Culture is one of the most important aspects of your worship ministry. Healthy culture will help your ministry thrive, while unhealthy culture will undermine everything you are trying to accomplish. But healthy culture doesn’t appear of thin air. Culture is something that is carefully cultivated through consistent communication of a clear and compelling vision. Aaron Ivey of Austin Stone Worship seems to have cracked the code of clear, consistent communication and has crafted an incredible culture of worship and creativity at the Austin Stone Church in Austin, TX. That’s why we’re excited to have him share his insights on this month’s episode. If you’re struggling with bad team culture, or simply want to strengthen a specific aspect of your team’s culture, I know you will be helped by this interview.
At the end of the day, culture is how human beings interact with each other. – Tweet That!
Apathy in a leader is the death of the team. – Tweet That!
Passion is contagious. – Tweet That!
You’re always creating culture whether you know it or not. Bad culture is formed when there is no vision. – Tweet That!
When your team knows who they are (identity) it’ll affect how they act (behavior). – Tweet That!
No one should be more passionate about your vision than you are. – Tweet That!
God is the author of vision and if we seek Him for it, He’ll give it to us. – Tweet That!
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Alex Enfiedjian 00:00 Hey everyone, I am here with Aaron IV waiver. So am I saying your name right? totally right.
Alex Enfiedjian 00:19 Hello, and
Alex Enfiedjian 00:20 welcome back to another episode of the worship leader training podcast. This is Alex Enfiedjian. Your host, if you’re a worship leader, which I’m assuming most of you are, since you’re listening to this podcast, you and I know how important culture is in regards to creating the types of teams and environments that we want for our ministries. Culture is king. Well, Jesus is king, but culture is second layer King. But healthy culture doesn’t just appear out of thin air. Culture is carefully crafted and shaped by a clear and compelling vision, usually stemming from the leader, that’s you or me. And then through a constant communication of that vision. That’s how you shape the culture that you want. So in today’s episode, I talk with Aaron Ivey, who is the worship pastor at the Austin stone church in Austin, Texas. And who is the overseer of Austin stone worship, you may have heard some of their albums. And we talked about how he used consistent communication over the last eight years that he’s been there to create culture and form what is this now strong, rich, vibrant, creative community. And we discuss how to seek God’s vision for your worship ministry, and then how to get those ideas down into memorable phrases, and how to use multiple mediums of communication to drive those values deep into the culture of your team. So if you’re struggling with a bad team culture, or you simply want to strengthen your team’s culture, I know you will be helped by today’s interview. But first, it’s our recommended product of the month core sound pads. First of all, I just want to say thank you to those of you who have purchased core sound pads or have purchased one of our other recommended products. Like I said, when I first started introducing recommended products, I will never share with you guys a product that I don’t personally love and believe in, because I really believe the things I’m sharing with you are things that are going to help you do ministry better. And I also want to say thanks, because when you purchase these products, you’re actually supporting our podcast by helping us cover our web hosting fees, and the other expenses that we incur to offer these trainings free of charge. So thank you, thank you. Thank you, of course, I’m pads has been a blessing to us. And I hope the course has been a blessing to you. So core sound pads is our recommended product this month. Core sound offers incredible sounding backing pads that ethereal, soft, lush sound that sits behind your band and fills out your sound with rich soundscapes and it also smooths out your transitions between songs. And you can actually hear the pad right now behind my voice as I’m talking. It creates this safe, slow atmosphere where you can kind of linger a bit between songs or pray without that awkward dead space. So definitely check out core sound pads, you can try them for free. There’s a link in the show notes for how you can download the free bundle. Or if you decide to purchase one of their bundles, you can get 20% off any purchase. By entering w el tee podcast at checkout. w lt podcast will get you 20% off any bundle that you purchase. And all the links are in the show notes. So that’s our recommended product this month. Let’s jump right into our interview with Aaron IV. Hey, everybody, I am here with Aaron IV of Austin stone worship. Aaron, thanks so much for being on the podcast today. Yeah, of course, man. Thanks for having me. Aaron, you have created an amazing ministry at the Austin stone. And from what I understand, you’ve only been there for like eight years. And you started with none of the just massive scale ministry that you have today. None of it was there, no staff, no volunteers, nothing. And everything that you created has come from the thoughts and the vision that you had in your head. But the key is that you got those thoughts out of your head through solid communication. And with time, persistence and hard work, that communication has created the thing that you envisioned eight years ago, Would you say that’s that’s pretty accurate. Um, dude, you’re making me sound way more hype and awesome than I actually. Well, okay. But you’ve done a great job. And it has come from constant clear communication of a clear vision that God had given you, right? Yeah, definitely, man. Yeah. So cool. I’m excited to have you on the podcast to share with our listeners about how to create culture through consistent communication. So let me ask you this first, Aaron, is it possible to create culture without vision and then subsequent communication of that vision?
