Let Artists Loose Through Limitations

October 21, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

One of the myths about artists is that they thrive, find meaning and create their best work when they’re allowed to run free without any guardrails, any limitations or any restrictions on the how or what.

Artists are sometimes perceived as stubborn or hard-headed when it comes to executing their vision for a creative project instead of working within the limitations or guardrails given to them by the ones who are leading the project or responsible for the outcome.


Whether this behaviour is real or not, the perception that artists behave this way is one reason artists are often not invited to the table when it comes to project planning, brainstorming or even implementation. The assumption that artists will have a “don’t box me in!” attitude means they lose the opportunity – not only to be involved in the creative process of doing great work but they also miss the chance to be invited in on the discussion.

Now just because there’s an assumption out there about artists, this doesn’t mean the stereotype is true but both leaders and the artists they lead need to understand that working within limitations or guardrails will actually help artists create their best work.

Think of it this way. The work we are doing as a church is a highway. We’re headed in a specific direction and leaders should have a clear destination in mind. Artists want to be part of the journey but you can’t drive the car on whatever side of the road you want, you can’t go off-roading, you can’t just stop in the fast lane. You’ve got guardrails to keep you headed in the right direction and to give you limitations on where you can go.

These guardrails can exist within creative leadership to give you better creative work, help artists thrive and ultimately help move the mission and vision of your church forward.

Remember, everyone works within limitations. Within the church we all have someone we report to – artists might be serving under a worship pastor, that worship pastor could be serving under a lead pastor or executive pastor, that senior leader could be responsible to a board of elders and ultimately those elders are responsible to Jesus. As Nobel prize winner Bob Dylan sings, you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Even Jesus, fully God and fully human served the Father and worked within the limitations of his full humanity:

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
John 6:37-38


“For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
Luke 22:27


In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8

The example here from Jesus and the Father is submission – God the Father anoints and sends out God the Son to do the work of the Father through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus submits himself to the work of the Father and serves the mission set before him through submission, obedience, humility and sacrifice.

Quite the example for both artists and the ones who lead them!

The truth is that the best creative work is always done within the context of limitations. Those could be financial limitations, time limitations, material limitations or more creative limitations like media, colour palette, physical size for a physical art project or length of time for creative work like music or video.

Clarity with limitations, ironically, is what allows artists to truly thrive because artists are by nature creative and by definition creativity is what is needed to come up with a new solution within a set of limitations. Artists have been coming up with creative solutions their whole lives! So leaders, invite them into your conversations and let them know clearly the limitations and see them thrive.

Now, of course, artists who are only ever asked to participate in creative work with rigid limitations and no room for colouring outside the lines will not stay engaged and interested for very long in the work you are asking them to do. The creative leadership moment comes when you are able to invite and engage artists in a range of projects which have sets of guardrails which are more or less narrow.

Here’s an example from my context. We have some amazing visual artists in our church and here are two projects we invited them to be a part of:

Project #1
Take this 12″x16″ canvas, these acrylic paints in these metallic colours and paint a visual representation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual. The paint should keep colours separate and not blend or overlap too match to show the distinctive relationship between the Spirit and the person.

Project #2
Using Hebrews 11:1 as an inspiration, create something that can hang in a space in our lobby which is 3′ wide, 10′ tall. The final product, colours used and how it portrays the meaning of this verse is up to you as the artist.

Those are two examples of projects with very different guardrails. The guardrails on the first are very narrow – we are asking the artist to create something specific of a specific size, specific medium, specific colours and specific style. The guardrails on the second are very broad – we are clear on inspiration but the final representation is up the individual artist.

The truth is that neither project is more or less creative than the other. Neither project is more or less honouring to the individual artist. Neither project is more or less valuable for the sake of the kingdom, the mission of Jesus or the work of our church.

Leaders, you have a responsibility and an opportunity to invite artists to the table while clearly setting out expectations, limitations and guardrails for your artists. Watch them thrive!

Artists, you have a responsibility to see your art as a way to serve Jesus, your leaders and your church. Honour the limitations and guardrails and do your best work within them. Let your art and your obedience point people to Jesus!

