Org Chart for Worship Arts Ministries

I’ve had some intriguing and stretching conversations with pastors and arts leaders recently concerning the best way to structure leadership for the worship and creative arts ministries. Often the conversation centers on the dilemma of whether the “up front” leader of worship is best suited to also lead the entire arts team and creative process. Of course this varies according to the gift mix of all the individuals involved. I have observed a wide variety of options, and celebrate the desire of so many churches who are attempting to craft a structure that optimizes the strengths of the leaders on the team, rather than forcing some kind of org chart that does not support the reality of the situation.

My good friend Stan Endicott, who serves part-time on the staff of Mariners Church in Newport Beach and who also consults with churches in the area of arts ministry through Slingshot Group has stretched my thinking on the issue of structure. Stan believes that most – not all – up front worship music leaders would prefer and are best gifted to lead the band and prepare for the “worship set” on Sunday mornings without leading the entire arts ministry and overall creative process. As a result, in many situations Stan recommends that a church employ what he calls a worship architect to serve behind the scenes, leading the overall brainstorming, producing, and development of volunteers. Then the up front worship leaders can possibly be hired part time, freeing them up to also pursue other musical interests and opportunities. This approach seems to be working in several settings.

I think the crux of the issue concerns the wiring and strengths of the individuals God has brought to your setting, and then building a structure that works best given those realities. I do believe that someone – preferably one person – needs to be entrusted with the overall responsibility of crafting and leading the design of Sunday mornings. Preferably this person would be included on the leadership team (whatever it is called at each church) who set the strategy and planning for the staff and congregation. In addition, this arts leader would build the primary bridge between the pastor(s) and the artists.

I’m curious to learn more about what is working in your setting, or what you are struggling with and want to organize to work more effectively. Titles and job descriptions vary widely for these roles – but how is it really going in the trenches of everyday life? How do you decide who makes the call on creative decisions, proposed changes, and resolution of conflicts? When we decide on a structure, it is vitally important for the pastor to make it clear to everyone what is expected from each person, and who is accountable for what. To the extent these lines of authority are unclear, the rest of the team will not function as freely and as powerfully as possible. Please weigh in – what’s working for you?
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Free Download: A Reason to be Thankful

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron
As we reflect on the many blessing in our lives … of course being artists we are thankful for art – the songs, images, and stories that God brings into our lives. We are thankful for how they move and inspire us to see life in a new way, to love God and the people He puts in our lives … to live life.

Chasing Francis moved us to experience all those things and more. Ian Morgan Cron has done an exceptional job creating a story that stirs our souls, challenges our minds and touches our hearts.

We have been recommending Ian’s story for months to friends. So we are so excited that we can do more than just tell you about a great story, we can give you a glimpse into Chasing Francis. Ian and NavPress have graciously agreed to share the beginning of Chasing Francis with you. Just click here to download the first 37 pages of the story.

In addition to hearing what you think of Chasing Francis, we would love to know what works of art God has blessed you with this year.

An ordained Anglican priest, Ian Morgan Cron serves as senior pastor and founder of Trinity Church in Greenwich, CT, a non-denominational community committed to social justice as well as to communicating the Christian story through the arts.
To introduce others to St. Francis, whom Cron has billed the “consummate postmodern saint,” he authored Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale (September 2007, NavPress). Cron’s literary debut has received praise from a host of both Catholic and Protestant thinkers including Brian McLaren, artist Makoto Fujimura, Friar Richard Rohr, Tony Campolo and Brennan Manning. Ian lives in Old Greenwich, CT with his wife Anne and three children Cailey, Madeleine, and Aidan.
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Celebrating Everyday Life

A few weeks ago I was given a pre-release of the book Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist. I couldn’t wait to read it. I have had the privilege of occasionally serving along side of Shauna for the past 10 years. She is an insightful, thoughtful and gracious woman. She is a gifted leader and artist. And she is a whole lot of fun!

As I mentioned I couldn’t wait to read the book but I found myself lingering...I didn’t want to hurry through this book. It was like a conversation with a good friend. Shauna’s words will make you laugh out loud, nod your head in understanding and pray for God to keep making you into the person He sees you to be – His Beloved.

Like a good friend Shauna challenges you to look at your life and who you are. Like a good friend she is transparent in sharing her weaknesses and challenges, never forcing you to come clean...but you will want to because she has made it a safe place.

