Worship Pastors and their Teams - Lesson 5

Design a Worship Service

Creativity and thought can make an experience memorable. Core truths of the Christian belief are God is holy, man is sinful, grace is amazing and Jesus is the hope of the world. It can be valuable to include durable and well thought-out ancient confessions and creeds. We learn theology through well-written hymns. Be prayed up, punctual and prepared. Worship is a relational encounter with God and others.  We don’t build temples, we dig wells. 

Carl Cartee
Worship Pastors and their Teams
Lesson 5
Watching Now
Design a Worship Service

I. How Do You Best Design and Prepare a Service?

A. Creativity and thought are important.

B. Become year-focused rather than weekend-focused.

II. Design Phase

A. Start with the end in mind
: core truths of the Christian belief.

B. Imagine the journey.

C. Inventory your arsenal.

D. Map out the journey.

III. Essential Elements for Corporate Gathering

A. Gathering for prayer before the service: set the stage in prayer for what’s about to happen.

B. Call to worship: creeds and corporate and individual confession of sin.

C. Songs of praise and confession: we learn theology through well-written hymns.

D. Public prayers: sometimes writing out your prayer can help you be articulate and specific.

E. Testimony: people sharing what God is doing in their life.

F. Preaching of the Word: your faith is grown and strengthened.

G. Giving

H. Benediction: A way to bless someone is to picture a special future for them.

I. How do you help your team focus on what's important?

IV. Practice the Journey

A. The leader should be the most prepared person.

B. Expectations for volunteers

1. The three "T's": Are you in tune, in time and do you have a good tone?

2. The three "P's": Prayed up, punctual and prepared.

V. The Four Levels of Musical Knowing

VI. Impact is Proportional to the Creative Thought and Time in the Word You Put Into It

VII. Conclusion

  • Carl Cartee, a lifelong musician and experienced worship leader of 17 years, will be leading this course on how to effectively invite people in your congregation to worship God. He will cover topics such as choosing members for the team and mentoring them musically and spiritually, emphasizing truths during worship, and planning services. Students are strongly recommended to go through The Essentials of Worship by Dr. Gary Parrett beforehand for a theoretical basis for worship.

  • Worship leaders have an opportunity to paint a picture of eternity to reveal how beautiful and powerful God is. Worship can be defined as the mind’s attention and the heart’s affection expressed. Biblical worship is both individual and corporate worship. In each worship service, you as a worship leader should focus on communicating the one thing people in the congregation need to know, what they need to do and how you can help them remember it.

  • You are a child of God and you are chosen, royal and purchased. You are called, not so much to accomplish but to worship. You must be worshipping before you can lead others to worship. Work on your job, you’ll make a living. Work on yourself, you’ll make a fortune. Don’t stay where you are at. God invites us into his work, not because we are needed, but because we are loved.

  • Don’t let there be a disconnect between what you say at church and what you do in the world. In order to lead people beyond your title, you must earn their trust by making your life and words line up. When you depend on your title alone as worship pastor, you are being a fixture, not a shepherd. Prioritize time with God. Your calling is to a journey, not a destination. Bearing fruit requires time and effort, not from trying to cut the process short by copying someone else. Don’t try to make people happy, make them disciples. Pray that God will nurture in you an inward passion that transcends outward appearance.

  • If you are insecure, the temptation is to be nervous about what the people in the congregation are thinking rather than concentrating on having an attitude of compassion. Humility is the opposite of insecurity and you discover it in God's presence. One way to demonstrate kindness is to spend 30 seconds each with as many people as possible before you lead worship. You perform from a stage, you influence from a platform. Trajectory of a Christian leader is not an ascent into fame and influence but a descent into obscurity and service.

  • Creativity and thought can make an experience memorable. Core truths of the Christian belief are God is holy, man is sinful, grace is amazing and Jesus is the hope of the world. It can be valuable to include durable and well thought-out ancient confessions and creeds. We learn theology through well-written hymns. Be prayed up, punctual and prepared. Worship is a relational encounter with God and others.  We don’t build temples, we dig wells. 

  • Different people often view the same experience in different ways. People may be deeply moved even though they don’t express it outwardly. Earn trust short term by using a welcome using gestures you use daily, like a smile or a nod or a greeting. Think of things that are universally welcoming. You need to break down resistance, curiosity, reluctance. Earn long-term trust by representing the bible well over time and musical integrity and proficiency. Be careful about “barking orders” right away. Tend the flock rather than driving cattle. Don’t force-feed people information but offer them a meal. Rather than be a cheerleader, encourage and invite people to have an encounter with Christ. Make your body language match what your mouth is saying. Open your eyes to connect with people. Body language can also help non-musical people participate and sing. Use your music to take people on a connected journey. Try to add familiarity in everything you do.

  • Use words purposefully (Prov 12:18, 10:19). The worship leader is often the second most influential person in the church so your words carry weight. Prepare your introduction. Invite people in by telling them what is about to happen and by telling them, who you are, what you are about to do and why you are doing it. 

  • We sing individually, corporately and worldwide. There is always music somewhere in the world. Music and singing help connect affection for God and truth about God in one unified expression. Make it simple and nourishing. For a new song, introduce it three weeks in a row as a new song. Maybe even play through the chorus first to let people hear what a segment of the song sounds like.

  • Introduce a song as new for 3 weeks in a row. Introduce people to parts of the song the first few times. When choosing songs, think of yourself as your congregation’s spiritual dietician and give them a balanced diet across a range of emotions and thought. The best songs seem to be ones that people can sing with and engage with. Know who you are leading worship for. Establish an understanding of how they hear you vs needing to say what you think. Respect the direction of the pastor. If you are younger than the pastor, you earn their respect by your character. Three levels of communication with your worship team: 1. Information, 2. Encouragement, 3. Insight. Pray for what you envision for your congregation. Christianity is not purely a thought, it’s the expression of thought…the Word became flesh.

  • Questions about how a pastor and worship leader can work together to create a seamless worship experience and model working together in relationship.

As a worship leader, you don't lead music for people, you lead people with music. What do you do and say that is effective in inviting people in your congregation to worship God? How do you choose members of your worship team and then mentor them musically and spiritually? What truths do you emphasize and how do you articulate them? How do you design and implement a plan for your worship service? What should your planning time with your pastor look like?

The speaker for this class is Carl Cartee who is a lifelong musician who has had experience in playing concerts and recording music. For the past 17 years, he and his wife Heather have been leading worship, writing songs and mentoring musicians.  

We strongly recommend that you attend this seminar in conjunction with Understanding Worship seminar by Dr. Gary Parrett. Gary will give you the theoretical basis for worship, and Carl will give the practical applications.

Carl Cartee
Worship Pastors and their Teams
Design a Worship Service
Lesson Transcript


Hello, Everybody. Welcome again to the Worship Leadership Class. My name is Carl Cartee. I’m excited today to keep talking to you about worship leadership.  In the four previous lectures, we talked about and dealt with a lot of things internally – your heart, how to prepare your heart, how to let your life express inwardly, outwardly. We talked about what worship is, your mind’s attention, and your heart’s affection expressed.


Now we are going to turn the corner and go a direction that helps with a lot of practical application, answer some questions that you may have, help you kind of shape a trajectory as you lead worship for the local church and your congregation. I have a friend here we’re going to talk with today, Mr. Brandon Gates. Brandon, I’m glad you’re here, man. We’re going to have an awesome time.


I. How Do You Best Design and Prepare a Service?

The first thing I want to talk about is, after your heart is prepared, after you have practiced spiritual discipline, spending time in the Lord’s presence and spending time in His Word, working those things into your heart, we have to start doing this stuff and let it happen for our congregation. One of the things I want to start with today is, how do you best design and prepare a service? Everybody has questions about how best to do that and honestly, there have been great practices for centuries already in place on how to do that. I think it is important for us to borrow some of those and bring them into the church and also envision another creative way of expressing and helping people worship.


