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Advice at a New Church

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  • Advice at a New Church

    I just moved to a new church and the worship team has:
    Male singer: Myself who sings and plays acoustic
    Other male singer: who plays mandolin or acoustic (Bob)
    1 Other acoustic guitarist
    2 Female singers
    1 Bassist
    1 Drummer or Keyboardist

    My first question is: "If we want to improve this worship team, then of course learning from the pros would help a lot. The culture is sort of just go-with-the-flow as of right now. Bob can play parts but he chooses not to. He specializes in bluegrass so every song ends up sounding like bluegrass. I personally would like him to play electric to have lead instead of 3 guitarists playing the exact same thing. I don't know how to deal with this. Do I gently push electric to him? Do I just keep the mandolin sound for my whole time there? Thoughts? Thank you!

  • #2
    Hey James,
    Thanks for jumping in here at TWC. These are great questions and this can be a sensitive issue. I've been in a similar situation in the past so can definitely teach you a bit from what I learned.

    The biggest thing I learned: take it slow. Don't try to change things in a day, a week, or even a month. You said you just moved there, so take some time to just get to know everyone. They will follow you as a leader much more easily if you build a relationship with them and give some credit to the way they've done things in the past.

    Second, begin to slowly share and speak vision to them: a vision of how you'd like the team to function, and why. A vision of different styles. Have a listening party - where you play some songs you think we'd like to learn. You might say something like "notice the modern arrangement, and there is more electric - since we have all acoustics/mandolin, who would be willing to start learning how to play some electric guitar parts" ... see if someone steps up.

    The key is casting vision for a new sound without them feeling threatened or unappreciated. Also, make sure you don't throw away the old style completely - if they do it, and do it well, then enjoy that and flow with it. There's no rule that says you can't mix it up in a given setlist. Diversity can be a GOOD THING.

    When you begin to correct or change something, try to compliment what they are doing, give them a different role, and explain why.
    Here's a perfect example: Last night, we were practicing a modern/contemporary songs and one of our male singers was singing a harmony part down an octave. Because of this, it sounded like he was singing a bass line. The part was correct, it was just too low and gave it a more southern gospel vibe than a contemporary/modern worship vibe. I thanked him for nailing the part and said "hey man that sounds good, it's down a bit low in the range, though, so it gives it a bass type sound that doesn't necessarily fit the style, so can you come up and sing the melody part with me, or sing that harmony part an octave higher"? He adjusted and it changed the song. He still had a role to play. He still understood he was valued. I asked him to change something, and gave him a clear reason why.

    Hope this helps - but if you read nothing else I said, read this: Don't get in a hurry. Don't try to change the musical culture overnight. Take your time, earn their trust and their friendship.
    Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
    blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

    Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:
    www.soundcloud.com/FredMcKinnonMusic
    www.youtube.com/c/FredMcKinnonMusic

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks a lot Fred. I appreciate your wisdom and experience so much. So much to learn from just that one post indeed. God has been speaking this to me over the past few weeks and I'm still just trying to understand the balance. It also doesn't help when I am there as an interim too...Depending on God to use me and to be wise in change! Over-communication is key and the reminded to value people over ministry because when you do that, the ministry itself becomes much more effective. Thanks again!

      Comment


      • #4
        Yeah, if you're only interim, I'd probably try to just keep the ship on course, unless there's potential for it to turn into more. When I say that, I don't mean that you don't put effort into it - I just mean, if it's 100% definitely interim, probably not great to change a lot of things up if they are going to get changed all over again.
        Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
        blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

        Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:
        www.soundcloud.com/FredMcKinnonMusic
        www.youtube.com/c/FredMcKinnonMusic

        Comment


        • #5
          I agree with Fred. Change is contentious, especially in church.Being an interim position, you'd be a small rudder on a big ship. You won't be able to have a lot of clout to get much buy-in for change.

