Training Worship Ministry Interns

I was recently asked to speak on a panel to a group of pastors and worship leaders about various worship ministry topics. The one topic that generated the most discussion was on interns. How do you find them?… what to do with them?… what to do when they keep messing up your coffee order?…etc. These questions reminded me of how inept of a leader to interns I was 8-10 years ago. I was a part of a thriving college ministry, so some of our students who wanted to go into vocational ministry asked if they could spend time with me. Although I wanted to impart all kinds of worship leadership or pastoral wisdom to these guys, I didn’t have much to draw from. Granted, I was very young as well and a bit of a ministry novice, so most of our time together was spent practicing songs, listening to songs, printing music, discussing theology and drinking coffee. I’m not sure if that’s what those guys were looking for, but I wasn’t sure what more to give.

Even though my methods fell a bit short, training people for ministry in the context of the local church is one of the most healthy ways for them to grow. I think all pastors should have training/mentoring on their radar at some level. I would urge all pastors to sharpen their competency in leading those they’re investing in. I am certainly no expert on what it means to run an internship program. But I have found that focusing on three particular areas in my training has given me the ability to invest in men in ways that benefit them the most. Those three areas are Training, Opportunity/Authority and Evaluation. Below are some of my thoughts on those areas.

Training

I usually think of training in two ways, bookish training and life-on-life training. Both are very important, but you’ll probably find that one comes more naturally to you than the other. For that reason, I would keep in mind that this is your chance to impart both your ministry philosophy and your ministry life to another person. So be intentional. Give them a good amount of each type of training.

When it comes to bookish training, I know that every church has books that define what they do and why, so I won’t give you an exhaustive list of books here. I have found that Worship By The Book by Carson and Worship Matters by Kauflin are great resources for kick-starting good worship ministry discussions. I also love reading John Piper’s article, The Marks Of A Spiritual Leader with interns or men I’m discipling. This article gives so many helpful thoughts on what it means to express leadership in our own lives and then how to exert leadership towards other people.

Life training is a good bit messier and more costly. It will cost you time and energy, and it will probably make your days less seamless and a bit more clunky. But, these are the times we put our book knowledge to work. For instance, I might meet with an intern and talk about what it means to exert leadership towards others on Monday. Then on Tuesday I could take that guy along with me as I meet with someone else. As I ride to the meeting I can tell the intern what I want to accomplish when I meet with this person. Then in the meeting he can see if I actually do what I want to do. On the ride back we get to talk about what I did or could have done differently. Or, if you have an intern that you don’t see face to face during the week, you can invite him to help you write out your prayers or exhortations for your worship service. In the process you can let him in on what you’re saying and why. This kind of training can be clunky and time-consuming, but it is so helpful to young men trying to figure out how to put into practice the things they’re learning. They don’t offer classes like this in seminary, so time with you might be the only place he sees this training in action.

Opportunity/Authority

I’m dating myself here, but do you remember how frustrated Danielson was as he went through Mr. Miyagi’s training in “The Karate Kid”? Why did he feel like it was so meaningless?…Because he practiced all the karate moves while he painted a house and not on a real person. Obviously that worked out pretty well for him in the end, but this frustration is how most interns feel. Lots of busywork and not much live practice. I think you’ll find that the training you give people will come to life as they have an opportunity to use what they’re learning. This will obviously take much wisdom on your part. Some of you serve at very large churches and the expectations on leadership capabilities are much higher than at a smaller church. But however it looks, I would seek for ways to give opportunities for your interns to lead, and then authority to carry out the tasks you’ve given them.

By opportunity I just mean giving your intern a chance to do a leadership task that you or someone else would normally do. You might give them the chance to lead one song, or exhort the congregation in the call to worship, or take one of the prayer slots.  At First Durham we talk about it in terms of reps or batting practice. In order to get ready to play major league baseball, players need lots of reps before they feel ready to play the first game. It’s the same with leading in a church service. Whatever it looks like at your church, find those opportunities for interns to lead.

Giving them authority can be a little more tricky. As the worship pastor, my church has entrusted me as the gatekeeper for what is said, prayed and sung in the worship service. So it might not be wise to hand over complete authority as interns lead part of the service or do some leadership task. But it is so important for them to feel like they have the ability to think for themselves and plan the way God is leading them. If not, you’ll spend the time micro-managing them and they’ll end up doing the task the way that you would do it. That’s no way to learn. I would suggest that you give them a task and then articulate the perimeters. How long should they speak, what resources should they think about, what comes before and after them, etc. Once you give them those perimeters and training let them come up with the best way to accomplish the task. Giving them authority to make decisions means that you won’t end up with a bunch of clones of yourself. You’ll end up with strong, thoughtful leaders.

