Category Archives: worship leading

You Are A Theologian

In spiritual circles, few people are seen as intimidating as often as theologians. Theologians are scholars. Studied. Educated. Cultured. And they wear old-school glasses, vests and wool sweaters as they sit in an aged leather wingback chair in front of a stately, oversized bookcase in a home library with loaded oak bookshelves lining all of the walls, all the way up to the ceiling. (Whew . . . that was a mouthful!) Okay, maybe not all of them, but we like to think they do. The point is, when we hear the word “theologian” often we get an image in our minds that, at least in some way, represents the description above.

So what if I told you that YOU are a theologian?

bible

Well, if you’re a worship leader and/or worship songwriter, you are! Sure, perhaps you aren’t necessarily discovering any brand-spankin’ new theology. But, you are writing and/or choosing worship songs that speak a theological truth. You are communicating theology to your local church. This is why one of the most important things you do as a worship leader is pick out the songs for the weekend setlist.

Sure, key changes, arrangements, transitions, dynamics and flow are all important parts of what we do as worship leaders, but none of those things matter if we aren’t singing truths in our churches. It is widely known that ideas and messages are retained better in our brains when presented in song than by spoken word (a sermon). This is because our brains interact with music differently, thereby establishing a stronger retention of what we heard/sang. Why is this important?

It’s sad to say this, but most people don’t remember the sermon they heard last week or this morning, in some cases. Now sure, these days we have recorded sermons, sermon notes, etc. All of these allow us to go back and go through the messages again. However, overall there is a limited shelf life on the specific messages that are preached every week (hopefully the themes and lessons are learned and continue on!).

With music, however, things stick around a bit longer, including the lyrics of the songs themselves. These lyrics are a biblical message, just like your pastor’s sermon. The only difference is that yours is set to a music, may have some repetition, and may be more like 4 to 5 mini-sermons during a typical worship set. This is a big deal!

Why? Because what you sing in your worship times is going to stick in people’s hearts and minds longer than the sermon does. Therefore, it’s imperative that we sing songs that contain solid theology.

We basically have three options with the songs we sing at  church:

1. Lyrics that present false, inaccurate theology.
2. Lyrics that aren’t false, but are theologically weak and don’t really say anything.
3. Lyrics that present a solid biblical truth with rich theology.

PLEASE stay away from songs in category one. As for category two, there is nothing wrong with this category necessarily, but there are too many songs that fit this mold.

I challenge you to shoot for the third category of songs. Pick songs that are not only correct, but really drive home messages that your congregation needs to hear. One helpful way that I’ve found to pick more songs in category three is not just listening to the song on the CD (with the fancy production), but taking the time to sit down and read the lyrics without the music.

This is no easy task, but it’s vital! You are a theologian. A musical theologian. Don’t take that responsibility lightly. Invest the time into being intentional about the words that your congregation sings each week.

-Mark Logan

Worship Leader, Are You for the Church?

“Generation after generation stands in awe of Your work;

each one tells stories of Your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4 (The Message)

Worship leaders generally struggle with the style of worship. Choice of music. Expectations of the congregation. There is, however, an unhealthy reliance on these ideas.  I recently heard a woman say that we focus too much on whether or not the church fits our needs. But the true question is: are we for the church?

generations

As a worship leader, it is often difficult to find songs that fit the style of worship, or the congregation sitting in the pews. There are cases in which a dying or struggling church needs a change, but if that is not the case, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. What generation(s) participate(s) in your congregation?

  2. What song choice would fit all of these generations?

It is difficult to handle the multi-generational aspect of church. While it is biblical, there is such a thing as casting too wide of a net, which risks the quality of the music.

Some tips:

  1. Use one band/ leader; two at the most. There could also be a choir and an ensemble, but it could be a good idea to present these every now and then. This way, the multi-generation aspect is still revered, but doesn’t seem forced.

