Resource, Article

In the beginning God speaks six times on six days, and then stops. God rests. But each of these days also has a night. And God rests then too! God doesn’t talk all the time. In fact, Genesis doesn’t even start with a word. Genesis starts with the formlessness of the earth and with...

January 5, 2010 0 0 comments
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When I was a corporate video producer, an accountant once proposed we shoot a video about tax law. He was assuming that since video is high-tech, doing a video would naturally make his material dynamic and relevant to his audience. All we needed to do was to put something moderately related to...

January 5, 2010 0 2 comments
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What does it take to become intentional about intergenerational worship?

The first step is to take an objective look at your congregation. You probably have a good idea of the balance of age groups in your congregation and how well each is represented in worship. But you might be surprised at...

January 5, 2010 0 6 comments
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Sustained Hospitality Requires Learning to Rest

In order to sustain a healthy and fruitful ministry, those of us called to serve a particular worshiping community as lead worshipers must confront the “frantic challenge.” This is true simply because there are, and always will be, greater needs...

January 5, 2010 1 0 comments
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Preach the gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words. This ancient maxim, attributed to Saint Francis, may be more relevant today than ever before. 

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As we reflect on being but dust and ash and follow Christ’s journey to the cross, we’re reminded of how much we need the resurrection. 

March 1, 2009 0 0 comments

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What kinds of simple things do churches do to celebrate Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Pentecost?

I find that our worship planners use a variety of congregational-singing & presentation music that comes from wherever they can find it - from harder rock to hillsong, gospel, hymns (new and old versions, with the band and occasionally the organ), as well as music from CCLI's top 25. Which is to say that there is an availability of music today that was not available at all the last time a hymnal was put together (available online, especially if musicians can figure out stuff they hear).

The CRC webpage says the new hymnal is an attempt to "give a common voice to our worship in the twenty-first century." But because of the speed and manner (online, radio, file-sharing) with which music is distributed today, I don't think it is possible for a hymnal to accomplish this goal.

The trend is to use multiple, not single, sources for songs & music, and I think the trend will be for churches to use this hymnal as one source among many.

In addition to CCLI, you can also search songs by topic at www.hymnary.org.

Telkwa CRC has been encouraging giving testimonies during worship for a while now. We have the philosophy that professing our faith is something we're called to do regularly -- daily in whatever context we find ourselves! -- and not solely on one formal occasion.

At the front of the sanctuary, we're creating a "monument" made of rocks, following the lead of the Israelites after they passed through the Jordan River (Joshua 4; they did this at other times, too). When someone gives a testimony, they're invited to take a rock (either from our stash in a corner or one they found themselves) and add it to the growing pile. Each rock represents a specific example of God at work in a person. A while ago, whoever was interested went on a "field trip" after a morning service to the nearby river bank to collect some rocks for our stash; this was a great way to involve the kids!

We don't do this every week, but at least a couple times a month, people are invited to come forward to share how they've recently encountered God. Sometimes it's connected with the message -- e.g. "How have you experienced for yourself what we've been talking about this morning?" People are invited to just come up as they feel led during a time of quiet reflection/silent prayer; that way, everyone has something to "do" regardless of whether they choose to come forward to share something.

We are being encouraged by hearing how God is active in our church in the lives of individuals and groups. The stones pile is a good, visible reminder of this.

Looking forward to seeing this new hymnal.

[quote=Diane Ritzema]How do I give you my email without it going out to everyone on the network?[/quote]

The Network site allows you to privately email any user. Just click the little email icon below the user's name/photo to send them a message through the system.

And, by email icon, of course I mean a little picture of an envelope! How ironic that an envelope is the universal symbol for email :-)

Thanks JT and Stanley! CCLI has been very helpful--when I search for the song, I can click on it and it gives the themes that the song is associated with. This will help a lot.

Stanley--I'd love to have your Word doc. How do I give you my email without it going out to everyone on the network?

Diane, I have a Word document with a bunch of contemporary songs we sing here at Telkwa CRC. I've "tagged" each song with its topic(s) and/or Scripture reference(s). It's likely not entirely what you're looking for, but if it sounds helpful, I can email it to you. Stanley Groothof

I know CCLI's SongSelect has topics listed for most songs, but I don't know if it's searchable by topic. It seems like I've seen various efforts toward that on message boards before, but I can't seem to find any now.

kvnsdsm,

I can appreciate that you feel that organ can work with contemporary, but I would say it is rare.
I'm not sure that it is fair to compare the pipe organ to a synthesizer. they are completely different instruments except for the keys. The sounds are significantly different. An electronic keyboard can host many different sounds such as strings, synth, varieties of organs including a Hammond B3 and other Jazz styles as well as choral voices and the like that sound no where close the pipe organ and which the pipe organ cannot emulate either.
I would agree that some of the modern hymns such as In Christ Alone or How Deep the Father's Love can sound okay with the organ, but are clearly not meant for organ.

If you listen to contemporary music by the artists you will notice an obvious absence of an organ except for perhaps a jazz, combo or B3 and for good reason. Those organ sounds work well, at times, with the style of music. When you listen to How Deep the Father's Love for instance, you can tell that it aches for a celtic feel with a penny whistle or Irish bag pipe type sound. I've heard it done with organ and it loses that celtic feel which I feel is a great disservice to the song. This of course is just an example.
While some songs do have a need for a long melodic line, it does not naturally mean an organ sound fits. This is something we bantered around in worship at Calvin Seminary too and came to understand that certain instruments are for certain styles of music. It is rare that any crossover works.

