First post of the New Year and I find myself falling terribly behind in my writing. Or should I say blog writing specifically. ‘Cause ain’t no shortage of writing for classes, I’ll tell ya that much. But I digress…focus on the topic at hand.
This past week, I led worship for Community Worship for the third time at the university I attend. I have been blessed with the very wonderful responsibility of leading a team for Community Worship (or what some would call Chapel) twice a semester.
I’ve also been asked to mentor in worship someone of the younger generation, that girl being my assistant on the team.
And I respect the weight of that responsibility. I also feel the weight of what I am carrying into this role.
This has been one of the biggest seasons of growth as I step into a new role of leadership. It has also been one of the more painful seasons of pruning.
It is easy to sit out there and think, “that looks so easy, all you do is stand up there and sing songs in front of people.”
Oh, no….no, no, no, no, no.
Allow me to clarify. I am responsible for a team of 9 people…9! Including myself. Something I didn’t think I could do, let alone actually be doing. That means I carry the weight for them, intercede for them. If something goes wrong, it’s my responsibility as the leader to fix it for them. If I’m having a bad day or irritated with someone, I can’t let that show or get in the way. It’s my job to be the best example that I can be.
Not only as a leader, but as a Christian.
I take my cues from where I have felt let down by leadership in the past. Most importantly, I take my cues from Jesus. I am not perfect. I lead from excellence, not perfection. Which means that I will make mistakes. I lead from honesty and not a manufactured version of how a “perfect” leader should be because, let’s face it, there ain’t none. Which means my team gets to see the real me. The real me that struggles with decisions sometimes. The real me that gets nervous right before we go up there.
Things I’ve had to learn:
1.) How to lead a team of musicians…
Oh, boy. Just…oh, boy. I have been leading worship for seven years in some capacity. Mostly by myself with a track or acappella, but never more than a guitar or piano player at the most. But eight people?…Eight? Are you serious? And not only people, but super talented musicians who actually know all the technical terms and…”stuff”. And you want me…me?…to give them direction and expect them to take me seriously? Waaay the heck outside of my comfort zone.
my director gave me some tools and basically said go for it because he believed in me enough to push me…because he knew I would also push myself (it’s a right-brain, left-brain thing). It’s so much easier to step into that role when you know that someone believes in you and is in your corner.
2.) How to Communicate “Music Speak”…
I sing. That’s it. That’s my instrument. And I learn by ear. Even learning piano now, I learn by ear. I can copy what my instructor does and fill in the blanks. Yeah, I was in band from 5th grade through my senior year of high school, but do you think I remember music theory, note names, etc? Heck. No.
So, I decided to lean into it. Go for it. Push myself. Grow. How do you improve interactions between people? You learn how to communicate in a way that will speak to that person specifically. So, to translate, I am learning as much of the musicians’ language specific to their instruments that I can, so that I can communicate with them on their level. Will I also be able to answer a question from the base player about the fingerings of a chord? No. But I can learn notes, style, and sound in a way that will be able to get her in the right direction.
A worship set doesn’t just “happen”. You don’t just pick songs and throw everything together and be done with it.
In the past, I’ve always started with the message at hand; talk to the speaker, if I can, to get a feel for what he will be speaking on. I consider the audience or congregation that will be there and how to best engage them, believers or non.
And prayer…prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer. I let God illuminate the songs for me, whether I’m going through my songbook, looking online or a song comes into my mind. It can take hours; sometimes days. It can also take an instant.
That’s just the start of it. Now, I must to find a way to ensure 9 people are all on the same page. Oh, good golly! How do I do that?
This is where structure comes in. I’ve had to learn to marry the Holy Spirit with the structure. I am a woman of freedom. I like mobility. And I like to move in freedom as I lead worship. Incorporate prayer when I want to. Speak when I want to. I do not like being tied down by details. And yet I’ve learned what a necessity they are when leading a team.
I had to learn the discipline of painstakingly sitting down and writing out a plan so my team can all be on the same page. At least to start. Like the foundation and frame of a house. Where are the transitions? Are we praying before this song? How about scripture? What is the verse/chorus order of the song? What happens if I want to veer from there mid-song and how do I get them to watch for that, so they can follow me?
How do I combine the freedom of the Holy Spirit and structure? That is a challenge that changes daily.
Leaders don’t always have the best answer. It takes humility to be able to take the advice of another when that person has insight that can enhance a particular phrase of music. It takes humility to listen to your team. It takes even more humility to be able take their advice over your original plan for an ending or a build, etc.
Let’s face it, we all have days where we don’t wanna…
The days I’m exhausted from classes and meetings, pages and pages of reading, papers to write, projects to finish, worship to plan, internships to coordinate…it’s 11:45pm the last thing I want to do is stay up longer to write out an outline so that my band can follow the events during our set. But I do it. Why? Because I don’t want to just do the bare minimum for my team. I want them to know that they can trust me. That I care about them. That I won’t leave them hanging.
To lead means to sacrifice sleep. Staying later than you have to. Getting there earlier than you have to. Preparing the way.
And time. A good leader will sacrifice her time to pour into a mentee that is counting on her to lead her well. To not leave her hanging.
4.) Letting go:
And perhaps the biggest thing of all…I’ve had to learn to let go of the past.
It doesn’t matter that my former boss didn’t think I was worthy for leadership. It doesn’t matter that I wasn’t taken seriously where I was before. It doesn’t matter than I’m significantly older than my crew and I’m certain that they think I’m a nut job. It doesn’t matter what “they” are thinking. It doesn’t matter that I feel like a complete failure and constantly fall short. It doesn’t matter that I might not think I’m strong enough, talented enough, good enough, etc…
Because it’s not about being “good”. It’s about doing what God has asked me to do.
I also had to let go of expecting feedback from my leader and to stand confidant. He says, “You wouldn’t be here if you were not meant for this.” Of course, I later asked him what in the world he was thinking. How he knew that I wouldn’t completely fail him. His response was frustratingly simple. “I just knew.”
I can let things of the past take from what is happening now…or I can choose to rewrite the story from here and lead unhindered from the ghosts that would surely strip me of my identity in Christ…my future. To lead strong, love strong, walk strong, praise strong, etc.
Things I’ve had to un-learn:
1.) and only one… Fear
Each time I stand up there, I feel the fear lift more and more. I feel myself stepping into that role more and more. Though, the strides may seem small to some, inside they are huge. Because of the circumstances that surround.
Because each time I step up there. I feel the power of the Holy Spirit take over. This is not something I can do on my own. I can’t even feel my own body. I totally feel Him carry the entire thing from the moment we walk out there to the moment we sit back down. No other time do I ever feel that happening.
Fear has no place here.
So there you have it.
And the coolest thing about this whole new season? I have a friend that I’ve known for years. We knew each other when we were younger and reconnected about 5 years ago to lead worship together for a women’s event. We’ve led in several other capacities aside from that. And we have walked with each other through some major life events, layoffs, etc. She knows my struggles and weaknesses better than anyone.
Last week, she got to be a part of this. She was my keys player. To have one of my best friends right up there with me, that built in support, meant the world. “Look how far you’ve come. You are leading a team of 8 musicians which is not easy to do even if you are trained in music”, she said to me later that week when we were out to breakfast…and it has been a journey.
Our past does not define us. We will always have a sense of brokenness because we are human. But the power remains in how we choose to harness that brokenness from pain and defeat to the strength and wisdom of experience.
And I’m loving every minute of it…see you back up there April 5th…