Jan 3 2017

Uptight Worship Leaders Need Fartleks in 2017


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.


Dec 27 2016

The Attention A Worship Leader Craves


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.

Dec 5 2016

20 Ways to Pray for Worship Leaders



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.


Sep 6 2016

Treating Worship Sickness Before A Diagnosis


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.


Jun 27 2016

5 Questions Before Considering A Ministry Move



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.”


Jun 1 2016

5 Reasons Worship Leaders Are Losing Their Jobs


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.


Mar 22 2016

Building A Wall And Asking Senior Adults To Pay For It


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.


Feb 8 2016

Getting Older: The Worship Leader’s Third Rail


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


Jan 11 2016

Pastor, Could You Work For You?


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)


Dec 14 2015

50 Worship Leading Tips Rookies Should Learn and Veterans Should Relearn


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?

Oct 5 2015

Worship Pastor Prayer: Give Me Jesus!


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!


Sep 14 2015

Worship Leaders Need To Give It A Rest!


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.


Jul 13 2015

Healthy Worshipers Bunt


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.”


Apr 26 2015

It Ain’t the Heat, It’s the Humility


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.


Mar 30 2015

Don’t Move…Improve!


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.


Dec 29 2014

A Lorica for the New Year


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


Dec 7 2014

20 Lessons I Wish They’d Taught Me in Seminary



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. 

Sep 2 2014

5 R’s To Increase Your Ministry Shelf Life


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.



Aug 11 2014

5 Church Staff Relationship Epic Fails


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).


Jul 13 2014

Worship Leading Jaywalkers


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.


Jun 15 2014

13 Things Church Staffs Need from Their Pastor


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.

Jun 1 2014

Psalms for the Other Side of Worship 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).


Apr 16 2014

Terminated Worship Pastor 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


Feb 23 2014

Give ‘Em A Break – Pastor Sabbaticals


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.


Feb 9 2014

Ways Pastors Can Help Their Kids Hate Church



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.

Dec 29 2013

Things Senior Pastors Should Say More Often



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.

Dec 8 2013

Driving Too Dang Fast!


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.


Oct 13 2013

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


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?

Sep 15 2013

Pulpit Bully


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.


Jul 21 2013

Stop Attending Worship Conferences!


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.

Jul 7 2013

Half-Asked Leadership


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.


May 26 2013

Guardrails for Healthy Pastor/Staff Relationships


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


May 5 2013

Worship Ministry Mulligans


mulliganIt doesn’t matter if you are a worship-leading novice or aging veteran; you have inevitably looked back at certain services, special events, entire seasons of ministry or various relationships with a deep longing for a second chance to do or handle things differently.

The reality is that it would be impossible for us to go back and make corrections to most of those situations.  We do, however, have the opportunity for another chance to get it right when we face similar circumstances in the future.  One way to learn from the past in order to influence the future is to recall those events and write down how we might handle them differently if we had a mulligan.

You may resonate with some of my examples but I also encourage you to create your own list…it’s pretty therapeutic.