A. Creativity and thought are important

 I think a lot of it in terms of when I go out on dates with my wife. There have been dates where the conversation starts, Hey, where do you want to go to eat? I don’t know, where do you want to go to eat? So we end up going to the same place we’ve been to a dozen times and then we end up walking around Target for 90 minutes and then going home. It is kind of a forgettable date. But there have been other times where I call it a mega date. In three weeks we’re going on a mega date. There is planning, there is forethought, I know where we’re going, there are experiences. I’ve tried to – and she has also done the same thing for me --  invest some creativity into the experience, so that love that we share is the same. I love her. But when creativity and thought is infused into sharing that love and experiencing that love, it is so much more memorable, it counts for so much more. I think service design can kind of be like that. I feel like we get into a little bit of a rhythm or a rut where we just fill in the template. We have four songs, 18 minutes, I have to fit the offering in. The temptation is there for us to just forget. This is important. This can be more than just fill-in-the-blank. It can be amazing when we get into creative and imaginative thought.


B. Become year-focused  rather than weekend-focused

I want to say this as we get started. All of the things that I’m interested in talking about today, I think should happen over the arc of time, that is, the arc of a year. Many churches use a church calendar and it is conceived, not just a weekend at a time, but seasons at a time, years at a time. There is a term in worship planning and every church can fall into it. Sunday just keeps coming over and over and over again, never stops. Pastors, 52 times a year, have to come up with something fresh to say and sometimes I feel like we can become weekend focused. There is really, I think, a better way of looking at all of these things we’ll talk about. It is to become year focused or journey focused. We’re saying, we’re not just walking through a weekend, we’re not just making it from Sunday to Sunday. But we are taking a trip together and taking a journey into God’s presence together over time. Very cool.


II. Design Phase

A. Start with the end in mind

     Core truths of the Christian belief

The first part I try to look at in a worship service is a design phase. I always start at the same place. I start with the end in mind. I don’t start by making a setlist before I remind myself of this one thing, what do I want the end result of this service to be? The end result that I always want, every time, no matter what is happening can look and feel different; but at the core of what I’m going for are the core truths of the Christian belief: God is holy. Man is sinful. Grace is amazing. Jesus is the hope of the world. Every time I plan a worship service: God is holy. Man is sinful. Grace is amazing. Jesus is the hope of the world. Those are four phrases that communicate the Gospel. Those are the core things of the Gospel.


Every time we lead worship, we help people without even knowing it, to tell the Gospel story through the worship service. Every time we lead worship, we tell a story. Sometimes it is a story about a person who didn’t practice enough, a story about a person who feels very awkward. But every time it should be about the essential themes of the Gospel: God is holy. Man is sinful. Grace is amazing. Jesus is the hope of the world. No matter what context you are in – if you are already a part of a more liturgical church, that may be built in; or even if you are a part of a very contemporary church where there is lots of production value and things are very dynamic and everything changes every weekend. No matter the context, I would encourage any worship leader to try and formulate their worship services to have those central components to it. You can be so creative within that framework and then beyond that, telling that story.  You say, Holy Spirit, I invite you into this work, would you help my creativity. Would you open up my eyes to see more creatively how this could be imagined and re-imagined and be as creative as it has ever been.


That’s what I love about the Gospel, it is a simple story, but it has so many dimensions, we will never get to the end of exploring it. So, step one, start with the end in mind. Tell the Gospel story. That is where you go.


B. Imagine the journey

Then, for the weekend, for the season, for the year, the next thing I ask people to do is imagine the journey. In your imagination, how would you like to arrive at the place where you want to end? Will there be songs? Will there be a reading? Will there be dance or art, visual art? How will the preaching of the Word influence the journey?


Imagination is so critical to the Christian creative. I really see our capacity to imagine things and be creative as one of the unique ways we are made in the image of God. God creates things out of nothing. We don’t get to do that. But in one way, his creative capacity is resident in us as we imagine things we can come up with: Write a song, paint a painting, choreograph a dance, read something – a poem. Those kinds of things are so important in the Christian creative and I think they are honestly one of the  major areas of attack of the enemy in worship leadership, trying to corrupt the creative mind, filling it with things that are less than, filling it with things that are cheaply made, beauty that is temporary and fleeting and plastic. Those kind of things are the culture like, hey, consume this, consume this, consume this. I think that corrupts the creative mind more than it should. So imagine your journey, but take care of your imagination in that process.


