Hey all, I’m always looking for good versions of christmas songs to do at church, and I thought I’d share an album that I’m really heavily leaning on this year. Really progressive stuff.
I am reminded today of Paul’s description of Jesus’ love for the church: Jesus “loved the church and gave himself up for her.” I pose the question to myself and to you, Do you love the church?
I do not mean to ask whether you love your pastors, or whether you like your church better than others in the area, but instead, simply, “Do you love the church?” I’m sure we all want to say yes, but only Christ got it 100% right, which means the rest of us have plenty of room to grow.
As the most visible ministry in the church, the worship team is the ministry that is most in need of Christlike love for the church and the people inside of it. I believe this is true for two reasons. First, the congregation knows when we’re in it for our purposes instead of God’s glory and the benefit of His church. Second, if we love the church, we’ll be far more gracious to it when it criticizes our work.
Our Glory or God’s?
Sadly, my guess is you’d only need a moment to remember a time when someone sang, played, or preached and you were unsure whether their aim was to “bring you to the throne” or “bring you to their merch table.” You walk out of those times wanting to shower just to wash off the sleaze. Ever experienced that?
Now, with that in mind, evaluate yourself on what the church sees when it looks at you. What are the people catching—that you love them and want them to know Christ better, or your hope that they like your singing, your playing, sermon, mix, or set design? Maybe it’s even more subtle. Maybe you’re giving God all the glory, but you would guard your spot on the team ferociously because it’s the only place you get to __________ in front of people anymore.
What if God wanted to use you somewhere else in the church for His glory? If he asked you to leave your on-stage or technical ministry behind to serve elsewhere, would you go? Can I be honest with you? I would. Worship ministry is my career, but I’d drop it in a heartbeat if that’s what God wanted. That’s not bragging either… I just want you to know how go-for-broke your worship pastor is when it comes to believing that the best kind of love for the church hinges on our razor-sharp focus on God’s glory.
They said what?
Besides testifying to our ultimate goal of putting God’s glory first, loving the church will also give our worship team the kind of thick skin it needs to deal with the church’s feedback on our art.
Proverbs 27 says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” If I weren’t such a realist I would assume this is why the church can be so quick to offer its artists criticism without encouragement, and I believe the only thing that will sustain a pastor, deacon, or volunteer through the storm of that stuff is love for the church and its people.
In fact, instead of asking God to change negative church members’ minds, I advocate praying for more love on the part of the worship team members, because the better they know and love the church, the more grace they can offer in the face of an occasional mis-spoken or mis-timed negative comment.
I was in Target the other day when a small child told his mom he hated her because she wouldn’t buy him a Superman toy. I’m sure it stung her a little bit, but her overwhelming love and compassion for her son actually let her crack a smile when he said it. That’s the kind of love we should have for our church members when they act childishly or rudely… crack a smile, let out a sigh, and put it behind us.
Here’s what I’m trying to say: Let’s focus on letting unity in Christ overcome the obstacles of doing life together. If “they’ll know we are Christians by our love,” then let’s make it absolutely undeniable! And if we do that, we will serve effectively and fearlessly for God’s glory.
If I could take back some of the MONSTER emails I’ve sent over my life, I’d do it in a heartbeat. So many times I wrote way too much, giving unnecessary info and reasoning for decisions made, highlighting caveats and nuances that simply aren’t important, and going into extraneous details just to make myself seem smarter and more put together.
Or have you ever sent an essay response to someone, only to get a longer essay back? Ugh. I’m telling you: Emails are not designed for that kind of communication, not only because they allow the reader to inject (or miss!) emotion at incorrect times, but also because long emails take so long to type out, spellcheck, re-type, re-spellcheck, etc. etc. etc.
I wanted to give a few thoughts on how to email well–thoughts based on experience in years past dealing with “unique” church members and wordy emailaholics. And it goes without saying, I hope, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve broken every rule listed below, and have been (and sometimes am) exactly the kind of “unique” church member that I would describe in my writing. We’re all works-in-progress, right?