I remember my time in a local GR church where the organist tried playing contemporary music on organ. She was highly accomplished, but no matter what settings she used, she admitted as well, that the organ did no justice to the piece. I've experienced this same thing in other West MI churches as well.

Having said that, we still try from time to time to use the organ to fill the bottom. However, if the organist, no matter how lightly she plays, tries the melody line or to fill with chords the sound totally changes the feel of the song. 95% of the time, it just doesn't fit modern music.

It does really come down to who is available, doesn't it : ) I'd like to start creating a list like yours soon so that more people (especially kids) can be involved.

I'll need to get back to you on the junior deacon question. I know that the pastor mentors them, but I'm not sure how they are chosen, or what type of schedule and responsibilities they have. I'll let you know when I find out.

Hi, Sorry it took so long to get back to you. For scripture readers I simply compile an ongoing list of people of all ages who would like to read the scripture. Sometimes I try and find someone that matches the service, but mostly I just schedule according to whomever is available. It makes it more natural rather than focussing on age. The only criteria is that they can read well and that they use the NIV translation.

As a worship planning team we're reading the book "A Church For All Ages" which is helping us to understand and hopefully change how we do intergenerational worship.

We don't do anything specific with sermon outlines other than a general one. We have a large ESL group so we include the various scripture references. Other than that it's just the main points of the sermon with room for notes.

I like the idea of junior deacons. Can you tell me more about who they are and how they are selected?

Just read through most of the postings. First of all I'm an organist. I have played contemporary music on the organ as a part of the group but not as the only accompanist.

First, Look at the organ as a synthesizer and not a pipe organ.
Secondly, look at the song being used in worship. Does it lend itself to long melodic lines or is it rhythmic in nature?

Do I play on every song? aboslutely not! We do blended worship and I turned a few heads when I played the organ on some of the contemporary songs and caught some flack for it becuase the organ "was not meant for contemporary music" But the piano, guitar, and drums are as old as the pipe organ. Its the attitude of both the praise team and the organist!

I have musicians who read music quite well but do not improvise. So for me finding actual arrangements with a chord chard is key. So I've turned to arrangements by Word. Inc. publishers for hymns, etc. it gives some of the hymns a contemporary rhythm and simplifies the chord structures. Also if you have anyone who has had a year of music theory, they can give you the essential chords to most hymns. Not every hymn will work with guitar but I've been able to be pretty sucessful at this.

Thanks, Dean. I have seen that one--it looks very do-able. (Spoken by one who is somewhat visually artistically challenged.)

Diane, you might want to check back copies of Reformed Worship (online at reformedworship.org). I know we've--yup, it's something I'm involved in--published ideas for group project in the past.

One resource for contemporary worship songs that is very helpful is SongDiscovery (http://www.songdiscovery.com/ - distributed by Worship Leader magazine). Every 6 weeks or so they provide a CD with recent worship songs, and include on the CD lead sheets (song melody, chords and lyrics) which are almost never more than two pages and sufficient for most "by ear" musicians. Copyright is addressed by them through your subscription so I believe you can make relatively unlimited copies of the music under a CCLI license for your use. Most important, your subscription gives you access to their archive, which is fairly substantial.

Regarding notation software, I use a very simple (and not very expensive) program called Noteworthy Composer (http://www.noteworthysoftware.com/) to create lead sheets when needed (or for new songs or arrangements we create within our church).

How crazy would that be? Good challenge John.
I know that our church has been returning to some of the biblical readings and public prayer since I've come here. I've done some experimenting in the services with limited music. Our Maundy Thursday service will maybe only have two songs. But it is a very new concept to many folks.

I think we've created an environment where personal reflection and meditation on the word has so fallen by the wayside that it makes it hard for people to engage with a reading. It is evident that even long time attenders don't come to engage and participate in the service. They've been trained to stand, sing and listen. I do appreciate the move in modern worship to return to earlier worship practices and become more contemplative. It makes it hard for people to just "attend" and not participate. Personal reflection is part of being spiritually formed.

On another note I have found that while doing the contemporary worship well takes time, effort and necessary gadgets, the focus of much of it is to be real and honest with self in light of the grace of God. It seems the newer stuff, whether hymns (cf. Townhend and Getty, et al) or more alternative (cf Tomlin, Crowder, Hillsong, et al.) is riddled with intense passion to get serious with your relationship with God and participate.

With music having become such a powerful medium in our culture it certainly is hard to consider a service without it and without it being done well.

It is a conundrum.

I think we're already seeing the growing chasm between contemporary worship and traditional worship being played out intergenerationally. At a recent funeral, teens and early 20s attenders did not know any of the hymns, and at graveside could not recite the Apostle's creed. After hundreds of years of hymns being inter-generational, we seem to be reaching a time when songs that those in their 30s know are different songs from the 20-somethings, and different still with the teens. Never mind the hymns that only the 40s and over know. There is no continuity or shared experience, it seems.
The contemporary songs today that have depth in both words and music will stick, and the rest will be sung for a year or two and die away. That is not new. When we all sang out of the same hymnal, the songs with depth and sing-a-bility were sung often and the ones that were difficult, dull, or whatever, were sang so seldom that many were dropped from subsequent versions of the hymnal.
I welcome new songs that are theological sound and meant to be sung by a congregation, not a performer. So I wouldn't classify myself as only weeping over the change, and as for resources for making wise choices, I would say Sing A New Creation would be a good start as opposed to introducing every new song that comes down the pike just because someone on a praise team likes it.
However, if one is in a congregation where contemporary is "in" and an occasional hymn is only thrown in for the "old folks" then the whole conversation about resources and what we can learn is moot.

