How to Be Successful in Your First 90 Days on Church Staff

Joining a church leadership can be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. Whether you’re joining as a paid staff member or an unpaid, volunteer staff member, there are a few things to keep in mind as you get started in the first 90 days.

1. Don’t Make Drastic Changes90 days
During your first 90 days, it should not be your goal to make huge changes in the ministry you are leading. (i.e. “firing” the entire worship team) Fast changes can impact ministries in negative ways and hurt people unintentionally. Take things slow. Think long-term.

2. Listen to Your Volunteers
A great goal during your first 90 days is to meet every volunteer in your ministry on a one-on-one basis. So much of ministry is about relationships. Make it your priority to build relationships and get to know those already on your team. Listen to their concerns and ideas. If you can take the volunteers out to coffee one-on-one during your first few months, it is an investment worthwhile.

3. Pray for Your Church
This is an obvious one, but in our excitement as we get started in our new role, it’s easy to forget to pray for those you are serving with and ministering to. Ask your volunteers, when you meet with them, how you can pray for them. We can never lose by praying for God’s church and His people.

4. Receive Feedback From Your Pastor (or Supervisor)
If you have the opportunity to receive feedback on your “job performance” on a regular basis from your pastor or supervisor, it will help you have longevity in your role. For example, if you’re a worship leader, it would be extremely beneficial if you and your pastor sat down on a Monday or Tuesday to review the past weekend services. It will ensure that what you are doing lines up with the pastor’s vision and will help you continue to improve.

5. Be a Team Player
Even if you are leading one specific ministry of the church, be willing and available to help in other areas. Churches are looking for team players, not lone rangers.

These are just a few things that will help you be successful in your first 90 days on staff at a church. What other things have you found helpful in your experience? Share in the comments below:

-Mark Logan

Conference Season = Worship Hustling

If you’ve been to any worship conferences in the past 10 years, you’ve seen this scenario: Paul Baloche teaching a packed-out workshop. Workshop is over and…he has a long line of 20+ people waiting to talk to him. Half of them have a CD in their hand.

What is that CD? It’s probably a demo of their music that they want “discovered”. Many worship leaders seem to attend worship conferences with a box of their demo CD’s, with hopes that they will hand one to a well-known worship artist, like Paul, and be contacted by a record label the next week with an offer of a record deal.

Conference Season Worship Hustling.jpg

Is it a sin to take demos to worship conferences? No.

Is it strange to wait in line for 20 minutes so that you can hand your demo to Paul Baloche? Well…maybe.

In the world of “Christian celebrities” that we live in, it is no surprise that many worship leaders these days have the secret (and oftentimes not-so-secret) desire to become a “celebrity worship artist”. They see the itinerant worship leader lifestyle as glamorous. In their church office, after reading an email from a church member complaining about how loud the drums were on Sunday, the worship leader might daydream about being in a professional studio, working on their worship album, with producer, Ed Cash.

Many worship leaders have become hustlers at these worship conferences, so I have a new term for them: worship hustlers. The workshops are great, but these worship hustlers are distracted because they are anxious to get their demo into the hands of the workshop speaker.

Having many friends who are worship artists and music industry leaders that speak at these conferences, I know how often they get approached by worship leaders asking them to check out their music. I personally don’t know anyone who got a record deal (or even a song cut) from doing such a thing. I’m sure there are a few folks out there, but they are few and far between.

So, if you are reading this and you are a worship hustler, I want to challenge you with a few things as you attend a worship conference this Summer/Fall:

1. Make it your primary objective to learn and grow as a worship leader. Make it worth your church’s money (if they are paying for you to attend) and your time. Attend as many sessions and workshops as possible. Take TONS of notes. Glean from those who have been doing it a lot longer than you have.

2. Meet other attendees. I am often shocked when I talk to a worship leader who just attended a worship conference with a thousand people in attendance and they came back not having made one connection with another attendee. Don’t be anti-social (or a social media addict glued to your phone every time you’re waiting for a session to start). Get off your phone and introduce yourself to the people next to you.

