James Tealy gives practical advice to the church plant worship leader:
Cake? Is a birthday cake at the end of worship the right way to celebrate your first year as a new church plant? I didn’t know I would ever have to make that decision. For the first time in my career I am helping to plant a new church. In the last 18 months we have traveled from three guys dreaming around a coffee shop table to “Launch Sunday” and now through our first anniversary as a new church plant. When I told fellow worship leaders and pastors what we were attempting to accomplish in rural, suburban Nashville, I received some great counsel. I realize every church faces its own set of unique challenges but here are a few bits of advice from others that have helped me survive this first year.
Be Who You Are
There is always pressure early on to pretend to be MORE than you are as a church because you believe it will draw people. It’s the “fake it till you make it” principle and it is fundamentally contrary to the gospel. I wrestled with this pressure daily as we moved toward our “Launch Sunday.”
The worship experiences that have impacted me the deepest were media-rich, band-driven experiences with professional audio, video, and light rigs in a dark room packed full of expressive worshippers. The first time I visited the elementary school cafetorium where we would gather for worship at our launch, I was crestfallen. “How can I build atmosphere in THIS?” Another wise church planter reminded me, “Be who you are. Build the church from a place of gospel-centered authenticity and let the people who want a good show go somewhere else.” This has been a hard pill to swallow.
Every week and with every aesthetic decision, we are reaching for excellence while at the same time trying to stay true to who we really are in these early days. That means our musicians, the gear we can afford, and a set-up that we can easily move in and out of a trailer every week. This even applies to song selection. Sometimes a song that feels great when a 12 person Jesus Culture team leads it in an arena full of passionate worshippers can feel awkward when you lead it alone from a guitar and cajon in a school cafeteria with 60 self-conscious strangers. In this church planting season we ask, “What songs will work with a simple arrangement as we seek to make the Kingdom tangible and the gospel clear this week in worship?”