Aaron Ivey 04:45 Yes, it’s absolutely possible to create culture without vision. And that’s, that’s one of the things that kind of trips most of us up is we don’t realize that we’re always creating culture. Whether we have vision or not whoever the leader is of Any team or organization or church is always creating and fostering, you know, some sort of culture. It’s bad culture, though, when there’s no vision behind that, that creating and so I think the perfect blend, you know, is a person who, who doesn’t start with, hey, I want to figure out how to create culture. That’s the wrong question to ask, you know, but the healthy kind of team has a leader who starts with, hey, what’s the vision for my team? You know, I think it takes like, kind of being away from people and kind of being alone, being with the Lord, like actually studying the Scripture and figuring out what your vision is for your team and for your church. Before it’s ever communicated to anybody else to you know,
Alex Enfiedjian 05:45 is that a short process that it takes to kind of sit down? Or is that something that over years it’s being formed in you? Or is it like when you get to a new church, or like, you feel like God’s calling you to a new season of ministry at the same church? And you say, Lord, I’m going to get away with you for a couple months, I can just ask you over and over to show me or what what does that look like? What would you tell a worship leader? Listening? Who has no vision for his ministry?
Aaron Ivey 06:08 Yeah, okay. Well, it’s a good question. I think there’s a big difference between mission and vision, you know, mission never changes, like, I know that my mission in life as a follower of Jesus is to be radically in love with him to be in His Word, and to devote my life to following after him and telling other people about him, right. That’s, that’s mission. And so that doesn’t ever change. My job might change, what instrument I have in my hand might change. But my mission as a believer, and a follower of Jesus is to be a disciple of his and to tell other people about him, right. So mission never changes, but vision changes all the time. It changes based on the people that you’re serving, it changes based on the the season that you’re in, you know, the city, the context of the people, the decade that we’re in, you know, vision has to constantly change. And so I think it’s really healthy for us to constantly be asking and searching out for what’s God’s vision for this unique group of people that that we’ve been entrusted to lead, you know, so the I think it’s good for every person to say, like seasonally, what, God, what’s the vision that you have for this thing that’s right in front of me that you’ve entrusted me to lead? Where are we going to go? Where do you want us to go? How are we going to get there?
Alex Enfiedjian 07:27 I love that, that you’re evaluating the vision based on like, each season, Lord, in this season, what is the vision that you have for this ministry? And I bet Aaron, that at Boston stone, that that has changed based on your circumstances, and where you guys are at as a church and where you guys are at as a worship ministry, like each year, you’ve probably come with sort of a different vision, and ask God, Lord, Lord, is this what you have for us? So I never really thought about that. That’s cool. What about culture, though? Does culture change with the years? Or do you say like, this is the type of people that we want to be. And that doesn’t matter when that happens, because that’s almost a different, different topic. And culture.
Aaron Ivey 08:05 It isn’t. It’s it’s a, it’s like a supplement. You know, it’s like the the root of any sort of team and whether vision really sticks or not, has a lot to do if, if there’s a healthy culture, you know, I think a kind of a misconception about culture is that culture, you know, of an organization is like, what it looks and feels like, or what the branding is, or what the website looks like, or how the people dress or, you know, just what the vibe is. But that’s not what culture is. Culture, at the end of the day is how human beings interact with each other. So if you say this business, right has great culture, that really doesn’t have anything to do with their branding, or their outside face, it has everything to do with how those human beings are interacting with each other in that organization, right. So if you take that to, like the church and to ministry in the scope of ministry, building culture, and creating culture, and fostering culture is all about like human beings interacting with each other. And so if we try to, like, slap a cool logo on our ministry, or tell everybody to dress cooler, or you know, try to be as hip as we can I make the most flashy music, that at the end of the day is going to be a dead end road, because that’s not that’s not culture, culture is how we interact with each other. And so a lot of the kind of culture of our church and our team and has been spending years and years and years, building relationships with people and building trust and conversations and meals over tables, you know, most of the guys that are on our staff have been a part of our team for, you know, five, six years, more than half of our staff members with Austin stone worship, were actually residents and interns before they ever became staff members. So there’s this kind of long history of this interaction right on a very deep personal, intimate sort of level where I know these people and they know They’d been in my house, I’ve been in their house. That’s culture, right, like how we interact with each other. And then anything else, on top of that is just, you know, is just kind of how that vision intersects with our specific context here in Austin. Does that make sense?
Alex Enfiedjian 10:17 Yeah, I love that definition of culture, how human beings interact with each other. And I think when I think about it, in that sense, and how you said, a lot of the guys you have on staff, know you and have been in your house, and for five years, you’ve been having one on one conversations with them. That’s so interesting, because culture really starts with you, Aaron IV, Aaron IV, not even a coaster really starts with Aaron IV, and how you treat the people on a day to day basis. And that’s so cool. And then as you interact with these core group of guys, they become more like the culture and vision that you have. And then they spill that out into the team. And it kind of is this overflowing, you know, waterfall effect, right?
