Category Archives: One Week To Leading

One week to leading…READY GO!

You’ve got the tools. You know the music. You have struggled with the flow and dynamics of the service and all this time has gotten you ready to lead without having to focus on the details…so what else is left? Find your last clarity.

Understanding your feelings and negotiating them while leading can be a tricky thing. What I mean by “finding your last clarity,” is that you need to take a few moments to understand what’s going on inside…deal with it…admit it…and then submit those feelings to God. Essentially you are letting go of your control over those feelings.

 It doesn’t mean that you have to be happy and cheery on stage when you are not feeling well. If you have a heavy heart from the week, then you are going to have to deal with it somehow. Ignoring it does not work and faking it…is never worth it.  So, how do you do this? A few tips I use below…just before I go on stage to lead worship in a church service.

Turn Around – When you step onto a stage and face people…they assume you are ready to go. Take a moment and turn your back to them as if to say…I am not quite ready yet. Follow the next four steps and once you turn around…step out ready and clear.

BPM – BPM or beats per minute…usually refers to the speed of a song. In this case…it refers to the beating of your heart. When you get excited or when you get nervous, your heart rate increases. Take a second and attempt to slow it down. Take some deep breaths and silently listen to what is happening inside your body.

Breathe – Close your eyes for a few seconds and just breathe easy. Take a couple deep slow breaths and wash away any nerves or anxiety that might cloud your mind.

Prayer – As I am taking a moment to slow my heart and breathe deep…I typically exhale a breath prayer to God. It’s usually about this moment truly being about experiencing His presence and not about me or my music.

Smile – Just before I turn around…I look up at each of the band members/vocalists and smile…reassuring them each that I am thankful for what they are about to do.

After I do these things…my mind and heart are clear and I am focused and ready for what is to come. I am ready. I turn around…step to the mic and get the party started.

I pray that God continues to use you and mold you into the person that He has uniquely crafted you to be. I pray that you continue to desire His presence in worship. I pray for your heart to be ready…and your skills to be refined.

This is the end of my one week series on one week to leading…and I hope you have found it helpful. It’s my greatest hope that through this process, you have been challenged to become a better leader. Thanks so much for your love and thoughts throughout the process. There’s more to come, this journey surely isn’t over yet.

Peace. Jesse.


One week to leading…SERVICE FLOW

If you are a worship leader…then hopefully you are involved in the planning of church services. Check out the thoughts below…

At Disneyland California Adventure…there is a roller coaster. You step into the seat, lock down the levers and it slowly rolls you out to the start. Zero to sixty in no time and on to the loop…a time to catch your breath and then an awesome decline that pushes the drool to one side of your mouth. It’s a smooth ride that leaves you at the end wanting more…and so glad you stood in line for hours.

In Idaho…there is one of the world’s largest wooden roller coasters. You step in…strap on the cloth seat belts and it slowly…but aggressively pulls you up a huge incline. You can feel the chain grabbing the coaster underneath and you sense it might fall apart before you reach the top. Down a huge decline and you brace yourself for the quick turn. Up and down you go…shaking the entire way until you gladly reach the end. It was fun…but your physical body can only take so much abuse.

When planning a service…you want to focus on creating a service that resembles the Disneyland roller coaster and less like the wild wooden one that you need a massage after. By not thinking through the transitions…hand off’s (transitioning people on stage) and musical beats per minute…you may leave the church attendees feeling a bit beaten up when they leave.

I like to think of service flow outlined on a graph. I made a few examples of a typical church service below. The red line flowing through the service is supposed to represent the run time of a service from beginning to end. Below each graph are some thoughts.

1. This has a typical high energy start with smooth transitions bringing the song speed down to a more reflective mood into communion. Choosing a more medium paced song to play before or during offering can bring the energy back up so that the pastor can start his message more comfortably.

2. Why not start the service with a slow song? Bring the energy back up after the announcements and then slowly curtail it back down into communion. The rest of the service is like the first. I like to use this flow every once in a while to just throw people off and engage them differently. Be careful to go from slow song to crazy happy announcement person though 😉

3. The flow is similar to the first one but the transitions between songs are awkward and the hand off’s are clumsy. The flow is constantly disrupted and you will lose momentum. At the end of the service…you will probably be asking…what just happened? And so will your church.