And of course a vital aspect of the opportunity/authority process is giving clear expectations and instructions. A seminary professors of mine said that one of the most damaging things to a relationship is unspoken expectations. I’ve seen the truthfulness of that at times in my marriage. And I’ve experienced the frustration of unspoken expectations as I’ve served under other people in the past. If you give leadership to an intern make sure you are explicit about how you see them functioning and thriving in their position. It’s unfair and unhelpful for us to be frustrated that someone “just doesn’t get it” if we haven’t been explicitly clear on what we expect. This can seem like really tedious work, but you will have clear opportunities for evaluation if you do.

Evaluation

Most of us have given training and opportunity/authority to an intern or disciple. What I’ve found not as common is giving evaluation after you’ve given that opportunity. Some leaders have a hard time giving evaluation because they’re too kind and others because they’re too busy. But it’s important to give evaluation after you have given a leadership task because they need to know how to grow from their chance to lead. Without loving evaluation they won’t know if they’ve done what you asked them to do.

Evaluation can be really painful, especially if the person has a lot of self-worth wrapped up in how they did their task. If you sense that the person is taking your evaluation inordinately hard I would consider helping them dissect what it means to have an idolatry of approval. Most of us that serve the church in a public way battle this idolatry. It’s loving and helpful to walk them through how to battle this sin. One other way to make the process less difficult is to have a “cool-down” period before you give evaluation. No one wants to hear how they have messed up immediately after they’ve worked so hard on a task.

As you give evaluation, make sure you don’t just, “tell someone like it is.” Even the most thick-skinned person will have a hard time taking reckless and mean-spirited evaluation. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Our aim in giving evaluation should be imparting grace. There is a way to give honest, loving, thorough evaluation that encourages the person and helps them grow at the same time. If you give leadership to anyone, I would work hard at building up that particular muscle. Work at giving kind, clear, sensitive, purposeful evaluation.

What makes evaluation stick though is relationship. If you have a significant investment in a person they’re going to want to hear what you have to say once it comes time for evaluation. If you are sharp or relationally absent most of the time, then your eval will come across as just mindlessly lobbing grenades. In whatever way you can, help them realize that you are for them and not against them.

Finally, make sure to mingle specific encouragement in all your evaluation. Don’t just say, “You did a good job.” Tell them why and how they did a good job. For instance, “I thought your prayer was so meaningful. The words you used to describe sin and brokenness were really helpful. I found them very affecting.” Or, “I loved the way you lead that song. You seemed to sing strongly when the melody was a little weird, and then backed off at the chorus they knew so that the congregation could hear themselves singing.” It is as equally important to be as specific in your negative feedback as you are with positive feedback. Help them see very directly what the problem was, so they know how to specifically do it better next time.

I will be the first to tell you (followed closely by my current and former inters) that I fail in all 3 areas…a lot. But I have found it helpful to have these areas defined and articulated. When problems come up in my leadership, I can usually link it to an absence of one of these areas.

May God richly bless you as you invest in future leaders and pastors for the glory of God.

 

Songs I’ve enjoyed leading lately

Come Behold The Wondrous Mystery – LyricsVideo (Acoustic Version)Itunes

Glorious And Mighty  - Lyrics and Song ClipItunes

Nothing But The Blood – We don’t do the extra chorus and we do add in the other verses…but we use Andy’s march cadence vibe - Video

And Can It Be  - Video

Psalm 62 – VideoLyrics

All Creatures Of Our God And KingSong Clip and Lyrics

How Sweet And Aweful Is The PlaceSong Clip and Lyrics

And here are a few that I’m putting in our rotation soon….

Jesus Firm Foundation - ItunesLyrics

We Lift You Up – VideoLyrics

Blessed Redeemer - LyricsItunes

Not What My Hands - LyricsItunes

He Is JesusLyrics and Song Clip

Few books I’m reading right now

Supernatural Living for Natural People: The Life-Giving Message of Romans 8 by Ray Ortlund Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 by Rick Atkinson


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary by John H. Sailhamer


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason Meyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry Hardcover by Paul David Tripp



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multi-Generational Worship

This is pure speculation, but it seems to me that when the modern worship movement came into town, churches became more and more age segregated.  There is probably a doctoral student somewhere in America working on this topic right now, so I’ll wait for that book to come out to tell me more about it.  But as a general observation, I do not remember churches in my youth having such radical age divides as they do now.  And my guess is that music is one of the main reasons for this change.

This is certainly an oversimplification of a larger problem. But music is one of the main ways that a church shows its stylistic preferences.  Thus, music becomes an important way for a church to identify itself.  My guess is that many people make the decision about where they will go to church based largely on the style of music.  It’s just easy to be around people who like the things we do.