Aaron Ivey 11:00 Absolutely, man, then I think that’s really something that’s critical for any leader of a team, whether it’s a small team of volunteers, or it’s a large team that has, you know, staff members and volunteers, it’s really critical for the leader to kind of wear the weight of that and to understand like, hey, culture, is my responsibility to help foster you know, so for me, if I start to notice that there’s a culture of negativity or culture of cynicism, right, this interacting with each other, and you start to notice, man, it feels like, we’re just becoming super critical. We’ll really that that is on me to kind of ask, okay, am I fostering that? Because if that’s happening in my team, there’s a really, really good chance that that’s being fostered by me. So how am I coming across? And how am I speaking about other people? And am I being an encourager, and a cheerleader for people? Or am I being critical and cynical about things, just even the smallest comments about things in life or things in the church or things in the city, or things about what other people are creating those things, just little small seeds that end up blooming into something way bigger than we realize? You know, and so I think it’s absolutely critical for every leader to go, Hey, the culture of a place, that human interaction with people, it starts with me leading out on that. And the vision, although there are people who are constantly like speaking into the vision, and I’m listening constantly to where you know, how the Holy Spirit is, like, speaking to other guys on the team, and women on the team about where we should go. Ultimately, though, as the leader, the vision is my responsibility to discern what the Lord is kind of saying, here’s where we need to go right now, you know, and so I think it’s critical, I think, a lot of worship leaders specifically, and I’ve struggled with this in the past, for a little bit of insecurity, and that, you know, well, I’m not the lead pastor, so I can’t really set a vision or I’m really young, and I don’t have much experience in this. So I can’t really set a vision. And if you are the person that has has been placed in a position of authority and a place of pastoring people, you do have the role of fostering culture and setting vision for that group of people.
Alex Enfiedjian 13:18 Yeah, that’s awesome. So one of the things you did Aaron and I did a deep dive into Austin, stone worship culture recently, just like scouring your website for like, five hours. And I read it because I’m in this new this new church, and I have this, like, massive thing to build. And we’re at the bottom floor. And I was like, I got to learn from this guy. And one of the things that I saw that you did was you have this, you have four or five key values of the culture that you’ve identified. And you’ve I know, they’re in the Austin stone worship Field Guide, are they also are those the manifesto? What is your manifesto? And what are these five cultural things that you have? Maybe listen to them? And tell the listeners, like where you wrote these things up? And what that document is? Yeah,
Aaron Ivey 14:07 absolutely. I’m actually like holding right now our field guide and, and really, our field guide is for every person that’s on our team on our staff, and every volunteer that serves in our ministry at every campus. And it’s a you know, it’s a pretty small book, it’s maybe 60 pages, and it just outlines outlines everything about who we are, it describes like us what we’re going to be what our culture is going to be, what we’re aiming for what we’re striving for. And as we were kind of putting this together. This came about five years ago, I realized, hey, we don’t have anything written down. That kind of articulates who we are and what we’re aiming for, you know, I kind of felt it, I kind of knew that this is what I want our team to look like. And this is what I want our church to be centered on when it comes to worship and creative arts but we didn’t have anything written down and so I just took a couple months and and Really like took pen to paper and started writing down? Hey, these are the things that I’m just craving that God would do in my church. And these are the things that, that I want to be said of us as a team of artists, you know. And so it really boiled down to five foundations that our ministry was built on. One was the word of God, the Word of God, it was going to be central to everything we do every song every meeting, every service, the Word of God, right, that was number one. Number two, was engagement, engaging with God and engaging with other people. That’s a huge foundational value for how we plan Sunday’s and even how we interact with each other as a team. Third one is excellence like unashamedly. I’ve always wanted our team and our church to really strive for excellence, not perfection. But excellence in the sense of Jesus is worthy of us putting our whole self and all of our energy and passion into doing the best that we possibly can with what we’ve been given. So unashamedly. foundationally. Excellence, right. fourth one is togetherness. And this is the sense of, I need you and you need me, you know, I cannot do this without you. And you cannot do this without me. Because God has orchestrated this team to work together for this specific time. So that’s the fourth one. And then the fifth one is development. The foundational value of our ministry is we want to be developing and training new people to be on mission using their skills, whatever they might be, for the kingdom of God. Right. So those are our five values, we put them in front of people all the time, I feel like I talk about them all the time, right. But that’s, that’s one thing with with really communicating vision is you have to say the same thing over and over and over again, that’s how vision sticks, you know, you can’t say at one time or put it in one booklet, but it has to be something that’s communicated in everything. So then we took those five values, and we said, okay, let’s prescribe to our people. Let’s call them upward. And let’s define like, this is who we are, like, how do those five things actually play out in real life? So we have a, what’s called our Manifesto. And you think about