November 19, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
So grateful to God and to Worship Leader Magazine for being included in their Best of 2016 issue. Of course it’s an honour to be recognized this way and to know that I was included in 2014 and 2015 as well is really meaningful.
Every year Worship Leader Magazine gathers together the best resources for worship leaders in the areas of songwriting, training, education, technology and also the best blogs.
So many great resources are included and it really is amazing to see worship leaders around the world encouraging and equipping one another through all of these tools. Exciting to think about worship leaders getting better at leading their churches to worship Jesus through these resources.
I’m also thrilled to know that my new worship team Bible study has also been included for the first time as a Best of 2016 training resource. This is a free weekly devotional for worship leaders and the teams you lead that gets delivered direct to your inbox.
I’ve been blown away by the response to this new resource and right now there are worship teams in over 25 countries who are receiving the Worship Team Bible Study every week and using it to prepare themselves, their teams and their churches for worship.
November 2, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
One of the conscious decisions I’ve made as a leader is to choosegratitude. I decided many years ago that as often as possible and in as many ways as possible I’m going to choose to be grateful rather than to grumble. I’m going to choose the attitude that sees the opportunity rather than the cynicism that says there is no hope.
As a leader I understand that I can choose – gratitude or grumbling. And I’ve chosen gratitude.
Remember, leaders are only leaders if there are followers. If you look behind you and nobody is following, you’re just out for a nice walk.. which sounds lovely every now and then. But if you’ve got people following you, guess what! They’re choosing their attitude too. And how you model your outlook in difficult circumstances as a leader gets translated to the people who are following you. That’s what happens with leaders.
So are you choosing gratitude or grumbling? Are the people who follow you expressing gratefulness or spewing cynicism?
Every day I pray a pastoral prayer over my life, over my church, over the staff I work with, over the teams we lead and over the ministry we carry out. Part of that prayer is from Colossians 3 and has this simple three word phrase: “And be thankful.”
And be thankful.
God’s word in this moment highlights a choice I get to make. Am I going to choose gratitude or grumbling? Am I going to choose to be thankful or to be cynical? Is gratitude the reality I’m going to express in my leadership and to those around me or am I going to grumble?
Gratitude is much more than just walking around with blinders on and pretending everything is hunky dory and there are no issues in the world. It’s more than an unwillingness to criticize or to work at fixing stuff. So much more. Gratitude is a decision to see the best in people, to believe the best in every situation and to realize that how we carry ourselves impacts the people around us.
Do I always get it right? Oh sweet Jesus, no. Just ask my wife and kids. Ask the people I work with and the people I lead. I do my fair share of grumbling.. but that’s because I’m still making the choice to be grateful and hopefully over time if I want to grumble it’s because I have to choose to grumble. I always want to choose gratitude.
What does gratitude do?
Gratitude shapes my heart
Don’t discount this reality. I’m not talking here about “speak it into existence” kind of faith or positive self-talk I’m simply speaking about the reality that my choice to be grateful impacts how I feel in certain situations.
Sunday morning call time for our team is 6:30. In the morning. Every week. Oh man, that’s early. So I have a choice to make. I can walk through the doors sleepy-eyed and grumbling and focusing on how warm my bed would be right now OR I can choose to be grateful for the opportunity to show up early to prepare myself and our worship team, prepare our sanctuary as the people come, prepare our worship service to serve our church.
Do I have to show up at 6:30 or do I get to show up at 6:30? Get to is all about gratitude.
Gratitude shifts the environment
Leaders.. you do so much more than just recruit people, schedule teams, coach people along and be the face of the thing. Your emotional reality is also part of your leadership and communicates to the people you are working with how they should handle themselves. You know this instinctively about the other leaders you work with but we’re not always as aware about this in our own lives.
Choosing gratitude and expressing it speaks life and value to the people around us and before you know it you’ll starting hearing back from people this same choice to be grateful. And then you’ll realize that your own decisions have helped to shift the environment around you and how people respond in their own situations.
Gratitude shows my commitment
Saying get to instead of have to shows my commitment on so many levels – to the church we get to serve, to the worship teams I get to lead, to the other staff I get to work alongside, to the mission and vision of our church that I get to be a part of, to Jesus himself who I get to worship.
