Archive for May, 2011


Skill and Worship

As worshipers, we naturally desire to give God our best, both spiritually and skillfully. When we abandon ourselves and worship God with all of our being, it’s an unparalleled experience. God’s Spirit can accomplish more through something as small a line of a song than we could accomplish in our whole lives. We tell ourselves that we need to get in the “right frame of mind” so we can worship with all our heart. I believe that this is paramount. And while I believe that skill in worship plays second fiddle to spirituality in worship, skill cannot be overlooked. Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Both gave offerings to God. But only one gave the best he could give while one just gave some of what he had. Part of our offering to God is our skill. We play to Him, sing to Him, dance to Him and give our all to Him. We show up not only spiritually prepared to worship but skillfully prepared to worship Him as well. When I first began leading worship, I foolishly thought that if I rehearsed too much or thought too much about what I was going to say or play, I would leave no room for God’s Spirit to be in control. All it took was a few awkward moments in a couple of services to quickly oust that theory. Now I do my best to show up prepared, both spiritually and skillfully, and ready to yield to the Spirit’s prompting. Do I still make mistakes? Absolutely. More than I care to admit. But I know that I am doing all I can to give God my very best. While I will never impress God with my skill, I know that He is blessed when I present the best offering I have.


it’s my most wonderful time of the year: summer

I know I promised part 3 of “training up the next generation,” but since it’s summer camp season, I thought I might interject some timely thoughts. Don’t worry, I will pick up with part 3 soon.

I am right in the middle of my busiest season – prepping to lead worship for summer camps and Vacation Bible School, all of which happen within 2 months. It is the most rewarding yet grueling time of year – so many logistics, so many cogs in the machine. Paperwork, endless set lists, entering lyrics for media folks, figuring out transportation, charts, rehearsals, making sure you have gear lined up and players ready to go, reminding your boys to pack deodorant, and troubleshooting all kinds of things. The funny thing is, once I actually get to camp, or start VBS, that’s the easy part. It’s the getting there that is so taxing. I’m in the window right now where you kind of work odd hours all day and night until things are as close to done as possible.

Whether it’s camp or any other huge event you are prepping to lead worship for, remember 3 things:
1) Don’t get surprised every year when the enemy attacks
2) Keep your eyes on Jesus, stay in worship, and the enemy will flee
3) Remember your team is watching you and following your lead

I am sure the first 2 are familiar to you and need no explanation, but let me share what I’m convicted about concerning the 3rd point.

Several years ago I was having a rough night on stage during sound check, and at the end of the night one of our sound guys said “wow, you looked like you were really ticked at us!” I didn’t even have any idea I had let it show that much. No wonder they were tense – I was leading, and they were following!

My band members and even our tech crews and media teams will always pick up on the vibe I am giving and follow my lead. If I appear panicked, stressed, rattled – especially on stage – it is infectious. So when our truck breaks down on the road, or we bust through a kick drum head, or our kazoo player misses rehearsal at camp because he slept in – no matter what, big or small, all eyes are on me. I am going to be leading them no matter what. If I can stay in an attitude of worship when things get a little tough, I am actually modeling and leading what a life of worship looks like. That doesn’t mean I never get frustrated, but I have to strive for a “spiritual override” that rises above it all.

…..Even when your truck breaks down on the way to camp, and then you get the new truck and have to move all of the gear over which takes 2 hours, and then THAT new truck breaks down….and then the guy driving the new truck that finally gets you there accidentally runs into a really huge tree as you are trying to load-in in the middle of the night, and it falls over and takes out half of the parking lot… and then the truck you rent for the drive home at the end of the week breaks down too. True story. And I hope right now you are recalling some of your own stories and laughing a little as well.


The Next Generation

Psalm 78:4 We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.

Psalm 79:13 We will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will proclaim your praise.

I love verses about raising up the next generation. I am a spiritual and musical product of my grandparents and parents, my aunts and uncles pouring into me the truth of scripture and the power of worship. Obviously my former pastors, choir directors, and Sunday School teachers did the same, and I am very grateful to them all.
When I see generations come together to lead worship, it thrills me. It gives me great hope for the future. It is the reason I do what I do. I love working with adults, but seeing worship come alive in a child and experiencing worship leading from a teen is life changing.

At CBC our worship ministry is based on these precepts. Teach someone else to do what you do. Start them young and give them authority to lead when they are ready. Multiply yourself. As I stood onstage at Easter with Puresound, our Youth Choir behind me, the significance was not lost on me. Most of the youth leaders are a product of a Kids Choir ministry. All of the dancers except the two oldest professional dancers grew up at CBC dancing in Kids Choir worship events. It’s working…
I usually hold a recital for piano and voice students at the end of a semester. Last Christmas instead of a recital, I took students to a nursing home to play and sing Christmas carols and worship songs. This spring I took it a step further and my students will lead worship at a CBC multi-site. At the rehearsal they sang with conviction and excellence in pristine three part harmony. They will boldly worship, some will speak out about their love for the Lord, some will play instruments, some will ad lib, some will pray. They will all lead out on a song. I will even have one of my own sons come with us to sing (the other has a baseball tournament…) It’s working…

Psalm 71:18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Thank You, Lord.


You Get What You Get Ready For

Long ago, I heard a sermon which the preacher titled, “You Get What You Get Ready For.”  As best I can remember, the preacher actually borrowed that title from a sermon that he heard someone else preach.  No matter the source, it’s a thought-provoking phrase.  When you get (achieve) something or some new stage in life, does it come as a total surprise to you, or do you thank God for the blessing, receive it with a sense that you were ready for it to happen, and immediately move forward in using your new blessing to give glory and honor to God?

