Category Archives: How To

A few thoughts on worship leading and money (or, why you should take FPU)

Photo Credits: Consumerist Dot Com cut the card  by ben popken, Creative Commons License

Photo Credits: Consumerist Dot Com
cut the card
by ben popken, Creative Commons License

NOTE: If you would like to learn more about FPU (Financial Peace University), click the link. If you would like to contact me about one-one-one financial coaching, please contact me directly.
So, this is my first post after a long, unplanned hiatus with a lot of personal stuff involved, some of which I may share some day.

What prompted this post was going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Coach Master Series a couple of weeks ago. It’s something I’d planned on doing, but hadn’t been able to do til recently, when a friend from church made it possible for me to come along with him and his wife while they did the same training.

The fact is, I am not a natural saver, nor have I always been a consistent give. That’s always been a point of regret and sometimes shame for me. Although I’m naturally pretty good with numbers, I’m more of a feeler than a thinker at times, so the topic always felt like a chore to me or like something to avoid thinking about.

My strength as a worship leader has always been in being able to connect with God on an emotional level, which is part of why music was a natural outlet. It’s where we first got to know each other, if I can put it that way. This is why Dave Ramsey was such a God-send. He focuses primarily on behavior and connecting to what’s going on inside you to cause you misbehave with money. He can be blunt and gracious all at the same time. He might be the first person who ever called my behavior stupid where I felt like that was a loving thing to say (not directly, through his radio show, books, DVD classes, etc. I did finally get to meet him in person after the coach training). This is because he’s so open about his own failures in this area.

I bring all this up because I believe God is interested in setting us free, and money is one of the biggest ways people get bound up. I know this from experience. When I first heard of Dave, I knew Anna and I were avoiding our debt problems. I had already paid off about $26,000 through credit counseling a couple of years earlier, and I thought we had about $35,000 or so. When we started his plan, we added up all our debts, and it turns out I was about half wrong – it was just under $70,000. It was a little sickening to look at that number. We got pretty fired up though. We finally got a budget that worked – one that we lived by, not one where we just tracked what we were doing after the fact. We had goals – debt we wanted to be free of, a job I wanted to quit, children we wanted to adopt. It reminds me of a quote I first heard from John Eldredge in “Wild at Heart“, though he was quoting Howard Thurman:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The fact is, I never felt that as deep as I did when we started getting  our money under control. It wasn’t just that we payed our debt down ($40,000 gone in the first 2 years, and as of this writing $8,500 left to go), we were able to give to our church consistently for the first time in our lives. God also sent us our son, adopted through the Foster Care system. He also started healing me and freeing me from addictions I’d struggled with for years. He’s also freed me to pursue passions he put in my heart before I was born. Life feels more like and adventure than a chore now.

I’ve heard Dave Ramsey say that God uses money as a way to get to talk to us about other, deeper things going on in our hearts. I know how that feels deep in my heart now.

Thanks, Dave, for teaching me something deeper about worship than I’d learned in 8 years as a worship leader.


Sticking with the calling

Sticking with your calling

Sticking with your calling

This week’s post is inspired by more Vineyard worship leader conversations.

The following question was posted today:

“Wondering if you all see a trend in “up and coming” worship leaders the notion that they will end up being paid full-time in a worship leader position. I see some cases where younger musicians set this as a goal (and become frustrated when it doesn’t pan out) and wonder if this is a misguided agenda that has been set by YouTube and the culture of big production churches. Any opinions?”

Along with my comments, serious and otherwise, I did want to share a few thoughts about sticking with the calling, even if it doesn’t end up how you thought it would.

Don’t forget why you started

I’ve loved music my whole life, even for the period of time I didn’t play any instruments – I’ve always been a voracious consumer of new music. I’ve also been in love with worship music since age 11, when I first set foot in Vineyard Christian Fellowship St. Louis. This is what got me the road to leading worship years later, and it’s why, even if I never can make a living from it I will continue to do it. It’s in my blood.

Remember there’s more than one way to make a living in your calling

I have to give credit to Dan Miller (affiliate link) for helping me understand this. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to live this out in practice, but to be transparent, this site is part of that effort, and I’m looking for others methods too. Get really really good as a musician or a songwriter or learn how to share your wisdom and experience in a way that helps others.

