Have you ever had a conversation with a four year old? If you have you know how fascinating it can be, if not, let me give you a little insight. It might go something like this:

“Hi my name is Thatcher! What's your name?”
“Do you like Legos? I have a lot of Star Wars Legos.”
“You know what? I have a dog! Her name is BoomBoom.”
“My mommy is going to get me some ice cream! Do you know my mommy?”
“My favorite is chocolate with sprinkles!”
“Uh, What's your name again?”
“Hey! Look what I can do!”
“BoomBoom likes ice cream, too. Sometimes she licks it off my hands.”
“I have a big box of toys at my house. Wanna come over and play with me?”
“Oh, I gotta go now. Will you be here tomorrow? I'll bring my Legos so we can play! Ok, bye!”

By the end of the “conversation” you are exhausted, know more than you want to know about Thatcher and need to go sit somewhere in silence and decompress.

Sometimes I think that is what it feels like in our worship services. Sure, you have put in good rehearsal time with your team and feel like you are really tight musically, but your songs have no common thread or theme that tie them together or to the rest of the service. It is very easy to want to play your favorite songs all the time, but when we do that our services can feel a little like the conversation with Thatcher. Random, scattered and leaving the congregation with nothing more than a "Best Of" collection of Top 40 worship songs.

I want to encourage you to give a little more thought to your worship set than “What are my favorite songs this week?” One easy way to give the whole service a common thread is to find out what the message is about or what scripture is being used that week. That way you can find songs that complement, enhance or even give a different perspective to what the pastor is speaking on. The congregation may or may not be aware that everything that morning had a common theme, but that's ok, that is where we leave it up to the Holy Spirit! I'll bet, though, that sometime later that week someone will start singing a song you played on Sunday morning and be reminded of one of the points from the message. It's cool how God works that way!

Now, I know that not all pastors plan out their messages far enough in advance to give you time to plan a set that coincides with his message. (I have worked with many pastors that never knew what they were speaking on until the night before!) That does not, however, give you an excuse to not plan a cohesive song set. You can put together a set that talks about God's love, or trusting in Him, or different postures of worship or anything you feel God putting on your heart that week. Many times God has a way of tying things together anyway! (He is pretty cool like that!)

If you have any questions or need help putting together set lists with a common theme or topic, or just want someone to talk to about leading worship, please let me know I am here to help! You can contact me by email justin@justingravesband.com
Ok, I'm going to go have ice cream with Thatcher and BoomBoom now!

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “Family Worship”? Do you picture you and your kids sitting around the living room lighting candles and singing Kumbaya? Maybe you see yourself and the family cruising down the highway singing at the top of your lungs. Or visiting a neighbor that is sick? Or even spending time together volunteering at the food bank. How about a dance party that breaks out in your back yard? It could even be the few minutes before bed time that you take and pray together.

If I could ask Lincoln Brewster any question I would ask him "What is your philosophy on leading worship?" I am always intrigued by how other worship leaders lead and what their process is for picking songs, transitions, dynamics etc.  So today I have taken some liberties with Lincoln Brewster's song 'God You Reign' and given you some of my thoughts on how to incorporate this song into your worship set.  I would love to hear your thoughts or the ways you transition between songs, so be sure to leave a comment!

    We have all experienced it. You are hanging out with friends, laughing and joking and talking all about what happened “that one time...” And then it happens. That moment in the conversation where everyone stops talking and no one has anything to say and you all just glance uncomfortably around the room. Yeah...the awkward pause.

    As worship leaders this is one thing that we should try to avoid during the worship service. When we put together a song set and try to create a cohesive worship experience, one of the things that can break the focus is a bad transition...the awkward pause. Since our goal is to create an environment through music for the congregation to experience God, we should try to make our transitions throughout the service as smooth as we can. When a song ends and we take time to turn the page, put on a capo or wait for the click track to start, we are creating a space where people can be distracted or loose focus. Remember, this is a worship service, not a concert, so we shouldn't expect applause at the end of each song.

    There are some very simple ways to make these transitions not so awkward. You can use a musical transition between songs or a brief scripture or story about the next song so that flow of the service is not interrupted. It is also a good idea to work out transitions with the pastor or any other people speaking so that the service has a cohesive flow and is not chopped up or feel segmented. I have a worship leader friend who writes out every transition of the service, from what the band is going to play to what he is going to say between songs, and then they rehearse it so that everyone knows what to expect. I am not suggesting that you have to go to that extreme, but what I am saying is to just be aware of the transitions next time you plan a service! Yes, this is a very small thing to focus on, but it can make a big difference! It will help create transitions that are not so awkward!

