Service Programming / Worship Leader Relationship

Posted by Luke Perrie on April 7, 2014 Blog | | No comments

This week, I had the chance to sit down with a great friend, Josh McFadden. Josh and I used to work together at a large church in Florida, where he was the Media Director and I was the Worship Leader. In any large church, the Service Programming Director (SPD) and the Worship Leader (WL) often work hand-in-hand to plan weekly services. I asked Josh a few questions about this relationship.

When meeting on a weekly basis, what are some things that you wish the worship leader would give you that would help you do your job better when you plan?

Josh: In my opinion, Service Programming is the collaborative effort of a select few to plan the elements that make up the worship experience. The mission and desired outcome of the service should be understood by all participants. This makes it easy to know how to plan.    Many churches use a template to help keep everyone on track for the flow of the service.  One of the best things a worship leader can give me on a weekly basis is trust – trust that I do in fact have their best in interest in mind. Personal preferences can often get in the way of a creative, collaborative effort. Both the SPD and the Worship Leader often have to put those aside to come to the best decision.

What is the biggest misconception that worship leaders have about Service Programming Directors?

Josh: I think there’s a tricky balance to planning a worship experience, because emotions are involved on all sides.  As an SPD, I want the worship leader to have his whole heart and passion into what he or she is creating.  It’s the SPD’s job to “land the plane,” but when an idea is scrapped or bumped for a time, that focus can create the misperception that the SPD doesn’t care about the WL’s vision and passion. The SPD is tasked with protecting the integrity of the service and its goals with every decision, and they can do that while simultaneously having the WL’s best interest at heart.

Group Grey

On the topic of how much music should be in a service or gathering, what is your view on how to prioritize all of the different elements?

Josh: This question (and most of the others) points back to my original observation: that the team planning the service needs to be on the same page about the overall mission and vision of the service, and the clear definition of a “win.” When you start there, it’s much easier to determine how much of any one element should be in a service.  For instance, let’s say that your church’s senior staff has decided to make all services engaging to both unchurched and churched people, lasting roughly 65 minutes. In that case, you can start laying out the template for what a weekly service should look like. The decision regarding the actual amount of songs should be put through the same “mission and vision filter” as I already mentioned.

For us, we decided that we didn’t want the congregation to “have” to stand for more than about 12 minutes.  We surveyed guests and regular attendees and asked them what a comfortable amount of standing time was.   I can tell you this, timing is critical when it comes to decisions about the flow and template for the service. These decisions need to be made well before the service is planned and brought together for approval.  Four days before the service is no time for the teaching pastor and worship leader to be arguing about who is gonna cut something from “their” time slot.  Bottom line, it’s a team effort.

What is the one thing you see when you watch a worship leader lead that you wish he was watching with you… so he could improve?

Josh: Eyes and overall countenance.  Anybody can sing a song with proper pitch, tone and support, but it’s an entirely different thing to lead a group of people to come with you on the musical journey you’re taking.  For years as a WL, I would watch the video of each week’s service that I led. It was sort of a Monday personal evaluation.  This helped me to improve my stage presence. Sometimes I think we tend to downplay stage presence because it sounds really shallow and superficial, but it really is vital to making a connection and accomplishing your goal as a WL.

Do you have any great resource recommendations for worship leaders who want to understand and have an amazing working relationship with their SPD?

Josh: Patrick Lencioni has a great book called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”  This is a great resource to get your team communicating and working together.  I’d also look around at other churches and see what you like and don’t like.  Talk to their staffs and find out what works.  Personally, I think Twitter is the greatest leadership tool that has hit this generation.  You instantly have access to in-the-moment successes and failures from those who are hitting home runs in the area of creating healthy organizational cultures in and outside of the church. Some Twitter accounts that have been influential in my effectiveness are @AndyStanley@tonymorganlive and @ryanwfitzgerald.

In the times that you have worked well with a worship leader yourself, what was the catalyst for the productive relationship?

Josh: Communication.  The more the team talks and gets into each other’s lives, the more they will trust and understand one another.  That knowledge of the other’s story and journey will help to better understand how they arrive at an idea or why they’ll fight so hard to maintain a way of doing something.

3 things you wish every worship leader knew about Service Programming?

  1. Communication is key – develop trust
  2. The worship experience has a lot of moving parts – all are important
  3. Look outside “your” area of responsibility and adopt a team-first mentality


About Josh McFadden

JoshJosh has spent the last ten years leading worship and production/media teams at a large church in South Florida.  He also participates weekly as a member of a service programming team that works to create engaging worship experiences for three distinct worship services.  As a lifelong student of effective leadership and creative development, Josh utilizes social media, books and blogs to stay up to date on recent trends in church leadership and worship service development.  Josh and his wife Courtney have a son named Camden and will soon have a new baby girl, Addison.

Get In Touch with Josh

Got something to say?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *