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I've really appreciated the Presbyterian Reformed Ministries International trainings that I've participated in, including some at their training center in Black Mountain, NC. For more information see

Another good resource is The Worship Sourcebook - it has many prayers suggested for the different elements of the worship service - prayers can be read directly or used as a guideline to pray your own prayer. There is also Prayers of the People - a shorter book of model prayers to help someone pray in church. I would think these could be helpful training tools.

One set of resources that I would like to offer is the Embers to Flames Prayer videos. The videos are a recording of a 12 week prayer training that took place last year in Holland, MI at Calvary CRC. Many have found the training to be very helpful in teaching people to deepen their prayer life. 

You can find them on the Home Missions Great Lakes Team website. Follow this link and scroll down the page to "Watch Embers to Flames Videos here". The handouts and class materials are all posted on the page! 

I'm afraid I don't have an answer as we do not train our post-service prayer volunteers. I'm realizing what an oversight that is. We choose people who are mature in their Christian life, model a life of prayer and wish to be there for others. I can see where training can be affective and bring more depth and meaning to the prayers that are prayed. I look forward to other people's answers.

The audio is badly distorted.  Someone forgot to set the gain properly :)

The startup/shutdown sequence is reversed in the handout.  The mixer should always be powered on before the amps to avoid popping when the mixer/processors start.  When shutting down the speaker should always be shut down first for the same reason.

A couple of things have helped me with this difficult question.  One is that we only find out truly about the depth and seriousness of our sin at the very place where that sin is dealt with, that is on the cross of Jesus Christ.  He became sin (2 Corinthians 5.21) for us.  To try and look deeply into our sin apart from Jesus life, death and resurrection - in other words apart from Jesus himself - is not only futile but may even be harmful.  I think you could almost say that the closer we get to Jesus the less 'sinful' we become.  No one could or should have to see the full extent of their sin on their own.

The other thing is that along with what we mean by sin is just the fact that we are not God, that we are God's creatures.  That in itself calls for confession, self-examination, honesty about who we are.  The first temptation was not really to disobey God but to try to be like God. This is always a temptation for us.  

Is "Just a Closer Walk' too adult for kids?  I don't think so.

Our (urban) church sings mostly gospel songs, led by our fantastic worship director, team, and band. One advantage of gospel is we repeat so many times, it's easy to catch on. (Of course musically gospel songs are typically simpler than hymns. Our main keyboard player -- excellent at improvisation, btw -- has joked that it's the same few chords over and over.) If it's a newer song, Maurice or another vocalist will sometimes sing the verses alone, with the rest of us joining on the chorus(es), but even then some of the congregation will already know it and sing enthusiastically from beginning to end. The hymns we include tend to be well-known and well-beloved by at least one of our ethnic groups.



When people are new to Christianity they are probably not going to know any songs.  Why would they think they should? it might even be good for them to know that they are not the only ones who don't know a song. That everyone has to learn them at some point.
I agree about not putting a new song right after the message.

In our church the worship team will introduce a new song by singing it just before the service begins.
Then it will be sung again during the service.
We do not teach it line by line, but it is stated that it is a new song and that most of us might not know it. We will be invited to join in the chorus after the second time or maybe in the last verse.

If we are told it is a new song we know that and we just join in when we can,
I have not heard that this is a problem for people.
Sometimes a new song will be sung as a solo or just the worship team during the offering.
Then another day it will be sung before and during the service.

I do not have to sing to get good from a song.
In fact when i am deeply impacted by the words I often stop singing and listen.

Great topic, Christy. A few times, I've noticed that our musicians often introduce a new song first as an offeratory (sung as a solo, or duet) with words on the screen. Seems like a good approach, and sure helps adoption of the song later. Have others taken that approach, or found other ways of 'sneaking it in' before the congregation is asked to sing it?

Definitely agree, especially with #2.  If the worship service is well-planned, the appropriateness of the song will override individual members' concerns about whether or not they know it.  They can hum along or simply meditate on the words. If you're reasonably certain the majority won't know it, you can have the accompanist or worship band play it softly through once before it is sung, or depending on the style at your church, maybe have an individual member of the worship team sing a verse or chorus through softly and then everyone join in to repeat that section and go on together. The important thing is to keep the focus on worshiping God or responding to the sermon or scripture.


Some good points. Especially the one about breaking the flow of worship. Thank you.

