Worship Leader Lessons, #5.1

Taking Time to Learn, part 2 –

Are you taking time to read and process other creative outlets? I read a statistic that over 10,000 films were submited to sundance film festival this year. 200 were selected for screening, and of those, only 3 were given distribution deals. That’s quite a bit of creative that’s out there that won’t be seen by the large masses.

The internet is an incredible tool to hear, see, and experience the creative. Are you spending time seeking out creative work? Watching film shorts, reading blogs about new ideas, expanding your imagination, and your view of the world?

I’ve got a blogroll on the left-hand sidebar of this blog. It contains some of the blogs that I read. Doesn’t take me long – maybe 15-20 minutes a day – mostly scanning. Why? Different perspectives, opinions . . . Some are just ridiculous. Some just there because they make me laugh.

I get this CD music sampler about once a month from worship leader magazine – I used to take the CD out and stick it on the shelf, and forget about it. I’ve changed to the point where not only do i import the tunes into the mac – but I set aside time to listen to the tunes. I may only make it through a minute of each – but every once in a while there will be a gem that needs to be used in the church.

Make sure you’re setting aside time, as a creative, to expose yourself to different avenues of the creative.

Worship Leader Lessons, #5

What are you learning new? Are you writing music? Are you spending time sifting through new music on a regular basis? One of the most baffling things to me as a worship leader is the CCLI top 25. CCLI is “Christian Copyright Licensing International,” and is the organization that ALL churches should be paying a yearly subscription to, unless you’re solely using original worship songs – and you don’t want the use of those songs tracked and available to others.

Anyway – the “top 25” is the list of the top 25 songs used in churches across the country for any given 6 month period. Songs like “Lord I lift your name on high” and “You’re Worthy of my praise” still appear on this list. There’s so many new songs being produced by some fantastic artists, and it’s discouraging to know that we [the Church] are still using songs to a large enough extent that these make it into the top 25!

Have you STOPPED your learning? If we check back in on you in 5 years, will you still look and sound and feel the same as you do now? How about 10 years?

Worship Leader Lessons, #4

Respect the time of a volunteer.

We’ve got a simple schedule during the week.

Choir meets from 6-7. I try to split the time of the choir between preparing for the next Sunday that we’ll lead in worship, and working on seasonal material. I’d say that our rehearsals are fairly fast-paced, and if you’ll engage, you’ll pick up a lot of music in a short amount of time. I stand in front of our choir room at a small console-piano, and teach mostly by repetition and rote, as the majority of our folks are not readers (music that is). I supplement the teaching with a ridiculous amount of falsetto singing to accompany the altos and sopranos.

Our choir rehearsal ends at 7. On the dot. Not a second over. I’ll stop in the middle of a song if I have to, but stopping on time, and respecting the schedules of those participating is a big deal to me, and so I go overboard in trying to be sensitive.

After choir, our praise team vocalists (that are singing on that particular Sunday) meet around the stage piano for 30 VERY fast-paced minutes of part rehearsal. This is their time to hear their parts, and rehearse them quickly. At 7:30, my band is ready for downbeat, and our weekly rehearsal usually lasts until 8:45. We also include the tech volunteers to make sure that sound, slides, and lighting is correct for Sunday.

On Sunday morning, we start promptly at 8 with a run-through.

What challenges do you face in respecting the time of your volunteers?

Worship Leader Lessons, #3

You WILL offend . . .

I could write a book. I won’t, but I could write a book about the offenses that people have taken to ministry decisions I’ve made in 15 years.

I’m a people-pleaser, and it took me a long time to realize that there are and will be people that are offended by something I do, or don’t do. Think about it for a minute. If you’ve got 500 people coming to church – all 500 of those car stereos will have a different set of radio presets. Musical preferences are subjective, and nothing gets people’s passions stirred more than whether or not they like a certain song or style. Be prepared. Be gracious, but also be confident that God has called you to minister in a certain way.

Worship leaders aren’t juke-boxes. There are styles that I can play well, and those that I struggle with. There are pieces of music that I can adapt easily for our style of worship, and those that would sound like the Mormon Tabernacle choir trying to sing Aerosmith. Just as there are different preaching and teaching styles, there are different philosophies and strengths in leading worship. Embrace yours. Be graciously bold.

Worship Leader Lessons, #2

Be Consistent.

Find a way to provide some consistency to your weekly ministry, which gives those that want to get involved something to count on. For me – the same guy sits at the piano every week. And whether some would think that’s a good thing, or a bad thing – it provides vocalists and instrumentalists a consistent musical presence each week -which allows for various drummers, guitarists, bassist, and vocalists to rotate through and learn what to listen for when matching up strumming, beating, and singing.

The downside? It’s difficult for a pianist to get involved unless they want to play synth.

If you’re not a piano player – you can still provide consistency by being a steady guitarist, or a strong vocal that allows your volunteers something they can count on to be there . . .

Worship Leader Lessons, #1

This blog stinks. It’s been treading water since the beginning of the summer, where it’s only consisted of weekly recaps of Sunday morning tunes – not even a new ridiculous video . . . I’m initiating a new attempt at adding some content.

I’ve been having an email exchange with a friend over the past few days regarding how I do certain things in the worship ministry. Which got me thinking – maybe this same info would benefit others. So i’m starting a new series on this blog . . . little lessons I’ve learned. Personal policies i follow. Weekly procedures . . . etc. Maybe some will be helpful. Maybe some will apply to your ministry situation. It’s not going to be funny. Well, at least most of it won’t be funny.

#1 – Do you really want to be a church music guy?
My piano professor in college was also my aural skills professor my freshman year. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, we’d arrive for our 8:00 class at 7:58, and keep the lights off in the room because it was 8:00, and that’s early for a college kid. He would, with fervor and vigor, throw open the door, flip on the lights, and bellow, yes, bellow “GOOD MORNING! How’s everyone doing this morning.” “mumble, grumble.” “You know, I would think that music majors were the happiest people in the world because you’re getting to do exactly what God created you to do.” He was right.

Majoring in music was hard. I practiced piano 3 hours a day, worked full-time at the concert hall on campus, and took 18 hours of class every semester. But I get to do what I love . . . music. Music MINISTRY comes with so many more responsibilities and challenges though – which is why #1 is “Do you really want to be a church music guy?”

It’s NOT just sitting around the office with a guitar in hand learning the latest Hillsong United tune that’s on the third CD they’ve released this year . . . It involves people. And working with people is beautiful, and messy, and challenging, and sacrificial – and you’ve got to believe that God’s called you to a position like that.

Are you called to just produce music within the walls of a church? Or are you called to love and minister with people, and in the process, gather together and make some music?