Archive | August 2012

Finding Meaning in Repetition

Today, I want to share a simple way to introduce spontaneity into the worship service. Repetition. Since spontaneity tends to make people feel uncomfortable, we can bring it into the meeting wearing the cloak of repetition, which tends to be very comforting.

Being spontaneous means that you do something unplanned. Using repetition as our helper, this is as simple as repeating a chorus just because it’s going well. I usually operate from the premise that if it’s going well (or there’s “life” on it) keep doing it. Whether it’s the verse, chorus or bridge, get comfortable repeating them without a plan.

In order to do this well, you will need to communicate to your team and the congregation. If they are not used to anything but the plan, first talk about the idea of spontaneous repetition. Cast vision for it and demystify anything that causes concern or worry. Once the team is on board and you practice some spontaneous repetitions, you’ll be ready to use it in the worship service. If your band can’t follow you, it will most likely create confusion in the congregation.

The next place we can use repetition is with one line of a song. Now instead of repeating the entire verse or chorus, we just repeat one line of it. Which line? The one that the Holy Spirit highlights to you in the moment. For example, the song Tradin’ My Sorrows (I know it’s old, but it was the first example that came to mind) has a line which says, “I’m blessed beyond the curse for His promise will endure.” That’s a great declaration, but in the song we breeze by very fast. It wouldn’t be fun to sing it slow either. So one day, I started repeating just this line. After five or six times, people are beginning to realize the truth they are declaring as it sinks in.

Life generally tells us that we’re not blessed. Well, life is wrong. God’s word says that He has given us every spiritual blessing in Christ. Wow! That’s a lot of blessing. Every one. Being blessed beyond the curse means that my life is not defined by the curse of the law. My life is defined in Christ and I have become his righteousness. Coming to that understanding is all apart of having a renewed mind. I don’t know what it did for the entire congregation that day, but that little repetition has stuck with me all these years.

Help your congregation find meaning in the songs they are singing using this simple technique. Everyone wins, except possibly your video projector operator, but there are lots of good software options that make spontaneous decisions manageable.

What are some of your favorite worship lyrics to declare? Does the music allow for you to repeat that one line?

An Invitation

While generally, as worship leaders, we are prepared and ready to roll when the service starts, many of our congregants may not be ready at all. I’m certain at some point in your life you have experienced “Sunday morning craziness” to a degree. Often, it seems like when we finally make time to worship, pray, read or study the Bible, all sorts of things come up. Arguments with our spouses, aggravation from our kids, accusations in our thoughts about ourselves and our actions. More likely than not, these elements are distracting and weighty even to the point of paralyzing our ability to freely worship God.

A typical response is to run from God in that moment or try to hide these things from Him.

So, here’s the challenge: learn to see all of those distracting, annoying, condemning thoughts as an invitation. An invitation to get free from all the dirt that stuck to your feet on the way in. An invitation to let Jesus wash your feet.

The reality is: you’re clean, you’re good to go, Jesus paid the debt that you owed and His blood was enough. Life happens and our feet get dirty along the way, but don’t let that keep you from enjoying God in worship. Cast all of those cares, fears, concerns and any other baggage weighing you down on Him. Do it right away. Release it. Let go. Surrender to His overwhelming love for you.

Whatever comes to the surface of your heart and mind, give it to God as part of your worship. We need not suffer any shame in His presence. No embarrassment here. Only life, peace and joy.

As worship leaders, part of our responsibility is to help those gathered in worship to understand this invitation. Corporate worship is always better when people are free.

Are you familiar with this invitation? What are some ways you have helped others to take it?

More than BGVs

BGV stands for background vocal, and while it serves a very good purpose in defining roles for most of the music world, I believe we should to step away from that model in worship. Regarding someone as a BGV ignores the potential they have for helping to lead the worship service.

As worship leaders, it is too easy to miss the valuable resource God has given us in our singers. Singers are generally relegated to one of three categories: melody support, harmonies, occasional lead on a particular song. All those are great functions, but still there is more.

To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.”

Adopt a team ministry approach to leading worship. Empower the BGVs to step out from the back and release the song, prayer, scripture, or testimony that God gives them during worship. When the team is ministering in this way, we begin to get away from that “programmed” feeling kind of meeting and step into something more genuine and communal.

What about excellence? I know some worship leader right now is freaking out at the thought of turning their singers loose. Here’s the thing, incorporating a team approach to leading does not equal chaos or a lack of boundaries. Rather, clearly communicate expectations and the new boundaries/responsibilities your singers will have. Work on a communication system so that things can still flow smoothly.

In the early stages of transition, things may feel rocky. Don’t give up! Keep talking and working through the problems. Allow for input from your team and congregation. Be open to spontaneity in worship.

What do you think about a team ministry approach to worship leading?

Theory Thursday

Music theory, that is. While I am definitely not about putting the cart before the horse, I think every budding worship leader should learn music theory and teach it to their team. Increasing your knowledge and ability in this area will lead to your next breakthrough in excellence.

Right alongside music theory is ear training. The combination of these two elements is critical for skill development. Your ear is like the director for your hands and voice. Ear training is one of the practical sides of music theory. A highly developed ear provides great freedom while playing, singing and leading worship. Conversely, an underdeveloped ear will stunt your growth and keep you from your full potential as a musician.

So, where do we start? In the future, I plan on writing posts with theory lessons specific to worship leading, but for today, I thought I would introduce you to one of the most helpful resources on the web: Ricci Adams’ musictheory.net.

Adams has equipped the site with many lessons, exercises and tools (there’s even an app). Whether you are brand new to music or have a rudimentary understanding of theory, this website will bring the pieces together and provide a wonderfully easy way for you to develop your ear. Check it out!

Is music theory exciting for you or a complete headache? Are you a nerd or a free-spirit?