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Official Launch of Version 5.0

April 28, 2014 Leave a comment

WorshipPlanning.com Home PageIt’s a big day that has been a long time coming.
WorshipPlanning.com version 5.0 is finally live!  Whether your a current subscriber or not, you’ll notice our new snazzy “exterior” pages the moment you go to WorshipPlanning.com.  We’ve got lots of easy-to-find details about what WorshipPlanning.com has to offer, and a very informative 3 minute video that shows version 5.0 in action.

So, what does it mean that version 5.0 is now live?  Check out the questions and answers we imagine you might have:

Q: What is the major change with version 5.0?
A: Other than enhancements to the style of the site, we focused the majority of our efforts on the worship flow page.  This page hasn’t really been updated in years, and it is far-and-away the most used page on the site.  We wanted to make it both easier to use and more flexible.  This video gives you a nice overview of the new worship flow page.

worship flow screenshot

Q: Does this update cost anything?
A: There is no additional charge for this update.

Q: I was already using version 5.0.  What does this mean for me?
A: For several months, version 5.0 has been available in a “beta” for those that wanted to try it before the official rollout.  We are so very grateful for the thousands of users that tried the beta version, many of whom provide excellent feedback (thank you!!!).  Along with the official launch today, we have deployed several updates as a result of the most recent feedback provided.  Other than that, you probably won’t notice any other visual changes.  If you are looking closely, you might notice that the “beta.worshipplanning.com” web address is gone.  Instead, you should just see the regular “worshipplanning.com” address.

Q: I’m not ready to change to version 5.0 yet.  Can I stay with the old version?
A: Yes, for now.  Our goal is to make version 5.0 something that you want to upgrade to.  If you have tried version 5.0 and found things didn’t work the way you wanted, please reach out to us and let us know (if you haven’t already).  If you tried it and didn’t understand how it worked, the new video tutorial we’ve recently published should answer any questions you have about the worship flow.

If you had trouble understanding any other parts of the site, please let us know via the support center.  Eventually, we will be retiring the older version of WorshipPlanning.com because it is expensive to maintain two different versions.  The timeframe for retiring is not yet defined, but it seems like this summer is an excellent time to update on your own.

Q: If I updated to version 5.0, can I go back to the old version?
A: During the beta testing phase, it was possible to change back to the old version if desired, though it might interest you to know that well over 90% of those that tried the new version have stayed with it.  Now that version 5.0 has been officially rolled out, churches will not be able to go back to the older version.  If it is an emergency and you need to switch back, you can reach out to our support team where they have a hard time saying “no” to anything, and they might be able to help you out.

Q: If I sign up for WorshipPlanning.com today, which version will I be on?
A: Starting today, any new church that signs up for WorshipPlanning.com will automatically have version 5.0 enabled.  And as per the previous question, there will not be an option for them to revert to the older version of WP.

We hope you are as excited as we are about the release of WorshipPlanning.com 5.0!

Why Your Church Should Have A Facebook Page

Why Your Church Should Have A Facebook

The fact is we are in the digital age, but with most things The Church is behind the times. Sad, but true. Even with the most popular social media platform (Facebook) we have good excuses why our church doesn’t engage on it:
-We don’t have the time.
-We don’t have the resources.
-We don’t see the need for it.
-We want to focus on “real” ministry.
-On and on the list goes…

Here’s the reality: most people looking for a church will make a decision about whether or not to visit your church based on your online presence. That means that most people will never even step foot on your church campus if you don’t make a great first impression.

Your first impression in today’s world is your online presence. This includes your website and any other online platform you have. Let’s all agree, first of all, that it is a MUST that your church has a website…a nice website at that.

Second, I believe that every church should have a Facebook page. It’s a no-brainer…I hope. We cannot deny the fact that social media is a huge part of our American culture. However, some churches may still feel it’s not relevant to their congregation. Maybe their congregation is older. Just last week I was at the local Apple store and couldn’t help but notice a workshop that was going on in there on how to use your iPad. The workshop was full…with senior citizens. I’ve heard pastors say, “We don’t need a website. We don’t need to be on social media. Most of our members are old.” Sorry, you can’t use that excuse anymore. Even “old” people are on Facebook and surfing the Internet these days.

Still not sure if your church should invest time and energy into creating and managing a Facebook page? Maybe these statistics will convince you:
-1.23 billion monthly active users
-757 million daily active users
-Percentage of Internet users 65 years and older that use Facebook: 45%
-48% of users 18-34 years old check Facebook when they wake up
-There are over 54 million Facebook pages

Creating a Facebook page is free. However, I would recommend that you utilize someone who’s knowledgeable with creating Facebook pages and Facebook marketing to help you get started. As followers of Christ, we should go where the people are. Today, billions of people are on Facebook. Why should your church not be? Be where the people are. Engage with them. Encourage them. Use the technology to connect with the people and to spread The Good News!

