How can we move our worship teams in a more spiritual direction? How can we move beyond simply playing music or doing life together, to intentionally make disciples of our team members? What does discipleship look like day to day in our ministries? Can we even set goals for (and measure) spiritual growth? We talk about all of these topics in this month’s episode!
This episode was originally part of the Making Sunday Happen podcast. Check out Carl and his ministry here:
🔥 Free Worship Leader Starter Kit – https://bit.ly/WMTkit
💻 Free Worship Leader Course – https://bit.ly/WMT-course
📖 Free Set Building E-Book – https://bit.ly/WMT-book
🎙️ Podcast for Worship Leaders – https://bit.ly/WMTpod
📄 Free Devos for Worship Teams – https://bit.ly/WMTdevos
🎓 Academy for Worship Leaders (15 days for $1) – https://bit.ly/wmthome
🤳 Instagram – https://bit.ly/WMTig
🎉 ACADEMY! 🎉
🚩 Get 15 days of Worship Ministry Academy for $1:
Get organized and equipped with our 10 in-depth courses, live monthly training, weekly Q&A sessions, pre-built ministry systems, team documents, team discipleship material, personalized help, and a supportive community! Visit Worship Ministry Academy and start your $1 trial today! https://www.worshipministrytraining.com/
Enjoy the podcast? Say thanks by leaving us a review on iTunes!
how to move your team in a more spiritual direction.
How can you move beyond just making music together or doing life together
to actually intentionally disciple your team members?
What does discipleship look like day to day?
And how can we actually set goals for our team’s spiritual growth and development?
We’re going to talk about all that and more.
Enjoy this episode. Hey, guys.
Today, I welcome back, Alex and Fedjian to the show.
Alex is a worship leader, songwriter, producer, and pastor.
He’s the man behind worshipministrytraining.
He’s on staff at Calvary Chapel South Bay in Los Angeles.
Alex, welcome back, man. Thanks for hanging out.
Thanks, Carl. I’m so glad to be with you again.
You are one of my favourite podcasters and interviews and guests.
When you’re on my podcast, you always bring the gold.
So glad to be with you.
Thanks so much, man.
Still living in Los Angeles, man.
Still toughing it out over there.
Yeah, the weather is pretty harsh, but yeah, someone’s got to live it hard.
Yeah, I hear that, man.
Give me an update on Worship Ministry Training and some
of the resources that you that you provide over there.
Sure, thanks. Yeah, so Worship Ministry Training,
if people don’t know, it is a podcast that has been around
for eight years, probably about as long as yours, Karl.
And in, I don’t know, a couple of years ago, we started selling courses.
And then this past June 2022, we launched a full-on academy.
So we’ve got courses, live training, exclusive podcast interviews.
But I think the thing that people are
finding most helpful are all the done-free resources.
We basically have created an audition
process, an onboarding process, templates, team divos that Worship leaders can use.
Basically, we give Worship leaders all the tools
and the training they need so that they can just focus on discipling their team.
That’s all at worshipministrytraining. Com.
It’s one buck to try for 15 days so people can test it out.
Yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to.
It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun.
Yeah, man, you’ve been working hard.
Give me a temperature check of worship leaders in general.
You talk to a lot of worship leaders in the space.
What are they feeling?
What are some of the things that you’re hearing and seeing in the trenches?
I think coming out of the pandemic, it feels weird to say that because it
feels pretty far removed, but I think it was such a big disruption
that the effects are going to be felt for years.
I feel like coming out of that pandemic, a lot of worship leaders lost team
members, people left to different churches, people stopped going to church,
or they just haven’t come back to their church or whatever.
I don’t know. They don’t feel safe still.
A lot of worship leaders are operating
with very thin teams, thin volunteer teams.
They’re scrambling for musicians or they’re hiring outside musicians or
they’re calling their friends and friends are coming from other churches.
There’s a lack of team members and then
also the team members who are still around are less committed than previously,
so there’s a lot more flakiness and a lot less drive and desire to invest.
Worship leaders are doing the best they can with what they have.
Hopefully, if they’re a proactive leader,
they’re rebuilding their teams in this season.
I would say, and you probably see this as well, but it’s a season of rebuilding.
