Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
Every leader realizes, hopefully sooner than later, that they are going to be replaced. In this episode, we talk about some of the practical ways we can intentionally train future congregational worship leaders. Thanks for joining us!
Referenced in this episode:
Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship – David Peterson
Humility: True Greatness – CJ Mahaney
True Worshipers: Seeking What Matters to God – Bob Kauflin
Worship Matters Video Intensive: https://sovereigngracemusic.org/training/wmvi
Have a question about this episode? Shoot us an email at email@example.com
David Zimmer: Welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast, I am David Zimmer.
Bob Kauflin: I’m Bob Kauflin.
DZ: And we’re very happy that you could be with us.
BK: Thank you for joining us.
DZ: Thank you for joining us. Bob, I want to talk today about the topic of raising up future leaders.
BK: Great, I love that topic.
DZ: Well, you have been doing this for years and years, so I thought it’d be appropriate.
BK: A few years.
DZ: I think a lot of people that listen to this podcast, I know a couple of them, have benefited so greatly from actually your personal leadership.
BK: I hope so.
DZ: Either through an intensive or through being at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, doing life with you through conferences, so I just think it’s a…
BK: Well you’ve done some yourself as well, recently.
DZ: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, when I got started out, when I was… Started playing in bands when I got saved, in junior high, high school.
BK: Wow. You just started mentoring people right then?
BK: Okay, good.
DZ: That would have been a terrible idea.
BK: It would have been.
DZ: Learned what not to do. No, when I got… When I was in the youth band after I got saved, I knew that my… The song leader at the time, our youth leader was more interested in me staying on the drums. Like, “Just do your role, and your part here.”
BK: “Here’s where your gift is.”
DZ: But it wasn’t until college ministry, the college ministry I was a part of in California, where our worship leader took a real interest in me and others to train me up to potentially even lead the songs. And so I just was so marked by that, that he just took an interest in, “Hey, let me get you up there.”
BK: Makes a difference.
DZ: Yeah, “Let me… I want to equip you and give you the tools to lead.” And so I just, I think this would be an encouraging topic for us to both talk about. But what is your process, and how you would train up future leaders? That’s the first part.
DZ: The second part is, how has that changed over the years?
BK: That’s good. Yeah, I think I’m not sure when I started thinking about this. Probably in the… Actually I do remember when I started thinking about this. It’s kinda sometime in the ’90s, so I’ve been… Almost 30 years ago. I just realized, I need to start, actually this was the late ’80s, I need to start doing something to replace myself, even though it was way long before I was really gonna do that.
BK: But I needed to give myself to focusing on people that aren’t doing this now, but maybe could do it later. So I remember doing a few things that, if I… I don’t know if it’s recorded or not, but if it was, it would be horrible, I’m sure.
BK: But then, I remember I was part of a big church in the DC area, and I tried to do something more systematic. So you can raise up leaders as they serve alongside you, which is one thing I’ll talk about, ’cause I’m doing a lot of that now. But this was, there were some teenage guys who I thought, “I want to serve them somehow.” So we, I think got together for maybe 10 or 12 Saturday mornings.
BK: And went through the book, Engaging With God, by David Peterson, which is a pretty tough read. I mean, it’s a… A lot of seminaries use it, and it’s not an easy read. But it was a book that God used to really change my perspective on what worship is and how we’re to talk about it and understand it. So I thought, “Man, let’s just put these guys in the deep end of the pool.” And they read it and I had them write a review of each chapter they read. They had to do a little summary of it.
BK: And the other thing I did was have one of them lead each time. And this is something that has probably become the most important part of my efforts to mentor leaders, and that is, they pick up a guitar, they lead two or three songs, and they include Bible or whatever, the Scriptures, they talk to us. But you see in that this little context, it’s like, I think we’ve maybe had like 10 guys in there, but I’ve done later ones and it’s four of us.
