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Interview: Creative Arts Pastor Jared Bayless

Jared Bayless is a Creative Arts Pastor and musician in Wyoming. Recently, Jared talked to Worship Links about his new album, Metallica, and screaming for your congregation for the first time.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us. It’s truly appreciated! The first question is an easy one. Tell us a little bit about yourself in five sentences.

My life verse defines who I am: “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.” -Colossians 1:29. I’m currently the Creative Arts Pastor at Element Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for over three years now. I love creating/producing music, serving our community of Cheyenne with an amazing church staff and volunteers, leadership development, and seeing people coming to know Jesus on a weekly basis! My wife and I are truly blessed beyond what we deserve to be where we are.

How did you get started in worship ministry?

One word: Metallica. Not what you were expecting? I never played an instrument or sang in my life until I was 19. I had this desire to sell my video games off, buy a used electric guitar at a pawn shop and learn Metallica songs (high school friend always loved Metallica). While in college, some of my much more musically talented friends took me under their wing and let me play along during worship get togethers and fail miserably. One night during an outdoor dorm devo I said a simple prayer of “God if I do music, I will only do it for you and nothing else.” After that everything just took off. God has shown me how he honors spiritual disciplines and integrity in being obedient to him. Even though I’m doing worship ministry now, I don’t have a degree in it. I have a degree in Family Counseling, which I use all the time to help leading my team, our church members, and in the songs we write. If it wasn’t for Metallica, I never would have started playing music, which never would have let me find where my passion for worship was found. Crazy how God works sometimes.

What’s your basic process for planning a service or worship set?

I’m blessed to work with our Lead Pastor, Jeff Maness, who works way ahead and finds God blesses that discipline as well. We work on a 13 week out strategy overall with an outline of what he will be speaking on five to six weeks out. In doing this, we can prepare for set designs, talk through sermon illustrations, get videos prepared, and pick out songs that will fit his message and offer suggestions or make revisions with plenty of time if I come up with something better later. Our job is to set up the message and break down layers. I asked our staff and key volunteers to rate all of our songs in an Excel spreadsheet, on a 1-5 scale (5 being the best), letting me know which songs our people responded to best (not just their favorite songs personally). Once I had that, I grouped the 4’s and 5’s into a bank and broke them down into around 30 songs to pick from for a 2 month block with 3 slots for new songs. Those are the ONLY songs we will pick from and should we do a new song, we will surround it with our best participatory songs so that people don’t feel robbed of worship because they were unable to participate as much with the new one. They are more likely to get into the new song if they have had a chance to really dig in with the others in the set.

Tell us about your new album Front Lines.

Front Lines is unlike any worship album available right now. It’s a blend of hard rock, modern ballads, dubstep, old hymns redone to modern hymns. Every church is made up of all kinds of different people with different preferences of style. We wanted to create an album where all kinds of people could resonate with different styles and use it as an invite to their friends and family. We wanted it to be a conversation starter and their friends and family say “THIS is your church?? I want to go to your church!” There may be some styles not everyone liked, but they all have the same goal and it’s going to draw in a more broader audience of people from all walks of life. As long as they know every song and every theme and every heart writing the songs are pointing to Jesus, people stop caring about preference as much and start caring about its mission and purpose; and that’s so more and more people will say “yes” to Jesus through the mission of music which is the mission of the church. Our mission at Element Church is to help people experience LIFE to its fullest in Christ.

ElementMusic

Desert Island Worship Mix: You’re trapped on a desert island, and for reasons too ridiculous to explain, you can only have one CD with five worship songs on it. What are they?

  • Nothing Else Matters by Metallica (not technically “worship” but a reminder of where God started in me in music)
  • Jesus Till You Come by Element Music (remind me of where I’ve come & what my mission is regardless)
  • Only King Forever by Elevation Worship
  • Man Of Sorrows by Hillsong
  • Son Of Man by Element Music

What have you found are some of your greatest challenges in managing a worship team? How do you handle the balance between being a musician and being a manager?

Balancing scheduling, growth and burn out. Sometimes you need to take risks on people in order for them to grow. Sometimes you need to protect them from themselves and they need to spend time with their family even if it means leaving you with a gaping hole that week. Your team should never be a means to an end for you. If they know the only reason you talk to them is because of your need for them to help you get your job done that week, they will eventually bail because they know that their care is contingent upon helping you. They should know every time you talk to them, you aren’t going to always mention the church in some way. You are a pastor as the leader. Managing is part of it, but if you take care of the people, they will manage the team themselves. You become much more family than worship team, always looking out for one another.

What scriptures speak to you the most about worship?

