I sat down with Zach Hicks for a Q&A about his new book The Worship Pastor and how we can all become better worship pastors in our own congregation.
I’ve wrestled with the idea and practice of “spontaneous worship.” As a worship leader, I’ve had a lot of questions about whether or not it’s good and how I should lead it responsibly. To get more clarity, I sat down with my friend Zac Hicks–the author of "The Worship Pastor”–to gain some more clarity.
If you are in ministry, you are serving in one of these capacities:
Regardless of which of these you are, you likely don’t have someone holding your hand and keeping you accountable to a schedule. So how do you decide what is the best use of your time in your role?
No matter how much time we pour into our ministry, the time we have on this earth is given to us by God and we should steward it well.
The man who invited me into both my first role as a worship leader and my first full-time role into ministry shared with me a lot about this subject of time management. There’s a diagram he shared with me that’s a part of the Google Toolkit we are sharing with you later on that really helped me get a tangible grasp on the big picture of time management.
1. INVEST IN PLANNING
This time investment has shown to have the greatest return for me.
I spend a few minutes at the beginning of each day to look at my schedule for that day. Afterwards, I take care of any emergency emails or small daily tasks (like updating my hours, cleaning my office, etc.)
On my first day of the work week, I’ll spend more like 20-30 minutes planning my entire week. If I know that I’m scheduling or have a big project to do, I’ll make sure to put that in my calendar.
Each year, I encourage you to spend a day with your team looking at the entire year. Consider school events, big church events, and community events. Take note of when you’ll have to start planning for these events, and put a date on your calendar as a reminder to start planning for these things. Easter and Christmas seem to creep up on people every year - but they happen each year at the same time.
If you struggle with taking care of your responsibilities or easily let other less important projects take over, consider sharing your calendar with your boss, co-worker, or spouse to keep you accountable to your schedule.
CALENDARING TIP: Figure out how long tasks actually take you. When you need to make room for something else, don't just shorten another task to make room for other things - you'll need that entire hour or whatever it is.
2. INVEST IN YOURSELF
This one is difficult. You don’t want to come across as selfish, and if you’re in ministry you probably have a heart for serving - this is great, but it’s hard to invest in yourself because you probably want to spend all your time serving others.
Investing in yourself will result in being able to serve others better.
The better you know how to play your instrument, use ProPresenter, or understand scripture, the better you’ll be able to serve others with these new or sharpened skills.
Here are few quotes from ministry leaders that have poured into me have been great reminders;
“Leaders are readers”
“Leaders learn about themselves”
“Growth comes from self-awareness”
Growing yourself will take up time in your schedule, but is certainly worth it. Just a few examples of ways to invest in yourself are;
Joining worship leader facebook groups
Taking another worship leader in your area out for coffee/lunch
3. INVEST IN VOLUNTEERS
The church is a volunteer run organization. If this isn’t the case at your church, you probably want to look into that.
Volunteers need to be well-resourced, well-informed, feel important, and have fun.
You will not be on this earth or in your role forever; one of your goals should be to help the next person in your role be successful. This means investing in potential leaders, and giving responsibility to those who have shown an interest and the ability to do so successfully.
Create and sustain relationships with your volunteers. You don’t have to be their best friend, but you do need to be worthy of their trust and be someone they can count on, and they will want to be someone you can count on.
If you’re an introvert, you aren’t cut from these responsibilities - but when you need your alone time, you can still invest in volunteers by resourcing them well; make sure your song arrangements are what you’d like them to be, songs are transposed to the key you’ll be playing in so they can play along, and provide playthrough videos for specific or difficult parts.
4. STANDARD FILE CREATION
This takes a lot of prep work, but week to week will be a big time-saver. Here are just a few examples of things that can fall under this category;
Whatever it is, if you have a system down and you can quickly duplicate or automate your work each week you will have much more time each week.
