Lesson 10 - Questions From a Pastor | Free Online Biblical Library

Lesson 10 - Questions From a Pastor

Course: Worship Pastors and their Teams

Lecture: Questions From a Pastor

I am Bill Mounce, Founder and President of Biblical Training and I have been so excited to spend this time with you, Carl. I have been looking for a worship pastor for literally years that knows what you know, so I am so thankful that you let us record you and to take up all this time. I pastored for several years and as I have been listening to you, I have been kind of putting on my pastor hat, thinking, I wonder how you would answer this question when speaking to pastors. So this is more a question and answer time of a worship pastor to a preaching pastor. There is a little bit of repetition here from some of the things you have said earlier, but I think it would be helpful to go through them.

1. What do you do during the week so that in your weekly service the worship pastor and preaching pastor create a seamless worship experience?

Dr. Mounce: We all know that if a team builds, it is going to be better, the collaboration is better. I don’t want to use “worship” because the singing is teaching and the preaching is worship. It needs to be a seamless experience. I am kind of interested in terms of behind the scenes stuff throughout the week. What kind of stuff have you learned to help so that on Sunday morning you really function as one team and not two individuals doing two different things?

Carl: As you have said, I think collaboration makes everything better. The Trinity is collaborative. I think a team led model for worship is essential. But you have to remember that collaboration comes with some perimeters that need to be honored that are helpful. So, collaboration is slower. It takes longer to get people scheduled and meetings to be in the same room, to talk about things. But if you really want it to be a collaborative effort and not just kind of a unilateral decision maker just kind of charging the ball down the field and leaving everybody in the dust, everyone has to agree, from the senior leader, the worship leader, anyone else who is involved, everyone has to agree that our collaborative time is important. And when we work together, we are working together, everybody around the table. I am not one of these who believe that all ideas are good ideas. I think some ideas are not great ideas. Everybody should feel the freedom to talk about their idea, really holding loosely to their idea.

I learned about this in co-writing songs. You dare to be terrible, but holding back or just isolating and thinking, imagining things kind of in your own little vacuum, is never more valuable than just throwing it out there on the table, even if it sounds like a dumb idea when it is coming out of your mouth, you wish you could take it back immediately. Opening up dialogue until everybody around the table has permission to say, hey, this is an idea, what if we did this? And everybody honors that time. I don’t think you have to be best friends with everybody that you work with, I do think if you want to be on a collaborative team, you have to honor the people that you have invited to be on that team and respect the process of collaboration. It is an exchange of ideas and the exchange of ideas is what makes things great.

Dr. Mounce: That shows humility on both parts.

Carl: It takes humility to submit your ideas and then it takes humility to admit that you have probably maybe heard an idea that was better than the one you wanted. It is the exchange of ideas in the context of Christian humility, considering somebody else might have a better idea than yours.

2. What kind of interaction is important between the worship leader and the preaching pastor?

Dr. Mounce: If you don’t have a lead pastor, but if I were the lead pastor, did most of the preaching and you did most of the worship leading, what would it look like during the week? Does there need to be a lot of contact? Do we need to go play miniature golf together? At a very personal level, what is that like?

Carl: I think it would be helpful if we were friends, or helpful if we liked each other, helpful if we respected each other. Not necessary for us to be the tightest of chums in the world, though. Senior pastors are busy. They have congregational care and there are dimensions that come with getting ready to preach that are time consuming. The same for a worship pastor. You are preparing to lead musical worship for the congregation. Those things keep us all busy.

I think what a good week would look like is if you and I both agree to say, there are very few things that will cut in on our collaborative time, if there is a terrible tragedy, if there is a family crisis or something like that. But if you build the system and the strategy to say, we’re going to communicate during this time, nobody gets in this time, there are very few things. Wednesday is the meeting that we get together and talk through the service. Nobody misses Wednesday. If somebody does miss Wednesday, it is not because there was golf or lunch or something like that. If you miss Wednesday, it is because something bad happened and we are going to pray for you on Wednesday because it is very rare that you miss. Everybody involved in the collaborative process – the worship pastor and the senior pastor – have made the agreement to say that this is worth working on together. We don’t have to be best buddies, but we are going to act like best buddies by keeping that time. We sit down and what I have found is that the accumulation of that time, over time the consistency has a way of building a natural rapport and relationship and you do become better friends over time. But you have to say on the front side. If we are going to commit to collaboration and working together, then we’re going to build our schedule so that it gets done.

3. How do you create an environment that allows the pastor and worship leader to critique what happens in the worship service?

