Archive for February, 2011

23
Feb
11

Finish Well!

I recently heard these words again:  “finish well.”  The situation was the ministry of a friend as it was coming to an end in a church.  The friend had reached that certain age and was in the process of retiring from working full-time in a church ministry position.  The encouragement offered was “finish well” – meaning, get up and go to work the last day of your employment just as enthusiastically and with just as much dedication as you had on the first day of your employment there.  The Lord called you to that position, the Lord sustained you for your entire time in that position, and now the Lord will continue to lead you as you move out of that position and into an new opportunity of service.  “Finishing well” is not restricted to ministry-related jobs…it applies in every vocation, in every area of life.

Eph. 1:6 “…God, Who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally completed on that day when Christ Jesus returns.”

God calls us, He gifts us, and equips us to do His will and His work, and He expects us to be faithful to continue following His will for our life – until either He calls us home or the Lord Jesus Himself returns to take us home to Heaven.

Stay busy following the Lord’s direction for your life wherever you are.  Finish well!  Then get ready for Him to lead you to a new place of service.

21
Feb
11

CBC’s Kids Choir Revolution

Did you know that you can get a rocking kids music, split-tracks, and lead sheets from CBC Music’s online store?

Developing, maintaining, and promoting awareness of the music available from our Kids Choir has filled every spare second of my work time for the last several months. I have immersed myself in Facebook ads, search optimization techniques, flash media players, online shopping baskets…if it involves an online store or social media, I’ve probably done some sort of research on it.

You see, over the years here at CBC, we have completely changed the way we thought about how to run a kids choir program. Part of it was thinking intentionally – from almost the beginning, we have had our kids choir divided into two (now three) separate choirs. Clearly, what works for a kindergarten class will not translate to a sixth grader. Not to mention that at some point, you run out of a place large enough to hold your whole choir at once. Each group has programming targeted specifically to their needs, but tied together with one vision – to teach kids about worship. Not to teach kids about music, but about worship.

Part of it was necessity – we simply had too many children enrolled for the typical “program-in-a-box” curriculum to work for us. When you have 600+ kids enrolled, it isn’t economically feasible to do crafts that cost $1/child each week. It is logistically impossible to play the suggested games or do the class activities geared to work in a program with 25-30 kids.

But I would say the biggest factor in creating our current system is vision. From our Senior Pastor, who allows our kids the privilege of being worship leaders in “big church” and not performers…on down to every staff member, past and present, who share a passion in raising up a generation of worshippers. A big part of that is being able to meet kids where they are – creating music that is reminiscent of what they are hearing on the secular radio by listening to Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga ourselves; choosing songs for our middle group that are easy enough to let them have the freedom to have fun in worship, but aren’t “baby” songs; allowing our tiniest group to choose friends to be in their classrooms so they feel comfortable in what might be their first extra-curricular activity.

As you might guess, finding music to fill all of those needs is challenging. For our younger groups, we still use existing music for the most part. Typically, we pick a yearly theme, choose songs from different projects, and write our own curriculum to build a semester. That works really well until about 2nd grade. For our older elementary choir, it’s not just the curriculum that is custom-designed…about 50-75% of the songs that they learn are CBC originals. 100% of the songs have been rearranged and re-tracked to sound fresh and relevant to music they hear every day. Sometimes we add raps written by one of our staff members. We’ve done a mash-up of two different songs. We let the soloists ad lib (to a certain extent). We are constantly trying to find ways to help engage kids in worship by creating music they want to sing. We don’t want to teach a child a song for a few months. We want them to hide those words in their heart for a lifetime.

Out of this mindset, a lot of music was born. We know there are other churches out there that have similar needs, so we are trying our hardest to get resources online and get the word out. I hope you enjoy the fruits of our prayer, passion, and time by visiting us at http://www.cbcmusicstore.com and getting some great kids music. And pass the word along.

16
Feb
11

Showing Up and Staying Put.

It’s two hours before your service starts and you start to notice a few things. You are easily irritated, frustrated, and grouchy. It is all you can do to get yourself to work, and even after you get there, you still feel like you are swimming in mud. The song lyrics aren’t loaded correctly, your drummer is nowhere to be found, and you spent over half of your rehearsal time troubleshooting sound issues. But more than anything, you feel a very distracting, heavy weight that pushes you to the brink of wanting to drop everything and run away. The pressure gets even heavier knowing that you of course can’t leave.

Sound familiar?

I’ve found one of the greatest challenges as a worship leader is to show up and stay put no matter what my world might look like or feel like that day. It’s no accident that things seem to fall apart sometimes right before we lead worship, either in our personal lives or at work. The enemy will do whatever he can to distract us when we are trying to lead people.

Here are two things I have to remind myself when I am having one of those days like I described above:

Show Up.
There are days that I just simply don’t want to show up. I have to push myself to keep some sort of forward motion in my day – both in my thinking and in my actions. Otherwise, I can talk myself out of going in and finding a sub within minutes for no good reason other than I just don’t feel like going in that day.

Stay Put.
Now we all know we can’t just literally run away (well, I guess we could), but there are other ways we can “run away” when things get tough. We can avoid being fully present, we can hide in our offices as much as possible during down times, we can slack on the tiny things and cut corners because we simply don’t feel like it. We may not have physically left the building, but our minds and hearts are elsewhere.

