Valerie Jones

{Live with Purpose. Lead with Passion.}

I am a blogger, worship leader, and speaker who helps worship leaders and team members connect with purpose and passion in life and leadership by offering encouragement, community, and practical resources so that they can thrive in life and leadership, both on and off the platform.

Thanks for stopping by!

Filtering by Tag: worship leader

{When You Can't Take the Next Step}

Let’s do something fun! Settle down in your most comfy chair, close your eyes. Now, think about one of your favorite songs. Do you have it? Go ahead, hum a few bars! Does it stir something in you? Why is it a favorite? There’s a good chance it’s attached to a significant memory or moment in your life. When you hear it, you remember. I have an extensive list of songs like that! I am a confessed music freak, so my list may be excessive, and I have been known to burst into song randomly. My friends still love me.

But seriously.

I remember the song I played a million and one times after my first bad breakup.  I remember the song the girls and I LOVED to hear when we went, ahem, line dancing. After the Lord had started healing my broken and grieved heart, I knelt near the babies’ graves and sang. I remember that song, too.

There have been moments when I couldn’t find words and a song said just what I needed to say. And so, worship through song has long been one of my favorite things. I love to gather with other believers and worship. God birthed something in me a long time ago about worship. It’s where I’m at home. It’s my sweet spot. Our invitation to engage in worship is such a precious gift, a priceless one. I am convinced God’s presence, His Spirit, changes us as we engage. And, boy, do I ever want to lead well in this area. As a worship leader, I have the opportunity to stand in front of lots of people and point them to Jesus. It’s such a big deal to me. Huge.

A few weeks back, an incredible opportunity came my way. I mean, seriously, amazing. I was invited to participate in a worship leader training/mentoring program. Y’all. My one-to-one mentor would be Christy Nockels. I’d also be learning from other established, experienced (and incredible) worship leaders like Kim Walker-Smith and Kari Jobe in live, video-conference small group sessions. There’s an opportunity to get constructive feedback from these leaders as they watch videos of me leading. There’s roundtable discussion with other participants and the leaders. It lasts 6-months, with the opportunity to extend to a full year’s worth of mentoring/training! When I got the news, I was beside myself. Excited, yes. But, also terrified. This kind of thing is WAY outside of my comfort zone. Like, I’m talking in another galaxy. I was going to decline because it costs a few thousand dollars. But, there’s a fundraising option, they said. So, I said yes.

But now, I’m stuck. No matter how I try, I just can’t bring myself to take the next step and raise funds. I’m struggling here because there’s no doubt it’s a good thing. But, is it a God-thing? I think so.

Then, why can’t I do the next thing? Why don’t I feel ok about asking people to “fund” or “support” me? I have a feeling it’s because I’m afraid. Because I don’t like rejection. (What if NO ONE wants to give?) I am afraid to be misunderstood. (What if SOMEONE thinks I’m selfish?)  It’s all rooted in insecurity and pride. And, never mind my lack of faith!? Wouldn’t it be true that if God’s asked me to do it, He'd provide a way for me to do it? And if I say God’s prompted me to do it, doesn’t that make it a matter of obedience?

But, still.

I’m feeling a bit of a hot mess today. Have you ever been there? You know what needs to happen next, yet you just can’t. That's where I am. I want to, but I just . . . can't. Every time I start, there’s a nagging thought that mocks me. We’re sometimes hard on ourselves, aren’t we? I’m working through this process, and I’m impatient and fussy. I’m ready to bail. But that doesn’t feel quite right either. So, instead, I’m left to trust. It’s my choice, of course. Whether I’ll ease up and realize I’m not really in control of what happens here is up to me. I’m not there yet in this situation. But, we’re working on it, Jesus and me. We’re always working on it.

May I encourage you, sweet friends? It’s okay not to be okay. It’s not wise to stay there, but remember we have a Father God who is more than willing to walk us through the days when we feel like a hot mess. We can rest easy in His loving, wise arms believing that He knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t.

He loves you so.

{2 Things that Changed the Way I Lead}

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! “Would you like to lead worship that Sunday?” Yes! Yes, of course, I wanted to lead worship! My heart nearly exploded with gratitude. When I had come back to church a few years earlier, there were no expectations. Zero. The calling I felt God had birthed in my heart had long been disqualified. At least, that’s what I thought; yet, there I was accepting the invitation to fill in in the absence of the worship pastor. It still blows my mind when I see how God has ordered my steps. I was part of a leadership team with two of the most gifted, highly-favored people I have ever known. I never quite got over being invited to the table,  you know? All the plans were in place.   Unfortunately, there was plenty of room for freaking out. Yeah, about that.