But in fairness I think that we can note when a song is new to most people, such as knowing we've not sung it before in this congregation's worship, and help the people sing it well. The following will only apply to churches that use a hymnal.

We introduced Lift Up Your Hearts about a year ago. When we are singing what I am quite certain is a song unknown by most I will generally do two things. I will mention that it may be unfamiliar to many and invite those who read music to open their hymnal rather than just using the projected lyrics. And I will ask the accompanist to play through the whole song one time. It creates a minimal break in the flow while acknowledging that we may need to work a little harder to sing this song well.

"Amazing" and "life-changing experience," among others, I suppose, are as shopworn as "awesome." Maybe we should retire "Awesome God" and some others to the songbook shelf for a while. It's sad that words--which are gifts from God--can so readily inflate like grades and the Venezuelan Bolivar. Thanks, Jim.

posted in: Defining Awesome

Kory, Friendship Ministries is producing a new curriculum called "Together" that can be used in small group Bible studies that include people with and without intellectual disabilities. It's really exciting! Also, Walk with Me, a popular Sunday school curriculum for children, as well as hymnals, liturgical resources, and materials for adults are available in braille and/or large print from Faith Alive Christian Resources.

Important conversation Christy.  Thanks for encouraging us to reflect on this topic.  Here are a few of my reflections:

1. There are so many good, theologically balanced songs available to us that I think it is ok sometimes to not choose a song because it doesn't quite maintain the balance we are looking for even though we could argue a case for it.  

2. Someone mentioned LUYH's 7 songs listed in the sin section.  These were hard to come by.  But we felt that if we didn't include sin and the fall of humanity there wouldn't be any need for grace.  

3. Part of my struggle with MercyMe's text as presented (and the many other texts it represents) is that it seems to treat the cross in an almost trite way.  I don't know if we have a big enough appreciation or understanding of the cross, not just the pain but what it meant for Christ to be fully separated from God, to have descended to hell.  Its so easy to say "the cross paid it all".  I need a little more holy awe and reverence of the cross itself (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross!).  Maybe that's found in the rest of the song or another of their texts but again back to #1... but maybe we could create the balance by singing the MercyMe text followed by "When I Survey"? 

Thanks Sam. We are big Crowder fans here; I'll have to check out Audrey Assad.

I once heard a verse to the song "Jesus loves me" that said:

"Jesus loves me when I'm good, when I do the things I should

Jesus loves me when I'm bad, but it makes him very sad." 

I liked that because it acknowledged the sadness / consequences while still affirming the chorus, "yes, Jesus loves me". The fact that he loves us still is the amazing part.

Knowing that we have caused grief to our Lord, and also experiencing own sorrow for sin is part of the process of repentance. I think we can dwell too long on the negative consequences of sin, waste time being fearful of them, and become overwhelmed at the sin and brokenness we see around us. But we can also spend too short a time in that space of sorrow for sin; we can choose to ignore the very real consequences. We're not in heaven yet. It's OK to be "in process", "on the journey" hopefully on the right road going in the right direction. This is where we are until that great day. In the end, we need to move beyond the darkness into his light, where we stand holy and wholly in God's grace. 

Sin is not a popular topic, and apparently never has been. The gray Psalter Hymnal doesn't have a topical index listing for "sin," but redirects you to "forgiveness of sin." The Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal has 7 listings under "sin." I know many other songs reference sin, but I would think and hope they all do so in the context of forgiveness or grace or salvation. It's important to find the right balance, as you well note.

As for contemporary songs, it seems the metaphor of broken is more popular than the label sinful. Sin is seen as a result of our human brokenness (theologically not so far off from original sin). A few good modern songs that have blessed me:

"Come As You Are" by Crowder

"I Shall Not Want" by Audrey Assad (the whole Fortunate Fall album is good!)

"Open Our Eyes" in the Lift Up Your Hearts hymnal is good modern hymn that names brokenness/sin. 

MJill, that's really good advice. We all need to hear it. Thank you.

For me I continually need to be reminded about Grace so I appreciate this song.
It never occurred to me to think that this was making light of sin.
But I can understand why you could think that.

Regarding teaching your children about sin.
Your example is important.
Letting them hear your own confession, repentance, acceptance of forgiveness (age appropriate of course)
Asking their forgiveness when you have wronged them and teaching them to say I forgive you and praying with them about the issue, asking God to heal them of what you did to them and again letting them hear that you are thankful for His forgiveness.
When your kids need a timeout or other consequence praying with them about that. Asking them to tell you and God that they are sorry. Reassuring them they are forgiven by you and God. Praying for them to learn not to do whatever the thing was. Asking forgiveness of siblings, friends and giving forgiveness.

