Worship Leaders Wanted – The Hardest Find in Church Ministry

helpTeaching pastors are a dime a dozen.  Youth ministers are everywhere.  Children’s ministry leaders are sought after all the time.  But where are the worship pastors?

Where are the music ministers?  Where are the creative-types that lead us each and every Sunday to the throne of grace?  Where are coming from?  Where have they gone?   The answer: no one knows.

As an interim pastor and frequent guest speaker in churches, I serve alongside all sorts of worship leaders.  Very few are full-time staff members; most are part-time, cross-vocational servant-leaders pulling two or three jobs to forge a living.  In smaller churches, you mostly have faithful volunteers with little or no musical training but who have a desire to serve God.

I love them all.  I love their heart.  I love their willingness to get up there and lead people who often look like marble statues with frowny faces :(.  I love when they partner with me as the teacher/preacher to make the entire service meaningful.

But their kind are going extinct.  They are dying away.  And the younger generation are not moving up to fill their spots.  It seems that the younger generation could care less.

Why is this happening?  Let me suggest a few possible reasons.

First, in our day and time theology is king and the teaching/preaching ministry of the church has become exalted as the highest order of church-based ministry.  While there is no doubt theology is critical in our culture with rampant pluralism, relativistic secularization, and a large segment of our population who are biblically illiterate, but does that mean the preaching and teaching ministry must command the majority of our worship time?  I would offer that most of our deeply held theological roots come not from sermons, but from songs.  (I’ve written on when pastors were the hymn writers.)

Another reason is perceived value.  As pastor/theologians view their role as the most essential for church health and spiritual growth, other ministry platforms are viewed as less valuable or subsequently inferior.  I wouldn’t say they are viewed as insufficient, but their value is not essential.   The common notion among many preaching pastors today is that as long as the teaching/preaching ministry is good, strong and biblically faithful, then other sectors of ministry will, by proxy, succeed.  I am not sure I agree with that conclusion.

A third reason is that it hard to find someone who believes God has called them into worship ministry.  You might discover someone with talent in vocal or instrumental music, or in songwriting, or even in leading people in corporate worship, but the last thing they are considering is using these talents for the Lord through local church ministry.  I teach hundreds of young adults preparing for future ministry and rarely do I have any student who believes God has called them to lead worship as their vocation.

Rewind back 25 years.  In those days, the music minister (or music director) was viewed as second most important team member on the church staff, far ahead of youth, children or education.  The role was highly important because of the amount of “face time” they shared with the teaching pastor.  The two-man team was like as Batman and Robin, Jordan and Pippen, Andy and Barney.  They worked as a tag-team planning worship elements, service designs, and ways to incorporate creativity into the plan.  This function is very rare today.

Today, the worship minister is not that important.  Most church leaders view children’s ministry as the #2 most important staff position to fill.  A poor children’s ministry equates to fewer young families and diminished growth potential.  Worship leadership might make it to the third or fourth slot on most church teams.

All these reasons (and many more) lead to lessened interest in exploring God’s call in worship ministry.

Fast forward 25 years.  I anticipate there will be few, if any, young people following God’s call into music ministry.  I believe there will be very few full-time worship pastors, only found on large church staffs with multiple services.  I sense that schools of music at the seminary and Christian college level will no longer prepare students in church music or worship leadership.  Those degrees will go away.

I believe the want ads will be filled with churches desperately looking for someone, anyone, to lead worship at their church, but no one will be applying.

These are just my predictions.  I hope I am utterly wrong, but I don’t believe I am.

 

Two Types of Teams – Church Staff and College Dept

Two groups of people dividedOver the past decade, I have served on two types of teams – a church staff team and an academic departmental team.  Five years on the first; six years and counting on the second.

In retrospect, these two types of teams could not be any more different.  Something I wish I could have understood way back when.

Here are some differences between the two.

1.  Church staff teams work very close to one another, while academic department teams have lots of internal space.

Church staffs usually share the same calendar with everyone fighting for dates.  They also have to share resources from the same budget, utilizing the same key people, reserving the same facility space, and sometimes even the sharing the same office.  Everything is close; everything is shared.  One thing done by a particular staff person effects everyone else in some way or another.  No one is an island unto themselves.

Academic teams are very different.  There is more internal space between the faculty members.  While they may have to share the departmental budget, they usually function from their own calendar, working independently from their own class schedule, making improvements to their own degree programs, and even separating their own students from others in the department.  The internal space within provides more individualism and less shared resources.  This can be both a good thing and a source of conflict if not managed properly.

2.  Church staff teams meet frequently, while academic department teams may meet once or twice a month.

Again, this promotes more internal space between faculty and their day-to-day activities.  Church staffs have to communicate with each other.  They have to know what the other team members are doing, so not to disrupt the delicate balance of everything.  Significant time meeting one-on-one with your senior pastor or sitting down together as a team is essential.

