Touring Worship Leader problem…

Someone emailed me today with the following question. You might find the answer interesting, or may affect you and your church’s Music Staff and Sunday worship. You can also find lots of answers to lots of these types of questions at North Point Music.

Hello –
I am on my church staff committee and we are struggling with how to make our music program work. Our worship leader has recently begun touring as lead singer for a group … and is away during Sunday services often due to the touring schedule. We are trying to find a balance so that he can continue with our church and follow the opportunity God has given him … I was told that your church also has touring musicians … and wondered if you would be willing to share some information with me about how North Point balances a touring musician who also serves as a (full time, on staff) worship leader (of each week’s Sunday service). How do you cover services when they are away? What is the job expectations of the worship leader (AV support, musician prep, leading worship for service, etc.)? Do you have a salaried staff person for music or do you contract out each service?

Thanks.

———

Here’s my reply…

North Point Ministries and our 3 campuses function differently than how many churches have traditionally operated when it comes to Music Department staffing.


Let me explain…


Many churches are familiar with the “Music Minister” or “Worship and Arts Pastor” role:


A full-time employee who leads Sunday worship and is responsible for all things music related, as well as all things production related – service preparation, sound system, lights, video, graphics, etc.


Needless to say, this is often a daunting task for a musician! And, as a result, areas that are not his/her expertise or interest often lack in quality and vision.


When North Point was started just over 10 years ago, this issue was addressed, and a new (and at the time experimental) hierarchy was implemented.


It started with a new position – Service Programming Director – one that was not a regular stage performer, but a creative/administrator/manager of ALL service elements: Music, Drama, Video, Media, Sound, Production, Host Team (ushers, greeters).


This also gave birth to SPD (Service Programming Division), responsible for all things related to the main Sunday services.


And, as we grew, specific people were put in place to be Directors of each of the specific elements, yet were under the ultimate authority and vision of the Service Programming Director.


This means we added a Music Director to handle all things music, then a Production Director for all things technical (cameras, audio, video, sets, etc.).


Currently we have the following positions, all under the SPD Director:


Associate Director – responsible for all staff service producers and logistical implementation of Sunday services


Production Director
– responsible for all things technical (cameras, audio, video, sets, etc.) and subsequent personnel.


Music Director
– responsible for all things music related (worship, special songs, bands, worship leaders, instruments, music technology, etc.) and Departmental personnel.


Media Director – responsible for all production of media (videos, graphics, title packages, etc.) and media export (DVD’s, Streaming Web content). This department has grown substantially as we’ve added campuses, Strategic Partnership churches, increased our export of resources (sermon series DVD’s etc.), and added deeper, richer content to the Sunday morning service experience.


Host Team Director – responsible for aspects such as parking lot and personnel, greeters, ushers, security, city police traffic officers, etc.

So you can see how specific individuals with specific gifts, talents and experience have been asked to oversee and lead specific areas of the Sunday morning service experience.

NOW… AS IT RELATES TO MUSIC….

The Music Director, and subsequent departmental staff, are NOT on stage every week. The Music Department staff are all professional-level musicians, but are only one stage once, maybe twice per month. That is a significant part of what allows us to maintain a high level of quality each and every week. Here’s why:


1 – We are able to evaluate the rehearsals and services from the audience’s perspective, produce the music and parts being performed on stage, and work out sound and mix issues with the Production Department’s Audio Staff and audio volunteers.


2 – We do NOT have the same people (Worship Leaders, instrumentalists, singers) on the same stage every week. Instead, we have a pool of musicians and Worship Leaders that we book for different stages at different time. Some of them play and lead at all 3 of our campuses, as well as some of the local Strategic Partners, some play and lead at just 1 or 2, and still others tour and travel around the country as professional musicians and/or Worship Leaders.


This has proven to pay dividends as these WL’s and musicians learn from other musicians and their experience at other campuses, venues, camps, retreats, conferences, sessions, ministries, gigs, etc. They help spread some of the great songs that have been birthed here and share tips and techniques with other churches and players. They also bring back great stories of their experiences that have proven so valuable to us as we find new songs and plan services.

This philosophy also allows us to have no dip in quality if one – or many – people are unavailable to participate on a Sunday. Vacations, sickness, tours and other conflicts or issues become a thing of the past. This applies to all areas of Sunday morning personnel – including staff, not just stage musicians!


We are also able to book personnel based on OUR needs. If we need a specific ability (the “right” singer for a song, a specific instrument, etc.), we are able to book accordingly. We are not “stuck” with specific, limited personnel.


For instance, this past week we selectively booked players from our pool that would perform a Brad Paisley song almost as good as Brad himself!

Now there are obviously deeper issues, such as a “gifted Worship Leader” versus “Performance Singer”, and who deserves to be on stage versus who should be on stage, not to mention Spiritual issues concerning the players and leaders themselves. Those are all different stories…

So in summary to your question, between staff, volunteers and contract labor, we have a deep enough pool to adequately maintain the same level of quality week in and week out (including a few worship leaders that tour and may be away for weeks or months at a time).

