October 17, 2018 Tony Morgan

Why Your Worship Leader Shouldn’t Lead the Creative Team – Episode 64 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

+ How to Take Your Church’s Creativity to the Next Level

Don’t worry, I know your worship leader is great. That doesn’t mean he or she should lead your Creative Team. Music is obviously creative (I actually play piano—just for my family though) but we need more creativity in our churches than just music—and we very rarely find worship leaders who are equipped or able to lead more than music.

You need a leader who oversees all of your church’s creative initiatives—not just music. Hiring leaders who can focus on the creative aspects of your church allows your musicians to do what they do best while still getting stuff done. In this episode, Amy and I talk about who should be leading your creative team and how to structure your creative team to make the most of it.

In this conversation, we discussed:

  • Why Most Worship Leaders Aren’t Ideal as Creative Team Leaders

  • How To Structure Your Creative Team for Success

  • What Kind Of Leader You Need To Lead Your Creative Team


Join the Conversation

We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.

Some things we are hoping to discuss:

  • What barriers does your church have to hiring a dedicated Creative Director?
  • What processes have you used that have increased creativity in your church?
  • What would you look for in a Creative Director?

We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.



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Podcast Transcript

Amy Anderson:             00:10                Welcome to the Unstuck Church podcast. I’m Amy Anderson and I’m here with Tony Morgan and each week we share a conversation our team’s been having about getting churches unstuck and today we’re going to be talking about why your worship leader shouldn’t be leading your creative team. Actually, I think we’re talking about how to increase creativity in the church, but we thought that was a little catchier title Tony You said for the last several years, is that the church has lost its creative edge. What’s been your experience?

Tony Morgan:               00:38                It’s gotten predictable in other words, has gotten predictable. Like I said, it’s gotten predictable. Predictable. Yeah. Uh, so here’s the deal. Um, I remember, uh, in fact, I just wrote about it recently. It’s been, Gosh, probably now 25 years ago, which now you’re starting to get my age because it’s time for you. I think it was about 25 years ago. I went to Willow Creek for the very first time and there’s a long story behind that, uh, just to, just as a guest, I’d never been to a church like willow creek before. In fact, there weren’t many churches like Willow Creek at 25 years ago, but it was the first time that I’d ever experienced a service that didn’t have piano or or Oregon leading the music is the first time I’d seen a service with creative elements incorporated into the service itself.

Tony Morgan:               01:43                Beyond music. This is the first time I’d ever heard a pastor teach from scripture, but teach it in a relevant way and offer practical next steps. I was, it was surprise to say it was, wasn’t surprising. Uh, well it was. I mean, it was just remarkable to me. I’d never seen anything like it, but what I have seen in the 25 years since then is churches have started not only to repeat what they’ve seen willow do, but there are other churches now that churches are repeating and churches have just started repeating themselves now over and over again. And the, there’s just no creativity in the church anymore. And it’s really discouraging to me because I think the church ought to be the most, the most creative institution in culture today because we serve such a creative guide. And I also think that church should be one of the most creative institutions today because we have the most important message and I think the church should be one of the most creative institutions today because our message is not with the culture that we’re trying to reach. And for all these reasons, I’m just, I’m personally very concerned by the predictability that exist in churches today and the lack of creativity that’s causing that predictability.

Amy Anderson:             03:15                Oh, I remember that creative boom in the church. Um, why do you think we’ve lost the creativity in our churches?

Tony Morgan:               03:21                Well, I think it’s for a number of reasons, amy, I think a number of churches just never were creative. Um, at best they might have been trying to duplicate what they saw other churches doing, but they really themselves, they weren’t create creative. I think another issue has to do with pace. You know, Sundays are always coming. I mean, it’s the challenge of everything we do with churches to engaging with the unstuck group. It’s like we want you to think about your future, your vision or strategy. But we know as we’re talking about those things with churches, their churches, they’re concerned about what needs to happen this coming Sunday, and I think that it’s always Sunday is certainly impacting the creativity and the church as well. I think a lot of churches lack a process, a framework for allowing for creativity to be a part of their experiences, uh, for larger churches, churches that have engaged multisite.

Tony Morgan:               04:17                I think that the challenge of trying to replicate an experience in multiple locations, for sure it has, I want to say it like this is kinda caused churches to dumb down their experiences because they have to get to that lowest level, that lowest common denominator that they can actually replicate in many environments. Um, and uh, but the biggest issue, amy, I think in many cases I’m setting all of those issues aside for a moment. The reason why a lot of churches aren’t creative is because they have the wrong leader over this creative team and the creative process.

Amy Anderson:             04:55                Yeah. Let’s actually start by talking about that last one. The wrong leader. It’s very unconventional in the church world to not have your creative leader be the worship leader, um, after all, they’re in the arts areas. Uh, so if everybody or most everybody is doing that, why aren’t they the real obvious leader?

