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Are You A Song Leader or A Worship Pastor?

There are a variety of titles churches use for the person who leads the “music” on Sunday mornings. Worship leader, worship director, music director, song leader, and worship pastor, are just a few of the titles you may have heard of.

I think for the most part though, the role can be categorized under these two main titles: Song Leader and Worship Pastor. Your church may use a different title, but you probably fit into one of these two. Let me explain…

A Song Leader is someone who…singer w guitar
-just leads vocally during the corporate worship time
-puts together the setlist each week
-doesn’t do much talking in between the songs
-doesn’t have much interaction with the congregation or the worship team during the week
-spends more time with their instrument and music than with their church people

A Worship Pastor is someone who…
-leads not only vocally, but spiritually
-engages the congregation during worship
-has a shepherd’s heart
-is more concerned about the people they lead than the songs they sing
-pastors people during the week
-trains up other worship leaders in the church

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, but it helps us see the differences between the two types of “worship leaders”. Which one are you? Which one do you want to be? Which one does your church want you to be? And, most importantly, which one does God want you to be?

Maybe you’re a worship leader at a church that sings out of the hymnal, so they just need you to lead vocally with a microphone and a piano. There is nothing wrong with that. However, if you believe God is calling you to pastor/shepherd your people, alongside your senior pastor, you will probably feel frustrated in that limited role.

Take time today to ask God about which type of worship leader He is calling you to be. It’s not about the title that your church puts on your role. That’s not important. It’s about living out the calling God has put on your life. If you feel called to be a “Worship Pastor”, start exploring what that looks like. Start pastoring people. Ask The Lord to give you a burden and a heart for the people, not just a passion for music.

Being a true worship pastor has nothing to do with how skinny your jeans are or how stylish your hair is. It has less to do with knowing all the trending worship songs and more to do with knowing and loving your people. That is my prayer for all of us worship leaders, that we would desire to know and love our people well, and that we would love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

-Mark Logan

12 Tips for Using Click Tracks in Worship

Or, how my team survived aural water-boarding…

A few weeks back I wrote about The Most Loved (And Hated) Member of My Team: the click track.

I won’t go into all the background of how we got to the point of using it all the time, but here’s a quick review of why:

Since “the band” every Sunday is actually a different combination of rotating instruments, we don’t have the luxury of putting in the hours and days and months it takes to get tight.

I went on to say that,

If you have rotating musicians, you know that creating a tight sound is tough. The first step in playing tight is playing in time. We leverage the click to keep us all together.

The carpenter uses a level.metronome

The baker uses a measuring cup.

The accountant uses a calculator.

Even the freehand of an artist paints within the confines of a canvas.

Our tool for tightness is the click track.

So I wanted to follow up that post with 12 practical tips for using a click:

1. Start simple. 
Just use a metronome that has a headphone jack out and the the ability to subdivide (we’ll get to that in a minute). Don’t try to learn Ableton or other loops based stuff. Just learn to play with a click first.

2. Sell the right people.
There will be a backlash (See #10). So as you’re starting down this path, get key members of your team to buy in and help support the decision to use a click.

3. Learn this mantra: “Better to be together than right.” 
I’m not sure it’s the exact words of the venerable Carl Albrecht, drummer extraordinaire with Paul Baloche and others. But I heard him say it at a worship conference as he was exhorting drummers to turn off the click if the band gets too far off. His point: You can stay with the click and be “right,” but it won’t sound good. Just get back with the team and hold to the tempo as best as you can.

4. Learn how to bail. 
Because of #3, the person operating the metronome (most likely the drummer) needs to know how to shut if off quick in those moments of irreversible dragging and rushing.

5. Subdivide. 
It is SOO much easier to stay on tempo if there is a subdivision of the beat. For most songs, having the eighths in is enough. For really slow songs, sixteenths will give you that extra connection between downbeats that you need. Most modern digital metronomes do this.

6. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Warning: the beeping of most metronomes can cause the loss of one’s sanctification. And if the volume is too loud in your in-ears, that aural water-boarding turns into a sonic icepick traveling horizontally through your head.

If you can find something that makes a more natural woodblock sound, great. However, the click does need to be a high enough pitch so it won’t get lost in the mix.

Just a side note: I actually prefer my iPhone’s $4 Tempo Advance metronome app’s click sound to one on our far more expensive Boss DB60.

7. Make individual practice a priority.
If the team practices with a click on their own, the learning curve will go so much faster. And don’t forget to “strongly encourage” your singers to practice with a click. They don’t like to admit it, but vocalists are some of the biggest culprits of tempo issues. Many are used to the fluid flow of a choir, or the accommodating accompaniment of the lone piano player.

8. Use only in rehearsal (at first).
Don’t push your team too far, too fast. Start in rehearsals where train wrecks are far less fatal. But don’t stay in practice-mode forever. Have a ‘go live’ date and stick to it.

9. Require everyone on in-ears to turn up the click.
Occasionally, I plug into another team member’s Aviom (personal monitor mixer) and wonder what in the world they’re singing/playing too (other than themselves). If a player is on in-ears (and that’s my whole team now), they’re strongly urged to turn up the click in their ears.

