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Worship Fertilizer

So, when your local lawn service wants to help you have a healthy, green lawn, they regularly give your yard fertilizer. We like the idea of providing regular nutrition for your ministry. You can get the latest Worship Fertilizer delivered to your home [or at least your e-home]. Just sign up here.

Some churches like to start off the year by doing a survey for their congregations to find out what's resonating and what they can do to increase engagement. Typically, I'm not a fan of doing surveys. It either tells you nothing, confirms the obvious, or annoys people whose suggestions aren't taken.

Here's a fresh approach. I like educating while I'm getting feedback. Take a look at these ideas:

1.Most of the music we use in a service is designed for the congregation to be able to worship in song. How easy was that music to sing with? To worship with? If it wasn't, why? Was it a hard song, the leader's voice, the mix with the instruments, lyrics that didn't resonate, or other personal issues?

2.At any time were you unsure of what to do or what was being asked of you?

3.Though we all come ready to offer ourselves to God in the worship service, good leadership helps us to focus on God and gives us direction to both help us feel connected to the community that's gathered as well as encourage participation. How did any of the leaders help or hinder your own worship in the way they led?

4.So much happens during each service, but what one specific moment in the service that was particularly moving to you?

6.What was one specific moment in the service that was a distraction from worshipping to you?

7.What else do you wish we would know about how you're experiencing God and growing in the service?


So what do you think you'd learn from your congregation? What do you think they'd learn in just taking this survey? Oh, and did you notice there was no number five? I'm just making sure you're paying attention...

You have talent, gifts, and the desire to improve. But you may not know what to work on or how to work on it (call it a lack of systematic intentionality). I believe that having a growth plan will help you get where you want to be.

Why should I plan my growth? Why should I plan my team’s growth? I believe that the gifts I have are not my own, I’m a steward of them. What does the Owner expect me to do with them? Manage them? Yes, but not just that. Manage them for increase. The story of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 reminds me that I have been given something of weight (talent) that I am given according to my dynamis, my ability. (Interestingly, this is the same word used for the power (dynamis) of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8.) It isn’t a question about how much I’ve been given or (even what effort I put forth), but what I actually do with it and Whose power brings it to life!

How do I know if the talent I’ve been given is increasing and not just leveled off? There’s no way to know unless I know where I am today, and then compare “today me” to “future me.” (comparing myself to anyone else almost always being pretty unhelpful, if not destructive...and certainly joy-sapping!)

Five areas for a well-rounded Growth Plan for Worship Ministry are: Musical Artistry, Spiritual Formation, Relational Integrity, Technical Excellence, and Leadership Ability. Take each area individually and think about where you are now and where you’d like to be by the end of the year. As dearly loved sons and daughters, we look to honor and glorify God as we serve. Bearing much fruit is one way to glorify Him (John 15:8). Our mission includes creating spaces where people can meet with God, so what we do should serve that end.

(the level of detail below isn’t meant to overwhelm you, but rather to inspire your thinking)

Musical Artistry

Step one: learn to play your instrument. Step two: learn to play the song. Step three: learn to play with a band. Step four: actually make music! What are the musical skills I want to work on?Dynamics, tastefulness, styles, rhythm, timing, tempo, creating groove, memorization of music, listening, advance preparation before rehearsal, improvising, vocal harmony, vocal blend, vocal health, songwriting, strumming patters, picking patterns, sticking patterns, use of capos, keyboard textures, electric guitar tones and effects, instruments playing their musical roles, arrangements, musical transitions, prophesying with your instrument, learning a new instrument, tuning, key selection, sight- reading, musical notation, ear training, theory, personal practice time...

Spiritual Formation

I like calling our journey toward spiritual maturity “spiritual formation” because of the great blueprint we have: “until Christ is formed in you” (NIV) or “until Christ’s life becomes visible in your lives” (MSG). How do I want to grow spiritually?Abiding in the Vine, personal devotions, spiritual sensitivity, prayer life, worship life, character, meditation, fasting, bible study, service, spontaneous worship, generosity, being the last one in the room to get angry, teachability...

Relational Integrity

Relational health is obvious – you can tell when there is tension, and you can tell when people genuinely love being together. How do I want my relationships to improve?Attitude, working out conflicts, anger, laziness, punctuality, openness, depth, listening, blessing, encouragement, follow through...

Technical Excellence

Remaining unnoticed during a service requires tremendous focus and wide knowledge. How do I want to grow in my technical understanding and ability?Acoustics, EQ, gain structures, mixing, troubleshooting, miking, lighting, environmental projection, recording, visual worship leading, sound checks...