Academic teams do not have this requirement.  As long as you are doing your thing, teaching your classes, meeting with your students, you are good to go.  You also have the academic calendar and its scheduled breaks like fall break, Christmas break, spring break, and summer break.  There are times when it might be two or three months before I see any my colleagues on a regular basis.

3.  Church staff teams must be unified and functioning in a semi-healthy dynamic in order to succeed.  Academic department team don’t require the same level of unity. 

The indicators of success are so wildly different. For the church staff, success might be measured in spiritual growth or programmatic advancement or development of an effective outreach strategy.  For the academic dept., success is mostly measured in numeric growth, graduation rates, retention from year to year, new program development, and adding of faculty members.

The academic dept. team can say,  “Hey, we had a great year” and really not be united behind a singular vision or even enjoying spending time with one another.  That is not the case with a church staff.

A seasoned faculty member once told me that teaching on the college campus is like playing on the Ryder’s Cup squad – Everyone is collectively on the team, but you still play your match by yourself.  As long as you personally are doing your part, you don’t have to really like or even play along with your academic team mates.

4.  Lastly, church staff teams live in a highly emotional environment, while academic dept. teams only experience high emotion once or twice per year, usually around the end of term.

The discipleship and soul-care of saints and expanding the kingdom through evangelism form a very emotional environment for the church staff.  Everything is personal.  Relationships are personal.  Church politics are personal.  Team dynamics among the staff is very personal.  Not to mention living life together with church members whom you love and who love you in return.  The heart is always engaged.

Academic dept. teams are not like this.  While there are personal relationships among colleagues and meaningful relationships with students, the environment is not nearly as emotional.  It can be at times, but it usually is not.  Students move on.  Semesters move on.  Graduation comes every December and May.  The fall semester becomes the spring semester and then everyone leaves for summer break.   We start again in the fall and follow the pattern year after year.

As I look back over the past eleven years, these two types of team stand in stark contrast.  I never knew how different they really are.  I wrongly assumed the team I joined on the college campus would be very similar to the team I left from church.  I was wrong.  They are two completely different environments.  I don’t think one is better and the other worse; they are just wildly different.

 

5 Questions Answered in 5 Sermons

since you askedAt Hurstbourne Baptist Church in Louisville, we have recently finished a series of messages called Since You Asked.

Basically, I gave the entire congregation the chance to ask biblical, theological, and spiritual questions in which I would try to answer in a sermon.  We received nearly 30 questions and I attempted to answer five of them.

Maybe you have wondered about these things.  I have included the question and a link to the sermon audio if these have ever been questions in your mind.  Take a listen and let me know what you think.

  • How do we publicly and privately interact as the body of Christ with people who we significantly disagree with? sermon audio
  • When Christians leave this earthly life, do we immediately go and be with Jesus, seeing him face-to-face or will there be a waiting period for the second coming of Christ?  sermon audio
  • How do relationships work in heaven? Will we know and recognize our earthly family and friends? sermon audio
  • Does God control the small things? Such as does God give us one job over another? Does God determine where a student is accepted into college? Did God put my child in that teacher’s class? A fender bender that could have been a horrible accident, was that a “God thing”? The tickets to a sold-out ball game that are suddenly offered to us by a co-worker, is that orchestrated by God?  sermon audio
  • If a young man accepts Christ and is living a Christian life, has a Christian wife and two children. All is well. Time elapses, he gets involved with another woman, divorces his wife, gets into drinking and gambling. He drops out of church. His lifestyle never changes and he passes away. Is this person still going to heaven?  sermon audio

Proud Papa, A Father’s Day Reflection

phillies

The 2014 CYB Phillies – Pee Wee League Champs. Isaac is on the second row, third from left.

My 8 year old son Isaac and his Pee Wee baseball team, the Phillies, are league champs, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

They had a great year with a 13-2 record in the regular season, winning the league championship, and going into the year-end tournament a #1 seed, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

Isaac learned more about baseball than we could have ever imagined.  At the beginning of the season he could barely throw 5 feet away and couldn’t catch a thing.  He was terrified to hit, run, or have a ball hit is way.  I am not exaggerating.

As an 8 year old who had never cared one day about baseball, he really only wanted to play because his 6 year old brother was stealing some of the spotlight.

From the very beginning, we knew he was in for a very different experience.  He was really challenged by the coaches to figure the game out.  Every rule, position, strategy, and technique of baseball was completely foreign to him.  He and I started playing Mario Super Slugger on the Wii just he could figure out the names of the positions and how you got an out.

Everything he learned about baseball, from the rules to how to swing a bat to how you run the bases, was all brand new and completely from scratch.  We played and practiced a lot in the backyard.  He did great, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

He has a little plague now in his room that declares the world that he was on the 2014 Campbellsville Youth Baseball Pee League championship team, but that is not what is making this Father’s Day special.

