Carlos Lollett on Leading a Growing Multisite Church Musical Worship Ministry
Carlos Lollett is the worship director at Christ Fellowship in Miami, Florida. He leads the musical worship efforts across 6 locations with over 20 services every weekend! Listen in on this interview as he gives some great insights about finding, training and releasing artists in a multisite church context. Carlos is in the trenches of creating worship experiences that connect with people and reinforce the vision and values of the church. This interview is a must listen for anyone looking to learn more about leading this critically important area of any church!
01:38 // About Christ Fellowship Church in Miami
02:17 // Carlos explains his role at Christ Fellowship
02:38 // 85% of multisite don’t get beyond three campuses
03:15 // “It’s terrible when you have an opportunity to launch a campus, and you don’t have the leaders.”
03:40 // We place a high demand on worship leaders
04:50 // Growing new leaders through internship
05:15 // Organic…a new word for sloppy?
05:52 // Untapped potential at Christian Universities
06:34 // How to care for interns
09:10 // 2 things to help lead artists
10:10 // Be a good steward: let an artist be an artist
10:50 // Carlos applies the 80/20 principle to leadership development
13:20 // Paid Musicians?
15:26 // The thorn in Carlos’ side
17:20 // Developing your church’s unique sound
Lightning Round Highlights
Helpful Online Resource // Zite
Books That are Having an Impact // ‘The Heart of Leadership” by Mark Miller
Inspiring Leader // John Piper
What does he do for fun? // Travel with my wife, adopted a little girl, hanging out with the family
Check This Out // Elevation Worship Free Resources
Interview Transcript //
Rich – Today I am so happy to have Carlos Lollett on the line. It’s going to be a great interview today. I’m so excited to talk to Carlos, a chance to get to meet him, get to know him a bit better. So welcome to the show Carlos!
Carlos – Thank you so much for having me here Rich.
Rich – So glad! Why don’t you tell us a little bit about Christ Fellowship, in Miami. I was just saying before we got on, it’s like a grey day here in New Jersey today. And Carlos was like ‘It’s perfect, it’s amazing weather here in Miami.’ So we are living our weather stereotypes. But beyond the weather, tell me about Christ Fellowship and your role there.
Carlos – Well Christ Fellowship is a diverse, multicultural church here in Miami. We have 7 campuses across the city. Our mission is to obviously make disciples in Miami, fully devoted followers of Christ. And so the church is actually 95 plus years old. A little bit less than seventeen years ago our pastor came on staff here and he began to lead the way in changing the culture here at our church. We went from being a Baptist church to Christ Fellowship. I have been here on staff 7 years. I started out launching a campus, our West Kindle Campus. From there became one of the Campus Pastors. I’ve had different roles here at Christ Fellowship and now I get to lead the experience, worship pastor you could say.
Rich – That’s fantastic. First of all, I know you know this but you are in rare thin air as a multisite church. 85% of multisite don’t get beyond three campuses, three locations. And the fact that you are at 7 and thinking about more in the future…this is going to be a great interview today for people thinking about multisite, and I think a real critical area which is the whole area of artist development. It just seems to be super hard to develop new leaders overtime you leave, launch new campuses. Tell me a bit about that. What are you doing in your context to help develop new worship leaders?
Carlos – Well, I agree with you. It’s one of the most difficult areas. Two years ago we actually sat down as a leadership team and said where are….it’s terrible when you have an opportunity to launch a campus, and you don’t have the leaders. It’s almost unacceptable. How do we get placed in this position? So we really began to think about, especially as it relates to worship leaders, we began demanding a lot of our worship leaders. You’ve got to be an amazing musician and performer, and pastor and poet and leader and hopefully you have some background in the business industry. So our worship leaders, I have a lot of respect for, because we run pretty much entirely on a volunteers basis. So they really do have to be leaders. One of the things that we have found to be effective, and that I’ve found to be effective, is being extremely intentional just on spending time coaching and developing them…not just managing them When you think about all the different skills that are needed to have a worship pastor at a campus. It takes a lot of development. It’s music development, its spiritual development and it spiritual development. And so that’s one of the things, it sounds so simple, but as leaders we just get caught up in the next thing. We need to be so intentional about spending time with them. Another thing that has worked really well for us is establishing an intern program. And right now we are trying to leverage that to the max, more than ever before. We have had an intern program for a while in fact a couple of our worship pastors have come from that program. In fact some of our campus pastors have come from that intern program. At first it was a little bit organic…
Rich – Is organic just a word for sloppy? I think that’s a word for sloppy.
