Worship Leader Resolutions: 2016

1Happy 2016, worship leaders!

It’s a new year, full of new potential, new opportunities, new emails from that one person in your congregation (you know who I’m talking about), and new songs that will be old and forgotten by 2017.

I will be adopting these worship leader new year’s resolutions in the months ahead, and I (cue the octave jump) STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU DO THE SAME.

1. New song sandwiches
In order to accommodate the high volume of new worship songs being released every week, I am going to begin introducing two new songs at once, but pretending it’s just one new song, when in reality, it’s a new song sandwich.
Beginning: New song A (part 1).
Middle: New song B.
Ending: New song A (part 2).
Optional reprise: Intermingled blend of new song A (part 1), and new song B (part 2).

2. Smart-lasers
It’s not enough to shine lasers on the worship team. And it’s not enough to shine lasers on the congregation. Those lasers need to be smart enough lasers to shine directly into the hearts of people who just aren’t into it and wake them up. Shine, lasers, shine.

3. Explore the space
Every song needs at least a four-minute instrumental break. At least.

4. More shofars
Speaking of instrumental breaks that will usher in unparalleled revival, it is time to reclaim the shofar and give it it’s deserved prominence in every single song. Sho far? So. Good.

5. Stage extensions
Ever seen how Taylor Swift has that cool stage that lets her walk out into the middle of the audience in her shows? That’s got “congregational engagement” written all over it. Droopy-eyed early service? Tuned-out teens? Dance out onto that stage extension and shake it off.

6. A new approach to octave jumps
You will not find a greater advocate for the absolute necessity of an octave jump in every song than me. I don’t think a song without an octave jump is even worth singing. But simple octave jumps are just not enough anymore. They have lost their power. It’s time to embrace a new approach to octave jumps. Follow me here, and follow me closely. I am copyrighting this approach as “The FaceMelter”:
Step 1: Start first verse down an octave.
Step 2: Jump octave on the SECOND WORD. This will surprise people. Excellent.
Step 3: Third word? Back down to original octave.
Step 4: At the very first beat of the first chorus: Initiate a half-step modulation.
Step 5: Next verse, modulate another 2.5 steps.
Step 6: This is when you step on the gas. Jump octave.
Step 7: Jump it again. Can’t do it? Try harder.
Step 8: Back down to original key.
Step 9: Drummer modulates a whole step. Tell him to ask the pianist what this is.
Step 10: Sho-far solo. Recharge lasers.

THIS RESOLUTION SPONSORED BY DRUMMERS:
7. Put the flutists in a plexiglas cage
For too long, flutists have had SUCH an easy time. They’re polite, they’re unobtrusive, their instrument can fit in their pocket, and in the event of a water landing, their instrument can also be used as a snorkel. It’s time to surround them with plexiglas, absorption panels, plexiglas extenders, an absorption ceiling, and a little more plexiglas just for good measure. Throw in a little fan to blow their music off the music stand. And stuff their flute with two pillows. Control those rebel flutists!

8. New catchphrases
Worship leader: do not underestimate the power of an effective catchphrase. Suggestions:
Opener: I’m here… you’re here… it’s singing time!
– Song transition: And now let’s break it down.
– Ice breaker: Find that person next to you and hug em’ real good.
– Before the sermon: And now let’s put on our listening ears.
– At the dismissal: Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!
Classic (one of my faves): You are now free to move about the cabin of praise!

9. Growling
There is never a good excuse for a worship leader not to growl at least four times during a worship set.

10. Conga lines
The worship renewal of the 1970s was characterized by the prominence of conga lines. Time to bring those babies back. Conga lines + new song sandwiches + shofars + lasers + The FaceMelter + catchphrases + growling + stage extensions? You’re a good good worship leader! It’s who you are.

Happy new year! Go hug a flutist.

 

Flammable Sound And Its Implications

1Sometimes you find beauty in the most unexpected of places.

And then sometimes you find something you’re not sure how to describe in a place where you’re not totally surprised to find something like it but you’re still surprised to find it even though you’re not sure what it is.