like, olden days, right, a king would, would come up with a manifesto, and somebody would stand up in front of the whole kingdom. And they would say, Hey, this is our Manifesto. This is who we are, this is what the kingdom is going to look like. This is how people are going to act. This is this is what we’re going to do you know, is the manifesto. And so we have 10 really simple statements, that that defines, like our Manifesto, and it’s just, you know, me to read them originally. Yeah. Okay, here’s the 10. We esteem the Word of God, we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. We love and worship Jesus above everything. We are a community of shepherds, we choose camaraderie over comparison, we choose servanthood. Over stardom, we are not moved by applause or criticism. We value excellence in everything we do. And we focus on character over competency. And we will always consider others more significant than ourselves. That’s awesome. Those 10 things, right, are the things that we’re constantly calling people towards. So if there’s an issue like a conflict, you know, of a musician, feeling like they’re not getting enough stage time, or they’re wishing that they were on this larger platform, instead of this smaller platform, we can always point to this manifesto and say, men, no, no, this is who we are, we choose camaraderie over comparison. And so I’m asking you right to choose in this moment, camaraderie, togetherness over comparing what you have versus what somebody else has. So it’s been really helpful. Just to kind of put words on paper, stick it everywhere, man, we have it on T shirts, we have it on stickers, we have it in every book, almost every email that goes out, just reminding people, hey, here’s the manifesto. This is who we are. This is who we’re going to be.
Alex Enfiedjian 18:52 Yeah. And I think it’s cool. A couple of things come to mind like one is that these are like very character traits. They’re not like behaviors. They are this is who we are. They’re it’s not this is what we do. It’s this is who we are. And because of who we are, we act this way in each of these circumstances. So it really applies to like, every circumstance that you could face, you can point back to one of those characteristics and say, none of this is who we are, like you’re not acting in line with who we are. Or you can point and use it as a positive example and say, Hey, you really exemplified servanthood in that moment, or you really, it’s like, it works as a double edged sword negative and positive reinforcement.
Aaron Ivey 19:33 That’s right. And the model for that is Jesus and the New Testament. You know, if you read the New Testament, there’s there’s never this sense of like God saying, I really hope that you’ll become this kind of person or I’m pleading with you to be this kind of follower. It’s always telling people who they are. It’s reminding them of the identity that they already have. You know, you are a royal priesthood. You are a chosen race. You Are the workmanship of God, you know. And so the model is like as leaders, it’s not really calling them to something new. It’s reminding them constantly of the identity that they already are, and calling them upward to that to say, Hey, man, we’re all broken. We’re all human. I struggle with comparison, I struggle with all these sort of things. But let’s remember who we are because we are in Christ. And because we are the local church, we’re the bride of Christ, and we get to serve every single week. So
Alex Enfiedjian 20:28 that’s awesome. So let’s say one of our listeners are many of them are going man, I need a document like this, what would you say? Are some of the keys to creating an effective document like that? Like, what are some of the keys? Like? How many words like what if it’s 20? words, that’s probably too many to remember. So maybe some, like practical advice about that
Aaron Ivey 20:46 stuff? Absolutely. Man. So ours did not start out as a 60 page document, you know, it was a very, very small team. You know, when when this kind of started evolving, there weren’t many staff members, I think there was one staff member, a one resident, a part time person, you know, so there wasn’t a whole lot of people to really like, give a manifesto to so the document was super small and super simple. And it started with this, it started with, what are the things that we need to value the most, we know our mission, our mission is to lead people to worship Jesus, that should be the mission of every worship team. But our vision is, hey, here’s the things that really, really matter. And we’re going to we’re going to focus on these, no matter how the style of music changes, no matter how big how small, these are the things we’re going to value, you know, so I think a good number for that is like three to five things. These are the things that five things that we’re going to value right now in our ministry. And then as those things kind of get some roots and get some legs and you start to kind of flesh those out a little bit, then you’ll start to see, this question is looming question of how so how are we going to do that, you know, if these are the things we’re going to value? How are we actually going to accomplish that, and then you start kind of fleshing it out. Well, here’s how we’re going to value the Word of God, here’s how we’re going to value excellence, here’s how we’re going to value development, and it kind of flows from there. And, and ours, honestly, man is is nine years in the making, it takes a long time to really develop a robust kind of healthy, you know, written out document of what culture is. And honestly, if our stays the same over the next year, then I’ve gotten really apathetic and we’ve dropped the ball on moving forward, because the mission stays the same. But the vision always evolves and always changes. So this document, honestly, this one I’m holding right now, in my hand, this is from last year, we just went through this summer, and changed a bunch of this stuff. And so we have a new one that comes out this fall. So every fall, we’re we’re adjusting and editing and adding to and taking out things so that it’s a working document, you know, really like an organic living kind of document in front of our people.