Even at our Strategic Partnership church plants, a SPD Director is hired as full time staff, with worship leaders and musicians as volunteers or contract labor.


Hope that helps – even though it sounds like the answer is to remove many of the weekly planning duties from your Worship Leader and give them to their new boss! 🙂

—-

So, what do YOU think?

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14 thoughts on “Touring Worship Leader problem…

  1. reid, right on! this is a great post.

    i believe for churches who this is a new concept they can learn a great deal from our strategic partners. they all start with 1 person in charge of the adult worship environment, and this is almost never the worship leader. they also have a much tighter budget then north point and have to balance their personnel and musician costs. all that being said, it IS possible to do with less resources than NP, it just takes some rethinking of how we look at the worship leader/service programming roles.

    as you said the greatest benefit is it allows you to have the right kind of people in the right roles, and not force a worship leader into a role that he may not be designed to excel in…

  2. Hey thanks for posting this.

    We are currently in the middle of the planning for a church plant. This information really goes a long way into helping us know how to direct what areas, to know which areas are important to have as staff and why, and some other good small details.

    I love the openness of sharing what you guys do at Northpoint. Thanks!

    http://www.vagabondrunn.wordpress.com

  3. Love this philosophy. It’s difficult having to battling the “way it’s always been done”. However, I really feel this scenario becomes a win for everybody. Thanks for the details, great post.

  4. Blake, I completely agree with you. That has always been very hard for me to deal with…that being said, we all need to keep ourselves in check as far as that goes…I know that I could see myself falling into that mindset further down the road. Its so easy to get comfortable.

  5. This glimpse into North Point has been extremely insightful. Being a musician who is very involved in a church where all of the weekly planning, creative elements, and technical design elements are taken care of by the worship leader who is always on stage and in many cases unable to know what the congregation hears or sees, I can see the huge impact that this would make in the quality of production and even the reduction of stress for most people involved. My biggest question is being a church with resources far below those of North Point, how does a church start to implement these ideas without breaking the bank? What is a good resource for finding musicians and what should a church who currently uses volunteers expect to pay a musician?

  6. I’ve been wondering how you guys do it. I hop around a bunch of the NP guys blogs and am I subscriber at NP Music but never quite grasped how it all goes together. This was some great insight.

    I second Kevin B’s request. Smaller church, smaller budget. What is essential? If you had to break it down to the barebones, which positions could be combined or volunteer based? Are all of the “director” positions full-time?

    Also money. What does a player get paid? What does a worship leader get paid? Hope that’s not asking something too personal. I would love to start paying some of my players in the next year, but I have no clue where to start. It is unheard of where I live.

  7. Yeah, I am in the same boat. Being a musician and someone who helps put it all together each week, I could use a break from playing every now and then the worship with the family. The topic of paying musicians has come up with my church before and we have made a move to pay for gas for a couple of guys who come way out of the way to help us out and we also cover equipment costs, drumheads and sticks in my case.

    We are a young church who is making the jump to 2 services in August and we acknowledge the need to create a pool of musicians to keep from having burn-out issues, the biggest problem is finding musicians and figuring out what is fair pay.

  8. Great post, I am always interested in what is going on behind the scenes, especially when it comes to the music. I am more of a techie than a musician, but I am working on the latter part. 🙂

  9. I’ll throw in a quick response to the paying musicians question. I’ve played at a decent number of churches over the years (including North Point). Paying musicians can be a sticky issue because some argue that if you pay some volunteers you need to pay others. North Point and many other churches take a different slant on the issue and simply invest in what they value (ie, a high-quality service). I could go on this point for hours but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I understand both viewpoints on the issue but tend to agree with the latter. And that’s not because I am a musician as I’ve volunteered my time w/o pay for 3 years at my current church and I’m happy to continue doing it.

    But, if you’re already past this discussion and recognize the value in paying your musicians I’ll say that I’ve seen anywhere between $100 to $300 per week, per person. Often times this depends on how much time is involved, too (ie, how many services you have on Sunday, do you have a separate practice on a separate day, etc). I’ll let Reid chime in on what North Point does if he wants, but that’s a general guideline. Also, consider paying the worship/band leader a bit more because there is extra work in being a leader. By that I don’t necessarily mean the lead singer but the band leader who spends the time and effort to make sure the songs are tight.

    Hope that helps…

  10. What I want to know Reid is when are you going to come back to Canada so we can glean from the knowledge that you’ve been given? Wouldn’t it be nice if we all adopted the attitude and model of NP!

    Seriously though – as for paying musicians… I have no problem with it whatsoever – matter of fact I strongly support it – not because I’m a musician, but it’s actually quite biblical… after all – the Levites were provided for by the other tribes right?

  11. Hi Rob!!

    Yeah – the other tribes of Israel supported the Levites, while in return the Levites “worked” for the nation in a range of issues, including the law and the Temple.

    Good to hear from you! Hope you’re well!!

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