That would describe my mental state last night when I stumbled upon an ad for an upcoming worship album which featured a phrase that almost took my breath away, but not quite all the way, leaving me with just enough breath to continue to breathe, and to continue to live to share the unexpected beauty of its mystery with you.

There, in all-caps, against a backdrop of a red-dust spreading ballet dancer in a pose I call the “Ouchie Pretzel”, was this phrase:

YOUR SOUND IGNITES THE COLOR OF HIS LOVE.

I found myself immediately questioning not only myself, but also all I know to be logical and established and true:

1. Does love have a color?
2. Can color be ignited?
3. Can (or could) sound ignite flammable color?
4. If sound can be used to ignite color, and if love has a color, then what’s the deal with all the frozen yogurt shops popping up everywhere?

Then a more philosophical question hit me:

1. What in the world does YOUR SOUND IGNITES THE COLOR OF HIS LOVE mean?

I realized in that moment something very true:

Obviously, it means that the more we draw sounds with the intonation of our thoughts and physicality in the universal realm of ballet, we’ll ignite an invisible flame that will actually be a reverse flame that doesn’t burn but actually creates something new in its place like a dimension in the musical sphere that’s unexplainable by words and incomprehensible by the human or animal mind, all the while transcending our very existence and leading us to that quiet place where we can commune with God.

How have I missed that simple truth all these years?

This ad awakened me to a new level of worship leading profundity. I don’t think I’ll ever be the same. It’s almost like I’ve stumbled across a new path that I never knew was there, but if I had only looked I would have seen the path was there the whole time, kind of like that time I lost my car keys for an hour but they were sitting on the kitchen island laughing at me (silently, like the flammable color of love) the whole time.

YOUR SOUND IGNITES THE COLOR OF HIS LOVE.

In other words, the mathematical yet musical combination of intervals that form themselves to create a culturally conditioned yet innately recognized product that we’ve deemed “music” (when we could have just as easily deemed it “croissants”) can literally and/or figuratively and/or eternally and/or tangentially ignite (using that word interchangeably with “jazz hands”) the color, which is really just a fancy way of saying “don’t do what you do, but be what you do, so that you end up doing what you’re made to be”, of his love, which is all possible for $9.99 on iTunes.

Get it today before your color is up and you’ve missed the ignition of the sound.

Or was it all just a dream? I’m going to get some frozen yogurt.

How Cold Is It?

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Worship Leader Resolutions: 2015

1So here we are. A new year. Worship leaders all over the world are ironing their skinny jeans, flannel shirts, and scarves (it gets cold up there under those hot lights), ready for all the new opportunities to sing songs incredibly high. In the spirit of new year’s resolutions, I offer worship leaders these suggestions to make 2015 even more epic (remember that Oceans drummer?!) than 2014.

1. Rename your worship team
“Praise team” is so early-1990s. “Worship team” is so 2000s. We need to throw those dorky phrases in the trash where they belong (along with transparency slides and foam mic covers) and embrace more modern names. Consider “The Brilliant Harmony Society Collective” or “Everyone’s Favorite Grandson” or “God’s Anointed Servants” (“GAS” for short). Bingo! Revival is already breaking out.

2. Retune the golden oldies
Why hasn’t “Shine Jesus Shine” been retuned yet? Has anyone heard the Mumford and Sons-esque version of Don Moen’s “God is Good (All the Time) yet?”. How about a techno/electronica version of “Lord I Lift Your Name on High”? There is a HUGE market out there that’s been untapped, people. You can thank me later. On your way to the bank, of course.

3. Develop your personal brand
Who needs administrative assistants, or music associates, or any of those antiquated ministry support roles? You need a personal brand developer. Band name? Check. Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / Tumblr / Flickr / Noisetrade / SoundCloud / BandCamp / BingoClub / BowlingLeague presence? Check. Hipster logo? Check. Now how about your own personal FroYo flavor? Personal coffee bean supplier? Food taster? Skinny Jeans tailor? You have some work to do.