This Father’s Day is special because on Sunday, the day before the championship game, my son Isaac leaned over to his mother during our invitation at church and said, “Mommy, I need to be saved.”

When he and his momma came to me in the front, my son was gripped by the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  This was not him doing something we wanted, this was him saying “I need Jesus in my life as my personal savior.”

We have been talking and discussing this for quite sometime.  But this was his decision.  We knew nothing about it.  We had no clue it was coming like it did.

My Isaac, my little laughter, who is named for the son of Abraham and Sarah, a child of promise, a child of a new heritage, a child that God gave to begin a new spiritual legacy, is now and will forever be my brother in Christ.

That is making this Father’s Day very, very special.

When the Cost of Everything Goes Up and Giving Goes Down

I was listening to a church budget discussion a couple of weeks ago in a Budget & Finance Committee meeting.  For those who are not Southern Baptist, most SBC churches have a some sort of committee or team which is largely responsible for putting together and presenting a yearly church budget to which the congregation votes on.  They are also responsible for looking at expenses and giving trends throughout the year.

This particular church has noticed a trend line that is tracking toward a $100k shortfall for the year.  One of the vocal leaders, who happens to have a MBA in Accounting and 45 years in corporate management, said these words which have hung heavy on my heart for weeks.

He said (paraphrased),

“Everything we pay for is getting more expense.  From vehicle, property, and liability insurance, to all the food for the various meal, to the gas for the church bus, to medical coverage for the staff, to printing costs, literature costs, to toilet paper and paper plates.  We have been asked to give more to missions, support church planting, and update all our facilities to be eye-catching and seeker-friendly,  yet the giving keeps doing down.”

In other words, the cost of everything the church spends its money on is getting more expense and giving continues to decline.   If you created two trends lines, the expense line would be going up and up and the giving line would be going down.  All the while the church has maintained its average attendance over the past 5 years.

Giving-decline1Why is giving going down?  Many have pointed to a changing demographic in charitable giving.

It is largely generational with younger Gen. X and Millennial believers unable, or unwilling, to give at the same rates as Boomers and Builders.  When Boomers retire and Builders pass away, church contributions will never be the same again.

It is also simple economics in the home.  If the cost of gas, food, mortgages, insurance, and the like are getting more expense at church, the same is happening to families.  Individuals and families with significant student loan and credit card debt are absolutely strapped.

It is also a discipleship issue.  The idea of tithing or stewardship have lost their ability to be heard in our culture.  Everyone loves a Cold Water Challenge or a 5K Run/Walk for Cancer, but there is a hostile attitude toward consistently, sacrificially giving with no strings attached to the local church.

What solutions might there be for this giving paradigm shift?

I believe cross-vocational ministry is going to be key.  The single major expense a church normally has is personnel and staff.  If we could embrace a cross-vocational ministry approach to lessen personnel cost, there would more ministry funds elsewhere.

But cross-vocational ministry is challenging, especially for churches over 200 in attendance.

  • How is the church supposed to survive if no one is in the office 40 hours a week?
  • How is the church supposed to survive if all the pastoral staff work in other places alongside of their pastoral ministry?
  • How is the church supposed to survive when a church members needs have to be put on the back burner because one of the pastors is at work…their other work.

I hope to answer these questions more in the days to follow.

Church Ministry Resumes vs. Personal Advertisement Pieces

Last year, I was asked to help a church searching for a lead pastor.  They asked me to look through all the resumes they had received and see if I agreed with their top 5 candidates.  It was the first time that I, as a pastor who has my own personal church ministry resume, looked over so many other pastor’s church ministry resumes.  I was completely, utterly shocked.

binder

Binder Full of Ministry Resumes

The spectrum of difference in design and scope was unbelievable.

Some resumes looked like full-color, 4-page media press releases.  Pictures, backgrounds, graphic designs, and interactive links.  One extreme resume had the prospective pastor in various tight-fitting muscle shirts, standing in intimidating poses with lightning bolts and thunder clouds surrounding him, like he was Thor or a WWE wrestler.

I promise you, I am not making this up.  He sold himself as a hell-fire preacher and prophet who brought with him apostolic signs and wonders.  I guess that is why he needed lightning bolts.

Others were really poor Microsoft Word resume templates with barely any information, no images, terrible spelling, and pathetic design.  These resumes communicated humility (which I appreciated) but also poor work ethic, no creativity, and lack of vision or skill.

So where is the balance?  Where is the middle ground between speaking to your experience and giftedness without selling yourself to the highest bidder?  How can a pastor selection team learn about your convictions and passion in ministry and yet not feel if they are being sold something?

Here are some ideas for the church ministry resume.

