5 THINGS I WISH WE DID LESS

We don't livestream worship at my church, but I do enjoy video recording services when I get the chance. Not only do they give me a whole new perspective on what our platform looks like and what the sound in the room is doing, but it also helps me see the stuff that needs fixing.

Here are 10 things I wish worship leaders (ME AND YOU) did less.

SPEED IT UP

We do songs too fast, gang. I know it feels like you need to bump up every song your team learns by 6 or 8bpm, but a lot of the time, those album tempos are there for a reason. It also seems like the faster you play worship stuff, the more out-of-date it sounds. Why is that? If there's any upside to using click, it keeps us from running away with the songs.

STRUMMING

Those of us who lead from guitar could stand to chill on the strumming. Believe me, I know when you're feeling the music you just wanna' strum like a madman, but don't forget that your sound engineer is probably already running your guitar too hot already. (Why do sound techs do this? Just because you're the leader doesn't mean YOUR instrument has to be heard non-stop.) The more we jangle away, the less clearly the groove of the song is heard and felt.

TALKING

Man, we gotta' stop devotionalizing. We never sound as clever as we think and we almost always talk longer than we should. It's so hard to go from one song to the other without dropping some wisdom in between, but our people are going to get plenty of talking once the sermon drops. Plus, I'm way less smart about stuff than I think. Why I gotta' be talking the whole time?

WASTING REHEARSAL TIME

Song 1 never goes as quickly as we planned. There's a sound system issue or a blinking light or the piano player can't remember the riff or the monitors are messed up and we burn 30 minutes of practice just trying to get through the first song (which most of our people aren't going to hear anyway!) There's nothing more frustrating than running out of time and being unable to play through that last song.

DOING COVERS

There are definitely "hooks" that make or break songs, but a lot of that stuff doesn't translate in a live setting. Plus, most of our people don't even listen to worship music and aren't going to know what we're trying to pull off. This is never more obvious than in octave jumps. It sounds cool on the record when the worship leader starts in a low whisper, but don't forget that's been mixed to be vibrant and clearly heard. Our octave drops end up sounding like we just lost our voice in the middle of the tune.

_________

What else? Be honest. What sort of stuff do YOU need to do less?

WHEN THAT PLAYER LEAVES

We've all be there.

We've all had THE PLAYER.

THE PLAYER is that person who shows up who has astounding God-given talent, can play whatever you ask and instantly gels with you and the rest of the team.

With a player like this, you might sometimes think to yourself, "Wow. I think we're, like, a GOOD band now." Songs come faster and the congregation responds. Your whole sound changes with a player like this because you're able to chase ideas never before attempted.

So, what do you do when a player like that leaves?

It's heartbreaking. You don't want to be angry, but...you're kinda' angry. You don't know what it going to mean for your band. You can't imagine how you'll fill that spot with someone else. Here's some stuff to remember:

SOUNDS CHANGE

Go watch a video of your church worship from five years ago? Pretty different, right? Watch a video from ONE YEAR AGO, and you'll even see a difference there. Because sounds change. The way songs are written and recorded change. It just might be there's another player perfectly suited to where your team is headed in the future. In fact, sometimes losing a player and rethinking your sound pushes you ahead of the musical curve. Many of us get complacent with our band each week. Sometimes losing that pro-level musician is just the kick in the pants we need.

CONGREGATIONS CHANGE

If we're honest, the easiest way to lead worship is with the same team each week. Your "A-team," as it were. But an ever-changing band may just be the perfect thing for a growing congregation. Having a team that looks different every couple of years is encouraging to your church - it shows growth and it reflects the trajectory of most normal people - things change.

GOD KNOWS WHAT WE NEED

I've played with some amazing drummers in my ministry life and a whole bunch of them have moved on. (Guess I'm just too mean!) But the thing that God has reinforced over and over to me is that He knows what I need as a worship leader. Sometimes, he's sent a better drummer. Sometimes he's sent one who was worse and I had to work way harder to communicate and train that player. Sometimes we've gone into a percussion phase. And you know what? Each of those new phases has been good for us. God knows what we need.