1. Keep it short. Seriously. Along the lines of ”You catch more flies with honey,” I say “You get more positive responses with short emails.” Don’t explain every angle of your opinion; give the skeleton of things and let them ask when they feel they need clarification.
2. Say only nice things in emails, and save bad things for speaking in person.
Remember in high school when you got a note from your crush in which you found out they didn’t like you? You were able to read the rejection letter over and over again, feeling less and less human every time. Don’t afford someone the opportunity to do that with your emails. Instead, let them simmer on the good things–encouragement, approval, and positivity–so that when you have to confront them about something in person, you’ve got to burn through a lot of relational collateral before you start operating in the red.
3. Don’t swing, especially if they tee it up. I got an email at a previous church from a guy who simply didn’t like the way I led the service–especially the music. It was a link to an article bashing rock music in church, and all he wrote in the email was, “What do you think about this?” Ooooh man, I could have sent back a line-drive pointing out the complete lack of biblical groundedness of the article’s key components, but after writing a few penetrating sentences, I backed off and just thanked him for sending the article. I noted that the author made clear points, and that there was some truth to what was written. That’s it.
I’m pretty sure he wanted a major-league response that would initiate some email sparring, but I decided to simply affirm his eagerness to make our church a great church that focused solely on Christ. Regardless of where he and I differ in our music preferences, we agree on that.
Well I’m sure there are plenty of other great email habits out there… any that you have found helpful? Any that you have tried and found detrimental?
Here’s my follow-up vid, as promised. I’m learning the importance of sending emails, texts, notes, and videos just saying “thank you” to my team.
My first version of this video had a Challenge attached to it as well, but I sat on the vid for a few days and decided it would be best to limit the scope of this video to my appreciation of the volunteers.
Here’s an example of a video I made in January with our Children’s pastor, Chris, to share some info on upcoming worship ministry details.
All the stuff with Chris was shot in one take and I chopped it up and threaded it through my ministry info. I’ll put up another vid that I shot this week so you can see more recent updates, and updates to January’s updates. (In case you didn’t catch it, I think team updates are a good idea for you.)
Here’s an email I sent to my team as a “Spring Cleaning” measure.
I encourage you to send these kinds of emails from time to time–emails that communicate your new expectations, and that re-communicate old expectations that have gone slack.
Hey crew, I hope your day is going well!
In an effort to help our ministry excel I want to share six simple areas we’ll be focusing on in the coming months.
Crowd-sourcing Scripture and songs.
I want to invite your input into the Scripture reflections, songs, prayers, etc. for the worship services. I am grateful to have the time to reflect/pray heavily on the state of the church and what it needs to hear each Sunday, but it’s always great to get input from my bro’s and sis’s in Christ about what Scriptures and songs will speak to our Body. And please, no more requests for Bob Sklar bass solos… I get those like every other day and I’m sick and tired of it
As a reminder, we need to start line checks at 7:00 (both Wed and Sun), which means you need to be set up and ready to play a few minutes before 7. Vocalists probably only need five minutes of prep for ears, mics and batteries, but everyone else probably takes between 10-20 minutes. Please do your best to arrive accordingly, and thank you for helping us make the most out of our time together!
Voyagers: Your Church Home.
Worship ministry is the ministry where it’s most common to have volunteers who don’t really attend the church except when they’re “serving” …and I say “serving” because Music/Tech is so much fun that it hardly even compares to sitting in a room with a dozen screaming babies! My expectation is that you would attend Voyagers at least 2-3 weeks each month, including the week you’re playing. Let me know if your work schedule doesn’t permit this, or if you have some other unique circumstance, but I trust each of you to honestly manage yourself in this regard, and to keep–or make, moving forward–Voyagers the church in which you faithfully worship, fellowship, tithe, and serve.
Statement of Facts vs Requests.
