Stephen M. Newman
Steve currently serves as Pastor of Worship and Arts, Pinon Hills Community Church, Farmington, New Mexico
Things They Didn't Teach In College or Seminary
If you are like me, you learned very little in college concerning teaching people to worship the Living God. We learned a lot about music, theory, singing and playing our instruments. I once even had a class on how to play a recorder…. but never a class on how to teach and lead people in worship. My ability to plan a music service was excellent, but I knew very little about how to plan a worship service.
Many colleges are now teaching worship and how to prepare your congregation for worship, and I am grateful for the institutions that offer these much needed courses. I am speaking to those who have not had the pleasure of sitting under great men and women of God who are experienced in leading and teaching worship.
Have you ever woken up on Sunday morning to lead a well-prepared service only to find the people didn't respond the way you thought they would, or that they should have? This happened to me for the first six years of ministry. Each week I would prepare a "great" music service thinking it would help my people to worship better. It didn't. Nothing I attempted seemed to work. What was I doing wrong? Why weren't they participating? All kinds of thoughts would race through my mind trying to find the reason as to why people were not worshiping God. I had to learn some very real lessons that I hope you can use.
First, I had to look inward. Was I worshiping or leading music? What was the perception of what I was doing on the platform? I decided to video myself leading worship one morning. I wanted to see what the people were seeing. You know what? I was leading music. I was doing what I had seen done for years and years. A man standing in front of a congregation leading music. I knew all the motions and patterns to every hymn and had become fairly proficient at it. I found I could keep things together musically and design a service that flowed fairly well. After viewing the tape, I saw why I had failed. I was not worshiping. I was working hard to make sure things went well, that the instrumentalists were together, and that the key changes were just right. How could I worship when there was so much to worry about in a service? My mind was on the technical aspects and not on the Lord. That is partially what makes our position so difficult. We have to make sure everything goes well, and then we allow ourselves to worship if there is time left.
What was the solution? I had to become more proficient at preparing the service in order for the music to become second nature for me, I needed to commit the words to memory, and I had to know the service inside out so that I could spend less time worrying about the service and more time worshiping. When those elements changed, I found my worship became more meaningful. People began to comment about the worship services, and I began to see others attempting to worship and participate more. It was the first major step in helping others worship. I had to first become a worshiper myself.
The next step to helping people worship came from studying. Studying God's word along with great authors who have an understanding of this thing called worship. I needed to become a student of not only music but of worship. In this site you can find titles of various books that will help you to become a better student of worship. Read all you can find on the subject. You may feel that you can't gain anything from a person who comes from a different background than yourself but you will find that each author will have something that you can relate to. You will find information that you can use in your ministry. Become a student of worship and you will better be able to help your people become worshipers.
Second, what was I doing outside of planning the services to help our people better worship? What could I do outside of studying, preparing, learning new music to help teach worship? You know the answer. Prayer. I began to pray for the people. I would pray for each service that God's spirit would move and be evident. I prayed for individuals to begin singing regardless of there singing ability. I prayed for our worship teams and leadership that we would all be used to help lead in worship. God is faithful and I began to notice that the more time I spent in prayer for the services, the better the service went. People began singing out. Others would lift their hands to the Lord. Some would clap, each expressing their worship to the Lord in a manner they felt best suited their personalities. Why do we rely so little of the greatest power we have here on earth. If you commit to pray for worship to happen in your church, it will.
It is important to understand that as your people begin to open up and worship, some will resist. Sadly many will never become visibly active worshipers. Which brings me to a very important point that every worshiper leader needs to understand. Be very careful in judging others in there worship because of their outward appearance. Don't fall into the trap that because a person is not singing, clapping or lifting their hands that they are not worshiping. I used to get very frustrated when I didn't see people participating in our worship times. It looked like they were just standing there with a sour look on their face. I just knew they were not worshiping. After the service they would share with me how moved they were, and what a great worship experience it was for them. Wow! Was I ever wrong. I have learned that how a person participates is not reflective of their worship experience.
