Happy 2017, worship leaders! It’s a new year, with new opportunities, new songs to sing, new services to plan, new albums to record, new skinny jeans to buy, new interns to make our lattes, and new Twitter followers desperate for our selfies.
May I suggest some worship leader resolutions to make 2017 even more epic than a live worship album recorded in a boat on a mountain by a lake inside of a campfire in the middle of the night in outer space? Here we go:
Your church may not be able to afford expensive lighting, set design, backdrops, or the most basic element of life itself (i.e. fog machines), but I bet your church can afford some good old-fashioned banners. I’m talking about the banners with streamers, glitter, glued-on letters, and inspirational phrases. Let’s commit ourselves to flooding our sanctuaries with big, bold, beautiful banners, and we will usher in a new era of innovation.
And more tambourines!
As they say, “where there’s a banner, there’s a tambourine”. And “where there’s a tambourine, there’s a praise party”. Bring those tambourines out of the vault, unlock the safe, remove the trip wire, disable the electric shock security fence, call off the attack dogs, and hand those tambourines out as generously as the big dollop of hair gel that keeps your hipster hairstyle in place.
Literal octave jumps
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I think octave jumps are the single greatest thing in the whole world. Congregations love them, and they’ve been hugely instrumental in helping people sing. To further enhance the effectiveness of octave jumps (which are the moments in a song when you go from singing in a comfortable range to all of the sudden singing like an intern just poured a latte down your neck), it’s time we actually insist that our congregations jump – and I mean literally jump – when we do an octave jumps. I call these “literal octave jumps”. Because we’re literally jumping, while jumping octaves. Or, conversely, we can call them “octave jump jumps”. Or, if your name is Jack, they can be called “Jumping Jack’s Jumping Octave Jumps”.
Bring back the bass solo
Every song would be improved upon by the presence of an extended bass solo. Preferably introduced by the worship leader saying “hit it, Gus!” Even if your bass player isn’t named Gus, you should call him Gus, because it will make him a better bass player. And then surprise Gus at unrehearsed points in a song with a call for a solo, and let him solo so low that your soul goes “woah!”
Leather jackets as the new robes
I’ve noticed something recently, happening on a large scale in worship leading, which basically means that I saw it once or twice and therefore can overgeneralize it and make a sweeping statement, thanks to the power of blog. All the cool worship leaders are wearing black leather jackets. And gold necklaces. And leather pants. I have never worn leather pants, or a gold necklace, or a leather jacket. And now I know why my worship leading has always been so “khakis and blue blazer” if you know what I mean, and I hope you do, because I sure don’t. It’s time to go full-throttle on the biker look, and buy our entire worship team black leather jackets and leather pants. It’s the new robe, and it will make our selfies look FANTASTIC.
Every year I suggest new catch phrases to take your worship leading to the next level. This year, it’s time to start working some of these in, on a regular (i.e. twice-per-song) basis:
1. “Let me hear you SCREEEEEAAAAAAAMMMMMM!”
2. “Mmm, mmm, mmm, you’re sounding delectable!”
3. “Sing it again, con fuego.”
4. “Here comes this next part.”
5. “Now just the Grandmas sing…”
6. “How ’bout them worship apples?”
Any one of these catch phrases, especially when accompanied by the playing of a tambourine and/or the waving of a banner, while wearing a leather jacket and doing jumping jack’s jumping octave jumps, following one of Gus’s bass solos, is a non-refundable ticket into the awesome-sauce factory for you and your congregation.
Zero-tolerance (and $20 bucks!) for worship team mistakes
I once heard a story about how the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown (no relation, unfortunately) would handle ANY kind of mistake, wrong note, or missed cue from any member of his band. According to the story, James Brown would spin around, point at the perpetrator of the mistake, and say “$20 bucks!” And he was serious. This was how he demanded near-perfection from his musicians. I’m thinking about trying this with the musicians at my church, and I’m sure they’ll be totally in support of it and won’t mind at all. This is how you build good morale on a worship team, and gain your volunteers’ affection, while also earning money towards a new pair of skinny jeans.
Ever since Delirious released their 29-minute-long single of “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” in 1995, worship bands have been trying to out-do one another with song duration whenever possible. This past year, a worship team from Sacramento released an extended play version of “Good, Good Father” that literally lasts for three years. In this vein, I think it’s time we begin experimenting with single-song Sundays, where we only sing one song, but sing it for a really long time. Drag the first round of the song out for about 7 minutes, then insert a 3 minute musical pause (call it a Selah), then add layers of “woahs” for 5 minutes, then throw in 5 HUGE choruses, do a triple literal octave jump, then fake-end the song, but don’t really end it, because there’s another 4 minute musical build-up coming, before a reprised (but more epic) woah section, followed by 4 more choruses, and a final verse and a half. This will take about 30 minutes. You’re good to go! If you need to fill more time, add in a bass solo.
Pre-programmed congregation loops
Utilizing loops in worship music is all the rage these days. At your very fingertips, at the press of a button are pre-programmed loops of a drummer, or a cellist, or pianist, or multiple layers of synth pads (you can never have too many), or whatever instrument(s) you desire or can’t find in time for Sunday. One thing I haven’t seen or heard much of is pre-programming a congregation too. I say, why not? Uproarious applause, energetic clapping (preferably on beats 1 and 3), and the frenetic shaking of multiple fish-shaped tambourines, will all add to a feeling of raw, kale-fed, organic-ness in your church’s music.
Guitar endorsement deals
Last year, at the beginning of 2016, I did something incredibly difficult and painful: I sold my McPherson acoustic guitar. It was a beautiful instrument, played like a dream, and sounded better than any other acoustic guitar I had ever played BY FAR. A year later and I’m still in withdrawal. And so I think it’s time for worship leaders to begin accepting guitar endorsement deals. And selflessly, out of a desire to lead by example, I will gladly step forward and accept the first endorsement deal from McPherson Guitars. Their least-expensive guitar will suit me just fine, and I will gladly play any guitar they voluntarily send my way, anytime they choose, hopefully sometime this week.
Last but not least, I think we can all agree:
We need more worship albums, songs, etc.
There just isn’t enough new music out there. There aren’t enough new songs to choose from, and I think I can speak for most worship leaders when I say that one new album a day just isn’t enough. I need a new album, or an EP, or a single, or at the very least a modernized re-tuning of the entire book of Psalms in Hebrew, by breakfast at the latest, and then by lunch before I run out of songs to pick for the coming weekend’s services, and then something fresh by dinner so I can spend my evening curating the best of the best, before starting all over again in the morning before my intern brings me my latte, wrapped in a scarf, so I don’t injure my hands.
Here’s to 2017, worship leaders. You look great in that leather jacket!