    These are some of my thoughts, but I'd love to hear yours! Please leave a comment here or on our FB page www.facebook.com/JustinGravesBand and don't forget to like us while you are there!

AuthorJustin Graves

There are some great worship songs out there today, but some of them can be difficult for the "normal church go-er" to sing. Here is my take on how to make "One Thing Remains" from Jesus Culture more singable! I would love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and be sure to share! 

I am always on the lookout for blogs and new ideas about leading worship and love finding tips to help encourage worship leaders. I came across this blog not too long ago and wanted to share it with you! 

This post is by a guy named Gavin Adams who is a pastor at Woodstock City Church (formerly Watermarke Church) in Woodstock, GA. While there are a few minor things we may differ on, the idea behind these 7 tips are right on! I hope this encourages you today to make your voice heard as a worship leader and helps your church lift their voices in worship! 
If you have any other tips not listed here that have worked for you, leave them in the comments below!

To find out more about Gavin and read more of his blog posts go to www.GavinAdams.com

Do people in your church sing?

I know you play music and invite them to sing, but do they sing?

This is an important question for a church. Worship is not limited to music, but praising God through song is an element of corporate church that communicates our gratitude toward God and our desire to know him more. Music touches our soul. When effective, music touches the lost soul, too. Music is very emotional. There’s no doubt that worship through singing is an important element in our church services.

But I’m afraid our approach to worship in the modern church MAY have moved worship from participation to observation. It certainly wasn’t our intention. But inadvertently, in our effort to make church more inviting to outsiders, we may have reduced the impact of corporate worship.

So how can you engage more people in worship without losing the ability to connect with current culture and introduce new people to corporate praise?

Here are 7 tips to better engage our churches in worship:

1. Familiarity.

It’s amazing. When we sing an updated hymn at Watermarke Church, the crowd engagement increases dramatically. It makes sense. Most people have heard the more common hymns, and singing them in an updated music context is a wonderful mixture of familiar and current.

2. Volume.

Turn it up if you want to sing. I don’t think this is optional. Seriously. I’ve heard the opposite advice before. It has been suggested that hearing other people sing encourages singing. Maybe that’s true, but I’ve been in too many places who practice that method and I’m as quiet as a church mouse. Maybe that’s where the saying originated?

At Watermarke Church, We run our music pretty loud, not because it’s a rock concert, but because I believe a certain volume is required if you want people like me with terrible voices to feel comfortable singing. Think about it. Are you more likely to sing when people can hear you or in your shower (BTW – we can hear your shower renditions!)? Exactly. So turn up the volume enough to drown out our fears.

3. Encouragement.

Every week, we encourage people to sing by explaining why we sing and what we will sing. We put lyrics on all our screens to make participation easier. We use cameras to show close up images of our musicians, because seeing our leaders engage personally encourages our crowd to engage corporately.

4. Worship Leadership.

The person leading worship is a leader. It’s easy to focus on vocals and music ability, which is certainly important, but we title them a “leader” for a reason. If we want people in our church to sing, we must ensure our worship leaders lead with excellence.

5. Personal participation.

A culture of singing tells people it’s okay to sing, so as the Lead Pastor, I sit on the front row every week and sing away to help set the tone. Luckily, it’s loud enough that nobody hears my terrible voice and leaves (see # 2!).

6. Quality matters.

In our media driven society, the quality of worship matters more than ever. But the quality of sound is less important than the quality of authenticity. Worship should be real. We should be real. And we must display authenticity.

7. Design a journey.

The worship set is a journey – taking people from one concept to the next. You can leverage your music to set-up an idea or to punctuate a point. By intentionally designing your music or worship set, you can engage people in a deeper, more meaningful way. It might go without saying, but this typically leads to deeper engagement.

Technology is everywhere. We have smartphones, smart TVs, our cars can park and drive themselves. Everyday the world gets inundated with a flood of what the next big thing is. Well, this time I think technology has really stepped up its game! 

It's not enough for people to be playing in bands and giving concerts, now the robots are starting to do it as well! I came across this the other day and just had to share! Hope this brightens your day! Who knows, maybe this is what worship teams will look like in the future!

AuthorJustin Graves