What we REALLY do


So I’m up at this cabin in the woods, doing some songwriting & ministry dream-scaping & as I’m going through my creative & brainstorming processes I was reminded of a conversation I recently had about what it is we do . . . really.

Worship leaders lead worship” you say. Sure, that makes sense to me. We do music. Our excellence on stage and our progress from year to year as a ministry team is important. But sometimes I wonder if we’ve thought through what we’re REALLY doing, or if we’re accepting how things have been historically in the church.

There is a worship movement that any of us can choose to be a part of. And I would propose we’re not primarily singers of songs, or band leaders, or musicians. We’re not just setlist builders, gear nerds, freedom fighters, tone chasers, supernatural thermostats, environment makers, or artistically creative. All of us have varying degrees of giftings in these areas. But their not our PRIMARY role.

Worship leaders are in the business of transformation.

We’re specialists in life transformation. I don’t mean behavior modification, but a genuine new heart and new creation, culture shifting, rebirth transformation experts. Once we get past the basics in our leadership development (keys, songs, set planning, training, etc.), and start to mature in our recognition of what it is we’re actually doing, it can shape how we look at all the things it ‘appears’ that we do week after week.

I’ll give you an example, one thing we say around the Grace Music family is, “Your credibility onstage is directly affected by your visibility and availability offstage.” We’ve learned that the people we’re leading when we’re on stage will follow us anywhere, and respond with passionate intensity when we already have a relationship with them, and they have access to us offstage throughout the week. When they know our heart for them, they’re open in a way they wouldn’t be otherwise. This is why I make sure to be visible and available before and after the services and throughout the week (as does the band). I also make it a point to preach once in a while at my church. It’s important for my people to hear my heart and vision beyond the 20 minutes of music, one day a week (which they might catch 1-2 times a month.)

Another thing we say around here is, “It’s not our gifts that change the world, it’s our lives.” We truly believe in this idea that we want something FOR our volunteers, not FROM them. I don’t care if all the jobs get done or not. I don’t care if we don’t have someone on ProPresenter. I refuse to look at volunteer opportunities as jobs to be done out of discipline or devotion. What I care about is the fact that transformation happens best in the context of relationships – small groups, and serving. So I want all my teams in small groups and serving somewhere. I’m convinced of this because it’s been my story. Jesus didn’t die for us to give him our lives, he died to give us his. God doesn’t need anything from us, he wants something for us.

I was never going to work in the church or in music. April 2nd, 2010 I was on the floor of the care pastor’s office at this church called Grace. My dad had dragged me here. My life was a disaster. But through serving and relationships, the Lord God completely and literally transformed me into an entirely different person and put me in a leadership role with spiritual authority and a Kingdom mindset. This can happen for any and all of our people at any time, and it starts with us.

Here’s what I’m getting at. Ask yourself “To what extent do I have relationships with my band?” What I’m looking for is, are these the people you call when you have a hard day? Are they the people you celebrate with when they get a promotion at work? Do you have fridge rights in their kitchen? (Have you ever even seen their kitchen?) Are these people your PRIMARY friend group, or are they just a part of your life, and you happen to serve with them? Do you know how they’re motivated, and what they fear? How much time do you spend with them off campus, Monday through Saturday?

Notice a pattern? None of these questions have anything to do with music, or if they’ve confirmed in PCO, or if they showed up prepared. These questions have everything to do with who they are and what the Father is doing in their journey. The win for us as worship leaders shouldn’t be, “man that was an awesome weekend.” Or “Worship was so anointed and people really sang!” The win should sound more like, “Wow, Jason really took a step in relationship with Bill today. I hadn’t seen them connect like that before.” “Jenny really opened up today for the first time in our community. That’s HUGE.” This is Kingdom success – culture shift and the journey.

The culture in your church will flow from the internal culture of whoever is onstage. You, the band, and production are the main face of the church and will influence its direction more than anyone cares to admit. It’s vital that you’re experiencing new breakthrough and transformation with Jesus in the secret place, and your band is experiencing intimacy and regular moments of worship in relationship together offstage.

Fringe benefits.

It turns out, as you gain traction in relationship and organic discipleship you also gain excellence on stage, your band will be intrinsically motivated to prepare (because they will want to bring their excellence as a gift to their friends), you’ll find new energy and chemistry onstage, and your church will grow because of it.

Focus on your team as a family. Pursue them as friends. Build something that will outlast you or your job at your church and watch the Lord’s increase in your house.

Nic Payne is the Worship Pastor at Grace Church in Roseville, MN, & a coach at Tailored Coach. He also posts at the Grace Music Family & Wandering Worship sites.