Why is Hillsong Worship so good? How do they achieve such high levels of musical excellence? What are they doing behind the scenes that leads to consistently great results in all of their campuses? Inquiring minds want to know. Thankfully, this month I am joined by Rich Langton, Creative Pastor for Hillsong Church, and he gives us a peek behind the curtains, helping us understand the systems, structure and culture that drives the creative machine we all know and love: Hillsong Worship.
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Alex Enfiedjian 00:16 Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the worship ministry training podcast. This is Alex Enfiedjian, your host, I’m so thankful that you are tuning in to the podcast. If you are a new listener, the purpose of this podcast is to create an online archive of helpful practical topics, and to be as in depth as possible. And speaking of in depth Today was a very in depth interview. It’s probably one of my longest interviews that I’ve done with Hill songs, creative pastor, rich LinkedIn. And I wanted to figure out what it was that makes Hillsong music so great, like what is going on behind the scenes. And he and I kind of talked offline about like, you know, In and Out Burger, which is a California burger company has trained 16 year olds to make great hamburgers in 100 different restaurants, how do they get the same hamburger every time? And so I was like, rich? How do you guys create great music in all of your venues and locations around the world? Why is it working? so well? What are the little things that you’re doing behind the scenes that makes your music so great. And so we talked about their systems and the different processes that they have for bringing on team members and all that stuff, like lots and lots of topics about how it works behind the scenes for them. But the amazing thing that you’ll find is, it’s actually all about the culture. It’s all about the culture. So I’m excited for you to listen to this interview with rich LinkedIn really good stuff. Also, I want to plug their Hillsong creative conference, which is happening in the middle of November. So this podcast is launching November 1. So you guys have two weeks to sign up. If you can’t fly to Sydney on such short notice, which I’m sure is probably the case for most of you. You can go to Hillsong comm slash WCC, and you can sign up for the conference and watch it online so you can see all the sessions there. So that might be something you want to invest in to improve your own creativity and excellence as a worship leader. So also, before we get into the interview, I want to let you know about our recommended product this month, which is core sound pads, my absolute favorite pad sounds for worship. It’s mp3 file that you can drop behind your worship band in the related key, and it just fills in the sound fills in the space, you can play them directly from your computer from your smartphone. They even have an app called pads live that allows you to build setlist and it even has a click track built in. And that app is absolutely free. The pads do cost money if you want to unlock all the sounds, which there are many great sounds. If you want to do that you go to core sound pads comm you find the pad bundle that you would like to purchase, and you enter w MT podcast at checkout. And that will allow you to save 20% on your purchase. So of course on pads comm w mt podcast at checkout and enjoy the rich sound, of course on pads in your worship sets. With that, let’s jump right into our interview with rich LinkedIn, the creative pastor of Hillsong Church. Hey everybody, I am here with rich LinkedIn who is the creative pastor for Hillsong Church, the global pastor of creativity. So rich, thank you so much for being on the podcast. You’re welcome. It’s so great to be here. Awesome. Rich, you and your wife, Cass are in charge of all of his songs, creative teams and projects for the entire globe, like including local team leaders, the albums, the artwork, the conferences, the tours, and more. And that just sounds like incredibly overwhelming to me. And while it would be fascinating to talk about how you keep such a wide network of people moving together on a global level, I think what would better serve the people listening today is more on a local level, like how do you guys set up your systems and your structures, the behind the scenes things at Hillsong to create such consistency, you know, regarding musical excellence. And so I just don’t think it’s a fluke that every single Hillsong campus around the globe has such high standards of musical excellence. And when I came to my church, and I was like trying to figure out how to take the music to the next level. I was like, What is Hillsong doing that I’m not doing because they’re doing something like why are they so stinking good. And so today, I would just love to peek behind the curtains with our listeners and really try to uncover what it is that you guys are doing behind the scenes. I mean, I know it’s God’s blessing and stuff. But what are some of the systems and structures that you have in place that contribute to such high levels of musical excellence? So we’ll get into all that nitty gritty detail by the end of the episode, but maybe just on like a big picture level, like zoom out, zoom back, take us back in time and maybe share some of the historical and cultural factors that have contributed to such high standards of musical excellence at Hillsong.
Rich Langton Hillsong 04:57 That’s a great question. Thank you and thanks for Having us on the podcast as well, I feel like all of what you’ve already said is really generous, I feel a little overwhelmed by what you’ve said, too. And, you know, Cass Cass is role being the Global Head and, together with, you know, my role is mostly Australia, but, um, it’s a large role and but I feel privileged to be able to do it. And, um, all of that to say, thank you so much for, for being generous and speaking so highly of us. You know, Hillsong Church is, is an anomaly in a way, it’s, um, I’m a part of it. And I still think men, how is this happening, to be able to be a part of something that really God has breathed on? is, it’s just a privilege. And I guess if I take a step back and try to work it out, what’s the, what’s the silver bullet, or whatnot, I’d have to say, the grace of God, you know, just, we’ll get into the details of the practical stuff, but, but realistically, you just have to honor God for what he’s doing and what he’s done through our church, and in our church, I guess you can’t put it past what he’s done. And we couldn’t claim to be so great, or to have the answers or all of the secret, you know, methods. It’s really just the grace of God. Now, having said that, as I look back over the history of Hillsong, church, we’ve been at our church about 20 something years. But the whole journey of it, I feel like there’s been just a bunch of people who have laid down their lives, just put down roots here, do, you know, just stayed and have decided to give their all to build a local church that now is, has a global impact? So so there’s a combination if you like, so there’s this grace of God factor that this mystery of I don’t know? how or why, you know, he chose Hillsong, particularly, and Pastor Brian and Bobby particularly, I don’t know why. But I know that they, along with a whole bunch of other people have just decided to give everything they have to building the kingdom. And, you know, outworking that in the local church of, of Hillsong Church here in the hills, and then and then, you know, globally, so, in a nutshell, that would be what I say has happened.
Alex Enfiedjian 07:08 Yeah, yeah. People laying their lives down for the sake of the kingdom of God. Yeah.