I would just encourage anyone listening who is in that state where it feels like
thin, just focus on strengthening relational bonds with your current team
members, reestablish the culture, reestablish the expectations,
and then actively go out and recruit new team members.
Get in the hallways, get in the lobby,
get in the pews after service, and just start talking to people because
we really need to rebuild into something new because what was old is gone.
Yeah, I talked to a lot of people about that, too.
Probably the last six months or so hasn’t been that bad.
But if I’ll go to conferences,
people will ask me, How do we get our volunteers back?
I’m like, At this point, they’re not coming back.
You need to start fresh and start a new team, if that’s the case.
All right, so I want to chat about
something that we’re both really passionate about.
And as I’ve gone through your notes, man,
I just get really excited about this topic, and that is that music is the tool.
Music is not the end-all, be-all.
Discipleship is the goal.
We need to make sure that it is the goal when it comes to production,
when it comes to leading, worship, and all that at our church.
Set me up here.
Why is music a tool and not the point?
Yeah, so I did this talk at the Loop Community Worship Innovators Conference.
The reason I felt burden to do it is because looking at the modern worship
landscape of what it is that we think we’re supposed to be
about and what it is that we think we’re supposed to be doing, I’m just confused.
How did we get here to where everybody’s just copycatting everybody else?
Obviously, the internet and YouTube and Instagram all plays into that.
But I think if you zoom out a little bit,
there’s a much bigger problem going on, which is, worship leaders have never been
discipled as to what it means to be a church leader.
When they get hired on staff,
they’re just handed a microphone and they’re like, Hey, here you go.
Do the thing. What thing?
What am I supposed to do?
The pastor didn’t disciple me.
I didn’t go through any programme.
I was just good at guitar and singing, and so they gave me a ministry.
I’m like, Oh, my gosh, what am I supposed to do?
I start looking around online and I see
this ministry and this church, and I listen to this album, and I start to
learn my education just comes from looking around on the internet.
What do you see on the internet other than just lots of cool production,
lots of cool lights, people doing funny thing with their hands,
cool songwriting, cool bands, even though it all sounds the same.
It’s just like, I guess that’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’m going to do that at my church.
But I think there’s this fundamental layer that we need to peel the onion back
down to the core and be like, okay, what is this about?
What is ministry about?
It’s not about the songs.
Songst are the tool.
It’s about making disciples.
I just feel like we’re in a weird
point in time in the modern church, in the American Church at least.
We need to really go back to the basics.
Look, I’m at a church.
We have all the bells and whistles.
We have all the big stuff, we have all the big tech.
But it’s like that’s not what it’s about.
I think a lot of worship leaders set their eyes on that as success.
They say, If I can look like that,
if I can sound like that, then I will be successful.
But what if Jesus isn’t measuring that as success?
He’s measuring a completely different metric, and I believe he actually is.
That’s the question that I’m asking right now.
What is the metric?
Well, I think I already know the answer, but we can get into it later.
Yeah. I want to frame this conversation in that,
that yes, we want our worship experiences to go well.
Yes, we want them to be excellent.
It’s not bad necessarily to have gear and tech and tools and instruments,
whatever we may need sometimes or even want sometimes.
How do webalance that, but also keeping the main thing the main thing.
Let’s just dive in some more.
Talk to me about how Jesus never
said to make music or art that all he talked about was making disciples.
Right. Well, okay, let’s talk about it.
I don’t want to say we shouldn’t make art because the Bible commands us to make art.
The tabernacle was made of amazing gold and purple linen and really fancy
material made by expert craftsmen and done beautifully.
The Bible commands us to make music.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t make music.
I’m just saying when Jesus, his last command to his disciples when he
was on the planet before he ascended was go and make disciples of all nations.
Okay, so his last thing,
the main thing he wants us to do now that he’s not on the planet is make disciples.
But I think what happens is,
worship leaders think we’re supposed to make music.
We’re not supposed to make music, we’re supposed to make disciples.
We are supposed to make music,
but it’s not the end all, it’s not the be all, it’s not the thing.
It’s like the tool that we should be using
to accomplish what Jesus actually told us to accomplish, which is make disciples.
I just think
what happens when worship leaders see excellence and put excellence as
the standard is, and again, I’m all for excellence.