As a leader, hearing get to from people on our teams is one of the clearest signs to me that their heart is in the right place and the kind of character we are looking to develop is present in their lives.
What about you? Is it tough to choose gratitude? Can you think of one opportunity today that you will have the chance to say get to instead of have to?
October 21, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
One of the myths about artists is that they thrive, find meaning and create their best work when they’re allowed to run free without any guardrails, any limitations or any restrictions on the how or what.
Artists are sometimes perceived as stubborn or hard-headed when it comes to executing their vision for a creative project instead of working within the limitations or guardrails given to them by the ones who are leading the project or responsible for the outcome.
Whether this behaviour is real or not, the perception that artists behave this way is one reason artists are often not invited to the table when it comes to project planning, brainstorming or even implementation. The assumption that artists will have a “don’t box me in!” attitude means they lose the opportunity – not only to be involved in the creative process of doing great work but they also miss the chance to be invited in on the discussion.
Now just because there’s an assumption out there about artists, this doesn’t mean the stereotype is true but both leaders and the artists they lead need to understand that working within limitations or guardrails will actually help artists create their best work.
Think of it this way. The work we are doing as a church is a highway. We’re headed in a specific direction and leaders should have a clear destination in mind. Artists want to be part of the journey but you can’t drive the car on whatever side of the road you want, you can’t go off-roading, you can’t just stop in the fast lane. You’ve got guardrails to keep you headed in the right direction and to give you limitations on where you can go.
These guardrails can exist within creative leadership to give you better creative work, help artists thrive and ultimately help move the mission and vision of your church forward.
Remember, everyone works within limitations. Within the church we all have someone we report to – artists might be serving under a worship pastor, that worship pastor could be serving under a lead pastor or executive pastor, that senior leader could be responsible to a board of elders and ultimately those elders are responsible to Jesus. As Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan sings, you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Even Jesus, fully God and fully human served the Father and worked within the limitations of his full humanity:
“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” John 6:37-38
“For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” Luke 22:27
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8
The example here from Jesus and the Father is submission – God the Father anoints and sends out God the Son to do the work of the Father through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus submits himself to the work of the Father and serves the mission set before him through submission, obedience, humility and sacrifice.
Quite the example for both artists and the ones who lead them!
The truth is that the best creative work is always done within the context of limitations. Those could be financial limitations, time limitations, material limitations or more creative limitations like media, colour palette, physical size for a physical art project or length of time for creative work like music or video.
Clarity with limitations, ironically, is what allows artists to truly thrive because artists are by nature creative and by definition creativity is what is needed to come up with a new solution within a set of limitations. Artists have been coming up with creative solutions their whole lives! So leaders, invite them into your conversations and let them know clearly the limitations and see them thrive.
Now, of course, artists who are only ever asked to participate in creative work with rigid limitations and no room for colouring outside the lines will not stay engaged and interested for very long in the work you are asking them to do. The creative leadership moment comes when you are able to invite and engage artists in a range of projects which have sets of guardrails which are more or less narrow.
Here’s an example from my context. We have some amazing visual artists in our church and here are two projects we invited them to be a part of:
Project #1 Take this 12″x16″ canvas, these acrylic paints in these metallic colours and paint a visual representation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual. The paint should keep colours separate and not blend or overlap too match to show the distinctive relationship between the Spirit and the person.
Project #2 Using Hebrews 11:1 as an inspiration, create something that can hang in a space in our lobby which is 3′ wide, 10′ tall. The final product, colours used and how it portrays the meaning of this verse is up to you as the artist.
Those are two examples of projects with very different guardrails. The guardrails on the first are very narrow – we are asking the artist to create something specific of a specific size, specific medium, specific colours and specific style. The guardrails on the second are very broad – we are clear on inspiration but the final representation is up the individual artist.
The truth is that neither project is more or less creative than the other. Neither project is more or less honouring to the individual artist. Neither project is more or less valuable for the sake of the kingdom, the mission of Jesus or the work of our church.
Leaders, you have a responsibility and an opportunity to invite artists to the table while clearly setting out expectations, limitations and guardrails for your artists. Watch them thrive!