Ecclesiastes 9:17 in the past year has been humbling. “Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king.” We get frustrated when the crowd doesn’t respond the way we think they should or compared to us, but are our hearts one of speaking wisdom silently and letting God move the people or are we shouting like a foolish king, trying to heap praise on ourselves? Our worship should never be dictated by the response of man or else we devalue the goodness of who God truly is.

1 Peter 1:3-9, James 3, Deuteronomy 10, all for different reasons too long to get into here. There’s so many that don’t even mention worship which are so vital to worship as a leader.

If you could give one piece of advice to up and coming worship leaders, what would it be? Conversely, what’s some advice you wish you’d received earlier on?

There’s several – sorry! Care about your people outside of church times, invest in them, take risks, challenge them to do things they’ve never done, and they will make the team, the environment, great. Don’t give more attention to the equipment, the processes, the work – it will always be there. The people won’t always be there. Always be sharing where you are at spiritually (both good and bad) with your team. How can they follow if they don’t know who’s leading them and where they are leading them to?

These are all things I wished I’d heard. I never had that “mentor” role specifically in my ministry career. I wished I’d had. I learned what and how I would lead people by doing it once I was given a chance to be the leader.

So, you’re also in a hard rock band. Tell us a bit about that. How does that influence your style in leading worship?

Yes, my wife and I have had a side band for about seven years or so called “Bayless”. We have a couple albums out on iTunes, etc. We’ve been blessed to open for bands like Thousand Foot Krutch, Disciple, Building 429, and LyBecker, plus we did an album with Jon Steingard of Hawk Nelson. He produced our Sabotage album and we got to go down and work with him in Nashville. Amazing memory for us. We are not doing what we used to be doing due to jobs and ministry, but still are working on a potential EP I’ll be producing this year comprised of dubstep, hard rock/metal.

The style does influence me. Element has been kind of the perfect marriage for me. We have a big rock edge to how we play songs, both originals, and songs other churches do. We say “Can we ‘Element’ it up a bit?” meaning we put our own rock vibe to it. Our people have just eaten it up, which is why we put the song “Front Lines” on the album which actually includes me screaming at the end behind my wife singing. For the album release night, I screamed for the first time in front of our Elementers and wasn’t sure how they’d respond. They went crazy and loved it!

Our church is made up of such a melting pot of people. Former addicts, burned by church, trying church for the first time, people wanting something different, people looking for something real and accepting of who you are as you walk in those doors but are challenged to always grow from there. So our style and ‘edge’ lends itself to the people who are coming. They want passion in their preaching, in their teaching, and in their church, so they expect and love that in their worship music too. We love Element and they have embraced my wife and I so much and we can’t thank them enough for the blessing they have been to my family and my worship team as well.

What do you think worship in the church will look like in ten years?

The opposite of what we have today! Haha! I say that because music, worship or not, rebels against itself. You watch over the years and styles that were trendy are followed by the opposite of itself. Everyone always wants “something new”. We are in a very melodic vibe in worship, more “soaking”, but we also are in a very digital, electronic vibe, too, so I’m sure we’ll maybe come back to more rock-ish or something more aggressive once we’ve tired of what we have now. That’s a guess. I don’t know what it will look like exactly. I just know that man is cyclical and chances are, we will be so again.

Any new worship artists on your radar at the moment?

They aren’t super new I suppose, but I’ve really been enjoying Fellowship Creative lately. We are also trying to write some different type of styles at Element Music. We have started to talk about what album #2 would look and sound like so be watching for that too!

What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done while leading worship (that you’re willing to share)?

Thankfully I don’t have a lot of worship ones, but I do have a preaching one. During one of my internships I was asked to preach. During my message I was setting up a story and giving some of the details, trying to be laid back and relatable. I got to a moment where I’m giving a “you know how…” statement and in the middle a guy lets out this little laugh, “ha” outburst, giving fuel to my story. I stopped after hearing it for a sec and said “This guy knows what I’m talking about!”, but no one laughed. I thought it was strange because I was merely drawing in the crowd and be relatable. Come to find out after the message there was an autistic man who had a certain tic where he’d yell out and make sudden noises. Everyone at the church knew this and was used to him, but I was new and unaware of any of this. Essentially I’d called out the autistic man during my message and I looked like a fool! Thankfully everyone was gracious but I definitely learned to exegete my audience better before going off script!

Thanks again for answering our questions. If people want to find you online, what’s the best way?

I can be reached via email at jared@elementchurchwy.com or to check out Element Music or Bayless, go to iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and search for us there. Look us up on Facebook (Element Music and Bayless) or Twitter (Element Music or Bayless). You can also go to Element Church’s website for more info about Element! Shoot me a message!

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