A questionnaire for worship leaders

A questionnaire is a fancy way in French to say, "Here are a few questions I want to ask you." It's always of course a little sexier to say things in a foreign language. I'm not sure exactly how Americans came to adopt this term in a normative fashion and when I write "questionnaire" in my online French-to-English dictionary, I get "questionnaire" and "quiz." Hm. Strange.

Anyhoo, over the next year I will be meeting with the worship leader at my church (All Saints Church), Ben Bowman. My purpose is somewhat simple: to help him listen to his life, as Frederick Buechner might put it. It always helps to have someone else listen to your life. We don't always hear ours rightly left to our own devices. So we'll be meeting once a month to read books together, to pray, to evaluate the previous month's services, to listen to new music he's written as well as to others' music and to encourage each other.

In preparation for our first meeting I asked Ben to answer the following questions. I thought they might be valuable to other worship leaders too, especially if said worship leader shared the answers with a trusted but no-nonsense friend, so I've posted them here. I've added two additional questions to the original eighteen.

For our first meeting, I'd like to ask you to prepare a self-evaluation. These are the questions that I think would be important to ask at the outset. As the Philosopher once said, "The un-examined life is not worth living."

1. What books have been most significant to you as a worship leader?

2. Who are your models as a worship leader?

3. What do you think your strengths are as a worship leader?

4. What do you think your weaknesses are as a worship leader?

5. What are your best assets as a worship leader at ACS?

6. What are your liabilities as a worship leader at ACS?

7. What's your vision for leading worship at ACS? What's the ideal? That is, if worship were "the best that it could be" at ASC, what would that look like, walk like, talk like, smell it, etc? Show me what that looks like as best as you can guess.

8. What kind of books or resources would you like to read in the coming year?

9. Besides historic hymnwriters, who are the songwriters whose music you use most often at ASC?

10. Whose worship music do you listen to regularly as a resource to your work at ASC? What sites or sources do you access weekly in order to discover what's being written and used by others?

11. How would you describe your musical aesthetic? Whom would you say you are most like (e.g., more like Keith and Kristyn Getty or like Matt Redman or like John Milford Rutter)? How would others on the outside, as it were, describe you musically?

12. Looking back over the past 2 years at ASC, what's the breakdown of songs/hymns sung in terms of percentage or usage? How often do songs get sung again? How often do new songs get introduced? When you look at the kinds of songs you choose and how often you choose them, what do you think that says about your musical and liturgical ethos? Give your best guess.

13. Who are the people who have influenced you the most personally and spiritually? Who are the people who have influenced you the most liturgically and musically?

14. What are your strongest fears at the moment?

15. What are you most excited about at the moment?

16. Describe for me one of your best worship experiences as a worshiper.

17. Describe for me one of your best worship experiences as a worship leader.

18. What are 2-3 ways that you would like me to serve you in this upcoming season?

19. How often do you expose yourself to music outside of your tradition or "heart language"?

20. What question have I yet to ask that you wished I'd ask you?


Rosie Perera said…
How might you change that questionnaire for a church with about 15 untrained volunteer song leaders who each lead the congregational singing only a handful of times a year and basically just pick hymns from the hymnal that are relevant to the Scripture being preached on that particular Sunday. They might each put in a grand total of 2 hours a year into song selection, and probably no time at all into thinking about the broader questions of musical genre, who has influenced them, theology of worship, etc. Any suggestions on how to cultivate a curiosity about learning and discussing some of these broader questions? And our "worship leaders" are similar but they do everything else about planning the service *except* choosing the songs. Without consulting with the song leaders really that much, except to communicate what the Scripture or theme of the sermon is going to be. It's better than at some churches I know of, where the hymn selection appears to be pretty random. But I'd still love to develop our collective worship intelligence somehow.
Hm. Rosie, I'm not sure exactly what I might advise, especially without knowing the community better, but here is one tentative idea. What if the volunteers who helped choose the songs each took a turn serving as a primary facilitator?

That is, one person could facilitate the process for a designated period of time, say per month or on a quarterly or even yearly basis. That person could devote him- or herself to digging a little more deeply, thinking more deeply and at length, and bringing to bear upon the congregation's worship a broader range of possibilities for corporate singing.

