Anticipation Over Production

sat-feb-18-2017-19-48-59-gmt-0500Earlier in February we took our junior high students to the CIY BELIEVE event near Cincinnati. It is an annual trip we take because the programming is excellent, our students love it and it’s a great 30 hours to spend with our junior high students.

One of the main elements at BELIEVE is the singing. There is always a top-notch worship band that does a great job engaging the students and inviting them to sing. At one point during the weekend, nearly all the people in the arena (approx. 3,500) were lifting their hands as we sang Great Are You Lord. It was a cool moment and felt very genuine.

It turned out, without really planning it, a week later we sang the same song in our church service. I referenced our experience at BELIEVE and even showed the picture at the top of this post after we sang the exact same words, Great are You Lord.

A couple of people made a similar comment that went something like this: isn’t it hard to sing here (meaning church) after you have been there (meaning BELIEVE)?

That’s a question that usually surfaces after coming back from a great event. How do you generate that same energy and engagement back at home once you’ve experienced it a camp, conference or convention?

As I mulled that thought over in mind, two words came to mind.

The first is Production. BELIEVE is a production. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. In fact, it is one reason we continue to attend and BELIEVE continues to grow. It is an excellent program.

But, it is a production. A team works for a number of months to put together a quality event that they duplicate in venues all over the country. They gather the best speakers, the best worship bands, great light rigs and sound systems, cool graphics and videos, along with quality entertainers (artists, comedians) that all work together to engage the hearts and minds of junior high students. While it is genuine and has the purpose of pointing teens to be followers of Jesus, it is a production. And it is done very well.

One reason I love taking students to BELIEVE is that they can do what I cannot do.

There is another word that came to mind as I considered the weekend. That word is Anticipation.

One reason I think students engage so strongly in BELIEVE is that they are excited to be there. For students who have attended in the past, they can’t wait to go back. 6th graders are excited to experience for the first time. When they become 8th graders, they are sad they cannot go to BELIEVE anymore.

There is a strong sense of Anticipation. Students want to be there. They pay to be there (well…their parents pay for them to be there). Youth leaders promote the weekend and there is a strong sense of anticipation.

So, imagine if we had that same anticipation when we arrived on a Sunday morning?

Take away the light show (we don’t have that). Remove the awesome worship band (honestly, we just aren’t as good as what we see on stage). Don’t count on the cool graphics and videos that serve as a backdrop to the sessions.

Do we still have the anticipation of raising our voices (or even our hands) to sing Great are You Lord?

Now, our worship teams are good. And they work hard to lead our church family in singing and worship each week. And we have some pretty talented people. But the more I think about it, Anticipation can be as powerful as Production.

As those who lead, we want to do the best we can to engage people to respond to God (Production).

For those who are coming each week, perhaps we should consider our level of excitement and engagement as we participate on a Sunday (Anticipation).

Anticipation over Production. Something to think about as we look to next Sunday.

Syd in Honduras – an update in pictures

I’m away this week at church camp, but have been keeping up with Syd through her social media feed – primarily Facebook and Instagram.  She posted some cool pictures on Instagram and it seems like she is relating well with the people there, despite the language barrier.  Not sure how much Spanish she knows as she took French in high school.

I screen shot these from her Instagram account.  Looks like she is fairing pretty well.  Thanks everyone for continued prayers.

Syd Honduras 3

This was captioned “Honduran church service”

The caption for this one was "the ninos loved seeing their pictures"

The caption for this one was “the ninos loved seeing their pictures”

This caption was in Spanish - "nuevos amigos en todas partes vamos"

This caption was in Spanish – “nuevos amigos en todas partes vamos”

Top Worship Songs at WCC in 2014

worshipPrompted by a blog post from a worship leader a couple of years ago, I listed the top songs we used in our worship services.  I created a list for 2012 and 2013 so I thought it would be interesting to see what that list looked for 2014.

There are some songs that our congregation really responds to and you can tell by the volume of the singing.  We try to introduce new songs that will enhance our services and fit our congregation.  I can remember one we introduced a couple of years ago that we used twice and decided it just didn’t fit us.  There was nothing wrong with the song; it simply wasn’t a good match for our congregation.

While looking through the songs we sang, the song we used the most was God With Us.  It was a song our choir did in a Christmas program and really seemed to fit our congregation, both as a Christmas song and throughout the year.

