If You Could Only Go to 1 Worship Conference It Would Be…

I don’t know if there is a particular “season” for church conferences let alone worship conferences. It feels like I continually receive advertisement for an upcoming conference featuring the hottest speakers and worship acts and so on and so forth. So my question is, If you could only go to one Worship specific Conference a year (and for a lot of us that is the case) which one would it be? National Worship Leaders Conference, Cre:ate, Refresh, Calvin Institute Symposium, Christ Church, Worship Together , Any Conference in Southern California (because it’s held in Southern California) or another (I realize this list is too long to exhaustively list every major worship conference let alone every worship conference – see this good list here or this one here or this one here)? Why would you choose that one?

As worship leaders we need time to refresh, learn, engage in worship rather than lead, network with other worship leaders, and just plain get away and relax. And generally there is a worship conference near you or relatively near you. But for the sake of the post let’s say it’s a quazi-perfect world without budget restrictions and you could choose just one worship conference, what would it be?

Comment Below and let me know which one and why.

Electron Boy Saves the Day

During the worst storms seen in middle Tennessee in many many years, I ran across this video and just had to share it. I am not a highly emotional person – ask my wife – I very rarely tear up let alone cry. This however caught a little part of my heart and it took like 15 minutes to convince my wife I got dust in my eye. Regardless this is a triumphal story of the power of community. The church should take notes – I know I did.
Enjoy and share the story!

Pulling off a wish like this one required a big story, and a lot of heart. And so, with a note of panic in his voice, Spider-Man explained the dilemma: “Dr. Dark” and “Blackout Boy” had imprisoned the Seattle Sounders in a locker room at Qwest Field. Only Electron Boy could free them.

Erik got into his red-and-blue superhero costume, and called on the powers of Moonshine Maid, who owns a DeLorean sports car. For good measure, more than 20 motorcycle officers from the Bellevue Police Department and King County and Snohomish sheriff’s offices escorted Electron Boy to Seattle.

“They shut down 405 — they shut down I-90,” marveled Moonshine Maid, aka Misty Peterson. “I thought it would just be me, in the car.”

At Qwest Field, Electron Boy was directed by frantic fans to the Sounders locker room, where the entire team was shouting for help behind jammed doors. With a little help from Lightning Lad, the alter ego of local actor Rob Burgess, Erik opened the door with his lightning rod. The Sounders cheered.

I’m Not Religious, I’m Not Spiritual, I’m a Christian

I am not a Christian in the sense that it is my ethnicity, in the sense that I was born into it.  I am a Christian because I follow Christ.  Too many people shy away from the label because of the negative connotation that has been brought upon it.  I am a Christian plain and simple because I follow Christ.

Religious enacts dogma, guidelines and rules.
Spiritual engages opinion.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious sees image and perception.
Spiritual doesn’t care.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious can breed legalism, bureaucracy and red tape.
Spiritual plants shallow roots.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious lets history control the present.
Spiritual lets the present control all.
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Religious gives us solid ground on which to stand.
Spiritual gives us freedom from which to live
I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

The truth is when I say I am a Christian I am seen as the worst of both Religious and Spiritual.  And though I will never uphold the best of any label given, I am a Christian, I follow Christ.

Caption Please

How long was this guy just sitting there waiting for this picture?  Timing is everything.  Enjoy and as always the winner receives nothing but my respect and laughter – which is still practically worth nothing.

Grace Church Set List 4.25.10

This was the last week for our interim pastor to be with us as we begin the transition of a new Senior Pastor.  We left a little extra time this week knowing that he had been with us for about 5 months and had grown to be a great part of our family.  Goodbyes are alway hard so we left a little extra time.

Floodgate – Paul Colman and Michael Neale
Majestic – Lincoln Brewster
Depth of Mercy – Chad Cates and Tony Wood
Your Name – Paul Baloche and Glenn Packiam

You can check out other setlists from around the country at Sunday Setlists at TheWorshipCommunity.com.

5 Reasons for a Choir in Modern Worship Services

It was about a year ago when I was asked to begin directing our church choir.  At the mention of the idea chills ran up and down my spine as if the company you rented the sound system from messed up the ground loop and your slightly wet lips completed the loop as you begin to sing the first words and strum the first power chord on your electric guitar.  I mean I have sang in a number of choirs through school and church but never had thought I could direct one.  My Original thoughts were honestly that we would slowly begin weening out the choir and favor a more contemporary and modern service.  A majority of the music we received through the major choral music companies was way to over orchestrated and didn’t seem to really fit with the worship band scenario (not all products were like that but you have to look long and hard to find the ones not completely driven by horns and strings).  That being said it has been about a year since I began directing our choir and to be honest, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I have come to love directing our choir and am finding that it fits in so much better with a contemporary and modern music style than I would have thought.  So much so, that I strongly recommend a choir in modern worship and here is why.

