TUNE UP worship band gathering recap

Coaching for Bands 1aOn Saturday, August 10, 2013, the first TUNE UP worship band gathering was held. Over 125 contemporary worship musicians and sound techs assembled on the campus of Faith Lutheran Church in Bellaire, TX (Houston) for a day of learning, growing, and networking. The event was organized by the Worship Excellence Team of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod (ELCA) to provide training in the fundamentals of music and worship.

The group that gathered represented 28 congregations including Lutheran, Nazarene, Episcopal, and Non-Denominational churches. Churches from as far away as Austin, TX and Chalmette, LA brought musicians to attend the event.

The schedule included times of worship, instrumental/vocal tracks, and conceptual tracks. A team of track leaders with main speaker Bishop Mike Rinehart led worship. The instrumental tracks were divided by specific instrument (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, sound tech). Each group gathered together for training and instruction specific to that instrument. Conceptual track offerings included sessions on arranging songs for worship, choosing songs for worship, and principles for worship. Additionally, a “Coaching for Bands” track was offered in which two church bands received feedback and help with their music from a panel of track leaders.

1167394_1402084233343388_1413482869_oOne attendee commented, “It’s nice to attend an event where you get something you can actually use.” Another said, “Thanks for doing this. It helped to refocus me on being a lead worshipper instead of a lead guitarist.”

An overwhelming amount of positive responses suggest that we will likely offer the event again in the future. Watch the event website for details: TuneUpGathering.org.

Song Story – "Be A Blessing"

On Saturday, August 25 the Faith Alive! Band went on a one-day retreat. The Band spent the whole day at the Cenacle Retreat House in Houston. We spent time studying God’s word and listening to each other. We enjoyed a silent lunch (most of us enjoyed it) and explored the trails and hammocks at the Cenacle. We had conversations about what the goal of leading worship is. Those in attendance at the retreat were Alan Balius, Cathy Doughty, Tim Griffith, Kathy Patrick, and Jim Richman.

Songwriting was another activity I proposed for the Band to do while on retreat. Before beginning our attempt at songwriting, I told the Band to not get hung up on the outcome. Many songwriters work for years on perfecting a song. Sometimes the lyrics come easily, but not the melody, and vice versa. I also set some parameters on the type of song we would attempt to write. I wanted to write a sending song. The sending song is an important part of worship. It is the last thing we sing – a song that catapults us into the world carrying the message of God’s grace and mercy. I am always on the lookout for great sending songs for The Gathering service.

I also wanted our song to capture the vibe and spirit of Faith Lutheran Church. The motto, or mantra, that we use a lot is, “Be a Blessing.” That phrase sums up our commission as the people of God to love and serve our neighbors and the entire world.

We started by discussing some of the biblical images of being sent. Then we started to develop lyrical phrases. Next we paired the lyrical phrases together. Then we identified the paired phrases as sections of a song, such as verses, a bridge, and a chorus. Finally we developed a chord progression and a melody to fit the lyrics. An hour and a half later, this is the song we wrote! We have used it in worship several times and we have received several compliments on the song. Great job Faith Alive! Band. You can hear a demo of the song below:

Be A Blessing

Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us. 

Send us to places where doubts prevail.
Help us remember your love won’t fail. 

Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us.

 Send us with nothing; your grace is enough.
Help us proclaim your truth in love.

 Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us.

 To heal, to help, to hold a hand.
To show your heart, to take a stand.

 Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us.

 Be a blessing (we’ve been blessed), you have called us (we’ve been blessed).
Be a blessing (we’ve been blessed), you have sent us (we’ve been blessed).

Should churches hire their worship band musicians?

bandI’ve been asked this question before: Should a church that wants to do music in a pop/rock style pay for musicians to come in and play?”

It is a question that churches usually ask when they are starting a new style of service with the intent of reaching out to a younger demographic. They realize that having a new service with poorly executed music might have the opposite effect. There might be a few instrumentalists or vocalists willing to form a band, but rarely are there enough volunteers to fill out a full band (especially in smaller churches). Something is usually missing: maybe a keyboardist, electric guitarist, or drummer. Someone will usually suggest that the musical vitality of the service is worth investing in. On the flip side, mega-churches routinely hire out full ensembles of studio musicians to make sure the musical quality of their services lives up to the hype.

I’ll share a couple of stories from personal experience:

  • A church had music in worship led by a pianist who was employed by the church part-time. A person joined the church and volunteered his keyboarding skills for the service. After a couple of months of both the staff pianist and volunteer keyboardist leading music together, the volunteer keyboardist approached the church leadership about being compensated for his part in worship. The keyboardist felt that it was unfair for two people to be serving in the same capacity but only one be compensated. The church leadership disagreed. The keyboardist became angry and moved on. Awkwardness abounded.
  • Another church had three Sunday morning worship services. The first service was accompanied by a small volunteer orchestral ensemble and two part-time employees, a pianist and an organist. The second and third services were led by a band entirely made up of volunteer musicians. One of the volunteer musicians happened to play in all three Sunday morning services. It became evident to the church leadership that perhaps it was unfair that the organist and pianist were being compensated (for a rehearsal and one service), while the volunteer was not being compensated (for two rehearsals and three services). The church leadership decided that having some church musicians compensated and others not was unfair. The pianist and organist stopped being compensated for their musical contributions, but remained active as volunteer musicians.
So what is a church to do? Pay to play or pray for players?
Here are my thoughts and suggested guidelines for how churches should navigate these waters:
  • There is something to be said for wanting the offering of music in worship to be done with excellence. God is pleased when we offer a skillfully executed sacrifice of praise (“Sing praises with a skillful psalm.” Psalm 47:7). 1 Chronicles 15:22 says, “Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing because he was skillful.” (NASB) It is also part of hospitality and welcoming people into worship – which is less easy when there are mistakes and flubs musically. So it may be responsible to hire musicians to help the church offer excellent music.
  • On the other hand, God gives us everything we need. Just because your church doesn’t have a drummer or a bass guitarist doesn’t mean you are incapable of corporate worship. Sometimes the musical device used for worship can become crippling to worship. “We can’t have a service without (insert name of instrument).” It is preferable to look at your context, see what God has provided you with, and go with it.
  • I have also heard it argued that if you pay one or two professional musicians to join your volunteer group, the overall excellence of the team will rise. If there is one person coming to rehearsal every week with charts organized and marked, songs learned, and tempos perfected, the professionalism will raise the standards of the volunteers as well.
  • Deciding whether to pay worship band musicians is something a church has to decide for itself. My opinion is that it is preferable for a church to use what gifts they have been given and be content with it. But I’m sure there are circumstances when paying a musician or two to augment the band also make sense.
Also read Vicky Beeching’s post on this subject for more thoughts.

Worship Team Questions

Jonathan (@worshipbassist) provided some great questions for any worship team, choir, or band. They would make good fodder for a retreat or workshop. You could also dissect them individually during rehearsals.

1. How do we remain humble in up front ministry?

2. How do you deal with conflict in your band?

3. What role does serving play in worship ministry?

4. How do you choose people to serve in your worship ministry?

5. How do you prepare and/or select songs for a worship set?

6. How can a worship leader help the band succeed? (From Band’s Perspective)

7. What does a great worship/band leader look like? (From Band’s Perspective)