10. Be prepared for emotional outbursts.
Yes, really. For the uninitiated, playing to a click is akin to hearing your voice recorded for the first time. Most of us don’t realize how poor our timing truly is. The click track is this full-length, unforgiving, magnifying mirror that shows every last tempo blemish and blackhead.

Its ugly.

But that’s why people need to practice on their own.

11. Put tempo markings on your charts.
If you want people to practice on their own with a click, you’d better add tempo markings to the charts. And don’t be afraid to stray from the original recording tempos. Find what feels right for your team.

12. Keep after it.
When you go live for the first time, don’t get discouraged that you had to turn it off in the middle of EVERY song. That’s OK. Keep working on it at the next rehearsal, and try again the next Sunday.

I don’t remember when the first Sunday was that we finally didn’t have to turn the click off. But now, we’ve been doing it long enough that I don’t remember the last time we had to stop it in a service.

I’m telling you, the click track has really made us better, and better than we actually are. The experience of playing with a click has given us all a better sense of time. And the unifying factor of the click really does make us tighter as a band.

For discussion – how have you migrated to using a click? Any other points and tips for using a metronome or click with your team?

If you’re just starting down this path, any questions this post didn’t answer?

(This article was originally posted on WorshipTeamCoach.com. Used by permission.)

The Worship Leaders’ Comparison Game

November 19, 2013 2 comments

If you’re a worship leader, you’ve probably struggled at one point or another with the comparison game.

balance

You compare your guitar with the other guy’s…’His guitar looks cooler than mine. I bet it cost at least $500 more! I’ve gotta have a better guitar than that guy!’

You compare your church with the other guy’s…’Man, how big is his church? He leads worship for 4 services!? I wish my church was that big!’

You even compare your family with the other guy’s…’He has 5 kids!? We only have one. We are so behind! His family even seems more happy!’

It’s also easy to compare ourselves and think the other way:

‘I can’t believe he can’t even sing that song in the original key!’

‘Did his church even audition him before hiring him? I would never hire that guy if I was a church.’

‘His church is so small. I must be a better worship leader since I lead worship at a church twice the size of his.’

The comparison game is a very dangerous game to play. We can either get discontent with what we have and where God has placed us, or we can get prideful in what we have and our abilities. We must protect our minds from the comparison game.

Social media doesn’t help either. Most of us only post the highlights…the things that will make us look good. We like to show off and brag on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If social media causes you to struggle with comparing, maybe it’s time to delete your account, or at least limit your use.

Comparing yourself with others can lead to jealousy, coveting, pride, or even bitterness. God doesn’t want us to compare. He calls us to live in contentment.

Prayerfully ask yourself: What’s something I can do this week to protect myself from the comparison game? (Feel free to share in the comments below.)

-Mark Logan

Worship Keyboard Tutorial: Playing in the Background

October 16, 2013 1 comment

Here’s a very helpful and practical video tutorial for worship keyboardists that we came across:

Picking The Right Key For Your Congregation

September 12, 2013 5 comments

I’m sure you’ve heard the jokes from male worship leaders saying they need to tighten their belt a few inches before singing a Chris Tomlin song.guitarist Tomlin, who happens to write many of today’s most used congregational worship songs, tends to write them in keys too high for most congregations to sing.

I’ve noticed that other worship songwriters are following suit. They write in a key that would give the most impact and dynamics to the song. However, that key may not be the best for your congregation to sing along to. In fact, even Tomlin has admitted to taking some of his own songs a whole step down from his recordings when he leads them live.

Have you ever been in a worship service where the worship leader was singing his heart out, but it was too high for most of the congregation to sing? Instead of leading the people in worship, it causes the people to stand there a bit frustrated and just watching the worship leader go for it for 20 minutes.

What? You can hit the same notes as Tomlin?! Great! More power to you! However, as worship leaders, we must remind ourselves that most of people in the church are not trained singers. And, they may not be able to hit the notes that you can.

So, what’s the right key for your congregation? Of course, it depends on the song, but I would suggest picking a key that most men in your church could sing comfortably in. Most women in your church will sing no matter what key you sing a song in. Women tend to be more comfortable singing along, even if it means having to find a harmony because the melody is too low or too high. However, if the song is too high, most men will not sing or they will get frustrated in their attempt and stop singing.

Kenny Lamm, senior consultant for worship and music for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, highlights ideal keys for some of today’s most used corporate worship songs in this post. He also gives these tips:

Criteria for determining congregationally-friendly keys:

  • The range should fit an average singer. The highest note should be a D with an occasional Eb allowable. The lowest note should be an A.

  • For songs with a small range that could be sung in a wide range of keys, the character of the song and the composer’s original key were considered to preserve the intended feel of the song.

  • Songs with a high tessitura may be pitched a bit lower even if the top note is a D.

  • A few songs on the list have ranges beyond the scope of an average singer. Those key suggestions are noted in parentheses with the best key(s) possible with the understanding that there are outliers in the melody.

