Qualities to Look for in a Worship Leader

I believe that an essential, but often difficult, aspect of successful worship ministry is to “get out there” and see what’s happening outside our own church. It’s essential because we often risk getting too insular or tunnel-visioned ministering week-in, week-out at our own church without seeing the bigger picture of what God is doing in churches around us. It’s difficult because worship ministry is intense and demanding. Even with the best of intentions, worship leaders often don’t get much time to visit other churches and ministries (unless they are on holidays!).

Which is why I love what Ps Michael Battersby is doing with Metroworship Academy (MWA) – a space in our city for worship leaders in our city to gather together and learn together, all centred around the subject we love to study best – worship!

Yesterday, Dave Wong and I had the honour of facilitating one of the electives at MWA’s Worship Leaders’ Summer School.

Besides having the opportunity to impart the wisdom gleaned from our own ministry, it was great just to meet and network with other like-minded ministers in our city. Sometimes, even though you might think you are experienced, there’s always something new you can learn from others, a new perspective to glean, or even a tried and true principle that simply needs refreshing.

Metroworship Zac

Zac Gageler, Riverview Church’s worship pastor, gave the keynote address. He shared on some characteristics he looks for in his worship leaders. They were gold and I thought it’d be good to share them here, especially for those who didn’t get to attend the session.

Character 

  • Positive attitude
  • Committed
  • Dependable
  • Servant’s heart
  • Bold in their faith
  • Loves people
  • Humility
  • Teachable
  • Authentic
  • Student of God’s word
  • Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Competence

  • Strong vocal ability
  • 360 degree leadership (i.e. able to lead both the team and the congregation)
  • Attractional
  • Able to read a room
  • Responsiveness to the Holy Spirit
  • Able to lead without singing

Culture and Chemistry

  • An encourager of people
  • Able to release the gifts of others
  • Clear communicator
  • High level of emotional intelligence
  • Seeks and gives feedback

Essentially, what Zac was describing was really all the characteristics of a good, well-rounded leader. That sort of person is often hard to come by. If I measured myself against that list, I would have some glaring shortfalls. But I think the point is that, even if you’re not there yet (or the people you are working with aren’t there yet), we must be moving in the right direction towards developing those traits.

What other traits do you see are essential in your worship leaders?

The Metroworship Academy Summer School for Worship Leaders // 16 January 2016

Happy New Year friends.

Things had gotten a bit busy towards the end of the last year and it meant I didn’t end up writing as much as I would have liked.

I’ve just returned from holidays and I’ve just spent the last couple of days tidying up around the house, so everything is neat and orderly for the coming year. Why would I do such a thing? Because (whether it makes a difference or not) psychologically I feel that a neat and orderly environment gives you the best platform for success.

The same principle applies in ministry. When you start the year, you want to lay down the vision for your team; set out some strategies and goals; and make sure you have good procedures in place.

With this in mind, I want to invite worship leaders in Perth to kickstart their year at Metroworship Academy’s Summer School for Worship Leaders, happening next Saturday 16 January 2016.

As an alumni, I gained much from the tailor-made modules for those in worship ministry, but also from networking with like-minded, passionate worship ministers across our city.

The Summer School is a great appetiser for those who are looking to enrol in the full course.

But it will also be a great opportunity for those involved in worship ministry to learn from other leaders in the city and to see what others are doing in their churches. Being a worship leader in your church can often be a daunting task. I have personally found it helpful to get support from other worship leaders from other churches; to glean ideas from them; and just to have someone else from outside your church to be a listening ear.

The keynote speaker for the Summer School is Zac Gageler from Riverview. Dave Wong and I will also be leading an elective session on “Working with Your Senior Pastor”.

For more details and to register, read this: Summer School Invite

Looking forward to seeing you guys at the Summer School next Saturday!

2013 in Review: A Year of Open Doors

I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of another year.

In preparation for the new year, which I am calling the “Year of His Presence”, Ling and I have spent most of the last couple of days trying to remodel and reimagine our study room. The piano (not that I play it) and guitar will still be there, but we are setting a nice comfy chair right in the middle of the room where we can meet with God, read the Bible, pray and worship. It will be a space much like in the story Pastor Benny shared of the guy whose life changed as he met with God on his special rocking chair and in line with what Ken Lee recently preached about “making room for God’s presence”.

But even as we prepare for the coming year, it is always good to reflect back on the year that was.

The theme for this year was from Isaiah 22:22:

I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

What a wonderful promise for those who praise, because praise is the key to the open door. And it has indeed been a year of open doors and unceasing fruitfulness.

In January of this year, I had the privilege of going to East Timor on a short-term mission trip. Our church had been making a concerted and consistent effort to plant an indigenous church in the village of Kamalalera. It was the first time I had been on a third world mission and we were able to minister to a group of believers there. At this point in time, FCC is already on a program of training indigenous leaders towards planting a “church proper”.

Photo9

I also had an awesome holiday in Bali straight after the mission trip with some of my cell group who had come along on missions.