Carlos – I think it can be, it can be for sure. It was a little bit sloppy. But now, as the years have progressed, we have learned to add some structure and we have a leadership pipeline. But I was thinking just last night before our conversation, you know what, if there is something that has had the biggest impact in being able to develop worship leaders, it has to be the intern program. Right now we started leveraging relationships with universities like we never have before. In fact last Monday I just got back from a school that had a job fair. We sent our student pastor there, I was there and one of our worship leaders and we began to realize there is untapped potential at some of these schools. There are these young kids that are learning a lot of theology and practices in music but they just haven’t had the ministry experience. This is one of those ministry experiences that could really help them!
Rich – So tell me about the internship program. How long is it? Do you pay your interns? Do you pay your interns? What does a typical intern experience look like?
Carlos – You know this has changed so much Rich. And so I’ll tell you, we have different versions of the intern program. So, right now with the universities, a lot of universities do ask for interns to be paid and wanted to make sure that we took care of them. So what we do is provide housing for them and we also pay them a small salary for them so that they can survive. And Miami is different than a lot of the country so when somebody comes in from Oklahoma to Miami and faces culture shock and “How am I going to survive here? I can’t even speak to these people. I’m trying to go to Walmart and order something and I don’t even know how to say it!” And so we do that and what we try, I’ll tell you what we tried last year. We had a 10 week internship program and essentially we structured it so we, I had an overall mentor who tried to invest in the three interns that we had at the time, manage them and also empower them in one campus with another worship leader. And so in those campuses, obviously it’s essential that they get leadership opportunity. If you don’t create space for them to lead, forget it, you might as well not have an internship program. You just wasted an entire resource in there. So we went through some curriculum, I can shoot you some details. We essentially tried to cover some material…how to you lead a rehearsal, how do you lead volunteers, how do you recruit a volunteer. Especially, how do you lead the congregation on a Sunday morning. Do you depend on the Christianese language, ‘the lamb that was slain’ , the worship leader lingo that we get so used to? So we try to coach them through that. It’s a lot of coaching Rich. Evaluations are critical and we are not the best at it yet but we want to get there. We want to get to a place where we are systematic about coaching these kids that go through the program, because everyone is different. So that’s a little bit of what it looks like.
Rich – Cool now, I don’t claim to be an artist, but I do oversee some artists in my area. What would you say to the senior leaders the executive pastors who are listening today, how is it, how can they lead artists better, how can they do that?
Carlos – I would say, I would encourage them to do 2 things. Number one, you have to give them structure. You have to provide them a canvas for them to create something on. And at the same time, don’t handcuff them. Let your artist be an artist. Your artist, this is a mistake I made, even though I am an artist and a musician, I have a little bit of a bent toward leadership and organizational structure and different things and here’s what would happen, I would expect all the artists to be the same way and they’re not. If you want to have a culture where artists are thriving, let them write songs. This is something that we haven’t done well at but we are trying to change. Let them write songs, let them do things that are creative and maximize creativity, let them try things. If you don’t try anything, your artists are going to go somewhere where they can thrive, where they can flourish. And so I think, resourcing and equipping, it’s really just some of the basics of leading someone, but especially that component of letting an artist be an artist. I see it as stewardship. As a senior leader you have to steward their gifts. You have been entrusted with it and now as a senior leader, how do I maximize the gift that God has given through this person.
Rich – That’s very good. now how much of your time would you say as a leader you spend on development of other leaders for new campuses, internship etc. How does that break down in your world?
Carlos – When I talk about the 80/20 principle, the 20% of my week on the calendar, 80% of what I do has to be surrounded by that. That’s a very practical way, our executive pastor, his name is Frank Hopkins, I remember going through this book call ‘The 80/20 Principle’. So as a team we look at our calendars together and evaluate each other. If we say our 20% is spending time developing worship leaders, then my calendar has to reflect that. So what I do is, I’m making sure that I’m meeting with our current worship leaders, or recruiting or that I am trying to develop new worship leaders in my calendar. That will be I want to say 70%, 80% of my work week.
Rich – Wow, that’s amazing! That’s fantastic. I don’t want people to miss that. If I understand that correctly, what you’ve done Carlos is the thing that creates the best leverage for you in your ministry is getting out, recruiting, training, developing leaders so what you have tried to do is get 70-80% of your time focused on that, and that alone. And just let the other stuff go away, you need to go somewhere else.
