Simplify

by Eric Barfield

With all the demands placed on modern worship leaders, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed coming into the mid-week worship practice, let alone Sunday services. Here are 7 easy ways to make your worship prep less stressful, so you can focus more on what’s really important:

1. Schedule

Many times what most stresses us out is not our work, but are lack of managing our workload. Make a schedule at the beginning of the week, and give yourself time to get everything done. Remember to leave time open for unexpected tasks, and don’t jam in too much.

2. Cut

Now that you’ve given yourself a schedule, start cutting out work that simply isn’t important, or can be avoided without damaging your career or those around you. If you’re like me, this is difficult since I often feel that everything on my todo list is important, but it’s absolutely essential to keep your workload down by taking a hard look at what is really necessary. Be ruthless!

3. Delegate

Does your task absolutely require that you do it? If it doesn’t, hand it off to someone else. For instance, I often hand off scheduling, bill paying, and other items to keep my workload manageable.

4. Bundle

Group common tasks together (i.e. worship planning, song prep, and sheet music assembly for several Sundays). By staying in the same frame of mind, you’ll be able to finish your tasks sooner than if you split the same items into shorter times throughout several weeks.

5. Prep in Advance

Worship leaders often fall into the trap of throwing things together at the last minute, making them feel stressed. Give yourself artificial deadlines, and you’ll come into worship more relaxed and focused on Him. For instance, if you know the choir needs music next Friday, set a todo to finish the sheet music by Monday, and then give yourself time in your schedule to do it.

6. Rehearse

In addition to rehearsing at home, make sure you give yourself time before everyone shows up to rehearse at the building. If you can, check mics, your gear, and even the powerpoint before everyone arrives for practice to keep from having unexpected problems arise during practice or service.

7. Don’t sweat it

We often give ourselves permission to stress out about stuff that really isn’t that big a deal. We need to constantly rely on Christ as our rock of stability, and choose to relax in His peace instead of our own strength.

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The first ever episode of the new Loop Community podcast. In this episode, Loop Community founder Matt McCoy talks about his earliest memories using loops, multitracks, and Ableton Live in a worship setting. This episode is the first in a series of episodes on the history of loops. Check it out here on the blog or on the iTunes store.

The New Songs We Sing

Jason Dunton —  January 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

THENEWSONGS

I’ve always found statistics to be a fascinating part of life.

  • There are 360,000 babies born each day.
  • There are over 60,000,000 passenger cars produced each year.
  • Americans spend an average 43.5 hours on their phones every month.
  • There is a new worship record released every hour.

Ok, ok, that last one was a joke. But it certainly feels that way, doesn’t it? As a songwriter and Worship Leader, I am absolutely in love with the generation that I was born into. A generation that has found itself squarely in the center of one of the most exciting eras in the history of the church regarding creation, production, and distribution of new music. These really are unprecedented times for the Worship Leader/Songwriter/Artist.

As Worship Leaders, an increasingly important part of our job is to navigate the fairly unstable and overwhelming waters of “new worship music” and somehow return to shore with something to give our congregations, something to edify our gatherings, something that expresses our worship to our magnificent Lord in a “new way” (Psalm 96:1).

So how do we do this? How do we fight the battle of successfully finding, selecting, and introducing new songs to our congregations?

In a word: carefully. In my experience, nothing will frustrate a congregation quicker than introducing new songs too often, introducing them incorrectly, or simply selecting the wrong kind of new songs.

So here are some helpful tips, from one Worship Leader to another(s), that I have gleaned over the years (some rather painfully) on how to find, select, and introduce new songs.

FINDING NEW SONGS:

  • Other Worship Leaders- Make friends with WL’s in your area, or online. This is such an easy way to find and share new music. Plus, they usually have charts, arrangements, etc. to go along with any song recommendations.
  • Social Media- Worship Leaders love to share about artists they love, new albums they’re listening to and new songs that they’re singing in their churches. I follow dozens of WL’s on Twitter who are constantly introducing me to fresh music that I would have never found on my own.
  • Concerts, Worship Events, Conferences- Always a fantastic way to find new music.

SELECTING NEW SONGS:

Whenever I select a new song to introduce to our church, I always put it through a heavy vetting process by asking several questions of the song.

For instance:

  • Is the song sing-able?
  • Are the lyrics biblical?
  • Is the song more suited for personal worship time?
  • Is the song too similar to another song we are currently singing?
  • Will my team be able to pull it off?
  • Will it work in my congregational setting?

