran is not how he catches a wave, but whether he knows when and how to get off the wave.”[2]

 

[1] Some of these questions were edited and adapted from Jill M. Hudson, When Better Isn’t Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st Century Church (Herndon: The Alban Institute, 2004), 42-43.

[2] Wayne Cordeiro, Leading on Empty: Refilling Your Tank and Renewing Your Passion (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2009), 28.

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Pastor, Could You Work For You?

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Pastor, Could You Work For You If…

  • opinions different from yours were seen as disloyalty?
  • collaboration meant everyone just listened to and implemented your ideas?
  • shared ministry threatened your control?
  • your ministry initiatives were always the non-negotiable ones?
  • you never owned any deficiencies contributing to staff relationship issues?
  • your leadership default was autocracy instead of advocacy?
  • you were a gatekeeper instead of a liberator?
  • you had outgrown the need to learn anything new?
  • other ministries were seen as competition instead of complementary?
  • all other ministries were evaluated except for yours?
  • friendship with other staff members was not an option?
  • you considered yourself as the only one qualified to lead?
  • you wouldn’t work with others because they work for you?
  • your expectations were assumed but never clarified until they were unmet?

angry bossLeading a ministry culture of healthy communication and collaboration requires a level of sacrifice and trust that cannot be guarded, territorial, defensive or competitive. It publicly and privately acknowledges the calling and competence of others and is not afraid of transparent dialogue. And it openly embraces and shares unified goals and the responsibilities for fulfilling them.

Pastor, don’t you realize what you are missing by disregarding intentional, significant conversations about vision, hopes, dreams and goals? Aren’t you longing for staff relationships built on trust, loyalty, respect and friendship? Wouldn’t you love to pray and plan together with ministry teams as partners instead of puppets?

How fulfilling could it be to minister in a place that constantly conveys an attitude of mutual spiritual and relational development with no ulterior motive? It is never too late to realize that the final word doesn’t always have to be yours. When that occurs your ministry relationships and your church will never be the same.

For we are co-workers in God’s service (1 Cor. 3:9)

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50 Worship Leading Tips Rookies Should Learn and Veterans Should Relearn

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fifty tips

  • Learn more people’s names than new songs.
  • Take a Sabbath every week.
  • Make deposits in younger leaders and withdrawals from older leaders.
  • Pray for and defend your pastor even when he doesn’t deserve it.
  • Leave more things at the office when you go home.
  • Ask how it might impact your family before asking how it might impact your job.
  • Learn more theology than musicology.
  • Welcome divine interruptions in your routine.
  • Surround yourself with those to protect you from your own stupidity.
  • Place more focus on people than projects.
  • Stay longer.
  • Celebrate the Lord’s Supper more often.
  • Begin all worship planning with Scripture and Prayer instead of songs titles.
  • Drink more coffee with senior adults and students.
  • The original song key may not be the best key for congregational singing.
  • Practice leadership as much as you practice your guitar.
  • Cast vision for the future without denigrating the past.
  • Not all thoughts that enter your mind have to exit your mouth.
  • Don’t feel threatened when someone else gets the credit.
  • Affirm volunteers in public, correct them in private and pastor them in both places.
  • Don’t randomly blow things up without considering where the pieces might land.
  • Help grandparents and grandchildren worship together.
  • If you don’t guard yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically no one else will.
  • Public worship will never succeed without private worship.
  • Understand the difference between knowing you can and deciding you should.
  • Never stop being a student.
  • Always err on the side of grace.
  • Build bridges from the platform to the pews.
  • Turn house lights up and volume down occasionally to see if they are even singing.
  • Don’t determine the worship language of your congregation based on how you might appear to other worship leaders.
  • You’ll always sing too many or too few hymns or modern worship songs for someone.
  • Filter songs theologically before musically.
  • Wake up every morning feeling unqualified in your own power to do what God has called you to do.
  • Keep your focus on where you are instead of where you wish you were.
  • Spend as much time on relationships as you spend on ministry job placement sites.
  • Not all staff problems originate in someone else’s office.
  • There are lots of other churches but you only have one family.
  • Your attitude may be the only change necessary.
  • Scripted, explainable and rational aren’t always worship prerequisites.
  • If you try to succeed alone you’ll also fail alone.
  • Setting boundaries ahead of time gives you the resolve to say no.
  • What you once learned is not enough to sustain your entire ministry.
  • The worship service you prepared may not be the most important worship that occurs this week.
  • Just changing the music won’t grow or kill your church.
  • Not every worship song is appropriate for congregational singing.
  • Leading music doesn’t necessarily mean you are leading people.
  • Worship even when you aren’t the leader.
  • Your musical talent may help you secure a position but leadership and relationships will help you keep it.
  • Don’t lead worship just because you don’t know how to do anything else.
  • If you’re saving your best for where God might call you next, why would He want to?
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Worship Pastor Prayer: Give Me Jesus!

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give me jesusWorship pastors live under a tremendous pressure to perform. The demands and stresses of the position can lead to relational conflict, burnout, family crisis and even forced termination. At one time or another we have all asked if worship ministry is really worth it or if we should consider doing something…anything else.

To combat inevitable ministry stressors, our evening prayer should be that of the old spiritual, In the morning when I rise, Give me Jesus. Our laments may resonate with some of those listed below but our response must always be the same…Give Me Jesus.

  • When I’m working too much according to my family and not enough according to my pastor…Give Me Jesus.
  • When we can’t sing too few or too many hymns or modern songs…Give Me Jesus.
  • When I wonder if my children will even like church when they are no longer required to attend…Give Me Jesus.
  • When no generation is really happy musically…Give Me Jesus.
  • When my worship leading shelf life is speeding toward its expiration date…Give Me Jesus.
  • When I seem to always be a step behind musically, technologically and culturally…Give Me Jesus.
  • When congregants target my family because they are upset with me…Give Me Jesus.
  • When I’m tempted to quit every Monday morning…Give Me Jesus.
  • When pastor/staff collaboration actually means command and control compliance…Give Me Jesus.
  • When it seems like I no longer have a great cloud of witness surrounding me…Give Me Jesus.
  • When I don’t have the resolve to take care of myself spiritually, emotionally or physically…Give Me Jesus.
  • When I’m always the first one to arrive and last one to leave…Give Me Jesus.
  • When burnout is causing me to coast…Give Me Jesus.
  • When the music I lead is accountable for church growth or culpable for church decline…Give Me Jesus.

You can have all this world, but give me Jesus!

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Worship Leaders Need To Give It A Rest!

