4 Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of a Worship Conference

2-conferences

By Steven Reed

It’s worship conference time. But why go and how do you get the most out of your investment? The following are 4 basic things that you should take away from any conference, as well as some friendly advise on how getting together with a lot of other worship leaders can be amazing. 

1. Inspired
Worship conferences are a moment in time to look up from what you’ve been doing and see what’s out there. At very least by the end of the week you should be excited to put all that you’ve learned into practice and be rekindled in your passion for leading people to worship. It can be like a big pep rally that fills you with inspiration if approached correctly.

The key is not get overwhelmed – you will see people that are doing things beyond your ability, budget, or resources and while that’s inspiring to some, for others it’s deflating. Don’t let yourself think about where you are not, but instead always be looking for how do I get to where I need to go next.

The second tip is to not be overly critical – if you are regular reader of these newsletters you know that people have a wide range of ideas of how to lead worship. Guaranteed you just wont agree with everything and everyone. While it is important to judge what you hear, if you become overly critical you will close yourself off completely, even to the things that could be helpful. So you don’t have to accept everything that is offered but as my pastor always tells us before a conference, “Be wise as an old horse; eat the hay and spit out the sticks.”

2. Connected
You are not alone; even though many worship leaders that we’ve met feel that way some times. Being at a conference will hundreds of other people just like you, can provide valuable insight and encouragement for shared challenges. We are all in this together. 

This time of community, however, doesn’t just happen unless you purpose to connect – it too easy to attend a conference in isolation, wear your name badge under your jacket, and miss out on wonderful friendships with people just like you. Purpose to meet people around you during meals, before and after workshops, and any time you can to see if there is a connection.

The other way to connect is with your own team. You serve together every week but do you know them? Do know they know each other? Conferences are a wonderful opportunity to be in the same place for more than a few hours a week – it can strengthen you as a team. If you bring your team take time everyday of the conference to sit down together and talk about what they saw, what they learned, what challenged them, ask them how what they have seen relates to the vision of your church – share a meal everyday and find something fun to do while you are in the location.

3. Refreshed
Wonderful times of refreshing come in the presence of the lord and conferences provide a great opportunity to worship without having to be the leader. Maybe it should go without saying that you should spend time worshiping at a worship conference but it’s imperative to spend some time remembering why you do what you do – because you love to worship.

What may be crazy to know is that it’s often a challenge to get worship leaders to worship – why? Because they are leaders and most leaders are not quick to follow. While the mark of a great leader is their ability to lead leaders, you simply can’t rely on the skill of the leader to get you to participate. At some point you will simply have to make a conscious choice to shut down the leader/analyzer mode and dive into the presence of God whether or not the person leading is doing it how you would.

4. Equipped
Conferences are a great way to help worship leaders get better at what they do. This comes from worship leaders speaking into your life and ministry through general sessions, topic specific breakout sessions, as well product demonstration.

Without a doubt conferences have a wealth of valuable information and helpful advice, however, the challenge is to not get overwhelmed by it all and then lose your inspiration and motivation as you just don’t know what do. I suggest that you go into the conference purposing to find 5 specific things that you can apply right away and let the Lord reveal them to you as you are inundated with information. Grab hold of what you need now and let the other stuff be for later or for someone else. Go back and share them with your pastor and then put them in place.

These are just a few thoughts and pointers that are only meant to start a discussion, so please leave your favorite part of attending a conference in the comment section. We are all in this together so let’s help each other get God’s best.

 
*editor’s note: If you are interested in a conference designed for worship teams, Worship Leader puts on the National Worship Leader Conference. Find the dates and locations here.

Steve and his wife, Shawn, travel full time to serve the body of Christ in the area of worship.  They lead worship, compose and record, provide personalized on-site training for teams and churches, and teach on the subject of worship in English and Spanish.

steveandshawn.com  - English 
steveandshawn.com/es  – Español
youtube.com/steveandshawnmusic
twitter.com/steveandshawn

What on earth are we singing? Pt. 2

 

Music background

 

By Daniel Thornton

If you haven’t read my inaugural article, you’ll find it helpful before you sink your teeth into this one.  Here’s the link.  I would love to dive into the summary of my corpus analysis of contemporary congregational songs (CCS) with you; it’s fascinating and revealing of the songs we popularly sing in church.  However, some more groundwork should be laid first.

The CCLI most reported songs (especially in the Asia/Pacific region) are largely produced by Pentecostal/Charismatic churches, but largely analysed by non-Pentecostal/Charismatic scholars.  Not that this should discount their contribution in any way, but rather reveals the lens through which these songs are analysed; predominantly as either a modern development of hymns or an infiltration of secular popular music.  Attention, then, is often spent around ‘should’ questions, rather than the ‘is/are’ questions.

Should this music be used in church? Should these simple, romantic lyrics be acceptable as worship?

instead of

What is happening in this music? How is it communicating both to the worshiper, and from the worshiper to God? How do these songs represent a culturally meaningful expression of faith? 

As a Pentecostal scholar, with a professional classical and popular music background, I find the ‘is/are’ questions far more engaging.  Thus, the musical content, production values, performance contexts, lyrics, their theology and writing styles were all analyzed.  One of the biggest challenges was trying to find a generally accepted analytical approach for CCS lyrics.

Various authors have categorized songs as: ‘Praise & Worship’ (a most unfortunate bifurcation); kerygma, koinonia,and leitourgia; through Trinitarian address and usage of verbs; or into myriad types based on the key message of each song.

It’s time for a definitive, but flexible and simple way to categorize CCS lyrics, and I believe the following four categories do exactly that.  Every CCS I can think of over the last 30 years fits into one (or two) of these categories:

  • Praise/Thanksgiving – to or about God (any/some/all of the Godhead), His character and/or His acts; acknowledgement, testimonial, invitational
  • Worship – directly addressed to God (any/some/all of the Godhead); defined by intimacy, surrender, relationship, dedication
  • Prophetic/Statement – directed to the singer, the congregation, the unsaved or the wider community; addressing truth, reality (present or future), declarative, testimonial
  • Petition – request directed to God (any/some/all of the Godhead); the request may take any form, but are often personal, corporate, evangelical or eschatological

So, out of the representative 25 songs analyzed, where did most of them fit? Eleven were primarily Praise/Thanksgiving, three having it as their secondary focus.  Seven songs were primarily Prophetic/Statement, four having it as their secondary focus.  Five songs had a primary focus of Worship and only two songs were primarily Petition.

As informing and useful as this categorization of CCS is, I did also analyze song lyrics in many of the ways other authors have:  I documented the Trinitarian addresses; I noted all personal pronoun usage; I also created an equation to show whether the song had more of a focus on God or more of a focus on the worshiper (which is a common discussion regarding CCS).

I counted every reference to God, whether a name of the Godhead or the divine pronouns ‘You, Your, Yours’.  Similarly, I documented all references to the singer/worshiper, both singular ‘I, me, my’ and plural ‘we, us, our’.  I then made them into a mathematical fraction of ‘singer references – S’ over the number of ‘God references – G’ (S/G).  Clearly, a fraction that is greater than 1 means there is a greater focus on the singer than on God.  A fraction of less than 1 means there was a greater focus on God than on the singer.  What do you think was the result?

Well perhaps contrary to popular myths about CCS, only 4 of the 25 songs had more references to the worshiper than the object of worship (Amazing Grace – My Chains Are Gone, Desert Song, Hosanna, and Oceans – Where Feet May Fail).

While one CCS had an equal number of references to each party, 20 had more references to God than they did to the worshiper.  Granted, the lowest fraction (song most about God) was still 7/44 (Jesus At The Center).  Some may suggest that’s still too much of a focus on us.  Some may also argue that I’m already looking at the best of CCS and therefore skewing the results to those songs that are vetted by many denominations and worship leaders.  Wouldn’t they predominantly choose songs that give God more focus than the worshiper?  Probably.  I agree.  So there may indeed be many CCS out there that are more ‘me-centred’ than those in the representative list.  But what a great encouragement!  Clearly churches are choosing songs with the right balance of focus for worship!

So much more to come… but for now, let the discussions begin!