Rich Langton Hillsong 07:13 And I know, people do that everywhere. So it sounds a little cliche, to just say that it’s people ain’t laying their lives down, I guess, you know, but, but also, I do know that I rubbed shoulders with lots of pastors and lots of worship leaders. And there’s an element here at our church that is sometimes missing, which I think is just the tenacity to just keep on keeping on, I guess, to know that people are called to be here. And then to just stay and keep going and going and going and not giving up. And, you know, even myself, there’s times where we go, oh, man, things aren’t turning out the way I would like them to or things aren’t being aren’t growing the way I’d like them to, or they’re not as excellent as I’d like them to be. But instead of giving up, we pick ourselves up, we’re just ourselves off, and we and we keep going. And I think that would be a trait of Hillsong Church is that people just have decided to just keep going beyond, I guess beyond what’s normal. And those of us who work here, it’s not a job, it’s really, you know, it is a ministry and, and it does engulf a lot of life, which then has its own challenges. But in that, I think if you want to build something great, you’ve got to do something extraordinary. And I think that’s what we do and what we intend to do, you know,
Alex Enfiedjian 08:29 yeah, we’re seeing like the fruit of 30 or 40 years of persistence and commitment is kind of what you’re saying. Exactly. Right. Yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing. Now, on a smaller local church level, because you’re kind of overseeing all the churches in Australia, I would imagine at your main campus, there’s just tons and tons of talent, just no shortage of talent. But let’s say you want to launch a new campus, you know, Hillsong, Tokyo. How are you guys gonna go about finding and recruiting skilled musicians who love the Lord and somewhat fit the culture? Like, what’s the very first step of finding and attracting musicians when you go to a new city? You know, because there are a lot of like rural churches that are listening, and they’re like, how do I find musicians? So what does that look like for Hillsong? And, you know, are those people born ready for the music? You know what I mean? So
Rich Langton Hillsong 09:16 yeah, I mean, part of why I thank you for being generous about our churches that, obviously, I know the reality of lots of our little local campuses, and they would be exactly the same as, you know, as your church or as, as the listeners, churches there. They’re not necessarily all in big cities, or have a big pool of talent to draw from. There’s often just, you know, limited staff, if any, so volunteers, trying to build teams with really the people that have and the standard is not always as high as we’d like it to be. But I guess in that our perspective is probably that excellence is not something you attain, you don’t reach excellence, and then that caps where you can go excellence is really an ongoing process of content. newest improvement and, and so individuals bringing their best and continuing to improve and bring their best so. So I guess if we were starting in Tokyo, that’d be an interesting scenario. But I guess generally speaking, we would start with who we have. And I think that would be my advice anywhere is to look around at who you have. You said other born radio, no, our perspective would be that you have to develop people. And right, it’s not always just up to the individual, sometimes you have to actually draw out the golden people, oftentimes, they may not even know or think that they can do the thing that you’re asking them to do. But if they have a willing heart, and they’re willing to commit, then they can develop the gold, I think of pretty much anybody you would know, from Hillsong, United or Hillsong, worship or even young and free. They’ve all been young people in our church, who have had a desire to serve God, you know, to volunteer their time. And so then their leadership, their pastor, or leadership has taken them on that journey, and brought the gold out of them. And in that there’s the expectation of that they would practice that they would learn their craft, that they would do all of that. And then also from a, I guess, the pastoral, you know, relational side, knowing Christ that I hope that we’re putting that first. So we’re looking for people who love the Lord, and to want to serve Him. And then after that, you can develop, you know, help them learn how to play piano or to sing, some people are more gifted towards it, but it’s kind of up to us to draw that out. Rather than just sort of looking for ready made people write often, you know, if we turned up in Tokyo, I guess there would probably be a group of people that come because they’ve heard Hillsong is starting a location and starting a church. And so they would have expectations as to what that might mean. And I guess our perspective is that the platform is for service, not for status. And so very quickly, you get to see who the people are, that are coming to be seen or coming because they know the name of Hillsong. And they and they have an expectation as to what that might look like for them if they are a part of it. And so we do our best to look to the heart of people and to allow their heart to be revealed and to develop a character in people and looking for character in people. So that so that it’s not just about the best players or being excellent or anything, but it’s really that combination of people who are loving the Lord wanting to serve Him and also use their gifts and talents in order to do that.
Alex Enfiedjian 12:31 Yeah. So can you tease out a little bit of like, what it looks like to develop the heart of people? So let’s just say you launch Hillsong, Tokyo, I’m just making this up. But yeah, and there’s just like a box player, a horn player, and an acoustic player and maybe a keys player and a couple good singers. Yeah. And you said, you know, start with what you have use what you have developed what you have. What does that look like for you to even get to know those people and audition those people? I’m not sure if you’re too far removed from that. No, but yeah, you have an idea? I
Rich Langton Hillsong 12:58 do. Yeah, I’m, I guess I’m encouraging our team in these ways all the time. So the way we practically do, what you’re asking is, we would have regular Thursday nights where we gather we call them team nights, which I’ll talk about in a second. And we also have regular pre service gatherings, pre service, prayer meetings, and then obviously, midweek conversation and catching up and connect groups, those sorts of things with our teams. But team nights and pre service prayer meetings, there are two key areas to really input into the team. And I guess our perspective is that you can’t underestimate the building of culture and the setting of culture. And so every time we gather, we’re always speaking life into our team. And and I guess, in a way, setting expectations for the team as to what you know, life looks like What does discipleship look like, but also what is serving look like, at an individual level and then a corporate level. So we’re always we would always be speaking at those gatherings about that kind of thing. And then on an individual level, we would have serfs, if it were a new location, at some point, we would have some sort of skills assessment, we call it we don’t really have auditions, but we just would have a time where we get to see where people’s you know, what they can actually do. Can they play the guitar? Actually? Or can they actually hold a note or not? The reason we don’t have auditions is because we don’t want to exclude anybody. We would want to have everybody on our team, everybody’s welcome. You know, we say if you want to belong, you can belong. But in that, you know, everyone’s welcome to come to Team night. And then depending on your skill level, after we have some sort of skill assessment will depend on the work that really you need to do in order to get where you need to be. So once the skill assessment happens, we would encourage that guitar player or that worship leader, whatever it might be, in their gifting and in what they could do in order to upskill themselves. And then along with that, we try to resource As much as we can, but it’s quite often quite an individual thing we would be wanting people to upskill themselves, you know, get better themselves practice themselves so that when we come together, those who are playing come ready so that we can serve on a Sunday or serve the church, you know, the best we can.