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restIf you don’t take a Sabbath, something is wrong. You’re doing too much, you’re being too much in charge. You’ve got to quit, one day a week, and just watch what God is doing when you’re not doing anything.                  Eugene H. Peterson                      

If you’ve flown on a commercial airline you have undoubtedly heard the flight attendant recite the following pre-flight safety instructions: “In the unlikely event the oxygen level in the main cabin becomes unstable, oxygen masks will drop in front of each passenger.” Passengers are then instructed to secure their own masks before assisting other passengers.

Sunday is the day designated each week by most congregations as the Sabbath or day of rest. As a worship leader, your Sabbath has evolved into a day full of services, rehearsals and meetings. At the end of the day your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical resources are usually completely depleted.

Someone once said that Sunday for those in ministry is like giving birth only to realize on Monday morning that you are pregnant again. So since Sunday is obviously not a Sabbath for you, when are you taking one? Maybe the more telling question is are you taking one? If not, how can you expect to lead people to a place you no longer have the stamina to go yourself?

Observing a day of rest “says to the frantic, exhausted, distracted, fatigued people of God: please, rest. The hectic lives of Christians in our culture and the busyness of many churches show little sign of living out of God’s rest. Our tendencies to imitate our culture are directly related to our unwillingness to stop, cease producing, consuming, moving, accomplishing, buying, planning. We can be as much 24-7 (even in the name of Jesus) as our secular neighbors. Yet we cannot live as light and salt, doing righteousness and showing justice, if we fail to practice living out God’s rest. It’s a boundary that sets us free.”[1]

Worship Ministry has the tendency to sanctify busyness rather than free us from it. We have developed worship leading cultures that value motion as a sign of significance. We lead those cultures as if our efforts are essential to God’s success in His mission to the world.

But Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:28-30, The Message).

Several years ago, David Henderson wrote an article titled Take A Load Off: Are You Doing More than God Intended? Based on the previous Matthew passage, Henderson suggested that we could lighten our load by stripping off our self-made yokes, by laying aside the things God has not called us to and by asking God to lead us into each day.

Observing a Sabbath is saying yes to God and his rhythms and no to the life-draining rhythms of the culture and people around us – it is essential to our call to worship.[2] So if we as leaders aren’t modeling Sabbath rest for our congregations, who is?

[1] Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2007), 96.

[2] Ibid.

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Healthy Worshipers Bunt

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buntIn his search for the roots of violence, Mahatma Gandhi drafted a list to give to his grandson titled the “Seven Blunders of the World.” Number seven was Worship without Sacrifice.

Paul focused on the divisions that segregate us. In the twelfth chapter of Romans he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship.”

Paul used this image of the body to represent the whole person, including ideologies and preferences. Living sacrifice signifies an ongoing, constant, all-inclusive submission. To sacrifice is to surrender for the sake of something or someone else. It is the act of giving up, offering up or letting go. The antonym of sacrifice is to hold on to.

A bunt in baseball is designated as a sacrifice for the purpose of advancing another runner. Executing this sacrifice is called laying down a bunt. What a challenging word picture for the church as it gathers together in communal worship.

Worship Bunters…

  • Lay down their preferences because they love those with whom they worship more than they love those preferences.
  • Acknowledge that worship did not begin and will not end with the worship preferences of their generation.
  • Admit it is arrogant to assume their favorite worship and God’s favorite worship are the same.

Charles Thomas Studd, an English missionary who served in China, India, and Africa had this statement as his motto:  “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.”

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It Ain’t the Heat, It’s the Humility

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HumilityHumility is one of the most difficult qualities for worship leaders to embrace and sustain. It is always a challenge to be both up-front and unassuming.

In the name of artistic excellence we are often unwilling to take a secondary and supportive role to those who are obviously less talented.

Arrogance can even suggest that what we lead and how we lead it holds more value than whom we lead. Former baseball player and manager, Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

Instead of a desire to be recognized, revered or elevated, maybe our worship leading prayer should be instead, “Lord, deliver us from ourselves.” Jorge Luis Borges wrote, “Arrogance is when the image of the Lord has been replaced by a mirror.” Setting our egos aside and placing others first models a level of worship leadership that platform presence will never achieve.

Having enough humility to tap into the creative abilities of others in the planning, preparation and implementation of worship doesn’t diminish our worship leadership influence it actually enhances it. So when humble leaders leverage all available resources it is a sign of leadership strength, not weakness.

The worship leader who leads from the impression that he/she alone has the ability and even right to be the sole proprietor of the worship service often cares more about elevating him/herself than helping the congregation participate in spirit and truth worship.

So if you alone are holding onto the worship process as an arrogant gatekeeper to receive all the credit when something works, just remember that you alone will also receive all the credit when something doesn’t. Worship leadership is not what you do for or to your congregation it is what you do with them.

“When humility delivers a man from attachment to his own works and his own reputation, he discovers that perfect joy is possible only when we have completely forgotten ourselves. And it is only when we pay no more attention to our own deeds and our own reputation and our own excellence that we are at last completely free to serve God in perfection for His sake alone.”[1]

 


[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New Haven: Abbey of Gethsemani, 1961), 58.

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Don’t Move…Improve!

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movingMost of us don’t begin a new worship ministry position believing we will only stay for a couple of years. Our intentions are noble to plant our lives for the long haul. But after we exhaust our two-year worship package of ideas we often get bored, our worship gets stale, our congregants get restless and we get busy looking for new ministry opportunities somewhere else.

The forced termination epidemic reminds us that the choice to stay is not always ours to make. Christianity Today published a recent article indicating that nearly one-fourth of all active ministers have been forced out at some point in their ministry. But when staying is within our control, aren’t we called to do something about things here instead of hoping they will be different when we move there? And if we don’t do something to break patterns that are contributing to our short tenure here, won’t they follow us there? Maybe it’s time to improve rather than move.

Improving Means…

  • Intentionally rededicating our focus and energy here instead of constantly dreaming about there.
  • Leaning in instead of coasting.
  • Going to conferences, reading books and meeting regularly with other worship leaders to learn new concepts to try here, not to save for there.
  • Starting a new ministry without leaving our old one.
  • Owning our deficiencies and surrounding ourselves with those who can help us manage those deficiencies.
  • Initiating and implementing long-term ministry goals.
  • Trusting that God knows where we are and what we are going through.
  • Spending the same amount of time developing new relationships and healing old ones as we are spending on ministry job-placement sites.
  • Learning a new instrument or taking lessons to improve our old one.
  • Praying and agreeing with Jesus’ prayer, “Yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
  • Enlisting a coach or mentor to hold us accountable and stretch our thinking.
  • Rebooting, reawakening, recommitting, reimagining, reinvesting, reinventing, remodeling, refashioning, reforming, recalibrating, refurbishing, recasting, reworking, reinterpreting and restarting every morning like it was the very first morning of a new ministry.

