Hi you guys! I’m suuuper stoked this week as we complete final preparations to lead worship at a women’s conference where I was invited to join my worship pastor and some friends of ours in leading worship for some precious sweet sisters. These godly guys are super talented and I’m so excited to be joining them!
If you’re a worship leader then you know there is a ton of work that goes into preparing to lead. I’m not talking about all of the considerations that go into song selection. That’s critical and there’s lots to unpack there so I’ll leave it for another conversation. But after the songs are chosen there’s a lot of prep and planning that should take place so that, when the time comes, we can lead effectively and with excellence. For this weekend, as I won’t be on my guitar for this one, I’ve had more time than normal to really focus on the lyrics and vocals, and am reminded once again how important that part of the process is to effective leadership. I also know that it can tend take a back seat to other pieces of the process! At least I can be guilty of that. There can be so much to do in regards to: logistics, communicating with and preparing resources for the band and tech teams, rehearsing/learning melody lines, determining tempos and working with the click, deciding on arrangements, then practicing all of that on an instrument, exploring and planning the transitions between songs, rehearsing with the team…..and etc, etc, etc…. All of these things are so important! But what I find is that I can sometimes fail to stop each week and take a fresh look at the lyrics we’ll be singing and leading. Which is such a bummer! Not to mention a lost opportunity. Because let’s face it…as amazing and emotive and dynamic as it can be…the music is ultimately the vehicle. It’s the lyrics and the vocals that really communicate the heart of what’s being said.
We can sing the lyrics accurately and nail the melody lines, but if we’re disconnected from the content and heart of what the song is communicating that will generally come across and can diminish our ability to lead well. Here are a few of my thoughts on ways we can approach the lyrics each time as we prepare to lead God’s people in corporate worship.
Consider this a devotional time and invite the Lord to give you a renewed perspective and clarity on each song’s message.
Print out the lyrics, in particular for the songs where you will be the lead voice (or better yet typing or writing them out.. if you have the additional time). And exclude the chords and other musical notations. We just want the lyrics.
Now read the lyrics. Don’t sing them. Just read them. Out loud even if you’re able. I know this sounds elementary but what can happen with songs we know very well is that over time we become desensitized to their meaning. So read through them slowly and intentionally, not by rote. This is partly why removing the melody is important. That will force us to view the lyrics entirely on their own, outside of the musical context. Take your time and ponder the words and truths being expressed! And thank the Lord while you’re doing it!
Re-read the lyrics with your Bible handy. For each phrase or section, pause and look for corresponding passages in Scripture, and jot them down next to the lyric lines. This is admittedly time-consuming, at least initially, but sooo worth it. This process has left me in tears on more than one occasion as I’ve sat and been ministered to by the Lord as He has reminded me of the truths in a particular song that I’m preparing to lead. And I’m convinced that this impacts our effectiveness. When we have a fresh understanding of what we’re singing and when we engage with the Lord in that moment in genuine worship, those we are leading can sense that and the Lord uses that to draw them into worship as well. If you do this step regularly, you can keep your notes and refer back to them the next time you lead the same song. (A little side note: There was one time where I knew the lyrics were going to be printed, not projected on a screen, and we included the Scripture references for each song on the printed lyric handouts. I explained this at the start of the service.. and got a lot of great feedback afterward. People appreciated being able to take the lyrics and corresponding Scriptures home with them for their own personal devo time.)
Prayerfully consider ways you might reinforce the truths you’re singing during the service. This might be by adding a related Scripture reading somewhere in the set, or referencing key lyrics as a way of praying or transitioning between two songs or during the interlude of a song. You might also consider a very brief personal story that relates to the lyrical truths in some way that you could use as you intro the service or a particular song. Thinking this through ahead of time is especially helpful if you find speaking in front of people more difficult than singing in front of them. You can plan in advance how you might use or reference the lyrics during those brief moments when you’ll be speaking, so that your words contribute to the worship, rather than detract from it.
I hope these thoughts are helpful! In addition to these planning-phase steps, there are also some things that as vocalists we can do (or avoid doing) during the service itself that impact the effectiveness of our ability to communicate, interact with and lead the congregation. But I’ll save that for another post!
Blessings on you all as you plan and prepare to lovingly lead the people God has placed in front of you!
Happy happy Mother’s Day to all the mommas out there! I hope you’ve had an awesome weekend! Being a mother is a source of some of life’s greatest joys & blessings and also at times its greatest trials and sorrows. I can’t imagine trying to do it without Jesus! Being in ministry also has its share of both mountains and valleys; times of triumph and blessing and times of doubt, frustration and discouragement. I have some thoughts for the women in particular today as this Mother’s Day draws to a close. I hope this speaks to your hearts!
First of all I want to remind us that we are uniquely created in God’s image! Just because we refer to God as Father and Son, and He and Him…and rightfully so, (it would be wrong to do otherwise), it doesn’t mean that we, as women, are any less His image-bearers.
As a reminder, let’s take a quick look at the familiar creation account in Genesis chapter 1 . It isn’t Adam only who was created in God’s image. It was Adam and Eve. Male and Female. Both of them together. In His wisdom, the Triune Creator brought forth the man and the woman and in the process infused each with part of His character and likeness. So men and women together are designed to represent the Godhead. Neither can do it on their own. We need each other. Both at home and in the church God’s plan is that women and men would be partnering with one another in work and service to each other and to the Lord.