BK: You really get to see where a person is at, because all of the… If they’re doing anything that’s produced kind of or just big moves, it just doesn’t feel right in a room of four people. It’s just like, “Would you just stop that.”
DZ: It kind of takes them out of their typical context.
BK: It does.
DZ: If they are in a big church conference or whatever.
BK: Yeah. Or would want to be.
DZ: Yeah. That’s interesting.
BK: Yeah. So it’s just, it’s you, your instrument, your vocal and us. Which is, as I said before, it’s the same thing every church has, you… We have at that moment, the same thing every church has, which is the word of God, we have the gospel, we have the Spirit of God working through His people. That’s what we have.
BK: So that was years ago, and I think I maybe did that two or three times with different groups, and then I moved to Louisville in 2012. We get to work with a lot of students here, the Boyce College and Southern Seminary here. And so that’s really made me more aware of the necessity of doing this. So I’ve done different things.
BK: I would say when I’m thinking about training there are three things I’m thinking about, and it’s the same thing that I’d be thinking about when I lead a conference, put together conference, the WorshipGod Conference, three areas that they’re all equally important, it’s like three legs of a three-legged stool, it’s; theology, heart and skill. I want them to grow in all three. Once…
BK: There are some places you can go where it’s very theological and you get great training, great education, you get into the Scriptures, but in terms of how actually to apply it, not so much. Other places you go, where you get all the musical skills, technical skills, but in terms of why you’re doing this, not so much. And then in either of those situations a lot of times, no one is really speaking to the heart. I’m not saying there’s no places to do this, but it can be our tendency to focus on one or two of those three aspects. So I wanna focus on all three.
BK: The first should be the theology so we’re usually going through some kind of book I’ve used Engaging With God, used CJ’s book, Humility: True Greatness. Which actually was great, I think I’m trying to remember if I did that twice. It just speaks to the heart so clearly why we’re doing what we’re doing.
BK: And there’s a lot of temptations that you face when you’re in front of people every Sunday, or when you wanna be in front of people every Sunday, and so humility just really speaks to that and helps us adjust our expectations and how it helps us expose how we’re viewing ourselves. I’ve used some of my books, which is really awkward, True Worshipers, went through that with the group.
DZ: It’s a good book though, it’s really helpful.
BK: And then, I don’t know if I’ve ever done Worship Matters with a group or not, but of course I put together a video series to help others do that, so you could do that.
BK: So there’s the theology. That comes through in so many ways, it could be through the book we’re reading, it could be in the evaluation I’m talking about. Then the heart is, we get real about why we’re doing things, so if someone’s talking in a way that just sounds performance-y or like they’re putting on something, we’ll say that.
BK: Or if someone comes feeling insecure and then we’ll dig into that, we’ll say, “Well, what’s going on there?” If someone is always, yeah, just anything someone is doing repeatedly or kind of as a pattern we wanna dig behind that and say, “So what’s going on there? What’s happening, do you think?”
BK: Talk about why we even wanna lead songs, is to care for God’s people, care for those for whom Christ gave His life and He died and rose from the dead. That’s who we’re serving, so what does your heart feel about that? Is that where your heart is? It’s just, that’s the challenge, isn’t it?
BK: It’s like for whoever gets up and leads, the problems aren’t out there, the problems aren’t the congregation or my pastor, the problem is me, like, “What is my heart doing? What do I crave right now?” And it is really hard to be in a small context and leading and not feel a little bit of pressure to wanna do something really great, especially when it’s in a group, you’re in a group of six to 10 guys, whatever, and you’re thinking, “I want this to be really good.” So we address the heart.
BK: And then we address the skill, and the skill is just, it’s leadership, it’s communication, it’s how you play your instrument, it’s how you make segues, it’s turns, it’s your vocal, it’s all those things. I found that the best way to get at all three of those is to gather, we’ll maybe go through a chapter of a book, so maybe take 25 minutes for that.