Even when another place of ministry seems more convenient, appealing, challenging, fulfilling and rewarding we must be reminded that God did not promise we will always be happy, revered, loved, appreciated or followed. So until God releases us to go we should focus on improving here instead of moving there.

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15 Things Worship Music Can’t Do

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fifteen

15 Things Worship Music Can’t Do

  • It can’t cause or cure church conflict.
  • It can’t grow or kill your church.
  • It can’t begin or end worship.
  • It can’t take the place of Scripture.
  • It can’t serve as our only act of discipleship.
  • It can’t be contained in one genre or style.
  • It can’t prop up bad theology.
  • It can’t take the place of prayer as our primary conversation with God. 
  • It can’t be contained in one emotion.
  • It can’t convict or inspire without the Holy Spirit.
  • It can’t manufacture worship renewal.
  • It can’t cause multigenerational, multicultural or multisensory worship.
  • It can’t create community that is only available at the Communion Table.
  • It can’t cause Jesus to show up.
  • It can’t be our only act of worship.
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A Lorica for the New Year

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breastplateA Lorica is a prayer recited for protection. This Latin word originally meant armor or breastplate. Knights would place verbal inscriptions on their shield or breastplate for recitation before going into battle.

The Lorica of Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland is called St. Patrick’s Breastplate or the Deer’s Cry. The story is that Patrick recited this prayer to protect him and his followers as they faced persecution for sharing Christianity across Ireland. As the Celtic Christians chanted this prayer, it is said that the Druid’s waiting to kill them saw deer, not men.

One of the best-known verses of St. Patrick’s Breastplate can also serve as a Lorica for us as we face the disappointments, grief, fear, doubt and hopelessness that any new year might bring.

Christ with me,
 Christ before me,
 Christ behind me,
 Christ in me,
 Christ beneath me,
 Christ above me,
 Christ on my right,
 Christ on my left,
 Christ when I lie down,
 Christ when I sit down,
 Christ when I arise,
 Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
 Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
 Christ in every eye that sees me,
 Christ in every ear that hears me.

 Lorica of Saint Patrick

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20 Lessons I Wish They’d Taught Me in Seminary

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lessons

Lessons I Wish They’d Taught Me in Seminary

  • Even when my ministry position allows me to have the last word it doesn’t have to be mine.
  • I can have a vision for future ministry without denigrating past ministry.
  • If I hoard leadership to receive all the credit when something works, I will also receive all the credit when something doesn’t.
  • Progress at the expense of relationships is not anymore virtuous when the goal is noble.
  • Affirm staff and volunteers in public; evaluate them in private; and pastor them in both places.
  • If you randomly blow ministries up, then you’ll never know where the pieces are going to land.
  • My leadership is not threatened when someone else gets the credit.
  • Those in ministry should take the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.”
  • It is always a better outcome when I err on the side of grace.
  • If I don’t take care of myself spiritually, emotionally and physically no one else will.
  • Not all ministry staff problems originate in someone else’s office.
  • People generated is always healthier than leader dominated.
  • I should always surround myself with a group of trusted leaders to protect me from my own stupidity.
  • There are lots of other ministries but I only have one family.
  • The end of learning new is the beginning of leading old.
  • Bullying is not more honorable under the pretext of pastoral leadership.
  • I could learn about life and ministry by drinking more coffee with senior adults.
  • My attitude may be the only change necessary in our ministry organization.
  • Ministry success is based more on the in-betweens than the big events.
  • Leadership equilibrium is achieved by making deposits in younger leaders and withdrawals from older leaders. 
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5 R’s To Increase Your Ministry Shelf Life

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shelf lifeShelf Life is the length of time certain items are given before they are considered unsuitable for use or consumption. It is the time in which the defined quality remains fresh, acceptable, viable, usable and effective under normal or expected circumstances.

Ageism has impacted the shelf life of those serving in ministry as churches look for a younger presence or fresher image in ministry leaders. Forced termination or demotion of leaders as a result of this epidemic reminds us the ministry shelf life where we serve is not always ours to control.

What we can control, however, is that we serve and continue to do what we can to remain viable and usable even if it is no longer here.

Ministry leaders that coast or ignore steps to actively increase their shelf life often find themselves only prepared to lead a church or ministry that no longer exists. What they once learned is not nearly enough to sustain them through their entire ministry.

So, what can leaders do now to increase their shelf life before their freshness or use-by date expires?

5 R’s To Increase Your Ministry Shelf Life

RecalibratePlan or devise carefully so as to have a precise use, application or appeal; Fine-tune; Make corrections or adjust; Revamp; Recast; Refashion; Reform; Remodel; Reconstruct; Renovate; Revise; Rēcreate; Start something new; Refurbish; Reimagine or form a new concept; Reinvest; Refabricate; Reinvent.

Read – When those in ministry stop learning, they stop leading. It is much easier to coast through ministry relying solely on what you once learned, but that’s not what you have been called to do. A lifelong learner is one who understands it is never too soon or too late to learn something new. Eric Hoffer wrote, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

RebootRestart; Go back to the beginning and do it better or differently the second time; Restore life or vigor; Reawaken once again in strength and potency; Reinterpret an older work; Discover something that was weakened can be brought back to full strength with the capability to again be a force to contend with.

RĕcreateEngage in recreational activities other than work; Occupy yourself in a diversion; Play; Relax in order to attain equilibrium; Reinvigorate; Revive; Refresh mentally and/or physically; Rest; Impart fresh life; Lighten up; Seek contentment; Engage in an activity of leisure; Take discretionary time; Enjoy; Be amused; Value pleasure.

RededicateBe set apart again for a special use; Impart new or fresh life; Yield complete and wholehearted devotion; Recommit to what God has called you to; Revive spiritually; Renew consecration to your life of ministry; Give of yourself entirely; Go all in again.

 

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5 Church Staff Relationship Epic Fails

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FailureHealthy church staffs embrace and share with each other the unified goal of fulfilling and helping each other fulfill the mission of their congregation. Unhealthy church staffs, on the other hand, function as independent contractors performing their own duties dependent only on their own strengths, abilities, methods, processes and talents.

The Urban Dictionary defines Epic Fail as a complete and total failure when success should have been reasonably easy to attain. It is no wonder churches are struggling with ministry success when the church staffs that lead those churches can’t get along with each other.

Ironically, their relational impasses seem to occur more often as a result of something they don’t do than something they intentionally do.

Epic Fail #1 – They don’t pastor each other
Church staffs are not immune from the struggles of life such as depression, physical health issues, marital conflict, belligerent children and financial stress. If church staffs aren’t sensitive and willing to pastor their staff colleagues and families when they face those issues and others…who will?