3. Die to whatever dream you have of becoming the next big worship artist or getting a record deal with Integrity Music, etc. Don’t let your personal dreams distract you from giving your 110% to the ministry God has called you to at your local church. When you’re at the conference, look for ways to serve others, ways to take what you’ve learned back to your church, and ways to become more effective as a worship leader at your church.

4. Leave your demos at home. I believe in networking. I do a ton of that myself. However, if your secret desire to become the next Chris Tomlin is causing you to just use people as stepping stones to achieve your dream, you need to stop it. Don’t take your demo to the conference. Don’t wait in line to give your demo to Paul. Instead, wait in line to tell him how much you appreciate what he shared in his workshop and how his ministry is making an impact in your local church.

Now, I am not saying it is wrong to hand your demo to people at a conference. My point is: don’t let that become your false idol. Pray about it and if you really sense God telling you to go hand Paul your demo, do it.

But, in the meantime, be content and satisfied serving in the local church that God has put you in. When your life is over, God is not going to ask you, “How many people heard your songs on the radio?” “How many people knew your music?”

God has a purpose and a calling on your life. It is possible that your calling is being an itinerant worship artist, but don’t try to force it to happen. Be patient. Wait on The Lord. God wants to use you where you’re planted.

As you attend a worship conference this year, enjoy it. Meet fellow worship leaders who are in the trenches just like you. Keep your phone in your pocket in between sessions and focus on the people that are right there next to you.

-Wisdom Moon
A special thanks to Wisdom Moon, our guest blogger. Wisdom is the Founder of AllAboutWorship.com – a resource that exists to equip, encourage, and inspire worship leaders and songwriters

Turn WorshipPlanning.com into a Desktop App

The below is a great post by one of our awesome users – Chad Smith!
Chad is Worship & Media Pastor of Bethany Church, a multi-site church with 4 campuses in Northern NJ. You can find out more about them at www.bethanychurch.tv and www.facebook.com/BethanyRecords

If your worship ministry is anything like mine, you spend a great deal of time on WorshipPlanning.com. With multiple campuses, teams, & services it seems I’m visiting WP dozens of times a day for various reasons. It’s not hard to imagine that for many of us, it stays open as a tab in our browser pretty much all day long.

But with several open tabs, covering several sites, and needing to access the site so often, WP can sometimes get lost in the browser white-noise. Further, with features that work more like an app than a website, it would be great if the features of WP could be accessed like a stand alone app.

That’s where Fluid comes in (Mac OSX only). Fluid allows you take WorshipPlanning.com )or any other web application) and essentially turn it into a native desktop app.

Here’s how easy: Enter the site URL (www.worshipplanning.com), give it a name, and finally give it THIS WP icon. Click “Create” and, faster than Chris Tomlin can sing a high G, you’re done.

Using Fluid to create a WP app

You can place the new WorshipPlanning app in the dock and it’s ready at hand when ever you need it. No more sifting through browser windows, tabs or even separate desktop screens.

One benefit I didn’t expect: I use WP on my laptop a great deal and with the limited screen real estate, I cherish every pixel I can give to my apps. WP running as a Fluid app gives me back all of the browser toolbar real estate I don’t need for WP so I see more names, services, etc in my templates or in my workflow than as a web app within the browser.

WINDOWS users: I’m told you can use Google’s Chrome to do the same (But I have no way to verify this…let us know in the comments!). Here’s how: with WorshipPlanning.com open in Chrome, click the Wrench or Settings at top right of the browser window, then Tools->Create application shortcuts… (NOTE: This feature seems to be missing from the OSX version of Chrome).

Huge thanks to Chad for writing this helpful “tips & tricks” instruction post!!

New Version 4.3 – File Access Reports and Remembering Notification Messages

WorshipPlanning.com Logo v4.3.0

This version of WP brought a couple of features that will not only save you time with your scheduling process, but it will also help you get an idea who is coming to rehearsal prepared!

File Access Reporting

WP is now keeping track of who is accessing files you have uploaded.  This is important for two main reasons:

CCLI Rehearsal License Reporting

If you have a CCLI Rehearsal License, you are required to report the number of unique accesses (stream or download) of song files covered under the license.  To make this super easy, we’ve created a page that allows you to easily see download counts, per song, for a specific time period.

