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Who’s Got Next? Empowerment and Leadership in Worship

The CCDA worship team had an epic weekend of rehearsal! We sang and played, ate well, and told stories from our worshipping communities. The time was filled with laughter and tears and usually ended with a team member saying “another heavy hitter” or “this song selection is ridiculous.” The CCDA worship team is not made up of random musicians that are “hired” for a “gig”––those invited to lead worship are practitioners. The people you will see up front are folks that are asking about the three R’s of Christian Community Development in worship. They are embodying reconciliation (practicing hospitality, solidarity, and mutuality), relocation (being incarnational and contextual), and redistribution (sharing power) in worship.

Empowerment: Tokenism is NOT an option

In the previous post I shared that true collaboration requires sharing power. It requires co-creation and co-decision-making. This releasing of power allows space for others who have gifts to offer. Team models that utilize high collaboration, inclusion, and shared leadership allow input from a variety of voices. Why does this matter? Because If we don’t share leadership, voices will continue to be marginalized. Tokenism is not an option, so let me break it down:

Planning was shared

  • Worship at CCDA is led by a core group of three people: the director, band director, and vocal director. We met to cast vision, choose the team, and ultimately select the final songs.
  • The entire team participated in song selection by contributing songs, explaining why they were good for the conference, and revising all suggestions together.
  • The team members that “gifted” each song led the rehearsal of that song.  We didn’t do it “just like the CD,” we contextualized it. We asked questions like, “How would my second generation Asian American community or immigrant Latino community lead this song?”

Pastoral leadership will be shared

  • There will be multiple leaders pastoring the sessions when we are together. The director (myself) will not be calling all the shots. We will trust the person assigned to lead us according to their sensitivity to the Spirit.
  • We will submit to one another as the baton is passed from one person to another. While not all of this can be easily seen, know it is happening.

Leaders who share power can model mutuality and reciprocity in prophetic ways. This sharing and redistribution of power models justice. It is not merely a multicolored group of musicians on the stage but a process in which people’s cultural gifts and narratives are brought to the table. Many of us have had the experience of being tokenized, and that is NOT going to happen at CCDA. No one is being asked to come “spice up” a song or randomly sing a chorus in Arabic. This is especially relevant for women, people of color, and even more for women of color who have worked in multiethnic places where the voices of power are white and male. Hearing “multicultural” anything scares us because it generally involves tokenism. As a team, we have worked together to hear one another’s stories, re-center those who have gone unheard for too long, and develop musical and pastoral worship that allow us to share in the diverse experiences of God’s people.

Why don’t leaders share?

I’m not gonna lie. Sharing is hard! Dying to your preferences is hard! Letting go is hard! Let’s be real for a second––it’s especially hard for leaders. Stolen from the fourth chapter of my book, here are some of the reasons rock stars––I mean, worship leaders––do not share their leadership:

  • Ego. We like being the center of attention. Let’s face it, we are artists who are motivated by the recognition of our unique artistic contribution. We are also performers. Hello?
  • Fear of failure. When we hand over power to others and it does not go well, it reflects on us because ultimately we are responsible.
  • Control. We like to know the outcome and who better to ensure that than ourselves.
  • Inefficiency. Projects that have multiple stakeholders always take more time. You are in a constant feedback loop about what songs, which leaders and how to arrange music.
  • Pride/Insecurity. What if I let them lead and people like them more?
  • Self-sufficiency. If we admit our need for one another, which leaders are often taught to hide, then we will have to share our glory.

The three days together preparing as a team were powerful. As we relinquished power to one another, we learned not only about worship, but about what our communities were living each and every day. We shared deeply about our context of ministry and how God was shaping our communities through our songs. Our prayer is that you will enjoy one another’s songs and stories as much as we have enjoyed one another. Please pray for this team of CCD practitioners leading worship:

workship-v2 Team Members

Sandra Maria Van Opstal, Director, Executive Pastor
LA. Williams, Band Director, Professional Musician
Angie Hong, Vocal Director, Worship Pastor
Andy Kim, Keys/Vocal, InterVarsity Multiethnic Ministries
John Eric Zayas, Vocal, Youth Pastor
Michael Chabo, Bass, Youth Pastor,
Jonathan Ulanday, Acoustic, Worship Pastor
Tanya Decuir, Worship Leader
Darin Nicholson, Drums, Professional Musician
Estaban “Junior” Guzman, Percussion, Professional Musician
Terrance Gadsden, DJ, Teacher

Sandra is the chair of the Leadership Development Committee on the CCDA Board. She has been developing diverse teams and culturally competent leaders for over two decades. If you want to reimagine worship that empowers all #subgroups in your congregation, check out Sandra’s newly released book The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World and visit her website thenextworship.com.

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