We will deal with other issues of teaching worship under the titles listed on our main page. I hope that as you read these bits of helps that you will seek to be the worship leader that God has called you to be. You know as well as I that each church is different, and how you approach this topic will vary from church to church. There will be more to come on this page in the future. I pray that you will consider furthering your education in the area of Worship. There are several Universities that are offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in worship ministries. God be with you as you seek to be all that He would have you be.
Why Won't Your People Express Themselves In Worship
Undoubtedly, this is the question that has frustrated worship leaders and pastors for the past several hundred years. Why do some people jump up and down in worship and some won't even open their mouths to sing? What is the problem? These are supposed to be people who love the Lord. They are supposed to be Christians, right? Who really knows why people act the way they do? The same person who won't move a muscle in church will jump up and down at their favorite sports events cheering on their teams, or kids, with all the emotion of a cheerleader. How are we as worship leaders supposed to lead people and help them get excited about the Lord?
I love reading what David did as they were carrying the ark back to the City of David. Let's look at that passage - “David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal, daughter of Saul, watched from a window. And, when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD.” (2 Sam 6:14-17) Wow! David danced in the raw before the Lord. What did God say of David? He is a man after my own heart. To have the Lord say that of me would be the greatest joy of my life. I must admit I do not dance before the Lord on a regular basis. It is my desire to give it all to Him, but I have some of the same problems that people in our pews do……… Inhibitions.
That's right! Many of us are so worried about what the person next to us is thinking that we fail to worry about what God thinks. After all, He is the one we are worshiping. Right? What about the Michals of the world? We are concerned about what they say about us. How I wish that everyone would let go and worship the Lord the way they really wanted to. That's what I love about our charismatic brothers and sisters. They are going to worship the Lord the way they want to and don't really care what you think. They are more concerned about what they are giving to the Lord. That's what worship is…..it's giving. It's not about us, or what we receive, but about what God receives. When we worship what does He receive from you and your congregation?
Now, I want to look at another type of people for a moment. My pastor once told me that just as we are all created different and equipped differently to serve, so are we created different in our worship expression. Some of us clap, others sing, some raise their hands, and others dance. God has created us differently in that way. Our uniqueness when blended together is wonderful in worship. We come before Him in ways that please Him and yet we may do it differently. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if they are not doing it your way then they are not worshiping. I have made that mistake many times only to have God point it out to me once again.
How do we help the ones in the pews express themselves in worship? Start by example. Share with your platform people your heart and desire. We have 20 people on our platform leading worship each week in our band and vocal team. Each one brings with them their own unique worship style to the platform. That in turn is communicated to our people who in turn identify with one of our team members. Help encourage your teams to raise their hands or clap. Use scripture to back up your teachings. Don't push or manipulate, just help along and encourage. It will take time, but eventually they will come around, and the results will be a joy to the Lord and your congregation’s worship experience. Remember, when teaching, it is very important that your senior pastor be on board and be seen as a visible worshiper. Ask him to teach a series on worship or bring in a worship teacher. Sometimes people just need permission to worship. Try different things to help your people become participators and not spectators. Help them along as they grow to be worshipers of the Lord. It is our job to be the worship leader. Are they following?
The Role of the Senior Pastor As Worship Leader
This section is not lengthy for one reason alone. If your senior pastor is not a visible worshiper, it will be much harder for you to lead worship and for your people to follow your lead. I haven't been able to put my finger on it, but it seems that wherever I have served, how far we went in worship was always dependent on the senior pastor. We could only go as far as he went personally and philosophically, and rightly so. Because the senior pastor usually sets the vision for the church, it is up to him to help communicate that to the people. If he wanted to build a new auditorium, he would probably be the one heading the process and promoting it with his voice and pocket book. If he never mentions it from the pulpit, or supports it financially, more than likely it will never get off the ground. The same holds true for the staff. We all have to be for the building project and support it 100%. If we don't, it may never become what it can be for the kingdom of God.
This same principle holds true in worship. If the senior pastor is not a visible worshiper, it will hinder the spirit and attitude of worship. Sure, the song service may not be hindered, but true worship will. It is vitally important that each member of the staff be active visible worshipers, as well. A staff that is divided will not accomplish all that God has for that church. Are your pastors and staff worshipers? If they aren't, you will have a difficult time teaching worship to your people.
