New Version 4.3 – File Access Reports and Remembering Notification Messages

WorshipPlanning.com Logo v4.3.0

This version of WP brought a couple of features that will not only save you time with your scheduling process, but it will also help you get an idea who is coming to rehearsal prepared!

File Access Reporting

WP is now keeping track of who is accessing files you have uploaded.  This is important for two main reasons:

CCLI Rehearsal License Reporting

If you have a CCLI Rehearsal License, you are required to report the number of unique accesses (stream or download) of song files covered under the license.  To make this super easy, we’ve created a page that allows you to easily see download counts, per song, for a specific time period.

CCLI Rehearsal License Reporting Screenshot

This can be accessed from the Library >> Files Library menu option.  Click on the File Access Reports sub tab and select your date!

General File Access Reporting

The other File Access Report we created, called the “General File Access” view, will list all the files accessed, including the user that accessed it, the date/time of the access, and how they accessed.  You can even filter the search for results by time period, user, related song, and file name.  It’s a great way to slice-and-dice the data to see who has accessed what!

Song File Access Reporting

And finally, we put the File Access Report info on the Song Details window.  So, if you really want to know which members of your worship team have streamed or downloaded the important files in preparation for rehearsal, you can easily see this by clicking on the song title in the worship flow (or anywhere in the site), then clicking on the File Access tab.

File Access Tab

File reports are only visible to Planners with security level 1 (worship editors) or higher.

Remembering Text from Assignment Emails

Several weeks ago, we added a “previously sent messages” selection field for sending messages to people from the Worship Flow page.  With version 4.3.0, we added that same capability on the People Schedule page.  We know that many people have been using Notepad or other text editors to copy/paste standard messages they send to various teams.  With this feature, you can keep Notepad closed and just select your previously sent message!

Previously Sent Messages from Schedule Page Screenshot

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.

Rock Concert Lighting in Church

These days, if you pay attention to forums or blogs, or anything similar, having to do with modern worship tech, you’ve heard a lot about advancements in lighting tech.  This stuff is cool.  Very cool, actually, when done correctly.  Can lights.  Spotlights.  Laser lights.  All kinds of lights.  We, as the modern church, are quite lucky to have such cool rigging and lighting available to us, as well as awesome technology with which to control all these wonderful lights.  It’d be a shame to not utilize this for our worship services.  BUT . . . we have to be careful.

concert lights

Many point out the trend in many churches that appear to indicate a movement towards “rock concert” more than “church service.”  Now, this is NOT meant to turn into a debate or opinion piece on styles of worship, denominational practices, or even “seeker-friendly” churches.  What I am more specifically looking at here is this: Where is the attention drawn?  Are there distractions?

You see, we can overdo anything.  We can overdo singing.  We can overdo pushing for the offering.  We can overdo being “dramatic” in our preaching.  We can overdo instrumentation (seriously, who needs 7 different guitars on stage during a worship set?).  And yes, we can overdo lighting.

At a rock concert, the lighting is meant to be part of the show. It’s meant to make you think the band is even more cool than you already think they are.  And THAT is the distinction.  In a worship service, what is your lighting scheme doing?  Is it drawing attention to the band?  Is it simply adding a “cool factor?”  Or is it intentional, with the purpose of bringing these worship songs and lyrics even more to life?  Do the lights help to draw people’s attention to Christ even more?  Using our sense of sight is a powerful thing, and can absolutely impact the atmosphere of worship.

As an example, let’s look at “Nothing But the Blood.”  This song is timeless, and powerful, and true.  It stands perfectly well on its own.  I can remember two specific times when we sang this hymn at conferences with very sophisticated lighting schemes.

One place had rapidly moving laser lights, big washes, and bright spots in random locations.  It was very, very cool.  And it was very, very distracting.  Even with my eyes closed, I could see the lights darting to and fro through my eyelids.  At a different conference, there were no dancing laser lights (at least not during this song).  All there was, primarily, was a massive wash of red lights all over the stage.  A sea of red.  And during this song about the blood of Jesus shed for our sins, seeing this wash of red visually enhanced this time of worship.  Not only was I singing about the blood, but I was visualizing the blood of Christ washing over everything.  It was very simple, but it was extremely impactful.

This is what I am talking about.  Laser lights are not a bad thing.  And they can be used very effectively in worship.  The key is this – what is your light “show” accomplishing?  Is it just something cool to add into your church’s “What to Expect” section of your website?  Or are you intentionally utilizing (and not utilizing, when appropriate) this technology to enhance the atmosphere of worship in your church?  Are you using it to make the messages of our praise even more real to your congregation?  In the end, are you using lights to point to The Light?

-Mark Logan

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

New Updates – Version 4.2.3

WP Logo version 4.2.3

We wanted to share with you the details of a few updates we just applied to WorshipPlanning.com.  Enjoy!

Email Response Options

Email response options

Recipients of assignment notifications and reminders will now have the option to respond right in the email.  If the email contains multiple assignments, there will be just a single “respond to assignments” button.  And if the assignment has already been accepted or declined, assignment response buttons do not show.

We think this feature will really help with getting responses from Helpers, as it reduces the number of steps they need to follow to keep you informed!

Facebook Notifications

Although Facebook still has this functionality in Beta, we’ve hooked into their native notification system for 3rd party apps.  Once your team members have the Facebook App Installed, they’ll start receiving notifications in Facebook of when they are scheduled to serve.Facebook Notification

Spotify Alert

Spotify LogoWe really love Spotify, but we are not very big fans of their choice in advertisements.  To help shield you and your team from less-than-desirable ads, we added a pop-up message that offers a few tips that might help.  They include options from disabling Spotify integration with your WP account to upgrading to the paid version of Spotify to remove all ads.