If I had a Worship Ministry Mulligan…

  • I’d make more mistakes because I took more risks.
  • I’d learn more people’s names than new songs.
  • I’d learn the musical language of chord charts, capos, and cajons sooner.
  • I’d take a Sabbath every week.
  • I’d make more deposits in younger leaders and withdrawals from older leaders.
  • I’d pray for and defend my pastor even when he didn’t deserve it.
  • I’d surround myself with those who stretched my thinking and held me accountable.
  • I’d leave more things at the office when I came home in the evening.
  • I’d read more, study more, learn more and ask more questions.
  • I’d ask how it might impact my family before asking how it might impact my ministry.
  • I’d learn more theology than musicology.
  • I’d learn how to do a variety of things in addition to worship leading.
  • I’d take more time and get more buy-in before initiating change.
  • I’d spend more time thanking those who invested in my life and ministry.
  • I’d have more patience with needy people or chronic takers.
  • I’d develop more hobbies outside of the church.
  • I’d welcome more divine interruptions in my planned schedule.
  • I’d write more things down.
  • I’d thank those who protected me from my own stupidity.
  • I’d evaluate my year based on in-betweens not big events.
  • I’d teach people how to worship when they leave not just when they arrive.
  • I’d stay with things longer instead of bailing when things got difficult.
  • I’d celebrate the Lord’s Supper/Communion/Eucharist more often.
  • I’d focus on music less and worship more.
  • I’d schedule large blocks of time to think creatively.
  • I’d drink more coffee with senior adults.
  • I’d lighten up, play more and not take myself so seriously.
  • I’d figure out how to get grandparents and grandchildren to worship together.
  • I’d have more “can you imagine” conversations than “do you remember” ones.
  • I’d spend more time learning how to be a better leader than a better musician.
  • I’d have more ministry friends outside my faith culture or denomination.
  • I’d realize that it is never too late to begin doing any of these things.



Apr 28 2013

What We Learned In Preschool We’ve Forgotten At Church


sharingThe social and relational skills learned in preschool are often forgotten in our staff, committee or personal relationships at church.  Those developmental life skills such as sharing, cooperation, conflict resolution, respect, compromise, interdependence, patience, kindness and empathy are easily ignored when we are trying to guard our territory.

Not always expecting to get your way, not being a bully, not resolving conflict with kind words, not being tolerant of the needs of others, and not seeing things from another’s point of view are often set aside in order to protect our own preferences and perceived rights.

The egocentric world of preschoolers that evolved into healthy relationships can spontaneously resurface when the focus, vision or practices of a congregation start to move in new directions.  Instead of adjusting our actions according to the needs of the congregation and in response to those early-learned relational skills, we often revert back to an attempt to get our own way without considering the cost or consequences.  The community relationship which should model that we’re all in this together actually means we’re all in this together as long as I am in it more. 

Congregations that are intentionally collaborative, by contrast, are not guarded, territorial, defensive or competitive.  They consider and leverage the creative abilities and resources of all in the planning, preparation and implementation.  They are not threatened when someone else gets their way or gets the credit, so they understand sacrifice and humility.  The default of a collaborative congregation is always trust in the combined input of the whole.

In the book by Barbara Gray, Collaborating: Finding Common Ground for Multiparty Problems, Gray defines collaboration as “a process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible.”  In other words, take turns, play fair and share.

Congregational collaboration is nothing new.  Churches just need to be reminded of what they once learned.  When they do it gives new meaning to the scripture, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).



Mar 4 2013

Guardrails for Long-Tenured Ministry


guardrailsMost of us don’t begin a new ministry position believing that we will only stay for a few years. Although our intentions are noble for the long haul, it seems that we can often get blindsided by unforeseen circumstances that repeatedly derail that goal.

The author of the book of Hebrews offers guidelines that serve as a great application for long-tenured ministry. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Later in the same chapter, the author continues with these thoughts, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

The talent, skills, reputation, and personality originally helping us to land a ministry position are never enough to help us keep it. This reality should be the starting point for developing leadership and relationship safeguards to diminish the potential for future derailment. Just internalizing healthy principles before beginning a new ministry position will not ensure ministry health, especially when some of those unforeseen circumstances are beyond our control. Ignoring those principles, however, will almost always guarantee abbreviated ministry tenure. And retroactive implementation is rarely successful from the middle of a conflict.

Consider some of the following ministry principles as you begin a list of your own. This list is in no particular order and is by no means exhaustive.

• Even though your position often requires you to have the last word doesn’t mean it has to be your word.

• Cast vision for the future without denigrating the past.

• Understand the difference between getting them to give in and getting them to buy-in.

• Not all thoughts that enter your mind should exit your mouth.

• If you alone are holding onto the leadership of your organization in order to receive the credit when something works…just remember that you alone will also receive the credit when something doesn’t.

