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A Season of Rest

Posted on May 26, 2014 in Leadership, Worship Ministry | 2 comments

Y ou have my sincere apologies of the lack of recent worship blog posts. I believed I could carry right on through a major move and job transition without missing a beat. Turns out I’m not superhuman after all. And my brain has a limit to how many thoughts it can juggle at once! Moving from MO to LA–along with the necessary house-selling, house-hunting, account moving, address changing, state registering and on and on and on–well, it’s a lot to figure out. Add to that a brand new career, church, ministry, relationships, and so forth. Whew! So I haven’t been thinking much about worship ministry but will be again soon. In fact, I just had my first meeting with my new church’s worship leadership. I have finally admitted to the obvious conclusion that a temporary break is needed from the blog. I need this summer to get my feet on the ground here in my new environment. I’ll actually be taking a bit of a rest from ministry this summer, anyhow, so it’s natural for this to be a part of that. My church in Springfield, MO had generously given it’s staff a sabbatical. My two colleagues had taken their’s in the years prior to this and Summer 2014 was to be my turn! God interrupted my sabbatical planning process with the call to serve as senior pastor at Cypress Street Church of God. But the church here in West Monroe, LA was generously understanding of the fact that plans were very mature, tickets purchased, and reservations made. They have given me the opportunity to keep half of the original 8-week sabbatical that I had planned. So for 4 weeks I’ll immerse myself in the Rocky Mountains (my favorite place to be!) and read and rest and dream and pray and share time with family. I don’t know what I did to be so blessed by congregations who go above and beyond in caring for their staff. I suppose I did nothing since that’s the nature of grace. I am thankful, to be sure! So I’ll “see y’all soon” Blue Collar Worship Blog readers, Neil Photo credit: liber(the poet); / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA...

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A New Day Has Dawned

Posted on May 5, 2014 in Leadership, Worship Ministry | 0 comments

A  few weeks ago, I shared about a new adventure I’d be embarking on. Officially, as of yesterday, that adventure has begun! Julie snapped this picture from my first sermon in “Duck Dynasty country”, HA! Don’t worry, I didn’t preach the whole sermon with that thing on…couldn’t have stood it! As to worship ministry. My new church, where I have the privilege of serving as pastor, doesn’t have a worship leader on staff but we have some very talented musicians and dedicated volunteers. Furthermore, yesterday marked the first Sunday in a loooong time in which my together-worship experience involved hymnals and a choir! Needless to say, I’ll have the opportunity to explore worship ministry in a new context. Are there things we’ll change in the coming months and years? Doubtless. But, if you find yourself in a similar context as my new one, be encouraged that wholesale, sweeping change is not necessary to engage the unchurched or the younger generations. Believe it or not, lights & rock-and-roll are not the only things that those folks care about. I believe there are subtle changes that can be implemented to make significant progress in engaging those folks and I look forward to exploring some of those with you in days to come. I’d love to hear about your worship ministry context, if you have time to...

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The People Priority

Posted on Apr 28, 2014 in Leadership, Worship Ministry | 2 comments

Y esterday was a day to be remembered. A beautiful farewell to a church I’ve served for seven years. Would that all such ministry farewells were characterized by the kind of mutual love and respect we’ve experienced at LifeQuest Church! It struck me in the tear-stained aftermath that the most important part of worship ministry was made quite clear to me today, if I ever had any doubts. You see, what moved my heart today had very little to do with “successes” in the way we commonly think of them. Not leadership endeavors, nor programs created, nor events executed, nor progress made. Rather, it was the relationships built, the friendships forged. This week, as you embark on your weekly routine, take pause to place the people above the rest. You have no task more important than the people you...

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Your Team’s Outward Expression Does Matter!

Posted on Apr 21, 2014 in Leadership, Resources, Worship Ministry | 1 comment

I n a posting titled Why I Ask My Team to Be a Little Disingenuous, I managed to stir up a little bit of controversy amongst worship leaders over whether we should encourage our teams to work on their outward expressions of worship. Many feel this matter is between the team member and God and that anything “contrived” would be disingenuous. While I understand and can identify with that concern, I will continue to argue that the job of worship leaders is to lead people in every way possible to worship our God! I recently ran across a great article that I immediately shared with my team. I love discovering supporting evidence to back up what I’ve been coaching them on for years! Perhaps this article could serve the same purpose for you. Or maybe you’ve never talked with your team about their outward expression and this article could serve as a jumping-off point for you to begin the conversation. Friends, the importance of body language cannot be overstated and–as worship leaders–we can’t afford to neglect it anymore than preachers and speakers can. I hope this article proves a worthwhile resource for you: Once you’ve read it, are you surprised by the studies findings? Do you agree it has bearing on our role as worship leaders?   Photo credit: Rick Camacho / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY...