BK: If you were doing the video intensive, Worship Matters video intensive, you could just watch that, those are all like between 20-30 minutes. This is not a pitch for that, but if someone wanted to do that, they could. Or you’re going through a book and you talk about it and just, “Hey.”
BK: I found it helpful to ask people to come with something that affected them or question they have. So we come, we talk about it once we pray at the start. And then somebody leads and they get to pick their songs, they pick the Scriptures, they get to do… They do it all.
BK: And so I tell them, “I really want this to be a time when we encounter the Lord. This isn’t just a workshop, we’re not just practicing. Jesus is just as glorious, just as worthy of praise when we’re doing this, as He is when we gather on Sunday mornings. So you tell us that, you show us that.”
BK: So they’ll lead and then we will give evaluation. And so if I’m in a group and I’m doing it for once a month I will usually do those evaluations first, and the first thing we do is encourage the person who led. I’ll just find anything to encourage them on, I’ll look for everything I can encourage them on. If the song progression was good, if the turns were good, the segues were good, if something they said was helpful.
BK: If they used two Scriptures, one was from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, “That was great that you didn’t just stay in one testament and you gave us the view of the whole Bible that has to do with what we’re doing.” Just anything, “should you use a capo, you should not use capo, the way you’re standing, did you sounds like you were reading, did you really know the melody to that song? “
BK: Nothing is too small, because what I’ll say to guys is, “Look, you gotta think of this, is this may not feel so bad right now but if you did this as a pattern repeatedly week after week, it’d be a problem.” So all the good things. And then I’ll say something like, you know, “Alright, we encountered the Lord as you led. It was great, and nothing else we’re gonna share is gonna affect that, but what are some ways you might have done things better?”
BK: So again, nothing’s too small. So it could be, “Well, you just kind of drifted off there. We didn’t really know that song, but you didn’t give us any cues. You gave us too many cues.” I know I’ve never been accused of that.
BK: This I’ll say it often to guys is, “You feel like you’re reading, and that just, you’re a personable person, and it just didn’t feel like that. Or maybe it didn’t really make sense what you said. Or maybe you’re trying to say too many things. Or were those songs really connected?”
BK: And then I’ll let the other guys say something and I’ll say, “You guys have anything to offer?” and over time, I’ll start with them and I’ll say, “Hey you, what was good about that? What was encouraging?” And I never let someone say, “Well, I like that. I really appreciate that.”
BK: So what? You gotta tell us why ’cause we’re not doing this just for you.
DZ: That’s really good.
BK: Yeah, so that’s the general gist, and that’ll take an hour and a half to do all that. I can do it shorter. But it’s not hard if you’re sitting and if you’re trying to get everything you can out of a certain group or a certain person leading, there’s a lot of stuff to talk about. So that’s…
DZ: Yeah, that’s so good. So when we’ve talked about this in a previous podcast of how to…
BK: I’m sure everybody’s listened to every podcast previously.
DZ: We’ve talked about this on a previous podcast, about how to give criticism in a way that’s gracious and humble, and you explained that, where we start with something that’s encouraging and then we can go to more evaluation. But to cultivate that culture, how do you do that in your church? Okay, so there’s a guy in a church and he’s getting a couple young leaders together to do something similar to what you’re talking about. I’m gonna take these guys through a book. I’m gonna do some leadership evaluation.
BK: That’s great.
DZ: I think that would be an awesome thing to do. But how do you cultivate that? Where, whether they’re young people or they’re people who have been in ministry for a long time, there’s just a sense that it’s not like, “Oh, this is just critical.” How do you do that?
BK: That is so good. It’s all rooted in the gospel, isn’t it? If we aren’t in a church where the gospel is proclaimed and applied, it’s gonna be harder. I’m grateful to be in a church where the gospel is proclaimed and applied, and we’re always seeking to apply it better and know it better, know Jesus better.
BK: But by that I mean, you know the cross says the worst thing possible about us, like the worst thing that could be said about us has already been said, because to pay for our sins alone, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to come take on flesh, live a perfect life, die as our substitute, rise from the dead so that we could be forgiven. I mean, it’s because of my sins that He had to do that. So could anybody say anything worse about that? Worse about us than that? No.
