Clear Expectations

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. We hear that, but it gets very real when we are the one that’s slowly perishing. Through different jobs I have worked in churches or even in the secular world, I find out that the new wears off fast, and when it comes down to it, we need to know what is expected of us. We will wear ourselves out picking up unfinished work that belongs to our coworkers, and we will find ourselves unprepared, when we don’t know what our job is. We are kept from getting better at what we do. We will chase a bunch of random tasks and will never be able to answer the question of “what do you do?”
After the first 2 weeks on the job, today I asked the guy working alongside me this summer,”do you know what your job is? Are there moments when you don’t know what to do with your time?” I asked him these questions so that I could give him answers. To be honest, I wish someone would ask me this ever once in a while, because there were so many times in the past where I was so close to burning out. If you are leading people, make sure you are being incredibly clear of what they are expected to do and produce, and if you are working under a leader, ask them to define your role as a team member. A team can’t work at its best when all of its working parts arent working. 20% of the team can’t survive doing 80% of the work all of the time. But I’m convinced that if you have the right people on the team, then they will do their best IF they know what they are supposed to do.
Don’t isolate yourself and slowly die doing all the work, and don’t die because of lack of vision. Communicate with your leader and communicate with the people you lead.

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Ask the Right Questions

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If what you do is great, your community will catch on and create a movement around it. Audrey Assad

Are choirs a sustainable element to use as we move forward into the future of worship in the church? This is not a knock against choirs in churches, and this is coming from someone leading alongside a choir every week. I think we are asking the wrong questions. I am 26 years old, and I am also leading a generation below me and as I watch young families plug into a local church, I see not just the shift musically that we must and are taking, I see the shift in culture that we must rebuild. I was called to rebuild a student choir of 6th-12th graders this past semester and it’s was crazy how fun it was. If you are involved in churches anywhere you probably have noticed how getting this generation of students motivated to sing in church choir is like pulling teeth and usually requires some type of incentive. The Lord instead taught me to cast vision for something that I actually believed in, and showed me how to raise up the right people that are bought into the right vision.
EVERY ELEMENT MUST HAVE PURPOSE AND YOU MUST COMMUNICATE IT
This generation is skeptical of fake. They can spot it a mile away. Anyone faking their love and devotion to God by getting up and performing “in the name of Jesus,” is repulsive to them. We see so many students riding the fence and riding a roller coaster in their faith, on this week and off the next. I believe isn’t because they desire to be pagan. It’s because they want something real. They want genuine. And if they see it and it is relevant to them and speaks their language, I believe they will give their life to follow it. In regards to worship, by relevant I don’t mean recreating the atmosphere of a Coldplay concert, I mean the gospel. We sometimes forget that the gospel is always relevant throughout every generation. It is the constant. We just have to learn how to communicate it to this generation, in our culture, for this place and time. As worship leaders and those training the next generation of worship leaders- don’t build you life and work around a style and image that will change. Build it around the gospel. It must be the foundation. It may look a certain way for this season in ministry, but we can’t hold on to our personal preferences forever.
DO IT WELL
If we are serious about this, then we must do it better than anything else. The world is competing for their attention, and is pulling them in every direction. If we believe in the power of our message, then we will make sure they hear it clearer and louder than anything else in their life.
YOU MUST BELIEVE IN WHAT YOU LEAD
If you don’t believe it what you lead, you will slowly die. You will be babysitting a church program that frustrates you more and more each week. You may have to adjust the framework of what you inherit in ministry, but make sure you believe in what you are leading.

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Trust the Drummer

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Guy Patterson was the backbone of The Wonders, and I agree that a band is only as good as its drummer. If you are a worship leader you understand that the tempo and rhythm cannot be solely controlled by your guitar or piano but only by another team member. This means that you better learn to speak his language and see things from his perspective every once in a while. I have had the opportunity to play with some incredible drummers over the years. They have taught me alot about creating an atmosphere of worship, whether I have watched them create it or create the opposite. They can make everything flow or tear it all apart.
BE SIMPLE
Simplicity is everything, and everything is built from it. Band leaders teach your drummers to be simple. Playing simple isn’t always easy, and drummers it is never a sign of being weak. The other band members need one thing and it is the tempo and that usually comes from a snare drum, hi hat or ride cymbal, or kick drum. I have played with drummers who have had incredible chops and played very technical fills, but I had no idea where we were in the song.
BAND LEADERS: lead your drummers, build trust with them, tell them what atmosphere to create.
DRUMMERS: lead the band, let them know what is happening, give them the dynamics, and an easy to understand tempo. If you are using inears I highly recommend TEMPO, an app by FrozenApe.