Tony Morgan:               05:12                Well, you’re just jumping right in there. Amy Aren’t too. So I, I’m concerned getting into this topic. I think it’s in first or second chronicles somewhere where the choir director in the choir are actually leading the armies into battle. And so my fear is that may still be true that worship leaders still are kind of leading the charge and I’m going to offend the folks that have the most ammunition right now. First of all, let me just tell you a, I love music. Both of my parents were actually music majors in college and music teachers and I myself have a am a musician. I don’t know if we’ve revealed on the podcast, amy, but I play the piano. I don’t play piano for anyone other than myself and my family because I, I’m not a performer, but I really enjoy music. I enjoy piano. I love that.

Tony Morgan:               06:11                Oh yeah, I know, but here’s what I know about great musicians, great musicians are rarely great creative leaders, and let me just be clear here. Well, music can be, should be considered creative. That’s not the creativity that I’m talking about. I’m instead what I’m talking about, great storytelling. I’m talking about creative creative message illustrations. I’m talking about creative ways to drive home a teaching point. I’m talking about those moments that we’re trying to create in our services that just surprise people, those moments that with a captured audience, surprise people and help them think about what’s important in their lives, in the important next steps that they need to be taking to create those kinds of moments. You need a leader to pull together the systems and create those moments. And I’m not convinced that the worship leader, the most talented musician is always the person to do this.

Tony Morgan:               07:20                They don’t have the time and in many times don’t have the gifting to lead the team and to lead the process that’s required to create these types of moments. Um, so that’s, that’s, that’s the challenge. Amy, is in many churches by default. I think the church has identified, well because you lead worship, you are going to be the leader of these creative teams and our creative process, but the challenge is that person may not be creative, they could just be talented musically and they may not be a leader, they just may have a great voice

Amy Anderson:             07:58                and they may be a part of those creative moments, but maybe not the behind the scenes later that’s aligning everything to come together for that moment. That’s right. That’s right. So who should lead it? What kind of leader should churches be looking for?

Tony Morgan:               08:11                Well, um, well I have a couple of things to offer here. First, and this is probably obvious still, at least it is to me why this person needs to be a leader. And we’ve talked about this before on a number of different podcast. If you think about it, with all the high level leadership in the roles in the church, uh, including this person over the creative area of your church, you need to hire leaders. We need people that are building teams, getting ministry accomplished through other people, primarily volunteers. And that holds true in this worship area as well. Uh, so just like you would be hiring leaders, uh, to build teams, your guest services area, helping volunteers carry out that aspect of the Ministry of your church on Sunday mornings. I also think churches need to hire a leader to lead the creative process and delete these, these teams that are trying to pull off creative elements and create the experiences that we’re trying to create inside our sanctuaries in auditoriums on Sunday morning as well. So that’s the first thing is we need to be looking for someone that has, that actually is a leader. And then secondly, if you want to increase increase creativity within your weekend services, you need to identify someone who’s specialty is leadership. And Amy, actually you did this for 13 years and your church, I mean, do you agree with this? I mean it’s not, it goes beyond just can they sing or not? It’s the bigger question is can they lead and can they lead in this specialty area?

Amy Anderson:             09:53                Oh, definitely. You know, creativity is not the easy button. Like in the staples commercials. And actually when I was hired, although I, I could sing and although I had some background, like I think in high school theater I spoke some of the language that is not why I was hired at my church. I was hired because I had the specialty of leadership. That’s really what they needed to take the team to the next level. And you know, as I lead behind the scenes in these various processes, you know, my music leaders were actually able to focus on what they did best, you know, create and design great music sets. And I honestly, I couldn’t imagine trying to do both.

Tony Morgan:               10:31                Yeah. And again, that’s just been my experience at granger who was there for a number of years. The person over this team, a couple of different people, one who formerly was a teacher, never was on the platform, but uh, was a great leader. The second leader I work with it, a granger, came from a sales marketing background in food services. I think it was, again, couldn’t sing a lick, but, uh, he was a great leader for this team, uh, and the creative process. So that complemented it at newspring when I was there, the person over this team, Shane, a great leader. I mean, he’s one of the executive pastors at newspring now, I think. I think that’s his current role. Um, but uh, Shane I think came from the insurance industry. Again, it’s possible Shane can sing, but I’ve never personally heard him sing. And so it wasn’t because of his musical talent, it was because of that leadership strength that he brought to this team. And it’s, it’s, it’s a different kind of leadership to. Let me just say that when it comes to leading the creative process and these creative teams.

Amy Anderson:             11:43                Yeah. What are some of those other qualities that this leader needs to have?

