What The Vineyard Can Learn From Liturgical Streams

Reclaiming historic worship elements for modern services

When I walked into a Vineyard church in 1994 my mind was blown. On a Friday night, the room was full of expectant people singing TO God. Coming from Presbyterian roots, the only time we gave this expression of exuberant praise was at summer camp! For the first time in my life, I learned of the power of the Holy Spirit through an extended, uninterrupted time of singing.

Fast-forward a couple decades and the “5 songs + sermon” model has become the standard “liturgy” of the modern church. Outside of our empowered ministry prayer times, you would be hard-pressed to see what makes a Vineyard Church distinct from many evangelical church models today.

I believe that as a movement, a time has come for us to pause and reconsider the way forward in worship, both musically and sacramentally. What did we fail to carry forward as a new movement (started in the late 1970’s) that can be reintroduced with care? Here are a few practical ways worship planners in the Vineyard can consider and implement elements of liturgical form in our services:

 

1. Eucharist (celebrated weekly)

Avoiding mindless, heartless repetition is a common reason many Vineyard pastors say they don’t want to lead their congregation to the table on a weekly basis, favoring to do it once a month or less. It begs the question why we sing, preach and offer prayers repetitively? Are these features any less special because we repeat them over and over? Are we increasing demand by planning scarcity?

A weekly invitation to feast on Christ is a beautiful picture of our Kingdom theology (God is here, now). In the meal, we are reminded that His active presence is with us; it is a vibrant and visceral picture that embodies all the senses while engaging everyone on the same level. Creatively and enthusiastically inviting our people to the meal more frequently might be the greatest discipleship plan we have.

  • Church planter, Luke Geraty recently submitted an excellent paper on Sacraments to the Society of Vineyard Scholars, check it out HERE.

The 7 Minute Worship Team Check-In

Transform your culture through care

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. –  Romans 12:10-13 

Band rehearsals are not usually super fun. Many times they are in the early hour or after a long day. Musicians and tech teams are all arriving with a variety of emotions, experiences and energy levels. Yes, your job as a worship leader is to get the band on track musically, but there is actually something more important that should PRECEDE music making.

Before your next rehearsal do this one thing and it will transform the culture of your volunteer worship ministry.

As the leader, arrive earlier than everyone else. Do everything administratively and technically possible to make the stage ready (print charts, check audio lines, etc..). Musicians will arrive and get set up. Once you and your bandmates have monitors solid and are ready to rehearse….

STOP EVERYTHING AND DO THIS… 

Drums, Drumming and Church: Podcast Guest Appearance

I recently sat down the Drummers Weekly Groovecast Podcast. We talked drums, drum, ing and church. Worship leaders, drummers, and pastors should check it out!

Four Behaviors of a Thriving Worship Ministry

Lessons From Churches from 50 and 5000.

Over the past 18 months, I have served fifty-plus churches as a worship team trainer and guest worship leader. I’ve noticed some interesting trends in worship ministries that are healthy, growing, and happy. This post has little to do with the quality of liturgy or congregational worship experience, but it’s more a peek under the administrative hood. It is not exhaustive, it’s just a list of markers I have noticed.

FOUR behaviors of thriving worship ministries:

1. THEY CONSISTENTLY (and uniformly) SCHEDULE THEIR VOLUNTEERS 

Most churches have multiple worship leaders. If you have three worship leaders and three different ways of administering bands, you will drive your volunteers crazy. There should be one system that everyone adheres to. If possible, try to implement the SAME system across the board for all volunteers so families can serve in multiple areas of the church without confusion.

  • Pick a System – There are several ways to let people know when they are serving at church. Planning Center Online is the king, however, you can also look at worshipteam.com and others. You might use a mix of online tools and simple PDF attachments to email. Your system should have a way to communicate seasonally (1-4 months at a time), weekly (hey, you’re on this week), and the day of service (hey, you’re on today). Provide schedules at least 1 month before the start of the schedule. (i.e. the January schedule is emailed November 30th etc…).
  • Do not avoid creating a system because one volunteer doesn’t use email or Facebook. Those people either need to yield to the agreed method or you can build a secondary system for them. Either way, there should be a system to reach everyone.
  • Once a healthy method for communication is in place, don’t constantly change your methodology. You will build trust with consistency, which is measured in years, not months.
  • Raise heck when your system is ignored or amended by well-meaning, creative people. Consistency breeds faithfulness (and more drummers).