Sunday morning soundcheck went off without a hitch. We had a phenomenal team!  After that, though, it happened - the freaking out, that is. Self-doubt is not a kind, warm friend that comes alongside you to encourage you and keep you humble. No, not at all. It's a scheme of the enemy, whose big brother is FEAR.  Of course, I didn't realize that at the time. I was nearly frantic. I grabbed my Bible, went into a small room in the back hallway, and knelt down to talk this over with God. What else is a girl to do? My prayer wasn't elaborate. I was only stating the obvious, tears rolling down my face, "God, thank you for bringing me here and giving me this moment. But, I can't do this without You. I won't. Please, help me." I sat very still for a time and then flipped the Scriptures open to the Psalms. I was heading to the passage I would share that morning but stopped a few chapters short at Psalm 108. Here's what it says.

My heart is confident in You, O God; no wonder I can sing Your praises with all my heart! I will thank the Lord, among the people. I will sing your praises among the nations, for Your unfailing love is higher than the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May Your glory shine over all the earth.

And, that's when I breathed a sweet sigh of relief. In that tiny room backstage, while I knelt on the floor, the Lord started teaching me two truths that profoundly inform the way I lead.

1. Leadership is about my position in Christ. It's not a performance. Do you see it there in the first verse of Psalm 108? My heart is confident IN YOU, O God; no wonder I can sing Your praises with all my heart! I lead from my position in Him. It's all about who He is and who He says I am. If I try to lead without having first established who I am in Christ, then I am squashing potential. All of my gifts, abilities, and influence come from Him. And, even more than that, He is with me. I don't have to take a step without His guidance. You don't, either.

2. Leadership is not about making a name for myself. It's about His name and His fame. The psalmist ends with both feet planted firmly in this truth when he says, "Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. May Your glory shine over all the earth." I want people to know Jesus.  The same gospel that compelled me toward Him is for everyone. Fixing our eyes on Him (positioning ourselves in a relationship with Him) will automatically move us in this direction. How remarkable that we get to be part of telling that story!  He's the lead story -- always.

Everything was as it should have been that Sunday. And, now? There is rarely a time I step onto a platform, large or small, that I don't whisper these verses as a prayer right along with Isaiah 26:8. See, leading well means being firmly positioned in Christ.  It means saying follow my example as I follow Christ's example. Isn't that when our influence will be at it's best?  I think so. Here's the thing: I simply want people to see Jesus in everything I do and say, both on and off the platform. After all, He's the one I love the most. And when people see Him, it changes everything. I am infinitely grateful that He doesn't leave us to go it alone.

Questions to ponder: Do I have a tendency to depend on my gifts and abilities more than on God's power in my life/leadership? How do I define success in leadership?


{A Guest Blog | Purpose Over Preference}

I'm hosting a very special guest blogger today, and I'm SO excited. Y'all this guy is one of my favorites, and that's not just because he's my brother! You can follow Aaron on his blog, or find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  I couldn't be more thrilled to have him as my guest today.

Aaron Gibson | Musician. Teacher. Coach. Mentor. Husband. Coffee Drinker.

Aaron Gibson | Musician. Teacher. Coach. Mentor. Husband. Coffee Drinker.

This is Aaron. He's a husband, puppy-daddy, musician, and pastor. As a teacher and speaker, he's relatable. He engages the topic at hand with an outside-the-box perspective and real life examples. His dynamic approach and teaching style are unmistakably authentic.

Aaron has been in full-time ministry since 2006 and currently serves on staff at Blythe Island Baptist Church as the Worship & Creative Arts Pastor.  He has a heart for ministry and wants nothing more than to see churches thrive and help people to experience the love of Jesus. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the table in the areas of church planting, team building, vision casting, and church production.  Aaron hopes to serve as a resource for others who are in need of direction and for those who are looking for fresh inspiration.

Aaron and his lovely wife, Tamara, live in South Georgia with their two puppies, Lyla and Sadie.



{Purpose over Preference | Shifting Perspectives for Leading Worship} by Aaron Gibson

Have you ever stepped off the stage after leading what you thought was going to be an incredible set and felt like you were the only one who liked it? Or put a lot of energy and effort into selecting songs and working on flawless transitions to leave the service feeling like it didn’t matter anyway? What about anger? Have you ever started to get frustrated or angry with the congregation you’re trying to lead because they just don’t seem to be getting it? I believe we've all been there before. We've all wanted to lead an engaging life changing worship set only to be left feeling like we were the only ones worshipping.

That is a common problem facing worship leaders, but what do you do with that? How can you leave the stage knowing you've done everything you can to lead and not be a distraction? Is there anything that can be done to walk away with a clear conscious? I believe so. Through a challenge-laden season of my life, God taught me there are few things we can do, while on stage, to avoid having this tsunami of guilt destroy our confidence in our calling. But, most of what we need to do has to happen in the preparation.

I can remember coming home some nights, sitting on the floor with my head in my hands and weeping. Feeling defeated. Feeling like everything I was trying to do was a waste. I grew bitter. As a worship pastor, I became bitter and angry toward the people I was trying to lead. I remember saying things like, "There shouldn't be this much resistance", "Why don't they just get it", "Am I even doing the right thing".  The more bitter I became, the more I complained about the people.  

