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).

Worship Songwriting for My Church… and Your Church?

Our songs made available got me thinking

Transposable audio and chord charts for “How Glorious You Are” are now available on WorshipTeam.com! Worship directors, if you don’t use WorshipTeam.com consider using it to manage the craziness. It’s a better, more musical version of Planning Center.

It’s life-giving to lead your own church community in songs you create. It’s a gift and a wonderful feeling as an artist. I pastored the songwriters at VCC in Marietta GA for 18 years; we wrote 100’s of songs people actually liked and needed. We would press CD’s and make our songs available on the web with the hope that someone else would listen and enjoy what they heard.

If we are honest, in the worship songwriting world, the big “win” is learning that some OTHER church is singing your song… whoa! Not just listening… but teaching YOUR SONG to the drummer, putting the words you wrote in their power point, and encouraging others to sing along. It’s nice to know that we don’t just have to wait for the suits at the big Chrisitan record labels to spoonfeed us the next sugar sweet hit. This church songwriting thing is pretty life-giving and exciting. Hopefully, those songs are forming people rightly, making souls that think and act more like Christ. 


That previous sentence is the “right” answer and it took me a long time to get there. In my youth, my secret desire was to acquire a big house or more guitars with the success of my songs. At the core, what I really wanted was respect, honor, and influence. Some smart person told me I could get that stuff from other, more realizable sources! Now I’m just happy someone, anyone is listening – and maybe singing along 🙂 

Check out WorshipTeam.com for a FREE TRIALDownload, listen and sing to “How Glorious You Are” on iTunes and Spotify 

 

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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Recording as Discipleship

The Making of How Glorious You Are

FINISHING THE RECORD 

I co-wrote, produced and played on a live recording for my previous church in August 2015. Four months into production, I was let go from the church. Much of the process of finishing the album revolved around my ability to mix the songs on the cheap as an employee, so needless to say it was delayed. Working on this record after my departure felt like I was writing a love letter to an ex-girlfriend and having to mean it. Ultimately I had to finish it, because so many, including myself, had already invested so much. I want to share a little about this album and the creative community behind it to encourage churches to create record their own expressions of worship.

Creativity flourishes not in certainty but in questions. – Sue Monk Kidd

A WORSHIP TEAM WITH A NAME  

When the church planted 20 years ago we named the worship band “Poured Out Like Wine” because it sounded more sustainable than “Mike’s Praise Band”. Over that time we recorded 6 full lengths albums, 5 EP’s, and 5 singles. We built a studio in the church and trained hundreds of musicians, songwriters, and recording engineers over the years. You might call it “recording as discipleship”. We have has some limited success with royalties and labels publishing our songs, but we never had anything you could call a “hit”. No substantive reviews, nods or buzz. A long, slow, ordinary creative flow with hardly anyone noticing other than our church. This is where it gets interesting. In our little church, the worship leaders and songwriters have been saying something new for almost 20 years. With hundreds of our own songs weaved into the typical modern church liturgy, we have lived the dream week by week. Most artists would kill to have a couple hundred people in a room singing along to your song. It’s been good for all of us.

Each name on this CD jacket represents hours, months and years of discipleship. The songs have formed us, but more importantly, the hours spent creating together have formed us more into the image of Christ. 

SINGABLE VISION 

The preachers preach and the songwriters listen. We summarize the message into something memorable and singable. As the community embraces seasons of rejoicing or weeping, the songwriters are the attentive storytellers coming alongside the church to give voice.

HOW GLORIOUS YOU ARE 

This slow kingdom coming peeks into the world a little today the release of “How Glorious You Are”; the title track was written in between theology classes when I realized once again the centrality of Christ in worship. JR Rund and Wilfred Cuthbert bring their country leanings on “Songs of Joy” and “The Steadfast Love of the Lord”. Lauren Kamal wrote and sang (8 months pregnant) a deep reflection on the presence of God on “We Can’t Contain You”. “Oh Jesus” was written by our sound guy turned bass player tuned songwriter, Jonathan Hicks – it’s the most ‘Vineyardy’ song on the record. “Come Holy Spirit” is my favorite worship song I’ve ever written or recorded. It just says and does all the things I want a church song to do. I wrote the first song “One True God” when a really good friend told me he had quit Christianity – it’s the wrestling of doubt and faith against a Tom Petty chord progression. This is a very vocal record with all 6 singers (worship leaders) pretty much singing all the time.

For this recording, we used ALL local church people except for the drummer and mastering engineer. We made a 20K album for 3K! So many musicians gave up time at work and rehearsed hours and days to make this happen. We labored over the songs for months before setting them free.

You can buy the record HERE

You can STREAM the record everywhere

You can download the chord charts HERE

 

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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10 Hidden Songs for Advent

Worship in the Waiting

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I never fully understood Advent until my wife and I experienced seven years of infertility. During those years each Christmas was more difficult than the last. Underneath the bliss of parties and cheery songs hid a deep sorrow that was only welcome in the church.

Here is a quote from my friend Ryan Flanigan about the season:

…we put ourselves in the countercultural posture of silence and waiting. We refrain from the instantaneous gratification of getting whatever we want when we want. And we allow ourselves to feel our need for a savior.

For worship leaders and planners there is a beautiful tension we can highlight in the songs, visuals and prayers we oversee. As much as I appreciate the rich legacy of our Christmas Hymns, I love to search for (and create) new expressions that highlight the happy-sad season of Advent. Here are 10 hidden gems that people can and will sing during the Advent season.

Come Lord Jesus (A Song for Advent)
Diane Thiel-Sharp – Vineyard Worship USA 

The Sun Will Rise
The Brilliance