Ripoff or Stand on the Shoulders of Giants?

Countdown

Not every idea in the church world is original… In fact, not every creative idea, in general, is completely original. That’s a topic for another time.

For now… enjoy our Christmas Eve Countdown video.

If I could do it all again I wouldn’t have a sick baby who was super fussy leaving me to have little time to get a good audio test run… For the most part, it turned out great… would like a little more lead vocal and touch less drum (or just less drummer in general… you worship leaders know what I’m talking about)

Life Hacks, Quick Videos and Comedy

VAC

So we’ve kinda started this idea that we’ve continued through a number of different seasons at The Crossing Church… Dumb (but hopefully funny) Life Hacks and tips for special occasions. They all generally are thought up last minute and filmed rather quickly but so far have been received extremely well.

Comedy in Church is hard. Comedy, good comedy, usually walks a fine line of appropriateness, which is generally frowned upon by the church congregation (even though the night before they were laughing out loud at similar jokes on their favorite TV show). That generally leaves church skits, videos, and even sermons kinda waffling in this no man’s land of humor – funny to those who are on the inside, not so funny to those who are not. Sometimes you have to do your best to play to the audience (rule number 1 or close within comedy… know your audience) and do your best to get some laughs. Laughs hopefully help break down walls that allow the ultimate message to be received better… in theory.

So here are a few of our attempts to have a little fun (and admittedly play to the audience we know regularly attends each week and hopefully stretch them a little too).

The Story of Christmas

So here is our Christmas production from this year.
We arrange all the music for the choir.
Attempted to run the lights via midi signal being sent from Ableton which was also running our tracks.  I also used my iPad to trigger songs via midi over wireless – which was pretty cool.
we don’t really have a camera team yet – that’s coming this next budget year… so the continuity issues you may notice are because we filmed one wide shot (and I didn’t do a good job setting that up) one service and a moving camera for the next.
This is what we were able to edit together.

Inspiration: Made Alive

Made Alive by Citizens who are a band from Mars Hill in Seattle.

I heard Church on the Move cover it.

I loved it.

We’ve added it to our rotation.

No that is not how I pictured the lead singer.

enjoy.

5 Easy Ways to Improve Your Worship Services

worshiptips

As worship leaders we should always be looking for ways to improve our services.  There is no magic formula for doing so.  In fact there is no measure by which we can, across the board, judge success or betterment when it comes to our worship services.  But each of us know when we have a weekend is better or more successful than others.  So what can we do to improve?  There are any number of ways but here are five easy ways I have found very useful.

1. Pray
I know that seems simple.  You probably already do so on your own, with your team, or with a prayer group.  But it is something that can’t be missed or overlooked.  It’s more than just circling up before you take the platform.  It’s prayer over what songs are being picked.  What service elements are being implemented.  It’s prayer over each detail that goes into a weekend.  As the great amateur theologian M.C. Hammer once pontificated, “That’s word, we pray, pray, ah yeah, we pray, pray. We got to pray just to make it today.”

2. Watch Yourself
In my  head I picture how I think I’m coming across when I move, or speak, or lead.  Having watched myself back consistently I discovered… I was wrong.  Thinking I was coming across one way and discovering it wasn’t as I had pictured made me think about each and every movement I made.  It’s humbling to do so. At times it’s hard to do so.  But watching yourself and your team can only help you identify things that hinder and benefit a service.  It’s as simple as setting up a static camera in the back with just the room mic on it.  If you multi track or record your services in a different manner, try to get as raw of a sound or as much natural feel you can.  I can sound as good as I want with the right plug-ins and tweaks but that doesn’t help me improve my stage presence, singing, or much else.  I suggest a room mic just to get a feel for the liveness.

3. Watch Others
Just as watching yourself helps you identify things about you on the platform, so does watching other churches.  I spend a portion of my mondays first watching back the service from yesterday and also watching the worship services from a few other churches.  It’s what we naturally do when we go to another church or attend a conference; picking up on little things here and there that seem effective, that you like, or you think would benefit your services.  So take some time each week and check out what other churches are doing.  I suggest checking out a church much larger than yours, a church smaller than yours and maybe one similar in size to see how each are using their resources to create their particular worship environment.  Check out Worship Set Ideas for a good place to start.

