Clear Heads, Quiet Hearts

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By guest columnist, Meredith Andrews

I find much joy in gathering with the people of God on a weekly basis and lifting our hearts and songs heavenward in worship. What a privilege to serve the same body for an extended period of time and grow with them in our understanding, expression and passion for worshiping Jesus. For me, there is little else as fulfilling as entering into the presence of God with His beloved bride and offering up our adoration, thanksgiving and praise. The goal is to make much of Jesus and respond to His revealed Word and manifest presence. But how do we get there? Where do we start? If I’m honest, there have been countless times I have literally run onto the platform during the intro of the first song, and it felt like, “Oh hey, God. I’m here!” Whether I was late dropping my kids off, left my monitor pack in the bathroom, or was still wiping spit-up off my shoulder while approaching the mic, there never seems to be a shortage of chaos just before engaging in one of the most meaningful and beautiful exchanges of my week. It is no different for the people walking in the door and shuffling to find their seats. There’s the guy who woke up to a flooded basement because his sump pump stopped working in the middle of the night. The couple who had a fight on their way to church and are still nursing wounds as they plaster on pleasant faces. The mother who feels guilty leaving her newborn in the nursery for the first time but is desperate to have her soul filled. And of course, everyone (without a garage) had to dig their car out of 4 feet of snow because we live in Chicago and this winter was bonkers and we’re all still thawing.

How do we move past our stuff and get to God? And how do we as facilitators of worship help our people get there? Authenticity is a good place to start. When I was younger, in many ways I separated and compartmentalized my different roles because I wasn’t quite sure how they could seamlessly intersect or if I could be vulnerable about my weakness from stage. But then I realized, these precious people aren’t looking for a perfect, super-spiritual worship leader. If they can’t relate to me, how will they let me serve them? So the day my baby boy puked on me and I didn’t have time to clean up before the countdown clock hit 0:00, I made a joke about it in the call to worship. People laughed. And relaxed. And we all embraced this truth: we all have our burdens and distractions, but if we can just get to Jesus and lay it all at His feet, our stuff seems insignificant in comparison to the glory of God. What joy and freedom and rest there is in His presence!

Oftentimes at our church, we will begin a service with an invocation from the Psalms or a prayer asking God to have His way in and among us. Our first song is always what we refer to as a “Gathering Song,” one that is a call to worship in itself, and focuses our hearts on why we are there. Some of our favorite examples of Gathering Songs are “Hosanna (Praise is Rising)” (Paul Baloche/Brenton Brown), “Here for You” (Matt Redman/Matt Maher), and “Open Up the Heavens” Vertical Church Band/Meredith Andrews). In singing these lyrics, we are choosing to lay aside distractions and are asking the Lord to do whatever He wants to do in us. Kicking off a service with a song like this is something we feel strongly about as we know our people need that time and those words to let go of what happened five minutes ago and set their gaze upward. If we begin a service with “Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering,” we may actually lose people without trying. They may not be quite ready to sing such heavy content until after they’ve been able to clear their heads and quiet their hearts. For our congregation, beginning our services with songs of invocation and gathering sets the tone for the rest of our time together. It’s a journey. We’re ascending the hill of the Lord as His people, preparing our hearts for what He will do in us along the way. We’re asking that He would “rend the heavens and come down,” (Isaiah 64:1) and “show us His glory like we’ve never seen before,” (Exodus 33:18). Only then will we be different from when we walked in the door.

 For more on Meredith Andrews visit her site, meredithandrews.com.

Kari Jobe on Songs and Her Leadership Journey

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Read the first article in the series here. 

WL: Because you lead worship in a congregational context, and at different worship conferences and concerts, and you’ve sung many songs, what qualities do you believe are essential for a song that will draw people that may not feel like it into the presence of God?