Screaming on Saturday, Singing on Sunday?

During my college years, I had three musical gigs outside of school which all involved my vocal cords: church worship, a jazz trio, and my heavy metal band. People asked me all the time how I screamed and growled one night while angelically singing the next morning. I never really had the right answer, until now. Dr. Krzysztof Izdebski of San Francisco’s Pacific Voice and Speech Foundation, reveals his new findings in this video below.

Similar to heavy metal singing, leading worship vocally has some unique, admittingly differing peculiarities. 1. For many, it’s the only time they sing. 2. It’s typically happening before noon. For these reasons and others, it’s good to understand how the voice works and how we can maintain it for the long haul. Check out this video about heavy metal singing; the hope to get us thinking about (and visualizing) some science behind our voice.

Vocal training is one of the most requested classes when I coach worship teams. If you haven’t already, download the FREE $200 Vocal Lesson from the sidebar on my website.

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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6 Strumming Tips for the Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar is a wonderfully complex instrument with countless harmonic and rhythmic variables that can affect the overall mix of your band. Having played with over 30 worship teams in the past year, there is perhaps no greater musical dysfunction than the overplaying acoustic guitar player. If you play acoustic guitar in the worship band this video is for you:

 

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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My 12 Go To Apps for Worship Leading

Increasingly, I find myself pulling my phone out before, during and after worship gatherings. Not so much to update my social media, but for reference and support as a worship leader. Here are 12 helpful apps (admittedly, some of these are only shortcuts to websites that I save to my home screen) that I am using consistently in worship ministry.

1. ESV Bible

As worship leaders, we need to keep the word of God close to us. The ESV is the version of the Bible my church uses, so I keep this app handy. This particular app is free, well designed and functional. Some traditions might discourage reading from a phone on the stage, but I have found that it’s nice to have an illuminated screen and reading from a device models a great use of technology. Additionally, it models what real life might look like.

A WORSHIP LEADER’S GUIDE: Surviving and Thriving This Christmas {VIDEO}

Ten years ago, leading into the Christmas season I had a nervous breakdown as I was frantically preparing songs, dramas, and choirs for our medium sized congregation. The pressure of making Christmas “extra-special” for everyone nearly broke me. Below is a video of my story and a few ideas of how I reclaimed the Advent season. This is a VIDEO re-post of a previous text blog from last year.

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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Creative Gear for the Worship Stage

Your Backstage Inspiration

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Drums. Bass. Guitars. Piano. Vocals…. what else????

After 20 years of leading worship in the contemporary church, I have acquired various musical instruments that have helped me develop musicians, challenge bored creatives, and inspire possibilities on the worship stage. Most church backstage areas have an excess of unused gear just collecting dust. I hate this! These unused instruments could be a pathway to new inspiration and opportunity.

There is a good chance most of your teams have under-challenged musicians that could use another instrument or two to wake them from their three-chord slumber. Adding new instruments will excite the band and elevate its sound. It will also inspire the congregation as they see and hear new instruments. Adding new instruments will require your musicians to be flexible, vulnerable, and courageous, but I found most musicians appreciate the challenge.

If the Church is the hope of the world and we are tasked with sharing that gospel of hope through music, why should our instrumentation be so limited? Here are some creative gear ideas that might already be hiding backstage:

IN YOUR BACKSTAGE AREA

  • Tambourines and Shakers – Extra percussion is a great tool to have for modern worship. Often times I will employ a horn/string player to use percussion on a song if it doesn’t call for their “normal” instrument. Background singers can also help out by adding percussion to a song. If you can clap in time, then you can play hand percussion. 
  • Hot Rods, Brushes + Mallets – Many times newbie drummers or folks that play with only one style of music will not have alternate sticks. I have found that in most 4-6 song sets could benefit from one or more stick changes depending on the song. Encourage all your drummers to have a variety of sticks, but the church should have some on hand. 