You don’t have to be a master of all these things - there are so many resources available with the internet. Here are a few resources I’ve found helpful;
Churchfront Ableton toolkit
That Worship Sound Worship Essential mainstage package
Alex Strabala’s Helix presets
I have tweaked all of these to fit my needs, but having 90% of the work done by people who put endless hours into their products and know their craft is definitely a time-saver.
Another benefit to this is that when your system is nearly automatable and well documented, it can easily be handed to a responsible volunteer.
5. SAYING NO
One of the obvious but profound things I’ve been taught is this:
“saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else”
MIND BLOWN - You mean we don’t have endless amounts of time? I somehow thought that the more I said yes to, the better of a job I was doing by getting “a lot done”. But I let urgent things become the most important things, and therefore wasn’t making traction on my goals, or accomplishing my mission.
Another thing I’ve struggled with is being able to say “this doesn’t have to be perfect”.
If you are spending hours tweaking a backtrack, keyboard sound, or graphic while musicians or tech people are struggling with things, then you need to take a step back and prioritize.
6. GOOD EQUIPMENT
I once thought that I could save money by dealing with free or cheaper products. Here’s an example;
I was using a PDF chart viewer on my iPad. I still had to print charts for everyone else on the team, and every time I made a change to the chart I had to update OnSong and update the printed charts. When I switched to PCO Music Stand, it was a monetary investment - but at $2.50 a week, it’s a bigger return on the investment (if you’re on staff and make more than $2.50/hr)
If a soundboard, lighting board, computer, etc is constantly needing repair, then it is both costing money and time. This is another time to step back and think if the repair time is worth the money being saved. We are often put in position to steward God’s money. This is a big responsibility, not to be taken lightly - and while there are definitely products that are too luxurious for our needs, there are also insufficient products that money shouldn’t be spent on in the first place.
I hope these tips help you save time and increase your ministry effectiveness. Because I care about you, your time, and your ministry, I’ve put together this Organization Toolkit available through Churchfront. It includes;
hours tracking sheet
preaching calendar sheet
song planning sheet
I was born in 1990. That makes me nearly 27 years old. I’m at the age when I look at high school and college students and start feeling old. Has it already been almost ten years since I graduated from high school?
Over the past decade, there has been a lot of talk in the church world about my generation, the Millennials, those born between 1980 and 1994. I’m sure you have seen plenty of articles floating around online about what Millennials are looking for in a church, or reasons why Millennials are leaving the church. While many of these articles make unhelpful generalizations about my generation, I do appreciate the attempt to understand younger generations for the sake of building the church and sharing the gospel. If your church is still trying to figure out how to best reach Millennials, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you can stop worrying so much about Millennials because we’re no longer the biggest influencers of culture. The bad news is you have a whole new generation to learn about and start strategizing how your church is going to reach them.
Recently my friend Spencer, a youth pastor here in Colorado, recommend that I read James Emery White’s new book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. Being someone who is passionate about the latest research and trends in ministry, I knew I would find this book intriguing, so I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle app and read it in a couple of days.
In his book, James Emery White does a fantastic job helping us better understand the youngest generation among us as well as provide insight on how to reach them effectively. If you and your church care about reaching the next generation, then read this book. You’ll learn that the issue is not so much figuring out how to reach a particular generation. Rather, the primary challenge the church in North America faces in the next few years is effectively communicating the gospel in an increasingly post-Christian society. Rather than cover all of the topics in his book, I want to share with you some basic information about Generation Z as well as my three biggest takeaways from White’s research.
Who is Generation Z?
This generation consists of kids born between 1995 and 2010. You may have heard some people consider this age range to include Millennials, but after reading Meet Generation Z, kids born in this date range did grow up in a world different than even a younger Millennial such as myself. I remember life before personal computers were even a standard household item. I remember life without cellphones and smartphones. Apple released the iPhone my junior year of high school in 2007. I also remember dial-up internet, slow cellular data, and Wifi hotspots being a luxury rather than a necessity. For most of Generation Z, they do not remember the world without smartphones, Wifi, and instant access to the world’s information via Google.