4. Transitions, Transitions, Transitions
Nothing is more distracting than awkward transitions.  And let’s face it even the best slip up from time to time and things happen.  But with some planning and thinking ahead you can help minimize them.  How does one song flow into another?  Do you need a hard stop and some talking? Can you start the next song with some rhythmic drums or a keys pad?  How do you transition from you last song to the message? Is a bumper needed? A greeting time?  All of these things can help keep the flow of service smooth.  If you take time when planning each service to think through your transitions your quickly find that things gel quicker and seem so much smoother.  Any way we can remove distractions only improves our worship services.

5. Communicate
There’s nothing worse than lack of communication.  So many things can be taken care of, prepared better, or just simply fixed ahead of time if communication takes place.  Being able to send a guitar player parts to look at for rehearsal ahead of rehearsal.  Being able to talk with your pastor about the direction he is heading helps plan songs, moments, or elements that connect on a deeper level.  Telling the keyboard player when to lay out ahead of time rather than in the heat of rehearsal right before service alleviates potential tension.  We all think communication happens and we do pretty well with it.  But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t get better.  The first step I took at communicating better was, while planning the services I would listen through each song an jot down notes for my players.  I would then email them out ahead of time so we could talk about them before we even got to rehearsal.  The result has been smoother rehearsals, overall happier players cause they aren’t spending time practicing one thing then I let them know the day before I want something else.  The result has been better moments in service that seem to connect on a deeper level than before.  Communication can’t be overlooked.  A good rule of thumb is over communication is better than a lack there of.

None of the ideas mentioned above are tremendously difficult to employ.  In fact they are super easy to do no matter where you are in your ministry.  Hopefully these help you achieve what only you can determine as better worship services.

Heading to the Dominican Republic

As we embark on our work and witness trip to El Rosario Dominican Republic I am thankful for the support and prayer that is covering this trip. The plan is to blog at least daily to keep you updated as to what’s going on during our trip. However with hurricane Sandy passing close enough by to affect the island our plans are always subject to change. Our original plan was to commission a water well, setup and show the Jesus Film, as well as be the hands and feet of Jesus to a community in need. While we are still going through with all we have planned we are listening to see what God has planned for us. The area has been affected enough by the rain and winds such that we may be filling new and different needs.

I will update you soon with more information on how the area was affected and how you can be praying for us and those we will be working with. Thanks for your prayer and support.

Joseph Kony and Invisible Children: Where I Stand

Wow I am amazed at the response this video is getting.  If you haven’t seen it you should at least go watch it to see what all the hullabaloo is about.  What is amazing to me is how the desire to see the world made a better place can start so much controversy and discord among people.

“It’s a scam!”
“They call themselves filmmakers and drive really nice cars around now! The nerve!”
“They are just greedy, if they really wanted to help they would…”
“Ugandan’s are irate and wish the video would go away!”
“There are invisible children in America too! Why focus only on the children in Uganda!”
“The abductions have dramatically decreased over the past decade plus he’s not even in Uganda anymore!”

There are more critics of what a group of people did to try and change the world than there are of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I think we are missing the point here.

We are so ready to point the finger at the missteps of an organization than understand the power of what is really happening here.  Social media has given us more power as a people than ever before.  Here is how I see it.

I am sure that there is some misappropriation of monetary donations to the company but that doesn’t negate the great social media campaign aimed to make this war lord known and hopefully captured.  Are they a perfect organization – No. Do I think they could spend their money better – probably (but so could compassions and other well known charities). Do I support their overall mission to keep these children from being abducted and forced to kill – absolutely. I do wish their financials reflected a bit more heading towards uganda and the greater area but I do want to see continued support from the U.S. in helping capture Kony.

Let’s all pray that through this (corrupt financials or not) that God’s work can be done.

To make this about money is to miss the point as to what’s going on here.  We can debate all day about how you would run their organization but we’d be missing the point.  People doing what they know to do to help other people.

You see what this campaign is really doing is showing the powers that govern us that we care about this issue.  And the way our government works – for better or for worse – is if enough people make enough noise and enough potential votes could be lost then action is taken.

Yes there are other just as worthy causes to be fighting for.  I predict that if this Kony 2012 campaign is as successful as it is appearing to be then you will see this same thing employed to bring and end to sex trafficking, provide clean water, stop genocide, and more.

That is what I am excited about – action can be taken when it is outside our nations “financial and general interest.”   All we have to do is stand up and say that’s what we want to see!

 

Also Charity navigator actually ranks them rather high (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=12429) and they post their financials online for everyone one to see (http://www2.invisiblechildren.com/financials) and have responded to the recent critiques that come with recognition (http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html)

This post was written extremely quickly and not proofed – please excuse any incomplete thoughts or spelling errors, I will check my work when I get home and have time – I have to get back to work.