Be thankful for what you have

This is a reminder for me as much as anyone. I have a church I love that also loves me back. I have the perfect place to test new songs and to learn how to lead others well. I also have a job that pays the bills right now, and if God wants me there for many years, I will still be thankful.

Keep being brave

This has been a pretty big year for me in terms of owning my role on the worship team. It really started with a trip to the Vineyard Worship Leader’s Retreat Northwest this past February. I honestly contemplated quitting the team. I think I had convinced myself that I wasn’t really going to see any of my dreams for better musicianship, songwriting, etc. fulfilled on that team and thought maybe I would be sticking around for the wrong reasons if I did. Then Andy Park, who was part of my small prayer break-out group gave a public word of knowledge about someone who was thinking of quitting  worship leading. I had said something only to my wife that afternoon, so I was floored when I heard it. Even better, he told me he thought maybe the word was for me when he gave it. This past weekend was yet another step in that process, as our church just hosted a conference for worship leaders. We all got to spend some time with Mike O’Brien from the Vineyard in Marietta, Georgia, and I got to feel again where things could go and it’s been helping me dream even more since.  I can only hope and dream for even more.

I’m sure there’s much more to say on the topic, but I suppose that’s a good start. I hope if you’re getting started in your worship leading  journey, or you’re wondering whether to continue, you’ll take some of these words to heart and at least think and pray about them. Also, please feel free to add more that I missed!

5 Disciplines of a Good Worship Leader



First, a word of apology for getting this post out late. I spent most of yesterday prepping for and playing as part of a worship night, featuring original songs. Feel free to take a listen. Lyrics and chord charts are available if you hear anything you like.

I’m realizing the older I get that discipline is something that’s easier to start when you’re young (hence the picture). This is true as a worship leader as well. However, I think the most important disciplines are the ones that happen while you’re off stage, and apply whether or not you lead a worship team, though it’s better to have things formed as habits before you have to lead others. I don’t believe you have to be perfect to lead others, but I do believe Jesus was very serious when he said we need to be more righteous than the Pharisees. I believe that starts with simply being honest about our own spiritual poverty, so please know that these disciplines are not things I think I’m very good at. So without further delay:

1. Learn how to handle money in a mature way

This may seem like a strange one to start with, but I’ve been a musician long enough and have been around enough of them to know that the stereotype of the musician who’s bad with money isn’t entirely unfair. I think part of being a good musician is having great sensitivity. I find this usually means I’m good at feeling things and I value my ability to experience pleasure and pain in intense ways very highly. Often this means that I give those feelings so much space in my life that satisfying my emotional needs becomes all important, kind of like an idol. I believe it’s important to worship with your money, and learning to give, save and spend your money in a way that Jesus would want you to is how this is lived out. About five years ago, I ran across Dave Ramsey, and life hasn’t been the same since. At that time, we were pretty deeply in debt (about $68,000, not including mortgage) and were constantly overspending, and not giving regularly at all. If you’re in a  similar spot, his book, The Total Money Makeover (affiliate link) is a great place to start, or for a more thorough treatment, and a built-in support group, find a Financial Peace University class. For the record, we still have about $17,000 left in debt. I would’ve hoped to be done by now, especially since we paid off the first $50,000 or so in the first 2 years, but we’ve had other circumstances to deal with and haven’t gotten the rest done yet. On the other hand, we do give regularly, and we’re doing a better job setting our financial priorities in order.

2. Learn to love other people

This is something I’m still not very good at, but I do aspire to be better. I’ve always known deep down that people are way more important than almost anything else in life. In fact, Jesus did say they’re #2 on the list of important commandments. This means people are more important than me sounding good on Sunday. This means I need to go out of my way to encourage band members and sound men. This does not mean that I’m patronizing or dishonest with them. Love includes confrontation, especially when you’re a leader, but it always means that you come from a place of valuing their needs first. As I heard John Maxwell put it, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

3. Learn to love yourself

This is, in fact, a precursor to #2, otherwise, Jesus couldn’t command us to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Same rules apply. Be lovingly honest with yourself and go out of your way to make sure you’re addressing what you really need. When in doubt, ask Jesus and ask others who you know love you. In fact, it’s good to ask yourself regularly what you think Jesus really thinks of you. If you don’t think it resembles the father in the story of the prodigal son, and if it doesn’t involve a certain level of passionate expression on Jesus’ part, than it’s inaccurate. Again, this is an area that’s pretty new to me. I tend to confuse conviction with shame, so I hide my faults from myself and others (as if that ever really worked). As a subcategory, I would list regular confession time with someone you trust as extremely important. It will help keep you from indulging in guilt and shame and self-hatred.

