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The Crunch Time Blues

The Crunch Time Blues

By Erica Boutwell on April 04, 2017

For local churches around the globe, the countdown to one of the most widely attended weekends has begun! Set lists are being finalized, service flows are being negotiated, sermon outlines are being pored over, and eggs are being filled by the dozen. While families all over are making their Sunday afternoon plans and working out lunch menus, you are neck-deep in planning, rehearsing, and decision-making. Holiday weekends like Easter have and always will look a lot different for Church leadership than it does for those they serve. So how do you approach these seasons without giving the enemy a foothold to rob you of every ounce of joy and motivation?

I took the chance to pick the brain of someone who has been on the front lines of the worship war for several decades now. David Parker is the Worship & Creative Arts Pastor at 121 Community Church located in Grapevine, TX. Not only is David a dear friend of mine, but I also had the privilege of serving on his worship staff team for 12 years until our family moved to Tennessee at the end of last year. So I had a front row seat to watch this man in action on a weekly basis and, trust me, he is a wealth of wisdom when it comes to donning multiple hats while managing to keep his head above water. Here’s what he had to say about managing all the moving parts with grace and clarity.    

AAW: For the sake of context, tell us a little about your experience as a worship leader up 'til now. How long have you been leading and in what capacities?

DP: I’ve been leading worship since I was in sixth grade. I would lead worship for my Sunday School class every week before we went to Bible study. From there I continued to lead throughout high school for various events that churches would invite me to. Some friends and I started a band and played anywhere we could. We definitely weren’t very good! But through that experience I ended up being invited to lead a VBS at a great church in Houston. As a result, I interned at that church for two summers where I received incredible mentorship from some amazing people. When I left for college at Texas A&M I led worship at what used to be called the B.S.U. Area churches began inviting me to lead at student events. I traveled more and more throughout college doing more and more events. In 1993 I joined up with Al Denson and Celebration Ministries to travel throughout the country leading worship for student events. During that time God gave me the privilege to be a part of some amazing movements in Buffalo, NY, the early Student Life Camps, Hot Hearts Texas, Georgia Super WOW, Youth Evangelism Conferences and churches all over.  Around 2000 I began leading in a rotation of worship leaders at my home church, 121 Community Church. Over the next year or two God called me away from the road and I have been the Worship & Creative Arts Pastor at 121 ever since. All in all, I’ve been leading worship for about 34 years.

AAW: What would you say is the biggest difference between leading in the local Church versus traveling to lead at various events?

DP: I truly loved traveling while God had me in that role, but as I look back, He was preparing me to be a worship leader for the local church. When I was traveling, I loved the great relationships I was privileged to develop with wonderful people, but for me, I felt too much like I was on an island. It was difficult to stay connected to my local church. I found myself leading songs that I knew people would know while I was on the road. Conversely, in the local church, there have been more opportunities to grow in different directions musically and creatively. Additionally, I have an amazing team that works together to help lead people to truly encounter God in worship. To be a part of a team like ours is a constant source of refreshment and encouragement.

AAW: With Easter right around the corner, I’m sure your workload has amped up quite a bit. What are a few ways that you hang on to your own personal joy during seasons like this?

DP: This is a truly unique season for me. As we approach this Easter, we are also moving our entire church into a new building. Needless to say, this has been an exciting and exhausting time. I absolutely love Easter and the opportunity to share the Gospel with people who have never heard it. This is where I derive my personal joy even when the work is exhausting. The reward far outweighs the sacrifice!

AAW: We all know that the spouses and children of church staff members sacrifice a lot during these seasons as well. How do you maintain peace and cling to the message of Easter as a family during one of the busiest time of the year for you?

DP: One of the big things we do as a family is try to include everyone in the preparations for Easter and other special times that require a ton of my time. That way we get to celebrate together by serving together. Another practice I try to maintain is to make sure to make deposits back into my family when my time working at the church has taken more from me than normal in a given season.

AAW: Are there any specific habits or fail-safes you’ve set in place over the years that help you avoid falling prey to the traps the enemy undoubtedly places in front of you during the weeks leading up to Easter?

DP: I always approach Easter as prayerfully as I can, trust in my team and enjoy the journey. We always try to stay focused on what Easter is all about, not on what we can do. 

AAW: What are some do’s and don’ts you’ve learned over your years in ministry when it comes to preparing for Easter, guiding your family through it, and leading your church body into it?

DP: One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to not do too much “new” for an Easter service.  For us, Easters where we do what we do week in and week out, maybe with a few creative twists, have reaped great results and hearts focused on the right things. This helps balance out family time and the church body is able to truly dive into the worship service.

AAW: One of your strongest passions is creating unique atmospheres of worship, using every sense we’ve been given. You’re actually going to be facilitating a teaching time during our Dallas conference stop in May about this very subject. How did this passion develop and how have you fostered it over the years?

DP: I absolutely love the art of communicating things of God creatively. When I interned in Houston we designed some wonderful services for the student ministry that at the time were cutting edge. This just fueled my desire to create environments for people to encounter the Lord. When at Texas A&M I minored in Theatre Set Design. This helped give me the tools to see more advanced ideas actually come into fruition. At 121 we are blessed to have a pastor that gives us freedom to dream, try and even fail sometimes. It’s never about trying to do something bigger and better. It’s about doing the best thing to communicate whatever it is we are trying to communicate. I am always researching technologies and resources both from the church world and secular world to help communicate creatively.

AAW: Without giving away too much of what you’ll be covering at the conference, what’s one tip you’d give our readers when it comes to building these experiences regardless of size or budget?

DP: Never let money or a lack of ability stop you from dreaming big. Learn to make the impossible possible.  After all, if God is for you, who can be against you?

In case you missed it, David will be with us at our Dallas conference May 17-19. In fact, 121 Community Church is the host church. So if you join us, you’ll get to see some of David’s expertise firsthand. He’ll be passing on some of that wisdom during our time together, so if you haven’t registered for our Dallas stop yet, it’s not too late.

Thank you David for taking the time to share some of the lessons you’ve learned over the years. Our prayer here at AAW for all of you out there is that these next couple of weeks will be filled with moments to savor God’s faithfulness and relish in the good news we strive so hard to make known.

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Erica Boutwell

Erica Boutwell

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