1. Visual Energy – I am a big believer in the importance of visual energy.  If the person/people leading worship are visually engaging, (not distracting or for show which can sometimes be a fine line but is better hashed out in length in another post) then it engages the congregation as well.  Basically if you don’t look like you are enjoying worship (ha ha think worship pain face – you know what i’m talking about) or even look as if you are worshipping then how can you expect those you lead to enjoy or worship.  A choir in a modern worship service provides a great visual energy.  Though I have never directed a choir before I was always enthralled with the gospel choir – the energy and engagement they provide just draws you in like a moth to a candle flame.  That is what I am talking about – a large group of people in total worship and engagement breaks down some barriers for those who might be uncomfortable otherwise.

2. Built in Group Who Know New Songs – I witnessed this once on a Hillsong DVD where they were teaching a large group some new songs so that they were able to sing with the band and Joel (grant it, it was because they were recording a live DVD and who wants a crowd who doesn’t know the songs).  But think about it, sometimes as we introduce new songs the congregation can be uncomfortable singing along because they don’t know the lyrics.  And while it may not seem logical that they would magically know the lyrics if a choir happened to be singing as well, I have found better response to brand new songs when we have a choir singing along.  There just seems to be some visual connection when seeing a large group singing to feeling more apt to sing along as well (as long as you actually teach them the song prior to service – sorry those in our choir for forgetting this crucial idea from time to time ha ha).  Plus sonically it’s nice to have the sound of many voices making the unfamiliar familiar.

3. Ministry Involvement – Let’s face it, sometimes it is hard to involve everybody that wants to be involved in the music ministry.  It either becomes a scheduling nightmare which never pleases anyone, or you have to tell someone they can’t serve with their giftings (and full disclosure not to be simon but that still takes place sometimes and I am still not sure if it is for the best or not… again another post).  But what better way to garner, energy, excitement, and involvement from those who want to serve and worship?  I have seen some churches go as far as just creating a worship choir who – for all intensive purposes – are just congregation sitting/standing on or behind stage with no real micing just involvement in worship. No matter how you go about it, it is a great way to connect people to a ministry within the church plain and simple.

4.Vocal Adrenaline – we talked about the visual energy brought through a choir but there is a distinct audio energy that exists with a choir as well.  Simple physics would teach us that the more people you have singing the same thing the more energy produced per note – More people = more loud!!!! (but our choir goes to 11).  For certain modern worship songs this is just a huge plus for the whole feel of the song – I am thinking Fee, Tomlin, and others that create wonderful musical and vocal energy.  There is just something powerful behind a large group of people lifting up the name of Jesus together and in my opinion it provides wonderful worship leading.

5. It is a Blessing – I realize I don’t have a lot of experience as a choir director but let me share how much fun this experience has been.  Yes it has been hard at times, challenging at others, but most of all this has been a huge blessing.  It has grown me spiritually, mentally, musically, and has allowed for musical diversity in our services beyond what we would do without a choir.  You may not choose to go down the road of Choir specials and anything other than modern worship music with a worship band but for us it has allowed us to present worship in many different ways and connect better with those who come to worship with us.  Yes we pull choir music from the most modern music as well as liturgical, hymns, a cappella, southern gospel, and more.  Sometimes we “modernize” the music (a lot of times we use the arrangements for structure and vocal arrangement but band-wise we play like the modern worship recordings which yields pretty cool results) and sometimes we stay traditional.  And we as a church, as a music department, as a band, and as worshippers are better for having our choir being a huge part of who we are.

Yes there are challenges to a choir – stage space, to robe or not to robe debate, micing the choir, rehearsal schedules, more people always means more challenges in keeping the peace.  But in my experience it is so much more of a blessing to join together and worship with a choir than anything else.

Does your church use a choir?  How does it utilize one? Do you see a complementary relationship between a choir and the modern music style?  What are your thoughts?