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I run in right out of the headphone jack of my old unactivated iPhone 3G and run it in my drummer’s 2 channel mixer ( I will explain this setup in a later post). The setlist is created for him to scroll through. This is a great tempo reference at least for rehearsing or count offs. This is mainly a tool for the drummer than for the whole band. If the drummers knows the tempo, the band knows the tempo.
BE A WORSHIPPER
The best drummers I’ve played with have prepared enough to know how to let go and make there actions an act of worship. That may sound crazy but it is possible. If being able to play a steady beat and finish a song is where you have settled then you have settled for far less. There is a greater purpose for you.
TRUST THE DRUMMER
I played for the BSU at Mississippi College for 3 years with my buddy Lane Beasely as my drummer. Me and Lane where great friends and our trust and discernment of God’s Spirit were intertwined when we led together. We both knew what would happen next. A hand signal, eye contact, sometimes even nothing was all it took for him to follow where I thought God wanted to take us to respond in worship. I’ve played with many guys like this since, but God really used Lane to teach me this.
Trust-on and off the platform is what it takes. It can make or break our moments of worship.

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Thoughts on Monitoring

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We are all our own worst critics. It is a scary thing at times but using inear monitors has grown me as a musician so much in the last 4 years. It was a foreign idea and to be honest unreachable for so long mainly because of finances. When I moved to my current church 4 years ago I had to begin using inears in our adult led worship services. Our students services on the other hand in which I coordinated were operating with 8 monitor wedges on stage.(most of which were a 12′ speaker with several hundred watts ran to each) Needless to say it was pretty loud. The stage itself was as loud as the house mix. Monitor wedges on stage is not always a bad thing. They do allow the musician to keep a live/in the room/feelin the bass kind of feeling and I am a fan of that, but I’m also not sure that the louder volume always makes us tighter musically as a band or grows us personally in our craft.
WE WILL PLAY AS WE HEAR
What we hear determines everything.
If we CANNOT hear ourselves we have no idea what our personal tone consists of. We will instinctively play “harder” to make up for what we cannot hear, which usually results in a consistent loud volume of jumbled up sound. Not to mention we will not know if we are on the right note or it we are off key or out of tune. If we CAN hear ourselves TOO MUCH this will result in playing alone. We will stop listening to the rest of the band. We are playing at our own tempo, at our own dynamics, without any idea what is going on in the mix. Anybody relate to this? It’s a scary place to play and keeps me frustrated while I should be worshipping and leading.
I’m not saying its the only way but I have found that training students on inear monitoring, not only keeps the room noise down but also gives them exactly what they need to hear.
Giving individuals what they need to hear in order to play will move them forward as musicians. They will play on tempo together and hear when they should or should not play. Each player needs to have a tempo reference i.e. click or drums, a tonal reference i.e. another singer, piano, another guitar player, and then of course themselves, anything else is just for convience and shouldn’t interrupt hearing those 3 things. In my next post I will discuss some inexpensive ways to accomplish this without breaking the bank.