Alex Enfiedjian 15:19 Yeah. So you’re you’re really like inputting culture and saying, you guys excellence is important. Your personal craft, development is important. That’s all really important. But I love what you said. And it’s something that I’m finding here at my church, it’s like, everybody should be included, if they want to be included, but where they fit in that family is going to vary depending on their giftings, their passions, their abilities, and all that. So it really makes it like, it’s not like, can you jump over the wall or not jump over the wall, it’s more just like, Hey, we’re a family. And we’re all growing together. And we want you to join us, and we want to help develop you and pour into you.
Rich Langton Hillsong 15:54 Yeah. And there in lies the difficulty. Because often, if you think of yourself, or I think of myself, I’ve often overestimated my own ability, or where I’m actually at. And so the difficulty is, in that those pastoral conversations, those conversations that don’t, you know, if you’re assessing someone’s skill, and you just tell them straight up, they’re no good, then that can crush them. They don’t want to be a part of your thing, if you’re like that, but even the most loving and kind way of communicating something like that can be taken the wrong way. So I think the bigger picture cultural conversations and cultural thinking about who we are, you can be a part of all of this. And, and so it doesn’t just depend on on that one conversation you have about someone’s skill, it’s a bigger thing that they want to be a part of. And hopefully we all can buy into that and, and then play our part as needed. Like you said, stepping back from that the cultural thing is to make sure that you have a culture where they know that equally a vocalist on the platform and a person out the back, doing the lyric, they’re both equally valued, and equally important. So from that perspective, we’ve spent lots of time of late, I guess, talking about how we’re all leading worship on a Sunday, if you don’t put the lyrics on the screen, then the congregation can’t sing, because they don’t all know the lyric. So you’re really vitally important out the back. No one sees you but you’re important. Or if the lighting is not set well and thoughtful and approached with excellence, Then again, maybe people can’t see the preacher because it’s dark, or it’s too bright, and it’s distracting or those sorts of things. So, so it’s I guess, it’s it’s legitimately and authentically valuing each position, and training the team to realize that they’re bringing this offering of this skill or talent or their time to the Lord, and neither are they more important than someone else. But someone else is not more important than them. We’re doing this together, in order to serve the Lord serve the church.
Alex Enfiedjian 17:56 Right? That’s so good. And now, like, if you have somebody perhaps who is close to being ready, but not quite ready. I know I talked with Graham, who’s your creative director in California, a little bit, and he talked about different workshops that they do throughout the weeks and stuff. But let’s say at your, your actual main campus, if there’s someone who’s, you know, close to being ready, but not quite ready, would you throw them? Like, do you guys have stepping stones for them? like, Okay, first you serve in the youth band, and then you serve in this? Or like, we’re gonna pull you into the main sanctuary? And we’re just going to turn your microphone off, and you just can? Or how does that development work? Yeah, for people who aren’t quite ready, but you see potential? Yes,
Rich Langton Hillsong 18:39 I think that it probably happens, like you said, at different locations slightly differently. And even for individuals that might be different. So they wouldn’t necessarily be a sort of, like a stepping stone, like you say, of are you do this first, and then this and this, I think over the years, we’ve had those sorts of things. But even in that, it depends on what part you’re playing to. So if you’re in the TV area, you would do on the job kind of training. So you do, you’d come to Team night on a Thursday night. And we have Part A and Part B. Part A would be more the cultural sort of side of things where we talk to the entire group. And then Part B would be the breakdown sessions, where rehearsals are going on. And also, we call them locker rooms, but they’re like training sessions. So if you’re brand new to TV, and you wanted to learn how to operate a camera, it probably come and do either one or a number of theoretical training sessions. And then after that, you jump on a camera and you would sort of ghost someone, I guess we might call it, you’d watch someone do it. But it’s more on the job. So it’s on a Sunday, you’d stand beside someone during the camera, and then eventually you’d be in the main auditorium doing that that role. If it were worship leading though you might come through youth, you might do those sorts of things. You might be a backing vocal bvw first, but then, I guess the way we would do it is That we’ve tend to have you as a co leader, because we have two worship leaders on a main leader and co leader, you’d probably be a co leader first, and possibly probably not in the main auditorium. First, we have a number of services at this campus. So you’d probably be in a smaller setting, or you’d co lead and then you would lead and then you probably co lead in the main auditorium and, and then lead, the other thing we do is that we utilize the songs at the end of a service for those up and coming worship leaders or singers or, or even musicians. So you might see at our main location, the closing songs, after the benediction has been prayed, we would have one more song, which is something that you’d see people swapping instruments and jumping in and out and that that would be a song that sort of less pressure. And we can utilize that song for those newer worship leaders, get them used to being on the platform and carrying the weight of leading this congregation. So we’re trying different things all the time, but there’ll be some of the things we do.
Alex Enfiedjian 21:02 Yeah, I’m learning that ministry is much more organic and a little bit messy. It’s not so cut and clean, you know, but what you’re saying is find the areas where people can bear just the appropriate amount of pressure, and succeed and thrive in that area, gain experience, learn and then go from there. Yeah, because
Rich Langton Hillsong 21:19 you don’t, I guess you don’t want to, for example, again, a young worship leader, you don’t want them to have their first impression on the platform, you know, they’d be all excited, you don’t want that to be sort of a fail for them. You want them to feel like they’ve had an experience where the Lord has really blessed their time. And it’s really been fruitful, and they’ve been able to contribute. And it’s been positive, a positive experience. If you give someone too much responsibility, or get them to carry too much weight too early, sometimes it can fall over. And then they don’t want to pick up that burden again. And I guess the thought is that if we can help them to develop over a period of time, they can learn to carry that well. I guess the other thing, as well as if particularly on the platform, if you’re putting people in front of the congregation, it does take time for the congregation to trust that person that you’re putting in front of them, particularly if they know the person sort of off the platform, and they’re perhaps a younger person, there could be from people my age or even older, there could be a perception that they can’t leave me because they’re so young, and they’re inexperienced, and they don’t know what they’re doing. And, and all of that is potentially legitimate might be true. And so in that I guess you want to develop the congregation’s confidence and trust in the person that that you’re giving authority to lead them. And you have to build that authority in the person as well. And so it’s in humility, so it’s, I guess, so it doesn’t become a performance, also. So it doesn’t become misplaced authority. If you’re a younger person with a lot of authority, then maybe you know, from a maturity side, you might need some time in order to develop some maturity so that you can carry that authority well, which is also a consideration.
