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What Style of Music Is Best for Your Church?

When I evaluate a song for the church, my question isn’t so much whether or not it sounds like everything else we call “worship,” but rather whether the song invites the hearts and minds of believers to see and savor Jesus as he really is.

Worship. This one word in today’s church culture holds massive connotations. We’ve heard it said over and over again that worship doesn’t equal music and music doesn’t equal worship. The reality is, for better or worse, we have created a whole sub-culture of Christian music and have labeled it “Worship.”  Whichever side of the fence you fall on, it’s important that we think about the place of music in the church, lest history repeat itself again. 

A significant turning point in my life occurred when I traveled to Jamaica to help lead worship alongside a missionary team. With my acoustic guitar, I played many contemporary songs that were very well known back in the United States. The church body joined in the best they could and showed appreciation for my being there. When I had finished, a woman in the congregation stood up and burst into a song. Immediately, I heard tambourines and other percussive instruments join in, followed by the rest of the congregation’s voice. I looked around and saw the church gathered and connected in a way I was not used to, around a song I did not know, with a style that didn’t seem common to me.  To this Jamaican church, the song was normal. To them it was familiar. It was a musical language that worked within their region and context.  There was no acoustic guitar.  There was no bass guitar.  There was no drum set.  Was this not worship? It didn’t sound like everything I was used to. They had only their hands for clapping, voices for singing, and a few instruments for percussion. The song was in a style that Westerners might call simple, trite, and repetitive, but with it, I had witnessed a powerful, loving worship of God.  I saw a united prayer of a congregation. I saw a united love of the God they were singing to and about.

Standing on the other side of the many years of “worship wars,” I question how it was ever a battle to begin with. When we gather as a congregation, we are told to do all things that edify or build up believers (1 Cor. 14:26). This entails loving one’s neighbor as themselves.  We are called in our gatherings to unite and sing “to one another” (Ephesians 5:18-19). Have we ever stopped and pondered what style best accomplishes that in our context? Could it be that much of the bickering about musical styles stems from our individualistic bent within our western culture. It is concerned mainly with the vertical (me and God) to the detriment and neglect of the horizontal (me and my neighbor) as well as the missional (how our unity in song looks to those outside the church).

So why is it that we sing when we gather?  Is it for God? Is it for us? I’d propose our singing and our gathering, and ultimately all we do in life should be for both.  In doing what God commands, we are always doing what’s best for us. We gather to remember and we sing to remember (because we need to be reminded) that the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient. Sometimes the way we treat our music in the church comes across like it’s the new medium for us to connect with God. Simply put, the Christian’s sacrifice and offering has already been accomplished (1 Peter 3:18) and it’s Jesus who brings us to God.

When I evaluate a song for the church, my question isn’t so much whether or not it sounds like everything else we call “worship,” but rather whether the song invites the hearts and minds of believers to see and savor Jesus as he really is. If we are only looking for one musical style within worship music what is preventing us from creating a new standard that we will be fighting to break free from in the years to come?  

So where do we go from here?  I’d suggest we as local churches talk about the “why of worship in song”, amongst pastors, and amongst the congregation.  Let’s not assume that we are all on the same page about what’s taking place during our worship services. I believe as churches collectively seeing the way that singing to God, to one another, and with the knowledge that the outsiders are looking in have there place we will worship through song with more passion and experience more of God’s presence than ever before.  

 

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Top Five Tips for a Healthy Worship Team

As I travel leading worship and training worship leaders and teams, I get many questions regarding how to be a healthy team or grow together as a team.  Asking these questions shows great humility and a desire to grow, which is such a beautiful thing to see in the Church.

Over the last several years of worship ministry, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a worship leader and the make-up of a healthy team. There are so many important pieces to this discussion, but the conversation must begin with one word: surrender.

 

Tip #1 – A healthy team is surrendered

It starts with letting go of what we want.  Because it isn’t about what we want.  It’s about what God wants to do through us.  That mental shift changes everything.  Worship leading is a gift and it’s a high calling. Our main job is to surrender to where God is leading.  For leaders, that may mean surrendering your desires or plans in order to come alongside of the vision and needs of the ministry.  For team members, maybe it means stepping back from worship team for a season because God is going to move in a new way or through someone else.  Or maybe it means stepping up to the mic to lead even though you’re terrified. Wherever God is leading, our job starts with complete surrender.

 

Tip #2 – A healthy team is prepared spiritually

Private worship comes before public worship.  Our priorities need to be in that order. If we are not investing in our own personal, private time with the Lord in worship and in the Word, we cannot lead from a place of overflow in public places.  Without this intentionality, we can quickly become exhausted and unable to lead to our fullest capacity.  (This applies to everyone, not just the “leader”).  Your choice to make (or not make) this a priority will have a profound impact not only on your leadership, your team and the Church, but on your entire life.  It’s that big of a deal.  It’s preparation for the spiritual battle you face every weekend in worship ministry…and even in everyday life.  You may have to fight for the time, but you will never regret it.