INTRODUCING NEW SONGS:

I have found that this can be the trickiest part of this entire process. If you introduce too many, you might overwhelm your congregation resulting in them not singing because they don’t know any of the songs. This can also be very frustrating both to the WL and the congregation. On the other hand if you introduce too few, this could lead to complacency or even unengaged, uninterested, or passionless singing due to familiarity or overexposure. Whenever I introduce a song I usually follow these guidelines:

  • Pray that God would use the song to lead His people in worship
  • Share an anecdote about the story behind the writing of the song or share the passage of scripture that the song was inspired by or pulled from.
  • If there is a Biblical word that is potentially unfamiliar or obscure (i.e. sanctify, consecrate, Yahweh), take time beforehand to explain what that means maybe even giving personal application for the congregant.
  • Place the song in a part of the set that is typically less participatory for the first couple of times you sing it. I do this so the unfamiliarity isn’t distracting or offsetting but they can hear it and start learning it. (i.e. First song, Offertory song)
  • I always follow a 2-1-1 template: Sing the song for two consecutive weeks, take a break for one week, and bring it back the week after that. I will always observe congregation participation and ask for feedback from key members, pastoral staff, and elders during this time. If it is positive the song will be put into our rotation. If negative, the song will be put back on the shelf.
  • I never introduce more than 1 new song a month… and honestly that is pushing it for our congregation. I have found that right around the time I am absolutely sick of a song, our congregation is finally feeling comfortable with it.

I truly believe that all of these tips listed above are driven by a heart desire to deeply know the people that make up my congregation, to know what stirs them up to worship the Lord, and to serve them in picking songs that lead them to the sing to the Lord with hearts full of adoration. They are in no way etched in stone tablets, but I certainly pray that they help you as you search, select, and introduce new songs to your churches.

What tips do you have for finding, selecting, and introducing new songs?

 

Jason Dunton serves as the Worship Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Houston, TX. He holds a Master of Arts in Worship Leadership degree from Dallas Baptist University and is also a songwriter, producer and Nutella addict. He lives and loves with his wife Joanna, daughter Penelope, and English Bulldog Grubby.

Twitter and Instagram: @jasedunton

 

LoopKit

Matt McCoy —  January 8, 2015 — Leave a comment

LoopKit

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 12.04.46 PM

 

LoopKit allows you to be spontaneous in your Live Performance. It includes over 100 sets of loops that you can use for any song or arrangement. Delivered as an Ableton Session View file, simply assign the scenes to your favorite MIDI controller (Great for Looptimus)!

These generic loops include shakers, tambourines, electronic beats, arpeggiators, kick drums and more. Customize your own loop sets and play them with any song.

LoopKit is available in the Loop Community Shop.

 

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7TIPS
You’ve committed to start practicing more for worship on weekends, but you’re still not seeing the results you’d like from your pre-worship prep. Here are 7 ways to give your worship prep a shot in the arm:
7. Listen. Listen to the entire setlist of music with the charts or chords in front of you. This will give you the bird’s eye view you need of the weekend’s set, and help you with the next step.
6. Re-chart it. You’ll know the music far better if you chart it yourself, and something about the process of charting helps you memorize. Don’t chart it using a lead sheet- use a faster method like the Nashville tablature system to save time. Check out this LC post to learn more.
5. Take notes. If you don’t have the time or technical ability to chart the songs, go heavy on the note taking. This is your first line of defense for keeping track of the subtleties of the songs, and keep you on top of anything else not in the music like patch changes.
4. Ask questions. If you’re in doubt about a song or section, give your worship leader or music director a call and ask for guidance. It’s always better to ask, than to assume and work up the wrong part. They’ll be thrilled to hear you’re so thorough with your practicing.
3. Work it up, then program. I used to make the mistake of programming my patches before I worked up the song, which focused me more on the sounds than the song. Stick with basic stock sounds during practices, and don’t worry about tweaking your tone until you’re comfortable with the songs.
2. Ditch the sheet music. After you’ve practiced with the sheet music for awhile, get rid of it. It’ll make you more musically aware during worship and help you perform with more passion. If you feel uncomfortable, take the sheet music onstage and refer to it only if you’re really struggling to remember a section.
1. Use the “gap” method for practice. Don’t cram your practice times together at the end of the week. Plan on spending a few minutes several times during the week to go over the music, and you’ll be able to retain more and have fewer memory lapses.