Alex Enfiedjian 23:05 That’s awesome. So at my church, when a new team member comes into the team, yeah, with you guys, it’s very organic. And with us, it’s starting to become more organic, but like, I still have a series of onboarding steps that I need to take a new team member through. And so like, I have, like a little Asana list, and I work through the list and make sure they you know, have their earbuds and they have, you know, the welcome documents and stuff for Hillsong to kind of instill those values and that culture and and just even on a practical level, the certain things that a new team member needs to know. I’m sure it varies, you know, location to location, but let’s just say at your main location, what is the onboarding process look like? And what would I be told, like, if I became a worship team member at your church playing drums or whatever? What would you tell me? Or what would whoever was in charge? Tell me as I came on?
Rich Langton Hillsong 23:50 Yeah, that’s a good question. I need to find out what they would tell you. But I think that realistically, if you know, broadly speaking, all our people that might bump into someone in church who happens to play drums and says, I want to be part of the team, I hope that they will tell you that that’s awesome. And we want to have them. So the hope they tell on that and then I hope they tell them to come to Team night at team not a hope you’re told to visit like our new people’s kind of area and kind of sign up and do the official stuff, fill out the paperwork and the sorts of things that we need to do for a new person as far as finding out who they are and gaining the ability to contact them and etc, etc, all the stuff. From there, they would be encouraged to attend a welcome to Team night, locker room, which is really just like an introductory class to give them a bit of culture as a snapshot of who we are and what the expectations might be. Because I think it’s probably the same in most churches. When you join the worship team. You’re going to be serving probably quite a lot and you probably have to do quite a lot of work outside of the time on a weekend or on a Sunday that you’re serving. You have to prepare yourself you know, learning lyrics So learning charts and new songs, etc. So in that Welcome to Team night locker room, we would sort of broadly lay out the expectations from there, they will be allocated to a particular area of service where, like I said before, they might do a skill assessment, or we might get into the nitty gritty of who they are and what they actually can contribute to particular area. Alongside all of that, as well, we have like an online course that people are signed up to when they join. And that’s more or less like a team Hillsong, creative 101, which is they can do in their own time. And that happens over a period of time where they they get content, in a sense, catches them up on where we’ve come from. It’s the past content, the key elements of who we are, and therefore, who we’d love them to be and what attributes that we’d love them to develop in their character and in their thinking. So that Oh, yeah, there’s lots of there. But that all happens sort of simultaneously.
Alex Enfiedjian 25:59 Yeah. And you require them to go through that online course?
Rich Langton Hillsong 26:02 Yeah, we do. It’s not, we’re not very rosy. So if someone doesn’t do it, we’re not going to not allow them on the team. I guess my perspective would be that we’re doing everything we can to help you be the best you can be to in order to serve the Lord with excellence and with gladness. And so I guess if someone didn’t do it, it would become apparent when people sort of step outside the culture. It’s sort of like a fish out of water, you really you like, ah, like, you realize you can see it in people. So my question of that person would be, Oh, you didn’t do it? Like why? Like, why wouldn’t? Why wouldn’t you want to? Why wouldn’t you want to get all everything you can to be the best that you can be so that you can serve the best you can? Because I guess in our language and in our thinking, my perspective is they’re not serving me a team member doesn’t come to be on Rich’s team, or to serve me in any way. We’re all together. A team, group of people, like you said, a family doing our best to serve the Lord. And so I guess it would be much more that tone of like, have you seen this video about crossing Jordan, that cast spoke at team night? You really need to see it because it spoke to the heart of who we are. And yeah, hope that helps. That’s um,
Alex Enfiedjian 27:18 yeah, super helpful. And, and just thinking about the listeners listening and thinking, maybe like, you guys have your own website that you’ve built with all the resources, but maybe they could set up a simple WordPress page that has a bunch of links to like, you know, different podcasts that they think they would like their team member to listen to, they don’t have to actually create the content, but maybe they can curate the content, and give new team members like, hey, check this out, check that out, check this out, right? You talked about helping people be the best they can be. So I would love for you to share maybe a little bit about what does that look like to help your bands Prepare to be the best they can be for the upcoming services? Like, do you use Planning Center? And if so, like, how far out? Are you sending them the songs? And what resources do you guys include in your Planning Center files to help them prepare? Or do you guys have like a separate website that has like, here’s exactly how to play the Hillsong version? Like, well, obviously, the Hillsong version, it’s your version, it’s your sunrise. But what does that look like to help your bands prep for excellence? Yeah,
Rich Langton Hillsong 28:17 I think as you said before, as well, it would be different at different locations. But on the whole, I guess, in general, yes, we use Planning Center, to roster, the teams. And we have our songs on there so that they have ability to learn them. If I’m honest, we haven’t. I guess, because we’ve had such a high standard here at hills, we do put a large onus on the individual, particularly to learn parts and to learn songs. So we have this to and fro where, where I’m often thinking about the small location that I’m overseeing. And then we also have the larger ones where there’s higher levels of excellence and skill. But for the small ones, I would love charts and lyrics and all of that to be sent out and to be very planned and ordered and to resource them a lot. But we have such a diverse church, you know, so there’s people that need the charts. And then there’s people that don’t, and if we give it to them we’re on, we’re almost asking them to be lazy, because they’re not doing what they need to do to actually learn the song. all that to say, if I bring it to the hills campus, we don’t tend to give people the part that they would need to learn, we would ask them to listen to a, like a demo of the song or the recording of the song and actually learn those parts. So it would be up to them to do that. We will provide the demo, but they would do it. But realistically Aside from that, I guess because we’re recording the songs anyway. And we do write the parts and we distribute those globally. We do have instrument parts that we sort of more professionally create that are a video and obviously some of those are on YouTube. Some of those you can purchase but but they’re all available for people and I think over time depending on where you slot into the into the team and If you were coming in now, you’d probably have to grab some of those and learn them. And there’ll be the easiest way to do it. But generally speaking, if a new song happens, someone, right the path, it would get recorded, we’d send out a song, you know, it’s just a demo, and you would listen to the song and learn your part from the demo. And that’s, I guess, the ability of the musicians is, is at that level that they can do that. So that’s our perspective as well is that just because you’re Hillsong Church or because it’s recorded a certain way, doesn’t mean that in a service that that particular that arrangement is going to suit your congregation the best. And so we we have created like, scaled back demos of songs as well, that are, for a smaller band with less intricate kind of parts, perhaps no tracks, just like more of an acoustic sound, not necessarily acoustic, but it could be that style, so that the small location with just four awesome musicians, and that’s all I’ve got, you know, so they can play the songs in a way that is accessible for the congregation. For example, I’ve been to some locations and some other churches where there’s maybe, you know, 100 people in the room, and they’ve got 35 people on the platform, and they’re trying to do these big arrangements with lots of sounds, lots of singers, and it just is overwhelming for the, for the 100 people in the room, it’s overkill for the situation. So in that instance, my encouragement to our own team and to others would be to, to take the song and not change the lyric or do anything, you know that copyright would not allow us but but rearrange it with the instrumentation so that it suits the congregation. Because again, I guess that’s the idea is that we’re taking the congregation and pointing them towards Jesus. And if we’re overwhelming them without without musicianship, and now you know, even the number of people on the platform, then we were maybe doing ourselves a disservice, we’re not actually achieving what we’re hoping to do.
