Reflections from the Urbana Worship Team: It takes a community! (Part 1/2)

me and audrey leading back b&W

Urbana was about many things: Responding to God’s great invitation, giving our lives to Jesus’ mission, studying the Word, exploring our vocations and passions and so much more.

But for the worship team, it was also about our journey as a community. In the year leading up to Urbana and at the conference itself, we experienced the transforming power of a missional community that will forever impact my perspective towards worship, mission and ministry. And as much as I loved the music and had an absolute blast on stage, the best moments for me came behind the scenes as God was transforming us within our community.

You may have experienced us by being at Urbana or listening to our CD or watching us online, but in this two-part series, I’d like to take you behind the scenes and share four lessons from within Urbana worship team experience. Because what God did was much bigger and deeper than great worship music. Even though that is pretty cool too.

Lesson 1: Learning to be sensitive

leading worship together

The Urbana team taught me the importance of sensitivity. Many of us came from communities where we were the primary worship leader used to having others follow us. But on the Urbana team, songs were often shared between anywhere from 2-5 worship leaders!

At first, this arrangement was awkward for me because frankly I am not naturally sensitive. I didn’t know if we should look at the other person, if we should plan transitions, if we should coordinate dance moves. To be honest, there were times when I wish I could have just led the song by myself; it would have been SO much easier and efficient. I just wanted to lead worship and not have to deal with this stuff! I have to confess during one conference, I got so nervous and confused I just took over the song and completely disregarded my co-leader. (I know, right?!)

But gradually I learned to pay attention to my fellow worship leaders. I learned to not close my eyes all the time but to observe what the other leaders were doing. I learned to make space in my music and vocals for others to contribute, even if that meant playing and singing less. I learned to think less about how I am leading but how I can support others who are leading. But most of all, I learned that sharing leadership, was completely worth the effort.

And it was under the intensity of the Urbana spotlight where I experienced a freedom in worship that I have never felt before. We effortlessly gave and took leadership and followed each other’s spontaneous leads. We had cultivated a level of sensitivity that allowed us to support one another. We were truly a community leading others into the presence of God. And it was amazing.

Lesson 2: The Power of Affirmation

laughing during debrief

The Urbana team was one of the most affirming teams I’ve ever been a part of.

With so many talented worship leaders and musicians from so many different traditions there could have been the potential for jealousies and insecurities to reign. But Sandra, our director, intentionally built a culture of affirmation that was transformative to our team and me personally.

It started with simple debrief sessions after every worship session. We’d share highlights with one another. Early on, the practice felt forced. I did my best to engage but sometimes it felt strange to talk so bluntly about our successes. Many times I didn’t have much to say. Sometimes I would be too preoccupied about what was shared about me to think about others! (I know, right?!)

But over the course of the year, something shifted. I couldn‘t tell you how or when, but the affirmations started to flow. I began to have things to say. I started to see my teammates differently. I was searching for new things to affirm in them. Our affirmation sessions got longer. People were affirming outside of our team meetings.

And then at Urbana, after every session, we didn’t just have a “debrief” but a full-blown celebration. We celebrated how God had uniquely gifted each of us. We celebrated what God was doing in us and through us. We identified the areas of growth and praised God together.

(continued in Part II — coming soon!)

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