KJ: I don’t think it is easy to explain except that it’s a faith thing. When we declare who God is, he is magnified and glorified in that and he inhabits the praises of His people: That in and of itself welcomes him into a situation. And it helps people to be more aware of his presence when they are in a place of brokenness or in a place of pain or a place of looking to the Lord when he’s honored—Scriptures tell us that. And so songs that do that are some of the most powerful because they get our mindset and our thoughts off of our selves. As we declare the goodness of our God, he inhabits those praises, he enthrones himself on those praises and in exchange—a supernatural exchange—we sense his presence. We feel him. We are encouraged. We realize we’re not alone. You know, it’s this beautiful exchange happening out of faith and worship. “Revelation Song”—that Jenny Lee wrote—is one of the coolest songs because it’s all about God. People are singing the goodness of God and not saying anything about themselves, but are being filled with more faith by the end of that song because they realize God is real. “He’s living and breathing and moving in my life and, you know, they didn’t say anything about themselves in that worship song.” But the faith that rose up in them is changing them—such a spiritual thing when we worship God.

WL: There’s been a lot of conversation about vertical worship, worship that is just to God and about God. Worship can be “I” focused, “Thou” focused, it can be “I-Thou” with the emphasis more or less on God or us. Is there one type of song we need more than another when you look at the worship landscape?

KJ: I think we need them all. I think that we can look a lot at the song to see if we are on the right track. David has so many songs where he declares, “I am this, I am that, my heart hurts, have you forsaken me… have you forgotten me?” He is lamenting before God. But then he always turns it around and reminds his soul and his heart, “God, you did this. So if you did this for them, you’re going to do this for me.” So, I think we need all of it. Then there are some songs where David didn’t talk about himself at all. He says, “You are mighty and majestic and the mountains worship you and the seas sing of your praises.” Those are beautiful and both minister to people at different times.

It’s a relationship. When you are in a friendship with somebody, there are days “I just love everything about you, you’ve never done anything wrong. You’re the best friend ever.” And then there are other days where it’s, “I need to talk to you about something you said. I don’t understand your heart in this. What did you mean by this?” I think people need to be reminded it’s okay to be honest with the Lord, to be able to say, “I don’t understand why you did this, and I don’t understand why I’m in this place.” And to be able to return to that place of faith, “I know you’re going to pull me through. I don’t know how, but I know you’re going to.” And you keep walking it out. That’s worship, that’s worship to the Lord.

WL: What do you think God’s call and vision is for you at this time in your life?
KJ: I have no idea. I do love what I get to do; I feel so honored that people would let me lead them in worship and that they would respect my heart to lead them. It is such an honor. I think that we gain respect from people when we’re open and transparent and honest. Where we can say, “Look, this is what God’s done in my life and this is where I’ve tasted and seen that he is good.” People respond to that; they respond to brokenness that’s been made beautiful. So, my heart is to minister to people, that’s my number one love, built on a platform of places where I’ve been ministered to.

Leading worship at the Hillsong Conference this last summer was one of the greatest honors of my entire life, because I have been so impacted by every single person that has come out of Hillsong and they have helped me connect to God and helped me to worship. So to go and to be able to pour my gift out there was like, “I can’t believe I get to do some of these things” But I think as long as people want to hear what I have to say and what God’s saying, I want to be a good steward of that. I take it very seriously.

WL: You talked about being transparent and honest. And when you can do that, it connects to the heart of the people you are leading in worship and they feel that they can be transparent with God, is that right?

KJ: That’s right, I hear a lot from young girls through emails or letters and they say, “I love how you openly love on God in front of people, I want to do the same thing with my life.” I think that’s one of the most honoring statements because we’re on this earth for such a time as this—but not because we are here for ourselves. God wants us on the earth at this hour at this time, doing life with these people, in this time in the kingdom, so the greatest thing we can do is just to know God and to know his voice and to obey what he says—to do and to be good stewards of whatever that is.

WL: Also, I was going to ask you because you are a woman and worship and it is an area that historically has been more occupied by men than by women, has that affected you?

KJ: I watched Darlene Zschech as I grew up and was really impacted by her because she was one of the only women leading. I don’t ever see any kind of segregation in it or any kind of problem, I think there is always honor in it because people are honoring of what I do. Now, I might have a different answer if I was younger or if I was in a place where I wasn’t getting to do what was in my heart. But I have had opportunities over the years to probably give up on it because I saw some hardships at different times in the area of serving. And God will always ask us to submit to authority,

We’ll always have an opportunity to submit to other leaders that will be over us, and I think that it is very important for younger women who desire to be worship leaders to keep serving, to always honor, always value, everyone’s gift that’s above them.