  2. Hymns: hymns are respected by all generations (even college students).

  3. The book of Revelation tells us that we will use old and new songs (Rev.15:2-3; 5:9). You should use songs that are fast-paced, but easy to sing along with. You can introduce the fast songs during special music or over the speakers as people are entering/leaving the sanctuary. Also, use songs that are reflective and high quality (Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, etc).

  4. Slowly introduce new songs, so the congregation (especially older generations) can grow comfortable with the song choice.

  5. Read the congregation. Look into their eyes! – We shouldn’t rely on the music aspect of worship too heavily, but the ability to read the congregation makes for a worship leader who is doing their job.

  6. Model authentic, transparent worship. I have found that this can knock down barriers that may come with a difficulty to connect with the music. It brings everyone together, fixing their eyes on Jesus rather than each other (or even the worship leader).

A worship leader’s job is to direct the congregation to the Almighty Savior. They are our flock, too. The question is not how can the congregation fit my needs. The question is: am I serving the congregation, or serving myself?

Kelly Puckett

Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

A capella Life in a High Arrangement World

A dynamic drumbeat.  Fat, full bass.  Screaming electric guitars.  Soaring vocals.  Expansive effects boards.  MIDI players.  Three or more part harmonies.  Synthesizers.  Keytars (if you’re super cool).  Tambourines.  Trash cans.  All of these are typical must-haves for all churches today (right???).  singing

Ok, maybe not all of these things, and of course, not all churches . . . . But, for the most part, depending on the specific church tradition and setup, we (worship leaders) work hard with their teams to have what we perceive as “high quality” and “dynamic” times of musical worship.  We look for full arrangements and a lot of dynamics.  We want there to be a consistent movement and build from intro, to first verse, to first chorus, to second verse, to second chorus, to bridge, and so on.  And, none of that is wrong.

In fact, I think it’s great.  Music is proven to have an impact on human beings.  It stirs.  It moves.  It draws us in.  And, hopefully, when it comes to worship, it helps us amplify the praise we are lifting.  “Dynamic worship” is definitely a buzzword, and is often both scoffed at and criticized in many circles.  But, regardless of personal taste, it makes perfect sense to do our best to have creative arrangements and utilize this tool of music to the best of our ability when leading God’s people in praise.  You know what else makes perfect sense?  Throwing it all out the window.

Say what?  Didn’t see that coming, did you?  Now, this post is not necessarily about full a capella worship services, although those certainly are valid and are wonderful.  I wanted to take this time to merely point out where some a capella moments could be useful in a worship service.  Primarily, I’ll look at two good uses/reasons to incorporate some a capella into your worship services.

First, have you ever struggled with a transition between two songs in different keys? Sometimes you can work out a nice walk or transitional chord sequence. Sometimes you may just force a hard ending on the first song because you’re not quite sure what to do. Other times, you may have actually thrown a song out because the transition wasn’t working right (even though you may have been led by the Spirit to do that song?).

Transitions can be difficult and sometimes even more so for others. I propose that a great solution is to incorporate some a capella singing as your transition. At the end of the first song, bring it down (or keep it up, whatever works) and let the voices ring out – alone. Drop all the instrumentation and take the congregation through the chorus again (or whatever part is fitting). Dropping the instrumentation, followed by perhaps a nice open moment or two at the very end, allows you to go into the next song pretty easily, even if it is in a different key. It also provides another cool benefit . . .

Have you ever really heard a group of voices singing praise to God? I mean really heard it? Not just a crowd singing with a band. Not even a congregation singing along with your band. But I mean, really, really heard a group of people, with no instrumentation, lifting up worship to the Lord? It’s amazing! It’s pure. It’s passionate. There is just something about hearing that sound that is so fulfilling and wonderful.

As a worship leader, there is absolutely nothing better than hearing the people of God worshipping their Creator. And, it’s cool for those in the congregation too! There is something to be said of the benefit of corporate edification. It’s uplifting to know you are in the midst of a group of people, joining in with them in singing praise to the Lord.  It’s a powerful, wonderful thing.

Now, I am not suggesting that we give up working on transitions. A great transition is super cool and can certainly add some great energy to a song change. It’s very easy to overuse the a capella approach.  But, it’s also possible to underuse it.