1.  Be honest and clear and minimize the hype.  Don’t exaggerate. Don’t embellish.  Be forthright and upfront.  Tell your true ministry experience and journey without hyperbolic language.  Remember it is God who is the giver of all good gifts and you are not a gift to the ministry world.  In the same vein, don’t be so humble, so contrite, so simple that the prospective church feels sorry for you.  You are a servant of the King – live in that calling with courage and confidence.

2.  Be helpful, resourceful and industrious.  Make the printed resume easy to read, easy to follow, and easy to access additional information.  While business resumes are usually no more than 2 pages in length, a ministry resume is not held to that same standard.  It can be longer and more developed without the perception of overkill.

I highly recommend creating an additional biographical blog site to go along with the ministry resume.  This site becomes a virtual repository of personal and theological information.  On the site, you can create links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, embed recent Twitter feeds, post and link any sermon video or audio available from any church, add your personal philosophy of ministry statement plus any doctrinal or theological statement you hold to.  You could add pictures or photo albums of your family to give a sense of who you are outside of ministry.

3.  Be visually-oriented and narratively-focused.  Every person under the age of 60 is visually-oriented.  They need pictures, images, and color to move their eyes across the page.  Without going overboard, your resume needs to have a visual appeal to it.  Consider your church’s bulletin.  What if it was only text and no images?  Would you want to read through it?

Also be narratively-focused.  While bullet points and jaunted sentences might appeal to the quick reader, your resume needs to tell a story.  The story of your journey with Jesus, call into ministry, and experience from the field.  It needs to have a beginning, a past, and a present flow.  Bulleted lists and strict outlines struggle in communicating time and story.

I am in no way an expert on church ministry resumes, but I offer mine as an example to start with.  My church ministry resume has gone through thousands of edits and redesigns.  The great part is, I am not looking for a church position so I don’t feel any sense of urgency.  If it helps, be my guest.

Church Ministry Resume 2014

 

Go Cross-Vo Not Bi-Vo

I have been involved in bi-vocational ministry for the past 6 years.  This simply means I work a normal, full-time job (for me on the faculty of a Christian university) and serve part-time in local churches.  I have loved every minute in this dual ministry role.

What I do not love is the terminology: bi-vo.  Bi-vo, short for bi-vocational, has a negative connotation to it.  To most people in the pews it means that their pastor or church staff member is split in two.  That your heart is divided.  That you have to focused on one job to the detriment of the other.  As if you are in a tug-of-war between two jobs – one will win, the other will lose.

tug-o-war1

In bi-vo ministry, someone wins, someone will lose.

While more and more churches are considering going bi-vo because of financial constraints and/or declining attendance, they feel having a bi-vo pastor or bi-vo worship leader is a sign of defeat and impending death.  In all actuality, bi-vo can be a huge boost in lay-ministry involvement, community engagement and potential outreach.

Therefore, I think we need to change the language.  I think we need to reframe the vision and conversation surrounding bi-vocational ministry.

From this point forward, I will use the phrase “cross-vocational” instead of bi-vo.

  • Cross-vocational means you are living equally in two worlds: the marketplace and the ministry location.
  • Cross-vocational means you have on-going relationships with two groups simultaneously – your brothers and sisters in Christ and those you serve in the workplace.
  • Cross-vocational means you are fluid, entrepreneurial, creative, willing to be flexible, able to lead and succeed in both contexts.

Cross-vocational ministry has been the calling card of our missionaries and church planters for centuries.  They all have had to work both sides of the ministry field, in the world and out of the world, serving those who have yet to hear and to those who are fully committed to Christ.  I believe the cross-vocational spirit will come to more and more pastors and church leaders in the days ahead.

I believe a cross-vocational shift is coming in America for three primary reasons.

1.  Significant differences between the Builders & Boomers and the X’ers and Millennials in giving and stewardship patterns will result in precipitous declines in church budgets.  There will simply not be enough resources to fully-fund church staff, especially in light of health care cost.  (See my recent post on the ending of full-time paid youth ministry.)

2.  As evangelism and baptisms decrease, pastors and church leaders will demand freedom to engage unreached people within their communities.  This access will only come from unhinging themselves from a pervasive Christian sub-culture inside the church and interacting with more non-believers out in the real world.

3.  As churches streamlining and simplifying their ministry efforts and programming (aka the winnowing effect), they will have to say “no” to the secondary, more peripheral ministries in lieu of keeping the essential ministries.  The end result will be less day-to-day work to do.  This means less needed, fully-funded paid staff.

I do not see any way around this ministry shift.

I do see a large number of churches really struggling with this new reality.  But if they want to be proactive, they might consider going cross-vo now when its their choice instead of going cross-vo later when they have no choice.

(To be continued. More on cross-vocational ministry in the days to come.)

 

 

 

 

 

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