Worship leaders exchange ideas, discuss challenges at online roundtables
By David Dawson
FRANKLIN — Scott Shepherd has a simple message for worship leaders and music ministers: “You are not alone.”
Shepherd, worship and music specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, has tried to convey that message during a recent series of “online roundtables” hosted by the TBMB.
Shepherd said many worship leaders have felt overwhelmed, discouraged and lonely during the past six months while dealing with the challenges created by the pandemic. For that reason, he wanted to give worship ministers an outlet to communicate — and commiserate — with others who are experiencing similar emotions.
“I can’t recall a season when worship leaders have experienced a more drastic shift in their ministries,” said Shepherd. “So, one of the goals of the roundtables was to provide a forum for worship leaders to share about the adjustments they’ve made to their local ministries.”
Over the past five months, the TBMB has hosted a total of 21 separate online events for worship leaders and music ministers. The events have included roundtables, Zoom fellowships and webinars.
The roundtables have been the most recent events, with seven sessions being held between Aug. 31 and Sept. 15.
These sessions, which typically lasted about 90 minutes, were divided by regions — Mid-West, West, Middle Tenn., East Tenn., Lower East and Upper East, along with one session for bivocational worship leaders — so that participants could attend a session with others from their area.
Shepherd said he and other TBMB leaders believed that providing a forum for worship leaders to share their burdens would have a twofold purpose: “It would, (1) allow them to know they aren’t the only ones experiencing these new challenges, and (2) allow them to hear creative ideas from others, which could hopefully spark creative ideas, as ‘iron sharpens iron,’ ” he said.
The roundtables have featured numerous special guests at various sessions. The guests provided encouragement and motivation to the attendees.
Worship leader and author David Manner was among the featured guests, providing a devotional at the beginning of each session.
Matt Papa, a nationally recognized contemporary Christian performer, composer and worship leader, also addressed attendees. Papa spoke about how he has overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 in his own ministry.
Kirk Kirkland was another featured guest.
“Kirk holds a unique place in worship ministry, serving as minister of pastoral counseling, minister of music and worship, and professional performer,” said Shepherd. “His insights were invaluable as worship leaders ‘cope’ with the burdens and struggles of worship ministry during COVID-19.”
Shepherd noted that there have been three separate “rounds” of sessions for worship leaders, with each round lasting about two weeks.
Attendance has been intentionally limited to about 15 people per session, said Shepherd, who added that having groups larger than 15 might be intimidating for some worship leaders and that they might be less inclined to share with a large group.
At the end of each roundtable, an optional survey was given to the attendees. Shepherd said the responses were very positive, and said he was encouraged that the event proved to be meaningful for so many.
“One person who responded to the survey said, ‘I enjoyed hearing from others what they’re doing during these challenging times,’ ” said Shepherd. “Another person said, ‘I always enjoy gleaning information from others about what they are doing, especially during this unusual time. It helps to learn from one another.’ ”
Shepherd said another person responded by saying, “It’s nice to know we’re not isolated and alone trying to figure out church and worship during this current time,” while another said, “It’s good to hear that other worship pastors are dealing with the same things as me.”
Shepherd said he believes many of the attendees have come away from the roundtable feeling strengthened and refreshed.
“The message of pressing on and persevering in the midst of the challenges, struggles and adjustments in worship ministry has been the primary focus in the roundtables,” Shepherd said. “And we hope it was a source of encouragement for all who attended.” B&R