Epic Fail #2 – They don’t love each other
In fact, some of them don’t really even like each other. Scripture reminds us to love God first, then our neighbors as ourselves. The closest neighbors beyond their families should be the people with whom they serve on their church staff. No stipulation is offered in this passage as to whether the neighbor really deserves or has earned the right to be loved. And the command is not contingent on a reciprocal response.

Epic Fail #3 – They don’t pray for and with each other 
Praying that God will call your church staff colleague somewhere else is not praying for and with each other, it is selfishly praying for your own needs and wants. Praying for and with each other requires communication, vulnerability, honesty, trust, brokenness and selflessness. Praying for and with each other surfaces hurts, unmet expectations, personal needs, ministry goals, concerns and dreams. The result of praying for and with each other about things that really matter may initiate a change in attitudes, opinions, hearts and vision that could encourage a reciprocity of love that did not exist before.

Epic Fail #4 – They don’t share ministry together 
Shared ministry requires sacrifice, humility, investment and trust. It publicly and privately affirms the calling and competence of the other staff members. It is not guarded, territorial, defensive or competitive and doesn’t care who gets the credit. Shared ministry means even when your position calls for you to have the last word it doesn’t always have to be your word. Shared ministry encourages reading, studying and conferencing together. And it has enough confidence in the abilities and intentions of the other staff members to allow and offer lateral mentoring and coaching.

Epic Fail #5 – They don’t play together 
Church staffs constantly encourage the members of their congregations to develop relationships of transparency, fellowship and community, yet never model those characteristics in their staff relationships. Those relational bonds exemplified by the Acts 2 church as they spent time together, had everything in common, broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts is often completely foreign to some church staffs. In fact, enjoying each other by playing and laughing together may actually be the starting point for developing some of those previously listed relational epic fails.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

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Worship Leading Jaywalkers

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JaywalkingJaywalking is an informal term commonly used in reference to a pedestrian who crosses a roadway outside the designated crosswalks or without considering signal lights or contextual restrictions.

Impatience, intolerance, irritability or even a restless desire for change can cause a pedestrian to consider jaywalking. Although the goal of jaywalking may be logical, practical and even noble…to reach the other side by the quickest and most-direct route, the method might not always be prudent, permissible, wise or even safe.

Effective worship leaders are those who embrace and constantly share the goal of worshiping and helping others worship in spirit and truth. The leader who takes short-cuts in order to accelerate the changes necessary to reach that goal without first considering if those they lead are following or even willing to follow is guilty of Worship Jaywalking.

What might appear to be the quickest and most direct route may seem reckless to members of your congregation who have the same goals but are more comfortable taking safer routes. Ignoring signals of caution can create conflict, sabotage trust, leave those we lead in our wake and cause us to re-trace our steps. What was intended to expedite our route may in fact lengthen it.

Impatience at the expense of relational buy-in is not any more virtuous when the goal is noble. Collaborative worship leaders look ahead with laser vision while still looking beside and behind to confirm buy-in from those with them and those still standing on the curb. That collaboration is only realized when leaders seek the counsel of congregants who are habitual crosswalkers just as often as they do the radical jaywalkers.

Once your collective communications have indicated worship change is necessary, you must also learn how to move on in spite of those few detractors not willing to cross at any location at any time. Impeding those on the curb ready to cross who are unified in their calling to get to the other side can be just as reckless and unhealthy as worship jaywalking.

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13 Things Church Staffs Need from Their Pastor

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Staff NeedsMost church staff members crave healthy communication with and leadership investment from their pastor. But they don’t often have the freedom or job security to initiate a relationship that intimate. Consequently, determining vision and direction is often a trial and error process that discourages the staff members and frustrates the pastor.

The willingness to implement a culture of healthy communication requires a level of sacrifice and trust that cannot be guarded, territorial, defensive or competitive. It publicly and privately acknowledges the calling and competence of others and is not afraid of transparent dialogue. And it embraces and shares unified goals.

But healthy communication will never occur until the pastor is willing to initiate it.

So Pastor, what your staff needs from you is…

  • A collaborative spirit that sees their ministry as complementary, not competitive.
  • An open line of communication giving them permission to disagree in private without fear of retaliation.
  • For you to acknowledge and value their calling and gifts even when radically different from your own.
  • Mutual approachability, availability and accountability.
  • For you to affirm them in public; correct, instruct, coach and mentor them in private; and pastor them at all times.
  • The willingness to work toward a common philosophy of ministry.
  • Affirmation that shared ministry will not threaten but instead strengthen your leadership.
  • Loyalty, trust, respect and friendship.
  • For you to initiate significant conversations that include hopes, dreams, goals, expectations, plans, concerns and evaluations.
  • Authentic transparency.
  • For you to acknowledge that the sermon may not always be the most important event of the week.
  • A sincere desire to regularly pray together, process goals together and learn together.
  • For you to invest in their personal and spiritual lives with no ulterior motive.
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Psalms for the Other Side of Worship Change

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change

Initiating worship change can be painful and at times even devastating. It can be just as devastating, however, when a congregation is hesitant to make those needed changes even when it is obvious they are necessary for their future. The fear of pain associated with change is never a good reason not to initiate it.

Churches and their leaders rarely go through worship transitions unscathed. But scripture offers hope in the Psalms that can serve as a balm when you reach the other side of those changes.

 

Psalm 118:17-20

I didn’t die. I lived!

And now I’m telling the world what God did.

God tested me, he pushed me hard,

but he didn’t hand me over to Death.

Swing wide the city gates – the righteous gates!

I’ll walk right through and thank God!

This temple Gate belongs to God,

so the victors can enter and praise.

 

Psalm 33:1-5

Good people, cheer God!

Right-living people sound best when praising.

Use guitars to reinforce your Hallelujahs!

Play his praise on a grand piano!

Invent your own new song to him;

give him a trumpet fanfare.

For God’s Word is solid to the core;

everything he makes is sound inside and out.

He loves it when everything fits,

when his world is in plumb-line true.

Earth is drenched in God’s affectionate satisfaction.

 

Psalm 30:11-12

You did it:

you changed wild lament into whirling dance;

You ripped off my black mourning band

and decked me with wildflowers.

I’m about to burst with song;

I can’t keep quiet about you.

God, my God,

I can’t thank you enough.

 

Psalm 77:11-15

Once again I’ll go over what God has done,

lay out on the table the ancient wonders;

I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished,

and give a long, loving look at your acts.

O God! Your way is holy!

No god is great like God!

You’re the God who makes things happen;

you showed everyone what you can do.

 

Psalm 138:1-6

Thank you!

Everything in me says “Thank you!”

Angels listen as I sing my thanks.

I kneel in worship facing your holy temple

and say it again: “Thank you!”