Leadership Ability

John Maxwell’s Law of the Lid states that “Leadership determines the level of effectiveness.” My influence is limited by my ability to lead. How do I want to grow as a leader?Influence, foresight, trust, respect, intuition, heart connection, empowerment, reproduction, vision, momentum, priorities, timing, authority, humility, song selection, increasing number of musicians, rehearsal leadership, worship leadership, segues/setups, connection to the service theme, generational inclusiveness, understanding worship history, worship values, worship theology, modeling growth, followership, activating others, stage presence...


Take time to think as well as listen to the Lord as you reflect on your own needs, your team’s needs as a whole, and the needs of the individual people on your team. The Lord may pop a thought into your mind as you think.

What are the top 3-5 skills that you want to grow in?

What are 2-3 strategies you may want to try to use to get there for each of the skills?

What are some indicators that you can look for to know you’re on the right track?

What obstacles do you know about that will keep you from growing in these skills?

What will it look like at the end of the year when you increase to the level you’re hoping to?

Answering for your team as a whole:

What are the top 3-5 skills that you want to grow in?

What are 2-3 strategies you may want to try to use to get there for each of the skills?

What are some indicators that you can look for to know you’re on the right track?

What obstacles do you know about that will keep you from growing in these skills?

What will it look like at the end of the year when you increase to the level you’re hoping to?

How to actually do something about my Growth Plan

(click here for the printable fertilizer)

I hope you were inspired by last month’s Worship Fertilizer to begin creating a Growth Plan, but chances are that it’s collected about 30 days of dust by now. Poor little Growth Plan. Following the outline below will help you put your own plan into motion.

Why should I have a Growth Plan or do something about it?

If you're asking this, read the previous Worship Fertilizer.

How do I decide what to focus on?

Sure, the exhaustive list of things that you could work on is long and daunting! First off, you can’t work on everything this year. Can’t. You’ve gotta settle the reality that there are things that you can’t work on this year. Clear them off of your mental to-do list, your emotional should-do list. Phew.

Now, pick about five of the ones you really want to work on. Use the following grid to decide: which ones will give me the greatest long-term benefit (like learning theory or taking lessons) and which ones will give me the most short-term WINS! (like figuring a way to get to rehearsal on time, or buying a tuner) Select a combination of those two categories.

How do I add them to my existing routines?

That’s right. It’ll be much more doable if you can figure out how to make small shifts in the way you’re doing stuff, rather than adding more things to your schedule. (yes and amen!) Three strategies to use are: Songs, Creating Margin, and Stretch & Recover.


The songs we use each week are perfect exercises to use as learning tools. Call it reverse engineering – you need certain skills to play the songs, so figure out what songs require the skills you want to learn and use one of them.

Create Margin

If we’re not going to add anything to our schedules, we can each carve out space from what we’re doing. We all do things that are inefficient (using rehearsal time to listen to a new song for the first time, not having a clear schedule for rehearsals, etc.). We also tend to do more than we need to…casualties (or causers) of the Pareto Principle – 80% of stuff gets done by 20% of us. How evenly spread is the load on your team? Who creates or copies chord charts? Who sets up the stage? Who leads the prayer and devotional time? (you have one of these, right?!) Who brings the snacks? If you’re the leader, learn to give responsibility away. If you’re a team member, look for ways to share the load. Leaders that spend all their time and energy doing everything will have little left to help the team grow.

You may try shifting (or simply clarifying) the rehearsal schedule. For example, if rehearsal is at 7:00 does that mean you start playing at 7:00 or the earliest time that anyone arrives is 7:00? (somewhere, a light bulb just went off…and someone else said “I sure hope he reads this!”) Also, is there a slot in the schedule specifically set aside for growth? And there’s the real boost: anything that you pay attention to or measure becomes more efficient, simply by the attention it suddenly receives. So if you just plan and track how you spend rehearsal times for a month (without even implementing any changes) you will gain more margin in how much time you have at rehearsals to work on growth!

Using systems is also a great way to create margin. Are you still creating emails and attaching chord chart instead of using Planning Center Online or a similar service? Does your team use standardized chord charts or do you have different, hand-scrawled versions? (what is this, 1993?) Do you use services like CCLI’s SongSelect? (yes, I know they’re not always correct and you can’t edit them, but still…) Do you have checklists for your techs or have you systematized the procedure for sound check or creating the EasyWorship schedule?

Stretch and Recover

I’m learning this valuable practice from a book I’m reading called “The Power of Full Engagement.” In every area of our lives we need to exert energy beyond just what’s comfortable AND we need to balance that with times of renewal and recovery. (I’ll just let that sink in and allow the Lord to speak to your life if your bigger picture needs that – mine does!) For this conversation, if we don’t plan for this balance, one of two things may happen: Either you’ll get overwhelmed by the thought of “growing, growing, growing…I have too many things to work on!” and you won’t do anything, or you’ll lose your teammates by going too hard, too fast. Translation: pick one thing you want to work on in one song for this week and push hard on it, but then do the rest of the songs “as usual.” That will also help ensure you don’t become overly focused on the skills and forget the heart of just loving and worshiping Jesus when you gather for worship.