Artists, you have a responsibility to see your art as a way to serve Jesus, your leaders and your church. Honour the limitations and guardrails and do your best work within them. Let your art and your obedience point people to Jesus!
There are some great sessions for a ton of different areas of ministry but it can be confusing to figure out the schedule because the sessions are originating from all over the world. Many cities, many time zones, too much for my brain to figure out.
My brain trying to figure out multiple global time zones
So I took all of the event info and put it in a Google Calendar with all the sessions adjusted to eastern time. Here’s the iCal feed for that Google Calendar:
September 2, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
All Sons & Daughters are back with their new album Poets and Saints and thanks to our friends at Integrity Music and David C Cook I’ve got a free download available for you this week. Completely free, no strings attached – an mp3 and chord chart of “Creation Sings” by All Sons & Daughters from their Poets and Saints album.
August 26, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
Pastors – I know you want your worship leaders and worship teams to spend more time in Bible study. Worship leaders – I know you have a hard time finding resources for worship team Bible study. We all know worship team Bible study is vital to our ministry but it can be one of those things which become low priority over time.
I get it.
So I’ve created a new worship team Bible study resource called 52 Sundays. Here’s the concept:
Sign up for free and get a weekly worship team Bible study delivered straight to your inbox every Monday morning for a year. That’s it.
Every week you’ll receive an email devotional direct to your inbox – a passage of scripture, a short reflection around worship, a couple of response questions you can ask your team and then a closing prayer.
The idea with this is to make it work for you. Use it just how I’ve written it or make some adjustments based on what’s best for your team. I’ve designed these so you can go through it with your team in about 10-15 minutes as part of your rehearsal as you prepare to lead your church in worship.
This is a total new idea for me and something I really believe people are going to find valuable. Would you share this with pastors and worship leaders who may also be interested in receiving it? That would be amazing!
August 12, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
One of the spiritual responsibilities of the worship leader is to invest time and passion into relentless prayer for the work of God in your church and your community. These worship leader prayers are the opportunity to go ahead of your team, your pastor, your congregation and plead with the God of the universe that He would do the things He promises to do. What an incredible privilege!
Worship leader prayers are an expression of our praying without ceasing. There is an inexhaustible list of what we could pray for but let me give you a few worship leader prayers you could be praying daily or weekly, relentlessly as you prepare to lead your church in worship.
Pray for God’s glory
“May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,
when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great.” Psalm 138:4-5
Pray for Jesus to be exalted over all
“Therefore God exalted Jesus to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
Pray for your pastor
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:7
Pray for people to meet Jesus
“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:28-29
June 20, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
Over the last 20 years as a worship leader I’ve had the opportunity to lead and serve alongside some incredible artists. I’ve played music beside some of (I’m convinced!) the most talented people God has ever created. I’ve seen painters, video producers, photographers, singers, poets and graphic artists put their amazing artistic talent on display in a way that led to some jaw-dropping moments – for the glory of Jesus and for the sake of his kingdom.
I’ve also come across artists and leaders-of-artists who have squandered their opportunity, squashed inspiration and frustrated creativity – stop me if you’ve heard this before!
So whether you’re an artist in the church or one who leads artists in the church I do believe there are some principles we can agree on which can result in powerful, Jesus-exalting, God-honouring works of art which are created in an environment of Christian discipleship, healthy boundaries and visionary leadership.
And like most things you’ll read on leadership, please don’t consider me a faultless expert on this. There’s no way I get this right all the time but think of these principles as the lighthouses by which we’re being guided. These are the principles I’m trying to put in place for the dozens of talented, trail-blazing, Jesus-loving artists I’m leading in my current role.
So with the hope that these principles may lead you to your own lighthouses, let me offer to you three principles for leading artists effectively:
The Principle of Priority
Artists will produce their best work when they feel their work and creativity is a priority for you, your event or your organization. When art is treated as more than decoration artists will respond with creativity and passion.
Conversely, artists must understand that their own creative work and artistic freedom are not the first priority of the leader, the event or the organization. We all serve somebody and artists and leaders are called to serve one another as a demonstration of submission to Jesus.
