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.

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

Have you ever met somebody for the first time and they didn't introduced themselves? That might leave you feeling a little awkward, right? Maybe even a bit offended? It could make you think they don't think you are worth their time, but it could be that they just forgot! I have to admit, I have been guilty of this on many occasions. I have learned that I shouldn't just assume they know who I am. Whether I have met someone before or it is the first time it's always nice to start with, “Hi! My name is Justin!”

I can't tell you how many times we have seen this happen in a church service. I'm sure that it is not intentional. People just get caught up in the moment and are focused on what they are going to say and forget to start with “Hi, my name is...” In my opinion that simple phrase is vital to every church service. It makes people feel welcome, puts people at ease and lets them know that you think they are important and worth knowing your name.

It doesn't matter if you are the announcement person, the worship leader or even the pastor,  when you introduce yourself it puts everyone on the same page. You can't assume everyone knows who we are especially if you get up and speak every week. Yes, your name may be listed in the bulletin or on the marque out front, but it is always good to start with telling everyone your name.

It doesn't take that much extra time, or take away from what you are going to say or do. If our goal as a church is to communicate clearly and make sure people feel welcome and comfortable, we need to start with the simple phrase “Hi! My name is...”

Those are some of my thoughts, now I would like to hear yours! Please leave a comment here or on our FB page and let me know how it goes for you next time you meet someone or get up to speak.

AuthorJustin Graves

I can't tell you how many times I have walked into a church service looking for the “quick fix.” I think too many times we go to church looking to be “filled up.” Yes that does happen, but when our focus becomes about what we want, we have to re-examine the reason we are going to church. I have endured many services thinking “Why aren't they singing songs I know?” “I wish they would sing my favorite songs.” or “Why did they do that song that way?” maybe even “This message has nothing to do with me, I'm gonna just tune out.”

I want to give you a different way of looking at going to a worship service. My wife, Michelle, came up with this brilliant analogy: You don't go to a wedding and get upset when it's not all about what you want and like! You don't complain when they don't sing your favorite song, don't have your favorite cake or aren't using your favorite colors. You show up with a single focus; to honor the couple getting married. We go with anticipation of getting to speak to the bride and groom, congratulate them, hug their neck and tell them how happy we are for them. This should be how we approach going to a corporate worship service. We should go with the anticipation of meeting with God, honoring Him with words and songs, and looking forward to spending some time with Him.

Corporate worship is designed to be a collection of people with the common focus of celebrating what God is doing. We go to church to meet with other Christ Followers, and together, honor our Savior and Creator. When we shift our focus from what we want, to celebrating who God is and what He is doing, we do get filled up. When we pour ourselves out and give all that we are to Christ instead of being frustrated that we aren't getting what we want, we can take joy in whatever songs are sung and whatever the message is!

Here is my challenge to you: Next time you go to a worship service let your focus be on giving all of you to God, not what you can get from Him. It takes a conscious effort to shift your focus, remember:
It's not about what you GET, but what you GIVE.

AuthorJustin Graves

If you have been in or around a church for anytime, you most likely have heard the Scripture Romans 12:1-2.
     "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

I love this verse because it speaks to the heart of how we as Christ Followers should live each day. However, most of the time, we stop there! If we keep reading, we can see that Paul gives us even more detail about how to live a Christ Followers. He gives specific examples of how to share God's love.  

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully."

And that is not all! That is only through verse 8!  I will admit that many times I forget about this part of the verse or just ignore it completely and think that I am way more important than I really am. I want to encourage you to read through the rest of the passage this week (You can find it HERE) and share your thoughts with me.

 If we live and love like Paul describes here God's love will shine bright! After all, that is what God calls us to do: Love God & Love Others! 

AuthorJustin Graves

When people ask me what I do for a living my typical response is “I am a musician.” Some may wonder why my first response isn't to tell them that I am a “Worship Leader” or that I am in "full time ministry." Well, let me explain myself a little bit.

The term “Worship Leader” has come to mean: “The guy that gets up and sings some songs before the pastor gets up and talks.” Don't get me wrong, this is a very visible and important roll in the church. The Worship Leader and Worship Team are usually the first thing that people experience when they go to a church service. They are the ones that help set the mood, flow and invite people to participate in the service. There is a lot of focus on the Worship Leader and Worship team because they are up front with all the lights and instruments and people are facing them while they are singing. It can be easy to see why, after the Pastor, the Worship Leader is one of the most recognizable people in the church. They have been hired by the church because they are experts in their field and they have been called into full time ministry. After all, worship can't happen unless you have a Worship Leader present, right?

Ok, hang on. I want to take a moment and let you in on a little secret. As Christ Followers, we are ALL in full time ministry. We are ALL worship leaders. Just because you are a cashier or teacher or lawn mower or banker or shelf stocker or babysitter that doesn't mean that you have to wait for a pastor or worship leader to worship God or tell someone about Christ. Jesus tells us in Matthew 28 that our job as Christ Followers is to “Go make disciples.” He didn't say that we have to be employed by the church, or “called into full time ministry,” He just says “Go.” It doesn't matter where you are or what you do, God tells us that everything we do can and should be an act of worship. In Romans 12 Paul tells us that we should worship God with our whole self, not just our words, but with everything we are.

So, in my opinion, worship is not about just going to church. Yes, it is a great place to gather with other Christ Followers and celebrate what God is doing. Worship is also not just singing songs, although that is a big part of what a Worship Leaders job is. Worship is honoring and glorifying God wherever you are and with whatever you do.

So, when you think about it, when someone asks us what we do for a living, ALL of our response should be, “I am a Worship Leader!” which can be followed up with, “I get to do that through....(whatever your day job is!)”

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us, “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.” I want to encourage you today to see your day job as an act of worship! I would love to hear the different ways you take a routine activity and turn it into worship. Please leave a comment here or on our Facebook page!  

AuthorJustin Graves