The times when I have pushed through have been by far the most rewarding moments in ministry. Not because I’ve proved myself to be some strong resilient person, but because I’ve accepted God’s grace and acknowledged the bigger picture here: we are building the Kingdom Of God, and that doesn’t happen without a fight. If I really believe God is for me and no one can stand against, then I have to walk the talk.

15
Feb
11

Dealing With Difficulty

As a leader,  you are constantly asked to make decisions. Many times the decisions are basic no-brainers, but there are times when you simply have to make difficult decisions. Here are 3 things I do when these situations arise:
  1. Ask God…sounds simple, but for some reason we seem to put this last. Don’t give God your suggestions – just ask Him for guidance. He wants you to do the right thing and He has your best interests at heart.
  2. Ask others…but not just anyone. Ask the ones that you trust will be honest with you. Your inner circle of friends are some of your best sounding boards. Most members of my inner circle are older and wiser than I am, so it is easy to trust what God has deposited in them.
  3. Be at peace…my friend Leo Humphrey used to call it the “peace factor.” You need to be able to have peace that your decision is the best for your organization and something that you can live with after it is done. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and He will bring peace even if the decision is hard and involves tough action.
I know this seems simple, but I am a simple minded guy… know that your God is able to help you through the tough choices.
10
Feb
11

Attitude of Gratitude

I am realizing more and more that the times where I don’t feel like I’m on the mountain top have a lot to do with my attitude…and taking it a step further…my gratitude.
I can be very driven and sometimes when things don’t turn out the way I want them to that is an opportunity for discouragement. Can you relate? The truth is that it is also an opportunity for trust. Trusting that God is working out his perfect plan. Trusting and being grateful in the midst of everything. We all have set backs, we all have places in our lives where we feel like things could be better. Imagine if God would show us the beautiful outcome of every circumstance if we trust him…I think it might take away the growth that we experience in the waiting.

 

I love what 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says: “Give THANKS in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Our circumstances have everything to do with our attitude and how we respond. You can be in the valley and because you have a grateful heart, it elevates you to the mountain top. Today you may be faced with a great disappointment or discouragement. Take a deep breath…think about all of the blessings you have right now, decide to be grateful in the midst of everything that you are facing. Give thanks. The outcome will be wonderful and God promises to guard your heart and mind with a peace that cannot be explained. You can have an attitude of gratitude in every circumstance!
Please take time to visit http://www.brokenrestoredloved.com to see videos and get music from CBC.

08
Feb
11

Generation Rising

The lyrics that have resounded in my head and heart over the past few months are from the popular song, “Hosanna.”  They are not just words I agree with, but have personally witnessed over the last 15+ years.  I see, have seen, and am seeing, “a generation, rising up to take their place.”

 

When God allows you to hang around a long time, you get a unique vantage point.  I’ve been fortunate to watch this “rising up” unfold from their pre-school and elementary school days, on through middle school, high school, and on into the world that is theirs.  They are boldly moving from this plot of ground onto college campuses, becoming Godly husbands and wives, worship leaders, missionaries,  teachers, leaders in their churches, communities, etc.  The good news…they are taking their faith with them.  They didn’t leave it on the steps of CBC…back in Kids Choir or in Puresound, on a stage, in a band or on a dance team.  They are packing it up and taking it with them.  They are investing in others what was invested in them.  It’s not their parent’s religion, it’s their own personal belief system they are embracing and walking out.  Impacting others!

 

As leaders, parents, volunteers, this should give us great encouragement and undeniable proof of the verse that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Be encouraged.  Be excited.  Keep training up and investing.  As our mission statement says, “Keep reaching, teaching and helping in Jesus’ name.” They are singing their song of Jesus… and rising up!

 

Sherry Owen is the founding leader and director of Puresound youth choir at CBC.

07
Feb
11

memorization, part two

I feel as if I should title this entry “forget everything I said in part one!” I discovered a new method for memorizing charts that has revolutionized my world and is also proving to be effective with my students.

If you take out your chart book right now, you’ll notice almost every song uses maybe only four or five chords at the most; usually the one, two, four, five, and six chords (that’s I, ii, IV, V, and vi for all of you music theory nerds like myself).  Here are the steps I am taking which seem to be working:

1) what chords will I probably use?
If I’m in the key of A, I can predict before even looking at the chart that I will probably use only A, Bm, D, E, and F#m. I drill myself in those chords to make sure my muscle memory is awake and ready to play in that key.

2) was my prediction correct?
90% of the time, my prediction of using only those basic chords is correct.
This narrows the learning curve immediately, because I’ve boiled everything down to the basics.

3) forget the chart, focus on the map.
I might glance over the chart once to see the map of the song, but I try to set the chart aside as quickly as possible. I jump straight to playing with the MP3 or playing with the band, and listen for the map – verse, chorus, etc. Since I play by ear, I challenge myself to not look at the chart and let my hand do the guesswork bouncing between those 4-5 chords.

I know what you’re thinking, “what if I have a student who can’t play by ear?” I have had students who claim they can’t play by ear who have started using this method, and they are getting better at identifying these chords with practice when their brain realizes they’re only listening for a handful of chords.

If a student just can’t swing it by ear, then of course they can use the chart, but I challenge them to trust their instinct of letting their hand know where to go after a few rounds. If you’ve only got a tiny pool of chords to guess from, you can’t screw up that badly, so take a leap and try it!




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