DZ: Yeah, yeah.
BK: So whatever criticism you have for me, I can take that, because you can’t say anything worse about me than what God has already said about me through the gospel, through the cross. Now that was out of His great love for me, so I’m not groveling in that. It’s, I’m loved by the One who knows me best. Loved in a way I cannot conceive. His love is beyond knowledge, Ephesians says. So it helps when people are rooted in that.
BK: But I’d say to them, I just, well, number two, you just have to model it, and I hope I’m a model of this. I wanna be a model of this. You can’t… We’re all learners. We’re all learners. No one’s doing this as the instrument or the channel of God’s word to people. We’re all learning.
DZ: Yes. Right, right, right.
BK: And that’s one thing that you see in people who’ve been doing something a long time. They know a ton, but they don’t act like they know a ton, and they might even invite questions from people or comments from people, and they’re not afraid to let someone else have the spotlight or let someone else say something smart, because God speaks through different people at different times. So you wanna model it and you wanna be open to people laughing at your mistakes.
BK: And seeking to do things better, that’s probably a sign that, a way to model it, is you’re not content just to say, “Well, you know, I’m doing it this way, and I’ve been doing this way for 10 years,” and no one can say anything about it. Now, in full disclosure, I mean, there are times when someone wants to change something that I’ve been doing for 30 years, and my immediate response inside is, “What?”
BK: “You’re kidding me. Do you know how long I’ve crafted that approach, you know?” But you know, David, it’s just like, we’re always learning, we’re always growing. The Lord, He’s gracious. He teaches us. So model it. The third thing I’d say is just be upfront with people about what you’re gonna, what they’re getting, and just say, “Guys… ”
BK: I have a group of interns on Thursday nights right now that I lead. And it’s like 10 to 12 college students, and I love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do. And so…
DZ: Guys and girls?
BK: Yes, that’s guys and girls. And they will, every week, I have a guy lead, and a girl, and they pick the songs and they’re servants. So they finish and then I will give my thoughts, and it’s starting to be that place where, “Okay, you all give your thoughts.” At different places, I’ll just take rabbit trails and say, “Well… ” This past week, someone said, “It felt like I wasn’t sure I could sing that,” ’cause it was about commitment to the Lord, and, “Is that really true about me?”
BK: I said, “Well, okay, let’s talk about that for a second. Are we lying to God when we sing? Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever feel… ” So what’s the place of that? We just had this discussion about that, and it wasn’t… The guys are… Positioning, the guys potentially have a worship pastor position, the girls, I want them to be equipped as well. They’re gonna be serving on teams, they’re gonna be contributing to the life of their church, and I want them to be aware of what’s happening.
BK: So it’s just a great context for explaining a lot of things, but all that to say, I’ve told them, “We’re gonna encourage you guys as you lead, but we’re also gonna talk about the things that could be better. And as people share, I might even talk about how we give counsel.” You don’t act like you’re the person who knows everything, you give it humbly, you say, “Well, it seems to me that it was like this.”
BK: Or maybe someone says, what I mentioned earlier, “Well, you know, I really liked it when you did this.” Well, why? Why did you like it? So it’s just helping them think about what we’re actually doing. So I think if you’re up front with people about, “Hey, we’re gonna be picky about all these small things. Don’t take it personal. It’s not personal. Do you wanna grow? Do you wanna grow?” I was just reading Proverbs this morning, “The wise man listens and adds to his learning.” “You’re already wise.” Yeah, okay, that’s why I wanna learn more.
BK: So yeah, I think it’s just, we’ll fail, we’ll make mistakes, we get proud, we’ll react, we get defensive and say, “Okay, I’m sorry, I was defensive about that.” But yeah, overall, over the long run, you just develop this culture, where people really want input, ’cause there’s no time when you’re leading when you think, “Doggone, I nailed it. Amazing. If the Holy Spirit didn’t show up at that, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. It’s amazing.”
