A Look at Worship Ministry in the US West By Acts 29 US West February 28, 2020
Acts 29 - A diverse, global family of church-planting churches

If you lead worship at your church or even if you just lead a church with a worship ministry (and this likely describes ALL churches!), then we hope you’ll enjoy hearing from three worship directors/pastors serving at churches across the US West in different ministry contexts. Our desire is that you are encouraged in your own ministry, and possibly even glean some ideas you can apply in your context as a result of reading about their ministries.

In the below blog post, you’ll hear from three individuals working in worship ministry. Caleb Price (CP) is the Worship Director at The Commons LA in Los Angeles, CA. Michelle Fickle (MF) is the Worship Director at Crossview Community Church. Seth Morton (SM) is the Worship Pastor at Living Stones Church Elko.

How did you come to be in this position and how long have you been in your role?

CP: As a new piano player, I was mentored by the worship leader at my church during college. Upon graduating from college I moved home to Austin, TX and got connected to the Austin Stone Community Church. It was here that God grew my heart for vocational ministry, church planting, and gave me a call to serve the local church. I began a 3-year residency with the worship and production team. Upon finishing my residency I had an opportunity to move to Los Angeles to help plant a church on the west side of the city; I served on staff there for 2 years. I am passionate about the gospel being taken to the nations, and the nations have come to LA! During this time, I met Devin Deuell and he shared with me about a church he was dreaming of planting near UCLA, an area of the city where the nations could be reached. We see the transience of our city and specifically the UCLA area not as a negative but as an opportunity see the gospel carried to the ends of the earth. I have now been serving at The Commons LA for close to 3 years. I used to tell people that there was no way I would want to be a worship leader and yet here I am and I love my job and consider it a privilege to serve the church in this way.

MF: Since moving to the Tri-Cities area more than 10 years ago, I have been involved in all-city worship events that brought together worship leaders and team members from all over town to host worship nights, play at coffee shops, play sets at the fair, and learn from musicians outside of the 4 walls of individual churches. One of the friends I met along that journey was preparing to move to Texas and she asked if I would consider coming alongside her to learn more about leading a worship team and I ended up serving as the Interim Worship Leader for that church for a year and a half. Our family met Josh Pasma, the lead pastor at Crossview, shortly after he planted Crossview. Years later, he called me and asked if I knew of anyone in town that might be interested in leading the worship ministry at his church since his staff worship leader had to step down. My husband, Matt, and I felt a calling to Crossview so we commited to attending for a month and praying for God’s guidance. Obviously, we stayed; God is SO good! I have been serving as the worship director for a year and a half now.

SM: The lead pastor of our church started a Bible study and I joined him in leading it. It grew, and over time we launched as Acts 29 church plant. I was a drummer at the time, but one day, our lead pastor handed me a guitar and told me to learn chords. I did, and now that is my primary role at the church. I have had some awesome training and coaching over the years! I have been leading in this position for nine years now, four of which have been as a full-time staff member.

Who is your ministry mentor or someone you look up to in ministry?

CP: Chris Collins and Jimmy McNeal both supervised and discipled me during my time at Austin Stone Community Church. They cared about my heart, my maturity, and my love for Jesus and people more than my musical gifts or usefulness. We are still in relationship now 5 years after I moved away from Austin.

MF: Teddy Johnson is the worship director at Hope Church in Las Vegas. Our family served under him when we lived in Las Vegas and I learned so much from him.

SM: Our church is a part of the Living Stones family of churches across northern Nevada. There are about 32 elders all together and they are all men and mentors that I look up to. Over the years I have also had strong, impactful relationships with the men and women that lead worship at the other churches.

Tell us a bit about your ministry context.

CP: We are a small 2.5 year old church plant of about 85-100 people in a unique urban context. The Westwood and West LA neighborhoods of Los Angeles are diverse and heavily influenced by UCLA, a booming start-up industry, and tourism. West LA is home to a large international community, a very affluent community, as well as many lower-income families. The school where we gather on Sundays has nearly 80% of students on free lunch, many speaking English as a second language, and is surrounded by a large and isolated Latino community.

MF: Our town of Kennewick, WA is one of three cities making up the Tri-Cities area with a total population of just under 200,000. Crossview Community Church was planted about 12-13 years ago and our worship ministry has about 36 volunteers on the roster.