I can understand everything but this is my own opinion that with loudness and using of instruments on guitar it is very difficult to do worship.

Thanks for this article, Diane!  And thank God for Darrell Delaney, my new friend since Synod - gifted preacher, and articulate spokesperson in deliberations.

You are right in what you've said, Betty. But I've come to really appreciate the folks who offer the copyright licensing opportunities for churches and worshiping communities (CCLI,, and LicenSing). While technology offers us the means to project and copy music, the law still has requirements and regulations attached to those acts. These copyright licensing organizations have bundled hundreds of thousands of hymns and songs and offered them under one license. If that was not available, we would have to go individually to each author, composer, or publisher for each song for permission every time we wanted to sing it. And there is no set fee that can be charged - it could be any amount, though the standard is probably between $15.00 - $40.00 for a single use.

So while it seems like a hassle and added expense, I've found that these people have a real heart for ministry, and are doing their best to assist the churches' worship in the 21st century.

Good thoughts, John.

These exercises are helpful not only in an individual context but would stimulate some good reflection in a Peer Learning Group or mentoring relationship.

Thanks for sharing.

 That's nice but I doubt that my fellow congregation members would go along gladly with this proposal.  Most of them already find the Sunday morning service too long.  On the other hand I had heard of this practice in Presbyterian circles, and if it appeals to people of Scottish descent, it might carry with those of Dutch descent since some of the latter like to brag about being cheaper than Jews or Scots.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

Interesting perspective.  Personally, as one of the "twenty-somethings" the CRC is trying to lure back, I am marriage-saturated right now.  Everyone and their mother is getting engaged or married, and I'm constantly attending weddings.  They are all well and good -- I'm very happy for those couples who have found each other -- but I really don't need weddings to invade my Sunday morning worship as well as my Facebook feed and my summer weekends.  Maybe it's selfish, but I don't go to church to celebrate and think about other people that much. I want to be spiritually nourished and refreshed, not made to feel guilty or sad that I'm single.  Weddings inevitably result in questions (from sometimes well-meaning people, yes) about whether I'm seeing anyone or when I'm going to get married. I don't need that in Sunday worship.

Also, regarding cost: often the biggest costs at a wedding don't come from the ceremony itself. It's the reception that's expensive. And I doubt that people would stop having receptions just because they got married during a Sunday service.  So the huge cost would still be there.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

It is food for thought, Sunday worship weddings. Your idea is to make the wedding ceremony much like the practice of baptism, that is Covenant, and what could be most biblically identified with the idea of covenant than a wedding. I both like it and endorse it, particularly where, as with baptism, we exhort the congregation to do their part to see this marriage spiritually prosper and succeed. It is a question the church needs to ask itself especially when the divorce rate among professing Christians hardly differs from the divorce rate among non-Christians. It is probably fair to day the church has lost the cultural war on marriage because the covenantal view of marriage has been lost to the church.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

This topic just came up at our house yesterday, as I was remembered once hearing about weddings happening on Sunday AFTER the Sunday morning service.  Everyone was invited to stay for the ceremony.  Is this done anymore and if so, is it specific to different region?

posted in: A New Way to Marry

My husband and I got married in a worship service in 1969. It was a wonderful way to start our life together.


posted in: A New Way to Marry

Twenty-five years ago, while leading morning worship in a CRC in Canada, I simultaneously officiated at a wedding. In the early days of post-World War 2 immigration to Canada among the Dutch CRCs, weddings in worship were widely practiced. I've been told that the reason was not particularly to follow an un-worldly path. Rather, people were often widely scattered around the cities or towns where they settled. Since Sunday was the only day off for most people, they used the day to gather from morning till after the second service--usually early afternoon--to worship and eat together and, when requested, to celebrate a wedding.

This practice certainly did serve a worthy spiritual purpose of placing the ceremony in the community of witnesses, who usually were asked to support the newly married couple. (There was also the possibility that someone might object to the couple marrying, as that question was routinely asked as the wedding portion of the service began.) 

Although I too would encourage re-introduction of this practice, in many--especially large--congregations in which people are no longer closely tied by nearly daily personal encounters at work or in social occasions, the promise of support might ring a bit hollow. Still, I'd be eager to see what others are thinking about this subject.