BK: Yeah, there is just… There’s no time like that. We’re always dependent, we’re dependent on the Holy Spirit, to work, to move in people’s lives, to bring life, to bring conviction, to bring encouragement, all those things. So we’re just servants, we’re seeking to please the Lord, trying to be faithful, and what a freeing position to be in.
DZ: Yeah. Well, and it should encourage those who are listening, if you are in a church context where you are not trying to disciple your team or cultivate what we’re talking about, within your team, there could be opportunities missed. I remember that when I was leading worship, I was playing drums in the college ministry, and then I moved into a leading position, and there were people in that ministry on my team that were better than me at doing that.
DZ: And so, cultivating that, repeating that, is cultivating that for other people. And your guitar player might step up and go, “I kinda wanna learn how to do songs,” or your drummer could say, “I kinda wanna learn how to do this and lead better.” So it’s encouraging for anyone on your team to know this and for song leaders to be implementing this with their teams.
BK: Yeah, yeah. And you can invite people, make it a closed group, or you can open it up. Say, “Hey, anybody wants to come come on. You can do it.” And beyond that, on Sundays now, when I lead, I will have someone always lead a song, so there’ll be a guy on acoustic. I can’t do that with another piano player, but I will, with the guys playing acoustic, I’ll say, “Hey, do you wanna lead this? What song do you wanna lead?” Sometimes, I’ll ask them to lead a particular song. So that gives them more experience.
BK: I’ve talked to someone recently about, “We just don’t have as many opportunities, for guys to lead. Sunday morning, that’s it.” Well, you don’t wanna make your church the guinea pig, throw a person up there and say, “Well, I think they’ll be fine and… ” No, walk alongside them. So I’m able to do that leading, but then I give them the opportunity to really lead that song, and I will say, “You’re leading, you call out things, you tell us when the song is starting,” and that’s been great, ’cause I’ve seen guys grow out of that.
BK: And what I’ll do afterwards is, I’ll go talk to them and, typically, go talk to them and say, “Hey, this is really good. This, I’m not sure that quite work. What were you thinking there?” Just whatever I notice, whatever I thought. Again, not to pronounce the, “Well, you got a B plus on this,” it was more, “Hey, that was really good. Here’s something I would watch for later.”
BK: Some guys feel really stiff and I just say, “You feel like you’re… I feel like you’re trying to be something you’re not. I want you to be you, because I can’t give you any input, unless you’re you. If you’re trying to be something you think I want you to be, that’s really not gonna help. So just be yourself.”
DZ: Well, and it’s the encouragement and admonishment.
BK: It’s both. Well, I wouldn’t call it admonishment, but it’s just correction, it’s just course adjustment. Sometimes those are big things, sometimes, “You’re closing your eyes the entire time you led. I don’t think that’s really communicating to people that… ”
DZ: “We’re doing this together.”
BK: Yeah, “We’re doing this together. You’re a part of the congregation.” But it might be something really simple like, “Yeah, I thought you waited a little bit too long to start that song,” it’s just really small, and where they could say, “Yeah, I felt that a little bit too.” “Okay, great, we’re all on the same page.” But if they thought, “Oh no, I thought that was really great.” They might have a response, “Well, but you said this, and this was happening, and I thought like oh, okay, that’s great.”
BK: I just want us to be thinking about these things. So what we’re doing is intentional, and it has a purpose, and that purpose is always, to cultivate faith-filled singing in the people, so that they are beholding the glory of the Lord, as they sing. That’s what we wanna get to. So yeah, those are some of the things I’ve done along the way.
DZ: That’s wonderful. That’s so helpful. Thank you, Bob, so much.
BK: It has been my joy and I love doing these with you, and maybe we’ll do some more. What do you think?
DZ: That’s great.
BK: Okay. Well, thank you for joining us and we look forward to the next time.