One last thing: if you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all. Meaning, if you’re not willing to put the time and effort into doing Facebook the right way, it would be better for your church to not have a Facebook page at all.

Does YOUR church have a Facebook page? Feel free to share the link in the comments below!

-Wisdom Moon
Wisdom is a husband, father, worship leader, songwriter, podcaster, and social media consultant. He has been involved in worship ministry for over 20 years. He is the Founder of All About Worship and The Songwriter’s Cafe. You can connect with Wisdom on Twitter @WisdomMoon and Facebook.com/wisdomaaw.

Introducing…WorshipPlanning.com Version 5.0

January 27, 2014 Leave a comment

WorshipPlanning.com V5.0

The long-awaited update to WorshipPlanning.com has launched in “beta” version for anyone with a WorshipPlanning.com account.  So, what’s new in version 5.0?  Aside from updating the look and feel of the entire site, we focused our efforts on making the worship flow page easier and more flexible.  Here’s a brief list followed by a 2 minute video to show you many of the features in action.

Worship Flow Updates:

  • Add elements, songs, people and files to worship flow by drag and drop
  • In-line editing of all worship flow details
  • Down-to-the-second timing for elements
  • Set list view (hides timing details)
  • Add songs directly from SongSelect‘s database (SongSelect(tm) account required).
  • Unlimited person/role specific notes

This update is free for all WorshipPlanning.com accounts.  To get early access to these awesome features and help us beta test, follow the brief instructions on our support site.

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

Rock Concert Lighting in Church

These days, if you pay attention to forums or blogs, or anything similar, having to do with modern worship tech, you’ve heard a lot about advancements in lighting tech.  This stuff is cool.  Very cool, actually, when done correctly.  Can lights.  Spotlights.  Laser lights.  All kinds of lights.  We, as the modern church, are quite lucky to have such cool rigging and lighting available to us, as well as awesome technology with which to control all these wonderful lights.  It’d be a shame to not utilize this for our worship services.  BUT . . . we have to be careful.

concert lights

Many point out the trend in many churches that appear to indicate a movement towards “rock concert” more than “church service.”  Now, this is NOT meant to turn into a debate or opinion piece on styles of worship, denominational practices, or even “seeker-friendly” churches.  What I am more specifically looking at here is this: Where is the attention drawn?  Are there distractions?

You see, we can overdo anything.  We can overdo singing.  We can overdo pushing for the offering.  We can overdo being “dramatic” in our preaching.  We can overdo instrumentation (seriously, who needs 7 different guitars on stage during a worship set?).  And yes, we can overdo lighting.

At a rock concert, the lighting is meant to be part of the show. It’s meant to make you think the band is even more cool than you already think they are.  And THAT is the distinction.  In a worship service, what is your lighting scheme doing?  Is it drawing attention to the band?  Is it simply adding a “cool factor?”  Or is it intentional, with the purpose of bringing these worship songs and lyrics even more to life?  Do the lights help to draw people’s attention to Christ even more?  Using our sense of sight is a powerful thing, and can absolutely impact the atmosphere of worship.

As an example, let’s look at “Nothing But the Blood.”  This song is timeless, and powerful, and true.  It stands perfectly well on its own.  I can remember two specific times when we sang this hymn at conferences with very sophisticated lighting schemes.

One place had rapidly moving laser lights, big washes, and bright spots in random locations.  It was very, very cool.  And it was very, very distracting.  Even with my eyes closed, I could see the lights darting to and fro through my eyelids.  At a different conference, there were no dancing laser lights (at least not during this song).  All there was, primarily, was a massive wash of red lights all over the stage.  A sea of red.  And during this song about the blood of Jesus shed for our sins, seeing this wash of red visually enhanced this time of worship.  Not only was I singing about the blood, but I was visualizing the blood of Christ washing over everything.  It was very simple, but it was extremely impactful.

This is what I am talking about.  Laser lights are not a bad thing.  And they can be used very effectively in worship.  The key is this – what is your light “show” accomplishing?  Is it just something cool to add into your church’s “What to Expect” section of your website?  Or are you intentionally utilizing (and not utilizing, when appropriate) this technology to enhance the atmosphere of worship in your church?  Are you using it to make the messages of our praise even more real to your congregation?  In the end, are you using lights to point to The Light?

-Mark Logan

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A capella Life in a High Arrangement World

A dynamic drumbeat.  Fat, full bass.  Screaming electric guitars.  Soaring vocals.  Expansive effects boards.  MIDI players.  Three or more part harmonies.  Synthesizers.  Keytars (if you’re super cool).  Tambourines.  Trash cans.  All of these are typical must-haves for all churches today (right???).  singing

Ok, maybe not all of these things, and of course, not all churches . . . . But, for the most part, depending on the specific church tradition and setup, we (worship leaders) work hard with their teams to have what we perceive as “high quality” and “dynamic” times of musical worship.  We look for full arrangements and a lot of dynamics.  We want there to be a consistent movement and build from intro, to first verse, to first chorus, to second verse, to second chorus, to bridge, and so on.  And, none of that is wrong.