Shauna’s book was a wonderful addition to my everyday life. I hope you will take the opportunity to spend some time with it.
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The First Green Room Event

Saturday, I had such a life-giving day among dozens of church artists who gathered with me at Christ Church in Montclair, New Jersey. The team from that beautiful church, led by Worship Pastor Marlinda Ireland, guided us in worship from the stage of their 100 year old breathtaking sanctuary. Then I had the incredible privilege of talking through the core values that under gird an effective arts ministry. Together we explored the wonder, privilege, and awesome responsibility of creating moments for the hour on Sunday.
As I looked around the room, I delighted in the diversity of those who attended. I saw an ll-year-old young man who dances at Christ Church (carefully listening and taking such good notes!) sitting near veteran church artists who have served for several decades. There were artists from Manhattan and Queens, from the suburbs, and even from far away cities like Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Baltimore. I talked with a group of Hispanic leaders who are challenged by doing services in both English and Spanish. Delighted by the variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds in the room, I also was constantly aware of all that unites us, of our common purpose and common struggles.
What drives me these days is the desire to inspire church artists with a vision of the worth of their calling, and with the truth that they don’t have to do ministry alone. Something supernatural happens when we come together and remind one another that we are not crazy and that other people “get us” and may even be able to offer wisdom and support. I can’t wait to gather with more artists next month in the Houston area!
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Today was a great day!… Leaders from New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Missouri and Wisconsin gathered in a hotel in Saddle Brook, New Jersey to dialogue about some of the ministry issues they are struggling with and encourage each other.

At the first regional Leaders Table, I sat in the back and observed as Nancy Beach asked each of them to share any challenges they wanted to be sure were discussed before leaving for the day. Five flip chart pages later, they had an agenda. Insights were shared by Nancy and others on topics like dwindling creativity, pastor relations, staying culturally relevant, leading artists, soul care for your team and yourself, plus many other “hot” topics.

Throughout the day, there were so many things that encouraged me…Before we even started, I met Howard who came all the way from St. Louis because he had missed the Arts Conference and just needed to connect with some others. During introductions, Divera from Pennsylvania shared their ministry’s vision to “Reclaim the Streets” in their town and shared how their ministry was committed to reaching those who may not step foot in a church. Somewhere during a few hours of conversations filled with the sharing of ideas and insights I watched first-hand as leaders who never knew each other before today became friends and cheerleaders for each other. The day ended powerfully for me, as each leader shared their commitment to do something to grow their soul.

The leaders today inspired me with their humble spirits, their incredible love for the power of the arts in the local church and their willingness to do all they can to reach people with God’s love. Randal from New Jersey said it best today…”There’s nothing better than being on the front line and seeing God change lives”.
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The Talk

I was sitting around the table the other day with a group of friends...they all just happen to be artists. One of them was telling us about the challenges she was facing. We listened carefully. There were nods of understanding. And then one of the guys said, “Do you need the TALK?” We gave him the ‘what are you talking about look,’ and he explained. Do you remember the show The Practice? Well, there was one episode where Lara Flynn Boyle’s character, Assistant District Attorney, Helen Gamble was having a really bad day. She wondered if she was really making a difference. She wondered why she just didn’t give it all up & get a better job...a job that paid more money...a job that wasn’t so hard...a job where her efforts were appreciated. Do you remember the episode?

Well after listening to her frustrations, her disappointments and her discouragement, A.D.A. Richard Bay, actor Jason Kravits, looks her in the eyes and says, “Do you need the TALK?” She replies seriously, “Yes, I need the TALK.” Richard then begins an inspiring and heartfelt dissertation about the value, and significance of their work. He preaches about how their work makes a difference to America! He reminds her that she fights for the victims; she rights the wrongs and stands up for justice! The TALK.

Have you had one of those days of those weeks? Do you need the TALK?

What you do matters! The hours you spend creating, refining, practicing, rehearsing and then serving...matters. When you allow God to work through you, lives are changed...people start thinking differently, they take a second look, they believe in second chances. They believe in grace. They are open to love. They are committed to living for a King.

Your art gives voice to everyday joys and inconceivable sorrows. You paint a picture of home for the orphan. You introduce them to the love of the Father. You let them know they can belong.