 

Tip #3 – A healthy team knows one another

You’ve probably heard this.  But, it’s so important, that it’s worth repeating.  Investing in relationships within your team is crucial.  Sharing artistic gifts in public can be a vulnerable thing, and it’s so important that we trust one another as we serve together.  I encourage you to schedule times throughout the year to get together, just because.  No meetings or agendas. Just relationship investment.  It doesn’t have to be formal.  Just get to know one another. These investments will only make you stronger as a team.   I understand that you don’t need “one more thing to do”. But, with a shifted perspective, you might find that you’re happy you took the time!  You may be blessed with a new friendship.  And your church will be blessed because you are a healthier, stronger team that trusts one another and leads the church into the presence of God with strength and unity.

 

Tip #4 – A healthy team is prepared musically

Worship Leaders – I encourage you to spend enough time preparing for rehearsal.  I believe that rehearsal is not for learning music or figuring out song flow. It is simply for putting everything together.  Learning music and prepping song flows, tracks, etc., is for you to prepare beforehand (and communicate to your team in advanced as well, so they can prepare).  The best thing you can do is over resource your team. Give them every tool you possibly can to set them up for success (and make it easier for them to come prepared to the rehearsal).

Team members – whatever your role is – be intentional in your preparation.  Learn your music before rehearsal.  Know it inside and out.  Study that sound board.  Dig into that lyrics program. Wherever you serve, your leader (and your church) will be incredibly blessed by your time and care.  You will also bless your other team members as you respect one another’s time by arriving at rehearsal prepared and ready to go!

 

Tip #5 – A healthy team understands their role

 We are all in this position to serve, so let’s remember that as we continue.  But, going further, we need to have a deeper understanding of our individual role on the team.

Leaders, your role is to lead with kindness, while still being clear about expectations and what is needed.  Bring your team along with you in the journey, communicating with clarity.  Further, it’s important to be on the same page as your Senior or Lead Pastor.  Work together, instead of against or independent of one another. When leadership is unified, it’s a powerful thing.

For other team members, respecting the leadership that God has put in place for that time is key.  Remember, they have spent time before the Lord, seeking His will for that weekend (set list, team, etc.). So, it’s a blessing when we respect their time, care and hard work by coming to rehearsal prepared and ready to support the vision God has placed on their heart.

 

Whatever your role in worship ministry, I pray that these tips are helpful and encouraging. When it comes down to it…this verse from Colossians 3:17 sums it up beautifully:

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

That is my prayer. That every time I lead worship, every team I train…whatever I do…that it would be in the name of Jesus and for His glory and fame.

May all we do point people to Him.

 

 

 

Andrea Olson has always loved worship, writing songs for the Church and leading people into and encounter with God’s Presence.  She has been a worship leader in Minnesota for the past 14 years. In 2010, Andrea started a unique 1:1 mentorship program for young local worship leaders.  As more leaders and churches began reaching out for help and training, God grew Andrea’s passion for worship in the Church and in 2014, Overflow Worship was born. This ministry for Worship Leaders and teams began with the annual Overflow Worship Conference, which now, is hosting its 6th conference on October 11-12, 2019.  Now, in addition, Andrea (with family in tow) travels the Midwest going into churches leading worship, training teams and equipping leaders with practical tools to thrive in their ministry. To learn more about Andrea or Overflow Worship, visit www.overflowworship.com.     

 

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MUSIC FOR THE CHURCH, BY THE CHURCH

By Bobby Smith & Spencer Roth

I love beginnings. Something fresh. Something new. The start of a journey when everything is perfectly packed, unspoiled, and ready for anything. Walt Whitman once said, “Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” Well, that is how we started songwriting for our church. We had everything before us, with no expectations or imposing deadlines. Something fresh.

Fast forward a few years and the seed that was planted grew into a full ministry with semi-annual songwriting retreats, weekly co-writes, a full-length record, radio play in fifteen different countries, thousands of downloads, and new culture of worship at our church. God gave the growth.

We were happy. Satisfied. God, however, had more in store and we found ourselves caught in a story only He could write. We were offered an opportunity to go to North Africa to put on concerts and share Jesus with thousands upon thousands of students there. It was honestly hard to believe what was being described with such an unreal opportunity in such a hard-to-reach place, but we just said, yes.

Yes.

So often, God is patient with His people. He calls us, knowing exactly what we need, and waits for obedience. Just a simple yes.

We had never stopped writing music, and we had a stockpile of new songs we wanted to share with the church. We never planned to release something again so soon (less than a year) after our first record. Five songs started to stand out and we got to work recording. This “By Design” EP became a rallying cry for our church as we began singing the songs together in worship and the church came alongside us buying them up to support our trip. It was overwhelming, and wound up making a way for our large team to head there.

We feel that all of the songs off of this EP could be useful depending on your context or the specific need. The three songs that have been most successful for us in our context are Relentless God, Behold, and Mercy.

Relentless God: Relentless God, musically speaking, is a BIG energy song. Heavy electronic synth vibe, but there is tons of room for other instruments to find their place as well. It it’s just an all-out party any time we use this song in worship. In lyrical terms, it is all about our God who chases us down through all of the junk that we can get ourselves into. It’s about his inexhaustible love for his people. I think the music and the lyrics pair well together for a perfect opener for a high energy worship set.

