Worship Leader Bootcamp: Nashville TN June 14-17 2016
As a worship leader there are many things I learned in the local church by just faithfully showing up. I was the the guy who could just make it happen every week, and I did it for years. Ultimately, I realized that my call to worship ministry was more than just putting together 5 songs. I had to recruit and grow a constant stream of musicians. I had to choose accessible songs for teens, parents, and retirees simultaneously. I had to ask musicians to practice. I had to deal with a legacy church member who didn’t let anybody (including me) touch the soundboard. I had to learn how to care for my soul. I was expected to do the work of a shepherd, knowing only how to hold the staff, not actually knowing how to lead a flock.
Desperate to overcome the challenges, I attended conferences, seminars and began to read more. My most significant leaps forward in worship leadership came from learning environments outside my church. Specific worship leader training did things that immersion could not.
I get it. You want an engaging and energetic service. You don’t want to ignore the pain and depression of this world, but you don’t want to contribute to it. Musical worship takes up a significant portion of our services and sets the pace. When the Church gathers, those that are leading and the worship band should be hopeful and expectant. For the record, the Bible backs up your desire, continually telling us to worship with fervent hearts:
Psalm 100:2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Somewhere along the way, many musicians in the church thought that if we desired to be “real” or “relevant”, we should only show fear, shame, or melancholy on our face! See Dan Wilt’s post on Smile. Because of this, our songs started to match our emotion – all in the name of authenticity. We watch perfectly edited mega-church videos full of exuberant congregants clapping and singing; yet, we hang our head knowing that it’s what you want, but we can’t deliver.
Musicians at all skill levels benefit from having a chord/lyric chart directly in front of them. Music stands are a unique need for the modern worship church culture and unfortunately,a huge distraction for the congregation and the musicians themselves. Increasingly, we are seeing music stands and cpu tablets just inches from the eyes of EVERY musician on stage. What if we used music stands as a reference instead of a lifeline? Check out my quick VIDEO below:
This advice is not for orchestra players that are reading actual musical staff arrangements, but for those who utilize basic chord charts.
God is very kind to build seasons into our lives. Every new season is an excellent time to recalibrate and make new what has become tattered and worn.
For many, our worship ministries and personal leadership have plateaued. Sure, we get the weekly worship set out and go through the motions, but there is something deep inside that says there could be more. The non-stop voice in our head says, “I wish….”. For years I wanted a better voice but I was too embarrassed, broke or distracted to take a voice lesson. I also wanted a real Hammond B3 Organ. I wanted to get high quality counseling… and the list went on and on. All these dreams (and more) connected with my calling went nowhere year after year. In 2002 I started making a list and a plan of action for everything I could dream in the area of worship leadership and our team. That year, by March – EVERYTHING had already been accomplished! Needless to say every year since I have continued to pray, dream and designing goals for that next year.
We so easily discount these goal making sessions as RESOLUTION PLANS that will only fail. But let me say this: You will inevitably begin and restart cycles of sin this year without a list or a plan. I promise.Knowing that the one who comes to steal and destroy is always working, we need to take the time to listen to what God has for us. There are more tools today to help us succeed than ever before.
Many churches have a serious problem attracting and keeping volunteer musicians. Let’s face it, getting a team of musicians to show up to church and play music at 8AM on a Sunday can be a challenge. Usually there is sub-par monitoring, messy stages and lots of mind numbing songs to boot. Sometimes there are a series of unclear religious rules for stage and life we have to follow. Musicians can be under challenged or over challenged. We just can’t seem to convince people it’s worth it! For years I struggled as a worship leader making it happen every week. About 10 years ago we made some significant changes in our worship culture. Now, in our church (125-175 attendance) we have 4 bands, 4 sound techs, 6 main stage worship leaders, and waiting lists for all positions. It’s a wonderful blessing! Here are 5 quick hacks for attracting (and keeping) quality volunteer musicians at your church:
Last Monday I sent out a text to my worship team. It read as follows: “Hello Worship Team 3. This might excite some of you and bum some of you out, but I sense I am supposed to lead with one guitar and one vocal this Sunday. No band. We will resume the following week. Please come early and sing with vigor as I lead!” One by one, I heard back from my team with texts: “I’m in!”, “Sweet!” “Word” and “Praying for you”.
Our church has loads of musicians and it’s wonderful. We have an overflowing waiting list for every spot on our team! For a sanctuary that holds about 150, we have an amazing sound set up with vintage Rogers drums, Hammond Organ and top of line guitar amps. We pretend we are a much larger church when it comes to a quality live band experience. Most of our worship ministry’s 25+ musicians only play 2 out of 8 weeks. That being said, we often times intentionally dial down the production. Why?
After 18 years of leading worship for the same church (14 of those in the same building), I’ve had the privilege of over time adding some helpful tools to our setup that serve the congregation and band in simple ways. Check out these 5 simple Worship Ministry HACKS that you can do now to help your team and church engage with the Living God.
This quick video, “Winning the Volume War: for Drummers” gives 4 simple tips on how to help control volume and perceived volume in our services. Drummers, band leaders and sound techs are the first people to send this link, but the whole band should understand this most crucial instrument on the stage.
A few weeks ago during an early morning worship band rehearsal at Vineyard Community Church I asked our sound team member to capture something (on his iPhone) we’ve been doing for a long time: stepping away from the mic to hear and tweak our vocals. Check it out here:
In our world of in-ear monitors we can easily loose the humanity of our harmony because we are so separated by sound technology. This is the same with wedge monitors as well. To remedy this, we periodically get close to one another in a circle and sing the song. We look each other in the eye and communicate in a way that is impossible looking forward and hearing the band in the vacuum of our monitoring. In bluegrass music there is oftentimes just one mic that all the musicians share; they use proximity to balance the instruments and voices. I have found this is a beautiful way to enjoy and tweak what we really sound like! Try it during your next rehearsal. Exercises like this and more are a part of the worship training I do in churches, check it out HERE.