Yet another small thing to grease the wheel for us, if you’re on stage and are unable to get someone loud enough in your ears—say, BGV 2—try a Request (“Can you please turn up BGV2 in the ears?”) as opposed to a Statement of Fact (“I can’t hear BGV2 well enough.”) The first sentence is a clear request to the soundman to help you, whereas the second is just a vague summary of your own situation, functionally equivalent to saying “I haven’t been to Disneyland in a while” or “Mark Van’s favorite color is light pink.”** Soundmen will begin to do the same thing for their requests… “Can you turn your amp down?” instead of “The electric guitar is too loud on stage.” I plan to use public shaming and ruthless sarcasm in order to enforce this, so get ready to be asked about your favorite color if you use a Statement of Fact. A second offense puts you in the stocks, and a third warrants the death penalty, or you have to buy me a vanilla latte, your call.
Musicians, Less is More. Seriously. Boom.
Lyric Techs Needed.
We’re running short on Lyric techs. If you’d be interested in jumping into an area that has real need, this is it! I could use you about once a month on top of your current playing schedule. Email me if interested.
Onward and upward, friends! Hoping in Jesus,
** This may or may not be true
I’m not big into celebrations that remember past events. I’d rather my birthday come and go without any fanfare, and the same disconnect is true for me on Easter. It’s not that I don’t understand why we make a big deal of that day (Easter, not my birthday); it’s just that I don’t have a “connectedness” bone in my body, so I don’t “feel” the Easter season/history like many do. Even so, I’m a worship leader, and yesterday was Easter, and I had to wear the hats of coordinator and ringmaster of Voyagers’ Easter celebration. As the service took shape in January and February, it become clear that if I was going to help steer the ship with any degree of authenticity that Sunday, I had to find some serious personal investment in its cargo.
But where does a non-history-minded, relatively unemotional guy find points of investment and connection on Easter Sunday? If not in the solidarity between our celebration and the billions of Easter celebrations spread across the past 2,000 years (which is awesome, BTW), and if not primarily in the emotional aspects of the salvation story (which is important, BTW), where could I get excited about Easter?
I’ll tell you where: In the Challenge and Promise of Easter.
I’ll frame this section with two Biblical statements that go hand-in-hand: 1) Salvation is entirely based on grace—not works. 2) Faith without action is dead.
I believe everything that ever needed to happen for our salvation happened to/through Jesus, and yet his ownership of our hearts is to be confessed through both words and deeds that bear the fruit of (and witness to) our adoption. What’s more, the impetus of those deeds should be the continual laying down of our lives and the taking up of our crosses, and that is precisely the Challenge.
I connect with the Challenge because I’m inclined to see challenge and correction as signs of God’s concern for me—not the only signs, certainly, but two of them (See Proverbs 3:11-12)—and as one part of accepting Christ’s invitation of salvation, I view taking on the challenge of dying to self as the best, most righteous and meaningful way to live my life. Easter reminds me of that challenge, and I’m encouraged that God would have a plan for my life, even though it involves total self-sacrifice and submission to Him.
Yet another sign of God’s love and mercy, there is a Promise attached to the Challenge given to us at Easter. To borrow lyrics from “The Wonderful Cross,” Jesus “bids me come and die (The Challenge) and find that I may truly live (The Promise!).”
2 Corinthians 4:10-18 spells out the Promise clearly, and gives hope to those who experience hardship and persecution because of their response to Christ’s call… which (Spoiler Alert!) happens to every person ever who tries to follow Jesus. Check out verses 17 and 18 especially:
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Accepting the Challenge means receiving the Promise of the eternal resurrected life yourself, and not just any resurrection, but that of Jesus. Romans 6 says by dying to our flesh we gain a “new life,” one that is “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” What a trade, right? What a deal! God, in Jesus, comes to our door and offers us something we could never buy—eternity with him—in exchange for something we could never keep—our lives. Why, then, are we so hesitant to make that deal? Easter reminds me just how sweet and glorious the Promise of our resurrection really is.
