Is There Room for Developing Worship Artists?

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 By Dave Ray

Worship leaders, there’s a question that’s been gnawing at me for the last few years.  And it’s actually a part of my story.  Maybe your story is something like mine.

After taking piano lessons when I was a kid, I picked up a guitar when I was thirteen and taught myself to play my favorite songs by Audio Adrenaline, DC Talk, Newsboys and Jars of Clay.  When I was a freshman in high school my youth pastor asked me to lead worship for the youth group, and so every Sunday morning and Wednesday night I would lead a few songs while strumming on an old hollow body electric guitar – without an amp – while occasionally joined by a friend on an old drum set with heads that hadn’t been changed in years.  Let’s just say we had plenty of room for improvement.

Then my worship pastor began adding a few more “contemporary” songs to our Sunday morning services and asked me to play drums.  Now, let’s be clear.  I barely have enough coordination to keep a steady tempo using a handful of kick-snare patterns.  But drum fills?  All but the most basic are well beyond my skill level.  Put those things together, and I might have been the least imaginative drummer in worship music history.  I think I hold the record for most consecutive “ka-ka-boom” fills.  (That’s two snares and a tom, for those unfamiliar with the wildly unstandardized world of phonetic drum pronunciation.)

I also wore a headset mike (a la Phil Collins) and would contribute harmonies whenever the moment was right – which in my view was pretty much always.  I never met a third harmony part I didn’t love.  The problem was that I barely had enough mental capacity to keep the beat alive to begin with.  I could keep the beat OR I could sing in tune, but I couldn’t do both at once!

I know it wasn’t pretty.  I’m certain that I would cringe to watch video of myself at those stages of my musical development.  Thank goodness the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet.  But those years were also crucial to my musical and spiritual development.  I learned the responsibility of leadership from my youth pastor.  I learned how to serve the church from my worship pastor who, for all the years I was there, was never paid.  I learned to love a great harmony from our bass player, Karen.  And I learned faithfulness from my mom who played piano and keys and never missed a Sunday.

Now I serve as the worship pastor of a church that is much bigger and has far more resources than the church where I grew up.  Our worship team is a mixture of paid musicians and volunteers, all of whom are much better than I was in those early years.  And I wonder, would there have been a place for “high school me” in my worship ministry?

And that’s the question I have for you as a worship leader.  Where is the place for the developing musician in your ministry?  Is there a place in your ministry where someone can be bad?

Our job is not just to facilitate worship – which is important! – it’s to develop worshippers, and specifically, to develop the next generation of worship leaders, guitar players, singers and organists that will serve their churches in the decades to come.

I know of a number of churches doing that task well – they are mentoring their singers, discipling young worship leaders, and training musicians and media team members.  It’s hard, time-intensive work.

But others of us have lost sight of that priority.  I see churches cancelling children’s music programs and student ensembles, bringing in paid musicians to every worship service, and ditching their choirs, thereby eliminating the places where an ordinary musician can grow and learn and serve the church.  I see churches putting all their efforts into the production and quality of their worship events and foregoing the harder work of developing and discipling musicians and worship leaders.

And I get it.  All the hip, cool, sexy churches are slick with a capital S.  They make worship look like a rock concert.  And in all those incredible worship videos, with the auto-tuned vocals and overdubbed guitars and Beat-Detective-perfect drums, the camera on the giant boom never once sweeps across the surging crowd and zooms in on a teenaged drummer wearing a Phil Collins mike and trying to decide between singing that third harmony part or keeping the right tempo.

I don’t have it all figured out yet. But this question is a crucial part of my journey.  And it’s a foundational principle that I want our worship ministry to be built upon.  My only encouragement to you is to make this question a part of your journey, too.  Start doing the hard work of discipling and developing worshippers.  Figure out what works for your church and your ministry.

Buy headset mikes for all your drummers.

But don’t get so caught up in what is hip, cool and sexy that you miss the decidedly unhip, uncool, and unsexy teenager who needs to learn from you what it means to serve the church.

He just needs a place where he can be bad for a little while.


David Ray is a father of three, husband to Jess, who is the talented one in the marriage, and the Worship Pastor at Bear Creek Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.  The latest EP from Dave & Jess Ray, Goodness and Mercy, is available on iTunes and at daveandjessray.com.

 

How Lighting Can Enhance Your Place of Worship

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By Tom Murphy

A church should be a well-lit place for its worshippers. Good church lighting only enhances the environment as it is essential for different places within the building. There are three main areas that church lighting can be utilized at its best.

Where church lighting works best:
Main Stage – You more than likely have been to a concert before, even if it was held at your church. The way technicians light a concert is the same as they do for some church services. The idea is to use stage lighting to highlight areas of the stage that are used the most. When the term church lighting is used, you can identify it with other types as well such as concert and event lighting.

Choir – The choir is an area that you will see church lighting being utilized the most because the choir seems to be the main focus of any service. In order to light members, a spotlight is utilized to present them to the congregation. This light is normally placed directly overhead or on the left and right sides of them. When done correctly, the members will be the main center of focus.

Congregation – Many times the congregation requires direct church lighting. This is done through the use of recessed lighting. This lighting is unlike stage lighting and event lighting because it presents more of a softer focus onto the congregation. The reason soft lighting is utilized is so members are able to read their hymnals and able to observe the speaker when presenting the service.

A church has always been known as a center for worship, but modern day constructs of it have allowed for an expansion of the traditional type and permit for a more updated appeal with such additions as event lighting and stage lighting. This is something that is mostly overlooked by the congregation and best left to the technicians who do this type of electrical work.

With stage lighting and event lighting a church is able to do several things, such as brighten up an area for the special events that it puts on. Special event lighting adds to the environment as it creates more of a natural setting, one that members are used to. There are many things to consider when lighting these areas, such as the lighting levels that will be required and the types of fixtures needed.

Lighting fixtures – There are only two main ways to light a church, direct and reflector flood bulbs. Direct is for areas of the church that are dark. High ceilings play a major role for direct lighting as it is used overhead to light these areas.  There are also indirect fixtures that work well off of different ceilings such as white and wood. They also feed off of low ceilings and perform the same objective as it does for high ceilings. Many times direct and indirect are used in a church for effects that balance each other.

Lighting levels - Lighting levels depend on several things, one of them being the congregation. It is ultimately up to a lighting technician to decide how it will work best. The lower the lighting the more the atmosphere is going to feel comfortable as brighter lighting is made to focus on a subject. The central focus for balancing light is to rid any part of it from shadows. Many churches are equipped with dimmers, which allow for the manipulation of light. Dimmer controls are made available in theatrical and general types.

In order to have the most suitable lighting fixtures for church, there are several factors to consider such as what types of lighting will be needed and where. Stage lighting is great for concerts and other events, but event lighting is good for brightening up the choir. Both are utilized in most churches but for different things. Stage lighting and event lighting are only two ways in which light can help as there are many other types that can be used. No matter what your lighting needs are, make sure you make the effort to shed some extra light on your church.

 

Founded in 1978, Vincent Lighting Systems provides theatrical, film/video and architectural lighting for a wide range of businesses, including performing arts centers, educational and religious organizations, corporations and special events. Their event lights will make any occasion memorable. Whether you need to purchase, rent, install or repair a lighting system, Vincent Lighting is always ready to help.

The 27 Best Practices of a Pastoral Musician

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By Constance Cherry

What does the pastoral musician look like in worship leadership? How is it different than simply leading the music of worship? In essence, how is the role of pastoral musician practiced? As we can see, it involves more than the music, though strong musicianship is presumed. In practice, pastoral musicians are persons who:

1. Have a solid understanding of biblical worship and its meaning.

2. Are able to theologically reflect upon worship in light of present culture.

3. Are captivated with pursuing God’s view of worship.

4. Have an awareness of the historical significance of two millennia of Christian worship.

5. Embrace the dialogical nature of worship as revelation/response.

6. Reject the predominance of anthropomorphic worship in favor of Christo-centric worship.

7. Understand that worship is to primarily be relevant to God (while connecting to the people).

8. Recognize that biblical worship is both vertical and horizontal in nature.

9. Understand biblical worship to be primarily corporate in nature.

10. Embrace, encourage, and love the persons in the community God has given them to oversee.

11. Reject passive worship done for the community and strive for participative worship done by the community.

12. Understand that worship always forms us, explicitly and implicitly.

13. View the core content of worship to be the story of God—what the triune God is doing from creation to re-creation.

14. Celebrate the Christian Year so as to proclaim the story of God in Christ.

15. See worship as a bigger entity than exclusively music.

16. Understand the inter-relationship between music and all of the other acts of worship in the whole service.

17. View music as a servant of the text.

18. Select and employ music not for its own sake, but to serve a greater purpose—the purpose of enabling conversation with the triune God.