Don’t Share Your Vision

We all know how important vision is. Without a clear vision your church will lose focus and keep from growing. Without a clear vision in your personal life, you won’t know what direction you’re headed and you will lack focus.

However, there is one factor that most of us may not consider when it comes to vision.

vision

I heard about a recent research that showed that many of us actually get the same psychological satisfaction from just telling a bunch of people about our vision as when we actually accomplish the vision. Sometimes people end up not accomplishing their vision or goal because they already got that psychological satisfaction just from telling a lot of people about it.

A great example is when we tell the whole world on Facebook that we’re on a new diet that we read about in the new bestseller book. We get excited and at the same time, by telling all our Facebook friends about it, we get the same psychological satisfaction of losing weight on the diet, without actually losing the weight. This can be counterproductive in accomplishing goals and visions in our life.

In a world where people share anything and everything on social media, my challenge to you is this: be careful how much you share. When it comes to your vision, be wise about whom you share it with.

It’s great to get excited about your vision or goals, whether it’s losing 20 pounds, reading 100 books this year, or whatever it may be. But, in your enthusiasm, know who you should share it with. Have a few trusted people in your life that you share your dreams with.

I’ve had times in my life where I was really excited about my vision…BIG, God-sized dreams and goals! I shared it with EVERYBODY without much thought about whom I should share it with, and quickly faced opposition, negativity, and animosity from some individuals.

Share your vision! But, know who you should share with. Have people around you that know you well, that will come alongside you and help you accomplish your vision.

For more insights on this topic, check out Michael Hyatt’s Podcast episode: The Relationship Between Vision and Productivity.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

-Mark Logan

What Came First – The Worship or the Heart of Worship?

wooden heart

We have likely all seen many short quips on the web relating to how our attitude or view of God impacts the way we worship.  We have also likely seen other sayings that suggest that how we worship actually builds up and impacts how we view God.  These two viewpoints are both innocent enough in their desire to encourage believers in worship.

It is a good thing to encourage believers in worship.  And, it’s good to come up with new ways of doing this, including witty quips via Twitter (or any other social media platform or communication method.).  However, It’s worth noting that these two thoughts do, in fact, offer conflicting views as to the relationship of the nature of our worship and our view of God.  So, which is it?  Which came first?  The chicken or the egg?  Or, in this case, the worship, or the heart of worship?

Short answer:  Both!  Not the answer you were expecting?  Well, it’s all I’ve got for ya.  But allow me to explain why I have come to this conclusion . . .

To worship God is to recognize, honor and proclaim who He is.  First of all, let’s acknowledge that “worship” means a whole bunch of things, not just singing corporate worship songs in church.  However, for the purposes of this article, when I refer to “worship” I am referring to singing songs in a corporate worship setting.  Cool?  Cool.

Ok, so worship is about God.  That is the first and most important key.  It isn’t about us.  It isn’t about the church.  It isn’t about the worship band or the worship leader.  Worship, at its core, is always about God.  So, how do we worship if we don’t know God?  My theory is that you can’t.  Not abundantly and passionately, at least.

Another way to put this is this:  Do you believe the words you are singing?  If so, then does your worship show that?  It’s hard for me to sing about how great our God is with any real meaning if I think my God is small and weak.  But knowing how great He truly is – that changes everything.  I can’t simply mumble the words to these songs.  I have to proclaim them!

In this way, how I view God absolutely impacts how I worship.  I fully believe that I was a lost sinner, doomed to destruction apart from Christ.  I believe I was saved, not by any works that I had done or any merit I had earned, by purely by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.  I know this in my core.  I believe this with everything within me.  And I am grateful.  I am swimming in oceans of grace and mercy, and because of this, I can’t help but praise my God with all I have.  Think of it this way:  If your mom or dad gave you an awesome present as a kid, did you just mumble “thanks” and act as though nothing ever happened?  No!  You were likely excited!  You were likely thrilled!  And you were likely grateful, perhaps even running and throwing your arms around your mom or dad.

Well, was that gift any more potent or cool or awesome than what God has done for us?  Isn’t His gift of salvation way, way, way more incredible than a bike, doll or video game?  Then why do we so often approach worship with such indifference?  It’s not about false flair and hyped up fake enthusiasm.  It’s about believing the words we’re singing, and letting that impact how we worship.

On the flip side, the songs we sing absolutely can and do influence how we view our Lord.  It has been said by many that worship leaders and worship songwriters are some of the primary theologians of today, and I cannot disagree.  Nothing sticks in the heart and mind quite like music, and through that medium we are communicating truths about who God is.

This is why we, as worship leaders and songwriters, need to be so careful in the songs we write and the songs we choose to bring before our churches.  We need to ensure that what we’re singing in our churches are communicating Biblical truth as to who God is.  And when we do this prayerfully, led by the Spirit, we can see people’s views of Jesus change in dramatic ways.  Is someone in your church going through a hard time and perhaps doubting who God is in their life?  Singing a song about God’s faithfulness and goodness can boost their faith.

Sure, it may not hit the first time, but singing Biblical songs about and to God on a regular basis can and will encourage those who need it.  It’s not about the guitar riff or the drum beat, and it’s not even about how good the lead vocalist is (or isn’t).  It’s about the truth we’re proclaiming.  If it is indeed Biblical truth, then the Spirit can and will use it to build up His church.

So, we’ve now seen the “circle of life,” so to speak, that is the relationship of worship and our heart of worship – our view of God.  Let’s keep the short Twitter buzzwords and catchphrases coming, but let’s not exclusively limit how worship impacts us and our view of God, and how our view of God is reflected in our worship.  Instead, recognize the relationship, be thankful for it, and proceed with prayerful consideration as we continue to lead God’s people to the throne.

-Mark Logan

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