Thank you for your love,

thank you for your faithfulness;

Most holy is your name,

most holy is your Word.

The moment I called out, you stepped in;

you made my life large with strength.

When they hear what you have to say, God,

all earth’s kings will say “Thank you.”

They’ll sing of what you’ve done:

“How great the glory of God!”

And here’s why: God, high above, sees far below;

no matter the distance, he knows everything about us.[1]

 


[1] All of these Psalms are taken from Eugene H. Peterson, THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002).

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Terminated Worship Pastor Lament

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lament

Terminated Worship Pastor Lament

 

Clear my name, God; stick up for me

against these loveless, immoral people.

Get me out of here, away

from these lying degenerates.

I counted on you, God.

Why did you walk out on me?

Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands

over these outrageous people?

 

Give me your lantern and compass,

give me a map,

So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,

to the place of your presence,

To enter the place of worship,

meet my exuberant God,

Sing my thanks with a harp,

magnificent God, my God.

 

Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?

Why are you crying the blues?

Fix my eyes on God –

soon I’ll be praising again.

He puts a smile on my face.

He’s my God.

  Psalm 43 – The Message – Eugene H. Peterson

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Give ‘Em A Break – Pastor Sabbaticals

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Pastor Sabbaticals

 

“Does it seem right and healthy that in many churches the functional reality is that no one gets less of the ministry of the body of Christ than the pastor does?”[1]

Most of us don’t fully realize the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual demands required to serve as a pastor. We are often aware of the investments those in ministry have made in our own lives. What we don’t often calculate, however, is the cumulative time and energy those investments require when multiplied by the entire membership population of our congregation.

We depend on our pastors as personal counselors, mentors, leaders, friends and spiritual advisors. They are the first ones we call when we need someone to bless our marriages, baptize our children or bury our parents. When our families are in crisis we expect those pastors to referee, repair and reclaim. And yet at the same time we expect them to challenge and encourage us with stellar sermons every Sunday.

If all of us have the same expectation that our pastors will willingly respond to our every need, then how can we not expect the stress of that responsibility to eventually take its toll? Phillip Yancey wrote, “I wonder how much more effective our churches would be if we made the pastors spiritual health, not the pastors efficiency our number one priority?”

According to a 2010 editorial in the New York Times, “Members of the clergy suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many say they would change jobs if they could.”

The following statistics were taken from H.B. London’s book, Pastors At Greater Risk.

  • 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
  • 45% of pastors say they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
  • 57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
  • 75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear and alienation.
  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with their spouse.
  • 80% believe that pastoral ministry affects their families negatively.
  • 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.[2]

How can we expect our pastors to lead us where they no longer have the resolve to go themselves?

Offering ministry sabbaticals is a way congregations can invest in the lives and future ministry of their pastors and their churches. Pastors need the gift of time beyond a couple of weeks of vacation. These sustained periods away every few years allows them to step aside from their daily responsibilities, to renew their bodies, to refresh their souls and to reaffirm their calling to God and their congregation.

In an article on sabbaticals for pastors, Martin Sanders and Warren Bird indicated that 35% of protestant congregations say they provide their pastors with opportunities for sabbatical leaves. These congregations understand the need and affirm the value of an extended period of time for recovery apart from normal ministerial responsibilities.[3]

Based on the previous statistics of ministerial burnout isn’t it obvious that the other 65% of congregations should also consider implementing a sabbatical leave for their pastors beyond the scheduled weeks of vacation? Even though you can’t help the pastors in all of those congregations you can sure help the pastors in yours. Offering sabbaticals gives them permission to rest, heal and recharge for future ministry. And it gives your congregation the unique opportunity to practice stewardship of God’s gift to you…your faithful pastors.

So if your congregation is not willing to invest in the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health of your pastors…maybe it is time for those pastors to move on to a congregation that is.

 


[1] Paul David Tripp, Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 11-12.

[2] H.B. London Jr. and Neil B. Wiseman, Pastors At Greater Risk (Ventura: Regal Books, 2003).

[3] Warren Bird and Martin Sanders, What Pastors Should Know Before Their Sabbatical, from the website http://www.churchleaders.com.

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Ways Pastors Can Help Their Kids Hate Church

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fishbowl

Ways Pastors Can Help Their Kids Hate Church…

  • Always ask how something might impact your ministry before asking how it might impact your family.
  • Move to a new church every couple of years.
  • View unscheduled phone calls or visits from church members as divine interruptions and unscheduled phone calls or visits from your children as disrespectful intrusions.
  • Never remove your pastor hat to wear your parent hat.
  • Attend out of town conferences at prime locations but never have enough time for family vacations.
  • Miss ballgames and concerts to attend church stuff.
  • Don’t defend them from unfair and unrealistic church member expectations.
  • Have a different spiritual persona at church than you have at home.
  • Use them as sermon or teaching illustrations without their permission.
  • Express disappointment or embarrassment when they act like regular kids.
  • Never show them affection at church.
  • Remind them how their words and actions reflect on your public appearance.
  • Talk openly at the dinner table about church conflicts.
  • Expect them to have the same passion for your calling as you do.
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Deliver Me From Myself…Litany of Humility

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HumilityHumility is one of the most difficult qualities for a worship leader to embrace and sustain. In the name of artistic excellence we are often unwilling to take a secondary and supportive role to those who are obviously less talented. Arrogance can suggest that what I lead and how I lead it holds more value than whom I lead. Former baseball player and manager, Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “It’s not the heat that makes it so difficult, it’s the humility.”

Setting aside our ego and placing others first models a level of worship leadership that song selection and platform finesse will never achieve. Author, John Fischer calls it looking out for number 2. Investing in others above us…in people above presentation understands the difference between doing liturgy and being a liturgist. What will your congregants remember most about your worship leadership…how you led them while you were on the platform our how you placed them first on the way to and from the platform?

Instead of a desire to be recognized, revered or elevated, maybe our prayer for 2014 should be “Lord, deliver me from myself.” Jorge Luis Borges wrote, “Arrogance is when the image of the Lord has been replaced by a mirror.” Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), 
the Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius wrote the following Litany of Humility that can serve as a reminder when we assume our efforts are indispensable to God or that He can’t get it done if we don’t do it.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.

