Read an Excerpt
Creating Powerful God Experiences
By Kim Miller
Abingdon PressCopyright © 2009 Kim Miller
All rights reserved.
ASSEMBLING A WORSHIP DESIGN TEAM
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. –Albert Einstein
How did we start designing worship as a team at Ginghamsburg? We started in the middle of great difficulty, as I'll describe in the following pages. Through a series of perspective-shifting events, the opportunity arose to pull together a worship design team. But before there was the team, there was worship. Worship is critical to what we do here at Ginghamsburg. Our mission statement, organized around the three Cs, is
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Bring seeking people into a life-Celebration of Jesus. Grow as disciples in Cell community. Serve out of our Call and giftedness.
Powerful worship celebrations are essential to fulfill our call to bring seeking people into the church. But what is a powerful worship celebration?
The multisensory worship style we embrace at Ginghamsburg evolved in response to a lightbulb moment. In the early 1990s, our pastor, Mike Slaughter, went to a presentation in which the speaker used computer-generated slides. Mike was struck by the potential of that technology, and a mental lightbulb came on as he realized that pictures and visual images could be a powerful way to communicate the greatest story ever told. For the church to remain effective into the future, Mike concluded, we must cease telling the story through "talking heads" alone and begin to incorporate multimedia into our worship. Mike dreamed of worship celebrations where storytelling and artistic imagery would invite worshipers to participate in the process, using their senses and powerful mental capabilities to encounter God more deeply. (See Michael Slaughter, Out on the Edge: A Wake-up Call for Church Leaders on the Edge of the Media Reformation [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998].)
Armed with this vision, Ginghamsburg moved in 1995 into a new worship facility that was media capable. But despite the media-friendly new church building, challenges arose. No one on staff knew much about the equipment. The music director had never considered what connection the music might have with visual imagery, and simply showing random pictures during a worship celebration does not effective storytelling make. Thus a primitive version of the worship design team was formed in the belief that what no one person could pull off alone, many people together might actually have a shot at.
When it comes to designing worship, teamwork is absolutely essential. If we still think we can plan the most precious hour of the week in a vacuum, shame on us! Even as worship designers, how can we think we have all the best ideas about appropriate music, drama, sermon themes, or visual imagery?
When we do have good ideas of our own, we're tempted to claim solo credit by saying, "God gives those ideas to me." Maybe so, but remember that even God is a team of three parts.
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"Let us create human beings in our image" —Genesis 1:26, emphasis added
A LEADER WORTH FOLLOWING
During Jesus' ministry on earth, he assembled and led a team of twelve. Twelve ordinary people with sometimes conflicting, sometimes complementary, ideas. Twelve minds working together to get the job done. And when the task was too cumbersome for twelve, he pulled out a micro-team and headed for the mountaintop.
"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John ... and led them up a high mountain by themselves."—Matthew 17:1
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Jesus needed his team's input. He knew that giving it deepened their understanding. Seeking his disciples' feedback, Jesus asked:
"Have you understood all this?"
"What are others saying about me?"
"Who do you say that I am?"
"Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?"
Sometimes the team got the message; sometimes it didn't. On one occasion, the whole team quite literally missed the boat, causing Peter nearly to drown as he tried to walk on water. Of course, Jesus caught Peter and pulled him back in the boat. But as soon as the crisis was averted, he stepped back and encouraged his team to rethink the situation: "Now, let's go over this again, guys. Why did you doubt?"
Jesus was a master leader. As you prepare to lead your team, study Jesus' example. Then ask yourself the following questions:
How can I follow Jesus' example as a servant leader?
How will I verify that my instructions to team members have been heard and understood?
How will I communicate to my team members that I value their ideas?
How will I handle situations in which team members' ideas differ from my own?
How will I nurture each team member's giftedness to strengthen the whole team?
Jesus and his disciples were a great team. Like all great teams, they frequently bounced their ideas off one another. Worship teams can do this too. As your team develops, you'll find yourself testing everyone's ideas in order to find out if they're worth keeping (the ideas—not the people). As Kenny Rogers sang in "The Gambler," "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, / Know when to walk away and know when to run." Some ideas you'll hold tightly and run with. Other ideas you'll drop immediately and run away from. And along the way somebody called the leader (perhaps that's you!) may eventually have to decide which are which. Remember that the buck stops with you, but only after you've consulted with your carefully recruited team.