In February, I started a Certificate in Creative Ministries course at Metroworship Academy, the first course of its type in Perth. It was great connecting with other worship leaders in our city studying the course and being inspired by some amazing teaching.

In March, I had the privilege of leading worship as we inaugurated the House of Prayer for Everyone WA. I also had an awesome holiday with Ling in Melbourne as we celebrated her birthday. Needless to say, I came back with some excess weight.

In April, I began having talks with Ps Benny about taking up leadership in the worship ministry at FCC. It was a scary thought since I didn’t really want to have much involvement in local church leadership, but it turned out to be a highlight for the year!

In May, I had the honour of leading a worship segment at Global Day of Prayer. I also had an amazing time at our Young Working Adults Camp, and I’m pretty sure that during the camp, we discovered a new worship leader in our church 🙂

In June, I did my first ever “paid gig”! I was invited to lead worship at a Deborah Company conference and I served with an amazing team of musos from FCC and (then) Influencers City Church.

In July, our amazing worship director Lisa Palm started a new church plant, Kingsway Christian Church and Dave Wong took up the worship directorship. I had the honour of being his Assistant Worship Director. For a young person, Dave has shown a maturity beyond his years. He is fearless, full of conviction and passion and wise in his decision-making. I have been so blessed to work with Dave and our amazing leadership team. Thanks Dave, Yvette, Kimmy, EP, Lukey, Joe Wee and Addie for making it such a joy to help lead this ministry.

In August, Darren and I organised our first ever Warehouse Session. (I realised I never got the chance to blog on it!) The idea was we would just gather a group of worshippers, position ourselves in a circle, and just worship off our instruments. For many of us who serve in our respective worship ministries, it’s sometimes difficult to just tune out of the technicalities. In part, our faithfully presiding over our musicianship is part of the worship offering we give to God on Sundays. But we thought it’d be pretty special if, every now and then, we could just gather and worship without a secondary audience, without anyone to pastor, without worrying about a congregation.

So we hired a rehearsal studio and did just that. With musos from South City Church, FCC, Kingsway Christian Church and The Big Table, we just went for it for a solid couple of hours. It was a time of refreshing in God’s presence.

Here are some pics courtesy of the awesome drummer Clement Ch’ng!

Warehouse Session 1 Warehouse Session 3 Warehouse Session 4 Warehouse Session 5 Warehouse Session 6 Warehouse Session 7

In September, Dave, Lisa and I had the privilege of leading worship at a conference called “Festival of Light”. We met some amazing musos from other churches too who served with us on the team.

In October, I got to sing for Ray Badham from Hillsong. It was freakin’ awesome.

In November, I got to lead worship at FCC with my good friend Ps Yoy Alberastine. Ps Yoy used to lead worship at FCC before itinerating, but he’s come back into the worship team and we finally co-led together in our common home church!

In December, I graduated from Metroworship Academy! And my brother and sister-in-law had their first child (my niece, Emily). Sadly however, my sister moved to Korea to pursue a career in English teaching. Whilst I’ll miss her, I’m proud of the fact that she has taken the bold step to live and work in another country.

I thank God for another amazing year, for an awesome wife, great cell group, best ministry team ever, fantastic band and an amazing home church. Can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store!

 

 

From the Archives: Worship’s Dirtiest Word

Last night at Metroworship Academy, we completed our last module which was on “Stage Presence”. How we as worship ministers communicate on stage is an important part of our task in leading the congregation. It brought to mind the issue of worship vs performance, so I thought it would be apt to re-hash this blog post. Because for a long time, performance has been seen to be incongruent with worship.

In recent posts, I have been ruminating about worship auditions. Over the years, worship ministries have accepted auditions as a completely legitimate way to vet and induct new candidates into the ministry.

But whenever you talk about auditions, you also bring up another concept, which to mention in the context of worship is virtually taboo. It is one of worship’s dirtiest words. It may not be the dirtiest, but it certainly is up there. So, please promise me that, after you read this post, you will go into your prayer closet and ask for forgiveness for even entertaining the thought (actually, “entertain” is also a bad word, so pray for forgiveness twice!)

Used in any other context, the word causes absolutely no offence. In fact, it has a neutral to positive connotation. Used in the context of worship however, it is downright obscene.

That word is “performance”.

It is such a provocative word that, in fact, the July/August 2012 edition of Worship Leader magazine devotes itself to what the editor calls “an ancient controversy”.

The question is this: should performance be part of worship leading?

Ask me that question 10 years ago and I would have given you a very different answer to what I would give you today.

The church’s aversion to performance in worship leading can be traced to how those of us who have been in worship ministry for a long time were trained and brought up. We were told to “let no flesh glory in God’s presence”. Performance is therefore “fleshly” and therefore “not of the spirit”. And true worshippers must worship “in spirit and in truth”.

