Guest Post: Creating Systems For Worship Teams

2349_64241154877_678929877_2148714_488_nI decided my 18 year-old son’s latest post was important enough to steal it from him. I only wish I had written this first.  Great thoughts.  Nate has led in our student worship area for the last couple years and done an amazing job.  Our church is going to miss him this fall as he begins his college days at Moody Bible College in Chicago.  You can follow Nate’s thoughts at his blog Moons from Burma.

Here is Nate’s post on Creating Systems for Worship Teams:

For any organization to maximize its potential, GREAT systems have to be in place. You can have poor systems and still reach your potential, but your potential will just not be very potent.

One of the most important areas of church world is the worship team. If a church wants to maximize the potential of their worship environment, then it obviously makes sense that a GREAT system would have to be in place. The problem is this: the system builder types are typically not on the worship team. Usually the worship team consists of extremely abstract/creative people and people that simply want to help setup and tear down stuff. Both are vital to the team, but neither is especially gifted at building systems.

The temptation is to just let the worship environment take care of itself, because after all, creative ideas are probably flourishing already. However, creative ideas are not a system. If your goal is to maximize potential, you need a great system; which means you need a system builder. You need someone who can sit down and figure out how to get every part of the worship team on the same page; someone who can build a framework in which the creative ideas can be executed. Every second of the worship time needs to have been thought through with an ultimate purpose in mind.

The reality is that most worship leader positions are filled based on musicianship and vocal ability, not on LEADING ability. There are multiple types of leading that must be done in order to truly LEAD worship, and I would argue that the majority of it takes place behind the scenes on Monday and Tuesday, not on stage Sunday. So, if you are going to really take your church somewhere in terms of worship, you need a system in place. What that ultimately means is that you need a leader in your worship area… in addition to an artist.

Systems can be hard to build for a group of abstract/unstructured people, but ultimately there needs to be a great one to maximize your potential. You need structure to succeed, which also means you need a structured person on the team.

How does your church systematize its worship environment?

Congratulations Lithuania on 1,000 Years! (How to make a vision last!)

125px-Flag_of_Lithuania.svgJust a couple days after our own celebration of independence as a country, today I want to honor another country.

We had the opportunity our last night in Lithuania to attend an opening weekend of celebrations for Lithuania’s 1000th anniversary. Thousands of people crowded the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, to hear presentations, sing songs of pride, watch period dances and have a good time. Lithuanians love to celebrate.

I cannot imagine history in terms of the thousands, but it is standard in this part of the world. One thing that spoke highly to me is the pride that was displayed in the people that night. For one thousand years the country has suffered periods of wars, domination and corruption, but one thousand years later they still have pride in their nation. I love the perseverance in that fact.

As someone who studies organizations and leadership I think there are lessons to be learned from us in this. For 1,000 year the Lithuanian people have:

  • Continued with a common vision of pride in country
  • Rallied together during stressful times to promote their continuance as a nation
  • Made the best of the situation when bad circumstances faced the country
  • Worked to consistently improve their circumstances
  • Celebrated the good times

Could your organization take lessons from the Lithuanian people?

Happy Anniversary Lithuania!

Video Messaging (Using Technology to Stay Connected)

My 18 year old son Nate is serving as an intern this Summer for Michael Bayne our family minister working primarily with middle and high school students.  Recently he took it upon himself and made this video announcement to send to the students.  It reminds me that the methods of communicating with our people are changing every day.  Are you staying current?  Does your church use Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and video messaging to stay current?

Maybe you need to take a lesson from the next generation of leaders too of how best to contact your people.

The Loneliness of Leadership

I was talking with a friend the other day that is having to make some difficult decisions for his organization that he knows are right and necessary, but he also knows they will be very unpopular and he will most likely lose friendships over the decisions he has to make.  I was able to remind him of something all leaders need to know.

There is sometimes loneliness in leadership that cannot be avoided.  Don’t offer to lead if you are not willing to sometimes stand-alone.

Even in the best team environment there will be times when the direction the organization needs to go involves making decisions, which adversely affect the rest of the team. Consider, for example, some of the hard decisions the United States auto industry is being forced to make to remain viable.  The companies that survive that crisis may be the ones who are willing to make the hardest choices.

