A weekly blog of Ideas for Leading Creative Worship
What’s in Your Toolbox? - Part 3
This is the third of three Worship Outside the Box posts focussing on how to assess, acquire, nurture, and use your talents and skills when leading creative worship services, and to support other aspects of your ministry.
(In the photo, I'm in the blue shirt watching congregation members assemble a small flax mat in a service I lead around a theme of Weaving Us Together to Proclaim Life, the theme of the Methodist Conference held the previous year.)
So what do I do with my skills?
Preaching and leading worship draw on all the skills I have. As I do when publishing a book, I try to create services where the different elements - prayers, music, story time / children’s time and the sermon - all work together to form a coherent whole.
I draw on my 40 years’ experience of choral singing and repertoire to choose old and new hymns that will work for the service.
I draw on my theological reading when I’m writing sermons and share with the congregation new ways of understanding the Bible readings for the day.
I’m always a bit nervous when I start a service, but can draw on my Drama Christi experience, and history of leading other services to support me.
The books I publish and import, to sell by mail order, help ministers, worship leaders and church members in their ministries. I have focused, in the last couple of years, on publishing books of worship materials. I also sell the New Zealand Hymnbook Trust’s music books in print and as eBooks and their recordings as CDs and digital MP3 files.
Since October 2020 I have been posting details of our services on our congregation’s Facebook page. I design a banner image for the week, livestream the video of the service and post links to the audio recordings after the service. I do this to help publicise our congregation and our church, and for members who couldn’t get to church that Sunday to view at home.
Posters and programmes
I enjoy designing posters, fliers and programme booklets for Festival Singers and Drama Christi.
I have two fixed commitments each week. Unless I’m out of town or sick, at 9:30 every Sunday morning I’m at church helping to set up and run our services - 9:15 if I’m leading the service that day.
And at 7:00 every Monday night I’m at Festival Singers rehearsals in Newlands. These are serious commitments. I won’t even think about doing anything else on Sunday mornings or Monday nights.
I make this commitment to the church because I want to help our services run well. Problems with the sound or slides distract people from the preacher’s message and from engaging in the worship.
I don’t charge for the things I contribute to our church, Festival Singers (where I’m the secretary) or Drama Christi. For me, the services I lead, the posters, website work and admin I do for our choir, and the posters and programmes for Drama Christi, are about giving back for the gifts they have given me.
The church gives me a faith community to worship with. Festival Singers gives me the opportunity to learn and perform a wide range of beautiful music. Drama Christi helped me grow as a young adult, and I’m delighted that our son Alexander is now taking a leading role in the team that runs the group today.
Integrating life and work
I’m now 63. I’ve been reflecting for a couple of years, that the combination of the work I now do, and my involvement with the church and choir, gives me a satisfying life, filled with meaning and purpose. You could call it my “ministry.” I have found ways that I can serve others.
There are crossovers between the parts of my life. I introduce music I have learned with Festival Singers to the Singing Group, and then to the congregation if it is suitable.
I curate, lists of new and topical books for ministers and worship leaders, and tell them about the books in my email newsletters. I like to think that I am supporting their ministries.
As part of that research I find new books to read myself, which give me new ideas about god and the church, which I share with the congregation in my sermons.
A word of caution. Having found a good balance of stimulating work and creative activities that you can do effectively with the time and energy you have, you need the confidence and self-respect to say No, if people call on you to do things that would tip you over into being overcommitted. Being under pressure from time to time is fine. But don’t say yes to things that will lead to you being stressed and burnt out.
I have been asked 3 times in recent years to do administrative tasks for the Lower North Island Synod. I could have done the jobs but said no because I didn’t want to do them, and they would have taken time and energy away from the things that mean most to me.
I’ve also been asked, as a lay preacher, to lead services at other churches. One minister offered me a lot of money to lead their service and said I wouldn’t have to create a new service, I could just re-run one I had prepared earlier. I said no because my commitment is to serve my congregation, especially during 2021 when didn’t have our own minister.
What’s in YOUR tool box?
Other people I know personally are better at all the individual skills I have talked about in these three posts. But I’m the only person with my blend of skills, creative energy and experience.
If you have been reading these blog posts, and think, “I can’t do the things Philip can,” you are right, you can’t.
The question is “What’s in YOUR toolbox?”
What skills and talents do you have, or want to learn, that you can use to serve your congregation, the church and the community?
18 April 2023