When I decided to go into worship ministry there were a lot of reasons swirling around. However, leading worship at funerals was no where even on my radar. In this past year though I have had to face the reality of what it means to worship in the face of death. I personally have lost two grandparents, one of which was my spiritual hero. Additionally I have lead worship for two funerals of our church family.
Before I illustrate some of the truths I learned about how to both worship and lead others in worship in these difficult times I’d like to set the stage a little.
If you’re a worship leader, by now you have probably begun to recouperate from your Christmas Eve services and are able to objectively look back and glean some insights about what went well and what didn’t. (And if you’re reading this in 2014 you might be in the process of Christmas worship planning for the next round of holiday services. In which case God bless and here we go again!)
I’ve been doing Christmas Eve services in my current ministry for the past 8 years and and it’s been a lot of fun as well as a huge challenge. Here’s some of the tips I’ve learned over the years.
This past I week I had the chance to be part of the congregation while one of our teams lead worship without me on stage. (It’s one of the great joys of leadership when you get to watch the team you have trained and cared for lead with as much excellence and power as if you were on stage with them.) I had been standing in the back row worshipping until it was time for me to come forward to do the communion meditation and prayer when I got to the front row it hit me. The church was singing out LOUDLY! There are few things on earth that I love more than to hear the church sing.
Backing up a bit, I was having a conversation with an elder at another church recently and he mentioned that he has noticed a growing trend of people standing and watching the band and vocalists during worship instead of singing along. He then asked me if I thought that was okay? I told him it was not only NOT okay, but that there were some simple ways to make it easier to help and encourage them to do so with joy.
We’ve been using Ableton from a desktop for running loops and tracks in worship for a while now and I’ve been looking for an easy portable alternative. I’m a big proponent of having a backup system so when things go wrong you’re not frantically trying to pull things together or troubleshoot. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to afford a macbook yet so I turned to my handy dandy iPad to look for solutions to running worship loops. There are a couple options out there but I wanted something that I could use immediately without having to upload or process anything and that wasn’t dependent on an internet connection. Additionally, I wanted to be able to control things with the Keith McMillan Softstep that I already owned.
I’m excited to say that after hours of trying out apps and digging through online forums I’ve found something that works like a dream.
I’m gonna tell you something that you probably already know but most people won’t actually say out loud: we say and do a lot of things under the disguise of ministry that are really motivated by PRIDE and ENVY.
Shocking I know! It’s hard to believe but if we peel back the self-righteousness, the pointing and accusing and even what seems to be an effort to just point out the truth is really either a reflection of our feeling of inadequacy or an inflated sense of self.
Have you heard these phrases?
Up till this point you have gotten your team the materials they need to succeed, helped them personally practice and prepare for rehearsal as well as gotten the final pieces in place before they show up for rehearsal. All of this is leading up to turning an ordinary rehearsal into a great experience where friends gather and put their pieces of the puzzle together to create a powerful work of art that inspires and encourages worship. This has been a team effort up until now with each person doing their part and rehearsal will be no different.
The major consideration is that time is precious and it’s important for everyone to be considerate of each other. so with that in mind, here is an outline of some worship rehearsal tips I’ve found to be an incredibly effective.
Picture this. Rehearsal starts at 7:00 pm and the band and vocalists leisurely stroll in for the next 15 minutes. Once everybody is finally there, it’s time for a devotion and prayer time which is choppy and unprepared and doesn’t really make sense. By the time the devotion is over and you’ve prayed it’s almost 7:45. So everyone gets up and starts plugging in and tuning up when it becomes obvious there is a problem with the bass channel because it’s either humming or not working at all.
So after troubleshooting for another 10 minutes it’s been an hour since rehearsal started and nothing productive has actually gone on.
Unfortunately, this is scenario is more common than most would like to admit. However it doesn’t have to be this way and it boils down to each leaders responsibility to worship rehearsal preparation. It is possible to run a smooth and effective rehearsal but it means understanding that rehearsal starts before rehearsal starts.
Matthew 25 is filled with parables about how we are to live as followers of Jesus in the “between time” from Jesus ascension to heaven and his return at the final judgement. He talked about servants entrusted with an orchard, virgins waiting for the wedding procession, servants with investing and the separation of sheep and goats. These parables illustrated that the followers of Jesus are to be responsible, ready, productive and accountable.
In the business realm there is a term called talent management. It refers to the practice of not only recruiting qualified and capable people but helping them continue to develop, grow and thrive. I think Matthew 25 and in particular verses 14 through 30 speaks some profound truths into what it means for those in worship ministry about being good stewards of our own worship talent and those in our ministries. Even though the parable uses finances as an illustration, it goes deeper to the responsible and productive use of everything that God has given us to be used for his kingdom.
So here are a couple thoughts that I had and I hope they might help God speak in a new way through a familiar passage.
Imagine walking into the church building for rehearsal, plugging in your instrument and flying through the next 1 1/2 to 2 hours having a blast playing with a great sounding band that worships passionately.
This scene is IMPOSSIBLE to accomplish without EVERY individual on the platform coming personally prepared and having effectively practiced on their own before rehearsal. (Note: even one person not coming prepared dramatically affects the entire team)
Worship practice preparation is essential if you want to enjoy your time together, play well as an individual and a group as well as help serve your congregation with joy and without distraction.