It’s “Be a good server where God puts you.” Always serve, try not to let your emotions take over when you are having meetings with lots of men. It freaks them out, you know, they don’t like tears. I have learned a few things over the years, rules of engagement, rules of the game: Men want to be honored and respected. And you can get a long way and be honored in your life if you’ll do that, not just with men, but women, as well.

WL: Well, speaking of learning, where do you think that you have learned to lead? Who are the people and what are the experiences that have taught you how to lead people into the presence of God.

KJ: I’ve learned a lot from the leaders over me through the years. I feel so thankful for every single leader I’ve ever lead under. From my dad when I was a teenager, he was my youth pastor, my mom’s always been such a woman of God, then going off to college and serving on worship teams at ORU and Christ for the Nation. I’ve done a lot of teaching myself as a worship pastor at Gateway Church and I’ve always been pastored well. I’m thankful for that. And even when I wanted to not go to church, I would go to church because I knew it was part of how God pours into us. To do community with people is powerful. Satan likes to isolate people—especially leaders. He makes a lot of leaders feel like nobody will get it, you can’t be accountable: “I could never share this with someone, because what would happen?” But that’s the worst thing that could happen as a leader. So having good Godly leadership, that does life with me, holds me accountable and pastors me well, are probably my biggest lifesavers.

WL: Is there something that you would want to share to encourage Worship Leader’s readers: pastors, worship leaders, vocalists, musicians, tech team.

KJ: Yes, I’d like to encourage people to stay fresh by staying honest and open with people. A lot of worship leaders are tired, they talk about being tired and it seems like they are going through the motions. My encouragement to them is to make sure that the only time they are worshiping isn’t on the stage. I have to be really careful to have my own personal time of worship between me and the Lord, where there aren’t people watching me to keep it real and keep it fresh. And I think that’s always an encouragement to other worship leaders, and also to raise up other leaders where they don’t have to carry all the services every single time. Raise them up. Don’t be afraid to let people fail. Set them up to win, but if they fall and a song flops, let them do it again. I never got it right at the beginning. I still mess up. I messed up these words the other night, I started laughing on stage. Started the song over, and everyone laughed and cheered, and that was probably everyone’s favorite moment because it was human and it was real. Just be okay with being real. Be real with people.

 

How to Transition Between Songs in Worship

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By Brendan Prout

One of our primary responsibilities as lead worshipers is to eliminate distractions while conducting the music of the church. When some element is out of place, whether it’s visual our audio related, musicians and non-musicians alike get waylaid from their concentration on Jesus during the worship.

One of the biggest offenders, which be extremely jarring to our brothers and sisters, becoming a hindrance to their worship and distracting them from the presence of God, is found in poorly planned or executed transitions between songs.

John MacArthur says, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail,” and my own father liked to share with me a Navy axiom: “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” Along the lines of good planning, I’d like to share a list of different practical strategies to achieve smooth transitions in worship.

1) Plan songs in an order that the ending chord leads into the beginning chord of the next song.
Medley together songs that have the same key and same tempo (Chris Tomlin’s “Unchanging” and Paul Baloche’s “Hosanna,” for example)

2) Choose songs that are only a whole step away from each other.
Use the shared chord as a bridge between (for example, C and D both share the G chord). End the song as usual, and swell in on the shared chord and linger on it for a few moments. Then start the next song as usual.

3) Use a non-musical element.
Scripture readings, Prayer, Videos, a moment of reflection, or just being conversational with your church. If you’re sharing prayer or Scripture readings, having an ambient pad playing underneath in the key of the next song often helps provide continuity in the flow of worship. 

4) Ambient pads.
A keyboard player or a guitar loop works as well as a rhythm loop. All it needs to be is an ambient track in a selected key. Tempo is not necessary, but can be helpful for getting the band and the church set for where to begin the next song. 

5) Pause.
Silence is not your enemy. Let there be a moment of silence between the songs, but be intentional about it. Be confident in it – lead the silence. Perhaps even say aloud, “Let us be still before our Lord, and know that He is God.”

