Worship Leader Lessons #14 – Cheap, Fast, Good

Ever heard the saying “Good, Cheap, Fast – you can pick 2….”

I’ve seen the sign in restaurants.  Makes me laugh, mostly because it’s true.  And wow – does it ever apply to ministry.  Each decision you make when it comes to your ministry, and the people involved can, and should be run through that grid.  Good, Cheap, Fast – pick 2.

Let’s say that you really want to do that new song that just came out on Hillsong’s latest album (you know – one of the two albums they realesed last week…) You can do it fast, and good – but you’re gonna isolate those serving in your ministry that don’t pick up new tunes as fast.  That’s going to be costly – certainly not cheap.

You could do it cheap and fast, but again – you’ll end up pushing someone too fast out of their comfort zone, maybe even to the point of quitting your ministry.

I’ll always err on cheap and good.  Plan it out.  Make sure the chart is right.  Make sure you’ve been able to spend enough time teaching your team, bringing younger or newer players along slowly, making sure you’re not throwing too much out at your congregation every week, and being intentional about every single decision you’re making for your volunteers, your church, and your ministry.

Worship Leader Lessons #13

Don’t wait for Atlanta to tell you what songs you need to be doing.

You know the stories – those (worship leaders) that anxiously await the latest CD from [insert name of artist here]. And they might be in Atlanta, or Nashville, or Australia . . . and immediately download the charts, get their guitarists a new pedal, and try to emulate the exact sound and feel of the entire disc.

Problem is, they’re forgetting to attention to whether or not those songs are singing the soundtrack of their church, their congregation. Remember – it’s so easy to assume that everyone in your church is listening to as much worship music as you are – but the opposite is more likely true – YOU are responsible for building the soundtrack for their worship. So choose wisely . . . look at the text of the songs you’re singing. Doesn’t mean that they have to be, or should be, all hymns – or all praise songs. Ask yourself what truths of God’s character, Christ’s love, and the Spirit’s indwelling that you want to proclaim – and then choose songs accordingly.

Don’t base your church’s worship experience on the latest iTunes download.

Worship Leader Lessons, #12

I haven’t posted one of these in a while. You can get the rest of them here.

Do you practice?

When i graduated from Samford in ’98, I could play my scales and arpeggios at 132 (that’ll only mean something to a small few of you). Now, I can play them at about 120 – but I still find myself having to not only practice, but take time to learn new technique, new chords, new styles on the piano.

Vocally it’s the same drill. Are you showing up on Sunday mornings expecting to pop out the same notes you did last week – having done nothing to improve your instrument over the course of the week? Take time to warm up – stretch your range. Push yourself past where you’re comfortable.

Don’t simply rest on the talents that you have. Take some time to learn something new . . . right now i’ve got a mandolin in my office, and I’m trying to make my ginormous fingers fit onto the tiny frets and pound out some chords. Do I ever plan on playing the mandolin in church? Nope. Does it make me more effective in planning for, and arranging for a mandolin? You bet . . .

Worship leaders – make sure that you’re always learning, always improving, always striving to add to your skill set.

Worship Leader Lessons #11

I haven’t posted one of these up in a while. Christmas happened. When Christmas happens in a worship leader’s life, everything else stops except for what you’re doing with Christmas. Anyway . . . back to it.

You CAN’T change people’s hearts.

This was a tough one to learn. Before coming to Oak Mountain, i worked at a small church in Newnan, GA. I was just remarking to a friend that church plants should be a required part of the resume of a church staff member – especially at large churches like Oak Mountain.

I would really struggle with some folks and heart issues. I got experience attitudes, opinions, and actions that you wouldn’t believe, even if I tried to tell you. I’d try to do the ‘man’ thing and fix them. I obsessed over the opinions of others. Even coming to Oak Mountain, i had to learn that I couldn’t change someone’s heart. It’s a humbling thing.

You can’t convince someone that your ministry style is right. You can’t change someone’s mind about participating or not participating. And this is where the aspect of TRUST comes into your ministry. You’ve got to trust that the holy spirit is working, and that it’s bringing those to be involved into your midst. And when that happens, and you can truly let go of “what people think,” “who is NOT participating,” your ministry gets freed up and you begin to experience, if only a tad more – the blessings that God has in store – through you – into the people he’s called you to serve with.

So, STOP IT. Stop worrying. Do what you can to offer, and listen, but stop obsessing over trying to change hearts.

Worship Leader Lessons, #10

Learn how to arrange.

No one knows your teams better than you do. If you don’t know how to use notation software, I hear that Sibelius is very easy to learn and use. I use Finale – and the reason I don’t switch is because I spent FAR too much time learning Finale, and all of its in’s and out’s. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its challenges though 🙂

Spend some time learning notation software, and arranging music the way you want your vocalists to sing it, and your instrumentalists to play it. Providing your musicians with clear consistent charts is crucial to respecting their time, and increasing the musical quality on a weekly basis. If your guitarists know that they’re going to get clear instruction, they’re more likely to be successful for you and want to come back.

