Monday, March 17, 2014

Ambidextrous Worship Leaders

By Mike Harland
I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review that highlighted an attribute of highly effective companies called, “The Ambidextrous Organization.” Simply put, it is the ability of a company to organize itself to be able to approach their customers with multiple solutions at once – even if some of those solutions seem opposite of one another. In today’s highly specialized consumer mentality, companies that do this thrive. Those that cannot do this tend to struggle in the long term.
It seems to me that strong churches approach ministry this way. While never compromising the message, they find multiple ways to engage the people of their communities and sometimes those ways seem opposite of one another. And when you think about the music and worship of a church, this is especially true.
When I say ambidextrous worship, I’m talking about a lot more than blended worship. Blended worship is the idea of doing a little bit of everything – the traditional, the contemporary, the ancient modern, and the sacred – into a “casserole,” if you will, of worship. My fear is that, often, churches that try to do a little of all of it aren’t very good at any of it. And what you wind up with is a pretty average soup of mediocrity.
The ambidextrous worship ministry doesn’t try to blend the different styles. They do multiple styles well – and there’s a big difference in the two approaches. This takes great leadership and a very intentional pastoral focus to pull off well. But when it happens, it is truly wonderful. In these churches, the generations worship together and respect each other. They celebrate their different preferences in music style and even appreciate the greatness of all of it. The focus can be on worshipping Jesus instead of counting how many hymns versus choruses were in that day’s worship.
The problem today, though, is that it is increasingly difficult to find ambidextrous worship leaders. The ones that can nail the last batch of Passion songs might be scared to death to stand in front of a choir – and vice versa.
So, if there is value in leading an ambidextrous worship ministry, and I believe there is, what do we do?
It’s time for church musicians to care about sharing the Gospel with all generations – enough to develop their skills to be able to be ambidextrous in their approach. Many leaders don’t do a particular style – not because they don’t see the value in it – but because they don’t have the skill to lead it. It’s one thing to choose no choir because you don’t believe it works in your setting – it’s quite another to not do choir because the leader doesn’t know how.
Our churches could use some ambidextrous worship leaders. Are you one?

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