John, thanks for a great question - I appreciate the focus on stepping back from our current situations at looking at the big picture.

I firmly believe that the biggest mistake we're going to regret in 50 years is that we set contemporary/modern worship as an either/or over against traditional worship, both musically and preferentially. I think, as we see the dust beginning to clear from the "worship wars", we're seeing a huge chasm between traditional-only and modern-only churches. If we're realistic, I think that means in 50 years, as traditional churches continue to close their doors, the songs they sang will be locked up, as well.....and I think that's a dirty shame.

I might be in the "cheering" section for change, but I really love hymns. However, since the modern and traditional crowds decided to fight a war rather than learn from eachother, the casualties are necessarily going to be quality traditional hymns simply due to the age groups who sided with one or the other. Maybe not in the next 10 or 20 years, maybe not even in 50 years, but the trajectory is fairly clear to this observer.......and its a microcosm of the Church as a whole that reaches farther than music to theology, practical ministry, etc.

Churches who participate in separate traditional/contemporary services and divided worship services into "praise team" and "organ" exclusive sections only contribute to this divide and drive it home to congregants. I always try to encourage bands to play hymns because it drives home a different message - if the Church is going to be one just as God is one, then the music must also be one.

Our church has gone through changes in our worship style, or at least our musical style. We changed from all organ & piano & hymns or praise songs to a praise band and a worship leader who plays guitar and we include more contemporary music. We try to honor our tradition, though, by also including many hymns, often with the same traditional tune but a more contemporary beat, some transitional bridges or choruses. I love this blend of tradition and contemporary because I love the hymns so familiar to me and I like learning new things.

I thought of this when you asked about "the losses you feel". My wish when we started changing to this more contemporary style was that our members who loved the familiar hymns wouldn't feel a loss because we continue to include so many of the hymns. Unfortunately, it seems that quite a few people don't think it "counts" as singing a hymn unless it's sung exactly the same as they've always heard it, and only accompanied by a piano or organ, not a praise band.

I wonder if others have experienced this in their churches and what they are doing. We're going to try having one of our worship team members who is an organist start coordinating a special portion of the service for a traditional hymn with traditional accompaniment - probably a mix of solos, choral groups and congregational singing. I'm hoping this will help. I'd love to hear other ideas or thoughts.

Mavis Moon
San Jose CRC

Thanks, Chad. I agree that the health of a congregation's worship is directly reflected in the strength of it's singing - and based upon that we're doing pretty poorly. I think I'm going to send your post along to the members of our worship committee.

Joyce,

Honestly, if there's an under-the-radar network of modern-music-playing CRC folks, I'm not aware of it. OK, that wouldn't be so surprising, I guess...but where I'm going is that my "education", as it were, in modern church music has come from non-denominational sources--Campus Crusade for Christ, Christian radio, and various places on the internet. I would guess that I'm not the only one finding support and ideas out there, so I'd guess that's where you're most likely to find people doing that.

Specifically on the Contemporary Songs for Worship: if it's the book I'm thinking of (a little red book? ...oh, that sounds bad), I looked through it and wasn't that excited. The arrangements reminded me a lot of what I've seen from Sing! a New Creation, and I've often felt those were lacking in a band context. I may not be quite as much a purist as others on songs for guitar vs. piano--I love arranging hymns for guitar, and I could totally picture organ arrangements of newer songs. However, I'd say songs in general carry a certain attitude/ethos/soul, and that's just as much a part of "modern music" as the melody and lyrics. I think it's often possible to translate that ethos to a different instrument, or deconstruct the song and rebuild it around a different, yet still authentic, ethos, but the people who are capable of doing those things usually don't need a whole lot of help from sheet music. And so the SNC book (and presumably Cont. Songs for Worship) are making contemporary lyrics and melodies accessible, I'm not so sure they're really making the music more accessible...if that makes any sense.

We just talked with our pastor about making that happen! Do you have a pattern in place so that you're sure to include people of various ages throughout the month, or does it depend on the month? I remember as a child going to a Catholic Mass where another child read scripture. It was like an instant connection. I wanted to go back there for worship because there seemed to be a place for me! Something seemingly small can have a bit impact . . . The worship team at my church does include teens and preteens--I'm so glad! We also have junior deacons who participate in the offering and prayer.

Do you use any type of worship outline/folder? I want to provide something that will help the older elementary and middle schoolers track with the sermon and engage more fully in other elements of worship, but I'm still looking for a good way to do that.

We have people in the congregation read the scripture before the sermon and that is one place people from all generations can participate. Youth also participate in choir and praise teams.

Hi everyone, I thought I'd join in the conversation here to add another voice from a different (though for some, maybe more familiar?) CRC-subset.

First, I would like to suggest here that there is no good formula for "modernizing" worship that can work in every congregation across the board. I'm sure you all can agree with that. Here is our story:

The church I serve was established in the mid-1930s in central California. It is said that the churches in our classis are more conservative than most in the whole denomination. My congregation's overall voice still includes a strong Dutch accent as a vast majority of our body is descendants of immigrants. Needless to say, change happens slowly. Over the last 10 years our congregation has checked some things off the modern worship list- projectors, quality sound system, and the addition of the "praise team" – including drum kit, guitars, and bass. However, 25 years ago, our church also purchased a pipe organ which to this day is one of the finest instruments from Fresno to Sacramento.

