Archives For Leadership

I spend sometime reflecting on Dr. Eugene Brand’s “Thoughts On Music Used In Worship” particularly his references to “artistically inferior” and “good and bad” music.

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“If we start asking these kinds of questions, all of a sudden our musicians and our sound crew move from being specialists to ministers. They become agents in the disciple-making process. Maybe, then, we should worry less about finding some one-size-fits-all volume level and instead think about how volume (within a single service or over a series of weeks) serves the narrative of the gospel.”

Great thoughts from Zac Hicks at his blog recently.

Zac Hicks on Volume in Worship

Too often we force ourselves into false dilemmas. Ancient and modern worship are both beautiful and viable expressions of worship. Is it possible that our churches can successfully use AND merge both through the use of modern instrumentation and organ? It seems like I’m not the only one thinking about this. Let’s explore.

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One of the absolute best parts about working in the church is the anonymous criticism that you get from time to time (see definition: sarcasm).

While these things sting for a while they are usually a few things:

  • Lacking vision
  • Passive aggressive
  • Most of all, incredibly unhelpful

How Anonymous Criticism is Unhelpful

I wanted to focus on the third. This form of criticism is unhelpful in a number of ways:

  • No opportunity to ask, “What do you mean by that?”
  • No opportunity for further learning. If I’m being critiqued by someone, I’d much rather have a dialog about the critique, so that I can learn more about how to remedy the situation or so that I can offer the opposing viewpoint and vision.
  • No opportunity for me to thank the person for expressing their feelings and open dialogue for further growth and discussion for both parties.

Some anonymous notes can be genuine, relevant criticism that needs to be addressed. However, when an anonymous note is left on your office desk, even if it’s valid, it’s very difficult not to take it as a right hook to the face, especially after a season of feeling discouraged.

What saddens me the most about these things is that it seems to happen in churches FAR more often than anywhere else. When I was working in “secular” business, criticism and critique were always directly addressed. Why doesn’t the church, which is supposed to be the leader in conflict resolution, giving preference to others instead of yourself, and compassion for each other know how to handle these things better?

Useful Criticism Is Actually Helpful

I think there are several better ways to offer criticism to church pastors, staff, and leaders:

  • Best: ask to meet together to address concerns. Be open to an opposing viewpoint AND be prepared to offer some encouragement as well (this happened recently, which I’m very thankful for)
  • Good: place a call or send an email with the concerns and allow opportunity for feedback or a follow-up visit
  • Okay: at least sign your name and give some contact information and end the note with “Feel free to follow up if you think I need to understand the situation a little better”

Church pastors, staff and leaders: learn from the anonymous criticism that’s valid. Throw away the rest. Church members and attenders: please don’t offer anonymous criticism. Communicate, learn from each other, grow together, love each other, and celebrate how God has made you united in one body, even despite differences.

It’s been just over three months since I took on a new role in life and ministry as full time Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Living Word Free Lutheran Church. And boy, it has not been a slow transition! While I’m enjoying equipping writers, designers, and musicians on serving inside and outside the church, one major project I’ve been working on is the revamp of the new Living Word website.

There are quite a few things I’ve learned in this process and many things I’ve been able to apply from my previous and awesome employer that I thought I needed to spend some time sharing these “for the greater good,” so to speak.

Don’t Take a Good Developer For Granted

I’m thankful that I’ve come to realize that I am not a web developer. I can write just enough HTML to make things break. I am actually fairly decent within CSS. But when it comes to true, functional development, I’ll never be there. Enter Ben Olson, our fantastic developer that’s been working on the new site. Ben has been patient, asked great questions, gracious when facing some frustration, and just plain knows what he’s doing. I’m thanking God for Ben today and his work, and on behalf of all developers who are working with someone on a web project, I want to give you these reminders:

  • Clearly communicate the scope and expectations of the project up front. Don’t keep throwing new features at someone who was only expecting to do so much to begin with. We fell short in this area, and will remedy that in the future for further advanced development of the site.
  • Know when to say, “Good point.” There were some things that I thought would be nice. Ben convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did.
  • Be open to knew ideas. I was pretty gung-ho about using a certain Content Management System but since Ben was more familiar with a different language he convinced me otherwise. That is saving him time and producing a better end product.

Create a Site Map, and a Content Plan, and Page Tables, and Stick To All of Them

If I hadn’t sat down and marked out every page on the site, then planned out what every page looked like, then planned out how we would update each page and how each page would interact with each other, I can’t imagine how much time I would have wasted. I also can’t imagine the lack of vision I would have for what the site is going to look like in the future. Further, because of having a plan for every page and a pre-determined purpose and voice for each page, I was able to hand off several pages to another writer and save myself some time while giving ownership to a volunteer in the congregation. Win and win.

Here are some things you MUST do before even thinking about designing a new website:

  • Pair it down to the bare minimum. What MUST be on the site? Start a sitemap from that.
  • Create a sitemap, an organizational structure of every page on the site.
  • Create a page table for every single page. This is a lot of work but completely worth it and in the end you will be insanely happy that you have these. Trust me.

What I Learned at Click Rain

Click Rain does and always will have a special place in my heart. Yep, I just wrote that sentence, and despite it’s sappiness, it’s true, proven this morning by how welcomed I felt when making a quick visit back there. I loved the people. I loved the culture. I really loved what I learned.

I am applying what I learned at Click Rain literally every day while on this job, but so much of it has specifically gone into the organization of the new Living Word website. I’m so thankful, too, that Paul understands what our whole church’s culture is, which is to equip the saints for the work of service. Because of his willingness to train me up and send me, Living Word will benefit from a much better final project and, quite frankly, a much better staff member. Some specific things that I’ve learned for the website creation process are these:

  • Build a responsive site that’s completely optimized (note, there’s a lot more to website optimization than SEO these days). There is no reason not to do this. Yes, it takes more planning, forethought, and design skills; it takes more effort to make sure every element optimization is in place; but in the end will payoff big time.
  • Think about big picture strategy. We are not just having a blog on the site. We are having a blog that’s equipped with opengraph tags, Schema information, and more, so that when people share a post to social media it will perfectly pull in every piece of data that provides stand-out formatting on social media. Also, we are thinking long-term about what this site will look like, not just launching it and being done with it.
  • Measure. Measure. Measure. We will be paying close attention to statistics in every area so we can be sure this site is doing it’s job.

I’m very thankful to be working full time in a job I’ve wanted for a really long time. However, I’m extremely thankful for the experiences God blessed me with on the path to get here and how much I’ve learned and can apply now that I’m in this position.