CCLI Rehearsal License Reporting Screenshot

This can be accessed from the Library >> Files Library menu option.  Click on the File Access Reports sub tab and select your date!

General File Access Reporting

The other File Access Report we created, called the “General File Access” view, will list all the files accessed, including the user that accessed it, the date/time of the access, and how they accessed.  You can even filter the search for results by time period, user, related song, and file name.  It’s a great way to slice-and-dice the data to see who has accessed what!

Song File Access Reporting

And finally, we put the File Access Report info on the Song Details window.  So, if you really want to know which members of your worship team have streamed or downloaded the important files in preparation for rehearsal, you can easily see this by clicking on the song title in the worship flow (or anywhere in the site), then clicking on the File Access tab.

File Access Tab

File reports are only visible to Planners with security level 1 (worship editors) or higher.

Remembering Text from Assignment Emails

Several weeks ago, we added a “previously sent messages” selection field for sending messages to people from the Worship Flow page.  With version 4.3.0, we added that same capability on the People Schedule page.  We know that many people have been using Notepad or other text editors to copy/paste standard messages they send to various teams.  With this feature, you can keep Notepad closed and just select your previously sent message!

Previously Sent Messages from Schedule Page Screenshot

You Are A Theologian

In spiritual circles, few people are seen as intimidating as often as theologians. Theologians are scholars. Studied. Educated. Cultured. And they wear old-school glasses, vests and wool sweaters as they sit in an aged leather wingback chair in front of a stately, oversized bookcase in a home library with loaded oak bookshelves lining all of the walls, all the way up to the ceiling. (Whew . . . that was a mouthful!) Okay, maybe not all of them, but we like to think they do. The point is, when we hear the word “theologian” often we get an image in our minds that, at least in some way, represents the description above.

So what if I told you that YOU are a theologian?

bible

Well, if you’re a worship leader and/or worship songwriter, you are! Sure, perhaps you aren’t necessarily discovering any brand-spankin’ new theology. But, you are writing and/or choosing worship songs that speak a theological truth. You are communicating theology to your local church. This is why one of the most important things you do as a worship leader is pick out the songs for the weekend setlist.

Sure, key changes, arrangements, transitions, dynamics and flow are all important parts of what we do as worship leaders, but none of those things matter if we aren’t singing truths in our churches. It is widely known that ideas and messages are retained better in our brains when presented in song than by spoken word (a sermon). This is because our brains interact with music differently, thereby establishing a stronger retention of what we heard/sang. Why is this important?

It’s sad to say this, but most people don’t remember the sermon they heard last week or this morning, in some cases. Now sure, these days we have recorded sermons, sermon notes, etc. All of these allow us to go back and go through the messages again. However, overall there is a limited shelf life on the specific messages that are preached every week (hopefully the themes and lessons are learned and continue on!).

With music, however, things stick around a bit longer, including the lyrics of the songs themselves. These lyrics are a biblical message, just like your pastor’s sermon. The only difference is that yours is set to a music, may have some repetition, and may be more like 4 to 5 mini-sermons during a typical worship set. This is a big deal!

Why? Because what you sing in your worship times is going to stick in people’s hearts and minds longer than the sermon does. Therefore, it’s imperative that we sing songs that contain solid theology.

We basically have three options with the songs we sing at  church:

1. Lyrics that present false, inaccurate theology.
2. Lyrics that aren’t false, but are theologically weak and don’t really say anything.
3. Lyrics that present a solid biblical truth with rich theology.

PLEASE stay away from songs in category one. As for category two, there is nothing wrong with this category necessarily, but there are too many songs that fit this mold.

I challenge you to shoot for the third category of songs. Pick songs that are not only correct, but really drive home messages that your congregation needs to hear. One helpful way that I’ve found to pick more songs in category three is not just listening to the song on the CD (with the fancy production), but taking the time to sit down and read the lyrics without the music.

This is no easy task, but it’s vital! You are a theologian. A musical theologian. Don’t take that responsibility lightly. Invest the time into being intentional about the words that your congregation sings each week.

-Mark Logan

Worship Leader, Are You for the Church?