If you have a worshiping staff, then I would venture to say that you have a worshiping church. If you pray for the services as much as you spend time planning the music, I venture to say that you are a worshiping church. What do you do when your pastors, and specifically your senior pastor, are not visible worshipers or supporters of worship? Find a new church……… I'm kidding, of course! But, to a degree, there is a measure of truth in that thought. I have found that the only way to know where he stands, and what he feels about worship, is to sit down with him and ask. Let him share his heart with you on worship and his vision for worship in the church. Then, let him hear yours. Share with him your desire to teach your people true worship, and speak to him from your heart about what worship means to you. It's the first question I ask a pastor when I candidate for a position in a new church. If he doesn't have a heart for true worship in his church, then you will have a rough road a head of you. If worship is your calling, then you may want to consider another position. I am so blessed to be in a church where the senior pastor and staff place a high value on worship, it's place in their lives, and in our church as a body. It has been the greatest experience of my life to see this church grow as a worshiping body, as well as individuals push the boundaries to understand what God wants from their worship.
If you are in a situation where things are less than ideal concerning what we have talking about, be patient and pray. Pray for God to move in your church and your pastor, or pray that God lead you to a position where you can teach worship and have the support you need. Be absolutely sure that it is His will that you move, and not your desire to get out. God may have called you to be the one to help transition your church to be a worshiping church for Him. The church needs men and women who will be in for the long haul and be patient teachers. Are you one?
How Do Your People Perceive You?
You have heard the saying, "You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” I believe this statement holds true to anybody that is in a leadership position. We know what to say and when to say it, but do we really live it? As a worship leader, I have to constantly ask myself, "Do people see me as a worshiper?" “Do they see me as a man of God who truly desires to worship the Lord and be the servant that He has called me to be?” Sadly, there are many in ministry who haven't grasped the concept of servant-hood because they are out for themselves and what they can get out of life and ministry. Jesus came as a servant and should be the model for each of us in the ministry. People can see right through us, and if we truly care about those we have been called to serve, they will see it. If we are using them for our own gain or needs, they will see that to. How do they perceive us?
The same idea carries over to our ability to lead. Do they see you as a worshiper who wants to help them become worshipers? I believe that the heart of a worshiper will come through in any conversation on the topic. Ask your pastor what he believes about worship and what place it has in his life, and you will be able to tell in minutes if he is a true worshiper. If he's not, then are you going to see his worship as sincere? Will he be able to help teach and lead worship? Ask him what he thinks about tithing, and his eyes will light up and he will speak for hours. I am teasing to an extent, but you can see what direction I’m heading. Live the life of a daily worshiper who loves the people, and you will be a better worship leader and teacher. Spend the time it takes to develop relationships with your people because if they trust you, they will follow you. One of the greatest assets of my ministry has been to be in churches whose main focus was not worship, but trusted me and were willing to let me lead and they in turn would follow.
Let them know that you truly care for them, their growth as a Christian and their level of worship, and you will find the secret to teaching and leading worship! Bathe them in prayer and sit back and watch as they grow. Sometimes I am moved more by seeing others grow as worshipers than I am about my own growth. I get most emotional in my own worship when I see people, who in the past would barely sing, expressing themselves in worship. Worship is the greatest pursuit of my life as I seek to die to self and give of myself daily in worship. It was why I was created and my life's mission is to teach as many as I can this to be true worshipers.
What's In Your Teaching Tool belt?
Any good craftsman needs good tools to do his work. In order for him to create a quality project, he will need quality tools to do the best possible job. The same would apply to any field of work. Some of the best teachers I know were ones that could take ordinary lessons and make masterpieces of them. I had a teacher in college who made Music History a great class by making the class come alive through his tool of story telling. Granted, he did tend to exaggerate a bit, but he made the characters in music history come alive! I loved that class and, not surprisingly, I actually did pretty well in it. As a worship leader, or individual, that wishes to help his/her congregation better understand worship, you need to have a number of tools in your belt to accomplish this daunting task. I hope to offer you some valuable tools that will help as you teach and encourage others to become worshipers.
Tool 1 - Your personality and credibility. How do people view you? Do they see you as a genuine worshiper? Do they respect and trust you? How do they see you outside of church, at work, or in business? If people do not have faith in you and believe that what you are teaching is real, you will have a tough time teaching worship. Work on your image and your relationships with people. This is one of the greatest tools I have used.
Tool 2 – Prayer. Prayer is an often overlooked tool that can be your greatest secret weapon . Pray for your people and God will move their hearts. Worship and worship revival is a God thing and nothing we do outside of prayer will amount to much if you haven’t spent time praying for your worship team and leadership. Pray for your people that they will grow and become worshipers, because God hears and will honor your petition. Keep in mind that some will never grow because of their "heart" condition.
Tool 3 - The Worship Team. No matter how hard I try or want to, I can't do everything. I am only one person and can only reach a certain number of people. Because of my personality, I do not relate to everyone. To have a well-rounded worship team, allow those who have leadership gifts to take over some of the load. Let them teach or lead worship from time to time. Give them the opportunity to be involved in planning and leading on the platform through readings or solos. I have people on our team who communicate worship better than I do. They are great teachers of worship through their own worship. Build a team that is unified and well-rounded and you will have a better tool to teach with.
Tool 4 - Outside Support. What is outside support? Bring in someone who shares the same beliefs and vision for worship to help reinforce what you are teaching. I had been trying to share and teach worship for the first year at my present church and was having little luck communicating at the rate I wanted. I brought in a man who specializes in worship and leading worship to give a seminar and preach on Sunday. He communicated everything I wanted to communicate and did it better than I could ever have! He helped us get where I wanted us to go in one weekend after I had worked a year with little progress. He came in and restated what I had been sharing, but in a different manner and approach. It was a great success for our church and people. Use others outside the church to help communicate your passion and vision. I caution you to check them out first and communicate with them your vision and philosophy to make sure you are both on the same page.
Tool 5 - Media materials. Everyone has a venue of communication that appeals best to their style of learning. For some it may be video, a book, audio tapes, and some prefer the Cliff Note version. You need each of these in your tool box. If you can't find it, develop it. Create audio tapes for your people to listen to on their way to work. If you can't find a video that helps teach worship, create one. There is much written material on the market in the form of books and studies. Whatever means works for your people, use it. If we rely solely on one media tool to help our people, we will fall short and miss many in the process. You will find that there are those in your church and on your worship team that have gifts in writing or media that can be of great help as you develop your own materials for your people.
Where Are You and Where Are They?
If you are in a church serving on staff or are a worship team member, then you will have no problem identifying the many different levels of participation in worship. You will have those who jump up and down, those who will sit down, and those that cross their arms and do nothing. Some will be more knowledgeable at worship than you and some less. For the most part, those in leadership will be the ones who have a good understanding of worship and are seen as the leadership in that area of ministry. We are the ones who mainly lead and teach by what we do and how we worship.
For most of us, we tend to fall in the category of being well ahead of our people in our desires and expressions of worship. There are many worship leaders who leave church each week frustrated because worship did not happen for them or their people. They may have had a great song service, but the worship seemed lacking at best. These helps are for those who fall into this category. Blessings to the churches that are right on and are true worshipers, but for those who are struggling, you have some decisions to make. Where are you? Do you know where you are in your personal worship? Do you know where you want to go? Do you know where your people are? It is important to answer these questions before we can address the situation.
I know where I am and where I would like to go in worship. My church is not there yet, and because I am an impatient person in most things, you can see how it would be difficult at times to wait on things and people to jump right in! The fact remains that most people understand very little about worship and the place it has in our lives. I have two choices I can make: I can either stay here and teach them to become worshipers, or I can leave and find a place where they already have a good understanding and help them grow even further. That is a choice we all have to make. It's like every other facet of our Christian walk, we don't become great worshipers overnight. Once you know where your people are, you can better help them move towards being real worshipers. Be patient with them as they grow and continue to gently push them.
True worship is a humble act that causes us to forget self and focus on God. The Bible instructs us to lift our hands to the Lord. If you have never done this, it may feel awkward at first. It may even feel uncomfortable because someone may be watching you. The reality is that God desires it of us and we need to do it. Privately or corporately, we need to be obedient to what He requires of us. In days of old when a King entered the room people would rise; and when you approached the king, you would bow on one knee before him. How much more deserving is the King of Kings and Savior of your soul? Push people out of their comfort zones and into true worship. It will be worth the wait when you see people responding to God in worship. It is an awesome thing.
No matter where your people are at……. they can go further. Never let them get complacent in their worship by continually challenging them to grow and become life worshipers. The two greatest things I have experienced are witnessing people come to Christ and then learning to worship God in a manner that is pleasing to him.
What Are You Doing Outside The Worship Times?
As a Christian I find it very difficult to get all my spiritual food on one Sunday morning service each week. If I relied on one forty-minute message a week to grow and be all that God would have me be, I would more than likely fall far short! There is no way a pastor can help me get there once a week with forty minutes of food. How much truer is this of worship? We don't get the pulpit for forty minutes a week to teach worship. Sometimes we have thirty minutes, and during that time we are supposed to be worshiping as well. We need more venues and times to teach our people worship. What can we do to teach our people worship outside of our weekly services? What resources are available to educate our people? Let's look at a few ways we can offer studies or seminars to help our people grow.
After years of leading and teaching worship in the churches I have served, I decided to do something totally revolutionary. I brought in someone who knew more about worship than I did. What a concept! I am kidding, of course, but it's something that we don't always think about. To be honest, it is a little humbling because we don't want our people thinking that we don't know everything there is to know about worship. I brought in a guy who was right on target with what I was trying to teach our people, and it helped. He came in for a training session with our worship leadership, and then preached to our people on Sunday morning. It was a huge win for the worship ministry. He was able to say everything I had been saying all along, the difference being that he brought a different style to his communication. Our people are now one step further along than before he came.
Secondly, I decided to write a study guide for our people that would help them understand true biblical worship, and also help them become better worshipers. It has been a great tool for those who have gone through it, but not everyone will take the time to complete the study. We are just finishing a CD to go along with our philosophy of worship for our people. It's more than just a worship CD, because it helps communicate what worship is as well. This will be a great tool for us as we continue to seek out new ways to enable others to learn more about worship. We are committed to developing a worship tool from every media venue to aid us in our efforts to teach worship. Is your pastor willing to preach a series on worship? If he is, this can be one of your best tools because if your pastor is behind your vision for worship, the people will follow much quicker and easier. If your pastor is not behind it, you may be in for a very long haul. Be creative in how you teach worship. Use the gifts of your people to help in the efforts of communicating. We have a woman in our church who is a great writer and has developed a devotional for worship. It is an awesome tool to help others learn about worship.
Our hearts desire is that everyone will at least have the opportunity to learn more about worship and become better worshipers. We will continue to seek out new ways to help in this process. It would be most difficult to use only the short time we have each week to help our people along in this wonderful experience of worship. Continue to teach and then watch as they grow. It may be slow, but with God's help and moving, it will come. Pray, pray, pray.
Worship Team - Leaders or Performers?
If you have been in the ministry for a while you know that the Arts Department has a tendency to draw people of all colors and expressions. We are a bit different because, for the most part, our people are on the creative side. We see things in a different light and approach things in different ways. Because we tend to draw in people who have creative backgrounds and talents in the arts, there is a strong tendency for us to want to use our gifts to help fulfill a need within us. We have all come across people who want to get up and "sing for the Lord" in our "worship times.” We also have some very gifted people who serve on the worship team and are a part of our worship services. I would like to challenge you with a thought concerning those we have in places of leadership in our worship ministries.
Questions to look at are……………..
What is their place in the service? What motives do they have for serving? Are they called or awed? If you do not understand or believe that those God calls to a ministry He equips to do that ministry, then you will probably disagree with what will be said from here on out.