PICKING THE PLAYERS
A great team requires great players. Each team member will come with unique strengths and weaknesses. However, our experience has shown that several traits are must-haves for any worship design team member. Here are my four Fs of great worship design team players:
No matter what the individual's role on the worship design team (videographer, drama writer, music director, or another position), his or her faith matters. The faith of great players must be active, vibrant, and passionate. These people must love Jesus! This kind of radical faith is described well in Michael Slaughter's Real Followers (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999).
Remember, this is the group who, along with the speaker, will help discern the best word from God for the weekend. It is impossible to squeeze blood out of a turnip, and it's equally impossible to squeeze faith-inspiring messages out of faith- challenged followers.
Let's face it, creative people are not known for their flexibility. Once we get these great ideas, we want to see them come to fruition. We love the thrill of knowing that a great worship experience developed out of our ideas. But when team players (or leaders, for that matter) marry their own ideas or ways of thinking, they may be hindered from finding the best idea. Great team players learn that while contributing an idea is good, seeing God work is great. And God works best when we collaborate on ideas. Teamwork, like family work, is a lot of give-and-take. It requires flexibility.
Unlike historians and art collectors whose job is to look back, worship design team players must always look forward. Great team players must always carry with them a picture of next week's worship, along with the motivation to find even better ways of connecting with participants. "Hey, why not?" must be their mantra. Often it will seem that change is the only constant in their lives. Therefore, team players must embrace and enjoy the next thing—the future picture.
I once heard Barbara Walters describe the team on The View. She noted that they could interview and "train" many different types of women to sit on that couch, but the key boiled down to chemistry. A great fit.
How do you find great fit? By examining how your team functions as a unit. Are your meeting times fixed or flexible? Are your existing team members on time or tardy? In meetings, do you update one another on personal or church news, or stick strictly to business? Do ideas flow freely, or do team members speak only when called upon? Each worship design team will have its own chemistry, or DNA. These characteristics make your team unique and uniquely suited to minister within your particular church setting.
Our team at Ginghamsburg is characterized by off-the-wall conversations that skip from topic to topic often without any sense of rhyme or reason. The team players have a common sense of humor. They have fun together, but also work hard. They have an almost uncanny ability to turn on a dime. When the need arises, they're able to pull together and fix their joint focus on the task at hand. Over time, they've established a comfortable intimacy level. While they lead very different lives, they all have strong enough egos to allow them to give and take compliments and criticism equally well.
At Ginghamsburg we use the Gallup StrengthsFinder tools, as found in the book Now, Discover Your Strengths (New York: The Free Press of Simon & Schuster, 2001), to help ensure that each team player is a good fit. The book includes a link to an online survey that identifies an individual's top five strengths and offers advice to enable individuals to use the strengths and to help team leaders manage them.
I highly recommend this resource to you and your team. Among our various Ginghamsburg teams, each of us has been able to identify and understand personal strengths as well as those of the teams of which we are a part. I've discovered the affirmation and helpful critique that each team player needs. I'm learning what kind of communication speaks best and how each player prefers to navigate change. Armed with this information, I can lead more effectively by interacting with each team member in more accommodating ways. Our team members are learning to know and respect one another as well. This is the essence of a great team. They aren't necessarily best friends, but they truly enjoy working together and have learned to trust and respect one another's strengths.
To recap, great team players are
faithfully following Jesus,
flexibly offering creative ideas for consideration,
fixing their focus on the future picture, and
finding out where they fit in.
As team leader to these key players, you paint the biggest picture you can, then watch your team take it and run. When you give assignments to team players who meet these criteria, they'll often bring back more than you asked for. They'll consistently surprise you. They'll exceed expectations. And you'll learn that you can trust them with music selections, arrangements, video pieces, graphics, and countless other details.CHAPTER 2
FINDING GREAT TEAM PLAYERS
Come, follow me, ... and I will make you fishers of men. –Jesus, Matthew 4:19
Jesus called his team members out of unexpected vocations. Fishermen, tax collectors—not exactly the power team the religious leaders expected the Messiah to assemble. Perhaps some Pharisees grumbled about being excluded. But those unlikely disciples devoted themselves to Jesus and his mission, and together they got the job done.
