What Would You Like to See on This Site?
January 25, 2010
Updated June 21, 2018
26 comments 13 views
What are some of the resources and reflections that would be most helpful to you? How can we develop this site in order to be as helpful as possible? Those of us hosting the site may be able to provide a few of those things — but viewers to the site may well have the resources and ideas to provide many!
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I think this has great potential if enough people get on board. I hope you guys promoted it at the symposium. Couldn't make it this year.
Anyway, I think that the worship end of this site would best be served if it included discussions on resources, best practices, developing a balanced worship ministry. I think people are also looking for how to do contemporary well. My only concern with CICW is that it seems to promote a more high church model for worship which doesn't fit every context well. I think it would be helpful to people who haven't a clue about getting started with contemporary to have discussion on how to pick songs with good theology and biblical content, how to develop worship teams with all the instruments, training for techies whether sound or projection. I think we lack this in the CRC so it is being done quite poorly, especially in rural places.
Just some thoughts.
Between Allen and I, it appears that the beta testing for "The Network" is heavily weighted in favor of Classis Rocky Mountain. Represent!
Allen brings up a good point here, especially with respect to the topic of worship. There are, of course, divergent preferences for worship style within the CRC from traditional to contemporary to modern to post-modern to what I like to call "CRC neo-traditionalism", which is the seeming desire of folks in our camp to let the worship revolution "fad" pass over. I agree (with lament) that the CICW & Worship Symposium seems to cling to the latter style. This has, in effect, alienated those of us in the CRC who want to do modern worship in a way that is both theologically reflective and culturally relevant. Unfortunately, we've been forced to look to other places for resources and support. What's really sad is that a fantastic network of CRC-modern-worship-practitioners already exists under the radar and is not being tapped as a knowledge base for the betterment of the CRC as a whole.
For instance, I spent this past weekend coaching CRC churches in Iowa and Michigan on moving towards contemporary worship. They called me, some hack guitar player in Texas, because they don't know where else to go. Its amazing how basic the questions are and how easy they would be to answer!
To the point of this "Network", however, it seems to me that the type of people who will use this sort of technology are also the type of people that are probably involved in modern styles of worship. So, if we're going to make this useful, we need to start getting real about nuts and bolts and real about the fact that modern worship is not a "fad". It is, in fact, an evolution in music and we seem to be choosing extinction over adaptation.
I say we do this - lets encourage our cronies to get on here and lets get some information available for the churches that are pining for it. Let's give them a reason to log on!
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
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.
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!
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.
I would just like to respond by saying ditto to Mark and Allen's comments. I'm a Worship Coordinator of 8 years and have turned to the Reformed Worship Magazine for worship idea's and that has been helpful at times however it's often just a jumping off point for us as I often have to revise the services to fit our worship style of incorporating a good blend of traditional hymns and more contemporary music for our worship bands. I've attended the Worship Symposium a couple of times and really enjoyed it but did not find the workshops overly helpful with assisting us in the transition of developing in the area of modern worship. The cost of attending from Ontario Canada just wasn't justifiable.
I long to keep our worship “Reformed” and theologically sound as we practice a style of worship that is culturally relevant to our community.
I’m very excited about this new initiative of having a place to network with others that serve in Worship Ministries. It sometimes can be a lonely world out here and after eight years of serving some fresh ideas would certainly be appreciated.
I'd love to hear more from you, Sandra, about what you're looking for and what you find lacking in RW. Is the challenge in the area of music only? Or are there other elements in the liturgy that you are wrestling with as you strive to stay connected to our Reformed heritage while also connecting to today's community?
The BIG thing that I'm struggling with right now is finding a good, and INEXPENSIVE (read: "free is best") resource (software or online) that I can use to plan worship services in a collaborative way. I'm a pastor at a church of about 100 families in an area hit relatively hard by the economic times we live in. I would love, love, LOVE access to a CRC-hosted worship planning sight that actually allows people from our church to work together on planning, scheduling, etc.
Something like http://www.planningcenteronline.com, except for CRCs especially, and free (or really cheap!).
