*Editor’s Note: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches found themselves needing to livestream church services for weeks and months at a time. Entire church staffs worked hard to make this happen, but for many churches a tremendous weight of responsibility fell on the worship minister. I was able to recently catch up with four worship ministers and ask them what they learned during this season. The four worship ministers were Corey Scott of Springfield, MO; Dave Stovall of Franklin, TN; Luke McCoy of Marion, IA; and Shawn Frazier of Murfreesboro, TN. For Part 1 of this conversation, click here.
Q: What is one hard-won lesson you’ve learned in doing one of the most difficult ministry jobs a person could do during a pandemic: leading worship through livestream?
Corey: One of the things I’ve learned is that it’s OK to let tasks go undone. I’m a detail guy, a task-driven guy. It bugs me to no end if I can’t get something done for that day that I’ve had scheduled. I’ve learned to type “not this week” and put it on next week. You can only do so much. It’s OK. That was actually a hard lesson for me to learn.
Dave: It’s super freeing to know I’m not responsible to do it all. I can do some of it tomorrow. The lesson I learned is that I have to speak up when I know I’m going down the road to burnout. That ties into my task-oriented nature. I just want to do it all. But I have to pump the brakes. That’s a holy thing to do, to pause and rest.
Shawn: I want to be real when I’m talking to the church, but I also really like a script. So, before the pandemic, I tended to go either way. Now, I script it and I strip it down and practice it, and then I’m free to change it up and do it well.
Corey: A wise person said, “Preparation opens the door for improvisation.” You are prepared, you have a plan, but you’ve got some flexibility worked in.
Q: Can we worship God in our pj’s? For a lot of people, worship has become really informal—like eating waffles in our pj’s while watching the livestream on Sunday morning. What’s good and bad about worship becoming more informal?
Dave: From the perspective of the band, we’ve gotten less formal…Before going online, we were pretty formal as far as stuff we wanted to say. Very professional. But when we stripped that down to like two people on the stage, the barrier was gone. It was just you and the camera. So, I began using more humor. Everyone got more relaxed. It almost got to be more of a youth group feel, and that’s been good for our church. The church would love it when we would make a mistake. We’re all in this together.
I worshiped in my pj’s long before the pandemic. In my opinion, let’s just bring our real selves to God.
Shawn: One gain is that the informality might allow us to take off some pretense. Here at our church, we have Celebrate Recovery where it teaches people not to be fake, but to be honest through struggles. That honesty is something which we can gain through informality.
One thing we could lose, however, is getting ready that morning for something important.
Luke: Yeah, the word intentionality stands out. Worship throughout the Scriptures is so intentional. You don’t worship God on accident. We can talk about how we’re 24/7 worshipers. And there is something to be gained in that we learn to be worshipers in private, in our homes. We are on people’s TV’s and screens. Where they’re most comfortable, we are teaching them to worship.
But what can be lost is the intentionality of worship.
I will say though, that I’ll never forget the 11 weeks of doing communion with our family in the living room.
Corey: Using chips and salsa as communion—that was awesome.
I really wonder if maybe our lack of formality has not helped us truly wrestle with the majesty and grandeur of God. Sometimes worship leaders will say, “We just want you to be comfortable today.” But is that really the point? You will never feel unloved in the presence of God, but you will feel convicted. I wonder if in the informality of the living room, you can lose the conviction, the weightiness of God’s glory.
Shawn: A word I was thinking is reverence that is deserved by our almighty God.
Worship throughout the Scriptures is so intentional. You don’t worship God on accident.
Q: As a worship leader, what is a time when you have been surprised by God’s faithfulness in the midst of a tough 2020?
Shawn: On the first Sunday of shutdown, I praised God that we had the ability to immediately go online. We had already been working on getting Facebook live. God prepared us.
Luke: Our church entered the weeks of shutdown with an interim lead minister, and he became the lead guy in the middle. During that time, our staff leaned in, and we got tighter. God allowed us to navigate that season going in without the leadership we typically would have had at that time.
Corey: We didn’t lose volunteers for the most part. We’ve just been really blessed with the volunteers to make this happen. God has been faithful in our staff and volunteers. With streaming everything and moving into a new building, all the tech has gone over my head. The volunteers have been incredible.
Dave: I’ve been grateful for God’s ability to sustain me and give me the strength and clarity I need. From leading worship to doing virtual conferences, etc.—and not going crazy. It’s also been great the way He has kept our church together through the differing opinions.