In an article published years ago entitled “Worship vs Performance” (I can’t find its source now), Kelly Carpenter (a Vineyard worship leader and composer of “Draw Me Close to You”) said this:

Worship is not performance. Performance is not worship. They are mutually exclusive. If we keep that straight, then we will be able to properly give God His due. Problems develop when we turn worship into a performance. When we bring the performance mindset and pattern into worship, it becomes polluted.

Over time, my mindset has changed. I no longer think that worship and performance are exclusive. I believe that for a worship leader to truly lead worship, they must actually bring an element of performance into their craft. This requires musical excellence, the ability to connect and engage the congregation, appropriate articulation of instructions and exhortations and being able to pray inspiring prayers.

To what end? If this is to bring attention to ourselves as worship ministers, then we’ve probably missed the point. But we equally miss the point if we don’t “perform” and by failing to “perform”, we fail to inspire the congregation to bring their best praise offering to God.

This is not to say that the ultimate audience of our worship isn’t God. Worship leaders should understand this point well. But, without derogating from that principle, worship leaders also need to (whether they like it or not) appreciate that there is a secondary audience – the congregation. This is of course not ideal but you just need to look at how we set up our worship in churches all around the world week-in and week-out to know that this is true. There is a stage; the stage is raised; the seating arrangements have the stage as a focal point; and the lights point towards the stage. What are we all looking at? I can tell you now that God is not on stage (at least not visibly).

The only visible people on stage are the worship musicians!

Until we get rid of this set-up, we can’t deny that performance will play an important part of our worship leading.

When I lead worship in cell group (where we usually gather in a circle), I use a different approach to worship leading to how I would lead in a Sunday service. For example, I gravitate towards simpler, more melodic songs. I use different language. I tend to speak as someone within the company of gathered worshippers, rather than someone in front of them. I am usually more laid-back and my tone is more relaxed.

When I lead worship in a Sunday service, I appreciate that not everyone in the church knows me like my cell group nor do I know them like I do my cell group. I need to be more exacting in my use of language; I need to craft my prayers more deliberately; I need to make sure that I use the 25 minutes with which I am entrusted to bring as many people in the congregation to a place of encounter with God.

I had a friend years ago who used to lead worship in cell group as he would on the platform. So he’d stand there (in front of all 8 of us), put on a faux American accent (because back then, all the good worship albums came from the USA) and give the most rousing performance he could muster. We were able to move past it all and worship anyway, and we’d tease him later and laugh about it. But he probably didn’t need to impress us so much in a cell group setting.

So why are we so averse to performance anyway?

Musicologist Monique Ingalls says this in her article “Reclaiming Performance in Worship” (Worship Leader, July/Aug 2012):

We often use the word ‘performance’ to describe what happens when someone acts in a way that is inconsistent with the way they really feel or the way they are in ‘real life’. We impute questionable motives to their actions: ‘performers’ in this sense act with an intention to deceive or manipulate, like an actor adopting a persona.

Next, Ingalls continues:

In the context of congregational worship, ‘performance’ is used to negatively describe what happens when the focus is placed on the musicians onstage (‘performers’) while the congregation (‘audience’) remains passive and uninvolved.

Recognising the cause of our aversion is part of the way towards our healing. When we actually analyse those two causes, we come to realise that (1) when worship leaders perform, they aren’t necessarily being fake or manipulative; and (2) our performance isn’t to negate the congregation’s involvement in worship, but rather to inspire and enhance that involvement. In fact, I believe that a worship leader must perform well if they are to faithfully steward their anointing.

And I’m glad to say that in recent years, the church has begun to embrace “performance” as a legitimate skill to be deployed by worship leaders. Very much in the same way that we would like our preachers to be interesting and engaging.

Paul Baloche, in his article “A Leading Worship Performance” (Worship Leader, Jul/Aug 2012) says that musically preparing is important because it will “greatly affect the participation of the congregation”. Baloche goes on to say:

We have to acknowledge that leading worship has aspects of performance. It’s naive or dishonest to pretend there is no element of performance when we walk out onto a platform or stage in front of others.

In an interview with Israel Houghton in the same issue of Worship Leader magazine, Houghton talks about a big Easter event that Lakewood Church had put on:

We poured great effort into how the songs wold be structured, how we were going to go about it, we planned this big drum feature thing. I asked our team, ‘What if we did that every week?’ Just put it all out there every single week? Some would see that as the wrong kind of performance, but I would see it as caring for the people that are coming to hear from God.”

Properly motivated, performance is a powerful thing. As Houghton might say, if we want to honour God and if we care about our congregations, then we’d better put some effort into our craft and our delivery. Not because we want to bring glory to ourselves. Not because we seek the adulation of others. But because, as worship leaders who pastor our congregation into God’s presence, we want to maximise participation both in breadth (in the numbers of people who worship) and in depth (in terms of the quality of their encounter with God).

Maybe the worship team should think of themselves as the “support act” (oops, ‘act’ is probably another dirty word!). When God’s presence comes (the main event), we will get out of the way and join back with rest of the congregation in giving our praise and adulation to the audience of One.

So what do you think? Is this the right balance to strike?