Inspiration: Let it Be Known

If the first single to the upcoming WorshipCentral release is any gauge of the upcoming music – I am encouraged and excited.  Yes it’s basically a dance worship track… But for some reason I can’t stop listening to it.

Thoughts…

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.

Christmas At The Crossing Church 2012

Christmas

Ok so cards on the table, Christmas isn’t my favorite time of the year.  There I said it.  Wheew, what a weight off my shoulders.  We don’t need to get into the details of why but suffice it to say that each Advent season my Grinch mug replaces whatever vessel was in use prior to this season.  That being said, I do realize what an opportunity it is to use creativity, art, music, and more to share the real message of the season.  I am one who believes worship leaders should share as much as possible at all times of the year but especially during the big times like Christmas and Easter.

What you are doing at your church can help inspire others in their efforts in their respective churches.  So that’s why I’m finally blogging again after a long hiatus that was really just due to not making time for it.

First: Advent Devotionals
As a pastoral staff we created an Advent devotional for our Faith Family to share.  Each pastor took 3 readings we had pulled from the Lectionary Year C and wrote a short devotional based on those readings.  We decided to use The Message translation as to make it a very comforting and story like read.  We printed them in house and made them into little booklets whose final size was 8.5″ x 5.5″. I wasn’t sure what the response would be so we printed what we would normally  print for worship folders each week and well we underestimated the interest in them (note: we did not hand them out as people entered but as they left.  we let everyone know they were available if they wanted one – this way we avoided just giving them to every person who walks in that my have a reading plan, or just plain wouldn’t use it.)
Here is a link to our devotional in an easy to print and assemble at home .pdf 

Second: Children’s Program
Our children’s department put on a wonderful weekend of The Secret of Snowflake County. We have them take of the weekend services with a little acoustic worship and message time mixed in.  You can find pictures here on our Facebook Page

Third: “Carols” Production
To be honest, all of the choral products I had received in promotion for what to purchase were a huge let down.  Nothing really struck me as good; at all.  So we decided to arrange our own choral music for this program.  We pulled a lot from the Lifechurch.tv album, Carols.  We also pulled inspiration from Church on the Move (Joy to the World, O Holy Night, Christmas Story), Hillsong, and Others.  We were able to arrange songs that fit us so much better than any other boxed production.  The catch was well I had never arranged and written music like that before so the choir may have received some sheet music only weeks before the event.  I am very glad we decided to do so, however I would have loved to have started much earlier.

Fourth: Christmas Weekend
It has always been my philosophy to present Christmas weekend and Easter Weekend as who you are every other day of the year.  I don’t like to do big productions, extra flashy, or extra traditional things that don’t represent who you are every other weekend.  The thought process there is that those days you are most likely to have more guests than any other time of the year, why present yourself as something you are not?  shouldn’t we try to encourage them to come back with a picture of who we really are?  So this year we are doing basically a normal worship service.  We do have a pretty cool opening version of O Come O Come Emmanuel.  We are using the Future of Forestry version interspersed with some Amena Brown poetry.  Here is an example of that presentation (we obviously played live but for you to get the idea)

Fifth: Christmas Eve
I like that we keep our Christmas Eve services simple and family oriented.  We sing standard carols led from guitar in-between portions of the Christmas Readings from Luke.  There is a moment when the children are invited on stage to hear our Children’s pastor read a story to them (and we put the pictures on the screens for all to follow along with.) We share family communion together – that’s where one person representing the family comes and gets a small plate with enough elements on it for the whole family.  They return and share a time of prayer and communion together as a family.  It is a nice peaceful evening that keeps the focus where it should be.

Sixth: Vacation
I go on vacation ha ha.  Ok not every year but usually I tend to take some time to recharge after what can be a very intense season.

Bonus:
We used this version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen as an opener the first week of Advent this year.  We did slow it down a smidgen and well I actually tuned my guitar… but you get the idea of the Mumford and Sons inspired version.  It was a lot of fun and was received extremely well.

 

I would love to know what you are doing this year!  Share in the comments below.

Crossing Church Set List July 28-29

Well it’s been quite some time since my last post.  What can I say, life has been really busy lately so at the top of the list of things that got overlooked was the blog…  Anyway here we go again.  We are introducing a new song this week by Hillsong – Cornerstone.  I love this song and can’t wait to sing it.

Our God – Chris Tomlin
One Thing Remains – Bethel Live
The Stand – Hillsong
Cornerstone – Hillsong 

 

Hope to see you this weekend at the Crossing Church!

Marriage and Ministry: Day Off

It’s not a 9 to 5 job.

Ministry is one of those jobs that has the ability to consume every aspect of your life.  It comes home with you after your workday ends.  You rarely have a free weekend.  And you are on call all the time.

That makes the day off – a true day off – an incredible challenge at times.  There is a difference between a day not at your job and a day off; a big difference.

My wife also works full time.  But we have always had at least one full day off together.  It’s a day that I have to admit at times (too many times) I have not fully been “off of work.”  I have too many times been off of work but still connected with my phone, laptop, or in thought at the least.

It really is a tough proposition – at least for me – to completely disconnect from my job and truly give my full attention to my wife and what we are doing.  She deserves it but doesn’t always get it.  But in the short time I have been in full time ministry I have learned that time disconnected is just as important if not more so than the time spent at work.  I have purposefully not connected my phone to work email and though I have given everyone in my ministry my cell phone I gave it to them with the instruction that on my day off and after hours it will go straight to voicemail.

It’s tough to balance marriage and ministry.  But we are called to be loving husbands and wives as well as worship leaders and ministers.  If we can’t learn to balance them and treat our spouses the way they should be and the way God has intended then well both our ministry and marriage will suffer.

Let’s be honest there are times when we just can’t escape ministry creeping into our personal time.  It happens.  But for me the key is to make the most of those times I do have with my wife and strive to completely disconnect from my normal day.  I have a great spouse who is very understanding but that doesn’t mean I can take advantage of her.

I can over-spiritualize the neglect of my spouse all too easily.  “It’s not just a job, it’s a calling.”

Yes it is a calling, a calling to be the best worship leaders, ministers and spouses we can be.  That means finding whatever balance we can to respect and honor our wives.  For me that means remembering my day off and keeping it holy… and yes maybe even turing off my phone.

*For more posts from other pastor and leaders on Marriage and Ministry, please check out the hashtag on twitter #marriageministry and check back the series page Marriage and Ministry!