Congregational worship is not a time for you to show off how wide your range is and how awesome you sound singing the latest worship song from the radio. It’s a time you are called to lead your church in worship through music. Don’t let your congregation be left behind. Make it as easy as possible for them to engage in worship.

-Mark Logan

You Are A Theologian

In spiritual circles, few people are seen as intimidating as often as theologians. Theologians are scholars. Studied. Educated. Cultured. And they wear old-school glasses, vests and wool sweaters as they sit in an aged leather wingback chair in front of a stately, oversized bookcase in a home library with loaded oak bookshelves lining all of the walls, all the way up to the ceiling. (Whew . . . that was a mouthful!) Okay, maybe not all of them, but we like to think they do. The point is, when we hear the word “theologian” often we get an image in our minds that, at least in some way, represents the description above.

So what if I told you that YOU are a theologian?

bible

Well, if you’re a worship leader and/or worship songwriter, you are! Sure, perhaps you aren’t necessarily discovering any brand-spankin’ new theology. But, you are writing and/or choosing worship songs that speak a theological truth. You are communicating theology to your local church. This is why one of the most important things you do as a worship leader is pick out the songs for the weekend setlist.

Sure, key changes, arrangements, transitions, dynamics and flow are all important parts of what we do as worship leaders, but none of those things matter if we aren’t singing truths in our churches. It is widely known that ideas and messages are retained better in our brains when presented in song than by spoken word (a sermon). This is because our brains interact with music differently, thereby establishing a stronger retention of what we heard/sang. Why is this important?

It’s sad to say this, but most people don’t remember the sermon they heard last week or this morning, in some cases. Now sure, these days we have recorded sermons, sermon notes, etc. All of these allow us to go back and go through the messages again. However, overall there is a limited shelf life on the specific messages that are preached every week (hopefully the themes and lessons are learned and continue on!).

With music, however, things stick around a bit longer, including the lyrics of the songs themselves. These lyrics are a biblical message, just like your pastor’s sermon. The only difference is that yours is set to a music, may have some repetition, and may be more like 4 to 5 mini-sermons during a typical worship set. This is a big deal!

Why? Because what you sing in your worship times is going to stick in people’s hearts and minds longer than the sermon does. Therefore, it’s imperative that we sing songs that contain solid theology.

We basically have three options with the songs we sing at  church:

1. Lyrics that present false, inaccurate theology.
2. Lyrics that aren’t false, but are theologically weak and don’t really say anything.
3. Lyrics that present a solid biblical truth with rich theology.

PLEASE stay away from songs in category one. As for category two, there is nothing wrong with this category necessarily, but there are too many songs that fit this mold.

I challenge you to shoot for the third category of songs. Pick songs that are not only correct, but really drive home messages that your congregation needs to hear. One helpful way that I’ve found to pick more songs in category three is not just listening to the song on the CD (with the fancy production), but taking the time to sit down and read the lyrics without the music.

This is no easy task, but it’s vital! You are a theologian. A musical theologian. Don’t take that responsibility lightly. Invest the time into being intentional about the words that your congregation sings each week.

-Mark Logan

Worship Leader, Are You for the Church?

“Generation after generation stands in awe of Your work;

each one tells stories of Your mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4 (The Message)

Worship leaders generally struggle with the style of worship. Choice of music. Expectations of the congregation. There is, however, an unhealthy reliance on these ideas.  I recently heard a woman say that we focus too much on whether or not the church fits our needs. But the true question is: are we for the church?

generations

As a worship leader, it is often difficult to find songs that fit the style of worship, or the congregation sitting in the pews. There are cases in which a dying or struggling church needs a change, but if that is not the case, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  1. What generation(s) participate(s) in your congregation?

  2. What song choice would fit all of these generations?

It is difficult to handle the multi-generational aspect of church. While it is biblical, there is such a thing as casting too wide of a net, which risks the quality of the music.

Some tips:

  1. Use one band/ leader; two at the most. There could also be a choir and an ensemble, but it could be a good idea to present these every now and then. This way, the multi-generation aspect is still revered, but doesn’t seem forced.

  2. Hymns: hymns are respected by all generations (even college students).

  3. The book of Revelation tells us that we will use old and new songs (Rev.15:2-3; 5:9). You should use songs that are fast-paced, but easy to sing along with. You can introduce the fast songs during special music or over the speakers as people are entering/leaving the sanctuary. Also, use songs that are reflective and high quality (Hillsong, Bethel, Jesus Culture, etc).

  4. Slowly introduce new songs, so the congregation (especially older generations) can grow comfortable with the song choice.

  5. Read the congregation. Look into their eyes! – We shouldn’t rely on the music aspect of worship too heavily, but the ability to read the congregation makes for a worship leader who is doing their job.

  6. Model authentic, transparent worship. I have found that this can knock down barriers that may come with a difficulty to connect with the music. It brings everyone together, fixing their eyes on Jesus rather than each other (or even the worship leader).

A worship leader’s job is to direct the congregation to the Almighty Savior. They are our flock, too. The question is not how can the congregation fit my needs. The question is: am I serving the congregation, or serving myself?

Kelly Puckett

Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.