Carlos – It’s tough because there’s, part of my 20%, it’s kind of the lingo we have here, part of my 20% that gives the most impact the weekend worship experience, so I know my calendar has to have that. Or I need to lead a team that will spend most of their time in that. Crafting the weekend worship experience and leadership development. I mean, if I don’t do anything else that’s going to create the most amount of impact. And so you know, I try to do everything I can do eliminate the sideways energy, and there’s going to be ministry that, I’m a pastor. I was called to be a pastor. I love counseling folks and there’s things that are going to come up, but at the end of the day when I am structuring my perfect work week, I’m spending 70% of the time developing leaders and the rest of it is crafting the weekend worship experience or having a team do that.
Rich – Right. So that’s the time side of the equation. What about the finances? How do you guys structure…you don’t have to get into dollars, but how is it that you are resourcing the ministry there?
Carlos – That’s a really good question. We’ve tried a lot of different things over the past 7 years. Right now, depending on the campus, most of our worship leaders are full time, especially because we have a lot of different volunteers. So we don’t pay our musicians, we have this culture where people just want to get plugged in, we want to equip them. And so the truth is, and I push this heavily. I don’t think on average, there is a volunteer that serves more than the volunteer that serves in the worship ministry. Think about this, let’s say you have 2 services, you got there to set up at 6am and then you are done at 12pm. And then you had a rehearsal during the week but when you come to the rehearsal I want you to come ready. So you had to practice at home. So at the end of the day you spent 10 hours preparing for the weekend worship experience. And that requires a lot of care, and management and so as much as possible I want the worship pastors, worship leaders to be full time. So they have the opportunity to care for the volunteers. So they don’t feel used. So many artist and musicians and often times I’ve done this in the past unfortunately…’The weekend’s coming, dude I need you to play.’ Well you need to spend that time caring for them. Most of our campuses are full time. We allow our campus pastors as well some freedom as to who they will make full time. Perhaps as a campus pastor you have this stud student pastor or children’s pastor that you feel is going to add the most to your campus so there’s this amount of dollars and here’s what we are going to do. But the most common trend is that we see the worship leader full time.
Rich – What kind of training do you do for the, so that’s kind of at the leader level, what are you doing for that drummer to support that person kind of from a formal point of view?
Carlos – Man you touched a sore right there, a thorn in my side.
Rich – Sorry.
Carlos – I’ll tell you a couple things that we tried, and one we are working on right now. We have some workshops, obviously being a multisite church there are some killer musicians that have been able to play here. So what we do is, we’ll set up different monthly workshops, say on electric guitar, or right now we just finished one on drums. We had one of our drummers, this guys is a monster, he set up a 6 week workshop of all the drummers from other campuses. So what we did is, you know what we are going to pay you to teach for these 6 weeks. Some of our volunteers do it for free they say you know what I just want to invest in other people. Awesome, but it’s not a systematic as we want it to be. A huge part of my focus is what kind of a program do we come up with to just develop musicians. The answer we just camp up with, this is like a conversation Rich that we have had in the last couple of weeks. You know what, if we invested in our student ministry for the last 5 years, heavily, musically. I’m like, dude, that’s a captive audience who we can help disciple and develop and I’m like why didn’t we do that. So we are trying to find a way where we can do that…whether it’s a music school or a one day workshop, or just some coaching to be able to do that for our students, and just for our regular musicians. I don’t have an answer for you, I’m looking for one right now.
Rich – No that sounds great. I like that idea of here’s a drum workshop for a number of weeks. Even to get those guys, one of the things that i’ve noticed from working at churches for so long, is that when you get those band members, particularly those who just like to serve all the time, they never meet other campuses.
Carlos – So true.
Rich – Get them together in one place and say hey, you’re all lead guitarists at our different campuses. Having those guys talk to each other. There’s just a great synergy that can happen there. And obviously that’s the kind of foundation you use, to develop your churches unique sound. They have to all kind of agree on, hey how do we do what we do here.
Carlos – It’s so true.
Rich – Is there anything else you would like to say to folks as we come to the end of this part?
Carlos – I think the emphasis, one of the last things I think Rich that we are working on now as a multisite church is we’re trying to, you said something really interesting about coming up with your own sound…it’s really easy to mimic and to imitate what’s going on in the music industry, especially from a Christian standpoint. But lately I’ve just been really burdened. That’s something I have leveraged in leading. I’m so glad Hillsong has these tutorials. But now really to get a different level of ownership and development of artists we need to encourage and steward this. We have people in our churches that are incredibly gifted that sometimes we don’t know about. So one of the things that I would encourage leaders to do is to tap into that potential, encourage that, and it’s messy at first. It’s messy right now for us in that area. But we feel like as we look at other successful ministries that has been something that they have invested in and that they see great fruit from. That’s where we are today. We are working towards that, we are definitely not there yet but we would love to see.