C. Inventory your arsenal

The next thing, inventory your arsenal. What do you have available to you to make that journey happen? Start with the end in mind. Imagine how you are going to get there. Then, who are the people around me? Take stock of what you have, and then map out the journey, put it down on paper. Write out the parts, the elements just as you would the dimensions of a house. Outline visually where every component will go. How long will it take? Who will make it happen? Where does it happen? When does it happen? Most importantly, why does it happen? Having a great why to all the choices we make when we are designing a worship service, I think is a good North Star, you are always looking back to it. Really, to me the why is, I have to tell the Gospel. This is what I’m called to do. I am hosting the Gospel. I am preaching the Gospel. I am seeing the Gospel. I am showing the Gospel visually.


So many church complexes have room for or limitations across the board on what is great. Some people don’t like things on the screen. Others don’t like a certain kind of instrument in the worship service. Those limitations, across denominational lines, are not of a concern to me because I think in any context, in any framework, a worship leader says, my job is to remind people, in my own soul, God is holy, man is sinful, grace is amazing and Jesus is the hope of the world; and we send people on a journey to remember that.


D. Map out the journey

How are you going to get there? Just map it out. A lot of this stuff is planning. I want to make sure that we emphasize the reality that if you don’t plan your trip well, people will be confused about where they are going. It’s like the old hunting guide illustration where, if I run a hunting guide service, which I don’t; but if I did run a hunting guide service, people will want to know, where are we going when you take us hunting? If I don’t know where the animals are, don’t follow me there because I would wander around in the woods.


III. Essential Elements for Corporate Gathering

A couple of core elements, essential elements for corporate gatherings that I want to list out and talk through, and make sure that people understand. You are not limited, this is just a shortlist of things that I want to encourage people to remember to include. They all come together and combine to be able to create that journey for folks through the Gospel.


A. Gathering for prayer before the service

     Set the stage in prayer for what’s about to happen

One of the things I have loved since I was a little kid was a prayer room where people gathered to pray before the service. I talked a little bit about it in the previous lecture. I loved growing up in an environment where before the actual worship began, there was a place set apart and set aside for people to gather and pray and seek God, even if it was 10 minutes before church started. I loved that. To me, that begins to set the stage in prayer for what is about to happen as we gather corporately.


B. Call to Worship

    Creeds and corporate and individual  confessions of sin

A call to worship. Creating specific words, specific thoughts that we use to invite people in. Confessions. We read a lot of corporate confessions. I will write out a corporate confession, which is basically just designed to be read by the congregation along with me, where we acknowledge that we are sinful, we do it together. We are individually sinful, we are collectively sinful. We admit that. We are wrong, we shouldn’t have done that. What I should have done. Will you forgive us? That does so much to clear the way for people’s hearts to receive the grace that God has already given. Confessions, creeds. Many churches recite a creed every weekend. If your church is not like that, I think it’s good to every now and then include some of that, extremely well-thought-out, extremely durable, ancient thinking that Christians have been remembering and using to remind their own souls for thousands of years, the truth about who God is. So, creeds.


C. Songs of praise and confession

    We learn theology through well-written hymns

Songs of praise, songs of confession. I wish we had more songs of confession. We need to write more of those. Songs of worship. Hymns. Songs that have didactic elements, songs that teach people something. We learn so much theology, whether we realize it or not, through well-written hymns.


Scripture reading. The Eucharist, holy communion. Baptism.


D. Public prayers

     Sometimes writing out your prayer can help you be articulate and specific

Public prayers. When I grew up, I used to think if somebody was reading a prayer, that it wasn’t as good as it could be if it was extemporaneous. I have gotten over that because I heard so many people labor in prayer over what they wanted to say to God on behalf of his people. God, would you move in our specific context, for these specific needs. Help us, God. I have seen men and women write those prayers down and it makes such an awesome impact in the environment. So, public prayers, but praying for specific things on behalf of the congregation.


E. Testimony

    People sharing what God is doing in their life

“We overcome by the word of our testimony.” I wish we had more testimony time in church. I love hearing someone say, I used to be this way, but God did this for me and now I’m redeemed, I’m saved. I miss that.