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My Grand New Adventure

Posted on Apr 13, 2014 in Leadership, Worship Ministry | 4 comments

H ello Readers, This is more of a letter than a blog post but I wanted to let you know about a major new development in my life and ministry. I pray that reading about my journey will lead you to reflect on where God has taken you and where He might lead you in the future! First some history. I never planned to be a worship pastor. I didn’t plan to be in occupational ministry at all, really. I graduated from Mid-America Christian University with a Secondary Education degree and taught middle schoolers for 3 years. But God had other plans. Relationships built in college had grown in me a passion for music and ministry through music. After college & while teaching, I worked as a part-time worship leader helping a super-traditional church make the transition to a more modern service. I quit that part-time job to pursue a new degree from MACU in Christian Ministries that included an emphasis in music. While pursuing that new degree, LifeQuest Church called me. They wanted to know if I would consider serving as their full-time worship pastor. I felt strongly that I should look into it but, even as I made the trip to visit, I was reluctant…part of that may have had something to do with a certain girl I had just begun dating who would later become my amazing wife! But God left me with no excuses after that visit and I picked up and moved even though it seemed to jeopardize a new, promising relationship. And God has proven Himself faithful, as He always does. 7 years later, Julie & I both LOVE our church family. And the job I dragged my feet to has felt more like a privilege and a joy than a job. So you can imagine my surprise when I felt like God wanted me to move on. Truth be told, I knew God was up to something. I just didn’t imagine it would come so soon. Over the last few years, I’ve developed a passion for preaching and leading and pastoring that I hadn’t expected. Kinda like I hadn’t expected the passion for worship ministry that came when I was in college. But upon going through the interview process, visiting a church in Louisiana and doing a LOT of praying, two things became clear to Julie and I. First, I need to be a senior pastor because it’s what we believe God has clearly equipped & called me to do. Second, that church was the church. So, as of May 4, I will become the senior pastor of Cypress Street Church of God (Church of God, Anderson, IN) in West Monroe, LA. The decision-making process has been a bit of a whirlwind and an emotional roller-coaster! We’ve been heartbroken at the thought of leaving our dear church family here in Springfield, MO while–at the same time–excited to embark on a new ministry journey in West Monroe. I plan to continue plugging away at...

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All This Stuff about Worship & Millennials

Posted on Apr 7, 2014 in Leadership, Resources, Worship Ministry | 0 comments

It seems the blogosphere (and hence my Facebook wall) have been swarmed of late by members of the up & coming Millennial generation who want to inform church leaders how they should be “doing church” to attract “people like us.” Yes, I’m a member of said generation and, yes, this is yet another post on that subject. Only, I’m actually wanting to point you to the best, most reliable article I’ve found on the subject. But before I get to that, there’s a question that begs answering: Why does this subject even matter? Or actually: Why should one generation have influence like this over how we approach our worship gatherings? First, it matters a lot to smaller “blue collar” churches, especially, because many of us are seeing our church demographics getting awfully lopsided in age and the writing seems to be on the wall…we’ll get younger or we’ll dwindle away. Second, it is–believe it or not–the biggest generation. Third, what this generation stands for in regard to worship actually does bring some much needed perspective and balanced direction to our worship planning. Ok, I’ll stop blathering and point you to the article. As I mentioned, it’s the most reliable article I’ve found on the subject because–rather than representing one Millennial’s perspective–it is based on significant, scientifically accurate research of many within that generation. Enjoy: What Worship Style Attracts the Millenials? by Thom Rainer   After reading, do you think his 3 big takeaways are worth pursuing in your church & ministry?   Photo credit: susieq3c / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY...

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Are You Rushing Your Church’s Response?