(Although I regret to note that the particular marriage mentioned above lasted only four years, the thoughtful re-introduction of Sunday weddings in worship is well worth exploring.


posted in: A New Way to Marry

Well put!  I have felt the same for many years!  And yet, my wife and I had a traditional Saturday afternoon wedding, and so did my three children.  Why is it so hard to break that tradition?

posted in: A New Way to Marry

I've heard it said that "God offends the mind to reveal the heart" (and I've found it to be true). I saw myself right there with you in this story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Great food for thought. Even if you get married on a different day, it seems the principles here are worth considering in planning the ceremony.

Has anyone been to a Sunday service wedding? I haven't, but would be curious to hear from those who have.

posted in: A New Way to Marry

Thank you so much for sharing! I love your honesty. It is amazing how God dramatically reverses so many of our preconceived notions of people. Thanks again for this. 

I love this story, Christy. Thanks for sharing it. God has his way of surprising us, doesn't he? Sometimes as musicians or worship leaders we think we have to have it all together, and we beat ourselves up for the smallest mistake. And then God shows us what's really important - his amazing love and grace!

Anyone who thinks the CRC should grow and/or needs to be reorganized should take a look at Wall Street Journal book review by Michael Shermer of "The Head Game," which begins,"

When President Bill Clinton chose to intervene in the Somali civil war in 1993, the Battle of Mogadishu resulted in thousands of Somali citizens killed, two American Black Hawk helicopters shot down, and the death of 18 U.S. soldiers, several of whose bodies were dragged through the streets of the capital. As a consequence, a year later Mr. Clinton hesitated to intervene in Rwanda despite intelligence before the height of the massacre that Hutu leaders were planning to eliminate all Tutsis. The result was a hemoclysm—a blood flood—of around a million dead. Mr. Clinton said it was one of the worst foreign-policy decisions of his eight years in office.

President Clinton might have benefited from Philip Mudd’s “The HEAD Game,” a book based on a program that the author developed during more than two decades at the CIA, the FBI and the National Security Council. The book title keys off Mr. Mudd’s acronym for his methodology: High Efficiency Analytic Decision-making (HEAD). When faced with an ocean of information or apparently conflicting data, Mr. Mudd says we—presidents, CEOs and the rest of us—need to ask a few fundamental questions. What is the problem? What are your “drivers,” the important characteristics that define your problem? How will you measure performance? What about the data collected in relation to the defined problem? Are you missing important information?"

and ends, "The HEAD Game” is not an academic work: It lacks an index and its bibliography is just a short list of related books. Mr. Mudd himself recommends Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” as the masterpiece in the genre of decision-making psychology. But the author’s many personal experiences in facing real-world threats like al Qaeda terrorists does as much to illuminate the problem of making predictions before the fact as hundreds of academic experiments on undergraduates motivated by little more than beer money. As we face new perils like ISIS, whose explosive growth serves as another example in prediction failure discussed in the book, we would do well to ask the question Mr. Mudd poses to end his book: “Can you please point out an element or two of my analysis that seems weak, or reflects some sort of bias?”

To this, I would add two more statements we all should be willing to make: “I was wrong” and, especially, “I don’t know”."

Thanks Robin!  Glad to hear you find it widely applicable!!


This is a very good, thoughtful, and insightful post, Brendan.  It is biblically rooted as well as convicting.  I can relate to this on so many levels.  You could fill in the blank with any worship art or worship function.  What kind of Christian dancer do you want to be?  What kind of liturgical artist do you want to be?  Find what God requires of you, according to the gifts that He has placed inside of you, and press in to that.  Thank you, Brendan, for such a challenging and affirming post.  God bless you!

Solid insight, Graham!  Thanks for adding that!


Brendan, thanks for this thoughtful post. I agree that it is only too common for musicians (including singers) to neglect the development of their gifts and abilities. And yes, it shows. I would add the need for spiritual development. Worship team members and leaders are, after all, not performers but men, women and children called by God to lead their congregations to the foot of the throne. We should also all be continually increasing our understanding of worship, through our Bible study (particularly in the Psalms but also throughout Scripture), through other reading, conferences, discussions, etc, and most of all through our own personal experience of worship in individual devotions and corporate settings. It is the combination of natural talent honed by practice, and spiritual depth honed by active and growing relationship with God, that makes up a worship leader or "lead worshiper". 

Welcome Brendan, hope this is a helpful community to be a part of. 