F. Preaching of the Word

    Your faith is grown and strengthened

The preaching of the Word. It is super important. Our faith is grown and strengthened by hearing.


G. Giving

Never skip giving. The pastor will get so mad at you if you skip giving.


H. Benediction

     A way to bless someone is to picture a special future for them

Finally, benediction. A benediction is a way to bless people at the end of the service. It is like the Aaronic blessing. “I pray the Lord bless you and keep you, make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” That is a proclamation to someone that you are picturing a special future for them. I do that a lot. A way to bless somebody is to picture a special future for them. “May the Lord bless you and keep you and make his face to shine upon you.” As you go into your week, it has been a huge thing for us just in the culture of my family, this learning, how do you bless somebody. Sometimes you say good things at the end of a service, that’s fine. I love it when people take the opportunity, a worship leader or pastor, to look people in the eye and say, “You are blessed. I’ll picture a special future for you in God.”


Those are just a few things, high-level type things. I feel like our work here is not to be imaginative, but to encourage people to be imaginative. There are a million different roads you can run down on this stuff, but the core of it is sharing the Gospel and how many millions of ways you can share it.


Once you design your service, you have imagined where you want to end up, you have figured out how the journey is going to get there, and you have gathered your resources. You have gotten to a place now where you are one step away from executing the service. You are getting to, how may I practice this, rehearse this, put this together.


How am I doing so far, any questions?


Question: I wanted to ask, when you say it all comes back to the core, the four ideas. What is one way you have used to keep your team on that same mindset, keep the worship team thinking back to that core, this is what we’re doing here, we’re sharing the Gospel. We are not here just for performance. Any comments you have on that or thoughts?


IV. How do you help your team focus on what’s important?

Yes. It is actually not extremely profound. Shifting culture, whatever culture you’re in, or just taking the concepts and casting a vision for people takes so much repetition. If I have decided, I am going to get this into the heart of my people, this is my theme for the year, or whatever, however you want to couch it, I decided in my own heart. If we are having a gathering, a practice, a rehearsal, or worship service where if all I have is 30 seconds to speak to these people, that 30 seconds is going to be about my faith. Hammer, hammer, hammer. I learned this really from my wife. She has worked in sales a lot of our whole marriage; and she says, usually people will start to be a customer after I contact them about 21 times. That is the most debilitating reality. So I say, so you only get started after you have contacted them 21 times, give or take. But, to your question, if I want to preach the Gospel or if I want to remind my volunteers and the people in my band, just one more time, this is what we’re doing, you want to make them sick of hearing you say that. And by that time they really become an issue of communication on behalf of their leader. You have to decide what message it is you want to communicate. I don’t think a better one could be, just want to remind you guys one more time, the whole purpose of why we’re here is to preach the Gospel. God is holy, man is sinful, grace is amazing and Jesus is the hope of the world. Don’t forget. Let’s go, let’s get to work. That kind of thing. That is a very good question.


V. Practice the Journey

A. The leader should be the most prepared person

     The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang

I had a professor in college, he climbed Mr. Everest. I was so proud of him, he was amazing. But for a whole year he went and climbed mountain after mountain after mountain; and by the time he had gotten ready to climb Everest, he was skilled as a mountaineer, he was an amazing guy. The amount of time we spend in preparation and practice is proportionate to the fruitfulness that we will have. If you are just shooting from the hip a lot of times, you might be impressive one or two times, like a broken clock is right twice a day. But you will get so much more fruitful results by just accumulating the practice time. I want to talk about that. Rehearsal for worship teams oftentimes can be brutal. It doesn’t have to be. I think it’s like helping a friend move. I’ve helped two different kinds of friends move. One kind of friend, if they say, hey will you help me move? You show up and the boxes are packed and they say, put these boxes in that truck. It makes sense because your friend is kind of leading the process and putting things in place, it makes sense. Or, sometimes you help a friend move and you show up and there is a pile of lamps and old books and socks and they have done nothing and they need your help, but you don’t really know where to start.