Tony Morgan:               11:49                Yeah, so let me try to run through several of them here because this, it’s again, it’s not just the leadership gift, it’s, it’s finding the right leader for this role. And let me begin with this person has to understand and buy into the seniors pat the senior pastor’s vision for the weekend because this person needs to be the person that stands in, if you will, for the senior pastor and drives the weekend service experience. So really has to be in tune with the senior pastor’s vision for the weekend. Uh, another attribute they need to be a great coach and it is, it’s just a unique thing when you’re working with a lot of artists. One of my children as an artist and they just parenting her is a lot different than parenting the other my other kids and that because she has unique strengths and attributes and her personality that are far superior in many.

Tony Morgan:               12:49                I’m not trying to pit my kids against each other, but they’re far superior in some areas, but there are also some uniquenesses of her personality because of that. And we see that with artists in churches as well. There’s just a uniqueness to their personality and wiring and that’s why they’re so gifted with their art. But at the same time, leading them looks a different little bit different for this role, this leadership role, you need a great systems thinker and primarily that’s because again, Sunday’s always coming. And because of that there, there’s this constant process and pressure that’s in place that this person needs to be leading through, um, and leading through others. So they have to be a great systems thinker. And Amy, I’ve actually heard you talk about it in these terms. You’ve talked about the three P’s, product, people and process. Can you explain that a little bit more?

Amy Anderson:             13:47                Oh sure. Just this leader has to really, um, have a great understanding of, if I can call it product a, I did have a marketing background. You’re designing a pro, the products that are on the front front stage of your church, the front door of your church. So you have to be able to lead product development. You have to lead people. You just talked about that a little bit, but you’ve got a lot of specialists on this team so it just looks a little bit different. So you’ve got to be a master people leader. And coach and then process it is always Sunday and if you’re going to go above and beyond and create some remarkable experiences, and by the way, create a consistently excellent a weekend service each and every week in addition to those remarkable times. You’ve got to be a master process designer so that the right people connect at the right time and that year thinking ahead and pulling the creativity out, uh, with the team that you have. So product people and process.

Tony Morgan:               14:43                Yeah. And while we’re talking about who is qualified or should be in this leadership role, amy, if you don’t mind a little bit of a rant here. I wanna I want to challenge folks to consider what they’re, what they’re titling this position as well. And uh, uh, the. Again, this is just a personal pet peeve I’m sure, but a lot of times I’ll see churches calling this type of a person, their worship arts pastor or worship arts director. And for me, Gosh, it’s just a bit of a challenge because if you want to really push me on my theology, I don’t, I don’t think singing to God is actually what God thinks worship is. I, in fact, when it comes to worship, I don’t even know if singing to God is at the top of the list. I think loving other people might be at the top of the list when it comes to really worshiping the God that we love and that we’re trying to serve.

Tony Morgan:               15:41                And so I would just caution you, if you’re limiting worship to be being defined by singing songs to God, then I think you’re doing a disservice to people in your church. And because of that, I would actually challenge you not to include that name, worship in the title for this position. Um, I, we’ve seen churches use other titles like w, a creative arts leader or pastor or director or weaken services, pastor or director or production, a director or pastor, or there are a number of other titles that you could use. Um, but I would encourage you to help your church get at a true understanding of what it is to worship God that you don’t limit that to just singing on Sunday mornings. So that was, I’m sorry. Sometimes I just have to insert my opinions, but you know, again, amy, it is my podcast.

Amy Anderson:             16:37                That’s all right. All right, so now we have the leader in place and uh, beyond that we should probably talk about how to increase the creativity and the weekends.

Speaker 2:                    16:47                Amy and I, I could certainly speak to this, but here’s the deal, again, I, as I mentioned to it, you’ve lived this for 13 years in ministry yourself and in a lot of the coaching that we do with churches today, you’re still leaning into this very heavily. So, uh, I have my thoughts on how to add creativity to services and the weekend experience, but I would really rather you speak to that. Are you open to that?

Amy Anderson:             17:14                Oh yeah. I can do that. You and I think about increasing creativity and the church. I think you hit the first one, right? Which is you need the leader and in that alone you’re going to create some capacity on your team to start thinking more creatively. But I probably have a stop list. Um, I think my top stop item would be stop trying to theme the music time in the church to the message time in the church. So those first 15, 20 minutes, um, I just think music leaders should really focus on designing a great experience. But I see so many teams just waiting to hear what the pastor is going to talk about, what’s the key scripture, what are the talking points going to be? And they invest so much time trying to theme all those worship songs to whatever the pastor is going to be talking about.

Amy Anderson:             17:57                And I honestly think it’s a waste of time because at least for me, when I experience a great music set, um, you know that that’s the first, what, 15, 20 minutes. Typically by the time the message starts, I’ve kind of forgotten about that. Um, if you were really cute and matched up some things, I’m just not. I cleanse the palate, I’m ready to hear a great message, so I just think let the music time be focused on creating a great music set and that will free up some capacity on some of the people who will participate in the creative process to really put the focus where I’m going next, which is to really more start aligning your creativity with the message and not the music. So looking for ways to create those memorable moments you talked about earlier. Um, you know, one of the guys on our team challenges team to think above and beyond like every six to eight weeks.