NO ONE CARES AS MUCH AS YOU DO

It's sad, but there's a good chance that your congregation doesn't get as upset as you about losing players. You can instantly list off every awesome thing that drummer or guitar player did on Sunday, but for most people, it probably didn't register. They might think, "The band sounded good today," but unless you're having your star player do a bunch of solos, your congregation often misses 75% of all the awesome stuff that band member is doing.

MY WORSHIP WEEK / APRIL 12 2016

Trying to do that thing where I keep track of stuff I'm doing every day. Not logging everything, of course, but it's good to look back on the day to make sure I managed my time with excellence!

  • Didn't have any thing on the agenda for the morning, so came home after school drop off and worked more on the podcasts. One of the episodes had a weird ring in it from an echo in the room where we recorded, but in the end I decided, "Hey. Free podcast."
  • Also did some work on the upcoming Vital Worship release. I've got a song on there, but I've also agreed to help the folks at Vital with some promotion. I've been doing interviews with songwriters featured on the record as a way of promoting the project. It drops on Monday, April 25. You can find the interviews at vitalworship.tumblr.com.
  • Haircut at 11:30, then a staff lunch at 12:15. I actually could have ducked the lunch, but I'm already missing a thing on Thursday with the staff so figured I better show my face, lest they think I'm a slacker. The lunch was good, a sort of survey about full-time ministry for a pal of ours who's leading a conference next month. Good lunch, but the sweet tea was terrible.
  • Left there to get Jonah from school, then took him home. Once home, got reminded (by text) that I also had to pick up Finley, as well. Got her home and worked on the podcast some more.
  • Confirmed a co-write with my friend, Sam, for Wednesday morning. Sam wanted me to know he didn't really have anything for us to work on, but I said we're writing, anyway. I didn't have the heart to tell him I don't have any ideas ready either.
  • Went with Kristen and Fin to the P.T.O./icecream social at Finley's school. Meeting lasted maybe 12 minutes. On the way home, stopped by the pharmacy for a prescription, but it wasn't filled yet. So, naturally, we just drove over to Fuzzy's for chips & queso until it was time to pick it up.
  • Dropped Kristen and Finley at home and headed to the grocery store for some essentials. Got home, put Fin to bed and watched a little TV with Jonah.
  • Finally got one podcast uploaded and made some progress on the second. Hope to have it live by Thursday.
  • Watched Daredevil and worked out a little.
  • Sorry, this turned into the list-of-boring-stuff-Todd-did-today post.

MY WORSHIP WEEK / APRIL 11 2016

Trying to do that thing where I keep track of stuff I'm doing every day. Not logging everything, of course, but it's good to look back on the day to make sure I managed my time with excellence!

  • Woke up WAY TOO EARLY for a Monday. (Worship leader hangover, anyone?) But we had some folks working at the house and I had to get outta' there.
  • While kids got ready for school, fired up the blog and worked on a What We Did post. Been a long time since I did one of those.
  • Drove to church and did a FaceTime write with a worship leader pal named Jon Nicholas. We're super close to getting this song done! We're stuck on the second verses but hope to finish it very soon. We're writing a song for an upcoming missions/generosity emphasis at Jon's church.
  • Worked on a couple of demos. I've given myself a goal of releasing a Bethel South version of the hymn, "The King Of Love My Shepherd Is." Primarily, I'm doing it to give myself a project where I can learn Logic Pro. But it will be nice to have a version that's arranged the way we do it. I'm also trying to finish a (very) simple demo of "He Leadeth Me" for our band to learn. I couldn't find a version I liked that was in a singable key, so I'm trying to build one. Couldn't get far on this one because I loaned out a guitar this weekend. All I had at the office was an old acoustic with terrible action, so my chords weren't sounding too good.
  • Worked on some financial stuff to get ready for the Songs For Singing releases this summer.
  • Picked up Jonah from school and took him to the orthodontist, then we came home. Worked on some songwriting and podcast stuff until 5 or so.
  • Dinner with the family, then a walk around the neighborhood.