During this season, my wife and I took a trip to New York. I can't remember why exaclty, but I'm sure I was probably eating pizza and bagels for most of the trip. I can remember having really negative thoughts about my congregation back home.  While I was mid-thought, Moses came to my mind and the many conversations and difficulties he had with the Israelites and the many intercessions I read about.  Then I felt God speak so clearly to me it was almost audible. I simply heard, "Aaron, I called you to lead them to where they need to be, not complain about where they are."  That was my Job moment with God. Immediately my mind shifted directions. I knew God was taking our church somewhere special, and up until that moment, my heart had never broken for our people that deeply.  Up until that moment my heart hadn't been broken for my purpose as a worship pastor. To help people experience the greatness and victory of Jesus through worship. That is our purpose as worship leaders. Above all. Our pupose is to help people see and experience Him.

To accomplish that we have to Pursue Purpose over Preference. When we pursue fulfilling our purpose more so than we try to satisfy our preference, then when we'll see God use us the greatest. I believe we see from the beginning of time that man's preference has kept him from God's ultimate purpose for him. In my opinion, there are 3 key areas we need to discipline ourselves in the preparation process to lead people to the worship experience we all desire.

     1. Pursue Obedience over Opinion

This may require some extensive conversations with your worship pastor or senior pastor, but this is where it all begins. God has called each every church to be and to reach someone specific.  Who is it God has called your church to reach. We have to be obedient to that calling, not opinions of who we should be as a church. Sure, we may have a specific skill set or certain abilities.  Maybe you're really good at pulling off that country twang in a song or nailing some of those Hillsong guitar licks. We have to come to a place where we realize God's plan isn't dependent upon our qualifications. Paul is a great example of this. Everything about Paul would have led us to believe God was going to send him to the Jewish people to preach the Gospel. He knew the culture and the religion better than anyone. Paul had to change up his style a bit to reach the Gentiles. But he did it. He looked past his qualifications, past his opinion and he pursued obedience.

If we're going to lead people, we have to know who we are leading.

     2.  Pursue Relevance over Preference

After we know who God has called us to reach, we have to be intentional about reaching them. Paul says it like this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

19Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

It's hard to do this one. It's hard to select songs based off of what people need versus what we like/want to play. I don't necessarily think there's an, "I don't care what you need" mentality. It's just not something on the forefront of our minds.  One thing that helped me with this is prayer. Not a prayer for wisdom, but prayer for the people. Prayer for them to experience the freedom and victory that worship offers. The more I prayed for the congregation, the more my heart broke for them. The more my heart broke for them the more natural it came for me to select songs that would lead them to where they needed to be.

Worship does an incredible thing in our life. Worship brings victory over life's difficulty. Worship positions us right in the middle of a collision where we are reaching for God and He is reaching for us. We get to lead people to that place. We can't make them worship, but we can remove distractions by selecting worship songs that are relatable to them and their life. Perhaps we should get past the words modern, traditional, or contemporary and simply try to relate to who God has called us to reach.

     3.  Pursue Engagement over Expectation    

I love soda. I love soda more than you do. Diet Dr. Pepper to be specific. I could drink it all day long. I would wake up in the morning to a bowl of Lucky Charms and Diet Dr. Pepper. Why? Because it's delicious. But about 1 1/2 to 2 years ago, I read that all the additives in a soda will certainly kill! But only after losing all of your fingers and toes. Well, maybe it wasn't that extreme, but I thought it'd be best to give it up. After about 6 months of being soda free, I thought I'd reward myself because I had been so good. Just a sip won't hurt. Besides...It's sooo good! Well, something happened in those 6 months.  My taste had changed. What I remembered to be so good, wasn't quite as good anymore. I went in with the expectation of complete satisfaction but left feeling disappointed. I believe we have the same type of expectation when it comes to the congregation we're leading.

We've all probably had or seen that worship experience that was just incredible. It sticks out in our minds and we strive for that type of experience again and again. Which is great, but often we are not having that same experience because we are expecting the congregation to come in ready to worship. We are ready, sure! But we have to remember, we've been there a couple of hours already. We've been playing the music and praying for the service. We were preparing with the intention for God to move in a big way. But what we forget is the husband and wife may have just had an argument in the car on the way to church.  They're feeling frustrated because they're running late and this time, they actually found both shoes, but only one kid. Maybe they had a rough week at work. Maybe they got fired. Maybe they got bad news from the test results. Whatever the case, we cannot expect them to come in ready to worship. We have to show them there is victory in life and over their difficulties in and during worship. We have to help them focus their hearts' affection and minds' attention on a God whose love for them is not based on their circumstances.  

Draw them in. Invite them in. Lead them to where they need to be.

I gauge the effectiveness of our worship gatherings a little differently now. Instead of asking, did they worship? How did they respond? I simply ask, was I obedient? Was I relevant? Did I try to engage the congregation into worship? God has me here for a purpose, did I pursue that purpose?

 I simply cannot make people worship. I can only lead them to a place of worship. If we pursue the purpose God has called us to, He is faithful. We will see the worship experience and life change we desire. I can honestly say that because it's His desire. Doesn't it just make sense to jump on board with where He's already going?