 

Pastor Daniel Thornton is an accomplished songwriter, musician, worship leader and communicator. He is the Head of Department, Music and Creative Arts for Alphacrucis College, Sydney, Australia and regularly travels to minister and train all over the globe. He is the world’s leading expert on the contemporary congregational song. Visit, danielthornton.org.

Why I lead Children’s Worship

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By Tanner Delano

I never imagined that I would be a children’s worship leader for this long (almost 3 years). I mean, I always knew that I would start leading children’s worship and that it would be a great learning experience for something greater. Throughout the process I’ve come to understand that this is more than just a learning experience. I’ve realized that maybe the “greater” life that I’ve always dreamed of is actually what I’m living right now. I remember the first service I ever led for children’s ministry. I sang off key the entire time, and honestly didn’t even know what it meant to sing “on key.” But that’s the beauty of children’s worship, because the kids will worship God despite how awful anything sounds. I was just a 16-year-old high school student whenever they asked me to lead worship in children’s church for one Sunday. I am now one month away from being 19, a freshman in college, and currently have the honor of running a 20-member children’s worship team that leads six services each Sunday. I don’t say all this to build myself up, but I say this as a testimony of what God has done in and through the children of my community. These children have given me more than Hillsong or Bethel could ever give me. I’ve kept each letter, drawing, and craft that every child has given me throughout my time with them. I knew I would need those when times got difficult.

The statement that I’m about to make is going to sound completely biased, but that is not my intention. I truly believe that one of the most important ministries in a church is children’s worship. Whether you agree with this statement or not, my time in children’s worship has led me to this belief for countless reasons.

1. Purity
For one, I believe that there’s a purity that rests on the worship of children. Worship is important in itself, and the opportunity of mixing worship and children’s ministry is extremely special. If excellence is poured into worship starting at the level of children’s ministry, then imagine how on fire they would be for the presence of God whenever they reach adulthood. It is so vital that the presence of God rests on children so that they may carry it with them the rest of their lives. Even today, I remember the most intimate times I’ve ever had with God was when I was just seven years old. I remember being impacted by Hillsong worship at such a young age. Furthermore, my greatest heroes are not from Hillsong, Bethel, or Jesus Culture. They are not even from the University of Texas football team. No, they are right in front of me every Sunday; a generation of children that boldly and passionately pursue the presence of God. That right there is the true inspiration.

2. Deep Understanding
Throughout my time in children’s worship, I’ve learned that the message of worship does not have to be reduced. All the songs that our team does for worship are all worship songs that are done in adult services. Children understand more than we think. The sound of children’s worship does not have to be reduced to cowbells and hymns, but rather their own sound will emerge from their desire to pursue the presence of Jesus. In the Bible the children pursued Jesus, and they were brushed aside by the older men and women. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” I would encourage any church to pour into their children’s worship teams. To allow children to pursue Jesus with their own passion and sound, just as they did in the Bible. A person being impacted by Jesus as a child will go on to greatly impact the world as an adult.

3. Encouragement
I recently had one of the most difficult weeks of my life. Tuesday after our worship rehearsal, I was speaking with one of the young girls from our team. She’s a second grader, and has one of the most gifted voices that I’ve ever heard. She said, “Tanner, I have a question.” I answered her with a “Yes ma’am?” She then proceeded with her question and said, “When did you know that you were a good singer?” Taken by surprise I responded, “Well, I really don’t think I’m all that great. There’s still so much I need to work on and get better at.” She then sweetly said, “Well, I think you have a good voice.” Tears began to fill my eyes as those words came out of her mouth. My difficult week then didn’t seem so bad.

One of my greatest struggles that I deal with is the way my voice sounds. This young second grader has more talent than I might ever have, and she tells me that I have a good singing voice. So many times we disqualify ourselves because of our abilities. I’m so thankful that God looks at the heart above the talent. When viewed from the eyes of a child, anything is possible. There’s a purity on their lives that allows them to dream and trust God more than any adult could. Jesus was so on point when he said that the kingdom must be embraced with child-like faith. In this young girl’s eyes, I could be anything that I wanted to be. She doesn’t see my inadequacies or my limitations. Rather, she sees everything that I could ever possibly dream of myself becoming. Could it be possible that God also looks at us this way? Of course it is.