I’m not saying that we should expect every blessing and receive it with a sense of entitlement.  There is NO entitlement with God.  He is not a respecter of persons.  But it is very important to use those special blessings that He gives us for His glory and to show gratitude to Him for all things.

I’m blessed in my life FAR more abundantly than I could have ever imagined.  I want to be the first one to give God the glory for that.  He is the Source, the Sustainer, and Blesser of everything good that comes to us.  James 1:17 reads:  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights, Who never changes.”

God blesses each of us every day.  Thank God and receive each blessing graciously, then get busy using each new blessing for His glory and the furtherance of His kingdom.


A mid-year New Year’s Day

At about this time last year, I talked on my personal blog about the summer being my version of New Year’s. I say that because, if your ministry is anything like ours, it runs in a semester-type format. Everybody in our department has school-aged children, so we operate on a school calendar mentality. For kids, we have only fall and spring semesters and take the summer off. In fact, we try to end in mid-April or early May because we know how busy this time of year gets for parents and it’s nice to give them a break. But the planning for a large program never stops. Our dates for 2011-2012 are already on the calendar. I’ve begun choosing songs and creating curriculum for the first & second graders this fall (and next spring). I’m close to designing the registration forms for next year…because we start online on July 1. We have to get together as a team and choose themes and logos. And of course, there is camp and VBS to look forward to.

Personally, this is always a time of renewal for me. It’s a time where we can take a deep breath after an action-packed year. I say that this is my New Year because it is a time where I evaluate my progress towards last year’s goals – both professionally and at home – and make new ones for the coming year. Most importantly, though, it is when I stop and take stock of the activities I have going on in my life so that I can make sure I have chosen things that inspire and motivate me. And on the flip side of that, I can retire the activities that leave me feeling drained and unfulfilled. Whether you do it now, in the mid-summer lull, or on the actual New Year’s Day, all people in ministry need to take that break, a few days for self-evaluation to determine what works and what doesn’t. Because let’s face it – we all know that old rule about 15% of the people doing 85% of the work. I don’t know about you, but as a ministry-minded person, I tend to find myself in that 15% a LOT. In other programs here at church, at the PTA, in the school choir or booster clubs…you name it. I find that at the end of the year, I have collected a weird assortment of odd jobs and board positions simply because nobody else was there to say yes, and so I did. Well guess what? If you don’t take the time to lay some of that load down, it’s just going to get heavier and heavier as you progress. Eventually your ministry (and your sanity) is going to suffer.

So take time for yourself this year. Sooner, rather than later. For me, the process is prayer, lists (which should surprise nobody who knows me), serious introspection, and a talk with my husband. I come out refreshed and excited about the coming school year. I hope you do, too.


training up the next generation, part 2

In my last blog, I mentioned a revelation I had about a new training technique which involved new players shadowing older players, so this week we’ll put some wheels on it and hopefully give some practical starting points.

As quickly as possible, have younger students who have a desire to play “shadow” one of the older students in your rehearsal. They don’t even have to plug in! They can stand next to their “trainer” and get one-on-one coaching right there in the middle of your rehearsal.

They can rotate in and out, playing “live” with the other band members. By doing this, you have immediately empowered your older students, which gives them buy in, and you’ve also multiplied yourself! Now you have more time to be a pastor, and be fully present while your students handle the details.

Here’s the added bonus – when you need a player at the last minute, now you have an immediate pool of students who know your material.

If having all of this go in on the middle of your rehearsal is too stressful, your other option is to find another time. I first tried this system out in between our two Sunday morning services. We had a 40-minute block of time where we were just sitting around anyway, so we decided to have our training time then – that way it didn’t overload my rehearsals, and didn’t add another night to the schedule.

Regardless of the logistics of “when,” I encourage you to not wait and just jump in and try it on any level you are able to handle. Maybe right now you don’t have the luxury of an empty block of time, so you can only handle one player shadowing another – that’s great, start there!

In the next blog we’ll talk about some more details of what I have learned as far as what works and what doesn’t work as far as teaching methods go during those training sessions.


Keeping it Relevant

As worship leaders, we naturally want our congregation to be happy with the music we choose. This can be taken to a negative extreme of worrying too much about what the congregation or pastor may think. I am not referring to that type of situation here, so please recognize that disclaimer before reading any further.

I was recently given a book about hymns by several older women from a ladies Bible study that I had been leading worship for. They had requested “a hymn every now and then” and I had done my best to acknowledge their request without totally reverting back to hymnal days and losing the rest of the women. The group was comprised of women from their mid-twenties to upper seventies so I did my best to choose set lists that would include at least one song that each woman should know. While most of the ladies would worship to well-known contemporary worship songs, it was the older women who blew me away with their response to the hymns. They were so appreciative for songs that they had known and sung much of their lives and really worshiped. I had known that they enjoyed the hymns that I had thrown in the set lists every now and then, but I was really shocked and touched as I read all of their hand-written thank yous inside the front page of their sweet gift.

It would be nice if our congregants were composed of men and women who were all completely alike in age, stage and musical preference, but in reality that is usually never the case. As worship leaders, we need to do our best to find music that ministers to as much of our congregation as best we can. This usually means that we need to get to know our congregation and be accessible to them. We can’t know what will minister to them if we never see them away from the platform or we never have a moment to talk with them. Jesus himself modeled this, as he went from town to town talking, visiting and ministering to people one-on-one. He had large group ministry (think of the loaves and fishes crowd), but he also had personal ministry as well (think of the woman at the well). My boss Ray Jones has said, “People won’t remember you for the great song you sang or the cool guitar lick you played. It’s when you take the time to talk and pray with them that you make an impression.” Take time to listen and get to know those you are serving and then watch them worship with you.

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