There were a few issues in place when I was hired 4 years ago at Modesto.
1. There wasn't much buy-in from the congregation from the beginning of the movement toward "contemporary" music. Though the equipment was purchased, it was still met with resistance. There is still some residual groaning to this day.
2. The "praise teams" were assigned 4 songs to sing at the beginning of the service only (the real worship began when they were finished), and the songs were chosen months in advance, therefore having little to do with the rest of the service.
3. The "praise songs" used (some, not all) were of what I like to call the "hoke" variety. Let me know if you need a further explanation of “hoke” or “hokeyness”.
4. The worship after the "praise songs" was disjointed, often taking on the flavor of "liturgical tossed-salad".

When I started the job, the first thing we tackled was flow. Musical and verbal transitions became much more important, and more actual worship leadership was given to the "praise teams". Secondly, we began connecting each song to its particular function in the service (praise, confession, illumination, etc). This added substance to the "praise songs" which they lacked when placed as token pieces of the service. I should also note that intentionality toward the placement of hymns aided in strengthening the flow. We also beefed up our diet of "praise songs". I saw the Top 25 CCLI list was mentioned in previous posts, so I reference it here for mine. Of the songs listed there, 15 are regularly sung in our worship, though I don't believe the CCLI list should be the end-all be-all to what we sing in church. Not suggesting any of you believes that either. The truth is, better songs are being written now than they were in the last couple decades (better hymns too!).

My congregation is a body that loves to sing, especially hymns. I believe they always will be. If you visit our church on a Sunday when we sing "It Is Well" you will know exactly what I am talking about. We also have a 30-voice choir that sings almost every Sunday. Our current pastor, who has served over a dozen churches in 40 years of ministry, has said that one way of gauging the health of a congregation is by how loud they sing. Our congregation is in a place now where they even belt out "Blessed Be Your Name" and "How Great Is Our God". We have provided them with the tools to grow by projecting music on the screens whenever possible and with 2 or 3-part harmony (4 if it's a hymn; all done in-house); we've taught the choir new songs in rehearsal so they can support the congregation when they're seated among them in the sanctuary; and they've learned by example that there is value in all kinds of music when they see praise team members wearing choir robes, teenagers in the choir and handbell choir, and the music director leading them in worship as he moves from organ to directing the praise team from the piano to directing the choir. Little practical things like the “hymn sandwich” (e.g. segueing to a stanza of “Holy, Holy, Holy” from the middle of “God of Wonders” and back), worship leaders who invite the congregation to join in singing a new song as they feel comfortable, and working toward finding a good balance between the “familiar and fresh” (thank you, Ron Rienstra) has also encouraged the buy-in we needed from the beginning.

Are we a “modern” church? No, probably not in the sense the original post had in mind. That’s not part of our DNA. But we are a living and growing body, in the here and now; a church unified (not blended, but unified) in our style of worship. I echo Marva Dawn’s words here when talking about traditional vs. contemporary styles of worship: “God is our ‘both/and’ to our ‘either/or’.” We didn’t just invent Him and we can’t put limits on Him. That’s how we see it. Like I said at the beginning, I don’t see a formula for modernizing worship that can be applied to every congregation. Other churches may take greater steps in that direction, especially newly established churches. But for us, this is how God is blessing our congregation. To Him be the glory!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading :)

Hi Ernie.....welcome to the conversation!

First of all, I want to say that I'm encouraged by your willingness to stay involved in your church's worship committee, even though you may not all be in agreement. Like all things in Christian life - this an a real iron-sharpens-iron subject and I'd like to welcome you as someone who really has a different perspective on the subject.

I think you bring up some really interesting questions that we may not agree on, but I'll try to give an honest answer as someone who's led worship in traditional-blended churches moving toward modern worship....

1. In regards to songbooks, its really a tough issue. Since most modern worship music is created and sung in environments that use projection exclusively, I don't know of ANY church that actually keeps an up-to-date modern worship songbook. If you can pull it off, more power to you - but I can imagine it is a hefty challenge. Modern worship comes out of the pop/rock music genre, which often lends itself towards free harmonizing rather than printed 4-part harmonies - often in thirds or descants. The only source I know of for 4-part harmonies in modern worship music is CCLI's hymn sheet database, which varies in cost depending on your church size. See my comment on your other post about printed music.

2. In regards to projection not matching printed words, etc.: In my experience, it is rarely a malicious attitude that causes such confusion. Projection is a touchy business and mistakes are far too common, even in megachurches. One way that we try to avoid mismatching is to have the projectionist prepare the projection ahead of time and do a "dress rehearsal" with the worship team. This requires more time on behalf of the projectionist, but often results in a smoother service, thus enabling people to worship more easily. In addition, often bands play from chordsheets, which do not necessarily match printed music - or simply add additional choruses or verses as a creative method.........that's part of what makes reading the music hard. But again, you have to remember that hymns and modern worship are different genres and thus, are written out and played differently. It doesn't make one or the other bad - just different.

3. Regarding changing stanzas at the wrong time, I can tell you that we as musicians and projectionists screw up, even on our best days, about 10% of the time. Aggressive practicing can help this, but that's often not very realistic in a small church atmosphere.