4. Be biblically literate

This is one I think my parents really helped with. The Christmas right before my 12th birthday my parents bought me a one year bible and expected me to read it, which I did. They also did a good job of drawing me into the process, not force feeding the Bible to me, so I learned to love it very early on. I have to admit that my adult life has not been as characterized by as regular a reading of the Bible as when I was younger, but I still do retain most of what I read in my youth. As a subcategory, I think it also helps to learn to be a thorough reader. By that I do not mean to dissect and over-analyze everything you read, to the point that you miss what’s actually being said, but pay attention to what you’re reading and learn to listen. I think I would put that ahead of learning Greek or Hebrew, though I think that’s a good idea too (full disclosure: I do not have any direct knowledge of Greek or Hebrew). Even there, though, don’t get so wrapped up in each individual word that you miss the message as a whole. If you find you have trouble doing this well, I highly recommend the Tolkien Professor podcast, particularly his first episode: How to Read Tolkien and Why.

5. Make regular time to be quiet with Jesus.

I think this is probably the most important one on the list, and the one I do the worst at, and feel the most deeply. I’ve read Dallas Willard’s Spirit of the Disciplines several times, and greatly value what he has to say about the discipline of solitude. I have had times in my life where I’ve done much worse at this though. In fact, I remember taking a vacation in 2005 with my wife. We went to Edisto Island, South Carolina, and within a day of arriving on that quiet piece of ground, I was in tears. I didn’t know what to do with myself without constant media stimulation or pressure from my job. I would break down in tears and panic because of the flood of every issue I’d been avoiding coming at me all at once. At least now I know when I really need some peace and quiet and know that I absolutely need to sit down and just be with my Abba. There’s nothing like it.

I know this isn’t an exhaustive list and I know these may not all be the best, but I hope they help.

What do you think? What else should be on this list?

How to recruit good team members: 5 tips

Finding good team members

How to find good people to add to your worship team

If you’ve spent any time leading worship in a church, paid or otherwise, you’ve probably spent some time thinking about how to add musicians to your team. Maybe you’ve even thought about how to recruit other worship leaders to help ease the load and grow the team with. In that light, I thought I would offer a 5 tips based on my experience.
Although this is not my exclusive source of information, this mostly mirrors the guidelines we’ve come to use at Vineyard Community Church. I can’t take much credit for putting these in place, but I’ve had the opportunity to see them work in action and I fully stand behind them.

1. Value Character over Gifting

I first heard this from my pastor, David Stark. He’s a fan of acronyms, so I’ve heard COG over the years. This comes first. I don’t think it’s any secret that fame can bring the worst out of people, no matter how pitiful the level of fame involved. Sometimes just giving someone the opportunity to play an instrument or sing publicly can bring out the worst in them. It’s not that I don’t have grace or understand the insecurities unique to musicians – I’ve lived out most of them, probably – but sometimes, the stage can cause someone’s good heart to be obscured by their own need for recognition. In other words, I don’t care how good a musician someone is, or even if they can lead a great time of worship week in and week out. If they’re mainly out for their own glory, or in general, have an ego that can’t be reined in, they probably don’t belong on your worship team. I will take someone with very undeveloped talent, but a truly humble and teachable attitude any day. In fact, that’s the type of person who really is a good candidate for leading a worship team someday.


2. Look for people who are plugged in to your church – i.e., are they known by you?

I think there are exceptions  to this rule sometimes, and it may be much more difficult if you’re dealing with a very small church or a new church plant, but in general, I think it’s safest to find musicians among the people already connected to and committed to your church body. This will help you achieve the goal under heading #1, because it’s much harder to hide your issues when you’re well known by people in your church. The way we do this in our church as of now is by requiring that anyone interested in being part of our worship team has to have been a part of our body for at least 6 months, and they either have to be an active part of a small group or otherwise personally known by someone in leadership. Of course, this assumes your church cultivates a culture of honesty and openness. If it doesn’t, you have bigger problems and may want to pray about moving on. If you’re so small as a body that you can’t grow the team at all without bringing in new folks, I would be praying a lot for Jesus to send you the right people. Don’t get desperate and put someone brand new to the church on the team unless you really think God told you too. As the saying goes, it’s easier to lay hands on someone than to lay them off. Or something like that 🙂


3. Look for people who buy into your vision as a worship leader

It helps at this point to have actually spent some time considering what’s really important to you when you lead worship. For instance, I believe very deeply in the value of creating space for intimacy and I believe without a doubt that the Holy Spirit is actually interested in meeting with the church. In light of that, I tend to lean toward songs with a personal tone – songs that could double as a prayer, and probably tend to be quieter over all, rather than being upbeat and celebrative. This is not to exclude people with a different point of view – I also believe we need to cultivate different perspectives and make room for stylistic differences within a team, but the core vision should be common to the team.


4. Look at your current musical needs

In other words, don’t load up on guitar players if you’ve already got more than enough. I would, however, be actively asking interested parties if they’re willing to fill others spots, at least for a while. We did this recently with one of our bass players. He had been on the team for about a year or so, but we ended up losing two drummers. He was willing to give drumming a try, and even though it’s a stretch for him, he’s been able to fill a very important role for us. This also helps increase my confidence that he’s on the team for the right reasons. If there’s a person of character and gifting you would like on your team, but you just don’t have a place for now, see if you can find another place for them. Our church has small groups that meet during the week – many of which like to include a couple of worship songs as part of the time. See #2 above. I wouldn’t ask a team member to continue on an instrument they have no interest in, however – at  least not for very long. That will only end up frustrating everyone.


5. Look for people who can grow as musicians (at least to a certain point)

This is a tricky one, and all depends on the type of team you’re going for and the many variables involved in leading a volunteer team. The fact is, most people will end up simply not having the time to grow beyond a certain level of mastery. I would include myself in this category. The fact is, I have more responsibilities and demands on my time than I have time or energy to become the musician I think I could be. This is a conscious choice for now. I don’t expect it to always be the case, but I think this has actually helped adjust my attitude with other team members and has helped me have grace and value them much more than I would if I was simply looking to play with the best musicians around. On the other hand, it’s also a fact that sometimes, some team members may not actually be capable of growth beyond a certain point because, as bad as they may want it, the talent just doesn’t seem to be there. In reality, at a certain point, you will probably end up raising the minimum skill requirements as you grow as a team, so it helps to have musicians who can grow with you.

I hope you’ve found these helpful, but I’d love to hear how you do it too. What have you found it helpful to look for when building your own team? Anything I missed?


Sorrow for all Seasons

Sorrow for all Seasons (Some rights reserved by fallingwater123)

“How blessed are those who mourn, because it is they who will be comforted! (Matthew 5:4, ISV)


“For having sorrow in a godly way results in repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets. But the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10, ISV)

Last week I got a lesson from my 5-year-old son Levi on what it means to “have sorrow in a godly way”. My wife was out of town for a day, so he and I went to see a movie together. I think we were both tired from a long week. After the movie was over, we stopped at a grocery store, and Levi started acting up – grabbing things on shelves, running down aisles, generally acting crazy.
I have to admit I was completely annoyed and for the sake of getting him out of the store quickly without further disruption, I grabbed his hand and wouldn’t let go. He got very angry, lost his temper, and by the time we got to the car he had thrown a loud fit, and said some very hurtful things. This is where his gift for articulation can get him into trouble sometimes.

By that point, I was in control of myself enough that I didn’t yell back at him and once he got in the car, I told him that I loved him and that the words he used and things he said to me were very hurtful.

What followed might be the best, most thorough, full-bodied weeping I think I’ve ever heard, along with a full apology, at least as articulate as the previous insults.

It helped me remember what true sorrow and repentance looks like. Levi’s little heart was broken over how he had acted and what he had said.

That same week, my wife and I had a hard discussion about some things that I had done that were really hurtful to her – things I hadn’t been honest with her about and that I’m ashamed to admit brought out the cowardly part of me. As sorry as I was, I still wish I could have been as free as Levi in my demonstration of sorrow. And this is where I realize how much of a gift it is to be truly sorry, and how childlike you have to be.

This has caused me to reflect further on what it truly means to be “Abba’s Child” – to be loved exactly as I am, especially with all my shortcomings.

I realize in writing this post that I run the risk of embarrassing Levi as he gets older and reads what I’ve written here. I hope he knows, though, that I write not out of shame for how he acted, but out of pride for the love and softness I see in his heart. It’s the part of him I hope he always retains and always comes back to over the years, when he finds himself doing far worse things and not sure how his Daddy feels about him (both myself and God).

I’m also really feeling now how much God really does love me. I have to keep coming back to this because it’s a battle against both the old part of me and the enemy. But I feel like somewhere recently I crossed a line, and I’m realizing in a deeper way how much I’m really loved.

So, here’s to more sorrow and true repentance. We could all use it.

Food and Fasting

I Love Food

Pardon me again for taking so long between posts. Every so often, life get busy and I get behind and need to catch up.
Today’s post is kind of a stream of consciousness based on where I think God’s been speaking to me.

I think Jesus has really been speaking to me about things that need to change in my life – places that need a touch of holiness, if you will. The one that’s been a surprise to me lately is my attitude toward food.

I’ve struggled with my weight most of my life, and the struggle has only gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. This is probably a big “duh” to anyone knows me, but I love food too much. Although my body shows clear evidence the other way, I’ve tended to convince myself that I’m not really eating that much and that even if I am overeating a bit, it’s not that big a deal.

Here’s where it comes back to worship for me. I’ve read and heard plenty on the topic of fasting from a spiritual discipline perspective and I have yet to hear anyone talk about how fasting should affect your eating habits. Richard Foster comes the closest in “Celebration of Discipline”. I’ve heard many suggestions that the point is for you to pray instead of eating. I think this kind of misses the point, and this is a case where I think maybe some people I’ve read in the health & exercise genre have it a little more right. I’ve read a few books that speak of the physical benefits of fasting on a regular basis. I read practically none that made a clear, intertwined link between the two until I ran across “The No Breakfast Plan and the Fasting-Cure“, written in 1900 by Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey.
I think this is just a reflection of how tightly linked Christianity was with American culture, but Dr. Dewey seemed to take seriously the link gluttony and American eating habits and the usefulness of fasting in breaking that addiction. He also happened to think fasting would effectively cure alcoholism. I suppose it’s possible he was just plain wrong on both counts, but the anecdotes of patients seem to bear witness to his ideas. I feel like this shouldn’t be strange given the way Paul would talk about his body in the Bible. He wrote about treating his body roughly to be made worthy. Sometimes I wonder what thing Paul would focus on if he wrote an Epistle to The Americans. I don’t think he could help saying something about our tendency to overfeed.

Back on topic though, I’m really seeing a link now between my overeating and other ways I actively avoid being alone with God. I’ve fasted before for about a day at a time, but this past week, after finishing Dr. Dewey’s book and taking sometime to really reflect on it with Jesus, I decided I may give a more extended fast a try. In the meantime though, I’ve cut way back on my eating, per his recommendation and have not been eating til around dinnertime. I’ve been surprised how much different life looks – how much new beauty I’ve noticed when my stomach isn’t constantly digesting something. It hasn’t all been easy or euphoric, though honestly it’s been really good at times. There are times I just feel kind of strange, but at the same time, I’ve felt more at ease too – less like a slave, I suppose; more content.

I guess I’m rambling now, but I think the point is, worship is a way of life and it should affect your whole life. I think this is one area Jesus is pressing into to heal and make me more like him so I can live his life through mine.

Feedback is welcome. If you think I’m off my rocker, you’re free to say so. What about you? Is there something you think Jesus my be pressing into with you that you might not consider overtly “sin?”


Bad Day by Ashlyn Henry, Creative Commons License

Bad Day by Ashlyn Henry, Creative Commons License

First, I want to give a quick apology for the lateness of this post. I was out of town for a wedding over the Memorial Day weekend, and I’ve been catching up.

Second, I would like to introduce you to a friend a fellow worship leader, Nathan Perkins. Nathan is the head worship leader at Hope Vineyard Church in St. Louis, which happens to be the church I spent my formative years in. He also happens to have grown up there.

So without further ado….

In 1981, the duo of Simon and Garfunkel returned to play a concert in Central Park. The purpose of this concert was to raise money as a benefit to rehabilitate Central Park; the 70’s and 80’s were a very violent and tumultuous period for New York City and the famous park had fallen into a state of extreme disrepair and was often a venue for drug deals and other criminal activity to take place. New York City wanted its park back.

Their collaboration and weeks of strenuous work efforts produced this concert:

At the time, the concert only raised about $51,000 for Central Park (Hundreds of thousands was the goal) and both Simon and Garfunkel felt that the concert was generally a musical failure despite their best intentions.

Do you ever feel like this after a worship set? I know that I do. Often, following a time of worship, I am usually my own worst enemy and critique every chord or note that I have played. In my most frustrating times as a Worship Leader, I’ve shed a few tears or thrown an item or two across the room.

Going back to Simon and Garfunkel… It turns out that their concert that they immediately deemed a failure ended up becoming one of the works that they are most famous for. It topped charts in multiple countries and Rolling Stone called it the best performance that year for any artist.

That’s what I take away from this life lesson. As musicians, we often deem our works and creations an immediate failure, but that’s not how the Kingdom of God works. In God’s Kingdom, nothing is an immediate failure. I can think of many times off-hand that I have played what felt like the worst set ever, turn around, a hear multiple compliments from congregation members. The trick? Don’t be so quick to judge your works and feel discouraged: see what the Holy Spirit does…. sometimes just being available is all that is necessary.

Getting what I always wanted

GiftboxWhen I was a young worship leader and a very new musician, I think I had this picture in my head of my ideal band. I knew from the first time I was given a bass and was able to play it competently that I was gifted. The truth is, I also probably had an unreasonably high opinion of my own abilities.

On the other hand, I also genuinely loved to worship. For me, there was an ideal of awesome, intimate worship with close friends with whom I could grow musically.

The reality hasn’t really turned out that way. My dreams, at this point, haven’t really come true.

Or maybe they have.

I remember C.S. Lewis, in one of his writings – maybe more than one – saying that God giving us the desires of our heart doesn’t mean that we get what we want on the surface, but we do get what we really wanted all along, in the deepest, truest part of our hearts.

That’s what I’ve found in leading worship. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve gotten to play with some very gifted people over the years and I’ve had plenty of fun, but there has also been plenty of adjustment, either in not being able to play with musicians as skilled as I’d like, or, more often, with musicians as good as or better than me who don’t necessarily share my musical tastes or vision. The gift, for me, has started to come to fruition mainly by learning to share the platform. A few months back I started really taking some risks in letting other team members lead songs. It turns out our team members have a lot more to share than I might have given them credit for in the past, and even the ones who have some growing to do have risen to the occasion and doing an outstanding job.

I don’t want to oversell the point though. I still have a long way to go. I can still be a pain to work with as a leader. I can still be arrogant and demanding and all about “my vision” as a worship leader, but I’ve at least gotten started I think.

The moral of the story is, I really wanted to be a good worship leader more than I wanted to be an awesome musician, and in the end, I think I’m actually a better musician for it too.

My question for you is, do you feel the same? Do you feel like God has adjusted your dreams? Or maybe he’s just been asking you to give up what you think you want for what you really want?


Leaving Room

This post also appeared here as part of the Worship Wednesday series at


Praying senior in mountains

I’ve led worship teams at a Vineyard church for about 15 years now, and this past February was the first time I ever attended a Vineyard Worship Leader’s Retreat. This one was held in Cannon Beach, Oregon, not too far from where “The Goonies” was filmed. It was beautiful – right on the ocean, and raining almost constantly.

It was an interesting experience and I’m not sure these events ever turn out how you’d expect. Honestly, I was kind of surprised at what came out of me. Some of it was insecurity, a lot of it was spiritual attack. On the positive side, though, I was able to find something I had been missing for a while: space.

What I mean by “space” in this context is simply slowing things down and simplifying, not feeling the need to constantly sing or talk, choosing some songs with fewer words that get to the heart of the matter. I believe worship is primarily about your relationship with God in the same way prayer is. It’s a conversation. Choosing songs with some space leaves room for God to speak as well. It can be tough and uncomfortable at times, but worth the effort.

When I was in Cannon Beach, in the middle of our first worship time, I remembered what first made me fall in love with worship all those years ago.

This is the song that did it for me at the conference. Take a listen:

Face to Face (Live) [feat. Hannah Daugherty]”Face to Face” (written by Adam Russell, sung by Hannah Daugherty)
“Face to Face” (written by Adam Russell, sung by Hannah Daugherty)

And it’s the simple first verse that gets me every time:

All I want is to be with you

This is the type of song that made me first love worship, first really connect to Jesus through music. Very early on, songs like “Isn’t He” by John Wimber did the trick. In fact, it’s the simplicity of the expression of love to Jesus that Vineyard Music was first known for.

The secret is in the repetition of a simple line that brings you back to what’s most important. Also notice how much space there is for God to speak to you. I believe he wants to.

So, how is it for you lately? Is there enough space in your worship time? What other songs are out there that help facilitate that quiet space? If so, what do you hear God saying to you?

Picking a good set

StageWithGuitarPicking a set is one of those things I love and hate as a leader. Sometimes I have a song in mind I’ve been waiting to do, sometimes nothing sounds right, but it’s often somewhere in between.
Usually it starts with having a good song filter, and that comes down to these questions:

  1. What do I want the set to feel like as a whole? Does it seem like an upbeat week? A quiet, reflective week? A week to pour our my heart, good bad and ugly? Does the song I’m looking at fit that feel?
  2. Is there continuity between this song and the rest of this set with regard to flow of the service or meeting? Can it be played in a key that fits and makes for smooth transitions?
  3. Is a song I’m choosing a good song? Meaning, does it stick in my head? Is the melody actually good and desirable in some way? This does not mean happy or sunny necessarily, just its ability to be considered a “good” song. I realize this may seem arbitrary and completely subjective, but it’s not – at least not completely. In other words, does the melody speak to me and connect with my heart?
  4. Can I and the band play it? Not everyone on the team is at the same skill level, and I myself am not as skilled as others might be. If every song involves bar chords sliding up and down the fret board, my hand will probably cramp before one song is over.
  5. Are the lyrics actually theologically sound, to the best of my knowledge? This one can be tricky, I think, but again, ask yourself, do the words really reflect God’s heart as you best understand Him?
  6. Are the lyrics personal? In other words, are they about my relationship with God and promoting that? I’ve heard plenty of complaint over the years about “girly” worship songs, and I tend to think that complaint is way over-blown. If you want to know how personal and intimate and “girly” God can be, try reading the book of Hosea a few times through.

Whether you start with individual songs or with the set as a whole, you need to give some thought to the set as well. It helps me to think through these questions too:

  1. Assuming this is a Sunday morning, if I know something about the theme of the sermon, I try to keep that in mind, at least a little bit. Honestly though, I usually don’t know, and knowing doesn’t always help anyway.
  2. If I’m talking to God about the set, what do I think he’s saying about the feel of it? Usually, this gets me matched up to the set in a way I obviously didn’t plan. I like this way better and I think it’s the better way anyway. The most I can take credit for is listening to and following Him the best I know how, which is kind of the point, right?
  3. If I need to adjust anything when we get there, do I have a backup plan? This usually involves cutting a song or sometimes rearranging the set.
  4. Are the songs arranged in a way that fits the flow of service? For instance, at my church on a Sunday, it’s usually like this: 1 song opens up, usually mostly upbeat, then announcements, then sermon, then we get called back up to play, but we have prayer ministry time up front, so the next 1-2 songs are softer and more reflective to allow good prayer time. Then we have 2-3 more songs, and usually gradually move toward more upbeat and celebratory to close the morning, though not always.

Those are really the most important things I can think of when it comes to picking a set.

What do you think? Did I miss anything? How do you pick your own sets?