It’s a great tool that provides both a practical function and a great opportunity for the people to lift up their voices in unison, unhindered by rhythms, guitar solos, or high Dbs. In a world of big time arrangements (which are super cool), it’s good to strip it down every now and then and let the people worship loudly and clearly. After all, our voices are the instruments that God built into us – let’s let them shine through every now and then!  (Yeah, I know that’s a bit cheesy, but you get the idea.)

-Mark Logan

Introducing A New Song in Church

As we begin the new year, you may have some new songs in mind that you can’t wait to introduce to your congregation. There are so many great corporate worship songs out there these days, but how you introduce them to your congregation can make all the difference in the world!

Here is veteran worship pastor, Paul Baloche, sharing how he typically introduces new songs to his church.

What have YOU found works best?

Is There Something Missing in Your Worship Ministry?

Shadows of team members

(guest post by Chris Gambill)

Think about all the bands you’ve listened to over the years. You probably had a couple of favorites along the way.

Remember when one of your favorite bands broke up or significantly changed its makeup?

Usually when that happened, it was because of a relational breakdown. Maybe that’s not how it was announced, but it eventually was revealed to be the reason.

Or maybe you’ve been in a band. Even though you loved playing music, you hated being a part of the band. It just wasn’t enjoyable and you couldn’t wait to be done.

Why do these things happen? The simple truth is this:

Music making and relationships go hand in hand.

You may be investing time in creating and rehearsing great arrangements, developing amazing visual displays, and recruiting and equipping excellent musicians and techs. But, it will be very difficult to maintain this for the long haul if relationships are dysfunctional and/or non-existent.

As much as we desire to develop good musicians and play good music in the context of worship, we must also have as a priority the development of godly, Christ-centered relationships.

Here are six reasons why.

  1. The kingdom of God is about relationships. It is more valuable to have quality loving relationships with other Christians than to have the most rockin’ band in your town. Jesus said people would know we are Christians not by the excellence of our music but by how we engage with each other in love.
  2. Developing relationships will facilitate a common bond, unity, and purpose beyond music. Your worship team shouldn’t be only known for the quality of the music, but for their bond together with Christ.
  3. When relationships are a priority, then you are less likely to deal with jealousy, anger, misunderstandings, and strife. And when those things do develop, you have a strong relational base to address them from. Truth can be spoken in love because you’ve already established the framework of love.
  4. When relationships are a priority, you become more than just a band. You are a small group (or groups) doing life and ministry together. That’s a win.
  5. Let’s be honest. Your team will play better together when they know and care for each other. A huge part of this is because your members will be looking for ways to look to the interests of others before themselves.
  6. David, a leader of worship leaders, reminded us in Psalm 133:1 how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.

Developing relationships is a key part of leading a worship ministry. And while it is vitally important, it can also be very hard. I’ve served in a number of different ministries. In some cases there’s been success in this area. In other cases, not so much. When I stop to reflect, the difference between ministries with strong relationships and those without is obvious.

Not everyone will want to develop relationships. Some may already have enough relationships. Some may just be there to play music. Some may not want to invest the time because of busy lives. But as a leader, you must persevere in this area for the health of your team members, the worship ministry, and the church as a whole.

So, what are some practical ways you can work at developing relationships within your worship ministry setting? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Begin by praying. Pray for the members of the team to want to care for and get to know each other. Just like Jesus instructed us in John 13, prayed for us in John 17, and Paul reinforced in Ephesians 4.
  • Make sure that you are setting the example of engaging in relationships. If you’re not doing it, not one else will either.
  • Have everything ready for rehearsal before people show up so you can be available to chat with people.
  • Take members out to lunch or coffee as appropriate. Be conscious of gender issues.
  • Invite more than one team member to have dinner at your home at a time.
  • Schedule regular worship team get-togethers. Some can be for the purpose of study or training, but be sure to have some just for the purpose of hanging out. These could be cook-outs, game nights, themed food nights (like Mexican), sports events, or a trip to a concert.
  • Related to the above, if you’re traveling somewhere together, be sure to car pool instead of everyone driving separately.
  • Also related, engage some other team members in the planning and executing of these events. Especially if it’s not your strength. I’ve found that involving others helps to increase participation.
  • Spontaneously invite people to go for lunch, coffee, or ice cream following a rehearsal or special event.
  • Surprise your team with food during a longer rehearsal or between multiple services. Food is a great way to foster spontaneous conversation and caring.
  • Make regular time for team members to share about personal needs in their lives and then provide opportunity for other members to pray for them. Don’t do all the praying yourself.
  • Be clear on your expectations. Let the team know this is a priority and that everyone has a part to play. It’s not fair to get frustrated that your team isn’t connecting if you haven’t communicated the importance.

