Today we find ourselves looking at the calendar realizing it’s Monday. For those that are involved in ministry, this means that you are completely worn out from the past few days prepping for Sunday services. Although it is an absolute honor to serve our local churches, the human body, no matter how resilient, gets tired and worn down. With that being said, I hope that you have a happy and restful Monday.
My prayer is that my words today will be a blessing to you. I will be discussing in next few paragraphs things that I have learned through personal experience and through those that have taken the time to mentor me. I have been blessed to be involved in ministry since I was very young. I started playing music at my local church at the age of 7. I played the bass for several years. I would rotate with other bass players on a service by service basis. Then God saw fit for me to be involved with the praise team, then the rest is history. I’ve sang since I was very young and have been worship leading since I was 16. Yes 16. That’s what happens when the main worship leader has to work every Wednesday. I am thankful for a church that suffered through those first years of me leading. Sometimes it’s hard leading worship for those that are older or younger than you. Your personal experiences can allow you to relate with those that you are leading into worship. If you’ve endured the same things as others, you can relate to their situations and see why they respond well to certain types of songs. As a music minister, worship leader, or just music department member in general, you have to be sure that you are in touch with the people you are leading at the moment in time. You’ve got to be able to relate to the people that are worshiping with you.
I know that relevance is a term that preachers have tossed around the past few years. It’s been preached on to the point that it’s almost a cliche. I believe that no matter what, the truth is relevant. You don’t have to change your beliefs to be relevant. You must hold on to the truth. With that being said, our worship services and song selection must be relevant. You have got to be relevant to the audience you are trying to connect with at that moment in time. Remember who you are trying to relate to. Remember who you are trying to touch. I think it is so important for there to be a good balance between old and new songs in a normal church worship set. You should try to reach people where they are. If someone likes southern gospel, they may not be touched if you decide to do every song off of Steve Fee’s newest album. You have got to remember why you are there.
Those involved in the music ministry are like the Levites of the Bible. The Levites job, among many other things, were to play the instruments. They would also set up the tabernacle and get everything just right so the priest could enter into the presence of God. So, if we are closely related, ministerially speaking, to the Levites, it is our job to get everything just right so people can experience the presence and the power of God. This is why what we do is so important. This is why you have to be relevant with song selection. It is our responsibility to touch people where they are. It is so important that we prayerfully consider the songs that we do and when we do them. I won’t spend time going over the flow of a service, but just remember to place the songs prayerfully and strategically. Think about each transition and key change so as not to disrupt the moving of the Spirit. Awkward pauses can hinder the move, and remember, I’m speaking from personal experience. I have been a part of some awkward moments in services and they do not help in creating a worship atmosphere. We’ve got to always try to show the best that our church has to offer. Awkward moments will happen, but we can learn from them and not let them happen again.
Think about the age group you are reaching out to. Chances are, if you are leading a group of teenagers in worship, they may not be able to get into a traditional hymn. For some churches, this may work. I love a song from the ol’ red book. However, you may want to try a different approach. I am sure that most of your teenagers want a move of God, but they also love uptempo styled music. Coming back to my boy Steve Fee, this may be a perfect place to pull his new single out. Be creative! We will talk about incorporating old songs with new songs in a few minutes.
This can be tied in well with number one. Remember what kind of service you are in. Luckily, most of today’s worship music can be done in almost any service. Israel and New Breed can be sang during Sunday Services, Wednesday Services, Youth Night, Communion, and just about anything in between. Try to tailor your worship set to your service. If it’s Missions Sunday, try to learn and worship favorite in another language. If it’s Easter, Christmas, or any other religious holiday, try to incorporate this into your worship set. (Luckily, Bro. Kevin Howard wrote an amazing article on how to build a Christmas worship set. Be sure and check it out!) think about the context of the service.
In November, our featured artist is Andy and Heather Ferguson and they will be writing a blog about changing your church’s worship culture. This article will discuss changing from one dominant style to another. It is not impossible to do, I’ve seen it done (by the Ferguson’s). Although it’s not impossible, it is pretty hard to do. Humans are creatures of habit. When you try to mess with that habit, things can get a little sticky. Just remember to do it slowly. But that’s all I say about that, I’ll let their article do the rest. You have to consider your church’s worship culture when making a set list and doing new songs. What I mean by worship culture is, if your church does straight southern gospel every service, it will be very hard for them to get into Israel Houghton. You got to try to incorporate the newer songs slowly and allow people to get acclimated to the songs. When new songs are done, they rarely break loose during the first service. It will take people a little while to get used to new songs. Be sure and consider what your church likes when picking out songs. Some churches can go with any style, but others are a little more rigid. You’ve just got to be considerate. Remember why were there. We are there to lead people into worship. If they’re uncomfortable with the songs, it could be difficult.
If your church is anything like mine, you’ve got a relatively good mix of seasoned apostolics and new converts. It is a blessing to have the new converts because it seems like no matter what you sing, they would still worship. The seasoned apostolics can sometimes like it the way they like it. Meaning they’re a little harder to get going sometimes. One of the best ways I’ve seen to please both new and seasoned is by doing a medley. Take a new song and tag an older song with. One of my favorite medleys that my wife has came up with is “Victors Crown” into the bridge of “Overcome” (by Tye Tribbett) and then into the older song “The Blood.” This medley literally touches everyone that hears it. It’s because they can relate to the old song and the new. Another medley we did was the song “Moving Forward” and tagged in the old chorus “I Have Decided” in with it. We did “I Have Decided” in 6/8 time and then went back to the bridge. Hymns have some of the most beautiful words. Find ways to incorporate those songs in newer arrangements. Remember, just because it worked at Because of the Times this year, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. God has called you to be where you are because he knows you’re the right fit for your church. Use that to your advantage and connect with the people.
I heard a wonderful message a while back. Without going into to much detail, it was about King David returning the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. Remember that the ark was where the presence of God dwelled here on earth. When he transported it, something happened with the road and the ark began to shake. A man named Uzzah reached to try to brace the ark and the man died instantly. The jest of the message is that the presence of God cannot be handled any way you want, it has to be done a certain way. It is the same today. You have got to be considerate of song selection and flow of service. Most importantly, you’ve got to be spiritually ready to transport the presence of God. Someone may argue that talent and ability are the most import things when it comes to ministry. They do help tremendously, but the most important thing is the anointing. Anointing is what separates good musicians from God called musicians and singers. Anointing is God given, but it only comes from a relationship with God. Try new songs. Do different medleys. But always do it prayerfully and considerately. Always strive to rely on the anointing and not your ability. Anointing will make the difference between a worship experience and a song service. We want to give every one that comes through the churches doors the chance to experience God’s presence. Pastor Jonathan Vazquez told me one thing that I can never forget, “That service may be the only time that visitor may come to church. We cannot afford to have any “off” days in our churches.” That has stuck with me. We cannot afford for our worship service to be off that day, you never know who it will affect. We must always be striving to be at our best, both spiritually and musically.
I know that sometimes it can get hard and it seems like you can’t reach the people you are trying to reach. Just remember to keep at it. You will find what works for you and your church.