In case you’ve never actually met me or read this blog before, I play bass. Bass is the four-stringed (usually) guitar-looking thing usually in the back of the stage. It is not the one played by the guy with his leg on the monitor, holding his guitar in the air whilst tapping the fretboard and waggling his tongue in time. At least, not usually…and never when I’m playing it.
When I think of my role in music, the first thought that comes into my head is rarely, “Bassist.” It is simply something I am. When I think of my role in music, I think of “organizer,” “producer,” and most recently, “Worship guy.” It is the last one which gives people the most pause; well, church people. Another tidbit for people who have never actually met me: I’m told I have a unique voice. When I tell people I’m a worship leader, they say, “I’d love to hear you sing.” I inform them that they would probably not love it, since there are amputees that can hold hands better than I can hold a note.
“So, how are you the worship leader?”
I think it is an interesting state of affairs that singer has become synonymous with leader. This implies that singing is the most important part of leadership in the band context. I can tell you from both the church band and secular band perspective that this is not the case. There is all kinds of organization, people management, logistical planning, song arrangement, and vision development that happens before a band even steps onto a stage, and none of those things require a skill at singing. It has been my experience that a lot of musicians lack a natural aptitude for the tactical pieces of being in a band. Most of them learn through trials…at least the ones I’ve worked with.
It’s not usually the things you see right in front of you that make the most difference.
I wonder if a lot of organizations hire people because they have a preconceived notion about what skills are required of an employee, particularly a leader. Organizations want someone to look and behave in a way that is familiar to them, and I’m not sure that is always a good thing. There are many people I have worked with in churches who I believe could be fantastic worship pastors, but they don’t sing so they are confined to a bass or a drum throne. I have worked with people who have an ability to cast a vision and create excitement that surpasses many of the lead pastors I have worked with but their lack of a particular type of education or lack of desire to preach has left them marginalized.
In the business world, I have had talks with people whose grasp of strategy is amazing, but their introverted tendencies that keep them from being the loudest person in the room also keep them in a cubicle instead of a corner office.
When we hire staff, are we asking the right questions and looking for the right things? Or are we weeding people out because they don’t fit a certain mold. Do we believe the mold is key or can people exist and succeed outside of it? At Exponential last week, while thinking about church planting, I was listening to people speak and I found myself inventorying what I found key to the speakers’ ability to lead. While they were all, or almost all, great speakers, that was not what made them leaders.
I feel like I was built from a different mold. I believe I am a leader, but if I am to be judged based on the way things come out of my mouth on stage, it is not likely you will see what makes me a leader.
My mold is one of a person that directs an entire band with swings of the neck of his bass. My mold doesn’t say, “No,” but asks “Why” then “How.” I gravitate toward strategy, innovation and efficiencies.
At Revolution, I may not sing, but if I am successful, my leadership is heard not just in the bass, but throughout the band and various other areas of the church.
As a note, I am also frequently (about once a month) asked by Guest Experience volunteers at Revolution if that particular Sunday was my first Sunday playing… This is a funny side effect of not singing. It puts me in a weird place of having to tell them no and probably informing them I am on staff without making them feel dumb. Fun times.