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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.

What is God Worth to You?

December 4, 2013 1 comment

Thanksgiving has come and gone. And, the biggest shopping day of the year is also over…for 2013 at least. I heard there were some great deals out there! For me, personally, I like to stay home on Black Friday and just relax and enjoy some family time.money

When we shop for things like Christmas, which is just around the corner, most of us try to find the best deals. That’s why Black Friday is so huge! We consider not only what the person likes, but also how much money we have to work with. Interestingly, in a way, we also look at how much that person is “worth”. Are they worth spending $20 on? $50 on? $100 on? Most of us don’t spend as much money on our friends or co-workers as we do our family members…because our family is “worth” more to us.

In the midst of this busy season, with all the shopping and festivities, I’d like to challenge you with a question that I recently came across: “What is God worth to you?”

In the book The Way of A Worshiper, Buddy Owens (Teaching Pastor at Saddleback Church) writes, “When we worship God, we declare His worth. But in order to declare God’s worth, we must first discover His worth.”

Then he presents the question: “What is God worth to you?”

What a powerful question! As we enter into this Advent and Christmas season, consider that question. It’s a question that all of us must ask ourselves.

-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

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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Passion Song

A powerful Holy Week and Easter song, from the perspective of Apostle John.

Written by Sean Carter and Tyler Ellison, performed by Sean Carter.