6) Drum beat.
Have the drums begin the next song with no instruments playing at first. Then layer the instruments in. I like to do a combination of the ambient pad with the drum beat coming in over it, nice and strong.

7) Instrument fade.
As you are fading out your instrument, you could cue another instrumentalist to come in with the next song. I’m a guitarist (usually), so I’ll speak from my vantage point. Sometimes, I’ll strum the final chord of an outtro, and as everyone is holding that last chord, I look to the pianist and give them a count-off for the next song. They then start the song in the new key and we’re off. This works in some cases, but it takes a lot of rehearsal and sometimes it’s difficult for the instrumentalist to track the tempo and feel of the new song so quickly. And some keys don’t play well together. 

8) Music Theory.
Let it work for you. Here is a list of practical examples…

a) Choose keys that are complementary on the circle of 5ths.
If you want to transition from G to C, end your 1st song on the IV chord (C), and let it linger for a few moments, then begin your new song from that chord. (sonically, the IV becomes the new I). To go the opposite direction, simply use the V chord and do the same thing. 

b) Modulate through the 5th chord of the key you are transitioning to.
Example: You are in the key of C and are going to the key of G. Play the D chord and then go to G. Okay, so we know which chord to get to right before we actually hit the new key… How do you get to that chord? Another rule is that the minor “2″ of the new key is a nice chord to go to right before the suspended “5.” If I’m heading to the key of G, I may want to hit an Am (the minor “2″ chord) and then the Dsus. Going to the key of C, it would be a Dm.

c) Modulate from the 5th of the key you are in.
Example: You are in the key of C and want to go up to the key of D. Play the A chord and then go to D.

d) Modulate from a suspended chord.
The suspended “5″ chord is always the one that gives people a sense of the new key and makes them want to get to it. It holds a wonderful tension that readies the whole congregation for what’s coming. For instance, if I am wanting to transition to the key of G, I will want to get to a Dsus right before it. The “5″ I referred to means the 5th note in the new scale. D is the fifth note in a G scale. If I’m trying to get to the key of C, what chord will I want to go to right before it? One that has elements of both: Gsus.

The musical rule is to be musical. If it sounds really funny to go from the previous song’s last chord to the minor “2″ of the new key, don’t do it. Figure out a way to get to that suspended 5 that makes musical sense, but don’t be afraid of doing something that shifts more than you’re used to. It’s very difficult to go smoothly from the key of C to say, the key of F#. You may have to play with it a bit to see if there’s a way other than a complete stop and start. There may not be… and that’s okay.

e) Hard shift from a build.
Example: You are in the Key of C and going to F. Stay in C and build dynamically then shift to the F chord while building dynamics.

f) Modulate through the 4th chord of the key you are going to.
Example: You are in the key of C and are going to the key of F. Play the Bb chord and then go to F. Or play Bb then C and then to F.

g) Structure your modulations to land in relative Keys.
Example: You are in the Key of C and then the next song is in Am. You can usually go straight to that chord to setup for the next song.

h) Modulate through the melody line without instruments.
If the starting note of the melody is in the scale (usually the main triad) of the current key, sing the line without instruments and have them come in layered or staggered in the new key.

i) Use a chord other than the final chord to launch your chord change.
For example, maybe your song’s last two chords are G and C (common in songs written in the key of C). Instead of resolving to C, use the principles mentioned above to change to a key that makes sense if your starting point is G. So you can do a whole step transition (A or F), or a half-step transition (Ab or F#). You will want to test this out; it may not work all the time.

There are effective ways to move from any key to any other key. It is best to rehearse them with the band so they go smoothly, especially when they are not used to it. It can be great fun to pull off a key change that has a few twists and turns in it!

So there you have it: a pretty comprehensive list of different techniques and strategies to approach transitions. Some may work for your church’s flavor or your team’s musical ability level, and some may not. Don’t force them, but teach them. Find out what works best, and plan to use those techniques within your worship. Prepare them with your team and equip them with the ability to execute them with excellence. Practice them with your team so they can perform them with confidence.

Blessings to you as you serve our Lord!

