How I Backed Into Pastoring My Team
I’d love to say I’m a leadership expert. I wish I could give you 10 amazing leadership truths like John Maxwell or Andy Stanley. I can’t. In fact, looking back at 20 years of leading teams, sometimes I feel like I know almost nothing. So why I am writing this…to say I have nothing to tell you? Not quite. What I found is that I backed into a few things that have worked for me.
A few years back the door for ministry was closing at the church I was at and another had opened at a different church. I remember feeling inadequate for the new job at hand. I remember praying, “God, I have nothing of value to give, so I surrender my hands and feet; do whatever you want.” Consequently, from that prayer a song was born (I Give My All).
At the time, I didn’t know some of the things I would begin to do would become such effective ministry tools for me, but looking back I can see how the Lord used 5 things to help me along.
I so desperately wanted to give something that was not my own, but God’s, that I would arrive at the mid-week rehearsal before the team to pray over the rehearsal. I had been leading worship for probably 15 years by this time and I had never done this before. I would simply pray for God’s Spirit to fill the space, give me the heart and words to encourage my team, help me to love the team members that were difficult to love, and the ability to lead them both musically and spiritually.
I started leading the team in a devotional before every rehearsal. This devotional was one part vision, one part Bible study, and a lot of transparency. We treated it like a small group. Often times, I shared a few minutes on something God was teaching me through my devotions and asked people to comment to start a discussion. Other times I asked someone else to give a devotional. (This is a great opportunity for mentorship.)
After a bit of discussion, we always ended our devotional time praying for each other, our church community, and our time of preparation for leading them in worship. To keep things fresh I tried to switch up the way we prayed. Sometimes I would pray (especially if we were running late), but other times we would split into small groups or go around in a circle letting the team pray for each other. (Again, this is a great opportunity for mentorship and releasing your team into a priestly role.) In addition, there were times when we would spread out around the sanctuary and pray for our community to have breakthrough in our times of corporate worship.
I always made sure to reinforce the idea that everyone on the team is a worship leader — whether you are a vocalist up front or a drummer behind a plexiglass shield. Every member is a leader because every member can either help usher people towards an encounter with God or distract them from an encounter with God.
I reinforced this idea through my words and actions. Every Sunday we met for prayer before each service and I would find different ways to remind the team that we were leading our community in worship together. In addition, instead of having the worship leader sing a solo on the verses and the background vocalists join the leader on the choruses, I always told my teams to sing with the leader on everything (usually unison on the verses and parts on the choruses). I know this is not the popular way to arrange vocals right now, but I believe it reinforces the idea, to both the worship team and the congregation, that there are no spectators in corporate worship. In addition, it reinforces the idea that every member on the team has an important leadership role. In fact, our stage was a semi-circle and each vocalist faced a slightly different section of the sanctuary. There were times I encouraged the vocalists, “The section you’re standing in front of is yours. Lead them in worship.” Other times, I would encourage the musicians with stories of how worshiping with their instruments helped others watching them to press into an encounter with God.
Along the journey with my teams I noticed that bringing them together to laugh and share a meal went a long way toward building a family atmosphere. It all started with a simple Christmas party. We had our first “white elephant” gift exchange that evolved into an annual epic event, which was anticipated all year long. After that first Christmas party I saw the value in coming together as friends and not just musicians to rehearse songs. We started gathering on a quarterly basis. I believe friendships were deepened as we sat around tables eating and sharing our lives with each other.
Empty Your Cup. I learned this lesson from Andy Stanley. I used to find mentorship intimidating, because as I said earlier, I never felt like an “expert.” Then I heard Andy Stanley say something like, “All we’re called to do is empty our cups.” God is not expecting us to take someone from an unfinished rock into a valuable gem on our own. It was ridiculous for me to put that burden on myself. When I realized all I had to do was empty my cup into someone’s life (and then they can move on to the next mentor), I felt a freedom that allowed me to pour out what God had given me to share. As I did, I realized God had imparted things to me that he wanted me to impart to others.
These are just a few of the things I have backed into on my leadership journey. I’m sure God has given you some great insights along your journey too. I’d love to hear about them. Take a moment and share some of the things that have worked for you in the comment box below.
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