Dr. Mounce: Let me ask you about your Wednesday meetings because this whole issue of critiquing is a difficult issue. I need to find a better term, but worship leaders often are kind of a feeler and can be a little more sensitive to critiques and things like that. How do you go about the critiquing process, or do you? Can a preacher critique the singer, vice versa, how does that work?

Carl: No one signs up to be critiqued. No one loves that so it is always a delicate situation. I think all of us could get better at offering critique and also get better at receiving critique. One of the things I think is, it is not a problem to solve. How do you get better at critiquing people? That problem will never be solved. It is never going to be easy. I love receiving critique, I love offering critique. It is a tension to manage and especially Christians, we are very, very nice people. We are very nice. We don’t offer critique. Honestly as truthfully and as direct as it could be, you speak the truth in a loving way. If I critique you and you and I both understand that we have the trust equity between us, that if I’m saying something to you, I’m saying it to you because I want to see you flourish, versus saying something to you because I want to hurt you or cut you in some way. Or if you said something to me in the context of trust equity, where I know the things you have said to me, you have a track record of saying as many encouraging things to me as you do critique; when the critique comes in the context of our relationship, I know you are saying it to me because you want me to flourish, not because you want to get me. Something like that, or not because you want to fire me; so critique in that healthy dialogue.

In talking about difficult things, nobody is ever going to be an expert at that kind of thing. But I think with a foundation underneath our relationship that says, you are not out to get me, I’m not out to get you, I hear your critique differently in my ear than if I don’t know for real what you think about me. Then you say, I just didn’t think your singing was very good. I might take a value hit in the absence of, actually no, I know Bill is for me. He has established that with me already. He wants me to flourish; and if he is saying something that sounds critical, it may still be hard for me to hear. If I am being a mature human, I should run it through that lens.

4. How do you blend the worship and preaching times together?

Dr. Mounce: One of the dangers I have seen in churches is the tendency for the worship leader to kind of feel like, I think you said, the first 18 minutes or four songs, whatever comes first, is yours. Then the rest belongs to the other guy. Do you have any suggestions on how to blend those two things together?

Carl: I think what we talked about with the collaborative process, each of us acknowledging that what I would offer on a Sunday morning, what you would offer, it’s kind of all part of the corporate expression. If we worship in song, then preaching informs, it is a revelation. Then you want to respond again. It’s response and revelation and response, and it is back and forth; but they don’t exist independently, they are connected, inseparable, in truth. We can get in silos and build up our own kingdoms and in our own minds, but it is really hard to make anything fruitful out of that. It is an admission that both of them have equal importance. You are a priest, I’m a priest. We have equal value. Different giftings, different perspectives, but that is what makes it good. I will make the point that there will be no preaching in heaven, there will be worship.

5. Does your speaking as a worship leader focus just on the songs or tie into the sermon?

Dr. Mounce: Sometimes where I feel a separation in the two halves of the service is when the worship leader is speaking between songs and sometimes it feels in some churches I’ve been in, that it is almost like a mini sermon; and it has zero connection with what is going to be said the second half. When you are preparing on speaking and introducing songs or what you do, do you try to tie them into what you know is going to be said, or do you just more reflect on the songs?

Carl: When we have our meeting, when we plan out how the service is going to look, it is always the worship leader and the pastor who is preaching or teaching, that we are together. That is the ideal scenario. He is able to say, look, this is where I’m going, this is where I’m heading, even to, this is the illustration. For our church, we preach through a Book of the Bible, so months from now I’ll know that on this weekend we are doing this passage of Scripture. That alone is a very good head start, that this is probably at least in the neighborhood of things that we’ll be talking about.

I like to work to make things feel like they are cohesive and thought out, the connectedness of a worship service I think enhances people’s ability to engage in it. If I’m talking off in left field over here and he is preaching about something else, it doesn’t seem like it would serve our people as well as if I read the Scripture that he was going to preach about; or connecting things if that Scripture had an insight in my own heart that was complementary to something that we already talked about. I think we do a lot of over sharing as worship leaders. We like to hear ourselves talk. I think it would be good to be a little more poignant with our words. It’s funny that I’m saying this, be poignant with our words, and I’m talking nonstop.

6. How do you encourage the cycle of revelation and response?

Dr. Mounce: In Gary Parrett’s class on Biblical Training on worship with a three-hour and then a full 20-hour class on worship and Gary’s fundamental understanding of worship is a cycle of revelation and response, Isaiah 6 kind of stuff where there is a revelation of God and that can be in the words of the song or it can be in the responsive reading, or it could be in the sermon. When I was pastoring, I was always looking for ways for the people to respond, so that it actually was this cycle. One thing we tried was to move the sermon much earlier in the service, so that the people could sing afterwards as a way to respond. I was going to ask you what you thought about that. Basically, how do you get that cycle going in a church?