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The Songwriting Process

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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PROCESS
Songwriting is not just about a flash in the pan idea that becomes a song in 10min. Now dont get me wrong, the Lord sometimes drops a thought or lyric on our laps in a moment, but most of the time there has been a process leading up until that time, whether we acknowledge it or not. Songwriting is a process to be in for the long haul. We are forming the theology of the people who sing these songs. And they will remember what they sing.
AVOID THE PRAISE OF MEN
AW Tozer said What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. We have to be very careful with the cool phrases that we throw around just to get the credit for crafting a song. We must understand our great responsibility but not let that make us fearful of writing what God really wants to say inside of our church communities. It may not be the most popular lyric but something in our flesh wants to be praised and credited with the glory, and this is our battle. We have to be bold in what the Lord speaks to us, so that our communities can unite under the glory of God and His work. Duncan Corby, the academic dean of Hillsong college said it this way:we generally forget the stuff that we read, but we knew that we always remember the stuff that we sing. There is something about a song that puts an expression to.. it enables me to say what i can’t say in just saying it. So this was the goal of the humor of the great writers of the past was to take great truth and package them and express them in memorable songs, so that the people of God would not just be captivated in worship but also instructed in their faith. Every pew of Christian history has had its moves of God and very often those moves of God were when the church dynamically connected with what God was doing within their generation, it errupted also in worship. the salvation army, they took the songs that were being sung in pubs and put Christian lyrics to them so that the people that they were winning off the streets of London would find their souls at home amongst the people of God. They marched together, sung together, they’d be stirred together, but they’d be united together, so as we gather together to worship God, it’s not just a nice sing a long. when we gather together as God’s people we have this opportunity to put to voice not just our own longing for God, but the longings for all of humanity, the longings of the poor, the longings of the suffering, the longings of a fallen creation that is crying out for its Maker. And that’s been going on with the people of God of every generation, through every age, for century.

COLLABORATION IS KEY
Let’s take the pressure off and work together.
You will be surprised how different our perspectives are. Our musical influences, our personal testimonies, and our ages can shape the ideas that we craft as a team. It is always neat to gather together and share the scriptures and ideas that the Lord has been showing us and see the similarities and phrases that intersect. These are the WORDS that he wants to speak to us as a body. Spend some time praying together and asking the Lord for what He wants to say. I am meeting with a few college students each week this summer and this is what our time looks like. We just get in a room and put it on a dry erase board and begin to put some melodies behind those main ideas.

BE A GOOD STEWARD, CREATE A DISCIPLINE
Listen and record those ideas that the Lord speaks to you in the middle of the day. When you begin to pray for those Words from the Lord, He will speak them and sometimes in odd moments or hours of the night, or when you are doing something completely different.
This is a habit and discipline that you have to work into your life. Keep a journal or a note in your cell phone. I use my voice memos in my iPhone, Evernote app, DayOne app, and Moleskine journal. If I am surrounded by ways to record it is much more of an organic practice in my life. Luke 19:11-27 parable of the ten minas. Make sure you are found faithful with what is entrusted to you, don’t hide it and keep it to yourself. Be a good steward.

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An Average Week

Before I begin a blog on the things I am working on each week, I wanted to walk through a basic week’s responsibilities. I work full-time on the worship team for my church. My focus is on student worship. Over the course of a week I work alongside of a middle school pastor, high school pastor, and college/20s pastor to plan out 3 different services. Over the course of these services, I weekly rehearse with about 8-10 musicians per service who are anywhere from 13-23 years old according to the service that they are connected to.  A 20s age volunteer steps in to lead for the middle school service with the band, just to allow a service when I am off stage. Within these services I oversee at least 6 student tech volunteers per service that are on a rotation of 2 per week. A college student volunteers as a point person in the tech booth for Wednesday night services and an associate on staff works alongside the college students on Thursday nights. During the school year I organize a student worship choir of 6-12th graders that meets every other week. Each week they are  accompanied by Student Band members, instead of using tracks, and 15-20 college students and adults volunteer to lead out during this rehearsal/worship/community time.

Since I do work inside of the worship ministry, I also play in the Electric guitar spot on Sundays for all 3 services over the course of a Sunday. Any other band leading responsibilities that might need to be covered will fall on me as well and if the worship leader is out that Sunday (which has happened 4-5 times this year), his responsibilities will also be covered by me. whew. that is a lot I know.  But over the demographics of our church I get to see the big picture in a lot of ways. From a high energy middle school service to a orchestra/choir/band dynamic with the adults on Sundays.  And to be honest my passion lies in hearing or casting the vision, creating the atmosphere alongside the team, and being a part of the nuts and bolts of each week to present the gospel in a relevant way to that particular age group.

Hopefully each week I will post something I am currently working on, repairing, writing, etc. Not just to brag on how fun my job is, but to join in the community of creatives/worship leaders/student pastors/sound guys and share ideas. We are all in this together for the same mission. Instead of working on this mission alone, why not share our ideas, know how, victories, failures, etc. and grow together.

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