The Uniting Gospel

I don’t think anyone has ever gone into a country club and said in amazement, “How did all these people find each other…this is amazing!”  No one ever wonders what brings country-clubbers together.  It is obviously their wealth, their love for refined leisure and their desire to play golf or tennis.  So it’s actually not that amazing at all that they’re together.  I’m afraid you could walk into many of our churches and make similar observations. This is the old people church with the organ and hymnbook. This is the young people church where people wear skinny jeans and the music is loud. It’s just easier to divide that way.

But, the beauty of the gospel is that it brings together people who would not naturally choose to be together.  Let me show you from scripture how I know this to be true.  There was never a divide quite as strong as the Jew-Gentile divide at the beginning of the church. Jewish people spent their lives thinking of all of the ways they were to be separated from the Gentiles. When God started saving Gentiles, this created a huge problem for Jewish Christians. Now Jews were to become one body with…Gentiles?!  Think of how strongly Paul had to confront Peter just to remind him that a Jew could eat with a Gentile.  Wouldn’t it be easier just to have a Jewish Christian church and a Gentile Christian church? But that’s not what Paul said to do.  He knew that a united people in one church would display the beauty of the gospel more brilliantly.

Reconciled to God and One Another

Paul says in Ephesians 2:14-18, “For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

In these verses, do you see the two things that the blood of Christ does?

First, it brings sinners who were far away from God near to Him through the blood of Christ. If we want peace with God, then we have to come through Christ.  Only His blood will bring us to God in a way that God will accept.

Secondly, it brings people who were far apart together in one body. Do you see all the phrases that describe what the blood of Christ did to the Jews and Gentiles?  The blood of Christ broke down the dividing wall of hostility.  It created one man out of two.  It made peace.  And ultimately it reconciled both peoples together to God.  P.T. Obrien says in his commentary on Ephesians, “Believers come near to God and to one another (Gentiles and Jews) through the saving death of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  The blood of Christ compels us to be unified with those who are not like us apart from Him.

Whatever seemed like the predominate thing that identified me before Christ is now gone.  American, Caucasian, young, musician, Swedish ancestry, Southerner.  All those things fade into the background under my new title: Christian.  And what is the only thing that has the sheer power to sweep away my allegiances from my old identities?  The gospel.  The blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, bought me back from sin’s captivity.  And this is the way that every person comes to God.  No one was a little better off.  Not Jew, not Gentile. Not African-American or Caucasian or Hispanic or Asian.  Not psalm-singer or hymn-singer or Passion Worship-singer. No one. The cross of Christ is what reconciled us to God and is what unites groups of people that were hostile towards one another.

Humble Orthodoxy

For this reason, I don’t believe we should be content with the generational divide that is prevalent in many of our churches. Doesn’t Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians attack the very center of where most of our church conflicts begin? Deep down most of us think that “we” are better than “them”.  I believe my reasons for doing things are better than yours.  I believe that my tribe is better than your tribe.  I am more worthy of making the decisions than you are.  My opinion should be held in greater regard than yours.  Paul plainly says that no one has an advantage; thus no one should think that they have more importance (Romans 12).

So, let me ask you, is your congregation marked by a unity that doesn’t make sense apart from the Spirit?  Spirit filled, multi-generational unity is a powerful witness to God’s work in our churches. Let’s endeavor by God’s grace to see the gospel of Jesus Christ bring us near to those who are different than us.  Let’s plan for, and pray towards fruit in this area.  It will take a great amount of intentional service and sacrifice. But it is an endeavor that God calls His church to as we remember that His blood purchased a unity for us that is beyond the natural man.

 

 

Release Day Notable Links

Hey there everyone.  Can’t tell you how excited we are that JWMH releases today….3 years in the making!

Here are a few links that you may want to know about…

Link to JWMH on Itunes

Link to buy a physical copy of JWMH

The Story Behind And How To Play – JESUS WANTS MY HEART

The Story Behind And How To Play – FAITHFUL

The Story Behind And How To Play – HOW DOES THE FATHER LOVE HIS CHILDREN

The Story Behind And How To Play – WHY I SING

The Story Behind And How To Play – WONDROUS LOVE

Intro to JWMH

5 Things I Hope Will Happen Through JWMH

About 3 years ago I began the process of writing a kids’ worship album.  At the time I wanted to write songs that were in the genre of the Wiggles, but something that parents would listen to as well.  I realized along the way that I am really not good at writing Wiggles-type songs (bad for the wallet…good for my pride…ha).  But I loved writing songs that kids and parents would enjoy listening to together, and that lyrically would provide opportunities for families to have great theological discussions.  So we switched it from a kids’ project to a family worship album.