We are supposed to be excellent.
But when excellence is the standard and they’re like,
I have to look like that and sound like that in order to be successful,
then what happens is they feel unsuccessful when they’re at a small
church that can’t afford any of that stuff.
They’re like, Oh, my gosh, I’ll never be successful as a worship
leader because I can’t look like that and I can’t sound like that.
I’m just saying, Whoa, wait a minute.
That has nothing to do with success in God’s eyes.
Success is doing the best you can with what you have.
That’s the definition of excellence that I like to use, doing the best you can
with what you have at your disposal right now and making disciples.
So if the people on your team look more like Jesus this year because they’ve been
in your ministry than they were last year, then you have been successful.
That’s all I’m putting forth is we can do
all the tech and we can do all of the great production and we can do all
of the cool songwriting and the fancy stages.
If we make disciples while we’re doing all that, great.
But what I see is a lot of people
figure out how to make great music, but they don’t make disciples.
I’m saying God does not care about that ministry.
You could get it all right on the external
side of things, but you missed the heart and God is not impressed or pleased.
I think it’s important that we aim to do both, that we say we’re going to be
excellent because excellence honours God, but we’re also going to make sure that we
are actively pouring into, praying for, studying scripture with our volunteers.
Again, I just see a lot of churches
and a lot of worship ministries or even production, where the focus is how cool
can we be, not how godly can we help our people become.
I’m just saying, let’s not think that that means…
That is not success, I guess, is what I’m. Trying to say.
Yeah, good word.
All right, so walk that out practically.
What are some ways that we can make discipleship our primary goal?
Sometimes it fleshes out with what we, as the leader, are intentional about.
If all we’re talking about is get that, make sure that you’re hitting the right
note, and make sure not that button, that button.
If that’s what’s important to us, then that’s what could be replicated.
How should we be intentional about making discipleship our number one?
Yeah. Well, I think you’re right.
As the leader, what we prioritise, it philtres down to the team.
What we talk about first is what the team assumes is important.
I think watching our words is important.
If the first thing is, let’s say we have a great worship service,
the church is super engagedengaged, whatever.
But there’s one person hit one wrong button or went to the wrong slide.
If the first thing out of our mouth was,
You hit the wrong button, instead of, Did you see how impacted the people were?
Did you see how engaged they were?
Did you see how passionately they were praising Jesus?
That should be the first comment.
You can follow up with like, Hey, make sure we hit this button on this part.
You can follow up with that.
But if the first words are, The music was bad or this happened or this
transition was wonky or whatever, then we’re going to set the precedent
for the team to think that that’s what we care about.
That’s one thing.
The other thing is it’s not really
hard to make discipleship and spiritual conversation important in your ministry.
It’s not hard to do.
We just have to be intentional all the time to make sure we’re having
spiritual conversations, make sure we are reading scripture
with our teams, make sure we are praying with our teams and asking our team
members how they’re doing spiritually or where they’re struggling.
It’s really not hard to do.
But my question is, are leaders actually doing it?
Or are we just showing up and running the show?
You know what I mean?
Because Jesus says, take away from me the noise of your songs,
I don’t care, or God does in the Old Testament and Ames chapter 5.
He’s not impressed with our shows.
He’s not impressed with us executing everything.
He’s impressed if we love like he does
and that we look like him and that we help our team members look like him.
That is it.
I just would say make sure that you’re
integrating spiritual truths into everything that you’re doing.
Because I can turn any,
just like Jesus with The Woman at the Well, turn the conversation spiritual.
I can do that with button pushing.
I can do that with electric guitar playing.
I can do that with drumming.
But it’s up to me as the leader to make those conversations steer in the direction
of a Biblical truth underneath why we should play excellently,
a Biblical truth underneath why we should polish our symbols,
a Biblical truth underneath why we should eliminate distractions on the stage.
If you’re a biblically literate leader, you can easily find biblical truths
to bolster everything that you’re telling your team to do on a practical level.
But now it makes them want to do it
because they understand why it’s important to God and why it’s good for their soul.
So it’s just infusing those spiritual conversations into the practical.
So that would be my answer.
So how do you start with you?
How do we start with ourselves?
What are some practises that you’ve put
in place to make sure that your heart is right before you lead your team?