Carl: I love that. You are already solving the problem. I wonder sometimes if the kind of forms that we have fallen into, like the music is first, the preaching is second, and then we go home. I wonder if that couldn’t be re-imagined a little bit like you have described because every chance that I receive as a believer to respond to the Word preached or to respond to something that has been read from the Scriptures, it is always more enriching. To me, just as a Christian worshiper, when I get the opportunity to hear the Word and then respond in faith, I wish we had more freedom and flexibility in our worship architecture, to build things like that. I love it. I ask the guys who teach here on the weekends, hey, can we build it this weekend so that the preaching is in the middle, central, and we have a chance to respond. There is a culture in church where in some churches people are late all the time now, it bugs me. You miss the first 10 minutes of service, so the guys teaching are, I don’t want the room to be half empty, so let’s push it back a little bit. I think it is the nature of how people experience church in the local context. It is important, it matters. Be there. That is a little off topic.

Dr. Mounce: We had problems with that earlier and I had a worship pastor once who called the first song a throwaway song because only half the church was there and the other half was out in the parking lot and oh, hey, we are starting. What he tried to do was, he would build the progression to almost a liturgy through the songs so that one naturally led to the next. It was a song of confession, then a song of forgiveness, then a song of joy if someone has been forgiven. It was something that was really good. But the song after the sermon was always the hardest one because he was looking for a song that actually would give voice to the people to agree with the truth of the sermon. Do you do that kind of thing or try to do it?

Carl: If there is a song that meets that perfectly, and sometimes there hasn’t been, so we try to write one. What are you preaching about? How would you want people to respond? If it doesn’t exist, we try to write one. I don’t think someone has to be some kind of song writer to be able to do that and be effective with it because you are writing for your local context in response to what your local pastor has preached about. You might only sing it once, but it could have tremendous impact on folks. I think it adds to that collaboration. That’s a gift that maybe your teaching pastor might not have, but it’s also a gift that could really add dimension and enhance what he has already done.

Dr. Mounce: Someone was telling me once that statistically if you have the offering after the sermon, you get more money. Does that work? That is what he said. I did not ever want to do it for that reason, but again it was a way to respond to the revelation.

7. How do you balance the musical desires and growth trajectory of the worship team with what’s helpful for leading people in worship?

<\p>Dr. Mounce: A couple more questions. Drums. Some people love them, some people hate them. We had this issue of drummers that couldn’t control their volume and I did not like the aesthetics of them being in a plexiglass cage. But the drummers don’t like electronic drums for the most part. My question is, how do you balance the musical desires and the growth trajectory of the band members with what you are trying to do on Sunday morning?


Carl: There is a lot to talk about in this. I think there is one important thing to remind everybody about drums and audio. If you are going to use a sound system with drums, that is the most difficult thing to manage from an audio perspective because it gets into everything. It gets into all the other mics, the sound of the drums. The room acoustics have something to do with it. A lot of times, if you have a volunteer musician playing the drums and a volunteer sound person and they are just serving on the weekends and giving their best, it is going to be very hard because some of the hardest things to mic and control sound, even for audio professionals are drums. I let everybody off the hook to say, you might not like the drums, but it is because they are hard to tame. A little grace, a little grace.

For the audio guy, it is an education process, and for the drummer. If you are an audio guy or a worship pastor in a church, I need to adjust your playing for the dynamics and the acoustics of this room, for the limitations of our sound system, or for whatever reason. As a drummer, as a person who is stewarding a gift, I need to be able to at least pivot enough to get going in that direction. There is a funny joke about drummers. They have their own way of being and drummers are always arrogant. But that is what you get when a person calls their little stool a throne. Everybody in the band, top down, can be served by being reminded that this is a team effort for one objective. We are trying to help people sing if we can. I’m glad you like to play the drums, but when you’re playing them here, we need to make sure you play them in a way that helps people sing.