Hillsong Online Open Week – Calendar Feed

September 5, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

Hillsong Online Open week starts tonight – http://hillsong.com/oow/


There are some great sessions for a ton of different areas of ministry but it can be confusing to figure out the schedule because the sessions are originating from all over the world. Many cities, many time zones, too much for my brain to figure out.


My brain trying to figure out multiple global time zones

So I took all of the event info and put it in a Google Calendar with all the sessions adjusted to eastern time. Here’s the iCal feed for that Google Calendar:


Hopefully it works and you’re able to catch a couple of these sessions.

All Sons & Daughters – Poets and Saints free download

September 2, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

All Sons & Daughters are back with their new album Poets and Saints and thanks to our friends at Integrity Music and David C Cook I’ve got a free download available for you this week. Completely free, no strings attached – an mp3 and chord chart of “Creation Sings” by All Sons & Daughters from their Poets and Saints album.

Download “Creation Sings” mp3 and chord chart
from All Sons & Daughters here

Find out more about All Sons & Daughter’s new album Poets and Saints here:




Worship Team Bible Study

August 26, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

Pastors – I know you want your worship leaders and worship teams to spend more time in Bible study. Worship leaders – I know you have a hard time finding resources for worship team Bible study. We all know worship team Bible study is vital to our ministry but it can be one of those things which become low priority over time.

I get it.

So I’ve created a new worship team Bible study resource called 52 Sundays. Here’s the concept:

Sign up for free and get a weekly worship team Bible study delivered straight to your inbox every Monday morning for a year. That’s it.

Every week you’ll receive an email devotional direct to your inbox – a passage of scripture, a short reflection around worship, a couple of response questions you can ask your team and then a closing prayer.

The idea with this is to make it work for you. Use it just how I’ve written it or make some adjustments based on what’s best for your team. I’ve designed these so you can go through it with your team in about 10-15 minutes as part of your rehearsal as you prepare to lead your church in worship.

You can also sign up at www.worshipteambiblestudy.com which is a site dedicated to this new worship team Bible study resource.

worship team bible study

This is a total new idea for me and something I really believe people are going to find valuable. Would you share this with pastors and worship leaders who may also be interested in receiving it? That would be amazing!

Worship Leader Prayers

August 12, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

One of the spiritual responsibilities of the worship leader is to invest time and passion into relentless prayer for the work of God in your church and your community. These worship leader prayers are the opportunity to go ahead of your team, your pastor, your congregation and plead with the God of the universe that He would do the things He promises to do. What an incredible privilege!

Worship leader prayers are an expression of our praying without ceasing. There is an inexhaustible list of what we could pray for but let me give you a few worship leader prayers you could be praying daily or weekly, relentlessly as you prepare to lead your church in worship.

Prayers for a Worship Leader blog

Pray for God’s glory

“May all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,
when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the LORD,
for the glory of the LORD is great.”
Psalm 138:4-5

Pray for Jesus to be exalted over all

“Therefore God exalted Jesus to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

Pray for your pastor

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
Hebrews 13:7

Pray for people to meet Jesus

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”
Colossians 1:28-29

3 Principles for Leading Artists Effectively

June 20, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

Over the last 20 years as a worship leader I’ve had the opportunity to lead and serve alongside some incredible artists. I’ve played music beside some of (I’m convinced!) the most talented people God has ever created. I’ve seen painters, video producers, photographers, singers, poets and graphic artists put their amazing artistic talent on display in a way that led to some jaw-dropping moments – for the glory of Jesus and for the sake of his kingdom.

I’ve also come across artists and leaders-of-artists who have squandered their opportunity, squashed inspiration and frustrated creativity – stop me if you’ve heard this before!

So whether you’re an artist in the church or one who leads artists in the church I do believe there are some principles we can agree on which can result in powerful, Jesus-exalting, God-honouring works of art which are created in an environment of Christian discipleship, healthy boundaries and visionary leadership.

3 Principles for Leading Artists Effectively

And like most things you’ll read on leadership, please don’t consider me a faultless expert on this. There’s no way I get this right all the time but think of these principles as the lighthouses by which we’re being guided. These are the principles I’m trying to put in place for the dozens of talented, trail-blazing, Jesus-loving artists I’m leading in my current role.