Alex Enfiedjian 22:59 Yeah, when I was listening to a lot of stuff that you were doing online, and when I was reading your manifesto and your field guide, I was like, man, I got to put stuff on paper for our people. Because I, you know, like I said, I just got to this church, and there’s a lot in my head. But I haven’t started communicating that in a very, like physical way of like, here’s a piece of paper, I have some pieces of paper that I give out to new team members and stuff. And then we have an online process that kind of explains some of this, but I love the idea of having like five keywords or like this is who we are. And so I started to come up with some words of who we are, or who do we want to be in five years, what is our culture look like in five years. And here’s Here are a few words that I came up with. And each of these words have sub points that kind of explain it. But like, we are worshipers, we are servants. We are committed. We are encouragers. And we are progressing. So we’re like constantly moving forward. And I think I’ve added We are family. Now here’s the thing though, Aaron that I kind of realized and maybe some of our listeners will fall into, I started to realize that when I first started to come up with words, they were reactive words, like, Oh, we need to fix this, and we need to address this and we need to so I was like creating a culture reactively against what was currently in place. And that’s, that’s okay, because you do need to deal with those things. But I think it’s important as our listeners create this document to look even further out and go let’s not just react to what is now like, let’s ask what do we want to be regardless of what is now in five years, and then be proactive with our words as well?
Aaron Ivey 24:33 Absolutely, man and I love I love the phrases that you’ve that you’ve kind of set in place, man, those are beautiful and and you’re right, it can’t be completely reactive to where we’re at. There’s an element of like, okay, here’s the current reality and here’s the things that are broken and busted. But um, but vision you’re right man, it’s it’s, it’s thinking forward. It’s thinking about Okay, in the next two years, this is what it needs. look like and feel like and this is how we want our people to be interacting with each other. These are the things that we want to see accomplished and the gap, right between current reality and where we’re going, that gap is the part where most of us kind of drop the ball or get really frustrated, right? Because we know our current reality is not where we want to be. And we know where we want to be is awesome, right? But it’s that gap in the middle. And so what’s crucial in that gap in the middle, is to come at it with some very clear steps to move forward. Right? If we don’t have clarity in the steps to move forward, we’re going to be frustrated as leaders, and our people are going to be frustrated, because they’re like, Well, yeah, we know, we’re not there yet. And yeah, I’m buying into your vision. But how are we going to get there? You know, so I think that critical piece in the middle that gap is, here are just a couple action steps to move forward. Right? If we’re going to be a family, the action steps to that are, we’re going to meet together once a month for a meal. And we’re going to actually, like practice being a family, you know, that’s an action step to get there. I think if we miss the gap, we get frustrated, and our people get frustrated too. And we don’t and we don’t really progress.
Alex Enfiedjian 26:10 That’s awesome. Yeah. Cuz they’re like, wait, we’re not living out the vision that you’ve told us that we are, you’re saying we need action steps to fulfill the vision.
Aaron Ivey 26:19 Yeah, absolutely. And a personal commitment to taking those action steps, you know, and so when we do define for our people, what those action steps are, unashamedly, we need to say, Hey, I’m committing to these steps. And I need you to commit to this too. I know that you want to play the guitar, and you’re really good at playing the guitar. But I need you to commit to these steps for us all to move forward as a ministry team, you know,
Alex Enfiedjian 26:46 yeah, that’s awesome. So you kind of mentioned, once you have this clear vision, or a clear concept and idea, you mentioned, like, communicating it everywhere, on stickers on T shirts in emails, can you kind of flesh that out a little bit for us? Like, where is your team seeing this vision communicated? Is it like when people first come on? When did they get these documents? Is it in your email signature team Knights kind of just flesh it all out for our listeners?
Aaron Ivey 27:12 For sure, man. And this is where, you know, we kind of mentioned that culture isn’t branding, this is where branding does kind of come into play. Because there is something about once you have mission vision kind of defined, about really centering all of your visual stuff around that mission and vision, you know, that’s what branding, that’s how it really helps and excels and pushes forward, right the mission and vision that you have. And so we do put it everywhere, we have a field guide that we give to our people, every single fall, it’s on almost every single email that sent out to our team. It’s not always like explicit, but it’s in there, you know, you can’t like not find it, it’s it’s always in the language it’s in. If we’re promoting an event, or we’re talking about a specific thing that we’re calling our people towards, we’re pushing them back to one of those 10 things in the manifesto. It’s present on T shirts, we give our holding t shirts that are cool stickers, like you said. And then also like, when we’re together for Team nights, every single one of those is centered around one of those values. So there’s never a missed opportunity to really like, press into one of those values. So when we gather together, I know the person who’s communicating that night and leading the team, that I’m going to center that talk or that Bible study or that time of communion, I’m going to center it around one of those values. So if we’re doing communion, it’s going to hit togetherness guys, we are together in this when Jesus was with his disciples, He took time to eat with them to pray with them to be with him. They were a working family, you know, and that’s what we are today. And so as we take communion tonight, we are together in this we need each other and so almost like looking at everything you do, and saying how do I tie this back to the things that we value? And how do I over communicate this to our team? Because we’re thinking about it as leaders all the time. But our volunteers and people that are coming to our team nights and and showing up on Sundays? Did they don’t hear it all the time? So it doesn’t sound like old news to them? It’s a it’s it’s needed, that they’re reminded of it as often as
Alex Enfiedjian 29:27 possible. Can you talk to us a little bit about your team nights I think you call them worship collectives. Right? And I’d love to hear more about that. Because it seems like it was super transformative for your ministry. So what is a team night? How often do you meet? What do you guys do there? Who’s it for? How do you schedule it? All of those questions. Can you answer those for our listeners?