Worship Leader Lessons, #9

Take a day off.

I’m currently sitting at home. It’s 3:45 on a Sunday afternoon. I was at work this morning at 7 (a solid hour before my volunteers show up) and left at 1. I’ll be back at 4:30 for children’s choir and afternoon activities. Sunday is a work-day for me. Therefore, I take off on Fridays. It’s crucial to take some time off during the week OTHER than Sunday. Worship leaders – if you’re in a situation where you don’t have a day off, start taking one this week.

What does your schedule look like? Do you have a consistent day off?

Worship Leader Lessons, #8

Do you exercise?

Really. Do you take time during the day – MOST days of the week to exercise? I do. I HATE it, but I do. In fact, if I try to skip it, my wife insists that I do because I become grumpy and obsessed with the ridiculous. God’s raised the bar with YOU to take care of those he brings into your fold, so you’ve got to be diligent in taking care of yourself. Don’t let it slide. Spend some time exercising and getting outdoors during the day. It’s EASY for us [musicians] to sit in our holes and create, and think, and record, and write, and “do” ministry activity, but it’s crucial that we carve out just a little time to help take care of our bodies.

Worship Leader Lessons, #7

Simplified, accurate, quality technology makes all the difference.

Regardless of your church budget, you can afford a streamlined technical process.

Vocal monitors – They REALLY don’t need to hear drums, guitars, reverb . . . train your vocalists, and have them rely on less as opposed to more. Vocalists that sing with me get my voice and piano in their monitors. But it trains them (whether they realize it or not) to listen to each other, and to the harmonic structure of the music for reference. It also creates better vocalists, because they’re able to sing with less. This helps reduce stage volume, and creates a cleaner mix for your sound guy.

My electric guitarists all use amp modelers. Some hated it at first, but it helps reduce stage volume, and in the mix of a few guitarists, bass, drums, vocals, piano, and sometimes synth, i PROMISE you won’t hear the difference between an amp and a decent amp modeler. In fact – about a year ago we tried an experiment – I had one of my best guitarists bring his amp, and we stuck it backstage with a mic, and he fiddled and tweaked, and we couldn’t get it sounding as smooth and consistent as our modelers.

A good sound board, whether analog or digital also makes all the difference. Allow enough technology to adequately support your style of music. An 8 channel board won’t cut it if you’re trying to mix full band.

Spending a little more money up front will reduce your need to quickly replace outdated or faulty equipment.

Worship Leader Lessons, #6

Make it easy for people to get involved.

Our choir meets every Wednesday night. But we’re a tad different than other choirs. First off – we don’t have lady who’s only job is to sit at the front of the room and mark your name on a list when you do (or don’t) show up. I’m constantly having conversations with people who don’t come to choir because they have something one Wednesday night out of the month. Which is why i say “come when you can!” We try to make it easy for people to get involved. No auditions. Flexible rehearsal schedule. Childcare for those that need it. Drinks and snacks in case you’re coming straight from work, and as mentioned before – stopping after an hour – on the dot.

For our instrumentalists, we don’t have auditions there either. I’m convinced that if someone has a musical ability, and wants to use that to lead in worship, then it’s my responsibility to get them involved. My calling is to people first, music second. And we make participation a supportive thing. I’ll pair up guitarists so a newer player gets to play alongside a more seasoned player, until they get the hang of it. Technology teams are the same thing. Will – our technical director, can train anyone for either sound or slides.

I just had a conversation yesterday – an email request showed up in my inbox. New guy – wanted to get involved. Has played guitar and synth, but “I’ve been in your shoes before and I understand you can’t commit to getting me playing, but I’d like to come a practice sometime and play to see what you think. I understand there are no guarantees and it’s fine if you can’t work me in the rotation.” I think I caught him off guard when I called a mere 3 minutes after getting his email and invited him to play, LAST NIGHT. And he did a great job. And most of it requires a step in faith to believe that God brings those that He wants involved, and has called the worship minister to involve them, train them, and equip them.

Worship Leader Lessons, #5.2

Taking time to learn – part 3

As a creative, are you creating? Do you have time carved out to create?

I subscribe to a certain email group – and I doubt any of them read this – but i’m always amazed at the number of requests that are posted that read something like this: “Does anyone have a chart for . . . “

Worship leaders, in a full-time capacity, should not ONLY have the ability to create charts, but should also be carving out time in their schedules to be creating. Whether it be blogging, writing music, working out a new arrangement, scoring, practicing new voicings for the guitar . . . take time to further develop your art, your craft. Don’t stop trying to become a better artist.