• You don’t have to agree with to learn from.

• Know the difference between people and projects.

• Don’t be threatened when someone else gets the credit.

• Impatience at the expense of relational buy-in is not any more virtuous when the goal is noble.

• Long-term change is a race of endurance that may require you to walk uphill and sprint downhill.

• Graciously accepting evaluation from all people at all times is not enough, you must actively seek it.

• The most direct route may seem reckless to those who have the same goals but are more comfortable taking safer routes.

• Affirm in public, correct in private, and pastor in both places.

• How you lead externally must reflect who you are internally.

• Servant leadership is not a hierarchical step down…it is a relational leap up.

• Don’t randomly blow-up the existing without considering where the pieces will land.

• Understand the difference between knowing that you can and considering whether you should.

• Shared ministry should not threaten but instead strengthen your leadership.

• If you don’t take care of yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically no one else will.

• The only new really essential to organizational success may reside in the revitalization of the attitude and resolve of your ministry.

• Never stop being a student.

• Consider re-evaluation before revolution.

• Instead of indignation, grace must always be your default.

• Securing buy-in before initiating change will more evenly distribute successes and failures.

• People generated should always supersede leader dominated.

• Build bridges from the pew to the platform.

• Not finding time to read is passive arrogance. Reading only that which affirms what you already believe is active arrogance.

• Ignoring steps to increase your ministry shelf life leaves you prepared to lead a church that no longer exists.

• Keep track of what wakes you up at night…nightmares about how things are (maintenance) or dreams about how they could be (leadership)?

• Take the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm.”


Feb 17 2013

Dangerous Calling: It Could Save Your Ministry


Dangerous Calling

If you are a pastor or an educator who prepares pastors for ministry and only read one book this year it must be Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp.  In fact, if you are reading another book please set that book aside, take out a pen for underlining key passages and read this book from cover to cover.  The future of your ministry may depend on it.

Pastors live under a tremendous pressure to perform.  On top of the daily demands that vie for your time and attention, Sunday and the preparation for Sunday comes every week.  The stress of these and other responsibilities can lead to conflict, burnout, and even voluntary or forced termination.  Is this what God intended when he called you to do what you do?  Or, is there something you should be doing or should stop doing that could encourage a longer ministry run?  The church or ministry you have been called to lead will never be healthy until you as their primary pastoral leader get this figured out.

Dangerous Calling was “written to confront the issue of the often unhealthy shape of pastoral culture and to put on the table the temptations that are either unique to or intensified by pastoral ministry.”[1]  It is a book of warning that calls pastors to humble self-reflection and was written to make them uncomfortable and to motivate them toward change.[2]

Tripp freely admits that some of the points made in his book will make pastors angry.  He believes that perhaps we have become too comfortable and as a result have quit examining ourselves and the culture that surrounds those of us who have been called to ministry in the local church.[3]

Here is Tripp’s appeal as you read his book, “I would simply ask that as you read, you deactivate your inner lawyer and consider with an open heart.  Be so bold as to ask God to reveal in you what needs to be revealed and to give you the grace to address what needs to be addressed.  And as you do these things, celebrate the grace that has been lavished on you that frees you from the burden of having to pump up your righteousness to yourself and to parade it before others.  Because your standing before your Lord is based on the righteousness of Another, you can stand before a holy God and admit to your darkest secrets and own your deepest failures and be unafraid, knowing that because of the work of Jesus, the one to whom you confess will not turn his back on you but will move toward you with forgiving, rescuing, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace.”[4]

Check out this video promo clip for Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp

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

[2] Ibid., 12.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.



Jan 20 2013

The Phobias of Unhealthy Church Leaders


phobiasPhobias are persistent fears or dislikes of certain objects or situations.  The sufferer often goes to great lengths to avoid particular circumstances.  His/her responses are often considered irrational or disproportional to the actual danger or dislike posed.  In the event the phobia cannot be avoided entirely, the sufferer might under duress endure the situation or object with marked distress.