There have been times when I have to have hard conversations, correct people who are wrong, force my views on others or follow through on the plan I think is best for the organization, even though it is unpopular, all because I happen to wear the leader hat.  That responsibility should never be abused as an excuse for dictatorship or poor leadership, but loneliness sometimes comes with the territory of being a leader.

Leading People To Make a Positive Impact

I have been writing this week about the need to plan as a church for the future.  I shared yesterday about three questions our staff worked through at a recent staff retreat to brainstorm.  You can read that post HERE.  Another exercise we went through was the 20-60-20 Principle. (Some will say this is 10-90-10)

This can be a controversial principle, because it appears at first glance that an organization is strategizing to leave a group of people out of the equation, but really this strategy helps the entire organization be more successful, eventually improving things for everyone involved in the organization, even those in the last 20%.  This principle assumes that in any organization:

20% of the people are on board with what the organization is doing and wants to see the organization reach its full potential.  These people understand and believe in the vision and are usually willing to contribute to its success.

60% of the people are just along for the ride and can be pulled in either direction towards a positive or negative view of the organization.  They can be new to the organization or they have never been challenged to get involved.

20% of the people tend to be negative, uninterested or just passing through.  They typically will resist any changes and do not contribute to the overall success of the organization.  They are complainers by nature in any environment in which they are a part.

The problem is that most organizations (especially churches) tend to cater to the last 20% in an attempt to make them happy or keep them quiet.  The challenge and goal for any organization should be to spend energy and attention developing the top 20% so they will pull the 60% in their direction.  With this approach the last 20%, those who are currently creating negative energy in the organization, will either join in the excitement or be forced to look for an organization they can fully support.  Unfortunately, some of these people will leave if they do not get their way and will most likely join the same negative 20 % in another organization.

Is your church or organization concentrating most of its energy on people who really are never going to support the success of the organization?

Results of Brainstorming At Our Staff Retreat

Yesterday I posted about the need for a church to plan for the future.  You can read that post HERE. In that post I shared three questions our staff worked through at our last extended staff retreat at Grace Community Church.

The questions were:

  1. Missing Holes
    What needs developing?
  2. Dying Momentum
    What needs tweaking or killing?
  3. Gaining Momentum
    What needs energy/additional resources right now?

Here are some bullet points these questions led us to think through.  While I realize you will not understand some of them, they will help to see the types of thoughts generated with this type of brainstorming.   (Thanks to Christy Crosby on our staff for these notes.)

Missing Holes


  • Recruiting Volunteers
  • Surveys
  • Networking
    • Mentoring


    • On Stage (in message, announcements, worship leaders, videos)
    • Bulletins
    • Grace Weekly
    • Website
    • Blogs, Facebook
    • Flyer/Handout


    • Overlapping
    • An update at the beginning of the week of what is coming, a briefing email?


    • Creating an atmosphere for people to fellowship on Sunday mornings
    • Are we friendly on the surface but hard to connect with
    • Ask Me? button

    Dying Energy

    • Dead Zone in the Hall, after service starts
    • Set up & Tear Down
    • Core Momentum
    • Dream session?

    Gaining Momentum

    • Gathering – excitement is back
    • Relevant Student Ministry– Camps, Remix
    • Cross Street Live-Promotion in Clarksville Family, Billboards
    • Evangelism/Baptism Effort – Re-enforcing it in EVERY area
    • Community Presence – Rivers and Spires, Operation Serve
    • Stickier – Not as big of a back door
    • Credibility – In community and in the church circles
    • Volunteers – Ready to invest in other volunteers, training
    • Community Groups – Learning from each other

    Of course, the key now will be actually implementing some of this, but that will need to be the subject of another post.

    Are You Planning For Your Church’s Future?

    Where is your church going in the next five years? What will it look like it ten years? If nothing changes, will it still be as equipped to reach the community around you?

    If we aren’t careful, church becomes a Sunday-to-Sunday routine process and we look up someday from the weekly grind and realize we never reached our potential. For most churches, when one Sunday is over they are planning for the next Sunday. The church addresses the ministry needs of the week, but little time is spent planning for the months and years to come for the church. The monotony of a repeating schedule can often replace long-term planning.