Aside from the technological distinction of Generation Z, there are a few cultural and moral differences as well. The kids in Generation Z were born into a time of unfortunate events. They have already lived through the catastrophes of 9/11 and the Great Recession. It makes you wonder if that is why dystopian stories such as the Hunger Games and Divergent are so popular among this generation. They have also been the first generation to grow up in a sexually fluid culture. 73% of Generation Z is for same-sex marriage. Generation Z is the most racially diverse generation the United States has ever seen due to the rapid growth of the Hispanic population in the last decade.
Finally, the most important distinctive of Generation Z is they are the most spiritually illiterate generation Western Civilization has ever seen. Since they are the children of unchurched or de-churched Generation X, they have absolutely no knowledge of anything spiritual. In previous decades, most people had some exposure to religion and Christianity. Preachers like Billy Graham and the leaders of mega-church movements we see today have appealed to people’s general knowledge of the concepts of the Christianity and from there have guided people into a life-changing and personal relationship with God. With Generation Z, the church can no longer lean on the crutch of cultural Christianity. In reaching this generation, we must assume that our audience has zero knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done.
After reading this book, here are my biggest takeaways in how it is going to affect my ministry.
First, I think the spiritual illiteracy of this generation provides one of the greatest opportunities the church in the west has ever seen.
In previous generations, the church had to help cultural Christians who were de-churched overcome their preconceptions about faith, Jesus, and the church. With Generation Z it’s like working with spiritual blank slate. We do not have to waste time undoing false popular theology or their preconceptions about the church because they do not have any! Their spiritual illiteracy will prove to be the strongest bridge to connecting this Generation with God. Although they are spiritually illiterate, we can see that this generation has a deep longing for meaning and purpose in life which is expressed in their heavy involvement with movements dealing with civil rights, politics, or the environment. The church has a tremendous opportunity to provide them with an alternative to the world’s attempt to live a fulfilling life of meaning and purpose. That does not mean the church needs to start shoving the Bible and theology down this generation’s throat. Instead, the church should create environments for this generation to ask questions about spirituality and let those questions determine the type of content the church can create to engage non-believers.
Second, the church is going to need to have a voice of conviction.
It’s ironic that despite the political correctness required in public discourse today, the talking heads with the most authority and greatest following in our culture today do not beat around the bush when it comes to sharing their convictions. John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, Dennis Prager, and Ron Paul, are just a few public figures I follow that prove you do not need to be politically correct to have a significant influence on a lot of people. Even though I do not agree with all or any of what these public figures have to say, I admire their conviction. It’s tempting for the church to lose her prophetic voice for the sake of evangelism, but James Emery White warns against doing this. Not only will this result in watering down the truth of the gospel, but no one will want to listen if your church has no conviction. Generation Z wants to grapple with opinions and ideologies. Even though some or many will disagree, people will only take the time to listen to words of conviction.
Finally, the church must create snackable content to engage with Generation Z.
I love watching Casey Neistat’s vlog on Youtube.Almost every day he posts a 5-10 minute video that documents his life as a creative entrepreneur in New York City in an entertaining way. Apparently, 7 million other people feel the same way about his videos because that’s the number of subscribers he has. Something that he and other successful YouTubers have discovered is the power of snackable online content. Whether it’s creating entertaining but informative videos on YouTube or writing brief but intriguing articles, I see this as the future of online ministry for the church. Too many churches, especially ones with big budgets, make the mistake of capturing their Sunday morning content, posting it online, and expecting to make a significant impact that way. While posting services online is not a horrible idea, the church must look at what is working in the secular world to build an engaged audience who is excited to consume content that will add value to their life.
To sum up my takeaway from James Emery White’s book, I believe if churches want to effectively reach Generation Z, they must start creating engaging, informative, and creative content that answers spiritual questions with a voice of conviction. I’m excited to start doing this in my ministry, but honestly, I do not yet know what exactly this will look like.