The other top songs were 10,000 Reasons, Christ Is Enough, Glory to God Forever, Lord I Need You and This is Amazing Grace.

There were three songs we sang for the first time on 2014: This is Amazing Grace, Keep Making Me and My Heart is Yours.  We did also use Oceans and Beautiful Things, but they were presented as a special number rather than for congregational singing.

Here is the rest of the list (in alphabetical order).  They made up the regular rotation of songs, but don’t include all the songs we did.

  1. At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)
  2. Awesome is the Lord Most High
  3. Change My Heart, Oh God
  4. Cornerstone
  5. Draw Me Close
  6. Enough
  7. Everlasting God
  8. Forever
  9. Here I am to Worship
  10. Holy is the Lord
  11. Jesus Messiah
  12. Keep Making Me
  13. Let Everything That Has Breath
  14. My Heart is Yours
  15. Not to Us
  16. Our God
  17. Shout to the Lord
  18. Step By Step
  19. Unchanging
  20. We Fall Down
  21. Worthy is the Lamb
  22. You Are My All in All
  23. Your Grace is Enough

Music selection is subjective – everyone has different tastes and preferences.  It’s always a challenge to find those songs that help lead a specific group of people to sing out in worship.  As we move through this year, we will continue to look for songs that will accomplish that purpose.

Praise You in the Storm

photo credit: SimpleSkye via photopin cc

photo credit: SimpleSkye via photopin cc

The Christian music group Casting Crowns released a song a few years ago called Praise You in This Storm.  The chorus of the song says this:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

This past Sunday, as I was leading our song set, I witnessed people in our congregation living out this chorus.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I have a unique perspective on a Sunday morning.  Most Sundays I am up front with one of our praise teams leading our community as we sing.  I get to see people as they sing and respond to God by bowing heads, lifting hands or simply closing their eyes.  Being involved in the church for a number of years I also know some of the struggles that people go through.  I was struck by how a number of our people were able to praise God even though they were going through a storm.

Some in our church family are dealing with relationship struggles and marriage issues.

Others are experiencing loss.

There are individuals and families impacted by health concerns.

Still others carry the burden of a family member who is far from God.

Yet, many are still able to praise God in the storm.

I was moved by their example and reminded that God is faithful no matter what our circumstances might try to tell us.  One of the benefits of corporate worship is being encouraged by the faithfulness of many of God’s people who continue to praise Him in the storm.  It was a good reminder to me that I need to and can praise Him in the storm.

IMPACT Tailgate Party Video

Last Sunday we had a Tailgate Party for our students. People tailgate before football games, why not before church! We had a good time with some tasty breakfast food, 9 Square (our students love that game), corn hole and even some gift card giveaways.

Dale put some of our pics into a video. Check it out:

A Prayer to the Potter

During our worship service yesterday, we used this video called A Prayer to the Potter.  It made a nice transition during our song set, but it also a good prayer for our week.  It is easy to get caught up in the details and to-do lists, the successes and disappointments and forget who is ultimately in charge.

Here is the prayer:

Father, You are the potter.  You carve me with purpose. I am sculpted in Your hands.  Your work is perfect.
Your design is carved into every event in my life.  Form me to be the person you want me to be.
I seek Your Spirit to guide my decisions.  I seek your Son to model the example.
I seek Your Word to mold my heart.  Let my passion be Your pleasure.  Let my work build Your Kingdom.
Let my worship fill Your heart.  I am beautiful because of You, yet you O Lord are our Father.
We are the clay.  You are the Potter.  We are the work of You hand. Amen.

10,000 Reasons & Psalm 103

10,000 Reasons is a pretty well-known worship song and has been used in a variety of venues.  Just this summer I’ve sung it with our congregation, with about 900 high school students at a CIY MOVE Conference and with about 100 junior students at our week of summer camp.  We used it as part of our song set yesterday in our morning service and it seems to really connect with groups of all ages.

Before we sang it yesterday, we played about the first two minutes of this video where Matt Redman (who helped write the song) talks about the story behind the song.  Since I’m not a song writer, I find it interesting to hear about the process writers go through.  I like what he shares as it gives the back-story to the song we love to sing and points to Psalm 103 and what it says about worship.

Redman also gives a good reminder that God is always giving us reasons to worship Him.  Whether we are young or old, on the mountaintop or in a valley, loving life or struggling to get through the week, God provides numerous reasons to worship him.  A good reminder not only for our Sunday worship sets, but for how we live Monday through Friday.