What resources are available to help me grow?

Good question, because there are tons! And that’s not always helpful. In addition to my favorite tools that I shared here, there are three I’d like to give you:

Worship Coaching – this is where I come to you, to your church, to your team, and we walk alongside each other for a season of exponential growth. Get details here, and read what others have experienced here.

Worship Alliance/Guild – there are small groups of worship leaders that meet to encourage each other regularly. In Central PA, there is one in Ephrata and one in Harrisburg. We truly can’t make it without each other. Let me know if you want more info on them.

52 Worship Training Events – I’m not referring to a previous post, I wanted to include this one to get your feedback on the idea as well as to give myself some accountability. Wouldn’t it be great to have a little idea that would be easy to use for each rehearsal throughout the year that would give your team a balanced diet of growth based on the Five Areas of the Growth Plan? I’m in the process of writing an e-book that will be this very thing. Does this sound like a helpful tool?

How to sucker-punch the resistance

No wise person embarks on a project without counting the cost, and part of that cost are the obstacles that will oppose you, the resistance you’ll face. The cool thing is that you can actually think through what might stop you and create a way around it! Trust me, the energy you spend to do this will be so much less that what it will take to get around it once you’re facing it!

So I was preparing for a coaching meeting with a new worship leader, and I was reading the chapter in the book we're going through called "How To Lead Worship Without Being A Rock Star."

In the second chapter, author Dan Wilt lays out five worship values based on his church context. They are:

  • Intimacy
  • Accessibility
  • Integrity
  • Cultural Connection
  • Kingdom Expectation
  • And reading the descriptions prompted me to write my own. They are:

  • God-centric
  • Authentic
  • Inviting/Welcoming
  • Moving/Stretching/Growing/Discipling
  • Free
  • Grounded and Very Broad
  • Maybe it'd be helpful to say just a bit more of each of them.


    I needed to say that He is the Host, that it's His party, that everything is centered and gathered around Him. As we as leaders create spaces where people can meet with God, it can be easy to focus on the people, on us, on what songs we picked, on...stuff other than God.


    Man, is this you? I want to make sure that you buy it before I'll connect. You be you. And hey, this likely isn't a stadium of Australians or Mega-church Texans that you're leading, so it probably won't feel, look, or sound the same. You guys be you guys. Don't compare or imitate, but be inspired by the other guys...and then translate it to your hometown.


    When I worked at Starbucks, we were taught that we needed to be welcoming. There was none of this scripted junk that we had to say or mandate that we needed to greet a customer when they got to within 6 feet of us...but we by all means needed to make them glad they were there. We could learn from that...from how we talk to folks, to the way we open ourselves and lead vulnerably, to the volume we choose at the beginning. No rules, just make sure that what you choose to do has a good chance of making them feel like maybe, just maybe, they belong there.


    Entertainment? Feeling good? Sentimental fuzzies? Comfort? Um, no. When we lead worship, we are to be making disciples. It's our job to stretch people a little. (A little!) They should be just a little deeper in their relationship, a little more sold out, a little more fearless, a little more Christian (read: little Christs) when the last song is sung.


    So here's a sure way to tell if God's Spirit is at work in a room: there's freedom happening. Every Sunday morning, there's this little thing that tries to bite you in the heel or backside to make you tense up, formalize, get churchy...and it's not nerves. It's just not the Holy Spirit at work. Kick that thing. Tell it off. Send it to its place...back where it came from. Abide in the Vine and bear the fruit of those things against which there is no law! :-D (Galatians 5:22)

    Grounded and Very Broad

    Here's a newsflash: Church didn't start on May 4, 1972. It's been happening for a loooong time! Praise choruses and hymns are a great place to start in the lineup with current tunes, but did you know? Chants, Kyries, twelve-tone beauties...are all part of Our music heritage. So dig in. And while we're at it, we have such breadth in what we could be using. Musically, perhaps we should ask WWHD? There are so many more textures and grooves and ensembles and combinations and arrangements and...I mean, use this as a launching'll make you rethink throwing away that old typewriter!

    Oh, so what's special about that 05.04.72 date? Christopher Dwayne Tomlin joined us.

    So that prompts me to ask...what are yours? It'd be a worthwhile five minutes to mine the insight from your own context...and it'll help you communicate them, ask for them, teach from them, and make decisions from them.