“Generation after generation stands in awe of Your work;

each one tells stories of Your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4 (The Message)

Worship leaders generally struggle with the style of worship. Choice of music. Expectations of the congregation. There is, however, an unhealthy reliance on these ideas.  I recently heard a woman say that we focus too much on whether or not the church fits our needs. But the true question is: are we for the church?

generations

As a worship leader, it is often difficult to find songs that fit the style of worship, or the congregation sitting in the pews. There are cases in which a dying or struggling church needs a change, but if that is not the case, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. What generation(s) participate(s) in your congregation?

  2. What song choice would fit all of these generations?

It is difficult to handle the multi-generational aspect of church. While it is biblical, there is such a thing as casting too wide of a net, which risks the quality of the music.

Some tips:

  1. Use one band/ leader; two at the most. There could also be a choir and an ensemble, but it could be a good idea to present these every now and then. This way, the multi-generation aspect is still revered, but doesn’t seem forced.

  2. Hymns: hymns are respected by all generations (even college students).

  3. The book of Revelation tells us that we will use old and new songs (Rev.15:2-3; 5:9). You should use songs that are fast-paced, but easy to sing along with. You can introduce the fast songs during special music or over the speakers as people are entering/leaving the sanctuary. Also, use songs that are reflective and high quality (Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, etc).

  4. Slowly introduce new songs, so the congregation (especially older generations) can grow comfortable with the song choice.

  5. Read the congregation. Look into their eyes! – We shouldn’t rely on the music aspect of worship too heavily, but the ability to read the congregation makes for a worship leader who is doing their job.

  6. Model authentic, transparent worship. I have found that this can knock down barriers that may come with a difficulty to connect with the music. It brings everyone together, fixing their eyes on Jesus rather than each other (or even the worship leader).

A worship leader’s job is to direct the congregation to the Almighty Savior. They are our flock, too. The question is not how can the congregation fit my needs. The question is: am I serving the congregation, or serving myself?

Kelly Puckett

Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Rock Concert Lighting in Church

These days, if you pay attention to forums or blogs, or anything similar, having to do with modern worship tech, you’ve heard a lot about advancements in lighting tech.  This stuff is cool.  Very cool, actually, when done correctly.  Can lights.  Spotlights.  Laser lights.  All kinds of lights.  We, as the modern church, are quite lucky to have such cool rigging and lighting available to us, as well as awesome technology with which to control all these wonderful lights.  It’d be a shame to not utilize this for our worship services.  BUT . . . we have to be careful.

concert lights

Many point out the trend in many churches that appear to indicate a movement towards “rock concert” more than “church service.”  Now, this is NOT meant to turn into a debate or opinion piece on styles of worship, denominational practices, or even “seeker-friendly” churches.  What I am more specifically looking at here is this: Where is the attention drawn?  Are there distractions?

You see, we can overdo anything.  We can overdo singing.  We can overdo pushing for the offering.  We can overdo being “dramatic” in our preaching.  We can overdo instrumentation (seriously, who needs 7 different guitars on stage during a worship set?).  And yes, we can overdo lighting.

At a rock concert, the lighting is meant to be part of the show. It’s meant to make you think the band is even more cool than you already think they are.  And THAT is the distinction.  In a worship service, what is your lighting scheme doing?  Is it drawing attention to the band?  Is it simply adding a “cool factor?”  Or is it intentional, with the purpose of bringing these worship songs and lyrics even more to life?  Do the lights help to draw people’s attention to Christ even more?  Using our sense of sight is a powerful thing, and can absolutely impact the atmosphere of worship.

As an example, let’s look at “Nothing But the Blood.”  This song is timeless, and powerful, and true.  It stands perfectly well on its own.  I can remember two specific times when we sang this hymn at conferences with very sophisticated lighting schemes.

One place had rapidly moving laser lights, big washes, and bright spots in random locations.  It was very, very cool.  And it was very, very distracting.  Even with my eyes closed, I could see the lights darting to and fro through my eyelids.  At a different conference, there were no dancing laser lights (at least not during this song).  All there was, primarily, was a massive wash of red lights all over the stage.  A sea of red.  And during this song about the blood of Jesus shed for our sins, seeing this wash of red visually enhanced this time of worship.  Not only was I singing about the blood, but I was visualizing the blood of Christ washing over everything.  It was very simple, but it was extremely impactful.

