Understanding Is Not Our Job

A question I get asked often, and one that I’ve asked myself, is “How do we as visual worship leaders help the congregation understand the visual media we use?”

The conclusion I’ve come to is this: getting the congregation to understand the visual elements we as visual worship leaders use during worship is not our job.

Art is by nature open to interpretation – each person is going to walk away with a slightly different understanding. The same is true of the message given by the pastor on a Sunday morning – each person, based on where they’re at in their journey, their past experiences, etc., is going to walk away with a slightly different understanding. And that’s okay!

I’m not sure we’re asking the right question when we ask “How do we help the congregation understand?” Perhaps a better question is “How do we help the congregation engage with visual media?” Although I think we have to be careful in defining what “engaged” looks like as it too looks slightly different for everyone. And while I contend that understanding isn’t our job, I think we do have a responsibility to invite people to engage with the visual media in worship…to create an environment where people feel free to worship with their eyes and through their eyes. I think without that we fail to lead…without the invitation to participate I think it can quickly become a show for ourselves. It is no different than the invitation a musical worship leader offers for people to join their voices in song.

So what exactly does that look like in a service? There are as many answer to that question as there are churches. But, based on my experience, here are a few things I’ve seen work:

  • A couple of sentences in a bulletin or program of some sort literally inviting people to engage with the visuals and helping them feel free to walk away with a meaning that is significant to them.
  • A similar message to the above but one that appears on the screen before the worship service.
  • I think the most powerful is an announcement from the “stage.” Whether that announcement comes from the pastor or the music worship leader, taking two minutes to invite people to engage visually in worship and conveying the freedom to find meaning in the visuals is extremely powerful.

Whatever it looks like in your environment, don’t worry so much about understanding…that’s something we can’t really control, but don’t forget the invitation.

Have you seen this done in your church’s worship environments? If so, how?

The “R” Word…Again

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’m going to talk about the “R” word again. Yes, I’m referring to relationships. It’s a risk I’m willing to take because I become more convinced with every passing day just how vital relationships are. For me they are both the foundation and the thread that connect all of the pieces of life together.

But, in spite of that, I fail to give them the respect and time they deserve. The reasons for that are too many to list, but most, if I’m honest, are really just terrible excuses. I talk a lot about being intentional and last week I decided it was time I be intentional with relationships as well. For me, this means putting relationships in my “to-do” list. I know this may sound terrible. But, we schedule everything else in our lives, why not time to be intentional about relationships? I think we also need to be intentional with the relationships we invest in, but more on that later.

I use Things as my task-management system and love it. So, I created a new “area of responsibility” called Relationships. I currently have six different communication tasks scheduled in there with six different people. I can set them up to repeat every week, once a month, or anywhere in between. Sad as it may be I can simply get so “busy” with the day to day pace of life that I forget to connect with the people I care about most.

My hope is that being intentional about relationships becomes so much a rhythm of my life that I no longer need to put it in my “to-do” list. But, until then, I need the reminders.

Do you have any tips to share on how to be more intentional about relationships?

Age is a Funny Thing

Here in America we live in a culture that gets offended when you ask about it…age. Personally, it’s the tone with which people ask the question that gets me. More often than not, when people first meet me they assume I’m younger than I am (and then they tell me that one day I’ll wish that was the case). Apparently I look young. I’m okay with that. What I’m not okay with is people looking down on me because of my age. I find this to be the case often in the church. Why that’s the case I haven’t yet been able to figure out. But, it’s not anything new either.

Yes, I am (by comparison) young. I have a lot to learn. Sometimes my passion needs to be reigned in a little bit. I am still at times naive. Sometimes I’m overeager. My passion and excitement can cause me to be judgmental. Bottom line: I make mistakes…a lot of them.

But, I’m also a loved and uniquely gifted child of God. And I respect the older generation. I respect their wisdom and knowledge. I admire their leadership. I can learn more from them than I’d ever imagine. And I crave mentors from among them.

Many churches today have become divided by age, by generation. And we are all to blame for that. In doing so I think we’re losing out on some extremely valuable relationships. We’re losing opportunities for cross generational mentoring and learning. Whether 15, 25, 35, 65 or anywhere in between, we’re all a piece of the puzzle. God has given us all unique gifts to be used for His kingdom. And the truth is that none of us can do it on our own. In fact, more often than not I think God can use us to accomplish the most for Him when we work together.

It’s a beautiful thing when we can forget about age and open ourselves up to relationships that can make a lasting impact on our lives and the Kingdom. It’s a lesson I’m learning…not using age as a defining fact in what relationships should or should not look like.



“Endless invention, endless experiment, brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
knowledge of speech but not of silence.”
– T.S. Eliot

Today, I’m heading to find silence and stillness at the beach on a breezy sunny summer day in Milwaukee.

Where are you finding it?

Photo Friday…Patience

Sometimes I like to search for an abstract concept or emotion and see what kind of images result. Patience has been on my mind (and defeating me) this week so I thought I’d go looking for some visual inspiration. Here’s what I found…



Patience is…

…waiting for the leaves to change


…watching the clock


…searching for answers


…waiting on a jet plane



Is “story” Just Another Passing Fad?

Relationships and the lessons I learn through them are by far my biggest takeaway from conferences. I love the opportunity to meet new people and reconnect with friends who live too far away.

But, if there was another thing I took away from Echo last week it was to be more intentional about telling good stories…especially in artistic ventures. And while that’s a takeaway I wholeheartedly agree with and one that I am passionate about, I’ll be honest , it wasn’t anything new to me. In fact, the idea of telling good stories, better stories, seems to be a growing theme in the circles of the American church I live in.

Now, I’m not proposing there is anything wrong with this. In fact I’ve made striving to tell and live good stories a part of my life…I even wrote a post about it. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s just another passing fad…wonder what will happen when we all get tired of telling better stories. What will be the next big idea?

But, then I’m reminded of Scripture. And, if Scripture is truly narrative, truly God’s Story, then maybe story is here to stay?