So with the hope that these principles may lead you to your own lighthouses, let me offer to you three principles for leading artists effectively:


The Principle of Priority

Artists will produce their best work when they feel their work and creativity is a priority for you, your event or your organization. When art is treated as more than decoration artists will respond with creativity and passion.

Conversely, artists must understand that their own creative work and artistic freedom are not the first priority of the leader, the event or the organization. We all serve somebody and artists and leaders are called to serve one another as a demonstration of submission to Jesus.

The Principle of Purpose

Leaders who can include artists in conversation around purpose will find the emotional, relational and artistic results will far outweigh what would come as a result from artists being given a simple work order or a request for delivery.

Again, artists who serve leaders in achieving the purpose and vision they are working toward will gain the trust and assurance from leaders which will result in more opportunity and more freedom in the future.

The Principle of Pressure

Artists perform well with a deadline but they don’t perform well under pressure. Leaders who can give artists a long runway (especially for prioritized, purposeful projects!) with multiple stages and deadlines will get the most creative work from artists every time. Leaders need to learn how to manage the pressure they’re putting on artists so that the end result is great art and a great relationship.

Artists who can learn to identify the difference processing and procrastination will understand that their best work happens through refinement and iteration. Our first draft is rarely our best and so we need to break artistic projects into multiple stages where we can give time for our best work to develop.

At the end of the day the heart of the issue is respect for and from artists and leaders. As we serve each other we demonstrate first our submission to Jesus and we show the world that the gospel really, truly is good news for every person.

4 Great “Looks” for Monday Morning

April 10, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

I’ve never been accused of caring too much for fashion and I promise you won’t find me browsing the mall on a Saturday afternoon. (Seriously – can someone figure out how to help old dudes get decent clothes so they don’t look stupid?? That’s all we want.)

4 looks blog

Although worship leaders are sometimes guilty of caring too much about their look I want to share with you four “looks” to help with your perspective on a Monday morning. Regardless of what your weekend was like and how things went with your church on Sunday, these are four really helpful looks to have on Monday morning.

Look Up

Because who we are and what we do flow out of who God is and what He has done we need to begin our week with our eyes lifted up to be reminded of the grace, mercy and love of God. God’s love for you doesn’t depend on how you do your work and it’s in fact the complete opposite. Because of the work of God in our lives we can now do the most effective work.

Psalm 121:1-2
I lift up my eyes to the hills.

    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

At the start of your week, look up and be reminded that everything we are and everything we do flows out of what God has done for us and how He helps us accomplish the things He’s called us to.

Look Down

Where are you right now? What is it God has called you to do today? Where are you planted and how can you thrive in the place where He’s put you? At the start of the week get an honest reminder of the situation you’re in and the role you play.

Psalm 1:3
He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

Are you able to recognize what is unique about the place and the season you are in right now? Are you aware of how God is using you – you! – to be part of seeing His kingdom come? Look down and be reminded where you are and what you are called to do.

Look Back

If Monday if your first day back at work (some of you will have Monday off and Tuesday is the start of your week) take some time to look back on what happened at your church this weekend. How did it go? Was Jesus the focus of your worship service? Did people sing to celebrate who Jesus is and what He has done?

One of my favourite encouragements when it comes to debriefing and getting better is that there are two ways to get 100% improvement – you can make a few big changes or you can make many small changes. My perspective is that if we can consistently make 2% improvements over the course of a year we’ll be 100% better one year from now without really having had to make big changes.

As you look back are there some aspects to your services that could benefit from a small 2% improvement?

Look Forward

The best and worst part of a worship leader’s job is that Sunday is always coming. Whether Sunday was great or not so much you’ve always got another opportunity this coming Sunday as your church gathers together to celebrate Jesus. Monday is a great time to look forward to what will be happening in your church this weekend to be praying and dreaming about what God will do when you gather again.

Take a change to and look forward beyond Sunday. What’s the next big event on the calendar? What’s coming up that might need some extra attention? Even in April are there some things you can be dreaming about for Christmas or maybe even next Easter? Never let a moment of inspiration go wasted simply because you didn’t take the opportunity to look forward.

