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Why COVID-19 Has Impacted Worship Ministry

There is no doubt COVID-19 was eye opening to the local church in the area of worship ministry. Seemingly overnight the landscape of worship service production changed to demand digital delivery. But more importantly than that, it caused almost every local church around the world to be more concerned with those not in the building than with those in the building. Let that sink in for a moment. Everything done to the glory of God in crafting worship services was done only for people not in physical attendance. Some think technology was the big deal, but the truth is, it is just technology. It’s like air-conditioning. Livestream will eventually be adopted by many churches post-COVID, the same way air-conditioning was eventually adopted by most churches. 

Externally, there was a fresh focus on who was not present on campus. Do not lose this focus. The Lord was gracious to let you develop a heart for the absent by letting those people become the people you already knew. Most worship leaders (and pastors) seemed willing to do whatever it took to get the worship service online so their people could encounter God and his Word through the local church. Here is the million-dollar question: Will you continue to care about those not on your campus when all the familiar people are back in the building? Will you talk to them, think about how to connect them to Jesus and carefully teach them the Word of God? Will you continue to see your church become more effective towards the lost both online and in physical services? 

Internally, COVID-19 has changed the staff and serving team dynamic. Preaching suddenly became a team sport! We left the era of you preach, I sing, and we’ll all go home. The collaboration needed between staff and/or serving teams to produce worship services just went to another level. For solo pastors reading this, you know the value of the team because you are the team! It is time to pray and work for the Lord to send a gifted team member to help carry the load. For larger staff teams, the interdependence and planning required to broadcast a quality worship service just increased exponentially. Healthy and flexible teams found this to be more fun than they have ever had before, while among others it might have exposed cracks in leadership trust. Wise leaders will take note of their new team dynamics to capture momentum or stop and repair damage.

Practical Guidance

Adapt the budget sooner than later

Most churches only address the budget annually. Consider asking to address this mid-year too. Now could be a great time to get together with your leadership team to address the equipment needed to continue polishing your worship service or making a new hire. Some have taken the leap of using tracks or multiple video angles. Others have seen the value of light auto-tuning to the main vocals for online presentation. Go ahead and deal with the budget aspect of this right now while it is fresh and everyone has experienced the value first hand. Begin to prioritize the necessary funds to move forward. Work with your pastor and finance leadership to move the right things around or stop doing unnecessary things to free up cash. 

Stop and evaluate the past 2 months

Worship leaders, pastors and tech teams have been going around the clock for a while now. Chances are a hamster wheel is the perfect illustration of what producing corporate worship has felt like for many leaders. Get off the hamster wheel to work on your worship services. Maybe schedule a retreat or stop and hand out audio recordings to various people and ask for feedback. Now is the time to ask your teams how it has really gone. Take a look at the regular content produced by your church and ask how can it be better? Some churches could benefit by dialing down a few weeks to catch their breath and take note of what they have been producing. Are the vocals off? Are the transitions helpful to the listener? Has the presence and power of God been shining through or has it just been video content? Is the camera angle truly helpful while the pastor is teaching? Are we engaging those who are new to being online with our church? Do we have a plan for being engaging both online and in-person when full services return? Is the band mixed correctly? Is staff communication effective to my serving team? If you do not stop and take time to evaluate you could remain in triage mode when it is possible to create a sustainable long-term worship plan and model. Yes, the worship leader role just expanded exponentially. Take the time to learn it and care about it. 

Care about content

In some ways, COVID-19 made the worship leader’s job easier—if all you care about is the music. Most churches are doing fewer songs than just a few months ago. Only 2-3 songs? Easy. Not so fast! The effective worship leader, from here on out, will care about every single word, graphic, song lyric, spoken and printed word, welcome statement, announcement, response time offered, and discipleship opportunity mentioned in and around a weekend service. Not that the worship leader is responsible for creating the content, but rather ensuring it is presented in an effective way. It is the time for the worship leader to own the clarity and focus of each service. The end goal is to glorify God, edify the believer, and be crystal clear to those far from God. 

Creating Movement

Always expand the options

This is not specific to worship, but is a great principle for generating movement. Church world can be such a yes or no operation sometimes. When it comes to new ideas, equipment, or spending money, yes usually means “do it right now” and no often means “never ask again.” Expand the options when you get a no answer. Maybe leadership is willing, but needs time to make sense of the budget. It could be your worship and tech team is willing to do more, but you have to take baby steps. Remember that a series of small wins is often what creates a big win.

Clarify the new expectations with your lead pastor

This is a must for worship leaders, particularly for smaller staff churches. The workload just got heavier and required more expertise. Before you get burned out, sit down with leadership and ask where to prioritize your time. Be honest about places where you could need additional help or resources. If video editing is now in your job description, it is fair to ask for a computer that is up-to-date and renders faster. If the worship leader’s help is needed to produce online services, it could be wise to ask for flexibility on who leads the songs from week to week. Get on the same page with your lead pastor. Perhaps nothing will get you moving in the right direction faster than this action step.

Give new and younger leaders a chance

In many cases, the answer to forward movement will be more hands on deck to help. This is where developing your people will need to rise to the forefront. One person can only do so much. Even high capacity people do not have an endless array of knowledge and capacity. Here is a great question to answer: What if in the next 12-18 months I had a team of 5 people who can do almost anything I can do? You can guarantee significant movement in all of the places a church has been stretched during COVID-19 if a key leader can accomplish that task. It will mean a few Sundays that will not be as polished as you would like, but this is the ground where the additional leaders you have been praying for are born. Prioritizing kingdom development will move the ball down the field every time.

In evaluation, start with a focus on new or even lost people

This point will cause tension to your worship planning and priority. Think about it: There is great value to the congregation if even a new or lost person can understand what you are presenting from the platform. Most of the time this has been equated to watering down the message. It is time to scrap that wrong idea to create movement. When a lost person can engage you with smart questions after a service, you are hitting the mark. If they ask about the Trinity after service, it meant it was explained clear enough for them to know they needed to know more! Are the songs being sung clearly communicating the biblical character of God? If the church had a lot of new viewers, but little communication from new viewers, it is time to ask if anyone is engaging that group during worship in what is being said and done.

Personalize Worship Advancement

  • What day of the week will we schedule for ongoing evaluation of our online and in-person services?
  • What “hook statements” can we develop and repeat during worship services to clarify action steps?
  • Which key leaders need to be given the chance to talk about the positive or negative impact of adding online responsibilities?
  • How can we shift our budget priorities to improve livestreaming?
  • List three people who are sitting on the bench who can be asked to help carry the load in technology, worship leadership, or worship planning. When will I ask them to help?

Connect With Us

The ministry to worship leaders is a part of the Church Ministries Department of the SBTC. It is an honor to serve many different worship styles, church sizes, budget amounts, and levels of know-how as we utilize the Cooperative Program to advance the gospel together.

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