A worship band rehearsal can be a lot like that if the leader has not prepared. You can show up and help people move who have done nothing, or you can show up and get people moving by helping them lead the way. When we rehearse – I hope this a humble brag – my goal when I am leading worship is that I am the most prepared person on stage. Nobody out prepares me. They might be more talented than me, but I want to be the one that knows my music, knows the plan in and out, better than anybody else. The speed of the leader is the speed of the gang. That is a thing I learned from my wife, too, is that nobody is going to outpace their leader. So, if your leader is not prepared, the people you are leading most likely won’t be. You have a few standouts here and there, but they will be frustrated. So, I try to be the most prepared person in the band and on the platform.


I used to teach guitar to students for several years. I had a bunch of middle school and high school kids that would come to a music studio and I would teach guitar to them. It was an exercise in futility most of the time because they would play their guitar for 30 minutes before the lesson, take their lesson and never play again until their next lesson. It was always frustrating to me, but I came up with this concept. I said, look, if you will practice 15/5, 15 minutes a day, five days a week, you won’t be wasting your parents’ money if you give me that much time. You know what that means? Fifteen minutes a day five days a week, and that is a super low bar, especially for professional musicians, somebody getting paid for serving the church. But, as a minimum standard, the kids who would do that, they got better and they improved. That was only a couple of people. Then I had this one guy who took me up on it. He started practicing 30 minutes a day – he said, I can beat you.


Worship leaders should probably at least set some kind of standard for themselves when it comes to being the most prepared in the band. I know worship leaders have more than one thing to do, so busy, so much accumulates on us. I really think, if we are able to craft our time, it would represent some of the accounting for getting better, making steps, making strides, would make a huge difference in how things go. So, 15 minutes, five days a week.


B. Expectations for volunteers

I would like to set expectations for folks that I am serving with. I came up with this little thing to set expectations for volunteers, because a lot of times people are across the spectrum. They want to serve in church and they think to themselves, I would like to be on the platform and serve. I can play the cello, or the keyboard, or I can sing, or I have a flute, I play the guitar. I want to be a part of that.


Part of designing a worship service and setting that trajectory is really about also setting expectations. You want to be a part of this, this is what you have to do to be a part of this. This is how I want you to be. I have two little things that are helpful that I hope help the standard for people who want to be a part of the worship team and who want to be a part of helping the church lead worship.


Number one thing for me is, anybody that comes to me and wants to serve on the team, I ask of them and ask myself, could this person be an asset or a distraction, for whatever reason? I try to eliminate distractions and enhance assets. I have three little things, the three “Ts” and the three “Ps.” The three “Ts” and the three “Ps.” The three “Ts”: I always ask any person in audition: Are you in tune? Are you on time? And do you have good tone? In tune, in time, good tone. Is your instrument in tune? Are you singing in tune? If you are not, can you start? Do you know how to sing in tune? Like if I say, hey, you’re a little flat on these notes, can you get the pitch up? That is a criteria that I’m always looking for. Can you sing in tune? Can you play in tune? Do you know when you are not?


Are you in time? Are you playing in time? Are you using a metronome to confirm that? Some churches do this,  other churches don’t. Our church plays with a Quiktrak. There is an awesome thing about a Quiktrak. It is never wrong. If somebody is not playing to the click, you have to adjust to that. Can you do it? Can you play in time? Are you singing in time? Are you singing in tune? Are entrances on time? Phrasing with the melody? Are you singing with the beat? It is an important thing. Not something to be perfect on, but something to work on. So, can you sing in time? Are you singing in tune? Or playing in time or playing in tune?


Finally, the third “T,” do you have good tone? How does your guitar sound? What does it sound like? Is it a pleasing tone? Does it correspond with the style and the arrangement of the song? How do your drums sound? Do they sound like a pod pan hitting a shoe? Do the cymbals sound rough, or do they sound pleasing? How is your vocal tone? Are you singing with a lot of vibrato when the song is actually asking for more straight tone? Are you shrill or closed off? Can you bring a little warmth to the sound?


I always ask people who are volunteering and come to me, one of the things I always ask is, can you sing in tune? Can you sing in time? What is your tone like? Those are the three “Ts.”


