A lack of cohesiveness and focus is one of the greatest challenges for worship leaders. But following seven steps can help get the ministry on track, according to Lavon Gray, minister of music and worship at First Baptist Church, Jackson, Miss.
Gray led a session titled “Seven indisputable keys for building your worship ministry” during Worship Week. The event, sponsored by the Worship area of Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, was held June 27-July 1 at Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C.
1. Have a clear and biblical understanding of your calling. Your calling and how you view it will impact everything about your ministry.
“There’s nothing we can do that qualifies us to be ministers of the gospel,” Gray said. “You have to be called to do this ministry or go do something else.”
2. Develop a lifestyle of worship. Authenticity comes from the worship that spills over from your own personal worship.
“You’ll never be satisfied in your ministry if you don’t ground yourself in the Word,” Gray said. “Devotional readings are all fine, but you need that time of Bible study.”
Gray offered a tip from his own life: He chooses the songs and hymns for the church service well in advance and then each day of the week prior to Sunday, he prays the lyrics of the songs. By Sunday, he has saturated his spirit with the words the people will be singing.
3. Focus on relationships. The key to a successful ministry is developing great relationships.
“If you are struggling with people not liking you, get to know them,” he said. “Visit them in their homes. Attend weddings and funerals and other important events. It makes all the difference. I have never had a problem with a church member if I had attended that person’s mother’s funeral. They have to know you care.
“We aren’t in the music business; we’re in the people business,” he said, adding that it’s important to laugh and have fun.
4. Have the courage to empower your team. Be confident enough in your own abilities to empower others to do their own ministries.
“The people’s capacity to achieve is determined by the leader’s ability to empower,” he said.
“Worship ministers are … how do I say this … getting younger,” he said with a laugh. “I have to ask myself how I can stay relevant. The key, I believe, is to be faithful to what God has called me to do. You have to realize you can’t have every skill set that is needed to do the job. Bring in people around you that God has gifted.”
5. Know how to take advantage of momentum. Momentum can be a leader’s best friend. Leaders create momentum and followers catch it.
“It’s important to follow the natural ebb and flow of your ministry,” Gray said. He said that at his church, the annual Christmas pageant is huge. They work on it for more than six months. Knowing this, he chooses to alternate having another large production between Easter and the Fourth of July so this people aren’t worn out. In addition, the entire choir takes off the whole month of July. This gives people a needed break and helps them be ready to come back in August refreshed and ready to go again.
He makes it a point to write personal, handwritten notes and phone calls to his choir members and musicians, thanking them for their commitment, saying he looks forward to seeing them again, or whatever else is timely and appropriate.
6. Have a clearly defined vision for your ministry. No matter how much you learn from the past, it will never tell you all you need to know about the present. See the vision God has given you and go toward it.
Gray quoted Leroy Elms who said, “A leader is one who sees more than others see, who see farther than others see, and who sees before others see.”
He listed some of the major barriers to successful planning toward a vision include fear of change, ignorance, uncertainty about the future and lack of imagination.
7. Lead your ministry to become an Acts 1:8 ministry. This Scripture says: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (HCSB).
“Avoid leading your ministry to be exclusively internally focused,” he said. “Do local service projects as a choir. Go on mission trips together. Find out what God is doing and then, all together, join Him in His work.”
Gray was among dozens of speakers and conference leaders attending Worship Week. Go toLifeWay.com/Worship for more information about this and other worship-related events. Next year’s Worship Week will be July 16-20 at Ridgecrest.
by Polly House, Communications Department