    I'm stunned whenever I meet with a worship team that only does music together. Conversations are warm but shallow, we carry our own burdens in…and then out, we hear scripture in the songs but don’t open the Book together, there’s learning that’s happening but we don’t share it with each other, and we’ve never shared a meal or been in each other’s homes.

    That’s so, so sad.

    Maybe you’re experience isn’t that bad, but I bet you can be more intentional to go deeper, grow spiritually, learn intentionally, and experience human community. Every week, I’m helping bands to play better together, so I certainly value creating fantastic music. The tragedy comes when that’s all we do. And I get that it’s a musical rehearsal, but if we’re intentional, we can build so much more than great music. There’s this unspoken sentiment that says “well, we have to get the music down…if something else happens, it’s a bonus.” So often, there’s no bonus. Sad face.

    How can you be more intentional?

    Go Deeper

    If I’ve led your team, you’ve probably heard me say “I have a rule. I don’t lead worship with strangers.” And then I break out the (dreaded) question: “What do you wish I knew about you? And you should probably share the first thing that comes to your mind.” All it takes is a little question to give people the chance to begin sharing themselves. Be interested in each other…ask curious questions.

    Grow Spiritually

    We are to take great pains until…Christ is formed in each other. Have a different band member lead a five-minute devotional each time. Take your bible and open it up and read a psalm together. Subscribe to Worship Team Devotions. Pray for each other. Stop taking so long doing inefficient sound checks and making copies of chord charts so you carve out space for this.

    Learn Intentionally

    I believe that we’re learning all the time…a little here, a little there. It’s one of the reasons I share on Twitter and Facebook. I reflect on an experience and find a nugget of learning and share it. How did you get that part of the song down? What made those voices work well on that song? What is going through your head/heart when you sing this song? As a leader, you can simply ask “What are you learning with this music tonight?”

    Experience Human Community

    Be Italian already! Eat! (together) There’s a church whose worship team eats a meal before each rehearsal. Every week, a different team member brings a simple meal to share together the thirty minutes before they play. Get this: the band, the tech, and sometimes even the pastors eat and talk together. Hey start doing this even once a month and see where it goes.

    So let me ask you this: Are you friends with the people on your team? (and that sounds like a pretty good definition for a friend: a person you go deeper, grow spiritually, learn intentionally, and experience human community with.)

    So, the generous folks at Gateway Worship have created a helpful training video to help us learn now to have better presence while we lead worship.

    Click here to watch the video

    Granted, it would be easy to dismiss this video as "wow, my church is nothing like that!" when you see the first few moments, but there are definitely things to learn from it.

    Here are a few questions from just the first two minutes.

    What would it look like if each of us would always: Sing, Move, and Be Genuine?

    How am I aware of the "Two Directions" dynamic in my worship leadership?

    Where would you put yourself in the balance between "Congregational Engagement" and just "Worshiping the Lord"?

    What would it look like for you to "Show forth" the praises of God? (1 Peter 2:9)

    Do you really think that 50% is what the congregations "sees" and 50% is what they "hear"? If so, how does that change what you're doing on the platform?

    How can we avoid being "closed off and distant" from the congregation?

    How can you allow what God is doing on the inside be shown on the outside for others to see, while still being "yourself?"

    How do you feel about the difference between the look of the team at 11:52 and 12:18?

    As expected, the idea presented at 16:02 is complete garbage. Flip flops rule!

    The Glory of Reflection

    Well, not exactly that kind of reflection.

    But thinking deeply and carefully. Perhaps better stated The Art of Looking in the Mirror.

    I was compelled to take a look over my previous seven days of work and pull any observations and learnings. I was astounded at that surfaced. I'll share my tweetable kernels. I won't share any of the "story behind the tweet" unless you'd like me to. :) I hope they are both inspiring in and of themselves, but even more so, that they'd inspire you to reflect and record as well.

    There's something from God in planning my work and then following that plan. #grace #integrity #anointing

    Never speak dishonorably about someone to make yourself look better. It simply does the opposite. #humility #honor #keepyourmouthshut

    Being the worship leader doesn't exempt you from playing only your fraction/percentage of the whole.

    You can't overestimate the value of a team breaking bread regularly together. It's worth the time and energy to do it. (and Heather reminded me that it holds true for the "team" of our family!)

    Who has been a hero to you? Do they know it? Tell them! Again. Again. #encouragement is #gold!

    That "begin with the end in mind" thing has huge real-world implications - do it every day, every time!

    Sabbath = still a relevant idea, a holy practice, a generous mandate.

    There is such HUGE value in worship leaders being in the same room sharing how they want to grow and then helping each other figure out how to do it. "eradicate isolation and burnout!"

    Great band leaders make an average team sound great - they're able to bring out the best on their team, not just sound good themselves.

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