Aaron Ivey 29:47 So worship collective is our monthly gathering for anybody who is facilitating corporate worship at our five campuses. And so that involves kids ministry student ministry, leading at our at services, production story team, all of our visual and creative designers. And so really, it’s we’ve tried to really press this idea that worship is not just about singing, it’s not just about music. And worship leaders aren’t just the guy, or the woman that happens to be up in front, singing the loudest. But every person who’s involved in this thing is a worship leader. So if you’re running audio, you are helping lead worship on that Sunday, if you are running pro presenter, you are a vital part of leading people in worship, if you’re designing stuff for the screen, that helps people like have their heart and imagination pointed towards God, you are helping lead them in worship. And so first step man is we’ve tried to just communicate over and over and over again, this worship team is so much bigger than just musicians, right. And so worship collective has been a really good way of gathering all of our creatives that that do that every single week, gathering them in one room and just encouraging them and speaking value into them. So it’s from six to nine, we usually do some sort of meal together, and then we’ll worship together, it’s usually in the round. So it feels different than a Sunday, super low production, very kind of like family communal feeling. And then either me or another person on our team will do a short 30 minute sort of devotion. But that devotion is centered around one of our five values. So it might be reminding people about why we value excellence, it might be reminding our team why we value the word and center upon it. My goal for it is every single worship collective, it’s recentering our people on who we are, and what we’re called to do as a worship ministry at the Austin stone, and then we receive Communion together and have dessert and hang. So that’s the value of it. And that’s kind of how we structure it. As far as communication. Communication is hard. I mean, people have so many avenues of communication come into them all the time. They’ve got social media, they’ve got their own email, they’ve got work, they’ve got supervisors, they’ve got family, you know. And so it’s really hard to figure out how to streamline communication. But we use an app called Slack, which is a free app that people can, you know, download on to any other platforms. And that’s how we stay in communication with them. We also ask people to RSVP every single month for worship collective, there’s a little bit more buy in when you’re saying I’m committing to this, and it’s on my calendar than just, hey, it’s every first Thursday, come whenever you want, you know, so we ask people to RSVP, which also helps us have a head count for food and knowing how many people are there. And then yeah, we do that every month for the entire year except for the summer. And we’ve been doing that now this is our fourth year of going into worship collectives. And we have just seen so much fruit from it, man and worship collected keeps evolving. You know, when we first did it, it was a really simple gathering. Now our fourth year into it, we’re are offering master classes at worship collective. So in addition to worship and some food, we’re also splitting up occasionally into master classes. So you know, there’s a master class for being trained as a guitar player and a masterclass for graphic design and a masterclass for every skill represented in our worship collective, because now the place that we’re at in our growth and development is, I not only want to gather, you know, these amazing people, and call them towards mission and vision, but now we’re at the season where I also want to help make them the best artist that they possibly can be in the city of Austin, you know, so that’s the new vision. That’s how our visions kind of evolved with worship collective is is intentionally saying, God’s given you amazing gifts. We want to help make you foster this ability for you to be the best artist that you possibly can be.
Alex Enfiedjian 33:59 Yeah, that’s amazing. I love that you’re training your people and if any, adds value to their life. Let me ask you this. Who? Who does the master classes? Who teaches them? Do you like some of your better guitar players teach the guitar players some of your better sound techs teach the sound tax, etc?
Aaron Ivey 34:13 That’s exactly right. Yeah, we just identified throughout the years, like who’s kind of like being very committed and very loyal, and who has the skills and the ability to teach, you know, we’ve seen those kind of like, float to the top, and we just kind of push them in that and they, a lot of times, they’ve never taught a master class before. And so there’s a little bit of intimidation with that. But it’s like, Man, you have skills and you love this church. So, you know, speak value into others and tell him how you do it. It’s not this crazy, complex sort of thing. It’s, this is what I do. This is how I do it, and I want to
Alex Enfiedjian 34:49 help you. That’s awesome. So how many people like what percentage of your people come and what happens if people don’t come multiple times?