In this chapter you'll learn where to look (think: unlikely places) and what to look for as you assemble your own worship design team. But before I suggest how to assemble a great team, I'll make a few suggestions about how not to go about it. I've learned these lessons the hard way!
LESSON 1: DO NOT INVITE STAFF PERSONS SIMPLY BASED ON WORKPLACE WARDROBE
During my first day on this team, I was invited into a conference room full of pastoral staff. Most of them wore ties. One was desperately trying to learn media as a second career. The music director was present and pouting. I could have been intimidated and given up on the spot. But Mike Slaughter had a vision that I immediately connected with and embraced. Although I had never received formal training for what I envisioned could happen, it seemed that everything in my life up to that point had prepared me for this mission.
Initially, I joined the team as an occasional drama writer with a little experience as a musician or a visual designer. As our team dreams grew together, so did my passion for the cause. I worked without pay for a year and a half, then part-time for a very small salary. Eventually, I was hired full-time as team leader. The tie wearers eventually uninvited themselves to the meetings, and we began to acquire permission and direction to pursue new team players who shared the dream and demonstrated the passion and wiring to carry it out.
You may have "tie wearers" who want to have a say in your worship design. If so, gently encourage them to trust you to carry out your God-given dreams. Work hard; demonstrate your passion. If God has truly called you to this job, you'll eventually win them over.
LESSON 2: DO NOT ASSUME ALL ORDAINED CLERGY ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT THE WEEKLY WORSHIP EXPERIENCE
Just because a clergyperson has completed seminary does not mean that worship is her or his area of concentration or life passion. Your pastor may have focused his or her seminary training on discipleship, administration, counseling, or another aspect of church life. These other areas are important to the life of your church, but they probably won't directly contribute to the well-being of your worship design team.
You can tell when a person has a different passion from worship design. He grows quiet and his eyes glaze over in a design team meeting. She asks to leave early because she needs to "work on a few other things." Do yourself and these folks a favor: let them leave. Seek out like-minded people who are passionate about designing worship experiences.
LESSON 3: DO NOT INVITE PEOPLE TO JOIN YOUR TEAM JUST BECAUSE THEY AGREE WITH YOU AND YOUR IDEAS
We all like to have our ideas affirmed. But remember, we're designing the most important hour in the week. Worship participants deserve the benefit of everyone's best thoughts. In order to achieve this, your team needs people who can think for themselves and speak those thoughts out loud. In our design team meetings here at Ginghamsburg, all contributions are highly esteemed. The more, the better. Only after we've all shared our thoughts do we begin refining the focus.
From time to time we include interns in our worship design team meetings. Some interns just want to be in the room with us and do whatever we tell them to do. They aren't nearly as helpful as the interns who speak up and say, "This is how I'm thinking about what you said," or "This is what God is showing me," or "Have you ever thought about doing thus and such?" That's an attitude I can work with, because it inspires all of the team members to expand their thinking. Instead of making me feel better about myself, it makes everyone feel excited about the team.
LESSON 4: DO NOT ASSUME THAT ALL GREAT SOLO PLAYERS ARE ALSO STAR TEAM PLAYERS
It has probably happened to you. You hear a great musician perform in a worship celebration, and you find yourself thinking, Wouldn't it be great if we could get her on our worship team? Maybe. It's possible that a great musician may be a wealth of inspiration to the music portion of your worship experience. But the same dose of self-confidence that enabled that performer to step out on stage may cause him or her to stubbornly hold on to ideas in team meetings.
Doing well at teamwork or solo work requires different gifts. You may be lucky enough to find someone who can do both. If not, fill your team first with team players. You can invite soloists to fill meaningful roles in individual worship celebrations. Worship design is a long-term, often behind-the-scenes commitment. Your team needs players who can shine whether or not they're in the limelight.
Excerpted from [re]designing worship by Kim Miller. Copyright © 2009 Kim Miller. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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