Alex Enfiedjian 32:00 Yeah. And that goes back to what you said about the stages to serve, right. And so because I see a lot of small churches, and they put a bunch of tracks in the mix, and they’re like, it’s this huge sound, and just a kohonen acoustic guitar would probably be much more appropriate and accessible for the church. And so yeah, I love it. Even Hillsong is considering that and doing those things as well.
Rich Langton Hillsong 32:22 Yeah. And I think in that, as leaders of teams, we have to be really mindful that it’s mindful of our role to upskill, the worship leader, so if you do scale it back. And in a sense, the person who’s leading now just doesn’t have any confidence, because they’re trying to play and sing at the same time, and we’ve sort of stripped them of the safety nets, that can be a problem too. And I guess in that we, our role is to build up their confidence to make sure that they’re ready for that, to get their skill ready to work on on a whole bunch of things that don’t, perhaps we don’t think about, it can be much more about confidence, or about maybe the other way, maybe someone’s really confident, but they need a bit of humility, maybe they can play the song really well, but they’re not connecting with the congregation. So there’s that there’s a bunch of elements that aren’t necessarily musical that as pastors and leaders, we need to be mindful of and be taking people on the journey of of that side of things as well. And of course, obviously, culture like we talked about before.
Alex Enfiedjian 33:22 Yeah, that’s really helpful. And when you talked about the, like, the playing the parts, exactly, like, at least at the hills campus, it’s gonna be exactly now at my church, I let each musician kind of slightly tweak the parts to fit their style, or you know, embellish it a little bit. But even if I was to force them to play it exactly as the album, like the way that this drummer hits the drums, and the way that this drummer hits the drums, and the way that they kind of swing that their beat a little bit might differ. So is it homogenous for you guys, every single week? It sounds the same regardless of who’s playing at hills campus, or? Or does it change based on the players? Or have you really dial it into where it’s like always exactly the same? Yeah,
Rich Langton Hillsong 34:02 I think there’s a little bit of both, I guess, a perspective would be that we’re trying to do something together, what we’re there to do is to serve and so all of our musicians will, I guess, try to emulate the sound that we’re all going for. But in that players do play slightly differently. If the sound were a distraction, or if I guess if it were thought to be not good and not helpful, then we would probably have a conversation about that. So like you say, if someone is slightly off the beat when they’re drumming, or they’re bringing their style and it’s changing the nature of the song, then we’re probably asked them to adjust that to fit with what’s been recorded or what’s known to be that the style of that song, as opposed to just allowing people to do their own thing and change what’s happening. Now, having said that, I guess what I’m trying to say is for a local church, you need to develop your own sound and have a Culture of what that is. And if it’s to emulate the Hillsong sound and do that exactly well with the parts, as we play them, I guess more power to you, I would, I would just say that maybe it’s better to find out what it is that God’s put on your local church, the sound that he’s got for you, due to the people that he’s given you, and develop that and really work that and encourage that. And then if that becomes if it becomes apparent that that’s a certain sort of thing, and that there’s key players who are the other main people to speak into that and to develop that, then I would utilize them as examples to the others. And I would get people to emulate those key players and key leaders. I use Nigel as a weird example. But Nigel’s really, he’s been one that has really set a standard for us and has been so faithful for us over the years. And a lot of times, he’s the main player on an album, and he’s played the parts. And so we would get the younger guys to emulate him and his playing, and hopefully push him forward, ourselves push him forward as well, so that he’s getting better. The younger players see him, they’re emulating him. And hopefully, that goes beyond playing to character and the party plays in the team. And so so by creating a kind of a sound, you’re creating something to emulate. And in that, that helps you to develop new players, helps bring through young people, and it all works together. We weren’t real relationally to so all of the drummers, they gather and they compare kits, and they compare sticks they use and they compare style and tone, and they push each other forward. And they show each other how to do things that jam together. It’s quite relational in that, and again, I guess so someone was kind of doing their own thing, not to say they can’t be skilled in other areas. But if someone’s doing their own thing for the sake of doing their own thing, it would become apparent. And I think just probably it’s our Aussie nature, we’d probably bring him down to size just by teasing them, or, you know, just pointing it out that they’re doing their own thing. And it does two things that helps them sort of fall into line. But it also is is an easy, relational way of doing it.
Alex Enfiedjian 37:12 Yeah. That’s so good. So I’ve always been curious about your singers as well, because we’ve talked about how you prep your musicians, but like, you know, you guys have, you know, up to like, 10 singers on a stage. Do they know in advance? What part of the song they’re singing? Like? Is there anything in the Planning Center plan that says, you know, so and so’s things, the 10 or so and so seeing the soprano, and they can prep? And don’t sing verse two and come in on the bridge? Or do you guys just work that all out the day of So no,
Rich Langton Hillsong 37:41 we don’t tell them prior to the day, but we have a vocal oversight for each service. And so they would then work with the different vocalists to Then sing the different parts that they need to sing. We do create parts. And so they would know the parts, they would know they would learn the parts prior to the day. And but it’s more, it’s not specifically for that service. But it’s more in general, you need to know the parts for pretty much the songs that are in focus at the moment. So they would come and then sing the parts that they’re asked to sing on that particular
Alex Enfiedjian 38:12 day. And they just pick the part based on their vocal range, like I’m a tenor, or I’m a soprano, or I’m an alto so I will learn that part. And I’ll show up prepared, and whatever the vocal director tells me to do on the day of I will do is more or less
Rich Langton Hillsong 38:25 Yeah, yeah. And I guess with the vocalist there, we focus a lot on blending and on making sure that we’re not having one particular vocalists just kind of stand out amongst the, the number of you know, the 10, vocalists on the on the platform or or in the sound, it’s more, we’re trying to create a coherent sound with the different parts so that it’s blended well together. And so that it supports the worship leader and co leader on where they would like to go. And so the vocal director for the service will be listening in rehearsal to make sure that that is happening. And we’ll rearrange parts depending on what’s needed for that particular service worship leader and setlist really, it’s quite organic, even though there’s quite a lot of preparation beforehand, but on the day, it’s quite organic.