CHECK IT – Your services may look drastically different than the ones I showed you but the principal is still the same. Create an environment for people to easily connect to God with little distraction. Think through your transitions and think ahead…trying to find areas in the service that might be awkward. When you are throwing out suggestions for the service…quickly jot down the flow on a piece of paper and see if it makes sense. Stay within your churches value system and enjoy the ride.

Peace. Jesse.

One week to leading…TONALITY

I love listening to modern worship albums. I love hearing the different tones they are using and the different dynamics they choose within the chart. It’s not that older worship albums are bad or useless…but I love progress.

As a worship leader, how do you get your band to understand the tones or dynamics of this new style of music? Quite often…we work with older musicians who grew up using specific guitar or piano patches. We have a drummer that can keep a beat…but we are trying to get something “more” from them.  How do you change the music…how do you create something with a more “modern” sound?

Here is an example of what I am trying to convey…first…an older live worship album…and next…a more modern sounding live album. I am not saying which way is right or wrong…but these are good examples of “tones” and “dynamics” that worship leaders are looking for in modern music. READ BELOW the videos for tips on bringing more modern tones out of 3 key instruments in your band.

Older Live Worship – Still good stuff but listen to the keys and drums.

Modern Live Worship – Great guitar tones and simple piano but @ 3:50 of the video…this thing takes off. Watch what the drummer does.

First – Make a compilation CD of songs that have the tones you want. Hand it out and set it as homework. Have them listen to their specific instruments and create a conversation about what’s different.

Electric Guitar – It’s time to ditch the ultra chorus or the distortion that screams early 90’s. Modern electric guitars are going old school. They are using analog pedals (or digital ones that mimic analog ones) and gain that sounds “glassy” with grit. It uses delay with 8th notes and tremolo that slowly moves the more intimate songs along.  Ask them who the best guitarists of all time are. What gear did they use? What kind of amps did they use? Eric, Jimmy, John…it’s the tone that matters. Find the gear that gets them there…they might already have it.

Keys – It’s time to leave the “electric” piano tones and seriously synthy strings in the past. Keys in modern worship lay the foundation to the tune. Classic organ sounds, deep synth pads and simple piano skills are all that’s needed for a keys player. Have the keys player simplify their playing. Less is more. Playing pads is not about hitting all the notes in the chord…it’s about picking the right notes. The same goes for when they play the piano. They can play all the notes they need with 4 or 5 fingers…it’s mostly rhythmic…not so leading.

Drums – Most drummers can keep decent time, but modern drummers steer almost all the dynamics of the tune. The key word here is dynamics. I find that older drummers have what I call a “Zero to Hero” approach. They are either completely soft…or fully in. Work with them on the building of the song, using the floor tom, kick and snare to create dynamics and not just rhythm. Have them listen to the newer songs…listening to how the drummer controls the dynamics…the rise and fall of the song.

Do you have any other thoughts on how to bring about more modern tones with your band? If so…I’d love to hear them.

Here’s to progress!

Peace. Jesse.

One week to leading…REST AND REFLECTION

It’s been a great long week for you. Practice, more practice, meetings, rehearsal, sound check and preparation.  

Two quick things you should remember and take hold of.

Rest – There is a reason God created a Sabbath day. Your brain, your heart and your spirit need the time. It doesn’t mean you need to take long naps and bathe in the sun all day…but taking a quiet walk might not hurt.

If you work at a church…take your day/s off very seriously. Hang with your family or find a hobby. Do some housework or pull some weeds (not too fast now J ). You need the reset button and time to find perspective in life. If all you ever do is work…you might miss the blessings God has for you that day.

Reflection – Once you have had a chance to rest…take a little bit to reflect on many things. How did you feel about the weekend or service? Was there something you could have done to be more prepared or something that just didn’t work? Take time to reflect on life and leadership…direction and possibilities ahead.

“Only when the clamor of the outside world is silenced will you be able to hear the deeper vibration. Listen carefully.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

I can’t stress how important these two things are each week. Find time in your schedule.

After you have been able to gain some perspective and rest…you will be ready for the next week.

Peace and Love. Jesse

One week to leading…SERVICE TIME

There are services at church all the time. Youth, Children’s, Young Adults, Singles, Saturday nights, Sunday mornings and more. Assuming you have had the time to prepare, practice and get yourself ready to lead worship for the service…it’s time to move on to the next steps.