Furthermore, I could’ve gone away to college. I could have quit years ago and moved off to a big city, drinking coffee in hipster cafés, and battling the ungodly traffic that comes with that life. Just when I was about to give everything up for a life outside of Killeen, I went back and read the letters that the children wrote for me when they joined the worship team. I saw the pictures they drew, and the crafts they made. I read the words of encouragement that came straight from the pureness of their hearts. As tears filled my eyes, a new love and appreciation filled my heart. Yeah, I decided that my life wasn’t so bad after all.

Is children’s worship easy? Not always. Have I ever wanted to quit? Yes. Is it worth it? Always.

It’s worth it whenever I see children on their knees boldly worshiping their Savior. It’s worth it when I see a generation with tears in their eyes because they’ve had a face-to-face encounter with the presence of God. It’s worth it whenever parents come to me telling me how much I’ve impacted their child’s life. They have no idea that they have impacted me more than I could ever possibly impact them. It’s worth it when I’m in an adult service and I see children from my team on their faces at the altar, when grown men struggle with just lifting their hands. It will be worth it when I’m standing in eternity, and gazing at the full manifestation of what I’m blessed to currently do every week in the lives of these amazing kids. Yes, that will be the day.

 

Tanner was born and raised in Central Texas. In 2012 at age 17 he released his first EP entitled “Falling”. He continues to lead worship at his home church in Killeen, Texas. Tanner has a deep passion for the presence of God, and has a heart to train, equip, and mentor the next generation.

Website: http://tannerdelano.com
Twitter: @tannerdelano
Facebook: Tanner Delano
Itunes: itunes.com/tannerdelano

Welcome to the New

mercymeMercyMe
Fairtrade Music
mercyme.org

Welcome to the New brings newness to a new level. The normally ballad-centered MercyMe has exploded with a fresh and stimulating sound on this latest release. Saturated in strong biblical truth Welcome to the New attacks the lies and insecurity that a “works-based salvation” brings by dragging it into the light and confronting it with the truth of God’s love and grace for us.

Combined with MercyMe’s new sound and celebration of the new life Jesus brings, Welcome to the New is a party from top to bottom. Lead singer Bart Millard describes the inspiration for Welcome to the New this way: “I grew up in a somewhat legalistic environment where the harder you try, the better God likes you. It was about two years ago a dear friend of mine reminded me I cannot do enough great things to make Christ love me more than He already does.”

Sounds like: Rock/pop synth with a good dose of a hallelujah party balanced with a couple of confessional ballads.

Top Songs
Most Singable: “Burn Baby Burn”

Strongest Biblical Content: “Flawless” (Ephesians 1:4)

The Whole Package: “Greater”

Jay Akins
4.5 stars

 

Unspoken

unspokenUnspoken
Centricity
unspokenmusic.com

Eclectic and multicultural are the hallmarks of Unspoken’s unique modern pop sound and self-titled album. Unspoken features the hit songs, “Who You Are,” “Lift My Life Up,” and “Start a Fire” and includes 6 brand new songs. Lead singer, Chad Mattson, bassist Jon Lowry, electric guitarist Mike Gomez from the Dominican Republic, and drummer Ariel Munoz from Puerto Rico, form this talented group, creating unity from their diverse ethnicities. Unspoken’s music is solidly grounded in a biblical foundation, creating a captivating combination of lyrics and music. This album touches on the themes of being on fire for God, trusting in God, and grace.

Sounds like: This catchy, modern pop sparkles with a multicultural flair, buoyant and intricate rhythms, dancing pop piano, sunny guitar stylings, and strong lyrical content that is solidly grounded God’s Word. The result is a refreshing and upbeat album that redefines the sound of Christian modern pop.

Top Songs
Most Singable: “Call It Grace”

Strongest Biblical Content: “Start a Fire” (Matthew 5:14-16, 2 Timothy 1:6)

The Whole Package: “Tomorrow”

Amanda Furbeck
4.5 stars