By Rich Birch
Today’s post is a guest post by Unseminary’s Rich Birch
Lead pastors spend a lot time in the front row of the church participating in worship services. In fact, if you’re a church leader reading this you know the double track mind that we end up having during these experiences.
On one hand, we’re attempting to be engaged in what’s happening while at the same time we’re evaluating what’s going on and thinking about the feedback we’d like to give to the worship leader. For many pastors leading a church, we find ourselves wishing we could strike up a conversation with the worship leader about what they “do” but it can be hard to know where to start.
Worship leaders are typically center stage every weekend as they lead the church towards a deeper relationship with Jesus. They spend their time in the middle of what happens in the worship ministry and sometimes don’t have a clear picture of what’s actually happening in their area. Tension could easily develop in the relationship between the worship folks and the leadership folks and if not kept in check it might foster a rift in the church over time.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of serving closely with some dynamic lead pastors. Whether it was Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House or Carey Nieuwhof at Connexus Church or Tim Lucas at Liquid Church, it’s been an honor to serve in a “second chair” to these leaders. In each of those churches, part of my role to was help give leadership to the service programming department. Functionally, that meant attempting to translate the vision of our Lead Pastor to the creatives and worship people. Over time, I’ve seen similar patterns in the conversations we ended up having that I wanted to share here in the hopes of stirring conversations in your church!
What conversations would lead pastors love to have with the worship leaders at their churches?
What would a lead pastor say to the worship leader if they were given the chance?
How would a lead pastor frame conversations with the creatives in their midst to help the church move forward?
Here are seven conversation starters that I could easily imagine lead pastors launching into with worship leaders!
1. What you do is really important to the life of our church
For most churches, the musical worship portion of the service is the first thing that happens every week. As a result, it sets the tone for everything else that follows. We know that first impressions really matter, so what you and your team do determines a lot. We’ve invested to make sure we have great sound, video, and lights so these first few minutes are fantastic.
In fact, the majority of our technological investments as a church are to help your team do what you do. It’s really important to us. Thanks for bringing your best to these opening moments of our services!
2. Your long-term value is in producing other worship leaders
At the core of church growth is leaders producing other leaders. We look to bring people around us and give them the opportunity and the skills to lead. The role of leaders in the local church is to help reproduce more leaders. In fact, great leaders make more leaders, not more followers. This can be particularly difficult in your area of ministry because it often seems like worship music is built on a “rock star” model where a few super qualified people just keep drawing crowds and making fans rather than passing along leadership to others.
If we fall into that pattern in worship ministry, we limit our ability to reach more people as a church. If you, specifically, fall into that temptation, it will limit your ability to grow and expand the church. You won’t always be leading on stage at the church, but the ability to develop leaders will be something you can take with you and use in whatever you do. Your ability to produce other leaders around you will be what determines your long-term value to our church.
3. No, I haven’t heard the latest Bethel song
Can I level with you for a minute? Most people who attend our church don’t listen to worship music outside of Sunday mornings. I know, it’s shocking. Lots of families listen to the Top 40 radio station in town or people are increasingly just streaming music that they listened to when they were kids. The problem with that for us is that they don’t necessarily know the latest worship song by Bethel or Elevation or Vertical Church or whoever we are tracking with these days.
We need to sing the songs that resonate with our community more than you are probably going to like. We might need to repeat the songs that seem to engage our community a lot more than you and your team are comfortable with.
The goal is to engage with the people who are attending our church and not to keep up with the latest songs from across the country.When we do (rarely) introduce new songs we need to do it slowly and deliberately. We need to teach people new songs and not assume they know them all. Oh, but by the way, I do like that new Bethel song! It’s great.
4. Your internal spiritual life impacts your ministry, deeply
How are things with your soul? As a worship leader you are in a particularly vulnerable spot. Having the public spotlight trained on such a private aspect of your spiritual life can do strange things to your internal spiritual life.