Grace Church Set List: 4.18.10

Well I was on vacation this past week.  It was nice to get away and relax for a few days but I always miss my church family and our Sunday morning worship together.  I was able to attend the church I grew up in; the one that sparked the whole life of worship for me.  It was nice to sleep in a little and not have to worry about playing but at the same time I did miss it.  Bittersweet.  He is the set list for Grace Church this past Sunday

Let The Praises Ring – Lincoln Brewster
Blessed Be Your Name- Beth Redman and Matt Redman
You Are Good – Israel Houghton
Hungry – Kathryn Scott

You can check out other setlists from around the country at Sunday Setlists at TheWorshipCommunity.com.

Poll: How Does Your Church Manage Their Bulletins/Worship Folders

Bulletins are pretty much a staple at most every church.  They are the gateway to your church’s information, branding, and so much more.  It is a handheld central hub that your church gives to just about every person that walks through the door.  What you place in their hands says a lot about your church; design, information, quality, and more all represent an impression of who you are, what you believe, and the direction you are heading.  So my question is what does your church do to manage, prepare, print, and so forth your bulletins/worship folders.  I am shocked to see the lack of really good bulletin/worship folder resources online – mostly bad shells, clunky designs and formatting and so on but to have a custom template/shell can turn into a rather hefty price tag.  Fill out the poll if you will and also feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, past experiences in the comments below.  Also if you choose “Other” from the poll please elaborate in the comment box below.

[poll id=”2″]

I Gave Your Tip to Jesus and Other Things to Not Tell Your Server

This past Easter I had the pleasure of meeting the daughter of one of the guitar players on the worship team.  She expressed how much she liked the service and that she wanted to start coming more but normally worked on Sundays.  She was a server at a nice cajun restaurant near here.  I joked with her a bit about the perils of being a former server and expressed my condolences that she had to wait tables on Sunday – and she reaffirmed what every other server I have ever known had told me, Sunday afternoon crowds are the absolute worst people in the world to wait on.  In thinking about this again it reminded me of common phrases I heard from Sunday afternoon patrons that I thought I would share in hopes that we never say them again (every phrase you are about to read is true, not an isolated incident but a repeated comment heard most often on Sunday afternoons – sad but true).

Phrase #1: “I gave your tip to Jesus.”
Nope, not kidding – wish I was but I heard this phrase more than a couple times while waiting tables.  Other variations ranged from, “I tithed your tip,” “I gave your tip in church,” or “10% for God, 10% for you.” Now correct me if I am wrong but tithing is a spiritual discipline as well as a form of worship.  I am pretty sure you can’t tithe for someone else.  How about leaving me the money and letting me decide whether or not to tithe.  Seriously all that phrase will do is further reinforce the idea of a crappy church crowd on Sundays.  And no leaving the note in a track does not make it better.

Phrase #2: “We don’t drink, we’re Christians.”
Ok so I realize that some denominations and some individuals stay away from alcohol.  That’s not a bad thing.  But the phrase we don’t drink we’re Christians is a broad stroke.  Look most restaurants make a majority of their money from the sale of alcohol.  It’s no surprise.  Go to a local establishment look at the price of a glass of wine and a bottle of wine then go find that same bottle on your own and do the math.  So servers are trained to ask you if you would like to start with a glass of wine or beer or such.  Plus mathematically even if your a lousy tipper the higher the check the better the tip.  So an appropriate response when your server asks if you would like to start with a wonderful house red would be, “No thank you.”  Also never ask for a glass a wine served in a coffee mug so your church friends don’t see you drinking – it happens!

Phrase #3: “Don’t worry we’re good tippers.”
Ehhhhhhhhhhhh Wrong!  Listen if you start of your conversation with your server about your tipping habits you mine as well be honest and say “Look I’m a crappy tipper but I’m hoping by telling you I’m good you’ll work extra hard.”   Servers hear this all the time.  Honestly if you start off by talking about your tipping habits, we know your not gonna tip well.

Phrase #4: “Uh, where’s my extra ranch?!?”
(Implied rudeness with a huge side of I’m the King of the World attitude). I started waiting tables in the south which is notorious with manners (I hear yes sir, yes ma’am more in one day here in TN than all 20 years of living up north).  So why do servers see those manners a majority of every other shift but Sunday afternoon?  Barking orders and treating your server like a 17th century house maid is probably not the best way to share Christ’s Love.  There is such a huge difference between “Get me the salmon none of that sauce” and “I’ll have the salmon please, hold the remoulade.”  Yes you are essentially paying your server for serving your, being basically your servant.  But Please and thank you go a long way, trust me.

What other phrases have you heard others use?  If you are so brave as to be honest, what phrases have you used that I’ve missed thus far?  Why is it so hard to represent Christ with a loving attitude after we leave church?