I highly encourage you to read Generation Z yourself as there are many other takeaways in it for your ministry that I did not cover here. What are your thoughts on how the church can effectively reach the next Generation? If your church has found innovative and effective ways to reach Generation Z, let me know in the comments below!
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the church.
Have you ever took a moment to consider what your ministry would look like without them? You would be a one-man band, there would be no child care, there would be no host team to greet visitors, and all of your production gear would just sit there unable to amplify your voice, throw lyrics on the screens, or set the mood with lighting. Without volunteers there would be no ministry.
Unfortunately, it's really easy to take volunteers for granted, especially the most reliable ones who serve every single week. As mundane as it may seem, some of the most valuable work you can do as a leader is show your appreciation for your volunteers in small but tangible ways. Make it a part of your weekly work schedule to reach out to at least two or three them with kind gestures of appreciation. Sometimes it’s difficult to come up with ideas for what to do, so here are 5 ways you can love a volunteer that do not require much effort or time.
Thank them after every service - This is probably the easiest way to show appreciation. After your volunteers have slaved away for you for two or more hours on Sunday morning, try to tell them thank you before they leave. You don’t have to say much, just a “Thanks for your time and the great job you did…”
Write a thank you note - Order a pack of thank you cards and some stamps and send them an old-school handwritten letter. You could also write them a thank you note via email, but my guess is people have a greater appreciation for taking the time to write it by hand. Leave the box of thank you cards on your desk or some place where you’ll see them regularly and be reminded to use them.
Take them to coffee or lunch - This cost money, but try to have funds allocated in your ministry budget to do this. Spending time to get to know your volunteers outside of church at a local restaurant or coffee shop will really go a long way in showing appreciation for them and building trust. If the volunteer is the opposite sex, I highly recommend inviting their spouse, or bring along your spouse. Just make sure you are never in questionable situations.
Brag about them on social media - Find creative ways to share how awesome they are on social media. Take photos of them while they are serving at church and then post them on Facebook or Instagram and write some sort of caption that talks about how awesome they are.
Ask how you can pray for them, pray for them, and tell them you’re praying for them. Go out of your way to ask them how you can pray for them, record those things in a format so you can recall them later, and make it a part of your weekly routine to pray for them. If you do the other four things in this list and develop a meaningful friendship with your volunteers, I think you’ll find praying for them something you look forward to doing.
I’m sure there are a billion other creative ways to show appreciation for your volunteers. What else would you add to this list?
Are you into podcasting?
Over the past few years, podcasting has become quite the phenomenon. You can learn just about anything you want by subscribing to podcasts on niche topics. One of those topics is church leadership and there are quite a few great podcasts available to help us all grow in this area. One of the curses of living in the information age is that there is an overwhelming amount of podcasts to choose from. That's why I created a list of 4 church leadership podcasts I highly recommend. What else would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast
Carey’s podcast was recommended to me by a friend and when I first began listening, I instantly knew I would become a loyal follower of this podcast. I love this podcast because Carey does a great job at finding guests from different types of church leadership backgrounds. It also covers many practical issues that small to mid-sized churches face.
Rainer on Leadership
Tom Rainer has been one of the biggest voices in church leadership for the past few decades. The ministry he runs, Lifeway, has consulted and researched thousands of churches. This podcast has shorter episodes packed with Rainer sharing his wisdom on just about every church leadership topic you can imagine.
Brian Houston Leadership Podcast
I think this is one of the most underrated and less known podcasts. Brian Houston is the Global Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church. This podcast consists primarily of his weekly messages to his staff. I love the chance to hear from him since he has pastored a church for more than 30 years and it has grown from a dozen people to nearly 100,000 people all over the globe.
Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast
Craig is the Senior Pastor of Life.Church which is one of the largest church in the United States. He is all about developing other leaders and building healthy systems to grow the church. Like everything else they do, the podcast is top notch. You can subscribe on your favorite podcast player or watch the episodes on Youtube.
What are your favorite Church leadership podcasts?
Let me know in the comments!