Maybe phobia is too strong of a word for the reason why some church leaders continue not doing things that are contributing to the deterioration of their leadership health and the health of their congregation.  Aversion may be a better word but the response to the situation faced is often the same.  How can a leader who is called to associate others with a common vision and purpose accomplish that mission through a wall of relational and connectional distance?

Church leadership is difficult as we attempt to find a balance between serving others and also serving our own needs, fears, aversions, or possibly even phobias.  It doesn’t really matter, however, if the root issue is fear, arrogance, aloofness, or just laziness.  The end result is always the same…

Unhealthy Leaders = Unhealthy Relationships = Unhealthy Churches.

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


Phobias or Aversions We Must Overcome for Leadership Health

Epistemophobia–  Fear of knowledge.

Allodoxaphobia– Fear of opinions.

Atelophobia– Fear of imperfection.

Atychiphobia– Fear of failure.

Bibliophobia– Fear of books.

Cardiophobia– Fear of the heart.

Cenophobia or Centophobia– Fear of new things or ideas.

Decidophobia– Fear of making decisions.

Deipnophobia– Fear of meaningful conversations.

Didaskaleinophobia– Fear of going to school.

Dikephobia– Fear of justice.

Doxophobia– Fear of receiving praise.

Ecophobia– Fear of home.

Enochlophobia– Fear of being with people or crowds.

Ephebiphobia– Fear of teenagers.

Eremophobia– Fear of being oneself.

Ergophobia– Fear of work.

Geliophobia– Fear of laughter.

Gerontophobia– Fear of old people.

Hedonophobia– Fear of feeling pleasure.

Heresyphobia– Fear of challenges to official doctrine.

Hypengyophobia or Hypegiaphobia– Fear of responsibility.

Ideophobia– Fear of ideas.

Philosophobia– Fear of philosophy.

Phronemophobia– Fear of thinking.

Ponophobia– Fear of overworking.

Prosophobia– Fear of progress.

Sociophobia– Fear of culture or society.

Sophophobia– Fear of learning.

Soteriophobia – Fear of dependence on others.

Symbolophobia– Fear of symbolism.

Technophobia– Fear of technology.

Theologicophobia– Fear of theology.

Tropophobia– Fear of making changes.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. —Eleanor Roosevelt


Dec 2 2012

If You Aren’t Happy in Your Ministry Position…Just Quit!


just quitNo, don’t quit your ministry position…just quit doing or not doing those things that might be contributing to your discontent or the discontent of those to whom you are accountable to. If you aren’t giving your best stuff to the place where God has you serving now and are saving it for where you are hoping He will call you next…why would He want to?

When or if God chooses to call you to a new place of ministry what legacy will you have instilled in the lives of those you leave behind? If dysfunction has not been resolved where you are…what changes are you willing to make to ensure it will not follow you where you go?

The forced termination epidemic surfaces the reality that the choice is not always yours to make. Christianity Today indicates that nearly one-fourth of all active ministers have been forced out at some point in their ministry. Ironically, it doesn’t really matter if the choice is yours or theirs, the response should be the same…just quit!

Quitting is…

• Starting a new ministry position without leaving your old one.

• Intentionally rededicating and recommitting your energy and focus where you are now.

• Coming in early and staying late.

• Leaning into the finish line instead of coasting.

• Owning your deficiencies and surrounding yourself with those who can help you manage those deficiencies.

• Initiating and implementing long-term ministry goals.

• Spending the same amount of time developing new relationships and healing old ones that you previously spent on ministry job-placement sites.

• Going to conferences, reading books and articles, and learning new concepts to try now…not to save for the future.

• Trusting that God knows where you are and what you are going through.

• Praying and agreeing with Jesus’ prayer, “yet not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

There are two possible outcomes of quitting: You will again fall in love with them and they with you and stay for the next season of ministry; or you will leave well when God calls you to that new place of ministry. Either way, His response will be the same, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21).