Other expectations. If you can sing in tune, play in tune and have good tone, come on, as long as you have three “Ps:” Prayed up. The people that I want to go on this journey with, I need people who are at least willing to be of a like mind. Come along with me. Getting ready to lead worship must start with getting your heart ready. This is a big one, sometimes for some worship teams, sometimes for worship pastors.  Are you punctual, can you be punctual? Everybody is late sometimes. Everybody gets a pass sometimes. But people who are habitually late, I always ask them, do they have a problem with their character? Because when you are late, you say to everybody else in the room, my time is more valuable than your time. As a leader, I don’t want that for myself and I want to be able to say to anybody who I am leading, you need to be on time, you need to be prayed up and you need to be punctual. This is a good standard to set. Even when working with volunteers, it may be hard to say. I’m not paying this person to be here;  or Bobby, he is a great drummer and he is always late, but he is really good at the drums. I don’t want to make him mad. But I think if you focus on a temporary fix, you will get temporary results. You really don’t know what you might get out of a person until you have a good conversation with them and ask them. Even if it is somebody you are worried about losing, in my experience it has had an effect of drawing people in a little bit more. It depends on personalities. It has not worked every time like that.


It has also been my experience that when someone gets mad and leaves because I ask them to be on time or to get ready in a more professional way for something; if they leave because I ask them to do that, it’s okay, I won’t miss them that much. And I’m sure they will find a place to serve that is meaningful. So, prayed up, punctual, and prepared. The rehearsal is not for learning songs, it is for rehearsing the songs. Practice is for learning the songs, rehearsal is for refining, shaping, and taking what has already been practiced and putting it in the group setting. I know my song, but we are going to play it together and I am going to learn how what I already know can complement what you have practiced as well. That is what rehearsal is for. Every musician and singer is responsible for their part as an individual, then to add that to the collective team.


Once again, for review: The three “Ts:” Can you sing in tune? Do you have good time? Do you have good tone? The three “Ps:” Please be prayed up, punctual and prepared. If you are going to take people anywhere, you give them that information before they ever get to rehearsal. They are going to say: I know that Carl wants me to be prayed up, punctual, prepared. I have to sing in tune, I have to have good time and I have to have good tone. It’s simple, it’s kind of corny, but it helps people to know, if you are curious about what I want from you, these are the things that I want as a standard.


VI. The Four Levels of Musical Knowing

One other thing, another little tidbit to help with musicianship and being able to evaluate where your musicians are in the journey. I learned this from my friend, Curtis, the four levels of musical knowing. This is really cool. The first level is unconscious unknowing. It’s like a little kid playing a guitar, who doesn’t know how to play the guitar, but doesn’t know that he doesn’t sound good. He just bangs on the guitar. He doesn’t know anything. He doesn’t know that he doesn’t know anything, and he is just having a good time. That is where most people start.


The next level, people move to unconscious knowing. I know that I need to sound better than I do, but I don’t quite know how to get there. That is the place at which people start to be curious about music and might see themselves as, I want to be in the worship band. I have to start working on it, but they know that they don’t know. It is unconscious knowing.


The next level is where people kind of get stuck, and I feel like there are a lot of church musicians and church volunteers get to this third level, but they don’t ever breakthrough because they are reluctant, resistant or honestly, some of us are too busy. They can’t give the time to it. But it is conscious knowing. I’m playing and I’m a pretty good player, but I have to look at my fingers, I have to think about it. I have to look at the lyrics when I’m singing, I have to think about it. And I am very conscious of knowing what I am supposed to do, but it takes a lot of energy, both physically and mentally, for me to execute what I am doing. Sometimes I feel like the level of conscious knowing ends up presenting itself in a church on Sunday morning, because a lot of the leaders, the worship leader or maybe the volunteers from the band are buried in a chart, they are looking at the neck of their instrument. None of this stuff is wrong, but part of what we’re talking about is taking us on a trajectory of how to help people worship and how to lead people to a place. But, when you are conscious knowing and you’re looking at a chart and you’re looking at your hands or looking at the lyrics, and getting kind of frozen, you are trapped and limited. That conscious knowing puts a lid on how effective you can be with engaging people.