4. Re: Music on the radio. I will grant that there are some songs that are played on the radio that are not good for congregational singing, but we'd probably disagree on a few. For instance, we sang "If We Are the Body" by Casting Crowns on Sunday and it was executed flawlessly by the band and the congregation, even though its not a particularly "congregational" song. I think the bigger issue is often that churches try to play modern worship songs without a modern worship band. Chris Tomlin, Hillsong United, etc., who write most of what we sing as "modern" songs today play with no less than an rhythm guitar, a lead guitar, a bass guitar, a drummer, a keyboardist and a CLEAR worship leader. Trying to play worship songs and expecting them to sound like they do on CD's without a worship BAND is foolish. Many churches make this mistake and end up ruining their chance for modernization. The #1 rule of worship transition - if you're going to do anything, do it WELL. If you can't do it well, don't do it - you'll just face controversy. And you're right - worship can cause divisiveness if its not changed well. I encourage you to keep encouraging your musicians and your worship ministry to press on in faith, hope and [the greatest of these] love.

I'd love to talk more about it! [mark@sunriseaustin.org]

Hey Ernie....

First, let me say that CCLI's SongSelect is the best place for 4-part modern worship songs, in my opinion, especially because you can transpose them. It should be said, however, that these are mostly just chord formations off the lead sheets (ie, taking the guitar chord and just attaching 4 notes to it - not made for actual 4-part congregational singing).

In regards to a MIDI setup with music notation software, its definitely a possibility, but may cost you more time and effort than you care to put forward.

I wonder, have you ever considered bringing in a vocal teacher who understands pop music dynamics to come teach your vocalists about harmonization in the pop/rock genre? I don't know of any modern worship bands in churches or otherwise who sing from 4-part hymn sheets/songbooks, simply because 4-part hymn-style singing is not really part of the pop/rock genre most modern worship music is written in. But no fear - harmony is still an important piece - its just often not written out as we're used to it - it is more of a learned ear-trained skill, developed over time.

One other point, I noticed in your comments here and Joyce's on the other page something about "songs should not be more than 2 pages". It seems to me that worship music has gotten a bum rap for years for being "happy-clappy" or "simple choruses", etc. (insert modern worship critique here). BUT, when bands like Hillsong United actually DO write complex worship songs (more complex than hymns, musically and lyrically, I might add), we complain that they're too long. The reality is simply that they're not MEANT to be played or sung off of 4-part hymn sheets, per the comments above.

That said, if you can make a songbook work, more power to you, brother!

peace.

Well, I'm the computer techie but just don't have any experience in this area. As for copyright, we've goat a ccli membership and are careful to stay within the rules for that.

Many good points have been made here. And let me assure you that many of them have been thought through. As suggested I will start a new thread regarding the new hymnal and pick up on this conversation there.

Yes, you would need a music program like Finale or Sibelius and buy a keyboard w/ a midi interface so you can hook it up to your computer. There should be a computer techie around who can help you hook things up and download the right programs. There may be some free music softward online as well.

I do need to add a friendly reminder regarding copyrights. Arrangements of published music are not allowed to be made without the permission of the copyright holders.

It seems to me that in transitioning we often end up treating the "transition" as changing the attitudes of those who are more comfortable with traditional worship instead. Here are some examples that I've seen in our own congregation that hurt the efforts to modernize worship, but more important - they diminish the worship experience:
1. Songs are only on a projected screen, thus leaving behind those who prefer to use a songbook
2. Songs in a songbook that are also projected on a screen have mismatched words on the screen (sometimes on purpose to discourage use of the songbook)
3. Technology that is not used seamlessly - changing stanzas at the right time
4. Not recognizing that contemporary music which is heard on Christian radio is often not good for congregational singing

I'm on the worship committee for my church and I can't seem to get these things through to church leadership. I don't understand why those who want to "transition" worship won't recognize how important these things are to making it a process which unites the congregation instead of dividing it.

I'm thinking, Mighty to Save, How Great is Our God, How Deep the Fathers Love for Us, In Christ Alone, ...
Actually, I just looked at CCLI's top 25 and I have to agree that there are some pretty awesome songs. Lot's of Tim Hughes, Paul Baloche, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, good stuff.

Joyce....

First of all, thank you for your willingness to engage us on this topic. Honestly, I think that's the first step towards "tapping in". I perceive a fairly big chasm and maybe even some animosity between the CICW/Faith Alive and modern worship practictioners in the CRC/RCA which will not be solved over night, but we need to bridge that gap for the sake of this denomination's future. We need to have an active discussion and pull people in who have actually run a modern worship program or a transitioning program in churches. If we're going to have a worship-resourcing organization for the denomination, it either needs to be a catalyst for ALL or actively encourage the creation of a second entity that actually resources transitioning and transitioned congregations. To that end, please see my compliment on your article this morning.

In regards to the "Contemporary Songs for Worship" book, I echo some of what Allen said. For what its worth, I have a few issues with it, all of which lead to larger, more philosophical conversations we can have another time:

1. There's lots of issues with the production of a hymnal in 2010 in general, but I think the biggest one is that most modern worship songs are just not compatible with a hymnal book publication. Besides their length, they're not written for piano (after around 1995) and are much more useful if you can transpose them for differently-keyed instruments, a common-keyed set or capo-ing.