Have you considered bundling a few free internet resources to try collaboration? We use a combo of Google Docs (for the order itself), Google Calendar for scheduling, Imeem.com (now bought out by MySpace) for the free mp3's and CCLI's SongSelect for the chord/lead sheets. You can also print the chord/lead sheets onto PDF's and make them downloadable/emailable. That is essentially most of what PlanningCenterOnline does.
I have to say, CCLI SongSelect is BY FAR the best thing available for worship team development if you can't afford anything else, in my opinion.
Absolutely right Mark,
we use SongSelect all the time. It's is totally worth the investment. That way you can also download the Hymn Sheets too.
We have recently started using Google Docs to lay out the worship orders, bulletin, etc.
I don't know anything FREE like you are talking about Dan. I know that when we used Song Show Plus in our other church, you could collaborate with it if it was on a network in-house. It lets you do the same thing as the website you mentioned, but you own it outright and it does all you projection and keeps track of CCLI usage. It's the big kahuna of Worship projection software.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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 :)
Mark, in response to your tangent about why we don't think the summary of the commandments applies to songs, it doesn't seem at all obvious to me that worship music, much less worship itself, should conform to that commandment. Communal worship is usually understood to be commanded by the first table of the law, which is summarized by the first half of what Jesus said -- love God -- not by the whole summary. Furthermore, the pattern for worship is usually derived from acts of covenant renewal found in places like the book of Deuteronomy or Joshua 24. Certainly our primary obligation in worship is to love God, but if worship is primarily covenant renewal, it wouldn't seem right to put the interests of those outside the covenant ahead of those inside. Obviously we shouldn't worship in ways that are unnecessarily off-putting to outsiders, but that doesn't mean that we should therefore worship in ways that are unnecessarily off-putting to those inside for the sake of those outside.
Given the nature of the biblical commands and models for worship, I am inclined to think that perhaps our worship priorities are, in fact, first to God, then to those in the covenant, and only third to those outside. Certainly this still means that the interests you have as an individual never come before the interests of others in the church in worship. And certainly the pattern would apply only to communal worship and not to other aspects of life as the body of Christ. But perhaps I'm missing something in this argument.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What kinds of simple things do churches do to celebrate Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Pentecost?
I just look at it this way, in worship God is the audience we are the participants. As covenant people we show our love to God and reflect how much we do to those "outside" who may also be there. In the process, God "inhabits the praises of his people" and his Spirit moves through the worship experience.
Alright already, the organ, in it's most primitive form was around for a few hundred years before Jesus walked on earth, Hydraulus, the guitar as it is today was not around when the organ developed into the equivalent of the industrial revolution a hundred or so years before Bach. This whole discussion is discounting the abilities of a good pipe organ played by a good organist. (and I am not such a good one) A celtic feel needs a flute, it's got it, granted even though it is real wind blowing in the pipe, besides including the vibrato it can not emulate a live flute player who can go louder or softer, but it has the swell pedals to do a bit of it. So our technical electronic marvels of to day can fake it pretty good, and I am actually enjoying it too. I get the distinct feeling that like some years ago, the idea that the organ is the fault of declining membership, never mind that no matter what music we play, in the hall after church with coffee in hand no one speaks to strangers that have entered, specially when they look or smell different. Lately our minister has preached the fact that the building is not the church, the members are, so give me a church that only sings the 150 Genevan Psalms, with that dreadful organ, (of course you have already figured out that i am an organ enthusiast) and have people greet and accept me, compare it to the church with the greatest band and people of the opposite attitude, dudes, people love, not being relevant, is what it's at, so work together in church, there are plenty of organ loving congregants left who will accept the new, don't dump on the traditional, meet and live God's love together would you! Sorry, I do get exited about this sometimes, hope you have some calming words for me.
Here is an interesting study: (click on instrumentation for a link)
In Christ Alone
Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow/Old Hundredth (originally set with Psalm 134)
A capella (with Psalm 134 its original pairing)
Ralph Vaughan Williams arr:
Is one version more "authentic" than another? Certainly
Are the lesser "authentic" versions wrong or simply different?
Certainly not every song can cross over between genres but might there not be more fluidity than we think? Should we not be grateful that a congregation that uses organ can be blessed by singing "In Christ Alone" and that a praise band can sing the doxology with a tune and words that are so well-known?
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