It looks as though the album will come out next Tuesday the 23rd.  And we couldn’t be happier.  Releasing this CD has been 3 years in the making (the longest any of my CD’s has taken me to release).

Here are few things I hope will happen through this CD.

1-I hope that families will have rich theological discussions because of the songs on JWMH.  It’s amazing how God made our minds to be spong-like when it comes to music.  Kids can easily sing songs about ideas that they can’t fully grasp, just because they’ve learned the melody .  We’ve been praying that dads and moms will ask question about these songs and help their children think through the implications of the theological ideas in the songs.  One, for instance, is the idea of Jesus being our substitute in the song “Love Love Love.” Obviously, substitutionary atonement is a weighty concept for kids to grasp, but I think the song give us an opportunity to help our kids think about how God lovingly put Jesus forward as our sin substitute.

2-I hope that families have fun listening to these songs.  As I wrote these songs, I knew pretty quickly if a song was a dud or heading in the right direction by the way that my daughters responded to me playing it.  If they danced and sang along almost immediately I knew it would probably stick for other kiddos as well.  Some of the most fun our family has had over the last 3 years have been dancing and laughing in our living room while we were singing these songs together.  I hope that your families experience the same joy that ours has in listening to these songs.

3-I hope that these songs give your kids good categories to love God and fight sin.  This is closely tied to point 1, but just a step further.  We have prayed that just like scripture memory, these songs would be a means of grace as our kids call them up from memory in moments of temptation.  One example might be feeling discouraged that their sin is keeping them from coming to God in prayer, and remembering a line “Rest Your Little Soul” that the “…Father’s perfect plan is to give his Spirit as our guide, to lead us to the throne of love.”

4-I hope that these songs help parents fulfill Deuteronomy 6:6-7.  Moses’ words to Isreal’s parents was that they were to tell their children about God during every situation of life.  When they were at home, when they were walking and when they were going to sleep.  Parents were commended to take every opportunity to tell their children about God.  As a parent of 3 little girls (6, 4, 3), I can tell you that this is hard.  Historically I know it’s hard because Israel failed to do it.  Experientially I know this is hard because I fail weekly and daily to do this.  I don’t want to offer a 3 step program here to cure you of your spiritual laziness and help you shepherd your kids to love God.  But I can tell you that songs with spiritual depth have been a real blessing to Danielle and myself, as it provides an opportunity for us to ask our girls questions about what they are learning in that song.  Those questions often lead to fruitful conversations.  My hope is that the songs from JWMH will help good conversations happen.

5-I hope these songs will have evangelistic fruit.  This certainly wasn’t the only purpose in writing these songs.  But I can’t help but think/pray that one of these CDs will end up in the hands of a family who doesn’t know Christ, and that God will use some of these songs to open their eyes to the gospel.  There are a lot of La La’s and Ohh’s and Ahh’s in these songs, but in-between all this there are words explicitly about the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m praying that God would see fit to use these songs to bring people to himself.

Thank you so much for supporting our music.  Danielle and I feel blessed beyond words that so many of y’all have expressed excitement about this CD.

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The Book of Psalms In Christian Worship

The Book of Psalms deals with the realities of life and reveals a soul poured out to the living God – the complaints, the heartaches, the emptiness – and yet alongside these, it acknowledges a God who is incomparable great, who’s plans and purposes are far above our agendas and understandings, but who also loves us with an everlasting covenant love.  Thus, we see in the Psalms a perfect biblical balance of objectice and subjective in spiritual experience.  In the Psalms, God and his word are clearly dominate in the believer’s experience without any diminution whatsoever of the wounds and quandaries and questions of life in a fallen world.  No wonder the Reformers thought we ought to sing psalms and read psalms in worship- they saw them as the very core of a well-rounded Christian experience. – Give Praise To God pg. 147

Why Jesus Became Like Us – Calvin

The Son of God had no need of experience that he might know the emotions of mercy; but we could not be persuaded that he is merciful and ready to help us, had he not become acquainted by experience with our miseries; but this, as other things, has been as a favor to us.  Therefore whenever any evil pass over us, let it always occur to us, that nothing happens to us but what the Son of God has himself experienced in order that he might sympathize with us; nor let us doubt but that he is at present with us as though he suffered with us.

Calvin – Epistle to the Hebrews, pg. 75

A Few Videos From Nashville

We had so much fun finishing up Jesus Wants My Heart.  We finished all the vocals and tracked most of the guitars and keys.  James and Brentice came up with some AMAZING ideas for the songs.

Here are a few videos from our time in Nashville.

James – Children of God

James – Wake up

Brentice – And Can It Be

James – Jesus Wants My Heart

Brentice – Faithful