Posted on Mar 31, 2014 in Worship Ministry | 0 comments

The preacher closes his notes, says a prayer and walks off the stage. Then what? God’s Word has been read and your church has just been challenged–hopefully!–with how it applies to their life. So what happens then? I can tell you what used to happen at our church and what happens in many churches like ours: We sang a song and went home! No time to waste. Everything pointed to the sermon and when that was over, everything was over. And then I read the ol’ book written by Jim Cymbala titled “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire“.  Quotes like this one started some wheels turning in my head: “…the writer to the Hebrews nails down the most central activity of all for Christians: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).  It doesn’t say, “Let us come to the sermon.” We in America have made the sermon the centerpiece of the church, something God never intended.  Preachers who are really doing their job get people to come to the throne of grace. That’s the true source of grace and mercy.” pg. 84 When my pastor and I and a few other leaders started really examining the structure of our worship service, we found that everything led up the message AND once the message was given we allowed about 3.5 minutes for response to that message before moving right along.  When we asked ourselves why we planned our services that way, the only answer was “well that’s the way it’s done, right?”  That wasn’t good enough so we began asking questions like: “Is prayer a priority in our worship gatherings?” “Do we allow time for people to see God at work in our midst?” “How could we structure our services to allow more time for prayer, response, and life application?” One change we made was to create more time after the message so there was no need for anyone to feel so rushed they might not take adequate time to respond to what God was doing in their heart.  Our service structure went from something like this: Welcome 3 Songs Offering & Song Prayer & Song Sermon Response Song Announcements & Dismissal To looking more like this: Welcome 4 Elements of Worship (see post about my worship planning template) Sermon 2 Response Songs Offering & Song Announcements & Dismissal With the new format, the sermon falls smack in the middle of the service timeline, allowing more time for worship, reflection, and prayer afterward. It’s been awesome to see people gradually feel the freedom to go pray with someone whenever for however long they need. I just have a feeling that most people will quickly forget what they heard if they’re not given time, then and there, to process and pray about how it applies in their life. I still think our church could get better at this. For instance, we could play more instrumental music or songs with...

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Product Review: New Pick Holder Solution

Posted on Mar 24, 2014 in Tools | 0 comments

It’s the bane of every guitar player’s existence: the infamous pick drop. Option A: Attack with a whirlwind of fingernails. Option B: Awkwardly bend down to get it. Option C: Buy one of those spare pick solutions that attach to a boom stand. And how about this dilemma: the need to fingerpick and strum on the same song. Option A: Turn that quarter rest into a whole rest to allow for picking up and setting down. Option B: Stash it between two fingers and survive with only 4 useable picking appendages. Option C: Return to the aforementioned whirlwind of fingernails when strumming. What if there was a better way??? An innovative company called Hogjim thinks there is. When they told me about their product and asked if I’d do a review, I was eager to oblige! I’ve led worship with it on board my Martin twice now and here are my pros and cons… PROS Not noticeable. At least, the clear one they sent me blends in really well. You’d notice if you looked for it but who would? On the other hand I always notice those boom stand pick holders. Minimal downtime. Ok, I didn’t actually drop my pick. But if I had, I wouldn’t have missed more than a beat with a new one right within my strumming area. And for switching back & forth from strumming to fingerpicking, you could make it a fine art. No distraction. All those A, B, and C options lead to some level of distraction for those in the seats. A pick holder hanging out right by your strumming hand minimizes that to the max!   CONS Pick guard required. And maybe a little spit if you want it to stick. My 12 string Breedlove does not have a pick guard so… Not for wild strummers. In trying to use it as a spare pick holder, I learned I’m a more erratic strummer than I had imagined. I tried several locations on the pick guard before landing at the tip nearest the neck. Even so, I bumped into it a couple times during each songset. That was distracting to me, especially at first. I’m just not accustomed to anything saying howdy to hand while strumming!   On the whole, I did feel it was a quality invention worth your consideration. I think I would get used to it being there pretty quickly and an occasional touch would no longer catch me off guard. And most guitars will either have a pick guard or enough varnish to make it work. Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they’re a company with a mission that’s bigger than dollar signs. Interested? Check out Hogjim’s site and store to learn more:   Questions for me about the product?   Photo credit: LavaFields / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA Disclosure: I received one or more products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or...

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