I believe with all my heart that God called me to the specific ministry of worship - more specifically - teaching and leading worship. I also believe that God has gifted me to do what He has called me to do. He has equipped me through experience and education, and has given me a certain level of natural talent. He has also given me a great desire to use these gifts in ministry. One thing God has not gifted me to do is preach, even though I would love to be able to! To be able to communicate the gospel in such a way that people would respond to it and lives would be changed, is something that I long to do. You know what? It's not going to happen (at least not at this point in my life). I could force it and I even have the opportunity to do it; but, it would be terrible and believe me when I say that you would get very little out of it if you stayed awake long enough! No matter how much I would love to preach, God has not gifted me in that area. I have no experience or education in the area and it is best for all that I don't do it.
Now, to bring it a bit closer to home. We all have people who want to "sing" or "act" or “play their instruments” in our services. You more than likely have come across people who have a great desire to be a part of the worship team. What is the right thing to do? Let them participate because they have a desire to be a part? Should anyone who has a desire to sing to the Lord or sing a song for the Lord get up and do it in our services? I know that most of us feel that the answer to most of these questions is no. If God has called you to be a part of a specific ministry then He will equip you to do that ministry. We are in a difficult area of ministry because of our highly visibility and immediate gratification. Let's face it, a nursery worker could work for forty years before she/he is recognized for her/his service. We get it every week
To those who have evident gifts in the area of music and the arts, and are called to the ministry of the local church, I believe that we need to use them if they show a heart of community and are serving with the right motives. The church needs good talent and has lacked in this area for years. We have operated under the false notion that if they have a heart to minister through music that they should be able to do it. Not realizing that this has hurt the cause more than helped it. I encourage you to hold tough to this and stand firm in your philosophy to use only those who are clearly gifted to serve in the area of music and the arts.
Let's look a bit further to the specific area of worship. I believe that this ministry requires a step further in its qualification to be a part of. There are many talented people serving on worship teams across our country and the world, and they have incredible gifts in music and the arts as well as the natural instinct to use them in worship. After all, they are gifted in music and called to ministry. But, are they called to worship? Are they worshipers? Do they help lead worship? What "qualifies" someone to be a part of a worship team or a part of a worship ministry?
The ministry of worship and the ministry of music are two different things. For the most part, they are the same in presentation. However, the outcome is what makes them different. Worship and leading worship is a specific gift apart from music. Music is only the tool to help facilitate worship. I require of all our worship people to first be worshipers, and then musicians. You may come back with "but the music will suffer!” I disagree. I still feel that God requires those who lead to be gifted and called. He will gift those He has called to this ministry. It is easy to reason things out by using gifted musicians to lead worship, but the outcome will not be everything that God would have. You will see a difference in your worship participation, because people tend to see through performance as compared to true worship. If your teams are not worshipers, they will stifle the spirit of corporate worship. You may still achieve worship, but it will not be the same. Pray that God will send you gifted worshipers. He will be faithful if you will be patient and faithful to this standard. Let me say also, that we all have different levels of needs and standards. If we all desire and set the standard to have a Maranatha! praise band and vocals, we may be in for a disappointing journey. As the worship leader you have to set a reasonable level of musicianship that is in your congregation. Each church will have a different level, and some will be higher than others. Once you get your team together, I encourage you to strive to improve and grow as worshipers and musicians. Continue to set goals that are attainable and lead your people to be the best with the gifts God has given them.
Let's rap this up. If you desire to have great worship in your churches, then you will need to have the right leadership in place. This is easier said than done, I know, but you will be better off in the long run for it. Don't allow those who clearly have no gifts in the arts to be deceived into thinking they do. Help them discover their true gifts and callings and lead them in that direction. Part of my job is helping people discover their gifts and callings and help place them in ministry. If we will help train our people in the philosophy of serving where their gifts and callings are, then we will have churches that are truly balanced in ministry. We will have healthy churches and great ministries. We will have great worship if our teams are filled with called and gifted worshipers and leaders.
Is Your Team On The Same Page As You?