Aaron Ivey 34:58 Yeah, great question. So we have about about 300 volunteers at all of our campuses that help facilitate worship in some aspect. And I would say on a given worship collective, there’s probably, you know, between 180 and 200 people. And the interesting thing about Austin is, Austin is a crazy busy city. And so people are pulled in 1000 directions, and it’s just a fast paced city. And so I think at first there was this frustration with us because we expected all 300 to come every single month. And then I started realizing like with my own life, you know, with having a middle schooler who has a social life and having kids, you know, we’re in sports, that have something almost every night, it’s unrealistic to expect everybody to come every single time. And it’s okay, you know, it’s okay. What’s more important is that over the long haul over that year, right of all these worship collectives, that are people would be committed to being a part of worship collective. And so every single one of them almost has a different kind of crowd to it, I see some people that I haven’t seen in months, and there’s not kind of a beating down or, you know, criticizing them for that. It’s like, Man, I’m so glad you’re here. The fact that you are here, and you gave up a Thursday night of your month, knowing how busy you are and your family, and the fact that it took you 30 minutes to get here in traffic, I’m blown away that you would come thanks for coming, you know, so we just try to speak valued or people. Honestly, if the event if the worship collective or your team night, if it’s not good, then we can’t expect people to keep coming, you know. And so we want to focus on that night being like worthwhile for somebody to actually get in the car, leave their family and drive to we want it to be worthwhile. And so it’s constantly kind of like asking, Hey, how do we make this better? How do we keep it interesting? We added childcare a couple years ago, because we realized, Hey, I don’t want to, I don’t want the fact that somebody has kids to be a reason not to come to worship collective. And so it’s a large part of our budget, but it’s worth it to provide childcare for each worship collective. So,
Unknown Speaker 37:12 again, I
Aaron Ivey 37:13 think my point is like, man, it always changes. It’s about listening to your people. It’s about kind of like watching and looking out and going, Hey, what’s the vibe right now? Who’s coming? Why are some people not come in? How can we adjust it to where more people can be involved? You know, a good example of that is this semester, one thing that we’re doing differently is we realized, worship collected happens in the center of the city. But our city is massive. And so if you live in South Austin, it could literally take you one hour to get from South Austin, to Central Austin, where we have worship collective. And so now a couple times, each semester, we’re doing worship collectives that are regional, and they’ll be at people’s houses. So I’ll have a worship collective at my house for South Austin, which will have 50 to 60 people in it. And that one will specifically focus on togetherness, right? If we’re gonna focus on togetherness, then you need to know where I live and what my couch feels like and what kind of food I make. And so we’re kind of adjusting all the time, just to make sure more people can can come.
Alex Enfiedjian 38:13 That’s awesome. You’re so inspiring. Aaron. No, stop it. Hey, a couple more questions. And we’ll wrap it up.
Alex Enfiedjian 38:19 Did you face any difficulties or discouragements? When you were trying to implement the vision in the beginning? And what were a few of those key discouragements that anyone trying to do this? You think they’ll face those as well? What would those be?
Aaron Ivey 38:31 Well, maybe we should have started there because I felt like I have way, way more stories to tell about discouragement, then, you know, wins. And that that’s that’s the way ministry works. And honestly, that’s the way leadership works, you know, is there’s a lot of discouraging things that happen and a lot of stories of a feeling like man, what are we doing? And do I even know what our vision is? That is like the undercurrent that any leader feels all of the time, you know, and I’ve just, I’ve come to embrace that a little bit and not feel beat up by that or feel discouraged by it. But just to go like, Hey, this is one measure of grace, in which the Holy Spirit is constantly sharpening vision, right? Like the fact that I do feel discouraged sometimes about some things is really like God putting a spotlight on Hey, you’re not done yet. Like just because some things are working well doesn’t mean you’re done. So don’t be beat up by it. But But look at it, pay attention to it, and sharpen it help help it grow. You know. So a couple of things have been discouraging, you know, it’s really, really hard to get people year one of worship collective to see the value in coming to the church again, on another night for another worship service. It was really hard man and it was discouraging the first, you know, the first semester. And again, we took that in this that discouragement and said, okay, it’s really Hard to get people here. How do we make this feel and look different than Sunday, because we don’t want people just to come to another Sunday service. This is for our team. So that discouragement really helped breed creativity in building it differently. So we did it in the round, you know, we did it more communal feeling, and we took away the band, and we added food and hype and fun, you know, like that sense of discouragement actually turned into creative energy. You know, there’s been discouragement in you know, sometimes as the leader, you stand in front of your team, and you’re like, I am so passionate about where we’re going to go. And then you look out and you see total blank stares, right, that is so discouraging. And that happens, you know, not all the time, but but it does happen. I would say for any leader, you’re just you’re gonna feel that it’s gonna happen. And you should be the most passionate about your vision. It’s not bad that other people aren’t as passionate as you are about the vision, because you’re the leader. So of course, you’re the most passionate person about it, you should be and passionate and fervor I’ve learned is contagious, you know. So just keep staying passionate, stay fervent, because that is incredibly contagious.