I love drums, I think drums are awesome. A good drum sound is music to my ears. I think it is important to remember they are hard to control. Anybody can bang on a drum; but if you play the drums dynamically with great feel, great expression, it is uniquely hard. If I’m putting together a band, if I’m going to have drums, the most important person in the band is the drummer because he can let the thing rise and fall, he can push and pull and lead people. Drums are not easy. For most people who have drums in their church, I’m with you. I don’t love the way the plastic cage looks on the stage, but even that is not a universal problem solver. It just means you’ve solved one problem and created another one. Acoustic drums are harder to manage than electronic drums. Electronic drums, a lot of drummers don’t like them. If you have gotten a little better, they are usable. If everybody takes a step back and says, look, this is a problem, so we need to help with education and experience and invite somebody in to help. There are so many people who know how to do it. It is an easier problem to solve than we make it because drums can be offensive. They are loud and sometimes they are connected with things like rock music or something like that. The great Bluegrass musician, Bill Monroe, said, “There ain’t no music in a drum.”

Dr. Mounce: I hadn’t thought about it, but you actually could bring in professional audio people, at least to set it up and to make sure the mics and the drums are proper and all that kind of stuff.

Carl: We lose so much ground by just failing to ask for help, especially something like that. Your computer system might be really hard to set up and you might have a problem. You call somebody and ask them for help. I would always ask somebody for help with my audio and especially if I’m having problems with drums and drummers. Get your drummers to ask for help. There are plenty of people who know how to play in that environment and do it well. Just ask for help.

Church audio is always too loud. I wish it was louder. There is something about getting into the business of pleasing people, a very difficult business to be in. Trying to make everyone happy is super, super difficult. It is a challenge I don’t think anyone is ever going to solve. But asking for help from a professional, there is no shame in that.

8. Does repetition of words in a chorus add to it or detract from it?

Dr. Mounce: Repetition. It is interesting when I watch in churches that there seems to be a correlation between how many times a chorus is repeated and dropping volume. Maybe it is just my own sensitivities. Bbut how do you feel about repetition of words in a chorus? Does that add to it or does that detract from it, or does it just totally depend upon the song?

Carl: It depends upon the song, it may depend upon taste. What moves this person may not move another person. Sometimes repetition is a literary device, so to speak, to kind of reinforce a theme. I have seen it used like that to good effect. Then it is also amazing lyrics. If you are repeating something worth saying, then great. But if it is just kind of some phrasey, phrasey, phrasey, phrasey, that is not adding a lot of meaning to the conversation or to the dialogue. For me, it is pretty subjective, it is very nuanced, it has a lot to do with, what are you asking me to repeat? Is it Holy, Holy, Holy? That is repetitive, but man, that is worth saying, that is Scriptural. Or is it something else that doesn’t have the underpinning of Scripture or just seems like a cool phrase to say. Your love is so amazing, your love is so amazing, your love is so amazing. Those things are true. That is not a real song, I hope. I don’t want to pick on anybody’s song. It has to do with context, it has to do with meaning, it has to do with, is this the best way of saying what we are saying? It could be, it could be a cool device. It could be a great way to reinforce a theme, and obviously it could be laziness.

I hear that critique of worship songs a lot, that they are too repetitive and I would tend to agree. We have really narrowed down our vocabulary as far as song writers. There are a lot more words, a lot more subjects, a lot more space, a lot more things we could explore with lyrics. If someone says your songs are repetitive, they may be repetitive and good; but I would be inclined to say, how can I say this in a fresh way, in a new way?

9. How do you handle it when people gossip or complain to you about the worship team or staff?

Dr. Mounce: Last question. I don’t know why it happens this way, but sometimes the worship leader and the preacher are kind of seen as two points of power. The question has to do with gossip. If I don’t like your music, I go to the preacher and I complain to him and I create this unhealthy triangle, and vice versa. I don’t know how widespread it is, but I have seen enough of it that it concerns me. What would be your suggestions to a worship pastor who finds people are being negative about other people? It could be the drummer, it could be the guitar player, it could be the preacher. What do you do?

Carl: I don’t have a lot of experience with that, thankfully. But I have zero tolerance gossip policy. If someone says, hey, I am going to say something to you, but you can’t say it to anybody else, I will say, well, I am going to stop you right there because I’m going to tell my wife whatever you are going to say, she is going to know it. And if it’s going to be about somebody else and it sounds gossipy, they are going to know it too. I am going to go ahead and close that loop because it is so much trouble, too much trouble to manage. Maybe people don’t say something like that to me because I usually say, let me stop you, let me help you. It has happened to me a few times when so-and-so says, hey, so-and-so said this about you. I say, let’s go get him and talk to him. That is annoying and unpopular. I don’t gossip. I don’t tolerate gossip on my team. If you are going to gossip, this is not the place for you, you can serve somewhere else.

I’m talking about an ideal world – I know it is imperfect and we are flawed – it would be awesome if a church staff said, I’ll make a deal with you, you make a deal with me, that if somebody gossips about you to me, I have zero tolerance policy on that.

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