Do you say “yes” to the Challenge, and do you accept the Promise of resurrection—of Christ in you, and the Spirit and knowledge of God as your heart’s one true passion? Like speed bumps on an airplane runway, what keeps you from getting off the ground—from emptying your life daily to receive the overflowing presence of the Spirit, and from knowing the joy of being adopted into the family of God? What will it take to remove those speed bumps from your path? What do you need to let Jesus do?
I encourage you to accept the Challenge afresh today, and to experience the Promise of resurrection life, alive to God in Christ Jesus!
He is Risen!
I’ve led worship for a handful of churches that use Planning Center Online, and it’s intriguing how many worship leaders/departments run their PCO pretty fast and loose! Every time I see that, I wonder to myself, “Don’t they know that it takes like 1 extra minute when putting in a song to make a HUGE difference in the long run?” Don’t get me wrong…I’m not the kind of guy who arranges the shirts in my closet by color or anything like that, but I am the kind of guy who wants to a) streamline weekly processes to avoid wasted time/energy, b) increase his work’s effectiveness for the church, and c) leave a clean house to whomever would come after/alongside me in ministry. If you get nothing else from this post, understand that in general the difference between an organized person and a disorganized person is the willingness to take 90 seconds and write details down.
Below are obvious but often-overlooked techniques to make Planning Center Online work better for you and your church. If you have to go back and do this stuff for your whole library, start by editing songs as you use them week to week, and commit to doing 5 extra songs per week in alphabetical order.
Put an accurate BPM for every song. You should already be on click, so having the correct tempo listed for every song is mission critical. Don’t waste precious minutes of practice listening to the recording on your phone and having the drummer tap it in… or worse, just guessing the tempo based on how you’re feeling at the moment. If you didn’t know, bands and producers will fight tooth and nail for 2 or 3 BPM in the studio, so–unless you disagree with the band’s tempo, which I do from time to time–play it at the tempo of the most popular recording. Beyond the benefits already listed, your BPM’s will reveal easy transitions from one song at 100BPM to another song at 100BPM. You’d be surprised how close most song tempo’s are. *A new-ish PCO feature even lets you include the Meter, so do that, too! Why not? It takes 2 seconds.
List a Sequence for every song. The Sequence section is a relatively new addition to PCO, but deserves full adoption into your weekly workflow. Let’s be honest, a given song (say, “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman) doesn’t change that much in its sequence from one instance to the next–it’s pretty much the same Sequence both when you play it this week and a month from now. Even though PCO makes it really easy to make a one-time adjustment of a song’s Sequence within a particular plan, I don’t change the Sequence in PCO week to week… I just leave the fullest, longest edition of the song in the Sequence section and then have my players scratch out sections in practice as I decide to scrap the repeated Bridge or add a Tag at the end. (This reflects my leadership style, though, where I come in with a plan but try to let the band members have a say in some of the Sequences). The way I see it, the Sequence should act as an aid and a catalyst for you, not a restriction that has to be updated weekly unless that’s something you want to do. Either way, PCO has you dialed in.
Assign Custom Properties to every song. For some reason, some guys act as if “you can’t limit worship by labeling songs as Fast, Medium, Slow, Rock, Indie, Contemporary, Older, Hymn, etc.,” but I totally disagree. Organization is not only key to good business, it’s also core to the character of God to organize, to structure, label, and classify. At some point you will need a Slow Hymn, and if you didn’t take 5 seconds–LITERALLY 5 seconds–to indicate “Slow” and “Hymn” when you plugged “My Jesus I Love Thee” into PCO, you’re going on a wild goose chase through 300 songs to find that song… and you may not even see it.
Quit using PDF’s and Word DOC’s, and quit using different fonts, sizes, and arrangement terms. You can Google any song and get a relatively accurate chord chart that PCO can transpose to any key you need, so get those non-transposable PDF’s/DOC’s out of here! When you paste/edit a chord chart, be sure to choose the same font, font size, and arrangement terms for every song. Too many people go back and forth between fonts (Courier on Song 1, Times on the next, back to Courier for Song 3), making the band’s experience visually schizophrenic and distracting. Again, take the 2 seconds to change the font to your preferred font, whatever that may be. A quick rant, if I may:
Courier needs to be wiped from the face of the planet. Please, for Heaven’s sake, us Arial or Times. I also recommend using size 13 or 14 so the words/notes are more easily visible from a few feet away. Whatever you do, be consistent …and consider yourself shunned if you actually prefer the great Serif’d monster that is Courier on anything other than a child’s lemonade stand.