What you do matters! Give yourself and your gifts to God. Follow closely. Listen carefully.

May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God's love and Christ's endurance.
2 Thessalonians 3:5
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Coming Together

Last Friday I spent a few hours with several worship arts leaders who gathered in Dallas at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship Church. Our host was Scott Dyer, the Worship Arts Pastor there. What inspired me most was to see how these leaders support one another, though many of their churches are on the same block or just a few miles apart. They seem to intuitively understand something that I wish all arts leaders understood – We need one another and we are not in competition. The Kingdom will not advance unless all kinds of ministries are flourishing, ministries that will be quite different from one another in terms of strategy, style of worship, and calling. But surely just as in every part of the world, Dallas is filled with a diverse group of people, many of whom are still far from God. All these unique individuals will be optimally served by one of those churches while other communities of faith may not be quite the right ministry for them. As we learn from one another, as we pool our resources and exchange learnings, we all get a little stronger and everybody wins.
Serving in the worship arts area can be a lonely endeavor. Whether we are struggling with an unrealistic job description, conflict on our volunteer teams, or difficulty partnering with the teaching pastors, the everyday challenges sometimes threaten to overwhelm us. That’s part of the reason so many arts leaders end up changing churches to try somewhere else, or worse, fall into a pattern of sin or escape that ends up disqualifying them from ministry. One of the best ways to prevent these scenarios is to adamantly refuse to do it alone, to intentionally build relationships with a few leaders from other churches who understand and can be a safe place for us to vent and confess.
My dream is that in every city of the United States, as well as other countries, arts leaders would form little communities like the one Scott is attempting to build in Dallas. I know most arts leaders think they can’t possibly make the time to invest in fellow leaders from other churches. Yet this periodic investment may very well be the key to finishing our races well, to fighting against the loneliness and despair that can so easily set in if we take the route of isolation. My challenge to you, wherever you live, is to make a phone call or send an e-mail to find a fellow arts leaders who may be right down the street or across town. Invite that person to breakfast or lunch, and begin to build a friendship. Rejoice when they rejoice; mourn when they mourn. The Kingdom will be so much stronger, and the likelihood of our persevering in the battle will rise.
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A Moment of Beauty In Worship

Last night I hurried over to church for our mid-week worship service. Because my husband is on a ministry trip to Costa Rica, I slipped into a seat alone and weary from a long day. The worship leader invited us to stand, and we began to sing. Honestly, I was not engaged at first, having trouble shaking off the details of my day, the mundane thoughts about my girls getting slammed with homework, about my plans for the next morning.
Three songs into the worship time, I looked up at the screens and saw a brilliant video background of golden Fall leaves. Then I noticed the white fabric behind the band, with subtle yet lovely shadows of leaves projected and moving slightly as we sang as though a warm breeze was blowing through the room. And I was caught off guard by the remarkable beauty of that moment.
As a visual person, and someone whose primary pathway to God is through creation, I deeply appreciate worship that transcends words. Give me a picture, help me remember for a moment the wonder of what God has made, and chances are so much better I will move out of my self absorption and into a place of gratitude and awe.
I imagine the team who hung the fabric, figured out the projections, found the autumn leaves as a background to the lyrics, went about their tasks not knowing whether the time and sacrifice was worth it, whether anyone would even notice or appreciate their craftsmanship. Well I noticed. And my weary soul began to move toward that softer place of remembering who I am and who God is, which is, I guess, the foundation of authentic worship. I am grateful for those who served me with beauty. And even more, I am grateful to the Magnificent Designer of everything I call beautiful.
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Why Are We Here?

We’re a small team of five part-timers and one full-timer who get to focus on the Arts Ministry of the Willow Creek Association. I know that many of you would be thrilled to have that many people dedicated to your weekend services. However, there are many days when I’m discouraged. I feel like we all work so hard, and yet I don’t always know what we’re really accomplishing. So in the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on why our team is here and what we are really doing.

In truth, the answer is simple. We are here for you…artists and teachers in the church! Why? Every one of us on our team has been touched by what we have experienced in church, and we’ve heard story after story of how God has used the arts and teaching to transform lives and draw people closer to Him.