2. I'm worried that this book actually does more to hurt the development of worship teams at churches who are transitioning because it makes the songs LOOK like all the other songs, which, at a very practical level, makes churches think they should PLAY them the same way. Let me repeat: MOST songs written after 1995 were written for guitar & rhythm, not piano. If we don't show churches that difference blatantly, we're just fueling the war at their churches. (See my blog on Piano as the Golden Calf: http://bit.ly/aq48PX)

3. I'm also very concerned about the selection of the songs that were included. I'm assuming a stated rationale would be "finding worship songs that jive with Reformed teachings". Unfortunately, this book discredits itself by using so many songs/verses/adaptations from CICW-affiliated people. For those of us who know who is "in" and "out" in CRC worship resourcing, its obvious WHO put this book together....and that doesn't win it many points in some of our books, given the "chasm/animosity" discussed above.

4. Also, in terms of selection, what better resource could we have for what is currently being played than the CCLI Top 25? However, those songs were very poorly represented in this book, which, again, seems to discredit its relevance.

I really desire that we resource churches for what THEY want to do and not what CICW or the denomination WANTS them to do. The local church is the hope of the world - resource the momentum!

Thanks for the link, Joyce. I wonder if we shouldn't get a whole "Lift Up Your Hearts" thread going here. I'm hearing lots of mumblings about the new hymnal and I'm wondering if that might be helpful place to process those thoughts.....and probably more legit coming from someone who is in on the creation of it.

Joyce,

I have not yet seen the Contemporary Songs for Worship and are not planning on purchasing as far as I know. We don't really have need for it here since we have access to most everything through the web. As part of the discussion earlier or maybe it was in another part of this forum, my main concern with such a book would be two things:
1. That some of the modern songs do not lend themselves well to traditional instrumentation and thus kind of "hurt" the song and its original musical intent. Kind of like the Trans Siberian Orchestra playing Handel's Messiah. They could do it, and maybe they have, but it just wouldn't cut it for most folks.
2. That such a book could lend toward churches not attempting to develop more intentional modern worship, encouraging youth and others to attempt a band approach to music that was intended to be played as such. Mark H. may disagree with me on this one or on both my comments.

Perhaps I'm just too much a purest in this regard. When I hear a song that just screams guitar, but is played on an organ and even a piano, it just falls flat. Then it just seems like we're singing songs for the sake of being more modern, but not taking seriously their musical intent. I know that the younger crowd generally see right through it and will think it's "lame" with the idea that if the church isn't going to attempt to do it "right" then why bother. I say this after working in many churches where traditional tried contemporary on traditional instruments and the response from the youth and young adults -- and those listening to Christian worship radio -- was always the same.

I think our people set a higher standard for playing and leading contemporary music. Even if a band flubs through a contemporary piece, it's still better than being played well on the organ, an instrument that seems to rarely fit, unless it's a Hammond B-3 organ sound played as fill or padding. That has been my observation from Canada to the USA in the churches I've served.

Perhaps others have used it and have a different experience.

We are trying to include contemporary music in "Lift Up Your Hearts" (a new CRC/RCA hymnal set to come out in 2013). Obviously we face the issue of how long it takes to get things in print (i.e. are they still contemporary or have they fallen by the way). But, would you recommend these songs for the hymnal (need to fit on 2-3 pages). [see: http://www.crcna.org/pages/hymnal.cfm ]

There will be an online component through www.hymnary.org which will allow people to download music/lead sheets/text who don't want to buy the hymnal for all their congregants.

-Joyce

How can we "tap into" the under the radar network of CRC-modern-worship-practitioners? I would like their feedback on many a thing including the recently published Contemporary Songs for Worship. This was our attempt at helping those congregations who use traditional instrumentations and may have less "praise band" experience to be able to access some of the great contemporary/modern music that is out there. I know that this won't meet the needs of the contemporary/modern church as there are many great resources out there that we can't possibly compete with. But we hope that it may be of help to others... -Joyce Borger
music/worship editor Faith Alive Christian Resources

God of This City by Bluetree isn't exactly new, but I love the song - just wish the vocal range wasn't so huge.

The other one I really love is Hillsong's "You Hold Me Now" - a wonderful song about heaven without being cheesy. One of the reasons I love Hillsong's writing style is that they break the worship song "mode" with many of their songs. On this one, the buildup occurs in the verse and the chorus is the softest part of the whole song, but still so powerful.

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think of being on the worship team as a service to the church. But it doesn't take much of a stretch to say that if that implies musicians shouldn't be paid, why doesn't it imply that no-one should be paid?

Motivation is certainly an important consideration. I'd be deeply uncomfortable with an attitude that, "We can't worship without (insert hard-to-find-instrument), so we better pay one."

Musicians who are professionals should be paid. At the least they should be offered to be paid. If a musician wants his or her time and talent offered as a gift that is their decision. 1 Tim 5:18 comes to mind on this topic, although I don't think many musicians want to be compared to an ox!

We've hit some stagnation here, so I'll throw a hot topic out there: paying team members.

You may or may not realize that many large churches keep their worship musicians (both instrument & vocalists) on staff, or at least pay them a per-gig fee. The larger the church and the higher the commitment to quality, the more prevalent this is (although church plants are often pinned into this situation, as well). For those of us in large cities, it is an even bigger issue because church musicians are at a such a high premium with multiple mega-churches competing for the best guitar players, drummers, etc. in the Christian world.

Then there's this: when I tell people back home that I pay a couple of my musicians, they get up in arms about how church is "not supposed to be a concert". BUT, they've been paying their organists for years. When I first got into worship leading, the organist would make $75 for playing 2 songs and we got a pat on the back for leading the other 5 with a full band that required coordinated rehearsals.

So what do you think.....pay musicians or no? And in what situations/how much?