Ok, thanks for letting me do that. Back to PCO.
Print and review a 12-month Song Usage chart every quarter. This will expose songs that have been on the fringe of both over- and under-usage, and will indicate which songs you should probably even put in the “No Fly” zone for a few months. This is especially important if you have multiple worship leaders who could potentially do the same song 3 weeks in a row without meaning to. I had to shelf “Forever Reign” for a few months when I got to Voyagers because it had seen a gluttonous amount of air time in 2012. You can see this Song Usage chart by clicking on Plans to take you to your Dashboard, and then clicking on Reports at the bottom of the page. Set the “What” to “Songs” and then set the dates. I recommend looking at this sheet once a quarter, and look at a 12-month period every time… so in April you’ll look at March ’12 through March ’13. This helps you stay fresh and unpredictable, and tells you when it’s time to start bringing in some more new songs to pad the church’s repertoire.
Write in major holidays and important events in the Title section of each plan. This helps you keep track of the “zeitgeist” in the church and in its surrounding culture. For instance, I have St Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day, High School Winter Camp, and “Tax Day is tomorrow” listed next to the sermon titles on various Sundays throughout the year. You don’t need to paint the sanctuary green for St Patty’s Day, but it’s low hanging fruit to connect with the every-day life of your people by making mention of major holidays, cultural trends and events, and church happenings. Maybe you already have a system for doing this, but if not this is a really easy way to make sure you don’t lose touch with people whose whole lives don’t revolve around Sunday like yours does.
In Brief: Don’t be a right-brained jackwagon and leave your PCO disorganized. Learn to value what 90 seconds of assigning details gets you in the long run, and people may even start to call you “organized.”
Anything I’ve missed?
Stay on the bus,
Love is what happens to a man and a woman who don’t know each other. – Somerset Maugham
Somerset, I couldn’t disagree more. Attraction, not Love, is what happens to a man and woman who don’t know one another. Love is when you have seen them at their worst and at their best, been wounded immeasurably–and at other times deeply healed–by them, etc., etc., etc. To say more would be to protest too much.
Happy Valentina’s Day, Katie Rae. I don’t deserve you. I love you forever.
I’ve had a handful of people ask me about guitar chords/inversions that I use while leading, and I figured the best way to respond was to draw up a chart with my most-used cheater chords. The honest truth is that I’ve learned these chords out of necessity–I need chords I can get in and out of quickly and easily–and not some purist “I want to master the fretboard” mentality. Who was it that said they give lazy men the toughest jobs since a lazy man will find the easiest way to do it? Well that’s me, and the chart below is the result of my desire to make things easy on myself.
One note and one piece of encouragement:
Note: Not all cheater chords work for every key. The chart I have made for you is key-specific, so a cheater chord for “D major” that works in the key of G will probably not work for a “D major” in the key of A, or even the key of D. Seems strange, I know, and there’s a perfectly good musical theory explanation for that problem, but if you just memorize which keys are “green-light” and which are “red-light” for various inversions, you’re good.
Encouragement: The guitar fretboard is all about patterns, which makes things very, very, very predictable if you’ll just get the patterns down. If you want to learn to fly on the guitar, look up the CAGED system of playing chords. And by the way, if you haven’t already, you need to memorize all the frets on a guitar… at least up to the 12th fret. Don’t rote memorize (aka “An A major chord is on the 5th fret, but I have no idea why”) or I promise you’ll never get beyond Beginner Guitar.
Guitar players, anything to add? Any experience with CAGED? That thing changed my life!
Stay on the bus!
Here’s that PDF: Cheater Chords