Article: Leading People
Next up, is our friend Josh Hobbs with a powerful call to lead people in relationship. It's made me reflect on how I'm investing in my team and know this will be a great challenge and blessing to many. Thanks Josh!
Hi guys! My name is Josh, together with my wife Bethanna, I head up worship at Holy Trinity Hastings; a church plant from St Peter’s Brighton which began in November 2014.
I was so excited when I read Chris’s article outlining his vision for this new season for New Wine Worship and am totally behind every single aspect that was mentioned. One phrase really struck a chord for me though as it is something Bethanna and I have spent a lot of time talking about recently. Chris said, ‘those who lead worship in the family must be about leading people not just songs or liturgy.’ When I read that I just knew Chris is the perfect person to take forward the movement of New Wine Worship.
Perhaps some of you are reading this and are exasperated at how obvious this is but many of us who are involved in leading ‘contemporary worship’ know how easy it is to fall into obsessing over the mechanics of songs and how they sound, from arrangements to production; before we know it, we’re performing in front of the congregation instead of truly leading them. I can remember specific Sundays where I’ve found myself frustrated at the apparent lack of engagement from the congregation and I’ve allowed myself to think, ‘the band sounded amazing, there’s nothing more we could have done.’ I’d committed the cardinal sin of thinking that playing the songs well meant that we’d led the people well.
I suggest that in the context of congregational worship in our churches, there are two major aspects in which we need to really focus on leading people. Firstly, those in worship teams need to focus on leading each other, secondly the team needs to lead the congregation.
Since Bethanna and I moved to Hastings in August 2015 to take up the role of Worship Pastors, we have gone wholeheartedly after the idea that we’re doing this as team. With that at the forefront of our minds, the first things we established were monthly rotas to give a defined team who knew they were regularly serving, as well as launching twice-termly ‘Team Nights,’ which are separate from our weekly band rehearsals as the entire team gather to eat together, worship, invest in each other through teaching and sharing vision for the future as well as praying together. Every single one of these evenings have been special as we have grown closer as a group, bolder in our worship and clearer in our vision. The team nights have been essential for us as at every single one we have had new people who have recently joined the team that have been able to hear the vision again (we share the vision with them when we meet with any prospective team members) in the context of the wider team and because of this, whilst the team has grown significantly in number, we have never felt as if anybody is pulling in a different direction to the rest of the group. The nights have been vital in unifying us and we have had overwhelming feedback that they are highlights of being part of the worship team at HTH.
For those readers who are responsible for leading the worship team at their church, I can’t recommend team nights more highly to you as you seek to lead your team effectively, but if that is something that isn’t possible in your context I really encourage you to be clear in your vision of worship and consistent in reminding your team members in what that looks like in action.
As we have grow clearer in our vision together as team, we will be far more effective at leading the congregation.
This leads onto the second aspect of being leaders of people. As mentioned above; there is far more to this than just playing the songs to a high standard. Over the last few years I’ve been on a real journey of understanding what it is to communicate effectively with the congregation in order to lead in the best way I can.
It’s easy to lead those people who love contemporary worship – you know the ones; they’ll be on the front row, hands in the air, singing their hearts out, no matter what. However, there’s also those that have been brought up in a different tradition, or like it a little less loud, or have just had a really bad morning/week/year and need to be led on a journey where they’re able to have a fresh revelation of Jesus and be compelled to respond in worship. These are the people I’m really wanting to focus on as a Worship Pastor; it is my responsibility to lead all of the people, not just the few!
It is so important that we do this together as the body of Christ.
Whilst our sung worship has an element to it that is individual in our interaction with God, it is primarily corporate as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:19, ‘Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord.’
As we raise our voices together in worship we are encouraging those around us to join in! With that in mind, I’d like to share a couple of practical ways I think we can do this most effectively.
Many of you who are New Wine regulars will be familiar with Nick Drake; I recently heard him say this at a seminar on worship, ‘As worship pastors it is our role to be a spiritual barometer for our church. We are leaders in our churches and shouldn’t be afraid to speak into what we see.’ That comment really resonated with me as I’ve been seeking to be much clearer and speaking out during our times of worship when I feel that the Spirit seems to be doing something amongst us. Instead of just starting up a spontaneous song and expecting people to join in, I’ll take a moment to mention that particular sense that I’m having and invite people to either sing out their own songs in response or join together as we sing a refrain. This has often unlocked something amongst the congregation and we’ve seen people participate in ways they wouldn’t have done before because by verbalising what we’re about to do, they’ve felt they’ve been given the permission to join in. Of course, these times can still fall flat and we can fall into the trap of killing the moment with words. It’s really important to be clear and concise in leading into these moments rather than going off on a mini sermon!
I believe another aspect of this is reflected in our song choices. It can be so easy to put together a list for Sunday that’s full of our favourite new songs, but it’s also so easy to lose people when we do that. In our context at HTH, we’ve been on a learning curve with this issue as the repertoire of songs has been established from scratch as we’re a recent church plant. In one sense, every song we’ve done has been new and especially for those that are new Christians, they’ve had to learn every single song we’ve sung without hearing them before! However, there are those well known songs that have been around for many years that make a huge difference to those that have joined us from another tradition or maybe even love contemporary worship but just haven’t kept up with the latest releases from Housefires, Hillsong and Bethel (even New Wine!). For those people, a really familiar song can make all the difference in their engagement in worship. I don’t think this has to mean that we throw How Great Thou Art into our songlists every week, but I’ve been challenging myself to look carefully at what I’ve prepared for Sunday and how easy it will be for the most amount of people to engage with.
Of course, most of all, we want to be led by the Spirit as we worship, but we have found these practical ideas really helpful to us as we seek to be better Worship Pastors and lead the people most effectively. I’m sure many of you will know a lot of these things already but I hope these thoughts have been a reminder to look again at our congregations and how best we can serve them.