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6 ways leading a worship team is like leading a church

Oct. 25, 2017 | by Brian Thorstad

It had been more than 10 years since I’d led a worship team while also leading the church. I had vowed not do that again, but in a time of need, I broke my pledge.   

To my pleasant surprise, the task has been immensely enjoyable for me. I think it’s been helpful to our church as well and it keeps teaching me about leadership. 

1. Our mistakes, as leaders, are humbling, and sometimes downright humiliating, but probably good for us. My wife was taught in school that “anything that humbles you, helps you.” Trying to lead a diverse worship team (aren’t they all?) definitely humbles me.   

As pastors leading churches, our mistakes are numerous. It’s part of the price of leadership.  This is no place for perfectionism.   

My favorite leadership mistake story involves a pastor who volunteered to get the unwanted building torn down. The board approved and the pastor had the demolition company destroy the wrong building.  

2. It takes the strengths of many people to make a great result. My guitar playing is pretty decent, but it wouldn’t sound like much all by itself. Our drummer and our bass player would sound pretty funny going solo. Only our keyboardist could lead the church by himself, but loves the contributions from the rest of us.  

When we all get on the same page at the same time, our band of six to 10 people sounds pretty good. 

It’s no different for the “band of brothers” leading the church. Some of us are theology guys.  Some of us are visionaries. Some of us are dispassionate enough to be good at walking boards safely through meetings. Some of us are great at making the controversial proposal at the congregational meeting.  

3. Sometimes you have to compromise. If half the band wants to do the song faster and the other half wants to do it slower—you can pretty well guess what I’m going to do—we’ll end up playing it at the same tempo.    

Churches can compromise on a lot of other negotiable items as well. Not everything is as important as the statement of faith. There’s a fine art to knowing when to compromise and when to stand your ground. 

4. You can only teach so much so fast. I love learning and teaching new songs. But too many new ones will wear out the band and overwhelm the congregation. 

It’s the same way with teaching the congregation “new songs,” like de-cluttering their lives, seeking to win their neighbors or dealing with conflict God’s way. My wife is great at reminding me that new ideas – like new songs - need “sell time.”  

5. Leadership demands my best, Spirit-filled personality. I need the fullness of the Holy Spirit – I don’t mind saying – desperately, as I lead music practices.  If you’ve ever been in a band, you know that the practices are dynamic and some weeks they’re more dynamic than others. I have yet to meet a worship team made up of all mild-mannered personalities.   

This means that I need to be cheerful, patient, humble, understanding and persistent.  Leading the congregation requires no less of me.  

6. Leadership involves balancing the call to excellence with the need for patience. God deserves our best; there’s no question about that.  But some folks “best” is a lot better than other folks “best.” It’s a challenge for those who strive for excellence to settle for “OK,” but it’s a leadership challenge which many of us need.  

Whether we’re leading the whole church or just the band, leadership requires our best selves and God’s amazing, Spirit-given grace. 

Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.

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