Alex Enfiedjian 39:16 So they’re just pulling them aside during the rehearsal and be like, hey, right here, you sing this don’t sing here. Let’s unison here. Real quick, like a huddle. They’re doing a huddle on stage while the band is kind of continuing on
Rich Langton Hillsong 39:28 and even more. So once rehearsals done, we would even go over that sort of thing again, in the pre service gathering. Just real practical kind of stuff head choir, remember that in this section, you’re going to be singing out louder. Hey, vocalists, remember, you know, x y Zed y, like you said sing harmony here and and also the chorus is going to be a bigger chorus. So remember that and etc, etc. Yeah. Okay, cool. One other thing on that though, sorry, before we go on. I just thought I’m sure at the front of house and the sound guys. They might comment as well, they might play a part in that as well. So it’s, it’s not just the platform team doing that. But it’s I guess we’re trying to be coherent across the team. So if someone’s singing too loud, or holding the mic, so that it’s, you know, emphasizing them and not someone else, or whatever that is, then they might speak into that, which is, I think that’s really good. The other thing as well is that I guess, the place of the melody, we do want to make sure that the melody in a song is really evident, so that the congregation knows what they’re singing. And it’s not lost in the beautiful music, or in the harmonies, but so that it’s really the melody is really supported from the vocalist so that the worship leader maybe doesn’t have to do the melody can perhaps come off mic a little bit. And so the congregation knows what they’re doing as well.
Alex Enfiedjian 40:49 It’s all about helping the church thing. And one thing I just want to highlight what you said is, the sound guy is involved in making sure that the band and the singer sound good. And so I would encourage all of our listeners, like, please involve your sound guy, because he’s sitting in the back listening to it from from out there, and he knows what it sounds like. So that’s a really good tip. You know, Hillsong has, I would say reached, like you said, excellence isn’t something you reach, but everybody listening is gonna say Hillsong is musically Excellent. So where do you go from here? Rich, you’re, you’re the creative pastor, how do you push your guys excellence level up from here? What does that look like? Practically for you to lead your team further than they already are?
Rich Langton Hillsong 41:31 Yeah, that’s a great question. I guess we have lots of people who are pushing forward themselves already. And so fortunately, I mean, we work hard. And I’ll speak to what I do practically and what my wife does as well. But, but I love it, that we have a team who are part of a local church, and they want it to be the best they can be. And they know that excellence is, is something that is constantly needing to be worked on. And innovation and new things are always popping up around the globe, that we could try and implement or, you know, new ideas are always bubbling to the surface. And so I guess from a leadership perspective, I love it, that the team are pushing us forward, that they’re presenting ideas that they’re coming up with new things we could do. And so I guess my I love it, that we can continue to encourage that kind of thinking that my role is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. It’s not to do all of the ministry, it’s not to lead all the worship or to get it all done, or even to come up with all of the ideas. But my role is to equip them. So if I can push them to be like, guys, how could we do something innovative for Father’s Day, this year? Or for even just for this Sunday? How could we be surprising what element could we bring that might surprise the congregation so that it gets us out of our rat of doing church every weekend and appoints us to Jesus in a new way. So, so my perspective is, we will encourage our team to be thinking like that, and to be wanting to develop excellence in an ongoing fashion. And I think that our works itself in innovation and in ideas and, and new things. And then I guess as well, for us, it’s and for anyone listening, I would encourage as leaders to be continually before the Lord and asking him to open our eyes to new things and new vision to be honestly, you know, spending time before him seeking his face and and asking him to show us a new element of himself, so that we can then lead our teams in that and then also lead the congregation in that, in that I guess, to summarize, it would be we try to have vision and keep our selves fresh and and looking forward. Pastor Brian, as you might know, our our senior pastor, he’s always saying the best is yet to come. And his book is there is more, you know, his emphasis is on the future. And all God has for us. And so we would want to step into that. And I guess emulate that and take that, that kind of thinking, and that vision as our vision, and then lead that into our team. So. So from that perspective, we don’t find it hard to be coming up with new new things, or trying to be coming up with other ways to be excellent, because I guess two reasons. One, because we’re not as good as you might think we are and we’ve got areas we’re always trying to improve. And to because we’ve got vision for the future. We can see, for example, in Sydney, the Lord would want to win Sydney. And so he wants us to be a part of that. And so we’re always looking for ways that we can be a part of that and and that outworks itself in you know, writing new songs and coming up with new dramas and new poetry and new lighting and new staging and a new dance and the list goes on.