Behold: Behold is another great opener. It’s a fast 6/8 tune, with a nice big full band sound. Musically it’s pretty straight forward and should be easy to fit into any worship context. This song is about the return of our King, Jesus. When we see him, we won’t want to do anything but praise him. I love how triumphant the lyrics to this song are. A lot of songs about seeing Jesus one day are slow ballad-y types and I’m glad this one turned out much more up-tempo and celebratory. This song is another great “one spot” for almost any worship context. Our church loves to sing it!

Mercy: Mercy is a classic “mid-tempo build” song. This song is very dynamic with lots of space for reflection, and spots to speak “into the song”. Most of the time when we use this song in a worship set, we read scripture, or have one of the worship leaders speak some sort of exhortation during an instrumental break. This song is all about our brokenness before a perfect and Holy God and in light of that, how incredible his mercy is. The bridge lyrics are some of my favorite lines we’ve ever written: “Because of what you’ve done, I am a new creation. Because of who you are, I’ll never be the same.” Because of the tempo and the lyrical content, this song works well in a “three spot” right before the sermon, or as a response song.

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The Top 5 Worship Tracks Your Church Should Be Singing This Sunday

Open your congregation’s hearts to God with these popular worship tracks:

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1. What A Beautiful Name

by Hillsong

 

2. Great Are You Lord

by All Sons and Daughters

 

3. This is Amazing Grace

by Phil Wickham

 

4. 10,000 Reasons 

by Yancy Ministries

 

5. Good Good Father

by Chris Tomlin

 

WorshipHouse Media offers only the best in church and worship media. With a range of video illustrations, mini movies, worship song tracks, motion backgrounds, and Christian pictures, we have everything you need to visually bring your message to life.

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10 Things to Remember When Planning Your Christmas Eve Service

The Christmas season is one of the most special and unique times of the year for ministry. You’ll notice your attendance numbers rising and the hearts of those in your congregation opening up, willing to receive a message. Here are 10 things to remember when planning your Christmas Eve Service.

Spread the Word!

1. In the weeks leading up to your Christmas or Christmas Eve service, include announcements at the end of your service, inserts in your bulletins or show promotional videos to excite your congregation about the upcoming service and encourage them to invite others!

Engage Families

2. Get kids involved in the service either through a special song, drama, reading, or children’s choir. Have you checked out the Christmas media on WorshipHouse Kids!?

Don’t Forget About Traditions!

3. Whether you simply light candles across the stage or you fill the entire room with each individual holding a candle, a candle-lighting can be an extremely powerful moment. This is a time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and an uplifting escape from the hustle and bustle of the season.

4. Display an Advent wreath in your church. The Advent wreath, four candles on a wreath of evergreen, is shaped in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God. In some churches, four purple candles, one for each week in Advent, are used with one larger white candle in the middle as the Christ candle. During each Sunday of the Advent season, we focus on one of the four virtues Jesus brings us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. The Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day reminding Christians that Jesus is the light of the world.

5. Communion is a time to remember. Allow the taking of the communion elements to usher in remembering Christ’s birth and sacrifice for you personally this holiday season.

Enhance Your Service with Imagery

6. Use Christmas Motion Backgrounds. Motion backgrounds are the perfect way to make your time of worship more engaging. WorshipHouse Media offers a variety of options that will not only look good, but tie the entire theme of your service together. Edit lyrics on top of the motions or leave them as-is while singing hymns.

https://worshiphousemedia.s3.amazonaws.com/images/main/s/st/sgs/st/thechristmasdilemmawisemen.jpg

The Christmas Dilemma Wisemen from Skit Guys Studios

7. Use An Influential Sermon Illustration. One of the easiest ways to make your Sunday sermons memorable is by using an illustration or video to make your point. Illustrations bring clarity to biblical truth turn the ear into an eye so that the congregation can better understand the Word. Shop the Christmas Store on WorshipHouse Media and browse through a variety of Mini-Movies to accompany your Christmas message.

8. Use a Christmas Themed Still Background During the Sermon. Using imagery that portrays the miracle of Jesus birth and the joy of Christmas will complement your message and help you connect to your audience. Browse still backgrounds in the WorshipHouse Media Christmas store!

Plan Ahead! 

9. Christmas is basically like the Super Bowl for a pastor. Here’s something to keep in mind; most people in your congregation have heard the Christmas story many times and we all know… “Jesus is the reason for the season.” And it’s true, He is! But, the same message year after year can start to seem repetitive. The message every year should remain the same, but you need a bit of a creative spin on the way you present it every year to keep the message fresh. SermonSearch.com has over 30,000 sermon outlines that can assist you while planning your Christmas service.

Invite them Back!

10. Chances are, you will see a lot of new faces in your congregation during the holidays and at your Christmas service. Thank them for coming and tell them, “we would love to have you back!” If you have guest slips, make sure they fill them out so that you can stay in touch.

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