 

Brendan Prout is a pastor at Community Bible Church in San Diego, CA, where he oversees worship and outreach. He has served in worship ministry leadership for over 20 years and focuses on training and raising others to do the work of ministry they are called to.

Redeeming Time

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By Greg Jones

Our worship team members have a limited amount of time each week to be prepared for the upcoming services. Therefore, we want to redeem the time.

Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:16

Here are some small things that make a big difference in recouping lost time week to week.

1. Sound system and gear prep
Many times, I have arrived at a rehearsal only to find that we are wasting valuable practice time locating mic cables, direct boxes, music stands, batteries, setting up amps and maybe even charts. Having all of this ready to go before rehearsal can redeem time otherwise lost. As a worship leader, you can’t do all of this yourself. Train your sound people to be proactive and anticipate needs BEFORE the worship team arrives. For instance, if you know you have an electric guitarist who uses a mic’d tube amp, set up a mic stand and possibly the mic before he arrives. Have the line already assigned on the soundboard and running to the snake input. Have the input labeled on the line or snake box if possible. Make sure to require musicians to arrive early if they have setup to accomplish. That electric guitarist should arrive at least 15-20 minutes early to set up his amp and pedal board, tune his guitar, etc… 

2. Use Cloud file storage or a web site for communicating music
Your worship team should ideally have access, prior to rehearsal time, not only to the chord charts but to MP3s as a reference. I even go so far as to change the key of the MP3 files if necessary. This allows team members to play along with the audios while practicing at home. Audacity is free software that will allow one to do this. Planning Center (www.planningcenteronline.com) is a great solution for sharing the music with the team, but if your budget is limited, try a cloud based file storage solution like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc…  

3. Write out the order of the songs
How many times have I been on a worship team and heard these questions? “What songs are we doing?” “What is the order of the songs for the service?” This might not sound like a big deal but now imagine it being asked separately by various individuals on the team. And even if the question is asked only once by the group, in addition to the time lost in verbal communication, watch how much time is lost as musicians might scramble to write down the answer. Simply writing out an ordered song list (I like to even include the keys) can allow everyone to get on the same page and redeem lost rehearsal time.

4. Communicate song structures
A lot of time during rehearsals is lost by the worship leader communicating the ‘song maps’ for each song: “On this song, we’ll do an intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus and then the ending”. A great time saver is to simply writ out something like “V1, Ch1, V2, Ch2, B, Instr., Ch3, Ch4” at the top of a chart. Another option that I employ is to create my own charts so that the musician can simply read the page from top to bottom to communicate song structure. Although I usually use dual column print to conserve paper, this does require more page turns. Creating your own charts isn’t something for everyone either…

5. Record and share audios of rehearsals and services
Sharing recordings made of rehearsals and services gives the worship team the opportunity to self-correct. We often hear things on a recording of ourselves that we would have never heard when simply playing our part from the platform. Do you have a vocalist that sings flat when she reaches for her highest notes of a particular song? Do you have a guitarist whose part is too busy, conflicting with other instruments that are supposed to be dominant for a particular song? Yes you can work these things out in practice but sometimes simply letting everyone hear themselves will create a course correction for the next rehearsal without any extra intervention on your part. You can also avoid coming across as overly critical by giving your team another opportunity to self-assess.

By the way, I recommend a separately mic’d recording of the house mix instead of a recording straight from the main soundboard. This will better capture the sound that the congregation is hearing.

As you can see, redeeming the time requires organization. If you find yourself to be organizationally impaired, maybe this is something you can delegate to someone else who has that gift. But let there be more doubt that whether or not organization is your gift, unless time is in limited supply by both you and your worship team, it is not something to be ignored.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. – Psalm 90:12

Just as rock beats scissors, paper beats rock and scissors beats paper, the Biblical principle is that order beats time.

 

 Greg has over ten years of experience serving as a contemporary worship leader at various churches in the Dayton, Ohio area. He is currently a worship leader seeking new worship leader opportunities. Greg is also an adjunct professor of guitar at Cedarville University. He has recorded three albums, The Science of Music (with his former band The Collaboration Element), String Theory, an instrumental guitar oriented rock album and Manifest Destiny, an instrumental piano album.
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