In addition to that, we’ve all served or are serving on the arts team in a local church. We’ve watched writers struggle with dialogue so the drama scenes they’ve written will truly touch the heart of someone in the audience. We’ve heard the worship leader playing the keyboard and praying through his worship set days before he’ll be on stage. We’ve seen the scenic volunteers serving late into the night, painting the set for the upcoming message series. We’ve said goodbye to the lighting director at 10:00 pm, knowing that he’d still be there aiming lights for another three hours before he’d get to go home.

Being an artist in the local church is difficult. Each week you pray that God will inspire you as you face a blank sheet of paper. It’s hard to be creative and relevant every seven days. It takes the right team of volunteers to put on an excellent service each week. It takes more time, energy, and money than most of us have.

Our team knows that, and that’s why we’re here. We want to serve you and help make your job a little easier if we can. We try to encourage you to stay connected to God and feed your soul, because we know that only through that connection will your ministry bear great fruit. We want to provide training that will help artists and teachers grow their God-given gifts. We want to offer opportunities for you to connect with other artists and teachers so you remember that you are not alone. We want to provide resources that will give you ideas and maybe even the exact tool you need to do your next service.

We may not do all these things perfectly, but it is our goal to improve everyday. Tell us what you need, and we’ll do all we can to make it happen. You are the reason we are here!
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The Green Room

Every artist knows what a Green Room is, and when I think of those words, I think of a place for gathering, preparing, unity, refreshment (including food!), and prayer. For two decades our Green Room was a highly unattractive set of rooms in what was known as “the tunnel” underneath our auditorium. But even with our ratty old black chairs and harsh fluorescent lighting, we found a way to connect with all the artists on our team and get ready to serve in the Sunday morning services. These days we are blessed with a much warmer, more beautiful room to gather, for which we are extremely grateful.

On October 20, in the New York City region, we will launch our first Green Room event. Local church arts teams are invited to join us for a day of vision, equipping, encouragement, and connection with other people who absolutely affirm and understand the challenges of unleashing the arts through weekly ministry. We will gather at Christ Church, in Montclair, New Jersey, where Marlinda Ireland serves as the Worship Arts leader. After an opportunity to worship together, I will teach about the potential power of every Sunday morning to impact lives. We will also talk about the very real “hard stuff” of doing arts ministry, and how we can improve our process and build our arts communities Mondays through Saturdays in order to get ready for Sundays.

On the day before, Friday the l9th, I’ll be hosting a more intimate and interactive event called The Leader’s Table. On that day, a smaller group of worship arts leaders will come together to explore our challenges and learn from one another.
These Green Room and Leaders Table events will be offered in other cities, including Houston in November, the Seattle area in February, as well as southern California in February (I’m not stupid, I get to see some sunshine in the middle of my Chicago winter!). I’m hoping these events will serve church arts teams by re-enforcing the worth of what we are called to do, giving us the opportunity to be honest about our challenges, and inspiring all of us to manage our lives in such a way that we can finish our race well. You can get more information from our Willow website – I hope to see many of you join us!
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Free Download: What does love have to do with it?

In the Name of Love: Creating a Safe Place for Artists
Ross Parsley

Let us love one another, for love comes from God.
I John 4: 7

What does love have to do with an arts ministry? When that ministry exists to serve Jesus Christ, who called His followers to love one another, love should be our hallmark. Yet, we all know that love isn’t often the predominant characteristic of our teams, nor is it the experience of many artists in the church.

Are you interested in building a ministry culture founded on love? If so, Ross Parsley will lead you through I John 3 and 4 to paint a picture of how to build a culture of love that can deeply impact your ministry. This teaching focuses on many important truths, including how loving people makes our art better. Ross will also discuss ways that love can be demonstrated and measured in our arts ministry, and how a culture of love can be fleshed out in auditions, evaluations, and more.

Click here to get this week’s free download.

Where does love make a difference in your ministry?

Ross Parsley currently serves as Worship Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is the founder and president of the New Life School of Worship, committed to training and equipping young men and women to lead worship in local churches. Ross has been leading and teaching on worship for over 20 years and is the worship leader on several Integrity Music recordings including "My Savior Lives" and "I Am Free". Ross demonstrates his philosophy of the generations working and worshipping together by harnessing a team of leaders and songwriters at New Life whose songs have quickly become worship favorites in churches around the world.
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