Oh, well, it’s the boring answers of spiritual
disciplines of are you in the word every day?
Our church has a Bible reading plan.
I make sure I read every day.
I don’t miss.
Pretty much I haven’t missed for two years.
I mean, maybe I missed one or
two days over the last two years, but I go back and catch up.
Just saturating yourself in the Word and then being in prayer and being
accountable to other people and all the boring stuff that everybody knows.
That’s a good point, Karl,
because you can’t lead people to where you haven’t been.
If you’re not walking with passion
for the Lord, if all you watch are YouTube videos about LED screens and you never
read about God or read books that fuel your faith, then you have a problem.
Not you, Carl, but I do see so many worship leaders…
I mean, I have problems, trust me.
But I do see so many worship leaders
who they watch all the songwriting stuff or all
the church tech YouTube videos and all the church this.
It’s like, those are cool videos,
but I feel like our focus has moved off of God and onto this cool, flashy stuff.
I feel like I sound like an old man now, Carl.
No, but you’re right.
Even though sometimes we know what we need
to do to grow in our faith, sometimes we don’t.
We get lax.
It’s the first thing to go sometimes,
and so we just have to be disciplined with ourselves.
Okay, so how do you explain that to your
philosophy here that discipleship is first?
How do you explain that to senior leadership?
Now, if you put it into those words,
it will resonate, I think with the senior pastor.
However, if we get to Sunday and something
goes majorly wrong or there’s a lot of mistakes or
whatever, I guess I should say, how do you explain to your leadership that
your number one goal is discipleship and reiterate that and get their buy-in?
Right. Because I guess what you’re hinting
at underneath the radar is sometimes senior leaders care more about that
service goes flawless and is executed with perfection more than,
is my worship leader or production leader actually discipling his team,
which is a sad state of reality if our senior pastors
would rather have the former than the latter.
It’s like, Oh, no. Which I don’t know if they’d say that out
loud, but sometimes it can be expressed in the moment.
To be clear, Carl is an excellent person,
and I love to try to do absolutely everything I do with excellence.
In’t really obsess over the micro details.
I care about the tiniest little nuances
of something being perfect and executed well and beautifully.
Even right now as we’re talking, I’m thinking about my answers aren’t super
clear because it’s my afternoon brain slump time period.
I’m like, Oh, man.
It’s like I want to do my very best.
I want everybody to hear very clearly what I’m saying.
We should do our very best and we should seek to be excellent and we
should seek to not make mistakes and eliminate distractions.
I have an Instagram reel that I recently
posted that says the primary job of a worship leader is to point people
to Jesus and remove as many distractions as humanly possible.
Point people to Jesus and remove as many distractions as humanly possible.
We do that by being excellent,
by nailing our parts and by playing with simplicity and all these things
that I teach in the Worship Ministry Training Academy.
But I’m just saying we have to make sure that while we’re pursuing excellence,
we are not losing the spiritual life of our team.
Basically, we don’t want to sacrifice the spiritual life of our team
on the altar of excellence because that is not pleasing to God.
So we have to hold them in tandem hand in hand and say, we’re going to,
in parallel, move these things forward together.
We’re going to grow in excellence
and production and musicality, and we’re going to grow in spirituality.
Because if you leave spirituality in the dust or if you execute a flawless
service, but you yell at your team in the back because they didn’t do
something right, then you’re failing as a minister of the gospel.
You know what I mean? I wouldn’t tell my senior pastor, Hey,
I’m going to let things start to suck because I want to focus on spirituality.
To me, that’s not spirituality.
Spirituality is doing our best.
It’s like we are supposed to be excellent.
That is spirituality.
Again, I don’t want people to hear me saying like, Let’s just all go stink.
That’s very uninspiring and that’s not honouring to God.
But it is while we execute
with excellence, let’s not forget to disciple and pastor and shepherd
and care for and teach and train our people in God’s word and all those things.
That’s the only thing I’m saying.
Because I remember I did an interview
with Matt Redman, I don’t know, it must have been four or five years ago now.
He said, I go to a lot of churches and I tour a lot all over the world.
He’s like, We’re really good at making
the service great, but we’re not really good at being nice to each other.
I was like, Man, that is so simply said.
