THREE WAYS TO PRAY

Praying is an odd thing for worship leaders. Sometimes you feel the urgency to do it and other times it can feel like a chore, especially when you have to do it in order to make some sort of transition in the service. It probably feels wrong to say it, but for a lot of worship leaders, praying is hard!

For this post, we're talking specifically about extemporaneous or off-the-cuff prayers. Corporate prayers as readings are a valid expression in our worship, but we're focusing a bit more specifically on those moments where you pray all on your own!

If you've ever struggled with "how" to pray or even wondered if there are some other ways or styles of prayer while you're leading, here are a few tips!

PERSONAL PRAYER

This is the most common way most of us pray - these are the moments where we personally feel prompted to pray. This mode of prayer gets a lot of flack because it can sometimes produce wandering, pointless prayers, but I want to speak in defense of this way of praying. You may feel weird in these personal moments, but very often God will bless your sincerity and authenticity in that moment to encourage others. I encourage you to be open and honest before the Lord in these public prayer times. Pray as yourself - not as a person on stage or as a staff member. Don't adopt a prayer voice or use phrases you normally don't speak. Be you.

PROPHETIC PRAYER

There are also moments of prayer where you're NOT praying for yourself. These are prophetic prayers, meaning that you're praying publicly about something your congregation is learning or going through. You certainly should aim for sincerity here, as well, but this is not a prayer about just the condition of your heart. This is a prayer that is focusing on what God is doing (or about to do.) It's helpful to recognize this prayer for what it is and to ask God to give you this gift of prayer. It can be a huge encouragement and teaching tool for your congregation.

PILOT PRAYER

I'll confess that I don't do this one nearly enough. A pilot prayer is better known as "guided prayer." This is where you give the congregation instructions (and time) to pray for specific things. This may feel like an easy job, but it's a huge burden to clearly communicate and compel your people to pray. Pilot prayers need forethought, practice and possibly even some written notes to keep you on track. It might be a bit awkward for your congregation at first, but I think they'll appreciate you truly leading them in a prayer time.

What about you? What are some ways you pray from the platform?
Does praying publicly come easy for you?

 

YEAR END REVIEW

Talk to any experienced worship leader and you'll eventually discover that they're quite good at analysis - they think about worship every single day. They're constantly running scenarios in their head about song choices and stage setup and sound problems in the sanctuary, etc. Good worship leaders are good thinkers, and the best of them make a point to spend some time in a year-end-review before January gets here.

If this isn't a regular practice for you, let me encourage you to give it a shot. Below, you'll find some tips on how to "think" about this year and an example of some of my own year-end-review thoughts.

GOALS

For many of us, goals are a part of the budgeting process. Last year, you may have come up with some things you wanted to accomplish in 2016. If you're like me, however, sometimes you look up in December and think, "Oh, yeah, I had some goals for this year, I think. Now, where did I put that list?" But once I find my list, it's good for me to look at how we did for the year. [Many times, I find that the goals have often morphed and adapted to church life over the past 12 months, which is always worth thinking through.]

EXAMPLE: For the past few years, I've had a goal of training up worship leaders - primarily the people in our congregation with some worship leading experience but who need more training and platform time. Earlier in the year, I was talking to my pastor about this goal because I couldn't get it done. But he encouraged me to think a little more broadly - instead of thinking about JUST platform singing/playing, why not try to mobilize our people in other ways, liking leading band devotionals, working with our tech team, organizing outside church worship opportunities, etc. It was a good tweak to my rather nebulous goal and I've already been trying to find LOTS of ways my folks can get more total worship leading experience. That's a goal that didn't get met AND adapted over the year.

 

ONE THING / EITHER WAY

I don't think year-end reviews have to necessarily focus on every single aspect of your ministry. In fact, it's probably impossible to go through all the stuff you got roped into this past year, right? You don't even remember some of the stuff you've done! That's why it's good to think on ONE THING - in other words, what's one thing that was a huge hit this year? What's something that was an absolute, undeniable WIN in your ministry. Once you come up with that, then think through the other side; what's ONE THING that was an absolute failure this year?

EXAMPLE: My good "one thing" would have to be new songs. I added three new original tunes this year and all of them were strongly received. That's a little rare for my church, so I'm counting that as a win. My "one thing" that failed would probably be the Verses worship nights. I've long believed that those events need to be community focused and we just could not folks in the community to show up this year.

 

BRIDGE REPAIR

 

This is, by far, the toughest one to work through. This part of reviewing your year means thinking through any bridges you've burned this year and how you can mend them. But I'm not talking about church. I mean repairing bridges AT HOME. See, worship leading is an odd profession. To the outside world, it probably seems predictable and steady but to your spouse and children, they know the truth. The job is weird and the hours are completely unpredictable. This means that there are times in the past year where you've had to bail on the family last minute. Or you've had to stay way later at work than you expected. Whatever the case, it's possible that the job may have impacted your home life in a negative way. Reviewing your year should focus on what you can do in the next 12 months to make your home life better and more stable.

EXAMPLE: This past year, I was really bad about scheduling. I would regularly setup lunches or co-writes or planning meetings and completely neglect to A) consult our family calendar to make sure I had the margin to do these things and B) make sure those events on my calendar showed up on everybody else's. This led to confusion and frustration with my wife, especially. Now, that's not a burned bridge, per se, but it is a place where I want to improve. In fact, I've doubled my efforts in December to make sure the pace of our lives stays in sync.

 

Do you do a review of your year?
Is it something you do personally or does your church create a way to do this as a staff?
Give it a try! It's a great practice and it will definitely make you stronger and better in the new year!

