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.
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?
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?