Top 10 Leadership Tips from a Worship Wars Survivor – Q & A

Questions and Answers

The following is a list of questions asked during the course of the MasterClass on June 12, 2012. The questions appear in the order in which they were posed. Vern Sanders answered many of the questions during the MasterClass. The answers below were written by Vern after the event.

When....and how...does a committed worship/music person KNOW that it is time to make a change of employment? To do so feels like giving up...and yet, this may be just as much God’s will as continuing to “plow this furrow.”
I’m not sure you can ever KNOW when it is the right time. It is my experience that it is rarely a “bolt from the blue.” I do think there are some telltale signs, however. If you don’t feel like going to work more days than not, there is probably a problem. If you find yourself continually expressing the “minority opinion” you may be out of sync with the rest of the staff and/or the church. If you find that you, or your ministry are being marginalized, either budgetarily, facility wise, or from a scheduling point of view, it may be a signal that others don’t place the same importance on your efforts as you do. I encourage you to spend time in prayer, and to have confidential conversations with colleagues from other churches who may be able to give you some valuable perspective and/or explain what they did when encountering the same circumstances.

In coming to a new church with an established worship team, how much should you attempt to conform/take on their style/preferences vs. bringing in your personality/style and making the role your own?
As I said during the MasterClass, I think that bringing your personality and your gifts to a new situation is often as much change as some people can accept. I am an advocate of listening and learning from a new church before I make wholesale changes. I don’t think that you have to bury your hopes and dreams, but I do think that more people get into trouble by moving too fast than too slow. The trick is to find the pace that is comfortable for both you and the congregation. There’s one other thing here. During the exploration of call phase, you may be told by a pastor aor a committee that they want you to make “big changes.” It has been my experience that even if that is true, they might be thinking that those changes will happen over a period of months if not years, not on your first day at the church. Remember too, that search committees often have, or develop their own agendas, and the committee itself may be out of sync with the congregation and/or the pastoral leadership. Do your homework as part of the call process if at all possible rather than wait until you’ve moved half way across the country.

Do you have any reason to believe that the worship wars are over? or do you think they will continue forever?
I’ll go back to history on this one. There are periods of relative calm (like the 1950s) and there are periods of reformation. At some level, though, anything that involves people has the potential for conflict, so the answer is that probably there will always be some sort of conflict over worship.

Please explain the term “Worship Wars.” Is this the praise song vs hymn controversy?
While musical style is the most common manifestation of the so called worship wars, I believe that in most cases it is really about change, power, and the power to affect change.

Is there a place for “debrief” or weekly evaluation for improvement on a regular basis as another Leadership tip?
Absolutely. I think debriefing worship is productive, as long as it doesn’t get to be either nitpicking or self flagellation.

Expand your thoughts on the new worship wars - theology.
I’ll repeat what I said live during the MasterClass. You don’t have to look very far to know that the mainline denominations are struggling with theological issues right now. This isn’t the place to delve into that, but it is being presented as a “right/wrong” decision about which people are being forced to choose. My point was that some of this struggle is beginning to show up in worship.

Doesn’t Post-Modern mean post denominatinionalism?
In many respects I would say that is probably true. But we’ll need some time and distance to really evaluate it.

Do you have tactics, or suggestions for keeping your choir from talking TOO much during rehearsal.?
My strategy has always been to rehearse at a quick pace and work to engage everyone as much as possible. I’m not sure you can ever stifle ALL talking, but in my experience my strategy has kept it under control.

How do you create a support/listening group that will allow you to be exploring problems and sharing joys? Should it be inside our outside of your place of employment?
I think that the best answer is “both.” An internal group knows the details and the corporate culture. It will be particularly useful when you first arrive. An external group can provide some objectivity and perspective...and often can be a source of collective experience if there are people with different lengths of service and from different church cultures.

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