4. More effectively capitalize on the seldom-used “retweet” feature
Most worship leaders still don’t know about the hidden “retweet” feature on Twitter (even after I mentioned this oversight last year). We need to step it up in 2015 and use this feature more often (i.e. daily). Someone likes your Don Moen retune? Retweet it  Someone accidentally said your name when they sneezed? Retweet it. If you don’t retweet any mention of you, then we might forget that you exist, and then we might forget that we need you to keep existing. Here’s the mantra: “We tweet the retweet because we treat our wee tweeters to retweets.” Say it. While singing “Oceans”.

5. Embrace the lip-sync
Building a worship team “Brilliant Harmony Society Collective” is such hard work. Whether they’re volunteers, professionals, or somewhere in-between, it just takes too much time to work with actual people. Thanks to worship resources like Ableton Live we can already bring in string sections, timpani hits, techno-pads, and electric guitars with the click of a button. Let’s just go full throttle in 2015 and bring in the canned vocals too. I’m looking forward to standing at the mic this Sunday, singing my lips out to the latest worship hit, and hearing the congregation say “man, you sounded an awful lot like Chris Tomlin”. I’ll lower my prescription-less glasses so I can look them in the eyes and say “that’s because it was Chris Tomlin”. Then I’ll get into my limo and go home.

6. Incorporate more one-liners
After the 399th time of hearing you say “Good morning! Let’s stand together”, your congregation might die of sheer boredom. You need to pull a Taylor Swift and “Shake it” up with some worship one-liners to really get the blood flowing. Examples: “Ittttttttttt’s worship time!” Or “Here I am! I’m back! You’re glad to see me, and I’m glad to see you!” Or “Testing, testing, one, two, three / Who wants to praise the Lord with me?!?” I could think of some more but then you’d thank me too much and I’d have no choice but to retweet you.

7. Use reverse octave jumps
We’ve pretty much exhausted the octave jump supply of all of its awesomeness. Last year I suggested the “octave MONSTER jump” but that’s run its course as well. Now it’s time to kick that octave jump train into reverse and ride it for another solid decade. Here’s what you do. Step one: start the song in a singable range. Everyone is happy. Step two: build the second chorus. Everyone knows something is coming. Step three: drop down an octave into the sub-bass range, in which only the big/old dudes in your church can sing. Who cares if it’s awkward? It’s epic, man. If people can’t keep singing along it’s their problem.

8. Dance like never before
I really think that if our worship leadership is going to go to the next level, then we need to start dancing. Not just tapping our feet, but full-on dancing. And not spontaneous dancing, but pre-planned, choreographed, synchronized, banner-tastic, flag-a-riffic, throw-me-my-linen-ephod dancing. You want the Spirit to lead you where your trust is without borders? Then walk upon the water of dance, my friend.

9. Throw in some more “hey!”s
No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand. Till he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand. HEY!” Cue the four-on-the-floor kick drum beat, mando/banjo solo, foot-stomping, and beards, and you’ve got yourself a hit.

10. Never smile
If you smile when you’re up front, people will think you’re having fun. If they think you’re having fun, they might think you’re normal. If they think you’re normal, they might not buy into your personal brand. If they don’t buy into your personal brand, you might not get your FroYo royalties! If this happens, have no fear. The royalties from your U2-inspired retune of “Days of Elijah” will make up for it. But try not to smile. It will throw off your scarf.

Happy new year!

Don’t Eat the Chocolate: Why Contemporary Worship Music is Dead, Dying, and Decaying

1It’s become clear to me that contemporary worship music is dead, dying, and decaying. Think I’m wrong? I’m not. Here’s my proof (read it and weep. Really. Please weep):

1. The new songs aren’t nearly as old as the older songs
“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” was written in 1779! “Ten Thousand Reasons” was written in 2011. These new songs aren’t even close to being as old as the old songs. The old songs have been around for several hundred years! These new ones? Not nearly that long!

2. Some of the new songs are trying to pretend they’re old hymns
Have you read some of the new songs? They’re trying to act like they’re hymns, with their deep theology and everything. It’s ridiculous.

3. Whatever happened to singing Isaac Watts?
Hasn’t he written anything new lately? Why aren’t we singing his new stuff? Even more ridiculous. We’re missing out on new material from the old hymn writers.