SM: I would describe Elko, NV as rural and bizarre. Our county has the largest gold mines in the world (Nevada Gold Mines). There is a lot of money to be made here and it continues to grow. In mining, the schedules are incredibly difficult. Most people that work at the mines can only attend church 1-2 times a month, and this obviously affects the worship ministry. I have 16 people on my team and all of them are volunteers.

What does a normal workday or week look like for you?

CP: There’s usually never a normal workweek, but my work consists primarily of leading, shepherding and organizing the worship and production team (audio, video, and band). I also design slides, social media images, and our website. I work with our strategic leadership team to help develop leaders and spur our community on towards mission. Lastly, and hopefully for not much longer (I am at 78%), I am finishing raising monthly financial support so I spend time each week meeting with people and communicating with partners.

MF: I work full-time outside of Crossview in the school system, and part-time at the church. My ‘office hours’ at church are every Wednesday and most Thursday afternoons/evenings and all morning on Sunday. Our staff meetings, worship leader meetings (I have 4 worship leaders who serve under me), and rehearsals are on Wednesdays and Thursdays are saved for me to work on band scheduling, song selection and the media side of things (song lyric slides, announcement slides, and sermon slides). Those duties sometimes carry over to other days, but I do my best to get them done on Thursdays so that Saturdays can truly be a day of rest.

SM: I the worship pastor and also oversee our member care and art/creative team. A workday varies from day-to-day depending on the season. Whether its preparing music for Sunday, rehearsals, working on new music, meeting with members of the church, helping our creative team prepare for a new series, meeting with staff, or working on personal growth, I stay pretty busy!

What is something exciting going on in your area of ministry right now?

CP: We are beginning to sing some of our worship songs in Spanish as a simple and tangible way we can better connect with the community around us (which is largely Spanish speaking). This also provides a time for God to remind us that his heart has and always has been for the nations to know and worship him. Also, as a church we’ve begun to see the Holy Spirit working in a powerful and beautiful way (as an example, we’ve seen people healed from chronic illness!). We’ve been pressing into the Scriptures, praying, and seeking wisdom from others as to what it looks like to be a Biblically faithful and expectant church that desires to see the Spirit move in power.

MF: We are gearing up for our first worship choir that will join us for Easter and I’m extremely excited about that! We are also in the planning process to hold a series of band and vocal workshops for our team. We will likely hold the first round with just our team but there are also plans in the works to partner with another church in town for future workshops.

SM: It has been awesome to see other people besides myself lead the church in worship. It is good and healthy for the church to see disciples who make disciples, and for them to see the weight of ministry being shared. We are the family of God and all have different gifts to bring!

Where would you like to see your ministry grow in the next 6 months to a year?

CP: I would love to see our worship and production ministry continue to grow in depth with one another. I think we have some very creative people and I would love to see our team continue to take steps towards writing some songs that are birthed out of the season we are in as a church community.

MF: Our worship team has grown closer together over the 1.5 years that I’ve been at Crossview and my desire is to see that continue. Many of our members serve elsewhere in the church on their off weeks which encourages me because it shows that they are serving out of a love for our church body and for Christ and not just to be seen on stage upfront. Musically, I would love to see every member grow in confidence on their instrument and for us to continue to tighten our sound, no matter which team members are on stage.

SM: Our goal this year is to grow in our knowledge of Jesus. As a worship team, we are working through a book together. Our desire isn’t just to show up and “crush” the music on Sunday, or to be the best musicians we can be. Looking more like Jesus is the goal, and growing in knowledge of him is best done in community.

How do you see your ministry/role assist in furthering the mission of your church?

CP: Worship (which is so much more than music but no less than) is the goal of our mission but it is also the fuel for our mission. I view worship music as portable theology. As we seek to sing songs that are right and true of our triune God, it will help shape our lives to love, worship and trust Jesus even more. I believe God has orchestrated worship music in such a way that it can remind and encourage us with the beautiful and powerful truths of the gospel.

MF: At Crossview, we strive to be “In the City, For the City” and something that has been very important to me over the past 10 years is that churches exist less like individual, competitive, territorial silos and more like family. As my team strives to be “In the City, For the City” we have had several opportunities to serve at retreats and worship nights that are held by other churches in our community. We have also had the pleasure of filling in for worship leaders who may not be available to serve their bodies from time to time. We strive to be the Body of Christ, supporting and encouraging one another regardless of our church building affiliation because the world is watching. I also feel like the fact that I am bi-vocational leads to some great conversations with my team about how difficult it can be to live and work in a world that is not always so friendly to people professing to be Christians.