Hi, Dan

Re scheduling of your Sunday volunteers (coffee hosts, ushers, greeters, sound techs, video crew, elders, worship team, etc) - someone here in Ottawa has written a piece of software called mychurchbody.com

We've used it for a few years now, and it does the job well.
Users can block out vacation dates - duplicate scheduling is blocked.
Master schedule can be printed.
Basic - but works well.

If you or anyone else drops me a note, I'll get you in touch with the developer.
Will be probably your lowest cost alternative.

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I do think this should perhaps be moved to a new thread, seeing as it doesn't have much to do with what we want to see on the website anymore, but is rather doing what we wanted to do instead of just talking about doing it (what a great problem!).

I will talk to our worship people tonight about this thread and hook them into this website. I think the advice to make sure that there's no "doubling", as you call it, and to make sure that there's one strong lead vocalist carrying the melody line is fantastic.

All very helpful. Thanks so much.

By the way, I would agree wholeheartedly that enjoying, or not, worship in a more "concert-like" fashion is mostly a matter of perspective. My tendency, however, is to say that there's a bit of a theological perspective that needs to be considered beyond just doing what people like (I know that's been said already). My take on it, though, is that:

  1. Loving God is the number one thing
  2. Loving others is the number two thing
    • But, figuring out just how to love people is the tough thing. We want to love those who come as guests (seekers, or whatever other term you use) but honestly church worship services are not, I believe, the place where people first come in contact with the gospel generally. Instead worship services are for glorifying God, refreshing and renewing the people, proclaiming the Word, being in fellowship with His people, etc.--in short, I think worship services should be mostly targeted to the "believers", while each believer should be a "missionary" in their own setting outside of the church. So, if that's the case, then worship services should help to bring believers into worship--not be attractive marketing for "seekers" (to put it crassly).
    • So, that means that worship services with traditionalists and contemporari-ists (for lack of a better term) ought to be designed to welcome and draw people into worship, whatever their "flavour". Not meaning that we ought to please everyone all the time (not possible, as was mentioned before, but...
    • Our people (and we're trying to work on this) must learn to see worship as something more than individuals gathering together in one place to worship God in their own individual way. Instead we must see worship as something we do together, as the body of Christ. This means letting go of personal tastes and embracing compassion and love fore each other.
    • But then back to honouring God. If we're the BODY of Christ, called together to worship Him, then surely there's some value in the participatory nature of corporate singing. Many of our people complain that if the instruments are too loud they are overwhelmed, can't hear themselves (or anyone else other than the worship leader) singing, and so they just stop and listen. Bonhoeffer thought that singing in parts was bad because it broke up the unity of the church as the body (along with being a temptation to some to show off). I don't agree with Bonhoeffer to the full extent of wanting people to only sing in unison, but isn't he getting at something valuable there?

    Anyway, that was a tangent too, I guess. What I really meant to say when I started all this was just "Thanks! You've all be soooooo helpful! I will definitely take this back to the worship folks to see what they think.

    By the way, I've been checking out http://worshipplanning.com and I think it will maybe suit our needs for coordinating ALL our Sunday morning worship people.

    Thanks again!

    Dan.

    Is there an administrator function that could move this conversation to the thread Mark started? Seems like a shame to have one lonely thread with replies on it!

    I read your post before Mark posted...and I was going to suggest roughly the opposite of what he did :). Assuming you're like most churches, where the "only reads sheet music" folks are the keys players, and the "only reads chords" folks are the guitarists, use the lead sheets from CCLI, and ask the pianist to play just the melody. They'll probably feel weird doing it, since they're used to playing so much more, but part of being in a group is that everyone needs to play a bit less than they would on their own.

    My situation: We have piano with 2-4 singers on melody on a large majority of songs. We also don't have one defined worship leader. Is it terribly authentic to the pop-rock genre? Nope. Do I like the way it sounds? Not always. Would I like to change it? Sometimes...but on the other hand...the congregation really sings pretty heartily the way things are, which is worth quite a bit. Maybe what we do just works for us...(though I've been to bigger churches that do a more authentic modern sound, and felt like I was the only congregant singing).

    I do think the difference between following a vocalist and following a piano is mostly psychological, like Mark says, but that doesn't make it not real. The piano and voice have different characteristics as far as the attack of the note, and if you're accustomed to following one, following the other takes a bit of a different ear. It can take time to learn how to do it. As far as how to teach that...well, at some level, you just have to go for it and give people time. I do think doubling can ease the transition. Maybe it works for your congregation; maybe the defined worship leader works better. I've also found that (if you organize music in anything resembling "sets") I prefer to put things that might challenge people a little more in the middle of the set, so it starts and ends on a more confident note.

    The number one rule in worship is: if you try to make everyone happy, you'll make no one happy. Some people think concert atmosphere is idolatry while others, like this emerging generation has grown up with it and thinks it odd when the lights are up full blast. Its really all a matter of perspective! As long as we all do what we do to the glory of God and the furtherance of the Kingdom, I believe we're on the right track. People forget: worship is not about us, its about God. In fact, I would say "we" are the third-most important people in the equation - its God first, then those on the outside (seekers, or whatever you're comfortable with) and then us. Too many people get that mixed up, especially in relationship to worship. But really, its the Great Commandment - 1. Love God. 2. Love others. Why don't we think this applies to our music? Tangent.