Alex Enfiedjian 41:18 Yeah. And eventually, it reaches this tipping point where the culture that’s in your head becomes the norm. And people start coming to Team nights, and it becomes normal to come to Team nights. And now all new team members feel like, Oh, it’s always been this way. But it doesn’t feel like that upfront.
Aaron Ivey 41:33 Exactly, man. Exactly. And if discouragement takes us over, then we stop leading, and we stop being creative. And then we just kind of sink into apathy. You know, and a team really needs a leader who is just fiercely fighting against apathy, you know, apathy and a leader man, that’s that’s the death of a team for sure.
Alex Enfiedjian 41:53 Yeah. That’s awesome. Aaron, I want to respect your time. Do you have any final words for our listeners about communicating to create culture? Man,
Aaron Ivey 42:01 I would just say like, I am still learning. I mean, this is July. For us while we’re recording this, and our semester starts in August, that’s when we’ll call all of our volunteers back. And we’ll have our first worship collective and, you know, even sitting here in the middle of July, you know, I struggle with like, what is the vision that God’s calling us to this next semester? And,
Unknown Speaker 42:22 gosh, is
Aaron Ivey 42:23 God done with me? Or am I like, am I moving towards apathy? Or do I have nothing else to say, you know, I would just say to every person listening, man, God has put you in a place of leadership. And when God does that, he does not leave you hanging. And he doesn’t leave you. Without vision. Like he’s the guy who invented vision, right? He is the author of creativity, and vision and life. And so if he’s placed you in a place of leadership, like he’s placed me, then he’s going to be consistent in fueling us and giving us creative ideas. We just have to go to him for it. You know, you don’t need to read more books on vision. You don’t need to read more blogs on, you know how to be super creative. You, you need to sit with the author of creativity, fall in love with him and hear from him, because his words for where your team needs to go are going to be so much better than anybody else’s words.
Alex Enfiedjian 43:18 That’s awesome. Thank you, Aaron. Aaron, I think you just released a new book. Yes, man, I have a
Aaron Ivey 43:24 book that’s coming out August 1. It’s called steal away home. And it’s a historical fiction novel. That’s about Charles Spurgeon, who’s a hero of mine, a famed pastor from England in 1800s. It’s about him. And a guy named Thomas Johnson, who was a freed slave after the Emancipation Proclamation, and they became friends. And it’s a story of this amazing True Story of their friendship and how they both helped each other essentially, find freedom.
Alex Enfiedjian 43:49 Awesome. Yeah. And by the time this episode releases, that book will be out. So I encourage our listeners to go by it. And then also Aaron, you guys have a worship intensive where worship leaders can come to the Austin stone and learn from you for a weekend right? Is that right?
Aaron Ivey 44:02 That’s right, we do for a year. They are it’s a two day intensive and it’s only for for team leaders, worship leaders, worship pastors, leaders of a creative team, and it’s maxed out at 40 people so it’s just super intentional. Our team devotes two days to you it’s a two way conversation, not like a conference but really an engaging kind of time where we get to help consult and help listen and help encourage and share wisdom that we’ve learned throughout the years.
Alex Enfiedjian 44:31 Yeah, awesome. And I would encourage our listeners if you’re if you’re like wow, I gotta learn from this guy like go to one of those I probably will go to one of those eventually. Aaron to learn from you. So man, we would be honored to have you come on. Okay, cool. I will. But yeah, guys, so check out the what is it Austin stone worship calm? Is that where they can find all your stuff? That’s right. Awesome. So there’s lots of great music on there. They have chord charts for their songs. They have tutorials for how to play the songs, so check out Austin Sun worship.com Aaron, thank you so much for being on today. And any anything else where people would connect with you if you want them to connect with you? Oh yeah, my
Aaron Ivey 45:07 Instagram is Aaron IV at x. And then my email address is on our website too. So if there’s anything that me or our team can do to help, we would be honored to help. Awesome Aaron, thanks
Alex Enfiedjian 45:17 for your time today. God bless you. Thanks for having me. All right. That’s it for this month. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. If this episode helped You, please help us by sharing it with a friend. You can do that very easily by clicking the appropriate link in the show notes. And if you’d like to leave us a review, you can do that by going to worship leader training comm slash review. leave us a review on iTunes it helps us a ton. Again, we are so thankful that you are a part of our podcast. And if you have any questions or a topic that you’d like us to cover, please feel free to email me at Alex at worship leader training calm. God bless you guys as you lead worship this week. Keep driving the culture deep and I will see you next month with another