New episode of the podcast drops today. In the show, we share some of the "What's In My Mix" submissions and then jump to a live recording from a talk I did at Anthony's church. The topic was about investing in our talents so that we can more effectively honor God with our service. The audio is featured on the podcast, but because Anthony is a skilled vlogger, he pieced together footage for the talk and uploaded to his YouTube channel. So, naturally, we decided to post it. Enjoy!
There was a time when we didn’t have “Christian music.” We had Gospel music - traditional church music, so to speak. We had sacred music, still protected and esteemed among the stain glass sanctuaries of the world. But Christian music - or contemporary Christian music, better yet - had a real live beginning.
You can find lots of opinions on who the first CCM musicians were, and who knows which one is actually right, but there is at least some consensus that Jesus Music came from the Jesus Movement.
The radical, life-changing conversions among young people in the 1970’s gave birth to modern songs of testimony and gratitude. It was a mix of styles and personalities and musical approaches, but it was huge. It changed things.
It’s with those early hippies-turned-Christians that you’ll find the seeds of modern worship music. New choruses and expressions started popping up in churches and home groups and campgrounds and eventually, spread like wildfire. From these humble beginnings came Maranatha and Vineyard and Integrity’s Hosanna Music. These loosely thrown together organizations began collecting, organizing and sharing these songs to other churches. Songs started in little local churches started to become nationwide hits among believers It was a welcome change for some and a scary prospect for others. It even started something called the “worship wars.”
It’s seems way different now.
Now, it seems like so many songs come from the other direction; an publishing entity has some of its employees write and produce a worship song with highly skilled musicians and then distributes that song to the churches. Feels like most of the big hit songs we sing come from a writer’s room and not local churches.
There are churches writing songs, of course - most of them are big, with the same sort of equipment and process as the publishing entities themselves.
We need well-crafted, well produced songs that show up on our doorstep and we need big churches that are doing big things in the worlds they inhabit. And good thing, because we’ve got a whole lot of that already. But I think there’s another revolution coming.
I think in the next 20 years, we’re going to see worship leaders writing little songs with hardly any production value and no discernible demographic target that somehow will end up blessing churches across the world. We’ll never lose the top-down-Christian-music-industry, and we shouldn’t. We need that. We won’t ever lose megachurches either. What I foresee isn’t the destruction of anything, but rather a new, vibrant addition to the already strong output of songs for corporate worship.
I don’t want to miss out on seeing first-hand how God grows us in creativity and ministry. If I’m right, and there’s a revolution coming, I wan’t to be a part of it. I want to write these kinds of songs.
Over the past few weeks, I've heard from quite a few worship leaders looking for fast songs. Man, can I identify - it feels like picking good upbeat songs is almost impossible. I've compiled a list of current "big" songs we're doing at Bethel and some of the things I think about when I'm choosing fast songs. Before sharing the list, here's one tip.
Something that helps is to look for BIG songs as opposed to FAST. Songs can be full and have lots of energy without technically having a high tempo. The hardest part is finding fast songs where the phrasing isn't too fast for a congregation to sing. I often try to find songs where the lyrics are still phrased slowly over big musical accompaniment. They're hard to find, but worth the effort!
Here's our list...and if you've got some new big songs you're doing, don't hesitate to share! Click below!
Being a "fill-in" worship leader is tough.
Whether you're actually traveling to a church far off or even just subbing for the worship leader in your own church, it's sometimes hard to know just exactly how much (or little) you should do when you're in charge.
It's made even harder by the fact that worship leaders sometimes aren't the most relational people on the planet. In my experience, some of the most creative leaders I've ever seen are downright awkward in one-on-one situations.
So, how do you do it? How do you lead well in a way that's also a blessing to the rest of the team?
(I hate the word, "cheese," in this context, but I can't think of a better one.)
Worship leaders will often over-compensate to get past the awkwardness of being a fill-in and this can manifest itself in a hyper-active, "lounge" singer vibe. Cheesing it up like this might be coming up with nicknames for the band on the fly, making fun of somebody that you don't know or assuming a much closer relationship with the team than you actually have. On rare occasions, the cheesy worship leader is actually just that gung-ho and joyous, but either dial it back a notch. Musicians and technicians who don't know you will very often pull back from your forwardness and exhilaration. You want the team to perform at their absolute best and they may not be able to do that if they're distracted by how weird you seem.
ASK, DON'T ACCUSE
Worship leaders who are a insecure will commonly reverse this. He or she will often justify the changes before asking for the changes. The worship leader might think that bass line is too busy. That leader could most likely turn to the bass player and say, "hey, can bass go a little more simple in this section?" and the bass player would oblige, no problem. But if the worship leader is worried, he or she might talk about the why first, which would sound something like, "gosh, that pre-chorus section...the low end is just killing the groove there," and then give the direction for the bass player. There's a big difference between the two. In the second example, bass the leader has unintentionally leveled an accusation instead of just asking for a change.