Thanks for your transparency and vulnerability.  May your words serve as a wake up call to a growing demographic in our churches. In our family oriented church culture we need to be sensitive to those who do not live within a family structure for whatever reason.  Mothers/Fathers day is only one time of many situations where the single adult is left on the sidelines or more troubling their grief overlooked. 

I wrote a blog post about this topic earlier this week. You can read it here: 

I am in a great place in my life. My post doesn't come from bitterness or jealousy or other feelings that some might want to attach to honest words from someone in the minority on Mother's Day. 

I have been in churches that have read The Wide Spectrum of Mothering prayer that has already been referenced. And, it was fine and well-thought out and inclusive. 

The phrase in The Wide Spectrum of Mothering prayer that is about me reads: "To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children - we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be."

Might I be really transparent for a minute? For a few seconds while that phrase is being read/prayed, people might hurt for me that life has not turned out the way I longed for it to be. But I have yet to feel this mourning or sentiment from those in the church at any other time - not even after the service on a hard day like Mother's Day. It is more common that my struggle is not ever acknowledged in the church.

I have attended churches all over the US so my reflection is not based on one church. Universally, there is not consideration given for the ache of those that are single and desire to not only be married and have children, but carry a child within. The church is one of the hardest places to fit in as a women in her mid-30's without children - at all times of the year. Therefore, prayers like the phrase listed above can seem trite because it isn't something actively lived out in church (at least the 10 churches I have attended as an adult).

I think most things that happen in church that cause pain are done with good intention from those in leadership. I don't think leaders try to hurt others. I would challenge, though, if your leadership is making decisions that you are aware could potentially hurt or isolate others, it might be wise to pull in a few from the minority and include them in the discussion and planning. 

Those that are mother's will likely have the opportunity to be honored and acknowledged in other ways over Mother's Day weekend without a church worship service celebration or token gift. As one of my dear friends, who is also a pastor, said on her FB page, "Be gentle with each other this Mother's Day weekend." My hope is that gentleness and thought of others before self can be present in our churches this weekend. 


Thanks for sharing this insightful, honest article. I appreciated her perspective. 


We will be printing and reading "The Wide Spectrum of Mothering" this year. Pdf download can be found at this link:


Tough one to deal with, having to draw the line between what should be volunteer and what should be paid work. This difficulty extends to any worship director/coordinator that your church may have.

One thing I think I could agree on, but still probably not clear cut depending on who you talk to (what in life really is beyond the story of salvation?), is the provision of music and other such supplies (strings, sticks, etc) to the musicians and singers. These are items that are being used in the ministry of the church and comparable supplies are regularly provided to other ministries. Although, if you're regularly demanding gold-plated guitar strings, I think we might have an issue. :) (Maybe a stipend instead?)

I personally do not expect to be paid for the amount of time I put into learning my instrument because I want to volunteer my time and do something I love to do, but I know we all come from different life experiences so not all will agree. But I am only in a worship leader role and the actual service planning is completed by another individual so if I were doing both consistently I might feel differently. (I suppose if I was paid and considered self-employed I might also be able to claim some home office and auto expenses on my tax return and donate the money I made back to the church for a tax credit...)

If there are not enough/no musicians in the church and outside musicians need to be brought in, they should be offered compensation where the church can afford it - it is up to the individual offering their "services" to determine whether they want to volunteer their time or not. But it is not nice to see churches where there are capable musicians as part of the congregation and outside musicians are always being brought in.

One thing that paying inside musicians could do is make it awkward if you have to stop paying someone because they are not pulling their weight or do not pay someone at all because their skill level is not there (not that this should be the sole reason not to pay musicians, just a musing)

Sorry for all the competing thoughts I have going on in this comment. It makes sense in my head...

posted in: Paying the Piper?

We honor all women on Mother's Day with a small gift of some sort-- a keychain, bookmark, or something like that.  We used to do flowers, but there are many in our congregation who are allergic, so now use a different token of our appreciation.  We also make sure to include compassion for those for whom the day is difficult--those who wish to be mothers, those who have lost their mothers, or those who have had difficult relationships with their mothers, etc.  We usually include this in our Prayers of the People.

Thanks for sharing, Bonnie!

I once heard a sermon on Mother's Day that focused on all the feminine images of God in Scripture (i.e. Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, longing to gather his people as a hen gathers her chicks ... there are so many). It was excellent in considering the love of God, the love of our mothers, and how we reflect God's love to others.