    The "I can't hear the melody line with guitars" line is a fairly common response in transitioning churches. But, the reality is that most recording artists and thousands of churches pull it off every Sunday with relative ease. Honestly, I think its mostly psychological. In the rock/pop genre that most modern music is written in, the melody is carried only by the vocalists (its important to have 1 "worship leader" that everyone else builds around that always sings melody for this precise reason).

    Greg Scheer's book "The Art of Worship" is a great resource on this. The goal of the worship band is to not double.....don't have the keyboard and bass play the same thing. Don't have the guitar and the piano play in the same range. Don't have 15 vocalists singing melody (I've seen that!). Doubling is not only unproductive, it often makes the band sound worse. The same logic applies to your situation - don't have the keyboard play melody if the singers are singing melody - its doubling! But, you need to be honest about how good your band really is. People DO have trouble singing with bad bands, but rarely have trouble singing with good bands. As the band's quality develops, the singability for the congregation will also improve.

    Given that....if your band is good and your vocalists are well-rehearsed, no one will notice the absence of the melody. Try it out. I double-dog dare you :)

    Thanks for your reply, folks. I read your blog post with interest, and I think it has valuable things to say for us at our church. A concern that I have though, is that many of our congregation are having trouble following along with worship led by guitars because they mostly work through chord progressions and not through playing the melody line. Many of the congregants are complaining that this kind of worship leadership ends up with songs that are not "singable" because they don't have the melody line to follow along with.

    My question then becomes: How do we "teach" our congregation to be able to sing with chords as their support and not the melody line of the piano.

    A note to go along with this is that if our vocalists are "too loud" then people complain that it "feels like a rock concert" (although others rejoice that it "feels like a rock concert" ;-)).

    Anyway, thanks for your continued insights.

    Dan.

    Well, indeed I do!

    Allen is right on when he says SongSelect is intended for modern music. The hymns that are there are basically a bonus. The main reason is that most well-known hymns (at least in their original form) are free in public domain so there's no reason to make people pay to access them. There's two sites I use: hymnary.org (huge site, sometimes pretty slow) and www.timelesstruths.org. For both, you'll need a web plug-in called Scorch, which is free. You can also get about any chordsheet you need off www.iwillworship.com and various other sites. Just type your song plus "chords" into Google. Finding hymn sheets online is pretty difficult, other than the three sites already mentioned. I do really hope that the upcoming hymnal will have PDF capabilities, but my guess is that it won't be transposable, so those websites will have to do. Have your folks contact Allen or I if they really can't figure that stuff out.

    I probably differ a little from you two in that I think playing organ only for hymns and band only for worship songs only drives home the stereotypical thoughts of people about music (ie, playing some hymns with the band helps show unity....I can't say much for the organ though.....just don't try Hillsong on the organ.....ouch).

    As far as our Google Docs, we don't use them....I just know it works because we used it in Seminary. You can see part of our Google Calendar usage on our website - www.sunriseaustin.org.

    One more word about using keyboards in bands: the one "fault line" that seperates churches who do modern worship well and those who don't often comes down to how they use keyboards/pianos. I encourage you to read my latest blog post so I don't have to proliferate it here :) http://hibbles.blogspot.com.

    Good luck Dan.....keep those questions coming and don't be afraid to have your worship people call or email us directly.

    peace,
    ~mark

    Dan,
    Do you mean coordinating with Google Docs and the calendar? Not sure what you're getting at.

    We are attaching our sound people with a worship team so they all get to know and work with each other. Sure they switch out from time to time. The nursery, greeters/ushers are all coordinated by someone else either via email or list. There are too many who don't use internet or email here.

    Regarding blended worship and SongSelect. The truth is that SongSelect is set up more for modern music, but it does have some hymns. As a guitar and bass player some of the real classical style hymns are not friendly and were not written with guitar in mind. I prefer to let the piano and keyboard pound those out. Many are also not drum friendly unless played as tympani (accents only, not the driving beat). I'm not sure forcing certain instruments on certain music is doing anyone any favors and it takes away from the authors intention and emotion for the piece. The same is true with trying to fit the pipe organ with many of the more modern pieces -- it kills them.

    If you have SongSelect premium, you can access all of the sheet music available and it allows you to transpose keys. You can also find some hymn sheets through hymnary.org. You just have to make sure if you're pulling guitar chords from one place and full notation from another that they are in the same key. We've also invested in a few good books that have a good assortment of modern and hymn music that include chords.

    Hope that helps. Maybe Mark or others have more to say.

    Allen

    THANKS for your suggestions, guys! :-)

    Truth be told, we've been pretty disappointed with SongSelect. We very much are a "Blended Worship" congregation and we've been consistently disappointed on a couple of levels:

    • We have musicians who either: 1) Can only read chords, or 2) only can read traditional sheet music. We've been disappointed to find that many, many times we have not had both available to us.
    • Because we try to be blended, we've had many times where hymns that we wanted to use were not available at all, or not in chord sheet form
    • .

    Anyway, I guess that's a bit beside the point (and I'm not really a musician, so I'm probably not describing the issues properly anyway!).

    I do appreciate all your suggestions, especially the GoogleDocs & Calendars ones.

    Questions for you: Is there a way that I could look at your church's set-up for using these things so I can get ideas for organizing our own "bundle" (at least the Google stuff)?

    Also, we'd like to be able to coordinate not just praise teams, but Sound and A/V people, Ushers, Greeters, Nursery Workers, Coffee servers--in short: everyone involved in a Sunday service. Do you do that? If so, how's that working for you? If not, why not?

    Thanks again. I'm already appreciating "The Network" big-time!

    Dan.

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