In fact, I think it’s great.  Music is proven to have an impact on human beings.  It stirs.  It moves.  It draws us in.  And, hopefully, when it comes to worship, it helps us amplify the praise we are lifting.  “Dynamic worship” is definitely a buzzword, and is often both scoffed at and criticized in many circles.  But, regardless of personal taste, it makes perfect sense to do our best to have creative arrangements and utilize this tool of music to the best of our ability when leading God’s people in praise.  You know what else makes perfect sense?  Throwing it all out the window.

Say what?  Didn’t see that coming, did you?  Now, this post is not necessarily about full a capella worship services, although those certainly are valid and are wonderful.  I wanted to take this time to merely point out where some a capella moments could be useful in a worship service.  Primarily, I’ll look at two good uses/reasons to incorporate some a capella into your worship services.

First, have you ever struggled with a transition between two songs in different keys? Sometimes you can work out a nice walk or transitional chord sequence. Sometimes you may just force a hard ending on the first song because you’re not quite sure what to do. Other times, you may have actually thrown a song out because the transition wasn’t working right (even though you may have been led by the Spirit to do that song?).

Transitions can be difficult and sometimes even more so for others. I propose that a great solution is to incorporate some a capella singing as your transition. At the end of the first song, bring it down (or keep it up, whatever works) and let the voices ring out – alone. Drop all the instrumentation and take the congregation through the chorus again (or whatever part is fitting). Dropping the instrumentation, followed by perhaps a nice open moment or two at the very end, allows you to go into the next song pretty easily, even if it is in a different key. It also provides another cool benefit . . .

Have you ever really heard a group of voices singing praise to God? I mean really heard it? Not just a crowd singing with a band. Not even a congregation singing along with your band. But I mean, really, really heard a group of people, with no instrumentation, lifting up worship to the Lord? It’s amazing! It’s pure. It’s passionate. There is just something about hearing that sound that is so fulfilling and wonderful.

As a worship leader, there is absolutely nothing better than hearing the people of God worshipping their Creator. And, it’s cool for those in the congregation too! There is something to be said of the benefit of corporate edification. It’s uplifting to know you are in the midst of a group of people, joining in with them in singing praise to the Lord.  It’s a powerful, wonderful thing.

Now, I am not suggesting that we give up working on transitions. A great transition is super cool and can certainly add some great energy to a song change. It’s very easy to overuse the a capella approach.  But, it’s also possible to underuse it.

It’s a great tool that provides both a practical function and a great opportunity for the people to lift up their voices in unison, unhindered by rhythms, guitar solos, or high Dbs. In a world of big time arrangements (which are super cool), it’s good to strip it down every now and then and let the people worship loudly and clearly. After all, our voices are the instruments that God built into us – let’s let them shine through every now and then!  (Yeah, I know that’s a bit cheesy, but you get the idea.)

-Mark Logan

Don’t Share Your Vision

We all know how important vision is. Without a clear vision your church will lose focus and keep from growing. Without a clear vision in your personal life, you won’t know what direction you’re headed and you will lack focus.

However, there is one factor that most of us may not consider when it comes to vision.

vision

I heard about a recent research that showed that many of us actually get the same psychological satisfaction from just telling a bunch of people about our vision as when we actually accomplish the vision. Sometimes people end up not accomplishing their vision or goal because they already got that psychological satisfaction just from telling a lot of people about it.

A great example is when we tell the whole world on Facebook that we’re on a new diet that we read about in the new bestseller book. We get excited and at the same time, by telling all our Facebook friends about it, we get the same psychological satisfaction of losing weight on the diet, without actually losing the weight. This can be counterproductive in accomplishing goals and visions in our life.

In a world where people share anything and everything on social media, my challenge to you is this: be careful how much you share. When it comes to your vision, be wise about whom you share it with.

It’s great to get excited about your vision or goals, whether it’s losing 20 pounds, reading 100 books this year, or whatever it may be. But, in your enthusiasm, know who you should share it with. Have a few trusted people in your life that you share your dreams with.

I’ve had times in my life where I was really excited about my vision…BIG, God-sized dreams and goals! I shared it with EVERYBODY without much thought about whom I should share it with, and quickly faced opposition, negativity, and animosity from some individuals.

Share your vision! But, know who you should share with. Have people around you that know you well, that will come alongside you and help you accomplish your vision.

For more insights on this topic, check out Michael Hyatt’s Podcast episode: The Relationship Between Vision and Productivity.

I’d love to hear from you! Do you agree or disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

-Mark Logan

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