    (Because every time I do a post like this I hear this comment I know that at this point one of my readers (maybe two) is thinking, “God is in charge of us reaching our potential”, and it is at this point that I have to remind said reader that planning exists throughout the Bible and in fact, God seems critical of those who fail to plan.)

    This post is just a simple reminder to steal some time from the weekly grind to plan a few steps ahead in the life of the church. Think through issues such as worship, discipleship, staffing, space needs, volunteer recruitment, and community and world involvement. In addition to weekly impromptu meetings and our bi-weekly all staff meetings, our staff gets together three times a year in an extended staff retreat. We have found this process to be where major initiatives and ideas originate and gain energy.

    At our most recent staff retreat at Grace Community Church, after we went looked again at the Growth/Maintenance/Development issue again (Read a post about that process HERE), we considered these three questions to help us think through some critical planning issues for our church:

    1. Missing Holes
      What needs developing?
    2. Dying Momentum
      What needs tweaking or killing?
    3. Gaining Momentum
      What needs energy/additional resources right now?

    You may consider trying this with your staff. If you are the only staff member, recruit a few key people in your church to help you plan.

    Tomorrow I will post some of the bullet point that came as a result of these three discussions. If you need more help with these issues, email me at

    Let us learn from you.  How does your church plan for the future?

    Strengths Finder 2.0 a Great Team-Building Tool

    strengths-finder-2-200Strengths Finder 2.0 has proven already to be a great tool for my leadership. We are going to use this instrument with our staff in the coming months.  I have been using Myers-Briggs Type Instrument for years and still plan to, but this is now another tool I plan to use to help build a healthy team.

    Once you take the online assessment you are emailed your strengths.  The following are a summary of my strengths according to this indicator are:

    Relator describes your attitude toward your relationships. In simple terms, the Relator theme pulls you toward people you already know. You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people—in fact, you may have other themes that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends—but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends. You are comfortable with intimacy.

    Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others.

    The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity.

    Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations.

    Your Analytical theme challenges other people: “Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.” In the face of this kind of questioning some will find that their brilliant theories wither and die. For you, this is precisely the point. You do not necessarily want to destroy other people’s ideas, but you do insist that their theories be sound.

    Have you taken the Strengths Finder assessment?  Feel free to share your strengths here.

    The Caution of Working with Friends

    I believe in being friends with the people with whom I work.  I consider the people on our staff to be friends. I hope we never hire anyone I could not also claim as a friend.  Part of building a healthy team environment is getting to know team members and building close relationships…friends.

    That is the disclaimer statement, because this post is not about working with friends.  Actually this post is the opposite. This post is a warning against working with friends; especially close friends.  Well maybe not a warning, but definitely a caution.

    Here are a few cautions when working with or supervising friends:

    • Sometimes leaders allow the vision to be sacrificed to protect a friend, but that approach is never good for the organization or the friend. Relationships should not get in the way of accomplishing vision.
    • Friendships create a fine line between what is fair for the organization and what is fair for the friend.
    • Close friendships within an organization can sometimes cause others in the organization to feel left out of private conversations or inside jokes, creating tension in the working environment.
    • When a friend is disciplined or fired it can be difficult for the friend who stays with the organization to continue respecting leadership.
    • When a friend is under performing many leaders have a harder time addressing the problem if that worker is a friend.
    • Friends sometimes assume unqualified job security.  Some leaders are afraid to fire a person if that person is a friend, but again that approach is never good for the organization or the friend.  There are times when a friend is no longer a good fit for the position or even for the organization.
    • If a friend no longer is a fit for the organization and is asked to leave, it can become more difficult to maintain the friendship.

    As I said at the start, I love working with friends.  I would not want it any other way.  It is important, however, that friends recognize the risk of working together, knowing that the vision of the organization, at least in the work environment, trumps the friendship.  The bottom line is that doing the best thing for the organization often involves making hard decisions. Leaders should not be held back because of the level of difficulty.

    I realize that even this post will create division among readers. Some readers will say that friendships are more important than the vision, but I would disagree.  If the vision is a worthy goal then the vision is worth protecting and friendships should not get in the way.

    Have you seen close friendships affect the work environment in a negative way?  Would you rather you did or did not work with friends?