What else? What are you looking at as you start another week? I’d love for you to share this post on social and add to the conversation!

Best Apps for Worship Leaders – Updated for 2016!

April 8, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

Back in 2014 I did a huge post where I gathered up all of my favourite best apps for worship leaders on iPhone and iPad and shared them to help worship leaders do their job better. I even put it all together as a free downloadable ebook which people have definitely used!

It’s hard to imagine what we’re able to do with these small devices in the palm of our hand but at the same time there are so many apps out there how do you even begin to find the best ones??

best apps for worship leaders

A couple years later the app landscape has changed – more apps, more powerful devices, more ways for technology to help us do our jobs better so I thought I’d go back and update the whole list. I’ve compiled my new Best Apps for Worship Leaders: 2016 Edition with updates, additions and some removals of apps that either aren’t available or have been surpassed by other, better apps.

Once again I’m making this available totally free a downloadable ebook. It’s available below through the signup box and will arrive right away in your inbox:

Three Under-Appreciated Leadership Strategies

March 16, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

If the internet has given us anything it’s cats*, pirated movies and leadership principles. (If I had to choose, cats would get my vote!) You don’t have to look far to find an abundance of advice, instruction and experience when it comes to leadership. And this is a great thing!

Leaders are vital to organizations, to families, to government and yes, to the church. Leadership is a blessing to the people who are looking to be led but it can sometimes be a curse to the one who is called to lead. Anything that can help us be better at leadership is a good thing!

Three under-appreciated leadership strategies-2

And yet sometimes there are some simple things which can be overlooked and under appreciated when it comes to leadership. Simple strategies which can have massive benefit to you and to the people you are leading.

So, humbly, let me add to the overabundance of leadership advice found on the internet by sharing three under-appreciated leadership strategies:

1. Sleep

You are not a robot. Sorry to burst your bubble. There is no substitute for sleep and this is the best remedy for a troubled mind, a confusing decision and a weary spirit. Many leaders (including me) think they can run on their 20-something sleep patterns into their 30’s but that’s just not true.

Can’t find time to sleep in? Love to get up early? Sleep in on the front side. Go to bed early. Shut off your stuff, put down the coffee, turn out the lights and just go to sleep. You’ll be a better leader in the morning.

2. Patience

There are no get rich quick, instant success, magic lamp wishes when it comes to leadership and seeing vision happen. The dream you are seeing in your mind and the people you are called to lead and the impact you long for in your heart will not be accomplished overnight. It won’t be accomplished in several overnights.

If you are dreaming dreams that are worth dreaming you must be patient and realize that by saying yes to leadership you are committing to years or decades of patiently putting one foot in front of the other and inviting others to come along with you.

3. Curiosity

You don’t have it all figured out. You haven’t learned all there is to know about the things you know. You are never the final authority in your area of expertise. You’re never finished.

You might be great at what you do. You might be very respected. You might have all the answers and be able to get people to ask all the right questions. And yet everything is changing. Always.

The world around you is constantly evolving and shifting and being renewed and so you should be as well. Never lose your curiosity and always be looking for inspiration, even in places where you would not expect it to be found.

Sleep, patience and curiosity. Three under-appreciated leadership strategies that can be implemented by anyone regardless of age, experience or position.



How to Prepare Yourself, Your Team & Your Congregation for Worship

March 11, 2016 | Get free updates of new posts here

Worship leaders have lots of responsibilities when it comes to their church’s worship services but something that can’t be neglected beyond choosing songs and finding communion servers and importing slides to ProPresenter is the importance of preparation. Preparation is one of the ways that leaders lead – literally getting out in front of others – and it’s how we are able to handle the unexpected events which may happen between now and Sunday.

Prepare yourself,your team &your congregationfor worship

Preparation is more than spending time in rehearsal or going over notes. Preparation as a worship leader communicates importance of the role you are in, communicates value to your team for their contribution and communicates priority to your congregation who will be gathering to worship.

As I’ve thought about how I do this and help others do it, here are some things I’ve learned when it comes to preparing yourself, preparing your team and preparing your congregation for worship.