Alex Enfiedjian 44:41 Yeah, that’s amazing. You know, one of the things about being excellent. That’s difficult is as you grow and grow in excellence, which we all want to do. I think every worship leader listening wants their team to grow. But you’re dealing with people who are on your team and outgrowing people like once you hit a new level of excellence you kind of outgrow maybe the lower rung of people? How do you guys handle that? Where you have new members coming in who are more skilled than, you know, the lower rung members? I don’t know another way to say it. How would you Shepherd your current team members to see that and to kind of transition into a different role? Yeah, it’s
Rich Langton Hillsong 45:23 a really great question. We talk a lot about at team nights when we’re talking culture, and we’re leading the team about your heart and guarding your heart. Because it’s, that’s really the hardest thing, I think when when someone else comes in, and they potentially take your place. And potentially they’re better than you. And potentially, you can’t see that they’re better than you, but they are and someone else has seen that, or they may not be better, but they’re just suited for that role. At this time, you know, someone’s making a choice to not use you, but to use them. And I guess, so we would, we’re encouraging our team to guard their heart, we encourage them, corporately, we’re always talking about that sort of thing. corporately, we’re always talking about the place of creating, that’s not on a platform, the place of offering your craft to the Lord, in the privacy of your own home, or your own bedroom. You know, if you write songs, then sing them to the Lord and see that as worship and as honoring, it’s not only worship, or it’s not only valuable when you bring it on a Sunday. And so while having an opportunity to serve on a Sunday, you know, singing or leading worship or not, while that’s awesome, and that’s amazing worship, and I guess our value goes beyond the platform, it goes to the heart of who you are. And we need to keep our hearts right. And we also just need to, to know that sometimes like the alabaster jar with the perfume poured over Jesus feet, that was seen to be a waste, but it was actually worship. And I think it’s the same sometimes when you write a song or when you’ve when you sing, but you don’t get to do it in front of people, you think it’s not valuable or that you’re not valuable. But in actual fact, that can be a sweet aroma to the Lord sang in the you know, as I say, in your bedroom, just you and him. And so I guess that would be our thinking about that. Now, practically speaking, if someone is not going to be rostered to sing anymore, because there’s a new person coming through or not, then we’re not perfect in this. But I would hope that we would sit down with the person and have a have a conversation around that. And actually help them to understand the why of that. And oftentimes, there’s real, very specific reasons for that change. And it may be very practical and very easy to understand sort of practically, maybe then hard to receive from the heart perspective, or that missing out on the opportunity. And so we’d have a conversation about the practicals, the why of it. And then we would follow up, hopefully, hopefully I say, around the heart issues, to be honest, because we’re so we are fast paced as a church, and we do have quite a strong culture. There are lots of changes happening all the time, new people come in, and people go plant churches, and you know, there’s people coming and going a lot. So I would hope that people would be guarding the heart the whole time and be really wrestling with those issues prior to when that happens. But it doesn’t always happen. We’re not always perfect. And sometimes we have fallout from that. And we just have to pick up the pieces and past early care for people in that season. And if we’ve been in the wrong, we haven’t done it, well, then I have to wear that or our you know, leadership team have to wear that and, and own those mistakes, rather than just always pushing it onto the individual. Because obviously, if you have been, for example, worship leading for a long time, and then now you’re not getting to do that, then that is hard. And we need to acknowledge that that’s hard. And I think we need to help people have Pathways Forward and pathways into other areas of service. So that we can genuinely say that it’s that every area is actually valuable. If we just value some places more than others in practice, but our lip services that everyone’s valued, then we’ve got a problem. So I think we need to if someone’s not worshiping anymore, then we need to help them move into another area of service. And then we need to honor that and esteem that and bless that and celebrate that rather than sort of in our pace, pushing them aside, and just getting the job done. Because it’s not actually about that.
Alex Enfiedjian 49:26 Yeah, it sounds like a lot of teaching, but you have to do as the pastor, you’re teaching constantly, and you’re driving values and culture so that everybody’s prepared for that stuff before it even gets there. You know, exactly right. You know, like when I met with Graham, who we talked about a couple times already, he’s he said that they’re always prepared that it’s a generational thing, always handed down, always pass it off. Always be ready to pour into the next generation, raise them up and get out of the way. And so that values there, then it’s not like a scary thing. It’s just it’s almost an Expected thing? That’s true. Yeah,
Rich Langton Hillsong 50:01 yeah. And I think again, for us leaders, we have to be always looking to how we can, particularly older people, how we can continue to use them and value them. Our platform at Hillsong. Church is quite young. And it continues to be, you know, next generational thinking. But in that the danger is that we can, perhaps tend to not value older people, my heart and dream is that the older people as they, you know, for example, if they’re not leading on the platform anymore, that they could transition into mentoring positions, and really discipling positions, and they could help people to go the distance and do it well. And we have a number of people who’ve transitioned in our, in our world who like that, when I see that happening, it’s just the best thing ever. Because you see the older generation, you’ve got the wisdom pouring into the younger ones. And legitimately the family of God, you know that the generations are working well. So when it works, it works great. It’s just lots of work getting there.
Alex Enfiedjian 50:57 I hope our listeners are picking up on that this is like culture, eats strategy and systems for breakfast, like this is all culture. It’s very little. I mean, not that there’s no strategy, but but the culture is the thing that’s really making the difference for you guys. So
Rich Langton Hillsong 51:13 I believe it is, yeah, we do have systems and I love systems too. But really the culture, building a strong culture, and maintaining the culture is is I think, where the real heart and the real work of it is.
Alex Enfiedjian 51:24 Yeah. I’d love to ask one more nitty gritty question. And then I would also love to talk with you about the new album. This is more the book maybe and maybe I know you guys have the Hillsong creative conference coming up too. But one last thing, a great question. Just kind of on a practical level meetings. Do you guys have any sort of midweek meetings with your production teams and your worship leaders to get everybody on the same page and make sure each service is compelling and well crafted? What is your meeting schedule look like to get to musical excellence? Yeah, we do.
Rich Langton Hillsong 51:59 So we have a midweek meeting with our I guess it’s all cascading leadership because we have so many locations. And so we have a top level Australia meeting each week, which includes TV and production. And someone who likes to Jad Gillies oversees the platform. So he comes for that, and all the areas that are represented in that meeting. And we look at where we’re going bigger picture and also specifically for that weekend, and from that meeting, each area has their own sub meetings, they’re not long, and they’re not arduous, but just to make sure we’re all on the same page, and that we’re heading in the right direction. And in theory, at least, it all is leading to Team night on a Thursday night where we are really looking very specifically at that coming Sunday, and rehearsing and working through details of setlist than the like. Most of those meetings that I’m referring to, they would tend to be staff members. The Thursday night was when it translates to our volunteers. And then from Thursday, obviously to Sunday, that’s mostly volunteer driven. So
Alex Enfiedjian 53:00 every Thursday, you’re having a team night with all your volunteers, and there’s no rehearsal during that team night. It’s just culture and training. Correct? Nope. So
Rich Langton Hillsong 53:09 we have the two parts. The first part is culture. The second part is training. But during that second part, we would also be rehearsing for the Sunday. Uh huh. Yeah. So what that does is it means that those who are rostered on that Sunday, they are obviously rehearsing, but the rest of the team, they’re upskilling. They’re learning new things. They are watching, hopefully,
Alex Enfiedjian 53:31 yeah, watching. Amazing. Cool. So I wanted to speaking of excellence for this whole podcast, just talk about your excellent new album, because I think it’s my favorite one, by far. I think lyrically is next level, and just beautiful. And just wanted to talk with you a little bit about that. I know it’s been out for a little bit of time now. But just share with us kind of like, what God’s doing through that album and just what you’re excited about in that album? Yeah,
Rich Langton Hillsong 54:04 it’s a good question. I really, I’m the same. I really love that album, we would tend to say and you know, this is the best one yet, but it sort of feels like everyone is the best one yet. But realistically, I think the songs on this album, they for whatever reason, they came together at this time and coherently work together to speak to the theme of there is more that’s been on pastor Brian’s heart for this year. It’s our theme for the church. And obviously, that’s the theme of his book. There’s a tour going on, as we speak in the US about around that. And so I guess that theme, there is more has come out in the songs, songs like new wine, speaking to the new wine that that’s available, or you know, in God, our team works so hard, they’re writing all of the time, and they’re dedicated to honing their craft to getting better and it really does exemplify all of what we’ve talked about. As far as excellence that and as far as my heart for them. Yeah, so I don’t know, I can’t speak more highly of the album and of the songs. I love it because they’re church songs. There’s songs that congregations can sing. I love it, because there’s songs that we as a congregation have sung and have brought, like blessing to the congregation and to individuals, share them on albums, and that they can be a blessing to other churches. Yeah, it’s cool. I love it.