Ultimately, you have to consider the context of your ministry setting. What are the constraints people have on their lives? How many people are a part of your team? Even if your team is small, start doing this now. It’s a lot easier than trying to retrofit when the team gets larger.

The important thing to remember is that this cannot be ignored. It may be hard and there may be resistance, but it is vital to push through. In the end everyone will be better for it.

Your congregation is watching the worship team. It’s obvious when a team gets along and loves each other and when a team is filled with strife. Which type of team do you think will be more effective in leading people to worship Jesus Christ?

And it will be a good way to make sure your team doesn’t become one that implodes on itself and people talk about at conferences for years to come.

If your worship ministry is struggling, maybe it really doesn’t have anything to do with how deep or talented your bench is. Maybe it has everything to do with lack of relationships among the ministry team.

For Discussion: How have your intentionally fostered relationships in your worship ministry?

Merry Christmas

Christmas Star

We wanted to take a moment to wish you a joyful and Christ-centered Christmas. When you are called to shepherd a meaningful Christmas for others (in whatever capacity you serve), it is often a challenge to slow down enough to hear what the Spirit has to say to you. Our prayer for you is that you and your team experience the same meaning of Christmas that you help bring to others.

Serving with you,
-the worshipplanning.com team

Free Webinar with Tommy Walker: “Don’t Burn Out!”

Tommy Walker WebinarOn October 27th (at 9pm EST), we have a real treat for you.  Tommy Walker will be our first guest of a new webinar series we are starting.  He will be speaking about a topic that affects nearly everyone, across all vocations: burn out.  If you are a worship leader that’s in it for the long haul, you won’t want to miss the principles he has found  important to avoiding burn out.

Tommy has led worship for 20 years at Christian Assembly in Los Angeles and has over 100 songs currently being tracked by CCLI.  While this is very impressive, he says his greatest achievement is “to be found being faithful to His God, his family and his local church.”  I suspect we’ll learn that having our priorities right plays no small role in using God’s gifts to their full potential.

It really is an honor to have Tommy as our guess.  Please join us!  There is no cost to you.  In fact, all attendees will have the opportunity to download one of Tommy’s songs for free at the end of the webinar, as a thank you for being a part of this special event.

Register at one of these links (not required, but helpful for us):

To attend without registering, you have these options:

  • Listen over the Internet – http://j.mp/clB6tW
  • Dial-in by phone – 724-444-7444 (Call ID: 89043)

To learn more about Tommy and his music, check out http://tommywalker.net

Contest: How do YOU prepare to sing?

Vocal Warm-up CDChances are we all do something (perhaps even a little odd) to prepare our voices for singing.  Drink a tall, neat glass of water? Delight in a bag of greasy potato chips?  Well, we are hoping you’ll post a comment with your trick to tuning those pipes before taking the stage.  And in return for sharing your closely guarded secret, we’ll randomly select two people to win an “Essential Vocals Warm-Up CD” from The Musicademy.

Post your comment no later than Monday, September 13th, and we will pick the winners on the 14th.  Posting multiple comments won’t increase your chances of winning, so please just fit all your tricks into a single comment.  And we promise to only use your email address to contact you if you win (we won’t spam you, or sign you up anything, or post your your email anywhere).

Skip ahead with these bookmarks: