Tag Archives: worship leader

New Year, New Songs

Another year has arrived.  Resolutions and planning abound.  As we make plans and resolutions for the new year, it can be easy to forget our role in ministry as we resolve, plan, and dream.  This week, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I want to do better this year as a music minister.
There are goals that address needed improvements in the technological issues of the worship service.  Many of these have already begun to be implemented….and I’ll keep you updated on those in a future post.  I also want to improve the offerings for involvement in the music ministry by a larger segment of the congregation.  As a result, I plan to present an Easter cantata this year after several years of hiatus.
The goal that will prove to be most challenging for me is including more “new” music in the worship service.  Just the idea of adding “new” music is riddled with challenges.  How does one find the best new music in the enormous praise and worship market?  While there is something to be said for finding out what other churches are singing, it is important to remember that each congregation has a unique DNA.  Just because a song is a stirring anthem for one worship setting does not mean it will fit another church’s needs.  There is no easy way to plow through the music to find the one that will speak to the local body of believers while successfully blending with the current musical landscape of the group.
Once you finally find the song, then comes the process of either finding the scores (which can be more difficult that you might imagine) or creating an original chord chart.  That leads us to teaching the choir and/or praise team the song before introducing it to the congregation.  It’s a never-ending process…..daunting, yes;  but also rewarding and what we are called to do as ministers of music.
My senior pastor is planning on preaching sermon series throughout the year that will last roughly 4-5 weeks.  What an opportunity to assist his ministry by including a new song that is relevant to each series!  That is my goal for the year 2012.  The challenges I face are getting a handle on his plans far enough in advance to research songs, get music, and teach it to everyone involved.  The rewards……are beyond anything I can imagine.  This is where hearing the voice of God as I seek His will in all aspects of the ministry will be crucial.  Pray for me as I begin this journey.
What’s the last new song you taught your congregation?  I’m always looking for ideas…..


Musicianship Development: Keyboard Skills

As we continue to perform a self-evaluation of our skills as musicians, consider your ability at the keyboard.  Can you play a simple melody to teach a song or vocal part?  Do you have the skills to play a vocal reduction or a standard hymn setting with both hands?  If necessary, could you provide adequate accompaniment for a service?

Each question reveals varying levels of piano proficiency.  It is essential that all worship leaders be able to at least play a simple melody on the keyboard.  It is not unreasonable to expect that they can play a four-part hymn or a basic vocal reduction that you would find in the majority of the choral anthems of the church.

The ability to play for a service may not be necessary in all situations.  If you are guitarist, you can probably get through an acoustic set and not inhibit the service at all.  Accapella music can be beautiful, but it is not always an option for a congregation that does not practice this type of singing on a regular basis.  If you are a vocalist leading worship, I feel as though you should be able to provide a simple chordal accompaniment at least.  I’m not suggesting that you must be able to play a beautiful solo on the instrument.  I am simply suggesting that when you receive the inevitable phone call on Sunday morning that your pianist is ill that you have a basic skill set to get through the morning if a replacement is not available on such short notice.

How do I develop these skills?  All of you reading have already realized that piano lessons are one avenue to accomplish this goal.  As a pianist, I am a huge proponent of this approach, but I also realize that it is a tremendous commitment and may not be the best option for your circumstance.  There is another method to consider.  Rather than enrolling in traditional lessons, seek out someone who can teach you to play “by ear.”  A thorough knowledge of chord progressions and the various ways you can play chords can give you a head start on getting yourself through a service, especially if you want to hear more than the notes that are printed in the hymnal.  Many students find that instruction in “playing by ear” allows them to progress more quickly and begin playing pleasing arrangements right away.  The best situation, in my opinion, is to have a teacher that can provide instruction in both methods — chords and reading — and learn to marry the two over time.

I hate to tell you, but there is no quick fix to this developmental issue.  It takes time, commitment, and practice to develop skills at the keyboard.  Rather than focusing on the negative aspect, see the potential that this practice time can have;  you will see connections right away between what you are learning and your primary instrument.  Hopefully you will find that the study of the piano is also promoting growth in this other area.  Above all else, ask God to help you as you pursue this new skill so that you might bring Him more glory through your music.