From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

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Things Senior Pastors Should Say More Often

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Twenty

Things Senior Pastors Should Say More Often

  • Not all of our staff problems originate in someone else’s office.
  • There are lots of other churches but I only have one family.
  • You can disagree with me without fear of reprisal.
  • My sermon may not be the most important thing that happens this Sunday.
  • Just changing our music won’t heal internal relational issues.
  • I need a sabbatical.
  • I love our staff and pray for them daily.
  • Let’s plan worship together.
  • I can’t do this on my own.
  • Let’s move the sermon to another spot if that will help the service flow.
  • Ministry ageism is unacceptable.
  • I love meeting together to share ministry dreams, goals, expectations and concerns.
  • Even though a final word is necessary it doesn’t always have to be mine.
  • I respect your leadership and trust you with your ministry.
  • My door is open.
  • That is my study time.
  • I am a worship leader.
  • Shared ministry doesn’t threaten my leadership it strengthens it.
  • We shouldn’t move forward until we have buy-in.
  • Here is my sermon schedule.
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Driving Too Dang Fast!

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speedingDefensive Driving is operating a motor vehicle with an intentional awareness of your surroundings and the other drivers on the road. A defensive driver goes beyond the acceptable rules and basics of driving in order to reduce the risk of collisions. He or she plans ahead for the unexpected, anticipates adverse conditions, reacts to and respects other drivers, controls speed for quicker reaction time and doesn’t make assumptions about the intentions of other drivers.

As a teenaged driver I learned the value of driving defensively when I was involved in a minor traffic accident. The elderly gentleman driving the other vehicle was ticketed for failing to yield to oncoming traffic, thus causing the collision. But when I walked over to ask if he was hurt he responded with, “you were driving too dang fast.” I was actually driving at a permissible rate of speed and obviously had the right of way; yet, he blamed me for the collision because I was going too fast for him.

In retrospect, I realize my inattentiveness didn’t allow me to even notice his vehicle entering traffic from the side street until it nailed my right front fender. Even though this particular collision was not officially my fault, I wonder if it could have been avoided had I been driving more defensively? That’s a great question for those of us who are church leaders to ask as we consider making radical changes. We are often just as inattentive as we move quickly from here to there without even considering our surroundings and others along the way, thus causing collisions.

What might initially appear to be the quickest and most direct route can seem too dang fast for those who have the same goals but are more comfortable with a slower pace. Ignoring their signals of caution can cause collisions, sabotage trust, leave valuable resources in our tracks and cause us all to re-trace our routes. The pace originally intended to expedite our trip may in fact lengthen it.

Being aware of our surroundings and considering others will still allow us to look ahead with laser vision as long as we also look beside and behind for those trying to catch up. Leadership impatience that damages relationships is not any more virtuous even if our destination is righteous.

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Take Courage Worship Leader…He Is Able!

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he is ableWhen worship ministry feels like being caught in the force of a riptide that pulls you away from the safety of shore; When the swift current regularly drags you under, rolls you on the sandy bottom, scratches up your elbows and knees and fills your swim trunks with sand; When it seems to take longer each time for the current to lose its strength, release you and allow you to swim to shore;

Remember to take courage in the assurance that He Is Able to do above and beyond all that you ask or think according to the power that works in you. (Eph. 3:20)

Take Courage…

  • When no generation is every really happy musically…He is able.
  • When you can’t sing too many or too few hymns…He is able.
  • When you constantly worry if your children will even like church when they are no longer required to attend…He is able.
  • When your ministry shelf life seems to be moving toward the expiration date because you are no longer young enough or trim enough…He is able.
  • When it seems like you are always a step behind musically, technologically and culturally…He is able.
  • When congregants target your family because they are upset with you…He is able.
  • When you are tempted to quit every Monday morning…He is able.
  • When your pastor refers to you as “his song leader”…He is able.
  • When you wish you served someplace, anyplace else…He is able.
  • When you have to schedule family vacation after the mission trip, Vacation Bible School and camps but before the fall music ministry kick-off…He is able.
  • When you are always the first one to arrive and last one to leave…He is able.
  • When it seems as if no amount of rehearsal can make your group presentable…He is able.
  • When staff collaboration actually means silent obedience…He is able.
  • When needed change is never well received…He is able.
  • When your family Christmas celebration can’t begin until after the pageant and Christmas Eve service…He is able.
  • When you feel like no one is holding your rope as you start to slip…He is able.
  • When date night with your spouse is the choir potluck…He is able.
  • When you are required to sacrifice family time and feel like you are missing out on your children’s lives…He is able.
  • When you have been terminated for any or no reason…He is able.
  • When your creativity has been exhausted and burnout is causing you to coast…He is able.
  • When shared ministry and staff communication is non-existent…He is able.
  • When you don’t have the resolve to take care of yourself spiritually, physically and emotionally…He is able.
  • When you try to succeed alone and then fail alone…He is able.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25)

 

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Are We Training Worship Leaders For A Church That No Longer Exists?

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crumbling churchWorship change is inevitable as congregations consider the fluidity of their surrounding cultures and contexts. It would stand to reason, then, that the leaders who facilitate worship in those ever changing congregations must also learn how to develop, cultivate and lead change by listening to the voice of their community and congregation.

How will those leaders be prepared to recognize and respond to cultural shifts if the educational institutions that train them for ministry aren’t also embracing a comparable attitude of acceptance and adaptation?

Some colleges and seminaries have already modified their educational and methodological systems in response to the changing churches and cultures while still respecting the foundational tenets of the past. Their commitment to considering the pulse of the present and flexibility for the future has resulted in renewed enthusiasm and substantial enrollment growth.

Other institutions have been hesitant to embrace those needed changes and as a result have experienced waning interest and enrollment decline. Their curriculum seems to be preparing the students they have left for a church that no longer exists. If this is your educational institution, maybe some of the following suggestions could serve as a starting point to begin some new conversations.

  • Help students discover that music and worship are not exclusively synonymous. If music is the only driver during their educational preparation it will inevitably surface as the primary point of contention during their congregational implementation.
  • Don’t compromise their preparation for congregational acclimation in the name of institutional accreditation.
  • Open their eyes to the foundational tenets of worship based on history, theology, Scripture, prayer and communion before immersing them in the music.
  • In addition to traditional musical analysis, teach them to be conversant in the language and praxis of chord charts, capos and kick drums.
  • Educate them in the various and fluid dynamics of worship teams and praise bands as well as choirs and orchestras.
  • Keep them abreast of the current audio, video, technology and social media trends.
  • Expand their awareness of the arts to include other genres and media expressions beyond music. Help them understand that embracing the arts as both verbal and visual relieves the pressure for music to do it all.
  • Help them understand that leading music doesn’t necessarily equate to leading people.
  • Spend multiple semesters preparing them for staff and congregational relationships. Most worship ministry failures and forced terminations are as a result of leadership and relational conflict and rarely occur as a result of musical deficiencies.
  • Help them understand and appreciate the relational dynamics of multigenerations before ever considering the musical dynamics of those generations.
  • Train them to be curious and open but also judicious students of the culture.
  • Provide resources and principles to help them weather the changes that will inevitably occur in the future. Model healthy change that values conviction, collaboration and patience.
  • Encourage students to read ecumenically and study worship through the eyes of various denominations, faiths, cultures and generations.
  • Remind them constantly that their college or seminary training is not the end but the beginning of worship education. A terminal degree should not signify the death of learning.
  • Require institutional administrators and faculty to attend worship conferences, concerts, classes and workshops outside of their areas of expertise, stylistic preferences, contexts, cultures and even comfort. How can they teach new worship and media languages if they don’t speak them?
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Pulpit Bully

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bullyThe 26th United States President, Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “bully pulpit.” His observation was that his position of influence as president gave him a unique platform from which to persuade, exhort, instruct and inspire. Roosevelt famously used the word bully as an adjective meaning “great, superb, excellent or wonderful.”