Where I want everybody to be is this fourth level. It is hard to get there and honestly, I think some of us go in and out of it. But it’s unconscious knowing. It is where you might say, that guy is playing out of his mind. That is exactly right. If somebody is singing and they are not looking at the lyrics, so that their mind can then have the transaction to get it back out of their mouth, they are singing and that lyric is part of their soul. They unconsciously have internalized that and they are delivering that message as if it was their own, even if they didn’t write it. Or if someone is playing the drums or the bass and the part is in their spirit, it is a spiritual experience. I think worship leaders would do themselves a great favor to just ask of their team: Look, guys, I don’t want this to be like an exercise in just executing this, just staring at paper. Let’s try our best to rehearse these songs, to execute this plan, to take this journey by saying, we’re going to be playing from our spirits, our souls are filled with this. Unconscious knowing.


Those are the four levels. You can use those to help people see, this is where you are and this is where I want us to go.


VII. Impact is proportional to the Creative Thought  and Time in the Word You Put into It

What is the one thing we need to know? The amount of creative thought we put into preparation and rehearsal will translate into the amount of impact and influence a worship leadership has over your congregation. It is in direct proportion. Why do you need to know that? Because the job you are given is to be a shepherd of a flock, a fruitful leader, bearing fruit that is worth eating. Sometimes we serve things to congregations and no one likes it because it is not flavorful, it is not enjoyable, it is not creative. I don’t want to eat that because it doesn’t seem good to me. If we offer them things that invite people in, something to savor, something to think about, something to experience, that is why we need to inject this sanctified imagination into this. What do we need to do? Devote ourselves to the Word and creative thinking, to a calling. It is important for me to say this: I’m aware that this content, all the things we’re talking about, that if you are leading worship in a worship service a year from now or a year after you have heard this, this content is not going to all come flooding back to you. You’re going say, I already do this. Hopefully, something from the Lord’s Word will.


1Timothy 4:13-16: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters. Give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and your doctrine closely.” That is not talking necessarily about music or worship leadership specifically, but it is principally saying,  devote yourself, think about these things. Don’t just kind of phone in what you are called to do. Don’t forget how important this work is that you are doing.


VIII. Conclusion

Why do you need to do this? Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive by empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to elemental spirits of this world and not according to Christ.”  The Lord has called us into this work. The Spirit, even within the church sometimes, in the church culture I might say, wants to pull you away to something else, to performance, the temptation to be spectacular. We are not called to be spectacular, we are called to be disciple-makers.


As we wind up this talk, the way I want folks to remember this is to not forget where we started. All of this work – the preparation, the design, the rehearsal, inviting other people in to help you lead that experience -- don’t forget what all of this is for, to remind people that God is holy, man is sinful, grace is amazing and Jesus is the hope of the world; and how many different ways can we sing that, can we play that, can we believe that, can we share that, can we dance that, can we paint that. That is where people like me and you can come to life because God says,  this is the gift I’m going to give you, now use it to tell how good I am, to tell what I’ve done.


Constance Cherry has a good quote in her book, “The Worship Architect.” I would recommend that book to anyone. She says, “Finally the house is built, the service is planned, but worship design is not only what is written on paper or projected on the screen. Worship is an event. It is about real people and real community offering the real worship to the One True and Living God. Worship is a relational encounter and therefore a service. Like a house, it must facilitate relationships, not only with God, but with each other, with people.” Mel McGowan has a great quote about worship and about worship design and planning. He says: “We don’t build temples, we dig wells.” We don’t build temples, we dig wells. The first time I heard that, I thought, that is what I mean to do, give people a place to come and drink, not a thing to look at. Give people a place to come and drink.


Finally, one of my favorite hymns in recent time. I want to read this hymn text and we will pray to end. It says: “As frail as summer’s flowers, we flourish, blows the wind and it is gone. But while mortals rise and perish, our God lives unchanging on. Praise Him, Praise Him, Hallelujah! Praise the high eternal one. Angels help us to adore him, we behold him face to face. Sun and moon bow down before him, dwellers in all time and space. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise with us the God of grace.” Our work is saying to people, we have created a feast here. We have prepared a journey. Come praise him with us. Come be invited in. This is us together doing this.


“I would pray that you would be rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen”  

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