Prepare yourself

Don’t neglect personal spiritual devotion. For the sake of your soul, for the sake of your family, for the sake of your church and for the sake of the gospel. Personal spiritual devotion is about so much more than reading scripture to find themes for your songs on Sunday. Worship is so much more than rehearsing for your services.

“Ministry to the Lord” is one of the beautiful opportunities we have as followers of Jesus but also as levitical leaders within his church. Take the opportunity!

Spend time through the week hearing the voice of God as He speaks to you through His word. Spend time expressing your heart to the Lord through worship as you sing to Him. Minister to the Lord and don’t neglect your own spiritual devotion.

The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the Lord that King David had made for giving thanks to the Lord—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.

2 Chronicles 7:6

One other way to prepare yourself for worship is to love people before you lead them. Spend time in the pews and in the lobby before your service starts. Get out of the green room and shake some hands. Say good morning to some people. Hold a door for someone. Help a parent find your kids checkin spot. Ask someone how their week was. Be engaged in relationship with the people you are about to lead and express your heart to them even in those few minutes before your service starts.

When it comes to personal preparation, here are some books that I would recommend should be in the library of every worship leader. I go back to all of these often:

Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin

Unceasing Worship by Harold Best

Worship by the Book by Mark AshtonR. Kent HughesTim Keller & D. A. Carson

Vertical Church by James MacDonald

True Worshipers by Bob Kauflin

Prepare your team

Unless you have a team full of paid musicians you are typically working with a worship team who have full time jobs, families, social responsibilities and just life events in general. Everyone’s got a ton going on. To help them prepare for worship one thing you need to do as a worship leader to communicate really clearly what you’re asking them to do. Simply providing them with songs, arrangements, audio files, chord charts and some communication around how you’d like these songs to be done in the worship service will be a huge work of preparation for your team.

From my personal experience and from what I know about working with worship leaders for the last 20 years is that this does not come naturally. Organization, detail and communication are not typically high in a worship leader gift set so you need to learn this behaviour and acknowledge that you won’t always get it right. But you can learn it and it’s one of the ways you can lead (get out in front!) as a leader.


Are you making changes to arrangements? Are you changing the feel from what is expected? Is there a repeated section or a transition you’d like them to do?

Invest time during your week to set up your team to succeed when you come for rehearsal or for your weekend worship services.

Here are some tools (both paid and free) you can use to help with communication for your team:

Planning Center Online


Google Drive

Prepare your congregation

Beyond praying for your church family and being faithful in your call to lead them in worship on Sundays here are a couple ways you can prepare your congregation for worship.

I see lots of debate online about posting set lists and whether people should do that and if you do it should it before Sunday or after Sunday and should you link to iTunes or should you… and on and on and on. I figure anything I can do to get my congregation engaged and excited for Sunday, anything that helps and equips and prepares them for worship, let’s do it!

Typically I will post a social media graphic of the songs we’re singing at our two locations and I try to do this before the weekend hits to give people the chance to check out the songs and get familiar if they’d like to. The only way to really track if this is effective is the weeks when I don’t do it – and that’s when I hear from people!

Usually I use one of two iPhone apps to post to instagram, twitter and facebook and then our social media people will repost those to our church accounts.

Here are the tools I use to do this and a couple examples of finished product:

Adobe Post


IMG_0749 IMG_0882 (1)


One final way to prepare your congregation is (ironically) the way you start your service. How much time do you invest in thinking about and planning the first thing you’re going to say when your service starts? Some of you are in a more liturgical setting where your call to worship is pre-prepared but many of you have the privilege to lead your congregation right from the very start of the service.

Invest 30 minutes this week thinking about your call to worship – the very first thing you’re going to say when the service begins! Whether it’s a couple of verses or a psalm or an encouragement to worship or something reflective, use some time this week so that on Sunday you can most effectively prepare your congregation to worship right as soon as the service begins!



What now?

Hopefully that’s helpful for you and I’m sure you’ve got a ton of your own ideas so I’d love to hear what you do to prepare yourself, your team or your congregation for worship. Hit me with an email chrisvacher@gmail.com or on social media (@chrisfromcanada twitter facebook instagram) and let’s help each other learn.

If you’re interested I’ve got a set of ebooks available free for worship leaders to help you do your job better. Sign up below to get them delivered straight to your inbox.