Is Your Ministry Based on Personal Preference?
What are ways we can objectify (make concrete, NOT degrade) our worship ministries? In other words, what are some ways we can free up our ministries from merely being driven by personal opinions (ours included)?
Imagine someone comes up to you and makes a song request. If we do not objectify our worship ministries, the question as to whether or not we grant or reject that song request can be based simply on whether or not we like the song. That request might be reduced to whether or not we like the requester or feel we need to curry or preserve their political favor. No wonder people fight so much about worship in the church.
Because worship ministry deals with art, many people reduce it to personal preferences. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with having artistic preferences, they might conflict with your church’s mission and calling. For instance, if your church is trying to reach traditionalists, constant requests to do contemporary worship songs (especially with guitars and drums) are not likely to fulfill that mission.
If we can find ways to objectify our worship ministries, we can mitigate the risks of feelings getting hurt, preserving relationships, serving the vision God has given us and cultivating an attitude of discerning the truth within the context of love. Objectifying our worship ministries is ultimately a loving way to lead. So what are some ways we can do this?
1. Draft a specific and distinct vision.
If the vision you have been given is a vision that any Christian church could adopt, your vision is probably not specific or distinct enough. For instance, “reaching the lost” or “helping believers grow” are good visions but they aren’t distinctive from any other Christian assembly on the planet. Examples of distinct visions might be, “to reach a younger demographic,” “to reach traditionalists,” “to reach non-traditionalists,” “to minister to our predominantly blue-collar community,” “to form a church service for those with disabilities,” or “to be a church for seekers and the unchurched.”
2. Find ways to connect musical styles with the distinct vision.
For instance, if your vision is to reach non-traditionalists, you will probably lead in a modern worship music style.
You can further objectify the definition of modern or contemporary music by selecting music from the CCLI top 25 list and taking advantage of the programming algorithms used in music streaming services such as Pandora or Spotify.
I once received concerns from someone about my song selections. I asked for details by asking them to give me an example of a song. The song they suggested was in my judgment not a worship song. But instead of both of this turning into, “I like,” “I don’t like,” I asked the requester to turn on Pandora, type in “contemporary worship” and see if that song (or even that artist in this case) hit the rotation. I was even able to go further by asking them to notice how many songs in the stream WERE being selected by me. This mitigated the person’s concerns about my song selections.
This isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ because there are many great worship songs missed by streaming services, but in this case, it served as an objective means for both of us to preserve our relationship yet come to a conclusion. I can also say that IF that song would have popped up, I WOULD have done it. Because again, it is not about preferences, not even mine. As leaders, we are called to lead by example.
3. Stand on the shoulders of giants
Is there another successful church you know of who would share your vision? If so, what are they doing? Use them as a potential guide. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel if another church has already paved a path.
4. Faith grounded by the Word
I believe that one chief reason we fail to objectify our worship ministries is because we fail to objectify our faith. While space does not permit me to expound, I do not believe God has called us to a ‘blind faith’. Romans 10:17 says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. The word translated as “Word” comes from the word logos which is also the word we get our English word ‘logic’. In His post-resurrection body, Christ could walk through walls so why was the stone really rolled away from the tomb?
5. Does the Object Have to Stay Within the Box?
Now you may think of some of these methods as being too ‘in the box’. After all, why limit ourselves to what other churches are doing with the top 25 CCLI or ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’? In some cases, you may have a specific vision that thwarts all of this. If so, then God bless you. But your road will be more difficult if you can’t come up with objective litmus tests for ministry decisions.
But IF your vision can fit within litmus tests, I would encourage you to use them. The idea here is not to expect everything to be in ‘black or white’, it is simply a way to reduce subjectivity and find a compass when you can. Yes maybe this puts things in a little bit of a ‘cookie cutter box’ but doing so frees up a worship leader’s ministry by allowing them to make decisions that do not get overly personal and risk fracturing relationships.
Ephesians 4:15 calls us to speak the truth in love. I would encourage you to find ways to test for truth in your worship ministries so that we can walk in love and keep people first.
Greg Jones is a musician, music teacher, worship leader and independent recording artist. On my site you find me sharing music instruction, with an emphasis on worship music and articles on worship leading.