Over the past two years I’ve had the privilege of being the worship coordinator at Village Green. In those short two-year, Village Green has become family for my family and a place of grace and support as we share in the work of the gospel. I’m convinced God is doing great things at Village Green and that he will continue to use us for his glory in the future. As I think about our church and the almost twenty years that I’ve been involved in leading church music, here are some things that I believe make for a great worship arts culture that can help a church thrive for years to come.
- Give leaders the freedom to lead.
When I came on staff at Village Green, one of my greatest anxieties was how I was going to fit in with the other leaders and staff. Would I have the freedom to pour my vision into the church? Would I have a lead pastor who was going to micromanage every note and lyric of every song I wanted to gift the church with? In short, would I be free to be who I am while at the same time grow and develop? Thankfully, one of the greatest privileges of being a worship arts coordinator at Village Green is the incredible freedom I have to shape what happens during our 60/75-minute services. One of the first things that was communicated to me—in word and in attitude—was that I was trusted. I was trusted with the music, direction, planning, process and vision for worship at Village Green. If there is one thing leaders need, it’s a sense of freedom.
- Don’t be OK with being OK.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t expectations for me and my ministry. We spend time every week debriefing about Sunday—what could we have done differently and/or better? Although I experience a sense of freedom, I also am expected to be biblical, relevant, inspiring, dynamic, grace-filled and excellent. Sounds easy right? It isn’t. I have to ask myself constantly whether what I am doing is serving both our people and God well. That ultimately falls on me. When practice doesn’t go well, that falls on me. If the lights aren’t coordinated well, that falls on me. If our equipment isn’t up to a high standard, that falls on me. If you’re in a music leadership role, you better be prepared to not pass the buck to someone else if things need to be better. That’s however, where being “grace-filled” is the most important. I don’t always implement concrete change, I experiment. It’s important to communicate that change is important to success, but we need to be writing in pencil and not in pen. We will make mistakes and that’s OK. Sometimes a song just isn’t working, and you better be prepared to axe it. But what’s not OK is being OK with being OK. This is all for God. He deserves our best.
- Control the repertoire
Wait a minute, I thought I said we are supposed to have freedom in our churches! What’s this about “control?” Part of being excellent is about knowing the material. That becomes a challenge when your list of songs grows out of control. It’s easy to want to do a ton of new songs every month. Unfortunately, you end up with a huge repertoire of songs that no one really knows well. Do you like going to a concert and not hearing a band play the songs you know? If you want proof of this, the next time you play a song that you know everyone knows really well, take out your IEM or ignore your wedge and be very aware of the volume change. There are songs that I know people just love to sing. Bless the church with those songs. Yes, we need to add news songs, but in a responsible way. Pick a number for your repertoire. For us, it’s 60 songs not including Easter and Christmas music. When I add a new song, I take one out. It’s important to get the other leaders involved in this process. The freedom here is for the other leaders to feel like that they can approach you with new music.
Controlling the repertoire also means being aware of the keys and “feel” of the music. This means knowing your vocal range and the common vocal range of your congregation. You better be looking at those lead sheets on Song Select to make sure people can actually sing on Sunday morning. If you don’t care, there is a good chance you need to evaluate what exactly you’re doing on Sunday. When I was doing music in venues with my band, it wasn’t my job to care at all whether the audience could sing along. I was an entertainer plain and simple. It was my job to impress people. My job at Village Green, however, isn’t entertainment, it’s to serve my Lord by serving the congregation. That also means when a song calls for whole notes on the bass or a very boring keyboard sound, that’s exactly what we are going to do. If a song is better served with the background vocalist not singing for an entire verse, that needs to be OK. If that guitar solo shouldn’t layer over the vocals and only show up for two bars during the bridge, you better be prepared to sit back and wait. Serve, serve, serve. We are there to serve the song, the congregation, and our Lord.
- Finally, let the Holy Spirit be the Worship Leader
I know this probably sounds very cliché, but in the end, we will never lead people to God. Only the Holy Spirit who directs the heart and mind to Jesus Christ will ever allow one to truly worship God. Pray. A lot. Ask the Holy Spirit to do a work in the life of your teams and church. Recognize that the Holy Spirit actually can work through Planning Center. Put your faith in the Holy Spirit that he will reward your hard work and that your actions will actually inspire others. If the Holy Spirit is at work through us, we will continue in service for many years to come!