There are few things more frustrating than having people in a group who are not on the same page as the rest of the group. They feel that they know where the group should be going, and seem to be working against the goal of the leadership and group as a whole. In some cases it is clearly a conflict of vision and a lack of understanding of the role of the worship leader. There are those amongst us who feel they should be the leader and thus a struggle for control or power commences. In other cases it is clearly a lack of communication. As the worship leader, have I clearly communicated the vision and direction of the ministry to my team? Do they understand where we are going in the area of worship and music? Do they have clear direction of the goals for the ministry of worship? Do they know where the church is headed as a whole and how the worship is a part of the vision? Do they know what's expected of them and what they can expect from you?
The first step in leading is to communicate to the people where you wish to lead them. It is difficult for me to follow when I don't know where I am going. Some may be able to follow out of trust or respect for the leader; but, I need to see the vision and agree with it before I get too excited about it. My pastor is very good about casting vision and keeping it before the people. We can get on board easier and be more excited about the process when we clearly see the goals ahead and have a clear plan to get there. Once the vision is cast and the goals put in place, then your team members can decide if they wish to be a part, or if they would rather find another area that best suits their ministry calling and gifting.
I feel that most of the people involved in the worship and arts ministry at my church understand me, as well as the vision I have for the ministry. I believe that they are involved because they like where we are going and have caught and bought into the vision. I am a terrible communicator, but have tried to make it a point to share with the worship team members where we are going and what we plan to do to get there on a regular basis. We put out a newsletter each quarter that restates the high priority focuses for the year and recasts the vision for the ministry. Keeping the vision in front helps keep them focused and hopefully energized about what they are involved in.
If we will work on communicating what we are trying to accomplish, share with the team your heart for ministry and worship, constantly share the vision, and get to know them as friends, there will be little time left for misunderstandings and conflicts about the direction we are heading in ministry and worship. Keep in mind that there will always be people who don't agree with your leadership style or vision. That is when it is the appropriate time to have a heart to heart about whether they need to continue in this particular ministry. Part of being a good leader requires dealing with conflict head on. The ministry will better off for it in the long run and your life will be much happier.
Keep striving to be all that God has called you to be. Don't be afraid to make tough decisions, because there is nothing worse than being in a frustrating situation where you cannot be a leader because of differing opinions and goals. Get the support of the pastor and staff and lead the way God has called you to lead.
It's Not the Art, But the Heart
Recently I read a good book that was originally written in the 1980's. It was titled "Worship - Rediscovering the Missing Jewel.” I thought the book might be a bit outdated because it was written back when the new worship movement was just beginning, but I picked up several jewels that I want to share with you. If you are looking for a good book on worship I recommend this book.
What is the single most important ingredient needed to experience great worship? Some may say listening to great music, an awesome voice, or listening to one of the great classics. The responses would be as many as those responding. Have you ever been in a church where the music was great and yet the worship seemed lacking? What is it that makes for an awesome worship experience? I heard a worship leader once say that music was secondary in worship. He said that he would rather have someone with a heart of worship than someone who was talented in his band or on the vocal team. My response was, NO WAY!! I went to college to study music and do the best I can for the Lord. What's he talking about? I have been in churches where the musicians and vocals were less than tolerable for the ear, and I could not worship with all the distractions of missed notes and off-tune singing. It was a frustrating experience to say the least. Did I miss out because of the art? I recall another instance where I was in a very talented church where the musicians were oozed quality and the music was right on. I found myself leaving that situation impressed but missing out on the worship. The same could be said of every situation in between when we look at it from an art view.
I love the phrase taken from the book mentioned above - "It's not the art, but the heart". How true this is. Some churches are notorious for trying to be super creative in their worship. Always attempting to do different things each week to spice up the services, and utilizing every means available to "wow" the people.
Since true worship is about God and not about us, what is it that He desires? Does He desire a song and dance? He does desire our best, but what is it that He wants more than anything? I believe it's our hearts, our love, our commitment, and our faithfulness to Him. I don't believe that God is impressed with our big programs that we put together for our people. I believe that He is moved by one of His children coming before Him with a broken heart as He pours out his heart in thankfulness for what God has done in his life. I believe God is moved when one of His children sings to the top of his lungs in praise to the only God who is worthy of praise. God is moved by our praise and worship, and not by our fancy programs to impress man.