Pastors have been given a similar position of influence from which to speak out, advocate and encourage. Their unique bully pulpit has also given them a platform from which to persuade, exhort, instruct and inspire. Danger is inevitable, however, when those pastoral leaders choose to invert that bully pulpit from a place of influence to a person of control. This transposition from advocacy to autocracy, from adjective to noun degrades the platform of the bully pulpit into a platform for the pulpit bully.

Bullying is no more noble under the guise of pastoral leadership. The pulpit bully often demands authoritarian or controlling influence over staff and teams for the purpose of directing, requiring, regulating, containing, moderating and restraining. This type of bullying holds others in check and always retains the power to make decisions in order to influence end results. In the name of spiritual insight, the pulpit bully acts as a gatekeeper who holds his staff, congregant and even denomination captive to styles, traditionalism, forms and structures.

The pulpit bully believes all problems originate in someone else’s office or organization. He rejects cooperation, compromise and kindness in order to guard territory and filter information. He has outgrown the need to learn anything new. Shared ministry threatens his position since it requires mutual approachability, availability and accountability. Collaboration, therefore, is suspect because different perspectives are viewed as insubordination.

That pulpit bully attitude of entitlement and invulnerability may attain compliance but it will never achieve buy-in. So even those within the so-called inner circle are submitting to the leadership of a pulpit bully out of fear not friendship, out of caution not loyalty, out of acquiescence not conviction. As a result, being a pulpit bully is actually a position of profound loneliness.

Pastor, is being a pulpit bully really what God intended when he called some to be apostles, some to be prophets and some to be evangelists? Don’t you realize what you are missing by disregarding intentional, significant conversations about vision, hopes, dreams and goals? Aren’t you longing for staff, congregational and denominational relationships built on trust, loyalty, respect and friendship? Wouldn’t you love to pray and plan together with others as partners instead of pawns? How fulfilling could it be to minister in a place that constantly conveys an attitude of mutual spiritual development with no ulterior motive?

Being a pulpit bully is really just the fear of losing control of something that was not yours to begin with. It is never too late to realize that the final word doesn’t always have to be yours. When that occurs your ministry relationships will never be the same.

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Senior Pastor/Worship Pastor Relational Contract

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Relational contractA relational contract is a voluntary agreement between two or more parties that clarifies the expectations of their association in order to diminish conflict, encourage unity, inspire trust and foster mutual accountability.

What if you and your Senior Pastor or you and your Worship Pastor planned and prepared worship with a relational contractual agreement as one of the foundational components of your leadership? Can you imagine the worship health potential this could offer your congregation?

Unfortunately, this type of worship leading relationship rarely occurs because leaders often function as independent contractors reliant on their own strength, ability, methods, processes and talent.

Implementing a Senior Pastor and Worship Pastor relational contract will require a level of sacrifice and trust that is not guarded, territorial, defensive or competitive. It could serve as a useful guide to hold each other accountable to the unified goal of fulfilling and helping each other fulfill the mission of your church. But it will obviously never occur unless and until both parties are willing to embrace it.

Consider the following contract sample as a place to begin:

 

Senior Pastor/Worship Pastor Relational Contract

In an effort to more effectively lead, exhort, teach and model healthy worship, we as the primary worship leaders agree to adhere to the following relational guiding principles. We understand that the worship of our congregation will never be completely healthy until our relationship as its leaders is also healthy.

____________, Senior Pastor        _____________, Worship Pastor

We agree that we will…

  • Maintain a collaborative spirit that supports worship and preaching as complementary, not competitive.
  • Publicly and privately acknowledge the value of our unique callings, leadership styles, gifts and competencies.
  • Listen as often as we speak.
  • Partner in leading and teaching worship that moves beyond musical style alone to deeper biblical and theological content.
  • Communicate our disagreements in private without fear of retribution.
  • Make every effort to be approachable, available and accountable to each other.
  • Affirm in public; correct, instruct, coach and mentor in private; and pastor each other at all times.
  • Consider shared ministry as a partnership that does not threaten but instead strengthens our leadership.
  • Initiate intentional significant conversations that include our hopes, dreams, goals, expectations, plans, concerns and evaluations.
  • Invest in the personal and spiritual development of each other with no ulterior motive.
  • Preserve loyalty, trust, respect and friendship.
  • Work toward a common philosophy of worship and ministry.
  • Pray consistently for and with each other.
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Stop Attending Worship Conferences!

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don't jumpMy childhood home was located next door to a small strip mall consisting of a radio and television shop, various business offices and a pharmacy at the far end of the mall. The view from my upstairs bedroom window was the roofline of those small shops and stores.

My parents were awakened one night by the pharmacy burglar alarm. After contacting the police, my dad also woke me up to let me know what was occurring. We watched in the darkness of my bedroom as a thief attempted to access the pharmacy through its roof with a pickaxe.

When the police arrived the burglar tried to elude them by running across the rooftops toward our house. It was obvious that he intended to jump between the stores and our home to escape capture. My always-prepared dad temporarily blinded the intruder by pointing the beam of a huge flashlight in his eyes the moment he jumped.

From the street it appeared that our house and the strip mall were only one-story structures. Because of the slope of the side yard, however, where the thief intended to jump was actually three-stories high. The hapless criminal landed in a heap on our metal garbage cans and was easily apprehended and arrested. He jumped blindly before considering all of the circumstances or potential consequences. 

If your post-worship-conference-pattern is to imitate and implement everything you see without considering how or if it might fit in the culture or context of your own congregation…stop attending worship conferences. If your congregants dread your return from the conference since this pattern occurs after every event…stop attending worship conferences. And if you are disappointed in and critical of your people when they can’t imitate what you observed and experienced…stop attending worship conferences.

If, however, you can attend worship conferences and filter the valuable insights through the worship language of your uniquely positioned and distinctly designed congregation, then by all means attend as many of those conferences as your budget and calendar will allow.