          That's not to say you shouldn't try, but it's going to take a little tact and persuasion to foster change. The first thing you will need is some rapport/ credo with the team. You will need some time to understand the "culture iceberg". The small part of the culture you see is often steered by the underlying culture that you don't 'see' until you've been there awhile. The stuff like power dynamics, who the 'movers and shakers' are, the actual appetite for change, etc. Being the new guy, there will be a time of healthy suspicion- they are feeling you out just as much as you are feeling them out. They will need to get a good feel for who you are, too. And that's not a bad thing.

          Another very important thing- where does leadership stand on the issue? The key here is 'leadership' is not limited to the pastor. It could be the elders/deacons/officials, it could be the Old Guard that heavily influences the pastor, or it could be a mature, spirit-filled advisory panel he trusts to guide him in these decisions. This is key to your success or failure. Many a worship leader have fallen victim to a pastor that had a vision for change, brought in a new worship leader to kick-start a church face-lift and it backfired. It stirred too many people's iced tea, they liked "the way we've always done it', and put immense pressure on the pastor to go back to the way it was. In the worst cases, people threaten to yank their tithe, church threatens to split, all that noise. Pastor has to save face and save his own bread & butter, so guess who gets stuck being the scapegoat? Or, they say we want to 'change'- as long as you don't change the music, the style, the paint, the lights, the service times or the dress code. Then when more people don't show up (because the only thing changed was the color of the bulletin paper), guess who gets blamed for doing a bad job of getting more people in church? I don't want to scare you, but you need to start getting a sense of that 'beneath the surface' part of the iceberg.

          That doesn't always happen. There are scores of stories where a church was dying with 30 people, and a team committed to the vision turned 30 into 300 within a few years and some even went to 1000+. But most of the time it's somewhere in the middle- a series of smaller adjustments over 5+ years kind of thing. That's where the part of an interim position will be a disadvantage for anything.too major- if that makes sense.

          Hope it works out well for you. It can bea great experience for you regardless of how long or short the position is for .
          If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

          Comment


          • #6
            Fred and Mike are spot on . I can't add much except : Get church leadership behind you , cast vision , smile all the time , make rehearsals fun , and pray . Pray with them , pray for them , pray for God's will to be done where you are and that He will use you to His best advantage . Perhaps show them Paul Baloche's Woship Band Workshop . Then pray some more ! Blessings !

            Comment


            • #7
              If you are new and are planning to stay at this new place then the typical rule of thumb is to wait 6 months to a year before making changes. This gives you time to learn how and why things are the way they are. If you are interim then the reason, typically for interim positions is because change needs to be made. Talk with your boss/supervisor and ask why you were brought on. If/when you decide to make the push for the change start by affirming Bob in his abilities. Then tell him that you want to see him grow and develop outside of his comfort zone and become and even better musician. Then share your vision with him, tell him your dreams for the team and for him. Encourage him and make sure he knows you have his back and will help him along the way. Partner with him in making the switch. Having he take steps outside of bluegrass will not only grow him, but will allow the ministry to grow in it's repertoire and develop a different sounds. He sounds like a great musician, make sure he knows that. Even though you're interm it is still important that you embrace this ministry as if you were not. The most important thing though, is to talk with leadership and find out why they brought you on. Changing the make up of a pre-existing band though, is not something I would constitute as a big change, you are simply having people who are already committed and volunteering play other instruments they already play, you are simplifying. Be sure to talk to your supervisors first though because in the end, they make the final decisions.

              Comment


              • #8
                I am considering scheduling a team meeting soon to have the team come together to discuss the vision of the worship ministry. My leadership above me is very supportive of my ideas so the challenge comes more from the support of the team members. There is distrust and the want to not give up their ministry to the influence of someone new like me. I understand what everyone is saying about the 6 months and I see the wisdom. I am just praying and seeking the Lord about there being something more than just doing what has been done well. This is not to say that I cannot do that because I have done just that for 10 years at my previous church. The temptation for me is to not try anything after being discouraged and pressured not to change things by others. Their ages are also my parents' ages so they treat me like I am their son who needs to be instructed more than anything. At least in my opinion...I am desperately trying to understand the culture and the future vision of this ministry and how it works with the whole. Thank you everyone for your encouragement and sharing of life experience. I appreciate all of you!

                Comment

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