There are three words I have stayed away from when describing worship ministry, specifically traveling as a worship leader. It’s not that the words are bad, it’s just that not using them helps me keep the right mindset. I know these are widely used words and I also know there is nothing inherently wrong with them – but it has been one helpful way to keep my mind focused on the main goal of ministry.
Here are the three words I typically don’t use to describe what we are doing in worship ministry:
If I have to be somewhere to lead worship or provide music for a church, a conference or an evening event, I never call it a gig. Gig is a slang word used to describe a job a musician gets. It’s not a bad word, but for some reason, I have just never used it to describe an opportunity to lead worship. With the people I’m around, I try to make it known that this is more than a gig. I guess if I had to give a reason for omitting this word from my description of the ministry events I’m privileged to serve it in, it may be because of the focus. The word gig gives the impression that I “got the gig”. For the most part in worship ministry, we are given opportunities. Worship leading is more than a job, it’s a privileged honor to serve the greater church in one of her primary roles on earth – to magnify the name of Christ. When I’m talking about these opportunities, I say things like, “Do you want to come join me in playing for a worship service this weekend?” or “Harvest has a ministry event this weekend and I’d love to have you come play drums with us.” or “Can you be a part of the team to serve this weekend?” There are a million combinations of words to help put the focus on heart, service and ministry leadership.
For many of the same reasons, I don’t call worship services, worship concerts or ministry events “shows.” I understand the concept of the word and can see times when it’s a useful description. But omitting this word keeps me focused on the idea that I am part of the church as a worship leader. Harvest is invited to serve at events all year. We have served in countless churches, camps, conferences, music festivals, youth events, and other settings. We are typically leading worship for events 90-110 days per year. But we never call them shows. We call them ministry events, worship services or opportunities. Our role is one of humble service. We’re not there to be the center, but to serve the church in work of helping others lift up the name of Christ. And “show” just doesn’t seem to adequately describe the role. Instead, I say, “we start leading in 5 minutes” or “the service begins at 7:00 pm that night” or “we’re serving two times – one on Friday night and one on Saturday morning.” For online calendars, we use the words “ministry events” or “upcoming ministry schedule”. A few years back, in the world of MySpace (what’s that?), I never liked their calendar feature because the only option was the word “show” for ministry events. Worship is worship, not a show.
As a college student back in 1991, I recorded my first album – on cassette tape! The next summer, I loved having those available at camps and churches. After paying the recording bill, I was able to use proceeds to cover other expenses. I don’t know how many of those tapes I sold, but it was a starting point to Harvest recording another 15 or so projects over the years. All along we have sold these CD’s to help cover ministry expenses and provide memories and music for students and leaders. Additionally, I have always loved to print t-shirts. I believe event t-shirts provide community, connections and concrete memories to a moment in student’s faith journey. Since before Harvest began, I sold t-shirts along with music to help people. However, even though we have set up our resource table in many “merch tents”, we have never referred to the items as “merch”. Merch is short for merchandise which basically just means the sale of product. But, I have always believed ministry resources to be more than a “product”. They are a starting point. The Harvest table is one of connection, relationships and conversation. It’s a meeting point for us. It’s the common ground. Proceeds from the Harvest Resource Table helps keep Harvest moving forward in the mission and I praise the Lord his provision in that way. But CD’s, shirts, jewelry, books and whatever else is more about helping people remember, grow and connect. So, we have steered clear of “merch” and replaced it with, “see us at our table” or “we’ll be back at the Harvest Table afterwards” or “we’d love to connect, meet us in back” or “who can help set up the sales area?” or any combination of those words. A slight nuance I know, but it helps us keep focused on the ministry of serving and relationships more than product.
Words help shape the organization. Language is the chief tool for building a culture. And for our little niche, we steer clear of these three words. Are you a worship leader? How do you deal with these things?