Please remember…these are only suggestions. Modify them if you want. Use them if you want. Feel free to change things around…I do on occasion.

Some important things to remember…

Pre-Service – You have already had practice and hopefully had a quick sound check on each instrument/vocalist…and now it’s time to get everyone ready. Most likely…it’s early in the morning. Most likely…you and the team are still a bit groggy. Consider using a song to warm up and slowly get everyone used to being on stage. I typically use a slower song…spending a few minutes just worshipping God. Starting off the morning with your fastest song…while it probably is first in line…might be hard because everyone…including you…is still waking up.

Run Through – If you have the time…run through each of your songs again. If not…try running through one or two after the warm-up song. I typically end the run through with a fast song to get the blood moving and keep the energy up. Leave yourself 10 minutes to run the transitions.

Transitions – Line up your songs and run the beginning of the first. Cut it once you get into it a bit. Run the end of that song into the next…practicing the transition. Example of a 3 song set – Run through the intro and first verse of I Am Free and cut it. Run the end of I Am Free into the beginning of Blessed Be Your Name and cut it. Run the end of Blessed Be Your Name into the beginning of The Stand…and cut it. You get the point. This part goes fast. Walk the team through the transitions before going through them. Hopefully…after this…you won’t have many awkward transitions in the service.

Pray – Prayer cannot simply be something you quickly do with the team before you walk on stage and assume leadership. It must be something that you truly set time aside for. If it means that you and your team arrive 15 minutes early for the service…then by all means…do so. I’ve led services where I had taken little time to pray and I honestly felt lost. Take time to cover the building in prayer. Crave God’s presence…invite the Holy Spirit to come…you get the point.

When it comes time for the service, your practice and your preparation will allow you to focus on what really matters come time for the service…leading God’s people in worship of the Almighty God.

Peace. Jesse.

One week to leading…REHEARSAL

This post assumes that you are interested in leading worship…leading a band…and most likely…not working with professional musicians.

They’re never quite the most fun activity…but they sure can bring about a great weekend. Rehearsals are necessary for so many reasons. Rather than write about why their important…here are some tips to running a good one.

Prepare – Have you run through the charts to find out if all the chords/lyrics are correct or spent time practicing/preparing for the rehearsal? Do you know how many times you are going to sing the chorus? It’s hard to lead someone when you have little idea of where you are going. Put in the time and then when you get to rehearsal…you can change it if needed.

Transitions – Once you have practiced your music…clearly understand your transitions. There is nothing more awkward in a service than watching a guitarist change his capo, wrestle with their music and then look at the band as if to ask…”you guys ready?” Take the time to work out your transitions between songs so you know what to ask for when it comes time. Try to keep the momentum going.

Verbiage – Take time to learn the language. Instead of asking the drummer to “give me that ‘boom’ sound,” ask for the kick on each beat. If you are unsure of how to ask for a certain sound out of an instrument…spend some time asking questions. Swallow the pride and take time getting to know each of the instruments you are leading. It will go a long way with your musicians and you will be able to ask more clearly for what you need.

Time – Understand that most of your musicians/vocalists have given up their time to come to the rehearsal. They left their families, packed up after work and made the same trek you did to be there. Be careful with their time and please don’t waste it by not being prepared. Running through a song 5 times in practice might sound like a good idea…but trust me…it’s brutal on your team.

Music – I spend the first part of rehearsal just running through the songs…one by one. It takes some time for everyone to relax and settle in…so run through each song. Before each one…try and set out a “roadmap” of the song so they know where you are going…chorus, verse, bridge…how many times etc. Try not to stop in the middle of each song. If the tempo is off or some people hit some wrong notes. it’s OK. As long as it’s not a complete train wreck…you can come back and work through it in parts as needed. After I have run through each song once, I run each song individually again. This time…I might ask for a faster tempo or give them a heads up about a certain chord progression we might have bobbled. If the song sounds good…move on. Rehearsal is about making the music right…Sunday mornings are for sound check and running the transitions.  (Sunday mornings will be another postJ)

Hopefully…by the end of a practice…you can feel good about the music, your band/vocalists feel like they know what you are asking from them and you are ready to let go of all the details and just concentrate on leading the church in worship of the Almighty God.

Hope this helps and leave some comments if you got em! Peace. Jesse.