4. Bad stuff
Some of the new stuff coming out is really bad and unsingable. You think the old hymn writers ever wrote bad hymns and ended up throwing them away? I doubt it. How do you spell infallible? S-P-A-F-F-O-R-D, that’s how.

5. Look in the old hymnals…
See any of these new songs in the old hymnals? Nope. They’re not good enough to be in there.

6. Repetition is never appealing
These new song writers have never studied great compositions like the “Hallelujah Chorus” or “Psalm 107” to see how you don’t need to repeat phrases to emphasize something.

7. No time for filtering
We need to wait another hundred years (at least!) before we event think about singing these new songs being written, so we can make sure they’re safe for us to sing. Once these new songs are 100 years old, if they’re still around, then maybe we can sing them. Maybe.

8. There aren’t as many new songs as there are old songs
We have more material from the last 2,000 years (not to mention all the years BC) than all of the songs written after 1970 combined! I think that says something.

9. Our forefathers didn’t sing these new songs
If these new songs weren’t good enough for our forefathers to sing several hundred years ago, then they’re not good enough for me. My great-grandfather had never heard of Chris Tomlin when he was alive.

10. We’re done being creative
There’s nothing more to be said that hasn’t been said, there are no new melodies that need to be written that haven’t already been written, and there’s no need to be creative anymore because we reached our creative quota in about 1913. Except for “In Christ Alone”. That one earns an exception. It slipped through just in time. Barely. But don’t tell anyone. We’re done. Really. Stop it.

In closing, contemporary worship music (hereafter referred to as CWM) is like a box of chocolates that you got for Christmas, and then forgot about, and stuffed it away with all the Christmas wrap, and found it the next year, still shrink-wrapped, and wondered to yourself “will I die if I eat this?” The answer is “yes”. Yes, you will die, and the last thing you’ll ever have run through your mind is “I didn’t know this one had the disgusting strawberry liqueur filling”. Yes, you did know, because I’m telling you. Stay away from CWM and eat the older chocolate instead. Oh no my analogy just broke down…

Ten More Ways to Annoy Your Sound Engineer

1A few years ago I shared some thoughts on how to annoy your sound engineer. They seemed to be helpful to people so I thought I’d share some more. Obviously, you might not want to implement all these suggestions on the same Sunday.

Make him touch your ears
You’re too important to learn how to put your ear monitors in the correct way, or in the correct ear, so make him do it for you. Bonus points if you make him try to figure out how to put your belt pack on without getting sued for harrasment.

Have long rehearsals
Sound engineers have nothing better to do than sit at the console while you rehearse that one song again. They love being trapped there while you figure out what songs to do. They don’t mind a bit not being able to go home and sleep because you’re goofing around. It’s fun for them!

Sing like you’re telling secrets
If you can master the art of singing with a whimpery, yet raspy, yet emotional, yet passionate, yet secret whisper from the inner regions of your soul, your sound engineer will have no trouble at all finding a good place for your vocals in the mix. Bonus points if you choose random moments to sing normally before reverting to the whisper again. It’s hilarious.

Tell him what you think about the mix when you’re on stage
You’re standing on stage. You’re behind the speakers. You can’t actually hear what it sounds like in the room. But go ahead and tell him it sounds like your guitar isn’t loud enough. Keep telling him. Until your guitar sounds loud enough to you. You’ve successfully made him your best friend.

Display your awesomeness
First song: you’re on acoustic. Second song: you’re on accordion. Third song: back on acoustic. Fourth song: floor tom. Fifth song: you’re on banjo (but let’s be serious: you can’t really play banjo, so he should turn it down so no one knows). Sixth song: you’re on electric. Your sound engineer will love you.

Can you do me a favor and give me a bit less hi-hat, and bump up the kick by 2b, and pan the electric to the right, and give me about 6db more acoustic in my left, and give me a bit more reverb on my vocal?
Oh and can you get me a Latte too? OK thanks.

Throw him under the bus
Lets say you get an email from Verna, a long-time member of the church, and she complains that it was too loud on Sunday. What should you do? Blame the sound engineer. You are not responsible for your music. Throw the sound engineer under the bus and go buy yourself another scarf.