BE LIKE CHARLIE
There's an episode of The West Wing where Charlie, the President's assistant, is on the outs with Zoey, his girlfriend (who also happens to be the President's daughter, btw.) Charlie seeks the wisdom of White House reporter, Danny Concannon, who tells Charlie,
"If it was me, just for now, I'd make sure I was the one guy in her life who was totally hassle-free. That's just me."
Believe it or not, that's excellent advice for fill-in worship leaders. I am astounded at how often I ask someone to fill-in and they show up with a bunch of new stuff to try. In over 20 years of worship leading, I can count on one hand the number of times a fill-in worship leader ever ask me what they need to do when they fill-in. If you're filling in, don't show up with new songs or new stage design. Don't reconfigure the whole band setup for your one time thirty minute set. Instead, ask the worship leader what things you need to keep in the service - new songs we're learning, techniques the band needs to focus on, etc. Hassle-free. Be like Charlie.
Volunteering your gifts to bless your worship leader with a day off is an amazing thing to do. Believe me, your worship leader LOVES having folks to call on. Show up confident, humble and without a personal agenda and you'll find that the set ends up being pretty great.
It’s 2017 and there is still plenty of buzz about IEMs (in-ear monitors) and floor monitors (“wedges”) circulating in the worship world.
It may seem as if "everybody" is on in-ears, but actually, there are many churches still looking to make this transition. If your worship ministry is considering jumping into the deep end of the IEM pool, fear not! The time (and cost) has never been better.
Conventional monitor speakers come in a variety of sizes (from huge wedges that sit on the floor to small hotspot monitors that can mount to a mic stand.) If you're old enough to have played on a praise team in the 90s, you are well acquainted with these! Regardless of the type, they possess inherent deficiencies but a few pros as well.
Usually bulky (heavy)
Usually relies on a sound tech to dial in each person’s mix
Produce environments of high stage volume which can damage eardrums and create an unmanageable mix for your front-of-house sound tech.
Everything comes at you out of one speaker (no stereo separation, usually).
Singers/players can share a monitor mix easily
You can hear your congregation better
Ambient sound from other instruments/singers can be heard without putting them in wedge
A feeling of being “in the room” and not isolated like IEMs
In-ear monitoring can be accomplished a variety of ways, so instead of chasing rabbit trails, we’ll look at the good, the bad, and what gear works for me on a weekly basis.
Feeling isolated/not being able to hear the congregation/not feeling present in the room.
Learning curve (w/ new technology)
Investment of money from your ministry budget or team members.
Replacing wireless system batteries.
Feedback issues are greatly minimized.
Many digital boards and monitoring systems allow team members to save presets.
Sound techs can focus on front-of-house while team has control of their own mix.
You can hear yourself and your mix clearly (in stereo!)
Much better for your ears
GEAR I TRUST:
Monitor mixing: The AVIOM A-16ii allows us to save presets for different team members. It features stereo output and a pan control for each channel. The only con is it doesn’t allow each channel to be EQ’d individually. It does offer an overall EQ on the unit. My other recommendation is the P16-M if you’re running a Behringer X32. It’s a no-brainer.
Wireless: I use the Sennheiser EW 100 G3 which consists of a rack-mountable transmitter and a bodypack receiver. In my early years of ministry I tried to use cheap wireless systems and paid the price of dissatisfaction with my mix, constant dropouts, and annoying signal compression. Spend the most money you can on a solid unit if you have to go wireless. If a player doesn’t need to be mobile, hard-wire them into an Aviom or headphone amp. But if you lead or move around, you probably won’t find anything better than the Sennheiser. Pick one up on eBay for around $600.
Earpieces: For your band, I recommend the MEElectronics M6 PRO. For $50, they sound good, come with gobs of accessories for the price, and have a build quality that rivals Shure earbuds that cost twice as much. I’m an audio snob that requires very detailed audio, so I use the 64Audio (formerly 1964Ears) V6-Stage which I just sent off for an upgrade to make them an A6. Yeah, they’re expensive, but I sweat so much that universal-fit headphones always fall out of my ears. That, and the detailed sound, make it absolutely worth every penny. If you get customs, be sure to take good care of them and use a dehumidifier in the case any time you’re not using them.
Anthony Croff is a worship leader at Highland Terrace Baptist Church in Greenville, TX. He's the co-host of the Average Everyday Worship Leader and an avid vlogger. Search YouTube for his new series, "The Croffumentary."