If your worship becomes more of a performance than an overflow of your relationship with Jesus, it will deeply impact our ministry and could do some damage to your soul. Like our teaching pastor, we need you to ensure your heart is right with Jesus. Your private spiritual disciplines will shine through in how you lead publicly. Take time to read scripture, pray, fast, journal. It’s vitally important that your heart remains soft and open to what God wants to do in your life.
We can’t set “outcome goals” around your internal spiritual life, but it really does impact the outcome of your ministry. I’ve seen worship leaders who have landed that tricky guitar solo, but it comes off stale. I’ve wondered as I’ve watched them lead if that reflects something going on in their personal relationship with Jesus. I don’t want you to be a shell of a person living in mission with Jesus; rather, I want you to be fully alive in your relationship with Him!
5. Engaging the people in the back row is the highest priority
You know those people in the front row that are totally into what you and your team do every week? It’s not about them.
They’ll most likely be engaged with the musical worship because they are “into” worship in their personal life. Our goal is to engage those people who come in late and stand near the back of the auditorium with a cup of coffee in hand. Sometimes I think it might be interesting to record a video of the audience so you can see how those people are reacting (or perhaps more pointedly not reacting) to what the worship team is doing on stage.
Our church is trying to help people who are far from God connect with Him. We’ve noticed that those individuals who stand at the back of the room are often people who don’t normally attend church on a regular basis. Engaging our entire community is what we’re aiming for and it is our purpose. It means we need to think about the people at the back of the room a whole lot more. We need to consider what it will take to draw them in. We have to work to ensure that they feel like they are part of what’s happening at our church.
6. Can you finish your expense report on time this month?
Can we talk about your expense report? I know, I know, it’s not the most exciting topic. Our finance team works hard every month to ensure we have up to date records. We use these records to make informed decisions about the future of the church. I know that (most months) you don’t spend that much, but if you don’t submit your report we end up with an incomplete picture of where things are at financially.
We trust you. We know that you invest the finances of the church wisely to help us achieve our mission. When I ask you to get those spending costs in on time, it’s not that I’m expressing a sense of distrust in you and your team. I’m not trying to be a killjoy or have some sort of tight leash on you. It’s just a part of the monthly process we need to work through here at the church.
Finally, there is a bit of an undercurrent when you don’t hand them in on a regular basis where it unwittingly communicates to the finance team that you think what they do isn’t that important. I know that’s not what you want to communicate but that is the sense it suggests. As your leadership grows, you are going to have more opportunities to manage finances in your role. Taking the time to learn about the rhythms of regular financial reporting by handing these reports in on time will prepare you for more responsibility in the future.
7. I’d really love to talk. When can we chat?
Can we have a DTR? I’d love to define the relationship between us. I know that we come from different worlds. I perceive you as an artist and you perceive me a suit. But I know we are so much more than the flat stereotypes that our roles at church could push us into. It’s true that I don’t understand a lot of what you do, and I’m pretty sure the feeling might be mutual, but I want to forge a strong partnership. I love what you do for our church, and it’s an honor to serve alongside you. I’m thankful you’re on the team, and I love seeing you use your gifts and talents to serve the church.
I’d love to know how I can better help you. I’d love to grab a coffee sometime and hear what’s happening in your area. Granted, I might not be able to help with a chord progression (I’m not even entirely sure what it is!), but I would love to help with other parts of your ministry. I value learning from you because you are a clearly gifted leader, and we’re a better church because you are leading here. My door is always open, and I’d be more than willing to have a conversation.
What would you add?
Are you a senior leader in a church and you have a conversation that you think we should have included in this list? Are you a worship leader and there is something that you think we missed? We’d love to hear it in the comment section below!
About the Author – Rich Birch
Rich is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,500+ people in 19 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church – a 6 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for its innovative approach to outreach and community impact leading to it being featured on CNN, The New York Times and Outreach Magazine.
Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution. He has a weekly blog and podcast that helps with stuff you wish they taught in seminary at www.unSeminary.com. His latest book, Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church, is an Amazon seller and readers of Carey’s blog can get the first chapter for free at this link.