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  • Accordion – This is not a joke. I have lent out the church accordion to MANY keyboard players over the years. I encourage  them to search youtube for lessons and play along to a slow song using the keyboard (not the button) side. It’s a fun and life-giving musical tool to use for a song or two. Can sound like a pad or cello, not always polka. 
  • Ukulele and/or Mandolin If you have more than one  guitar player, often times I will ask one of those players to learn mandolin or ukulele and use it in a song or two. 
  • Cajon or Any Hand DrumI have trained up many drummers starting on hand percussion. They play along with the main drummer. As they get better I eventually have them trade seats with the drummer for the slow song. All of a sudden, I have more drummers! Check out Monk Drums, a very cool drum company that makes affordable custom cajon’s.
  • MelodicaIn Germany, they use this instrument to teach kids music. It’s a fun little piano that just about anyone can play. Don’t use it for every song or every week, but you can pull it out for a little inspiration. Keep the alcohol wipes handy.
  • Glockenspiel or Bell KitThese instruments add a loud and significant punch to melody or riffs on vamps. They get a workout at Christmas time! 

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  • Baritone and Hi-strung Guitars. Baritone guitars are tuned super low and sound in between a guitar and bass. They are fun and can work on some songs. High-strung or Nashville tuning is a way to string your guitar to make it sound “chimey“. If you have extra guitars hanging around the church, consider making one of them hi-strung.
  • Extra Snare Drums and CymbalsSince the snare drum and cymbals are so critical to the overall sound it’s nice to have some extra high-quality options for drummers to choose from. If you have better drums and options at church you will suddenly have more drummers! 
  • A Midi Keyboard Controller and Old LaptopI lent out an $99 midi keyboard and an old church laptop (with Reason and Garageband loaded) to a 10th grade homeschooler. She came back to church with pads, Rhodes, and all kinds of sounds loaded up ready to play. This stuff is no longer rocket science. CPU>USB Cable>Old Laptop>1/8″ cable>DI Box>Sound System. 
  • A Real Fender Rhodes Electric PianoThis is a popular sound that you hear on recordings and many keyboards already have a “Rhodes” sound built in. I have found it to be inspiriting to actually have the real thing on stage. They require some maintenance but really add to the overall expression of sound. You can usually find them on craigslist for $600-1000. 

NEW INSTRUMENTS IN PRACTICE 

  • Lead your drummer to use mallets on the cymbals for the slow part of the song to create dark orchestral swells to add emotion.
  • Ask your bass player to play the glockenspiel for a song that doesn’t need bass.
  • Instruct your drummer to use brushes on a slow 6/8 song to help create a softer element in a song.
  • Have your acoustic guitar player play the tambourine on their thigh like they are clapping.
  • Lend out your Cajon to a youth who has good rhythm, invite them to play the next week.
  • Strip down the stage to acoustic guitar, hi-strung acoustic guitar, accordion cajon and Fender Rhodes.

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Contact me to talk about how we can raise the bar through virtual or on-site training for your worship ministry.

Mike O'Brien - Worship Team Training and Development

Planning Silence in Worship {VIDEO}

Planning Silence

As we gather to worship consider adding a time of intentionally led silence. This practice is both historical and Biblical; silence could be one of the most “cutting edge” tools for modern worship in our sonically saturated culture. Check out the quick video below.

“Solitude and silence are not self-indulgent exercises for times when an overcrowded soul needs a little time to itself. Rather, they are concrete ways of opening to the presence of God beyond human effort and beyond the human constructs that cannot fully contain the Divine” –Ruth Haley Barton

My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Contact me to talk about how we can raise the bar through virtual or on-site training for your worship ministry.

Mike O'Brien - Worship Team Training and Development