Throughout Scripture we can see aspects to God’s character that are clearly feminine, or motherly. One of them is in the gospels when Jesus states: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings..”. And there are multiple instances in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 32:11 we read: “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.” Then this verse in Hosea 13 paints a picture not just of nurturing but of fearlessness and bravery: “I will encounter them like a bear robbed of her cubs, and I will tear open their chests; there I will also devour them like a lioness, as a wild beast would tear them.” There are also several instances in the book of Isaiah of God using the imagery of motherhood to describe Himself. There are a variety of characteristic traits specific to women that are a reflection of our Creator. We are image-bearers of the King of kings! Amazing!
I know we know all this already, but if you’re like me then sometimes you just need to be reminded. I want to encourage you as mommas and as ministers to continue to serve the Lord, your families, your ministry teams and your congregations with tender boldness and courage! You’re created in His image. He’s given you a particular set of gifting and skills. And He has a plan and a call specifically for you!
By His grace I pray that we rightly represent Him in all that He’s given us to do.
So what makes a team great? Why do some teams function smoothly and some…well.. not so much? Truth be told there are a LOT of factors that go into the success or failure of a team, and most of those (possibly all of them?) start at the leadership level. But one in particular stands out that strikes me as essential, and yet so often is missing from ministries, and that is the ability on the part of leadership to both craft and communicate a team vision. I understand as Christians that if we’re to be truly successful at ministry then it has to be something the Holy Spirit is involved in, but all too often I’ve seen that used as an excuse to avoid any kind of planning, preparation or training. A verse that comes to mind is Psalm 127:1a, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it;…..”.We see both aspects at play here.. our desperate need for the Lord, and also the need for us to plan and work. Anyone who has ever built anything knows it can’t be done well without careful planning and preparation. All throughout Scripture we see examples of the people of God functioning within a framework of the two…prayer and the moving of the Holy Spirit in combination with vision, planning and hard work. Check out the Old Testament book of Nehemiah to see these and many other leadership principles in action!
Ok. So how do we, as creative ministry leaders, go about crafting a vision for our ministries and teams? What does that mean practically? Here are three basic elements to consider as you (and possibly a few key leaders from your team) work to create a set of unified goals.
What’s our purpose? Or, why do we do what we do? This needs to be specific and goes way beyond simply stating that we lead people in worship. Actually that’s a very brief observation about what we do, or should be doing, but our teams need to understand the why and what it is we’re truly trying to accomplish. You should prayerfully work this out for your team specifically, but here’s what I came up with by way of example: To magnify and delight the LORD; to serve the LORD and His church with creative excellence; to effectively lead in praise & worship through music and the other creative arts, so that everyone in our congregation who wants to join us can do so; to proclaim the truths of Scripture, and to evangelize the lost.
What will ‘success’ look like? This paints out some details on what kinds of results we expect to see if we’re accomplishing our stated purpose. So maybe something like this: As a church family we will grow in our understanding of what it means to live a life of worship, and to worship the LORD in spirit and truth; there will be an increase in the freedom of expression as we corporately engage with the LORD through prayer, scripture and song. As a creative ministry team we will create art of our own that ministers to and expresses the heart of our congregation, and will be continually improving in all aspects of our skills. We will see non-believers come to saving faith in Jesus Christ as we sing and speak the Truth, engage with the community and live out the Gospel in every facet of our lives.
How do we get there? How must we act and what should our priorities be to facilitate success? Defining this is important because it provides a framework for us and for our teams to operate and make decisions from, thereby maintaining progress toward collective goals. For example you might include things like: Everything we say and do, whether from stage or behind the scenes, must line up with the truth of scripture, therefore, frequent and regular times of prayer and Bible study will be a priority for the team as a whole and for each member individually. The congregation’s needs come before our own needs and desires; we will always work to lead in such a way that they are able to follow, and will teach and encourage them to do so. We must be well-prepared and well-practiced, yet able to serve on short notice, therefore we will be committed to putting in the necessary time for practice at home and rehearsal with the band, as well as in general striving toward improvement and the learning of new skills. We will pursue creative endeavors and will encourage one another and cheer one another on wholeheartedly. We will always leave room to welcome new team members as the Lord sees fit to add to our number. We will work alongside, and as needed, defer to requests and priorities from those in authority over us.
Once your team’s vision has been crafted, the next step is to communicate it to them! Teams that have a shared vision that everyone understands and can get on board with are far more likely to be productive and ‘successful’ than teams that are trying to function without any order or understanding of where it is they’re all trying to go. The best way is in person, at a team meeting where everyone is in attendance. I would suggest that you print out copies of your vision in order to facilitate the discussion and also so they can take it home with them. Use inclusive language as you explain it to make it about the team, not about yourself. Each member needs to take ownership of the vision so that it becomes everyone’s goal and purpose, not just yours. Be ready to dialogue and answer any questions they might have… Have fun with it and try to create some energy and excitement surrounding it! Finally, be prepared to continue to prayerfully encourage and coach your team! Maybe even coming up with creative ways to remind each other of the vision and holding one another accountable to it as you serve alongside one another in pursuit of excellence!
Whether you’ve recently taken on the responsibility of leading a ministry, or you’ve been in leadership for awhile and are ready to take your crew to the next level, I hope this encourages you and sparks some great conversations for you and your team! No matter how well our teams are currently functioning, there’s always room for improvement ~ Michelle