Church Renewal Jazz

Written by Bill Whitt
December 19, 2022

Many of the lessons I learned as a worship pastor have applied directly to my ministry today. In fact, leading a church is a lot like leading a band!

Before serving as a lead pastor, I spent more than a decade leading worship ministries. Many of the lessons I learned as a worship pastor have applied directly to my ministry today. In fact, I’ve found leading a church is a lot like leading a band!

Five Ways Leading a Church is Like Leading a Band
  1. A Great Team Is a Diverse Team. As church leaders, we need to surround ourselves with differently gifted people, even though our default tendency can be to do the exact opposite.
  • Consider this analogy: If I were a drummer, I wouldn’t need to hire eight more drummers for my band. I would need to go looking for a guitar player, a piano player, and a singer!
  • Similarly, if I know that I am a creative but unorganized worker, I would not need to hire more dreamers for my staff. I would need to hire people who are good at execution and implementation. Diversity in personality, gifting, gender, age, and ethnicity is what can supercharge your team in the 21st century!
  1. A Great Team Is a Unified Team. What happens when you bring diverse people together? Without a commitment to put others first, chaos!
  • If your band’s guitar player wants to play country western, the drummer can only play calypso, and the pianist is suck in classical mode, that’s the recipe for a sonic train wreck. So what if they can play their instruments well!? Can they play together?
  • Similarly, as you assemble your leadership team, I would argue that there is something even more important than each individual’s aptitude and talent. It is their ability to take direction and work with others to pursue a common goal. When hiring, that is my first priority!
  1. Great Leaders Devote Themselves to Leading. Your church needs you to lead the band more than to play in the band.
  • The larger the orchestra, the more likely it will have a person dedicated to conducting. His or her sole responsibility is directing, not playing an instrument. Imagine instead if that person had tried to play all the instruments by himself or herself! What an absurd image!
  • Similarly, as your church grows, it will be tempting to play more and more roles. That “solution” appears as if it is working for a season, but it is not sustainable. The most valuable use of your time is not doing the tasks of ministry — it’s leading others.
  1. Music and Ministry are Both Objective and Subjective. Even though we often prefer black-and-white, some parts of life remain stubbornly gray.
  • Even though many elements of musicality are objectively right or wrong (tuning, tempo, etc.), musical taste is ultimately highly subjective. Even if you perform perfectly, some people will still not like the music you make. It’s just not their style, and that’s OK.
  • Similarly, even if you do everything “by the book” in your church ministry, some people may not like the style of what you’re doing. This can be one of the most disheartening things to happen as you pursue church renewal. This is not a judgement of you but a reminder that God made people with a variety of preferences.
  1. Jazz Leaves Room for Improvisation. One of my favorite genres of music is jazz because it combines structure with flexibility.
  • Before playing, jazz musicians agree to a certain tempo, groove, and chord structure. As they play, they work within those rules but also give one another freedom to explore and to have fun. Each one takes the spotlight for a season while the others give support.
  • Similarly, could there be any better picture of a healthy church staff or leadership team? We agree on the destination and the basic way to get there. But we also allow one another the flexibility to adapt as we go, and we never stop supporting one another!

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