SM: At Living Stones, we have 5 core values, one of which is Unity In Diversity. This is a value we want to grow in and aspire to. Over the last two years, we have incorporated singing in Spanish. Thirty percent of the Elko area’s population is Hispanic. If the great commission is to go and make disciples of all nations, this is one area where we can do that!

How does your role/ministry connect with the mission of church planting?

CP: Worship is the fuel for our mission so I believe that as a ministry we are seeking to create an environment that will help people engage with and worship the living God. I believe when we experience the joy, freedom, and love of God first hand, then making disciples and proclaiming the gospel will come naturally. It will be an overflow of the heart.

MF: I fully believe that God is using this time in our worship ministry to grow a spiritually strong and musically skillful team that will be able to support a church plant in the future. He has brought several very capable leaders into our worship family and I have been praying for them and providing opportunities for them to grow as leaders. Though it will be hard to let them go, God expects me to be a good steward of the gifts He’s blessed this ministry with and sometimes that means I will need to let them go and plant elsewhere.

SM: Our desire as a church is to create a robust, excellent worship experience in hopes to show the beauty of the Gospel through music. One of our core values as a church is “Churches Planting Churches.” As we are praying for a church planter to send, by God’s grace, we can create and teach gospel-centered worship as we look to send and plant.

What are some of your favorite “tools of the trade” that you use on a daily, weekly, and/or monthly basis?

CP: Canva has been one of my best friends over the last couple years. Canva is an online subscription software that allows you to easily create designs in the right format; it’s a simple person’s photoshop.

MF: (1) I am using YouVersion to guide me through a chronological reading through the Bible in a year. I’m already appreciating the chronological approach and am seeing God in Scripture and deepening my love for Him day by day. (2) The books Worship Matters and True Worshippers by Bob Kaufflin have offered sound advice and food for thought. Our worship leader team is working through True Worshippers together, giving us an opportunity to discuss why we do what we do in worship. (3) The Vance Pitman Leadership Podcast. Pastor Vance’s podcast comes out once a month and I look forward to a new lesson on leadership that I can use not only in my Worship Director role but in my full time job as an Instructional Coach as well. (4) I schedule the band out 2 months at a time. I have many team members who play multiple instruments or serve in different capacities, so I created a worship planning sheet that lets me pencil in the schedule and look at each month on one page so that I don’t overschedule anyone. Once the schedule is set I schedule everyone in Planning Center and celebrate when most people accept the invitations!

SM: Over the last two years, the worship ministry adopted clicks and tracks. This has helped our entire team in the area of excellence and preparation for Sunday worship. Also, with the mining schedules, the weeks where you can’t have a full band, clicks and tracks help fill space. Loop Community is the program that we use and it allows all team members to practice along to the click and tracks at home outside of rehearsals. Planning Center Online is a great tool that our team uses for scheduling and chord charts.

What practical tips would you give to someone setting up a role/ministry like yours at their church plant for the first time?

CP: Start slow. Build a steady, solid foundation and culture. Most people (including myself) want to get the big band as fast as possible. But often times in a small church plant, it’s difficult to maintain once you get the train moving. Be encouraged that with time, the bigger band, production, and team will come. Learn to enjoy the team and season God has entrusted you to serve. It’s far too easy to look towards the future and work so hard to build something that we miss the beauty in what God is doing in our lives and community. Seek to live in community, submit yourself to God through the scriptures, elders, and a biblical community.

MF: This might sound cliché but we all know it’s true… PRAY. When you are walking in God’s calling for your life, the enemy will do whatever he can to distract you from God’s mission, and prayer is our most powerful weapon against this. Ministry can be very lonely, especially if your church is new and your church body hasn’t grown much yet. Get together with other worship leaders in Christian churches in your area! This has gotten me through some tough times in ministry and has also been a place I can go for advice and resources in areas where I might be weak.

SM: Spend time on your craft, whatever it is. Become excellent at it. Encourage whoever is on your team to do the same. Don’t become discouraged if you can’t have a “full band” every week. Work with what God has given you, do it in excellence, and love people well!

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