But that just shows me something’s off
in the church that we’ve prioritised the show over the people, and that’s wrong.
Yeah, so good. That’s such a good point.
All right, so if I’m the senior leader, let’s flip that.
If I’m the senior leader, how can I give you leeway?
How can I encourage?
How can I lift you up in order to make sure that we are doing number one?
We are discipling people.
Yeah, I would say make sure there’s margin in your worship leader’s life or in your
production leader’s life to spend time discipling.
Whether that means it’s like, Hey, I want you to make sure once a week you’re
taking someone out to coffee and the church is going to cover that.
Or, Hey, I want you, worship leader, to find this in your pastor like, Hey,
worship leader, I want you to have the team over to your house once a month.
We’re going to cover the cost of pizza for you guys and whatever you can have
the next Monday morning off or whatever, equip your worship leader with the time
and the margin and the finances to be able to disciple their team.
I just recently released, Carl, a worship team devo.
It’s 52 weeks.
It’s one for every week.
It’s got a scripture, a summary,
discussion questions, and a closing prayer.
Com, if anyone cares.
If I was the senior pastor, I would buy those right now and be like,
Worship leader, you must read this with your team every week.
You know what I mean? It’s such a simple win.
Yeah, I think that’s a great question,
Karl, and hopefully any senior leaders listening will take that to heart.
Okay, so what are some other practical ways?
Do you have some other things that you do
with your team to make sure that people are number one, people are the point?
We’ve walked through a few, but anything else come to mind as far as…
Maybe it could be Sunday,
it could be like you were saying, coffees and things like that.
But what are some other practical ways
to make sure that people are at the forefront?
Yeah, I think
a lot of it has to do with using your time well when you’re with your people.
So I always try to have at least one or two deep, serious, encouraging,
prayerful conversations with someone on my team every single Sunday.
Because at our church,
we’re there for three services from 6:00 AM toor 6:30 AM to 2:00 PM.
So there’s a lot of downtime in between.
I should not just sit back there with my smartphone, scrolling.
I should, as the leader, intentionally use that time and space
to connect with someone on my team, find out what’s going on in their life,
find out how I can pray for them and actually stop and pray.
Being intentional with that Sunday morning time, I think, is crucial.
Then like I said, just turning everything into a spiritual conversation or…
Not that it always…
Look, that’s awkward.
People like that are awkward.
I’m not saying everything has to be 100 %
of the time spiritual, but you should pepper it in pretty often.
So if I’m setting up the stage
with Johnny, he’s 16 years old and he’s learning about how to plug in an XLR
cable, I’m going to teach him how to run that cable really clean and really
excellently and explain why details matter to God and teach him about diligence.
It’s not just doing the thing,
but it’s doing the thing to teach a spiritual lesson.
Again, I don’t want people to hear me saying you always have to do the spiritual
lesson or you’re failing because that’s awkward.
But let’s make sure that we are doing some of that.
Because at the end of the day, the only thing God’s going to ask us when
we get to heaven is, Did you help these people love me more?
That’s it. That’s it.
Good. I love in your notes how you talk about
just reminders to ourselves that you’re not a musician, you’re a minister,
that you’re not a songleader, you’re a shepherd.
I’ve been teaching that for years that the secret sauce is pastoring your people.
I come at it from a production standpoint
that I’ve heard a lot of production guys saying, Oh, I’m not a pastor.
Yes, buddy, you are.
Yes, you are.
If you are a church staff member leading
people, you are a pastor through and through.
And so to put people, number one,
that our primary focus is to be there to help people look more like Jesus.
All right, so we measure what we move.
Okay, so how do you measure?
I’ll give you an example of what I did,
but I’m going to ask you, how do you measure spiritual growth?
So one thing I did,
I want to get your opinion on it, is I would have a spreadsheet,
and I would literally have the path of a Christian.
Okay, salvation, baptism, small group.
Have they been on a mission trip?
Are they growing in there?
I don’t know their heart, God’s working on them,
but at least there’s some markers and fruit that I could probably notate.
When I did that, one thing I was amazed
to find is that some people have not actually made a decision for Christ.
Some people had not taken a step of baptism.
You almost assume if they’re already volunteering, they’re already in,
they’ve walked through the first steps of a believer.