Expect him to do eight things at once
1. Run sound. 2. Run monitors. 3. Run projection. 4. Record the sermon. 5. Hand out assisted-listening devices. 6. Control lights. 7. Play the video at the right time. 8. Touch your ears. He’s superman.

Give feedback feedback
He loves when you do this! Hear feedback? Tell him you hear feedback. Try to recreate the feedback by thumping your mic with your pointer finger. Or, better yet, try to fix the feedback by holding the palm of your hand over your mic. Then you might create even worse feedback, in which case you can prove to your sound engineer that you really were hearing feedback. Then he might kill you.

Pretend his first name is “Hey”
All sound engineers have one first name, and it’s “Hey”. Seriously, it’s so convenient. “Hey, can you turn my mic on?” “Hey, can you give me a bit more keyboard?” “Hey, can you bring me my scarf?”

What am I missing (besides my Latte)?

Worship Leader Resolutions

1In this new year, I think all worship leaders can agree on a few resolutions that, if adopted, would dramatically improve the corporate/sung worship in our churches.

1. Wear more scarves
People are cold. Even in Southern California. They need to see their worship leaders all bundled up and warm. The more scarves the better. Oh and don’t forget the hat.

2. Brightly label our iPads
It’s not enough to hide your iPad on your music stand. And it’s not enough to have your iPad on its own devoted iPad stand. I suggest that, for the edification of our people, we brightly label our iPads with giant letters saying “I AM COOL I USE AN IPAD”. Extra points if you wear a scarf while using an iPad.

3. More of the 1980s
So apparently the 1980s called and they have some more synthesizers they want us to use in our music. I say we shouldn’t stop at the synthesizers. Let’s bring back those electric drums and make sure we stick the big poofy foam things on the ends of our microphones (color coded, preferably).

4. It’s time to re-tune the re-tuned hymns
I’m calling it right now. New worship music trend: re-tuned re-tuned hymns. It’s like twice-baked potatoes or double-stuffed Oreos. It’s like dipping a deep-fried Snickers back into the deep fryer and then frying it again. These re-tuned hymns need to be re-tuned again. You heard it here first.

5. More retweets
If it’s one thing worship leaders need to do more of, it’s retweet any and all twitter mentions. There is a severe shortage of worship leader retweeters, and 2014 must be the year we begin to retweet, and then retweet the retweeted retweets, while eating twice-baked potatoes stuffed with double-stuffed Oreos while wearing scarves made out of iPads.

6. Incorporate holograms
I’m tired of my congregation having to settle for me leading Chris Tomlin songs. I want him to lead his songs via hologram at my church. Let. The. Future. Begin.

7. More catchphrases
Worship leaders need more catchphrases to really engage the congregation. There are different levels.

Beginner: Come on, get your hands together!
Intermediate: Shout it out, church!
Novice: Now put those worship cookies in the oven and watch them bake!
Expert: You are now free to move about the cabin of praise!
Advanced: Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, let’s go!

8. Bring back the hand motions
Can I get a “you came from heaven to earth to show the way”? That’s what I’m talking about.

9. Point the microphone to the congregation when you want them to sing
I learned this technique from Carman, (i.e. America’s first worship leader). You want the crowd to sing? Point the mic at them. Ignore your sound engineer’s advice on this one. Wave the mic around, and in as many directions, as much as possible. The more microphone pointing, the louder the congregational singing. Add on a catchphrase and you’ve got solid gold.

10. Move beyond the octave jump
Octave jumps are so 2013. It’s time to take it to the next level in 2014 with the octave MONSTER jump. The octave MONSTER jump isn’t just one lame octave up. It’s two octaves up. That’s right. You want to take that bridge and third chorus to the next level? Then take a deep breath, tighten your scarf, turn on your iPad, crank your synthesizer up to 11, put down your double-stuffed Oreo, get ready for some Twitter mentions, push the Chris Tomlin hologram out of the way, yell out an advanced catchphrase, get that hand motion cued up, point that microphone back to your mouth, and let that octave MONSTER jump rip. Your people will never be the same.

Here’s to a great 2014, worship leaders. Get busy and stay warm.