OLD HYMNS / NEW MELODIES

On this week's podcast, I'm talking about the odd phenomenon of rewriting melodies for familiar hymns. Yes, it gets a little ranty, but if you're offended by that, you should hear what we edited out!

All jokes aside, I think the hymn conversation is a good one for us. We've been in a "hymn resurgence" for some time as worship leaders, but a lot of us are still unsure of how to adequately and effectively implement them into our sets.

Because I try to keep the podcast short, I can't always get to all the nuances of conversations like this. But this is where the blog comes in handy! If you struggle with find a way to fit hymns into modern worship sets, here are some tips.

KILL THE 7

I love 7th chords, but not everyone does, and that's often the catalyst for changing up hymn melodies. But it shouldn't be. Yes, 7th chords will give your song an antiquated or folky/country aspect, but you can bring the song into a slightly more modern place by just playing the normal chord and not the 7. You don't have to blow up hymns and rebuild them. Simply going to more neutral chord positions will immediately dial down some of the old-timey flavor.

DON'T INTRO EVERYTHING

Worship leaders who are uncomfortable using hymns sometimes feel they have to justify the song before playing it. This usually is something akin to "hey, we're going to do an old song today, but it still really fits with what we're talking about today." I actually don't mind song intros (for new stuff, especially) but most of the time, you can go right into the hymn and your folks won't miss a beat. Even if they're not familiar with hymns, there's very little chance your congregation will be bewildered or thrown off.

A LIL' NOSTALGIA ISN'T NECESSARILY A BAD THING

This actually comes up on next week's podcast (sneak peek!) but it's a good tip for guys and gals who struggle with hymns. The fact is that HYMN WORK. Many of us have learned that throwing an old hymn in the set automatically connects with people. It's almost a given that a hymn will get people singing. There's a tendency, though, to pull back from that because it feels like manipulation. And it is - just grabbing a hymn so people will like what you're doing is a form of manipulating the crowd. But there's the beautiful thing...eventually those hymns will get you. Some of you know this; you used to do hymns solely to appease the old people and now you realized you've come to love these songs. You find comfort in them now. They're valuable to you personally all this time later. I don't want you to manipulate your people, but I do want you to try hymns even if your motivation may not be 100% on the up-and-up.

CONSIDER THE SOURCE

The internet is a big help when it comes to this. We know that "hymn stories" can help our people to appreciate the timelessness of these songs. But it also can be a big help to you as a worship leader. Remember that these songs were written by people who A) lived in difficult times and knew their need for God in a tangible way and B) cared deeply about the local church. These old men and women were serving the body of Christ plain and simple. Nobody was making these hymn writers rich or famous. They weren't perfect people, but many of them cared just about church as much as (if not more than) you do.

What about you out there?
Do you do a lot of hymns?
How do you feel about the rewriting of familiar hymns? Good idea? Bad idea?

GRATEFUL, PART 1

We're in the month that's centered on being thankful, so I figured it might do me good to dedicate a few posts to recognizing God's blessing in my life as a worship leader. I encourage to jump in the comments and share something you're thankful for!

WRITING SONGS

The majority of the songs I write either aren't very good OR they're not a great fit for my church. That's why I write a lot of them - because it takes awhile to find one that works with what we do on Sundays. But even though just a few make the cut each year, writing songs - specifically worship songs - is one of my greatest joys.

Maybe it's because they're an encouragement to my own heart or maybe it's because I get a rush from searching for that perfect song for corporate worship. I'm not sure why, I just know that I feel abundantly blessed to write songs for church.

In fact, if you want to see me down and discouraged, come hang out when I don't have any songs in the works. IT'S BRUTAL! I don't deserve all the good God has done and songwriting is just one more thing that reminds of His kindness.

SO, WHAT ARE YOU THANKFUL FOR?

DAY-OFF THOUGHTS

Friday is my day off.

I've never understood folks (church workers especially) who pass up days off. It could just be that I'm lazy, but I think I'm better off for taking a day to rest. 

Of course, there are weeks where there more work than week, but today was pretty much wide open so I decided to make the most of it. There's always that temptation in the morning when the kids are finally at school and you think, "hey, I could take a morning nap right now if I wanted." I'm not above a morning nap, mind you, but I decided to try and make the most of my Friday.

So here's what I've done today...

WORKOUT

If you listen to the worship podcast, you know I've been doing DDPYoga for about a month. I'm surprised by how good it's going. I've lost some weight and feel kinda' great. I'm trying to workout every day, but having Friday off makes it super easy to find time. I'm not doing splits yet, but maybe someday!

CHARTED A CHRISTMAS SONG

Okay, okay. Yes, this is work. But I couldn't help it! I'm too excited about Christmas and I've been dying to play a new Christmas song. So, this morning, I grabbed the old guitar and banged out a chart for Chris Tomlin's "He Shall Reign Forevermore" that we'll be doing in December. (Sundays and probably Christmas Eve.)

RETURNED PHONE CALLS

This may seem like work, but considering the three big calls I had to make were MOM, GRANDPA & FRIEND, this was more along the lines of I've-been-too-busy-and-my-people-are-going-to-think-I'm-the-worst if I don't call them back!

SONGWRITING

I'm co-writing a song with one of the members of the Bethel Band and we're stuck on a second verse so I did (what I call) a verse-blast. This is a technique where I just write a whole bunch of verses and see what happens. Usually, I end up combining two of those verses into a mixed idea. However, after three verses, I got so into writing that I wrote a chorus for a hymn I've had for months, then a verse for blues gospel thing I'm writing and then remembered an old co-write from a long time ago and finished a verse 1 on it. Progress!

FOLDED CLOTHES

It's a real party over here, gang.