By Chad Austin, Biblical Recorder Managing Editor
Churches around the world are experiencing a lack of congregational participation during corporate worship, and the reason might surprise you.
Worship leaders with good intentions may be unknowingly contributing to the problem, according to Kenny Lamm, a respected worship ministry leader and strategist with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
In his new book, “The Worship Ministry Guidebook,” Lamm provides a comprehensive look at the theological and practical aspects of leading worship in the local church. The book’s goal is to encourage both novice and veteran worship leaders to engage their congregations in transformational worship by offering biblical foundations to understanding worship and the role of the worship leader.
The Biblical Recorder reached out to Lamm prior to the book’s release on July 13 to learn more about his work, why he wrote it and what he hopes worship leaders will take from it. His responses, which have been edited for length, are included below.
Why did you write “The Worship Ministry Guidebook”?
“In my early years of ministry, there were numerous ‘how to’ books that guided me in my work and helped others like myself know what to do. I cannot find anything like that still in publication or that is relevant to worship ministry today. This book, I believe, will fill that gap. My ministry calling is to train and encourage worship leaders wherever God opens doors for me to do that. The curriculum represented in this book is a culmination of 20 years of training that has been continually refined to better equip leaders.”
How did the book come about?
“Despite having the privilege of leading worship conferences and small group workshops for several years in the United States and in other countries, I had never considered putting the material in book form. After leading worship conferences in Cambodia last year, I was approached by a missions organization about writing a book on worship for the Cambodian church since they have nothing published to guide them in worship. After completing that project, I realized the great value of having a single volume for a broader audience that could serve as a guidebook for both the novice and the seasoned worship leader.”
What’s unique about this book?
“I believe this is the most practical single volume for a worship leader to learn proper direction in truly engaging the local congregation to experience renewed, transformative worship. It seeks to blend the theological and the practical in an easily digestible way to inform every aspect of a church worship ministry. It begins with the biblical foundations of worship with an emphasis on what leading worship is all about. From there, it builds upon those foundations to address all aspects of leading a worship ministry that disciples and transforms believers as they are led to actively participate in corporate worship.”
One of the things you write about is a lack of congregational participation in worship. Why is that an issue, and what can worship leaders do to overcome it?
“I teach an entire breakout class on this topic, so I have to boil that down to something short here. I wrote an article a few years ago titled, ‘Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship.’ The article hit a nerve globally getting well over a million hits and read in practically every country in the world. The premise of the article is that we have a worldwide epidemic of churches where people are just standing and watching. They aren’t, for the most part, singing or participating actively in most any part of the worship service.
“Unfortunately, worship leaders who have great intentions are often doing things that hinder or hurt worship. They emulate what they see and think it is a good thing, but that’s not always the case. There are a lot of factors at play, and worship leaders may not even be aware of some of the things that are hindering worship. The good news is that many of these issues can be corrected.
“This book will help them recognize those things that hurt worship and prescribe ways to really engage the congregation in participative worship. Once worship leaders get a thorough understanding of their role and become aware of the things they can do to encourage participative worship, I believe wholeheartedly that we can make a huge difference in the corporate worship times in our churches.”
The book is organized according to a five-fold approach to worship that involves understanding, planning, preparing, leading and evaluating worship. Can you briefly describe each of these and their importance to congregational worship?
“The organization of the book is very intentional in the establishment of healthy worship leading. The first two chapters set the foundations of the rest of the book as we look at biblical aspects of worship and walk through very practical issues like conflict in worship, intergenerational worship, healthy worship change and so much more. We gain a better understanding that worship leaders are not performers, but prompters, guiding the journey of worship to help the people voice their praise and worship to God. We dive into discipleship in worship, mentoring worship leaders and developing a missional DNA in your worship ministry.
“Once those foundations are established, then we can progress to all that is involved in planning worship, including how to find and filter songs to use in your church’s worship. The book describes planning a service in a way that really engages the congregation with substantive content in a way that leads to greater participation of the people. From there, the book walks you through ways to execute that plan in your ministry context with the choir (if applicable), vocal team, band, media and congregation. The book also addresses a number of practical matters like talking between songs, platform presence, and removing barriers that get in the way of engaging people in worship.
“Finally, I present an evaluative tool I created that walks worship leaders through pretty much every concept in the book to evaluate how they are doing in leading worship in the local church. Evaluation is necessary to continual improvement. The handbook can be a continual reference to go back to many times to tweak an area that needs help.”
What do you hope pastors and church leaders will take away from the book?
“I hope worship teams, including senior pastors, will all read the book and discuss it together. I am in the process of developing a group study guide to aid that process. I pray that upon reading the book, God will impress upon leaders areas that need to be changed and that the book will provide the tools they need to lead healthy change in worship. In order for the book to help bring corporate worship to a place of transforming believers more into the likeness of Christ, the material of the book must first be thoroughly ingested by the church leaders so they can lead the change with biblical integrity.”
Anything else you’d like to share?
“Putting this book out there is intensely scary, yet thoroughly exciting. Putting my thoughts out for the world to read can feel very vulnerable, but God has given me a passion and a desire to promote and share biblical principles that encourage healthy, participatory worship in the local church. This book is a way to extend and multiply that reach, whether in Asia or the United States. I also pray that opportunities to translate the book into other languages would open up and funds to provide those translation services would become available.
“The book’s website – WorshipMinistryGuidebook.com – is not only a place to learn more about the book, but also a place to access additional resources. I intentionally left some material out of the book that may change with time, such as recommended song lists. I put resources like that on the website. The group study, once completed, will be a free download on the site. The website gives me the ability to add new resources to accompany the book as time progresses.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – “The Worship Ministry Guidebook” is available at a discounted rate to N.C. Baptist churches and associations. Those orders may be placed through a special online order form at lamm.fyi/order. Individuals and churches not affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina may order the book on Amazon or from other booksellers. The book is available in paperback and Kindle. To learn more about the book and find links to order it, visit WorshipMinistryGuidebook.com.)
This article first appeared on the Biblical Recorder’s website, brnow.org.