SONG MACHINES IN MODERN CHURCH How is Worship More Than Just Songs?

Many worship leaders in the church today feel like song machines. Their chief role is to assemble and present a set of songs for the gathered church to (hopefully) sing.

Songs are certainly part of the job and one of the most important things we do, but is there more?
Scripture points to a whole life that worships the living God but that’s not a musically exclusive command! How could our short gathering each week better prepare our people for a life of worship? Here are a few thoughts:
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SCRIPTURE – Could we include scripture in our music times? Are people hearing different voices from the congregation participate? How can non-musicians bring substance to the liturgy? (I added this calendar to my iCal so I can use the common book of prayer readings https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/calendar.php)
PRAYER – Instead of the typical “transitional” prayers we usually improvise, what if we really planned and prepared something that proclaimed the character of God.
RESPONSE – Are we inviting people to participate in worship in other ways than singing? Perhaps leading a responsive reading or a moment of holy silence. In Holy Communion, we invite people to respond in a non-musical way. Praying the Lord’s Prayer in unison is a spoken way to be formed in worship.
FORMATION – As the lead worshipper, your role is more than songs. You are pastoring and discipling all the people on your team. Your words, manner, behaviors, and social media presence all speak and form.
What did I miss? What about gathered worship is beyond the songs?

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. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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Are You a Song Leader or a Developer?

{SONG LEADERS and DEVELOPERS}

One of the most fruitful worship leaders I know is a 58-year-old mediocre singer who’s DEAF in one ear. He leads a racially diverse worship ministry of over 100 volunteers in a church of 2.5K.

Another worship leader I know is 65. He’s taken a very dated service to a well done, technologically savvy worship expression with one of the best social streams I’ve seen. He rarely leads a song but has developed DOZENS of young worship leaders in a church of 500.

I know worship directors that DON’T play guitar or piano, yet they lead the whole worship ministry from a soundboard or drum set. Churches of 3K+

_______________________

Most senior leaders think TOO SMALL when imagining their next worship leader. Their goals are typically someone young with exceptional stage presence, high anointing, and low cost.

It’s been my joy to help multiple churches find their next worship leader. Probably 100 phone calls in the past 5 years – helping pastors expand their idea of “I need a worship guy”.

What if I told you your next best worship leader would be a much better PASTOR than a PERFORMER.

What if I told you they might do things that build God’s kingdom in ways that don’t translate well to YouTube.

What if I told you they would need to be paid a significant living wage –  but in return might disciple 10 fold your other candidates.

I appreciate that each church has a unique journey and this advice might be something for 5 or 10 years down the road. This very well might be the time you need a solid chief musician on stage, but consider the idea that the right

PERSON may not fit the PERSONA (of a typical worship leader).

A not entirely unrealistic binary to conclude my point:

1. A+ stage savvy worship leader. Anointed, brave, bold, worker bee. Impressively, makes the weekend “happen”.  Prone to burnout or acquisition from a bigger ship.

2. C+ stage savvy worship leader that develops dozens of A’s, B’s, and C’s across all positions for years and decades.  Makes weekend “happen”, but it’s a little messier. Prone to irrelevance or church planting 😉

Helping your worship leaders and teams tell the story of God in worship. 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. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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Revival FOMO Are You Missing the Next Big Move of God?

{REVIVAL FOMO} Have you heard? “God’s about to do something big! Don’t miss out…..”

For years, I followed leaders that told me to keep suffering and striving hard because something BIG was about to happen. The big payoff was just around the corner. They could feel it. They saw a sign. A month turned into a year, turned in a decade of “just you wait, it’s gonna happen.”

Sometimes church leaders use this language to justify the overwork of volunteers or employees. It’s false hope wrapped up in spiritual language. It’s an illusion like the MC Escher Stairs where you keep moving up while going nowhere.

Sometimes church leaders use the optics and stories of other “revivals” to push their teams to exhaustion. “What kind of microphone does Furtick use??”. If you thought it would be less during quarantine church, think again – the competition for the best digital church is at an all-time high!

Sometimes church leaders want revival for some kind of kingdom bailout. Bailout our inadequate leadership, procrastination, lack of diligence, overspending, etc…

I’m ALL ABOUT expecting good things. I’m all about positive, forward-moving leadership. Nothing worse than a stick in the mud, critical team member (I have admittedly been that guy) – but we must stop baiting future revival as an excuse for exploitation or mismanagement. Ministry should be sustainable, to quote Eugene Peterson, more like “a long obedience in the same direction.”

Helping your worship leaders and teams tell the story of God in worship. 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. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.

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It’s OK If Your Church Never Sings That New Song

NEWER is BETTER + POPULAR is GOOD
That is what our consumer culture tells us.
As those entrusted with choosing songs for our church, we must look beyond the YouTube hymnal and social virality of a song. We must be able to see and hear beyond the slick productions.
A nutritionist for a pro football team does not feed the same meal to a kicker and a linebacker. What’s good for a 10K church in the burbs might not make sense for a recovery group in the city. Are there songs better made for your small church that a large church would never consider?
Some new, famous worship songs should be avoided in your context. Some should be sung immediately. Some should wait a bit. Some will be sung forever in your church. Many will be quickly forgotten.
Here are considerations for selecting NEW SONGS for your local church:
1️⃣ Choose songs that could live in your active setlist for 3, 5, 10 years, or more.
The increasingly short shelf life of trendy worship songs really concerns me. I love that there are some songs in our repertoire that have been with us for decades and continue to feed us. We keep them from being worn out by using different arrangements and allowing them to rest for seasons. For instance, the song “Jesus Messiah” is no longer marketable, but for our church the lyrics do incredible work.
2️⃣Avoid becoming a radio DJ that capitulates to every song request (yes, including your pastor).
Over time, if you are doing your job well, people will learn to trust to eat what is in front of them vs. constantly asking for chicken fingers and cake. If you are constantly trying to please people by entertaining requests, it will never end. When people (my pastor) ask for a song I always ask them “what about the song speaks to you?”, “What in this song, gives voice to what our church needs to say to God?” Often times it’s a deeply felt, short-lived emotion that is completely personal and not corporate.
3️⃣  Dive deeper to find songs that fit your context.
There are hundreds and thousands of beautiful songs and hymns that are not in the top CCLI 1000. This might include your original songs. I recently found a song by Daniel Bashta “Praise the Lord” which has absolutely blessed our gatherings. Listen to more indie worship artists and hunt for songs that will feed your church. Don’t just wait for the big churches to feed you your next moment.

 

Helping your worship leaders and teams tell the story of God in worship. 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. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.