When the people of our church fail to participate in worship, I believe it's because of two things. One, they don't know what to do because they have very little understanding on this thing called worship. Secondly, their hearts are not ready, or prepared, to experience worship because they have come straight from home where they have been fighting with the kids and their spouse all morning. They run around getting the kids settled in Sunday School and usually arrive late to worship. They sit down and before they can catch their breath the music portion is over and their opportunity to participate is gone. The reality is that some people don't see the importance of worshiping God in our daily lives. They do worship, but they haven't experienced the joy of worshiping the Father yet.
I believe that both of these obstacles need attention. If we will communicate from the pulpit and in writing on a consistent basis to our people, they will begin to grow. If we model it before them each week, those who want to learn will grow. If we will encourage them to express their worship on a daily basis, their corporate experience will be awesome. As leaders we are teachers and need to help people understand what worship is. Remember! This is like any other area of growth for a Christian, it will take time.
Focus on the hearts of the people and a little less on the art, and worship will come. May our worship become what it should be and not what we have made it. Let us move away from wowing our people and help them to learn to wow the Lord with their hearts in worship, and we will see an explosion in worship with God's hand moving like never before. Press on towards the mark that He has called you complete for His Glory!
There Is Hope for Every Church
Finally, there is hope for every church. No matter what the background or makeup of your church body, they can become a worshiping church. We are all on a spiritual journey, but we are all not at the same place in our Christian walk. We don't pray the same, study the Bible the same, or worship the same. The important thing is that we all continue to grow in our walk with the Lord. We need to pray more, read and study more, and share Christ with our lost friends and neighbors more. The most important pursuit we can work on is our relationship with the Father.
I challenge you that, if you are in a church that is not a visible worshiping church, you hang tough and teach them. Too many times we want the easy road. Though some of us are not called to teach, it must be a part of our ministry. You show me a person who has been in a leadership position for a number of years, and I'll show you a person that has impacted those around him. If we keep after the goal of teaching our people to worship through our example and life, they will learn to grow as worshipers.
I have a good friend that I spend a lot of time with. Before I met him he used to come thirty minutes late to every service. He purposely avoided the "music" portion of the worship service. It wasn't that he didn't like the music, but he didn't understand worship. He thought of it as merely a music service. Through conversation, sharing my heart, and allowing him to see what worship is really like, he has become one of the most awesome worshipers in our church. He understands what worship is and has become a true worshiper. What an exciting journey it has been to see him grow to where he is now! There are times now when he will stay for both services just to worship.
This same story could be shared again and again of other individuals who have grown in their understanding of worship and its place in the life of the Christian. Each week it delights me no end to see the number of people who are growing in their worship. What was once a music service has now become a worship service. I am not saying that everyone in the church is a worshiper, but that many have stepped out because of the example and lifestyle of those who lead worship from week to week. God is moving here and wants to move where you are.
To some it may seem as though your church will never get there. You may feel that they will never get to the point where you are or where you would like them to be. That's all right. Worship is a God thing and not a man thing. It's all about God. When He decides to bring a worship revival to your church, it will be in His timing and not yours.
There are some exciting days ahead for the church. Worship is exploding across the country and the world. People are coming to Christ through worship services. Young men and women are hungry for a fresh touch from God. Many are receiving it at college worship revivals. Keep after it and do not get weary, because the Lord has called you to the place you where you are at for a reason. Make sure you are there for the right reasons, and when you leave make sure they are for the right reasons. Worship is a slow learning process, as are a host of other spiritual disciplines. Be careful not to judge the church’s worship temperature with the wrong thermometer. Many worship leaders look to the "model" churches as a guide on how the people are to worship. Don't fall into that trap, but let your people worship God in their own ways and keep from manipulating them into a specific trend. The results will be huge for both you and the church when you become a worshiping church of the living God together.