Alex Enfiedjian 55:25 Yeah. And I would encourage our listeners to check out the ones that that have really worked well at our church are who you say I am. new wine and remembrance is like the best communion song ever. So check that out. Yeah, um, before I ask you a very final question. I just kind of had a thought like, how can our listeners be praying for you, rich, and your wife? And what’s going on at church? Before I asked you the final question?
Rich Langton Hillsong 55:50 Oh, yes, thank you, I really appreciate it. We are local pastors doing our best to serve Jesus in our local congregation. And so kind of anything that you need, we probably need to. So I just would ask that you’d be mindful of us and for wisdom, really on how to lead and lead our local congregation how to exemplify Christ to them. And then how to shoulder the responsibility of stewarding what God has put in our hands to steward. We want to do a good job, we know that those who’ve gone before us, they’ve built something that we now carry. And so when, when a new album comes out, like you say, like, I just am praying that we are able to get it as far and as wide as possible in order to help as many churches as possible. And with that comes a weight and a responsibility. So, so wisdom, and ability to carry the load, and carry it lightly realizing it’s not ours, but but really Christ’s. Yeah, I’d appreciate that. That’d be awesome. And then like, I mean, you mentioned the worship conference, our creative conference, which is coming up to help churches, do church with excellence and build teams and you know, real nitty gritty practical things. But because it’s new, that’s for us to build. And so I’m really prayerful that we would honor God in what we create, that we will create something that’s actually useful. No one needs another conference. We need conferences where we meet with Jesus, and we get inspired and equipped to grow the church no to build the kingdom. So, so prayer around the worship conference would be amazing. Okay.
Alex Enfiedjian 57:27 I’m gonna, I’m gonna have to release this episode November 1, then because I want them to pray for you. I want them to pray for you. So we’re gonna make that happen. I’m going to edit this thing down right now. And then we’ll, we’ll make it happen. No, please guys prefer the prefer rich and the ladies caring and then pray for the conference. And if there’s still time, go to the conference. I think it’s every November, right? So if they miss this coming one, there’s a next November that they could come to so Exactly,
Rich Langton Hillsong 57:50 yeah. And because we realize that not everyone can come to Australia with we are putting it online, we’re having an online experience at which is, I know other people do that. But we’re trying to really do it in a unique way that sets it apart and makes it really user friendly and useful for the person that can’t travel to Australia. So if you go I’m not, there’s no way I can fly to Australia, you may be able to visit us online. I think the website is just chill song, calm forward slash WCC if they want to check it out or be a part of that. I’d love to, you know, connect online even. Yeah, awesome. Yeah. And
Alex Enfiedjian 58:24 rich hosts the Hillsong creative podcast, which is one of my favorite podcasts. It’s in my top 10 list on our website. Rich, you’re like my favorite interviewer. And you just draw, just like so patient. And you’re, like, just so thoughtful, and then you draw out like the gold. So everybody should check out the Hillsong creative podcast, which probably has more listeners than I do anyway. So whatever. But if you’re my listener, and you’re not theirs, you should definitely go check that out. Any any last words about musical excellence or anything? Maybe you think that we didn’t cover? Just final thoughts for our listeners about musical excellence in the church?
Rich Langton Hillsong 59:02 Thank you, I think the only thing I would encourage us with is that we’re Christians first and then creatives or worshipers or you know, worship leaders second or after that. And so I would encourage us I know, it’s very obvious, and I’m not trying to be patronizing at all, to remind us of the obvious, but I think the hardest thing is to be developing a strong and growing relationship with Christ. And yet, that’s the very thing that makes or breaks us, you know, as we lead our teams, and as we try to grow them, if we’re not growing in Christ, and if he’s not our central focus, and the Word of God isn’t, you know, bubbling out of us and alive in us, then we’ve missed the point. Because excellence for the sake of excellence is, you know, it’s I feel like it’s like dirty rags, you know, like, we’re nothing without Christ. So, my last encouragement would be for people to just reassess their relationship with Him and to ensure that everything is coming out of that place. And that we’re encouraging our teams to be Christ like first. And if we can’t do that, then let’s let’s stop doing everything else and get about doing that first.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:00:09 Amen. Rich, thank you so much for your generosity with your time today. And I know it’s helped many of our listeners. So thank you and God bless you. You’re welcome. Thanks so much for having me.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:00:25 All right. Well, that’s it for our episode. This week. I just want to say a special thanks to rich and JP, who was behind the scenes doing the audio on that end of the world. But thank you for both of your generosity, you guys Hillsong has been so generous to me over the last year or so. So just they are a legit church. They are the real deal. And thanks to both of you guys for your generosity and your time, and your wisdom that you shared with us. So guys, check out their new album This is more and also check out the creative conference, go to hillsong.com slash WCC and I have links in the show notes for all those things. And also be sure to check out core sound pads which is our sponsor this month at core sound pads.com. That’s all we have time for today. I will see you next month for another helpful episode. Thanks for listening