This is what I am talking about.  Laser lights are not a bad thing.  And they can be used very effectively in worship.  The key is this – what is your light “show” accomplishing?  Is it just something cool to add into your church’s “What to Expect” section of your website?  Or are you intentionally utilizing (and not utilizing, when appropriate) this technology to enhance the atmosphere of worship in your church?  Are you using it to make the messages of our praise even more real to your congregation?  In the end, are you using lights to point to The Light?

-Mark Logan

A capella Life in a High Arrangement World

A dynamic drumbeat.  Fat, full bass.  Screaming electric guitars.  Soaring vocals.  Expansive effects boards.  MIDI players.  Three or more part harmonies.  Synthesizers.  Keytars (if you’re super cool).  Tambourines.  Trash cans.  All of these are typical must-haves for all churches today (right???).  singing

Ok, maybe not all of these things, and of course, not all churches . . . . But, for the most part, depending on the specific church tradition and setup, we (worship leaders) work hard with their teams to have what we perceive as “high quality” and “dynamic” times of musical worship.  We look for full arrangements and a lot of dynamics.  We want there to be a consistent movement and build from intro, to first verse, to first chorus, to second verse, to second chorus, to bridge, and so on.  And, none of that is wrong.

In fact, I think it’s great.  Music is proven to have an impact on human beings.  It stirs.  It moves.  It draws us in.  And, hopefully, when it comes to worship, it helps us amplify the praise we are lifting.  “Dynamic worship” is definitely a buzzword, and is often both scoffed at and criticized in many circles.  But, regardless of personal taste, it makes perfect sense to do our best to have creative arrangements and utilize this tool of music to the best of our ability when leading God’s people in praise.  You know what else makes perfect sense?  Throwing it all out the window.

Say what?  Didn’t see that coming, did you?  Now, this post is not necessarily about full a capella worship services, although those certainly are valid and are wonderful.  I wanted to take this time to merely point out where some a capella moments could be useful in a worship service.  Primarily, I’ll look at two good uses/reasons to incorporate some a capella into your worship services.

First, have you ever struggled with a transition between two songs in different keys? Sometimes you can work out a nice walk or transitional chord sequence. Sometimes you may just force a hard ending on the first song because you’re not quite sure what to do. Other times, you may have actually thrown a song out because the transition wasn’t working right (even though you may have been led by the Spirit to do that song?).

Transitions can be difficult and sometimes even more so for others. I propose that a great solution is to incorporate some a capella singing as your transition. At the end of the first song, bring it down (or keep it up, whatever works) and let the voices ring out – alone. Drop all the instrumentation and take the congregation through the chorus again (or whatever part is fitting). Dropping the instrumentation, followed by perhaps a nice open moment or two at the very end, allows you to go into the next song pretty easily, even if it is in a different key. It also provides another cool benefit . . .

Have you ever really heard a group of voices singing praise to God? I mean really heard it? Not just a crowd singing with a band. Not even a congregation singing along with your band. But I mean, really, really heard a group of people, with no instrumentation, lifting up worship to the Lord? It’s amazing! It’s pure. It’s passionate. There is just something about hearing that sound that is so fulfilling and wonderful.

As a worship leader, there is absolutely nothing better than hearing the people of God worshipping their Creator. And, it’s cool for those in the congregation too! There is something to be said of the benefit of corporate edification. It’s uplifting to know you are in the midst of a group of people, joining in with them in singing praise to the Lord.  It’s a powerful, wonderful thing.

Now, I am not suggesting that we give up working on transitions. A great transition is super cool and can certainly add some great energy to a song change. It’s very easy to overuse the a capella approach.  But, it’s also possible to underuse it.

It’s a great tool that provides both a practical function and a great opportunity for the people to lift up their voices in unison, unhindered by rhythms, guitar solos, or high Dbs. In a world of big time arrangements (which are super cool), it’s good to strip it down every now and then and let the people worship loudly and clearly. After all, our voices are the instruments that God built into us – let’s let them shine through every now and then!  (Yeah, I know that’s a bit cheesy, but you get the idea.)

-Mark Logan

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