Do you ever stop and wonder what's coming next in your worship ministry? Think of last January-what were you expecting to happen in your worship services during this last year? Did they turn out like you wanted? Did you go to the place God was calling you to or did you just go with the flow? Were you intentional or were you lost on your journey?
As worship leaders we can get lost in a perception that ministry just happens to us as we go from one event to the next, one season to another, and from one church service to the other. It's the helpless feeling of not being in control as others seem to set your agenda, control your time, or determine your emergencies with their lack of planning. Every worship leader has to work with the organizational temperament of their church, but we can end up meandering through our ministries if we don't take charge of what God has given us.
Proverbs 29:18 says, "Without a vision, the people perish." This scripture tells us that we've got to go to the mountain, look over the next ridge and then tell people where it is, what it looks like and how we're going to get there. The NIV gives us another insight saying, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint." If people have an understanding of what the Lord wants to do then they will work for it, they will sacrifice, and they will give of themselves in a way that they wouldn't without the vision. The beginning of the year is a great time to evaluate what God is doing and get prepared to cast the vision.
Of course the vision begins with our Senior Pastors. We can't really have a vision apart from theirs, and so it is important to plan with them. (I know many worship leaders have difficulty with this because of a theological or relational dynamic with their Senior Pastors, but I want to deal with that at another time, and talk about the function of vision planning). Some pastors are planners and some are more spontaneous, but our responsibility as worship leaders is to be prepared, prayed-up and to plan for what God wants to share with us in worship. This process actually empowers us to dialogue with our Pastors about God's vision for worship in our churches.
In addition, it is of great value to include select team members to pray and plan with you. These might be staff members or volunteers, but either way, you get something extra when vision planning with a team. Try going away on a little retreat and having times of prayer and long conversations with one another about what God might want for your church. Have a couple evenings of planning and playing together. Talk, dream and feed off of one another. Challenge each other on what you really believe about worship. Define and refine what your worship ministry is all about. Whatever format you choose, the process will make you a healthier team and produce great results for your worship ministry.
With these things in mind, here are five ideas that have helped me navigate the vision-casting maze: Look back, think ahead, write it down, talk it up, and measure it out.
You can't go forward unless you understand where you've been. What has your church already been through? What have been its characteristics? What are your or your church's strengths and weaknesses? Identifying where you've been and what you've already done sets the stage for where you're going and what God wants to do. Looking back helps us set a course and avoid the mistakes of the past. Our church was a very good 'praising' church when I arrived. They really knew the value of declaration and joyful expression in God's house, but they didn't know how to be intimate as a corporate body, and so I began to understand what my next few steps were. Don't ignore the bad or the good that's gone on in your church because they both give you insight into where you're headed.
Begin with the end in mind. What do you want to see in your worship services? Where do you want the church to be in a year? How do you want the worship in your church or on your team to be different next year at this same time? Many people are confused about how specific to get with these questions because they feel as though they'll get into chasing after the manifestations rather than seeking the Lord. But I believe you should be as specific as possible because it will aid you in the process of evaluating what you're seeking. Don't just say, "We want God to do what he wants." It's too general and doesn't provide vision that people can hold on to. Goals should be tangible and measurable because only then will we know we've accomplished them. For example, a church might set a goal like: we want 50% of our congregation to be comfortable with lifting their hands during a service. This forces the question 'why?' The answer--because we believe the Bible encourages us in these types of manifestations of praise and it is one indicator of peoples' heart condition. This leads to the conclusion that you will have to model, teach and train in some way to get this idea into your church's culture. Don't be afraid to articulate what you want to see.
Write It Down
Habakkuk 2:2 says, "Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that the herald (whoever reads it) may run with it." A lot of churches don't force themselves through the process of writing a vision because it's just so difficult. But writing it down does accomplishes three goals. First, it requires us to be more thoughtful, exposing faulty theology or logic. Writing it down compels us to avoid clich