The Principle of Purpose
Leaders who can include artists in conversation around purpose will find the emotional, relational and artistic results will far outweigh what would come as a result from artists being given a simple work order or a request for delivery.
Again, artists who serve leaders in achieving the purpose and vision they are working toward will gain the trust and assurance from leaders which will result in more opportunity and more freedom in the future.
The Principle of Pressure
Artists perform well with a deadline but they don’t perform well under pressure. Leaders who can give artists a long runway (especially for prioritized, purposeful projects!) with multiple stages and deadlines will get the most creative work from artists every time. Leaders need to learn how to manage the pressure they’re putting on artists so that the end result is great art and a great relationship.
Artists who can learn to identify the difference processing and procrastination will understand that their best work happens through refinement and iteration. Our first draft is rarely our best and so we need to break artistic projects into multiple stages where we can give time for our best work to develop.
At the end of the day the heart of the issue is respect for and from artists and leaders. As we serve each other we demonstrate first our submission to Jesus and we show the world that the gospel really, truly is good news for every person.
April 10, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
I’ve never been accused of caring too much for fashion and I promise you won’t find me browsing the mall on a Saturday afternoon. (Seriously – can someone figure out how to help old dudes get decent clothes so they don’t look stupid?? That’s all we want.)
Although worship leaders are sometimes guilty of caring too much about their look I want to share with you four “looks” to help with your perspective on a Monday morning. Regardless of what your weekend was like and how things went with your church on Sunday, these are four really helpful looks to have on Monday morning.
Because who we are and what we do flow out of who God is and what He has done we need to begin our week with our eyes lifted up to be reminded of the grace, mercy and love of God. God’s love for you doesn’t depend on how you do your work and it’s in fact the complete opposite. Because of the work of God in our lives we can now do the most effective work.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
At the start of your week, look up and be reminded that everything we are and everything we do flows out of what God has done for us and how He helps us accomplish the things He’s called us to.
Where are you right now? What is it God has called you to do today? Where are you planted and how can you thrive in the place where He’s put you? At the start of the week get an honest reminder of the situation you’re in and the role you play.
Psalm 1:3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Are you able to recognize what is unique about the place and the season you are in right now? Are you aware of how God is using you – you! – to be part of seeing His kingdom come? Look down and be reminded where you are and what you are called to do.
If Monday if your first day back at work (some of you will have Monday off and Tuesday is the start of your week) take some time to look back on what happened at your church this weekend. How did it go? Was Jesus the focus of your worship service? Did people sing to celebrate who Jesus is and what He has done?
One of my favourite encouragements when it comes to debriefing and getting better is that there are two ways to get 100% improvement – you can make a few big changes or you can make many small changes. My perspective is that if we can consistently make 2% improvements over the course of a year we’ll be 100% better one year from now without really having had to make big changes.
As you look back are there some aspects to your services that could benefit from a small 2% improvement?
The best and worst part of a worship leader’s job is that Sunday is always coming. Whether Sunday was great or not so much you’ve always got another opportunity this coming Sunday as your church gathers together to celebrate Jesus. Monday is a great time to look forward to what will be happening in your church this weekend to be praying and dreaming about what God will do when you gather again.
Take a change to and look forward beyond Sunday. What’s the next big event on the calendar? What’s coming up that might need some extra attention? Even in April are there some things you can be dreaming about for Christmas or maybe even next Easter? Never let a moment of inspiration go wasted simply because you didn’t take the opportunity to look forward.
April 8, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here
Back in 2014 I did a huge post where I gathered up all of my favourite best apps for worship leaders on iPhone and iPad and shared them to help worship leaders do their job better. I even put it all together as a free downloadable ebook which people have definitely used!
It’s hard to imagine what we’re able to do with these small devices in the palm of our hand but at the same time there are so many apps out there how do you even begin to find the best ones??
A couple years later the app landscape has changed – more apps, more powerful devices, more ways for technology to help us do our jobs better so I thought I’d go back and update the whole list. I’ve compiled my new Best Apps for Worship Leaders: 2016 Edition with updates, additions and some removals of apps that either aren’t available or have been surpassed by other, better apps.
Once again I’m making this available totally free a downloadable ebook. It’s available below through the signup box and will arrive right away in your inbox: