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A Key to Longevity: Reproduce Yourself

A Key to Longevity: Reproduce Yourself

By Jan Owen on May 11, 2009

There is a necessary but painful truth that we in worship leadership must all face and eventually embrace. We must realize that we are not indispensable. To last in ministry and to further the work of the Kingdom of God we must reproduce ourselves.

We may not like to face the truth that we are not indispensable. We all like to be needed.  This can make us feel validated and it can stroke our ever fragile egos to know that things “aren’t quite the same” when we’re gone. If we are honest, many of us would have to admit that we take a little bit of pride in the fact that it can seem like no one can lead worship at our church quite like we can. Because of these issues (although we would rarely admit this is the real reason!) many worship leaders may shy away from sharing the stage or asking others to lead worship on a regular basis.

Yet this attitude is not only short-sighted, it is also unhealthy. While we all need to know that what we do as ministers does matter, we do ourselves, our teams, and our churches a disservice when we continue to insist that we are indispensable.

I remember an old episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” that I saw when I was much younger. In this episode Aunt Bea goes away for a week leaving Andy and Opie at home alone where they make a huge mess and cannot seem to feed themselves a healthy meal or find any clean clothing to wear. As her return is imminent a friend drops by and cleans the house, restocks the fridge and so on. Instead of pleasing Aunt Bea, this communicates to her that she is not needed and she is saddened by their seeming ability to get along without her. So Andy and Opie make a huge mess, proving that she is indeed needed and valued (and sending the message in a 1950’s stereotypical way that men are incompetent to care for themselves?!).  Aunt Bea is happy that no one can take care of her boys quite like she can!

This is a great example of what I see happen many times in the church. I see a lot of ministers act like this, particularly those who lead “up front”. They insist that they cannot take a Sunday off, or miss a rehearsal because the show just cannot go on without them. I wonder at times if this is really true, or instead if this is what they desire to be true!

This is dangerous territory to live in. I know because this used to be me! When I started out as a worship leader I so loved what I was doing and was  so astounded that I was allowed to do it that I never, ever wanted to miss a Sunday! I got a huge kick out of seeing people connect with God and I wanted that “front row view” at all times. If I am to be totally honest, I will also admit that I was more than a little afraid that if someone else led worship our church might like them better. I - as artists tend to be - was very insecure. In my insecurity and youthful ignorance I failed at one of the most eternally significant tasks a leader has: I failed to reproduce myself. I was so busy enjoying leading worship myself that I was selfish in my leadership.

Eventually this caused me to be exhausted and it left our team and church shortchanged as well. I failed to wisely use the gifts of those on my team that had this God-given ability and we - as a ministry team - were weaker for it. It was not a good thing for my church or my team  to be so completely dependent on me! As I grew in wisdom and experience I realized that one of the greatest legacies I’ll ever leave behind is the leaders I have helped equip and grow. Investing in others helps them reach their God given potential and guess what? The church wins! And guess what? We as worship pastors do too. It’s healthier all around.

So what can you do to begin to reproduce yourself?

1) Look for those with leadership potential on your team. Start observing those you serve with. Who goes out of their way to learn? Who is willing to do the extra work? Who is consistently prepared and ready to go? Who is serving others? Who seems to have the instincts and skills needed to lead others in worship? Who excels at the small tasks you might assign? Who offers to help and is good at it? Who has a humble heart?

2) Begin to do the relational work required to build trust that will allow you to share leadership wisely. Spend time with those you see having potential. Work together on projects. Ask their opinion. See where they are spiritually and spend time in spiritual friendship. See if they can be trusted because you have a responsibility not just to reproduce yourself, but to share leadership wisely and with great discernment.

3) Begin to invest time and resources in training and equipping them. See what their questions are. Point them to articles and resources. Take them to conferences or concerts, etc. Begin to teach them as you do ministry together.

4) Assign them some responsibility. You might start with asking them to lead worship at a team event and then guide them through the process of making a set list, etc. Or they might start with leading a rehearsal for you. I didn’t come up with this idea, but here is the process I try to use as I develop leaders:

- First I ask them to observe me leading, planning, etc. and we discuss what I did.

- Then I involve them and ask them to lead with me, to plan with me, to assist in whatever task is at hand. They might shadow me for a service or rehearsal or in planning.

- After this step I ask them to lead and I help them. Hopefully this will help them feel the freedom to lead “with a safety net”. I might sing BGVs for them, or sit in on rehearsal and help with sound, etc. After this step we always debrief and I will give feedback.

- I look for opportunities for them to serve in leadership without my help. I’m still observing here so I’ll let them take the ball and run with it and I’ll sit back and watch, and then we’ll talk about it afterward and I will give encouragement and correction as needed.

- I let them lead when I am away and have another leader watch and report to help me know how things went.

- From then on my goal might be for them to lead semi-regularly even when I am in town.

5) Encourage them in their gifting and brag on them! I would have never ended up as a worship leader if someone had not encouraged me and paid attention to the gifting of God in my life. Help them become the best they can be through training, encouragement, and opportunities to minister. You will find out that there are many things they can do better than you and your whole ministry will flourish and blossom as a result! This is so true of our team and I am thankful for it. I try to consistently brag on my leaders when they do an awesome job and encourage them in what they do.

6) Form a leadership team with the leaders you have developed. They will challenge you, make your team stronger and give you a solid base for ministry. Involve them as you make decisions and let them see the “hows” and “whys” of how you do things. A glimpse into the inner workings will be helpful for them. As you allow them to lead with you it also models humility and “mutual submission” to your church and to your team.

If you will patiently invest in the process of reproduction I believe you will be a healthier and happier leader. You’ll be able to go on vacation without worry. You’ll be able to hand off tasks with the full assurance that they’ll be done well. You will be able to focus more on what you are called to do as these leaders help you. And your team will begin to reach it’s glorious potential!

I am extremely fortunate and blessed to lead worship alongside other very solid leaders. When I am away I really don’t have to worry about anything because my leaders are great and my team is rock solid. In 2008 I was so thrilled to be able to take a sabbatical and have my team lead worship for three months without me! What an amazing blessing! Perhaps most importantly, I know that if I were unable to be at The Brook worship would go on unhindered.

And that is what is important - that the church worship God without hindrance!

So go on! Get started developing those leaders around you today!

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Written by Jan Owen

This article was originally posted on TheWorshipCommunity.com

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