Suggested Filters

  • Listen and observe while giving consideration to where and whom God has called you to serve, not where or whom you wish He had called you to serve.
  • Determine if what you observe out there complements the gifts of those you already have in here.
  • If imitation is the highest form of flattery, ask yourself whom it is you are trying to flatter.
  • Attend conference sessions based on how you might improve the worship language of your congregation, not based on how you might appear to your friends.
  • Consider that future ministry success may reside primarily in the revitalization of your attitude as the leader.
  • Take into consideration the past and present circumstances that frame your existing worship language.
  • Determine if it is possible that the only new necessary is for your group to do what they are already doing…better.
  • Don’t tune out the learning that is also available in the conversations during breaks and meals.
  • Remember the old idiom look before you leap before blindly implementing what you observe and learn.
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Half-Asked Leadership

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helpAsking and empowering others to serve with you in ministry offers your congregation a distinct voice that is more comprehensive than any voice you could have offered individually.

Asking others to invest their creative abilities in the planning, preparation, and implementation of the ministries of your church doesn’t diminish your leadership influence it actually elevates it. When leaders leverage all available resources by asking for help it is a sign of leadership strength, not weakness.

A leader that holds onto the reigns of ministry as a creative gatekeeper in order to receive the credit when something works will also receive the credit when something doesn’t. Not asking others to join with you in ministry may be an indication that you are more concerned with guarding territory than equipping saints to do ministry.

Asking for help provides…

Filters – To sift through the various ideas allowing usable materials to surface and ineffectual materials to be discarded.

Buffers – To moderate confusion or conflict by representing the various cultures and contexts of your congregation.

Advocates – To expand the level of communication to and encourage buy-in from numerous circles of influence.

Encouragers – To inspire and embolden you as the leader, each other as collaborators, and the entire congregation as participants.

Evaluators – To celebrate and reassess after each week from an environment of brutal honesty but also profound trust.

No individual leader has enough creativity, insight or endurance to plan, prepare and lead multigenerational and multicultural congregations week after week with the same level of spiritual depth and creative tenacity each and every time. Attempting it alone without asking for help will eventually kill the leader and the congregation.  Both may be slow deaths, but still terminal.

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Worship Leader…Get A Real Job!

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jobNow that I have your undivided attention, I do believe that full-time worship ministry is indeed a worthy calling and vocation that requires preparation, education and skills. And yes, it is a real job. But what if opportunities were no longer available for you to lead worship vocationally? What if you needed to voluntarily or were asked involuntarily to step aside from full-time worship ministry for an interim or extended period of time? What if you are unable to land a worship ministry position after graduation? What would or could you do to provide for your family while still responding to God’s call? Some of us have found ourselves in that situation only to realize we are not trained or are not training to do anything else.

Statistics show that 95% of churches average 350 or less in worship and that 75-80% of those churches average 150 or less. Forced terminations as a result of corporate business modeled leadership, unhealthy staff relationships, and ageism are all on the rise. The church planting movement has amplified the need for additional volunteer and part time worship leaders. Even larger, more established congregations are no longer realizing the need for full-time worship and music staff as they try to stretch their financial resources to accommodate their various multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-venue worship needs.

With those statistics in mind, the present and future reality is that the need for full-time music and worship ministry staff is on the decline. In other words, there are and will continue to be more prepared full-time leaders than full time places for them to serve. With that understanding, are we being poor stewards of our calling by not being prepared and willing to lead bivocationally in those smaller congregations and church plants that long for gifted worship leaders to help them with Spirit and Truth worship? Reality dictates that while preparing for worship leadership many of us should also be learning additional marketable skills.

For this to occur, we must first agree that a call to bivocational ministry is not a mediocre calling but is in fact a call to full-time ministry that just happens to occur not only when we gather at church but also when we disperse to the marketplace. We must encourage our Christian colleges and seminaries to more actively challenge students preparing for worship ministry to also learn other skills. We must agree that it is never too soon or too late to learn something new. And we must agree that learning an additional skill doesn’t compromise our calling but in fact enhances it by expanding our mission field through our communication in other languages beyond choirs and chord charts.

 

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Guardrails for Healthy Pastor/Staff Relationships

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guardrailsGuardrail:  A barrier or safeguard that prevents vehicles from veering off the roadway into oncoming traffic, crashing against solid objects or falling into a ravine.

Unhealthy ministry staffs perform their specified tasks dependent only on their own strength, ability, methods, processes, and talent. Vain self-sufficiency intentionally disregards guidelines that could prevent ministers and the ministries they lead from derailing.

Ministry leaders will never be completely healthy until their ministry staff relationships are also healthy. Even if your ministry staff is high functioning and producing individually, you will never experience extraordinary staff and church health until leadership and relationship safeguards are put in place.

Consider some of the following relational ministry guardrails as a place to begin:

  • Effective leaders look ahead with laser vision, look beside to confirm buy-in and look behind to offer clarification.
  • Ministry Ageism is unacceptable…but so is not learning anything new in the last few decades since seminary.
  • Pastor…the blame for staff conflict shouldn’t always begin with you but the responsibility for staff harmony should.
  • Leaders required to sacrifice family for church stuff…You have only one family and there are other churches.
  • Cooperation, compromise, collaboration and kindness are easily ignored when we are trying to guard our territory.
  • You’ll never enjoy healthy church staff relationships if you believe all problems originate in someone else’s office.
  • Collaboration is marginalized when we have outgrown our need to learn anything new.
  • Bullying is no more noble under the guise of spiritual leadership.
  • Bullies get compliance not buy-in.
  • Seeking wise counsel from others protects us from ourselves.
  • The end of learning new is the beginning of leading old.
  • Leading from behind is like following the horses in a parade…Vision is obscured and cleanup is often required.
  • A ministry that requires you to regularly kill lions and bears may actually be a rehearsal for a giant to come.
  • Implementing change has the power of a subway third rail…proper use propels you forward but abuse can kill you.
  • Until Senior Pastors and Ministry Staff engage in unpretentious deferential sit-downs they’ll never know where they stand.
  • Senior Pastor…Please initiate intentional significant conversations with your ministry staff. They need it and you do too.
  • Healthy church staffs have an open line of communication allowing disagreement in private without fear of retribution.
  • Churches will never be healthy until their ministry staff conflicts are over who gets to wash the feet of the others.
  • You are coasting if the most important things in your life and ministry are all in the past.
  • Intercession instead of indignation for our leaders with whom we disagree may not change them but it can sure change us.
  • Knowledge hoards information…Leadership invests it in others.
  • Dear Leaders who purport to speak for all Christendom…Not all thoughts that enter the mind should exit the mouth.
  • How a Senior Pastor treats his staff is a strong or weak example of biblical stewardship.

The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly. —Jim Rohn

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