Amy Anderson:             18:49                So when he looked at his creative process, he wasn’t saying, hey, creative team, I need something that takes this message off the page every week. He just started to scale it and say, let’s try to do that every six to eight weeks. So again, now you’re getting more creative energy towards creating something remarkable because it’s not every week. Um, and some of the ways that we did that when we would look for a message topic that had creative potential. So as the leader at our weekends, I would look for what the teaching team was talking about and we kind of hone in on a, a message, a message that looked like it had potential. And by the way, we’re looking at eight, 12 weeks from now and we started to brainstorm what are some ways we could take that off the page and then we would. Amy, do you have as an example you can recall to help without.

Amy Anderson:             19:34                Sure. Um. Oh. And what I was just going to say in that is that these creative ideas, you know, the tail can’t wag the dog. Most senior pastors don’t like when we wedge things into their messages. And so this time piece is giving them some options that they can agree to. So we had a marriage series one. No, it wasn’t marriage. It was called the elephant in the room series and one of the pastors was doing the elephant in the living together room and we actually borrowed this idea, but the teacher loved the concept that we brought up to him and it was probably eight to 10 weeks in advance, but we were able to put together a moment. So when the message started, uh, the pastor was on the platform and a Tuxedo, he had a bride and a gown there and he had a groom and some, um, attendance.

Speaker 3:                    20:19                And so we thought the way he set it up that we were going to have a wedding that day. And so he’s announcing this and then the bride interrupts and said, actually, we just want to live together. And he’s like, oh, that’s a totally different ceremony. Let’s roll video. And so then it goes to video of the past are sitting in bed with a guy and the guy sitting in bed, uh, yeah, they were sitting in bed together, all three of them. And he led them through a series of vows that were appropriate for the living together room. My point in saying that is we were, you know, the congregation was surprised that weekend and there’s no way we could have pulled together a moment like that in two or three days. So by planning ahead, by freeing up some creative resources, I’m not trying to do it every weekend, but to collectively come up with a group of ideas around a message we were able to pull it off.

Amy Anderson:             21:10                So, um, hey, by the way, one more thing, and this is especially important for the big weekends at Church. When I think about creative process, when you think about weekends, like Christmas, I think a lot of churches spend a lot of energy on Christmas concerts a year right around Christmas, Christmas, uh, uh, plays, fake snow, all that kind of stuff. And you know, I would say on those weekends especially, you’ve got one hour to make a difference in the lives, to surprise them, to do something remarkable. And I think right now we’re only 14 weeks away from Christmas. I hope church leaders are starting to go, how can we do something remarkable 14 weeks from now?

Tony Morgan:               21:53                So you’re telling me I need to be thinking about Christmas 14 weeks from now. I mean, I think that’s, that’s one indication that I should never be a creative arts pastor.

Amy Anderson:             22:04                No, it’s a grind. Yeah. So start thinking about Christmas are good listeners. I don’t even know if it’s 14 weeks by the time they hear this reporting. And I guess I got to go shopping now. So let’s wrap this up. Tony, why don’t you summarize kind of the key points from this pod guest?

Tony Morgan:               22:22                Yeah. So what did we title this we taught and we titled this why your worship leaders shouldn’t lead the creative team. And by that what we meant was this, you need to find a leader, find someone with that special leadership gift to oversee this area. Uh, secondly, don’t call that layer the worship arts pastor. That was my personal pet peeve that I inserted a. You encouraged us. Don’t stop or to stop theming the music to the message and start finding ideas that can surprise people maybe every six to eight weeks or so. So that you can add that remarkable element that hopefully makes your service experiences less predictable, and I think I heard you say, I have to start thinking about making Christmas great today so that we have an opportunity to create an experience that will be remarkable and compelling for the person outside the church and outside the faith that may be visiting us over the Christmas holiday.

Amy Anderson:             23:27                Hey, that doesn’t sound too hard. It’s just five things

Tony Morgan:               23:30                that doesn’t sound hard except for that Christmas part. And of course if we find the right leader to oversee this area of our ministry,

Amy Anderson:             23:41                that’s probably the most important starting point. All right, thanks Tony. And to

Amy Anderson:             23:46                our listeners, just a quick reminder that we’re accepting new participants in the leading and unstuck church course through the end of November. You can get details and enroll by going to the unstuck group.com/course, and we hope to see you there and start getting to know you and helping you along your journey more personally. And thank you for listening. Merry Christmas. And as always, you can learn more about the unstuck group at theunstuckgroup.com.



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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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