What I found when I tracked it is a lot of them are, some, hatten.
I got to encourage that and to take that next
step and we got to celebrate that as a team.
That was cool.
How do you track.
Notice, be the fruit inspector on spiritual growth?
Did you also track how many times they cussed each Sunday?
No, I’m just kidding.
Well, I didn’t want to because I didn’t want them judging me the same.
No, I’m just kidding. Exactly.
I’m kidding. It’s funny.
I saw this question and I actually wrote, It’s hard.
You can’t measure the fruit of the Spirit
on a spreadsheet, but I love that you did it.
Yeah, but it’s not.
Fruits of the Spirit,
there’s definitely like you see that in their personality and stuff.
I’m more talking about
major steps in the life of a believer, your salvation, baptism.
Are they in a small group?
Maybe it could just be one that you measure.
Are you plugged into a small group?
To help them with that.
But you’re right,
it’s not always measurable and it’s very vague, but anyway.
I actually love that you were that intentional to do that.
That’s next level awesome.
I think the fruit of the spirit is hard to measure, but you can see it in your
team, especially you can see it in your team as a whole.
You can just simply use the fruits
of the spirit as your evaluation metric, like looking at your team.
Does your team exude love, joy, peace, patience?
It’s kindness, kindness, kindness, kindness, kindness, kindness.
Are they, when they talk about what movies
they watched, would those movies qualify as good?
Because one of the fruits of the spirit is goodness.
When they talk about the shows they watch, when you see what they’re scrolling past
on their Instagram, because that’s what people do in between services.
They’re on their phones, sadly.
Are they exercising self-control and saying no to sin?
A couple of years before the pandemic, I had a lot of young people on my team,
and I was actually really surprised how okay they were with certain activities
that to me it’s very clear in scripture is sin.
But they didn’t even know that those
things were wrong and it would slip out in between services.
I’m like, Wait, what?
Wait, what’s going on?
Or you watched what?
And again, I feel like this old curmudgeon guy right now is on time.
What’s that? I was just going to…
And we joke about it,
but I don’t mind people being a fruit inspector in my life,
and so I don’t want us to come across as being super judgy on everybody.
That’s not what we’re talking about here.
I think it’s just the bottom line is, are we being intentional in each other’s
life when it comes to growing in our faith?
When you hear those conversations, you don’t let it slide.
That’s your opportunity to pastor.
It’s like, Wait, hold on.
You watched that movie on Netflix that’s full of sex, full of nudity.
You don’t do it in front of everybody, but you’re like, You can the next week or
call them, grab coffee, but like, Hey, I heard this.
But then you don’t want your team to start to hide things from you.
That’s where you have to do the hard work
of pastoring, where you have to help them see that, Hey, this is harmful for you.
Anyway, yeah, I think we can’t measure it, but we can sense it.
We can sense that people are growing in their faith.
I had one girl on the team.
She was dating a non-Christian.
She was playing.
I don’t want to say too many details, but
she has grown a lot in three years because we’ve just been…
She shows up every week or most weeks
and there’s conversation and there’s encouragement and there’s prayer.
Because of the long,
steadfast work of shepherding and encouraging and not judging,
because we could have judged her right out of the group.
But it’s like you got to play the long
game with people and love them and let the Lord work on them.
But there’s been so much growth in her
life because our team cares about the spiritual things.
I hope people hear our heart today that it’s really about caring for people.
All right, I have some rapid fire for you before you leave.
Can I hit you with five rapid-fire questions?
Oh, gosh. All right, here we go.
All right, number one, this isn’t too hard.
Who is your favourite Christian music artist of the last 20 years?
You can name a few if you want.
Twenty years? Wow, I really.
Have enjoyed- We’re old me and him.
Yeah, I really have enjoyed Brandon Lake’s stuff.
I think it’s fresh.
His production, if you listen to his full albums, it’s very artistic and unique
and not cookie cutter, and I appreciate that.
All right, what’s one quick story
of discipleship from your ministry where you’ve seen an example of someone growing
in their faith more than just learning songs?
Well, I’ve got to – Maybe you just shared that.
Yeah, that one was one that came to mind.
And then there are a couple of young
worship leaders who were not worship leaders when they starr