19. Embrace a wide breadth of congregational song—drawing from psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

20. Prayerfully arrive at a canon of song appropriate to their community by applying standards of theological, musical, and lyrical integrity.

21. Understand that excellence is a journey, not an end.

22. Seek to help their God-given community discover its “worship voice” (their meaningful way of communicating with God that is expressive of their culture).

23. Strengthen and balance the worship style that is normative for their community.

24. Help worshipers view their worship as connected to the worship of sisters and brothers all over the world.

25. Help worshipers view their worship as eternal worship—worship that has been and will always be ongoing—on earth as it is in heaven.

26. Connect public worship and pursuing justice for others here and now.

27. Connect public worship with private worship.

This list of “best practices” (though incomplete) helps us flesh out the comprehensive nature of what it means to function as a pastoral musician. Notice that it involves not only doing, but also being. Becoming a pastoral musician is about who you are more than what you do.

 

Rev. Dr. Constance M. Cherry is a regular contributor to Worship Leader and much-loved speaker and workshop leader at NWLC. An associate professor of worship and Christian ministries at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana, she is also a permanent part-time professor for the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. Cherry is known for her definitive exploration of worship in The Worship Architect, and her latest book Special Service Worship releases this month. She has served local churches as a minister of music/worship and as a United Methodist pastor.

 

Hospitality

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By Warren Anderson

On Sunday morning you want to be hospitable to those who enter our worship experiences, but don’t yet share our faith. Right? But you have strong (and correct) feelings that you ought not to sacrifice “Truth” in the process. What to do? Here are three suggestions to start the conversation:

1. Simplify your rhetoric.
In an homage to Bob Webber soon after he died, Joan Huyser-Honig celebrated Webber’s focus on the “embodiment of God’s narrative,” the kind of “hospitality that inspires worship committees to look at beloved liturgical elements and ask whether they’re too complicated for people to connect with.” Practically speaking, “Do whatever you can do to simplify liturgy so you make ancient things accessible in our cultural context,” suggests Darrell Harris, chaplain at Webber’s Institute for Worship Studies.

For example, for years now worship leaders have been told not to assume we can toss out words like sanctification and propitiation and expect everyone in attendance to follow us. Good start. But how often do we suppose that those who don’t know the Lord regularly use words like holiness or salvation? And even if they have a general sense of the denotative—or “dictionary”—definitions of those words, can we really assume they understand their connotative meanings—all the specific, sociological associations that come with the words—in our American evangelical context? Most of us spend plenty of time, rightly so, honing our praise bands’ sounds. Spending a bit more time thinking seriously about transitional commentary could make a big difference where hospitality to unbelievers is concerned. For further reading: Worship Words (Rienstra and Rienstra).

2. Choose songs that are easy to sing.
If you’re serious about creating a welcoming environment for those unfamiliar with our Christian culture, you have to make it easy for them to sing along with us during the congregational-singing component of our corporate worship. Most of our contemporary worship songwriters have covered point 1, above, sufficiently, but even when they do, do our interpretations of their songs help our cause? For instance, when Chris Tomlin, with his lovely lyric tenor, records every other song in B major, do we feel compelled to sing those songs in the same key, or do we modulate down—sometimes a couple of whole steps—to make his wonderful songs relatively easy for the vast majority of folks to sing? Do we pay attention to things like syncopation in the rhythm, the use of metrical feet in the lyrics, and musical ornamentations that often work a whole lot better on a solo recording than they do in the context of corporate worship? Doing so could help those who don’t listen to K-LOVE stand a decent chance of participating in worship, at least at a basic level. For further reading: The Art of Worship (Scheer).

3. Let Scripture do the work of Scripture.
A few years back, frequent Worship Leader contributor Constance Cherry did an intriguing study on the percentage of time the reading of Scripture occupied in worship services across America (“My House Shall Be a House of … Announcements”). Sadly, she found that Scripture reading in contemporary worship services (across a host of different denominations) accounted on average for a mere 2% of the service. Speaking through the prophet Isaiah (55:11), our Lord said, “I send [my word] out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (NLT). If worship evangelism is our goal, let’s elevate Scripture to a place of prominence above all of our well-intended songs and statements. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” indeed. For further reading: Worship in the Shape of Scripture (Mitman).

  

Along with being the Worship Pastor at the Elgin Evangelical Free Church in Elgin, IL, Warren Anderson teaches communication arts and worship arts classes and serves as Dean of the Chapel at Judson University.