The position could be rotated, giving opportunity for different perspectives to be introduced into the church's singing practices.

In the main it'd be a way for the congregation to say, "We care about how we sing and what we sing enough to ask one person to spend extra time giving leadership to this task so that we can sing as fully, truly, creatively, cross-culturally and globally minded as the Scriptures invite us to sing."

Just a thought.
Dave Nevland said…
These are all great questions, some of which would really require digging deep and taking lots of time to answer. I also love the suggestion to Rosie. That is really brilliant. I have another suggestion to Rosie if I may. Whoever is leading the hymns can do this. After singing the hymn when you get to the part where you sing the "Amen", don't just sing "Amen" once. Try singing it 4 times or maybe even 8 times if you feel particularly brave. The goal of this is to sing or make a "new song" (as many of the Psalms urge us to do) out of something that is familiar to everyone. This can cause the other worshipers to think and feel more deeply about the rich words in the hymn that they have just sung. Plus, the worshipers will also be reinforcing the affirmation to themselves, each other, and to God of everything in the rich theology they have just sung. Also, as the worshipers are repeating the "Amen" they may begin to ponder and appreciate God's qualities and stir gratitude within themselves concerning what God has done personally in their lives. This was, afterall, the intent of the original hymn writer in the first place. Maybe some of the worshipers would be inspired by this to go and write hymns of praise themselves. That could be a good thing too.
Dave Nevland said…
I have one other comment concerning the list of questions.

There are no direct questions about the congregation that the worship leader is leading into worship.

One that could be added might be,
"In what way would you like to see the congregation grow in worship this year?"

Maybe, "What unsolicited comments have you heard from the congregation about different aspects of worship this past year?"

Some of the other questions could be rephrased to shift some focus onto the congregation such as, "What do you think the congregation would say your strengths/weaknesses/assets/liabilities are? This could accomplish 2 goals. First it could help keep the worship leader's focus on the congregation he is serving, and that can't be bad. Second, if the worship leader is more of an introvert (there are some leaders who are) he may have an easier time discovering things inside himself by answering questions that are deflected off another "surface" as introverts can have difficulty sometimes answering direct questions about their own ideas or feelings.

Another angle of questioning that could give a different perspective to self examination would be questions about what the worship leader is thinking and feeling about God's view of his congregation. "What themes of worship have you felt God has taken you and/or the congregation through this past year?" "What themes do you feel God wants to take you and/or your congregation through this next year?" "Are there any expressions of worship that you feel God may want you and/or your congregation to discover this year?"

Finally some other questions come to mind that are more personal, but I don't know if they would be helpful or not. I might be very curious to ask these questions if I were in David's position, however. They are basically the reverse of a lot of the questions on this list. I just think it would be interesting to hear what comes out. For example... Have there been any books on worship that you did NOT like and why? Have there been any that you've avoided and why? Are there any worship leaders or aspects of worship leading that you have seen that you do not want to incorporate or that you avoid doing and why? What books, songs, or music do you or will you try to avoid. Describe for me one of your worst experiences as a worshiper/worship leader and what have you learned from that?

The obvious danger in this would be focus on the negative or temptation to be overly critical. Neither one you'd want to dwell on very long, but it may be an interesting exercise to cause one to look at things from a different perspective. You would then work toward the resolution of any negative or critical attitude as the relationship develops.

Okay, my thoughts are drained for the time.
Unknown said…
Really will you follow the previous month's services, to listen to new music, all into thinking about the broader questions of musical genre.. Sample Questionnaire
Joshua Banner said…
For Rosie: how bout a group book study discussion? M. Dawn's How Shall We Worship? Is fantastic for this. Also, C. Cherry's The Worship Architect might have some planning checklists/rubrics that your leaders could work with.
ajt said…
Great list of questions, David! Need to take some time with them and maybe with another worship leader I know... would be great fuel for conversation and mutual encouragement.
Dave: fantastic observations and the questions you raise regarding the congregation's needs are so very important, and I'm inclined to change my list to include them. Thank you.

Linda: I'm not sure I follow your comment. Can you elaborate?

Josh: great suggestion for Rosie.

AJT: glad to know these questions might prove helpful to you.

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