Archives For Worship Leading

Graham Kendrick provides some excellent insight on why singing is disappearing in contemporary services.

Here’s a recap:

Issue 1: Singing has become something specialized in the church. We’re presented with vocalists who soar on high pitched songs with every kind of run that puts the average singer at a disadvantage. It’s the difference between being “sung to” and “singing with.”

Issue 2: Too many new songs. When we don’t let songs “bed in” to the congregation they aren’t retained and remain difficult to remember when singing. Be careful on how many new songs you introduce and the manner in which you do. [My note: – Because so many bands are locked into loops, clicks and the clock, new songs are often just preformed for the congregation. In our own church we introduce a new song by taking people through the verse and the chorus, repeating each so that they get familiar with the melody before we sing the song entirely.]

Issue 3: The songs are too difficult. Graham makes the point that you can hear a noticeable increase in the volume of the singing when a well know and easily singable song is offered. It’s great to enjoy all the new recordings and songs being written but when picking songs for our local church we have to ask, “can we sing this?” Is this “too complex, too high, too sophisticated?” The question goes to the reality of accessibility, age differences and ability. This is especially true when the players and singers can’t “deliver” the material in the same way the CD does. It can become a distraction.

Issue 4: We’re embracing a performance  model that creates a concert atmosphere. In tandem with this is..

Issue 5: The culture of the screen. We have shifted into a mode where we spend more and more time in front of screens – phones, ipads, laptops, xbox, etc.. We expect those screens to deliver something of value to us, to provide an experience for us. Now that screens are a ubiquitous part of contemporary worship, carrying not only words but images of determined drummers, grimacing guitarists and enraptured singers, we wait for them to “do something to us.”

Graham concludes by reminding us that when we come to worship, our praise is a gift that we all bring, We don’t come to worship, we come worshiping to gather with other worshippers. It’s the body of Christ. Not an audience. [ My note: Leaders can fall into the trap of demanding that the congregation “deliver” their praise with enthusiasm to make us feel more validated.  They become our screen!]

What I hear is the need for a renewed focus on God as the sole object of our worship, greater sensitivity to our congregations by making songs accessible and singable, and an honest look at how deeply the culture may be robbing us of the very real need for a company of worshippers in a local church, all bringing their heartfelt praise to God.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

– Colossians 3:16

church cemetaryAugustine told us that the “law of prayer is the law of belief.”  In other words, what touches the heart is what tends to be remembered and treasured. In our day we could easily say that the law of song is the law of belief. I have many volumes of systematic theology on my shelves. Few of those will ever be read by the average believer, and not one line in any of those books will be remembered more than the lyrics of beloved hymns.  If music is a vital means of imparting spiritual truth to the hearts of God’s people, then it’s important we present as full a spectrum of theology as possible. That includes the reality of death.

“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” – Hebrews 9:27

We all face the inevitability of it. Sometimes we’re reminded by the sudden and shocking departure of a loved one, or their slow descent into the shadows of death through disease. Sometimes the descent is our own. What about our young men and women in the military, or our police and rescue squads that place themselves in harms way? What about their families who face the threat with them?  How do we prepare our people to view death through the prism of hope and not despair? In part, we sing about it.

Songs about death don’t fall into the category of “happy-clappy,” and so they are often avoided. But the Scriptures don’t avoid it and neither should we. We must be preparing people to die, not simply react to death when it comes. We sing songs about facing trials and difficulties with faith. Why? Simply as a reaction? No! We sing those worship songs because they prepare the heart and fortify faith for the trials we surely will face. I’m grateful for two “re-tuned” hymns I have found genuinely full of faith in the face of death. These hymns I have used for funerals but, I have also used them in our worship service.They are not maudlin or cheesy, but instead rich in metaphor and truth. They also bring the hope we have in the face of death straight to our hearts and minds. Songs of hope help us live in the power of faith in future grace.

I’m going to share the lyrics to both songs here along with the links to where the sheet music can be obtained. Are there other songs about death you could suggest that might provide the same hope and truth?

It is Not Death to Die – Bob Kauflin

Original Words by Henri Malan (1787-1864), Translated by George Bethune (1847), Music, Chorus, and Alternate Words by Bob Kauflin. Sovereign Grace Music

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lyrics, chord charts, piano and string scores.

Good Night by Matthew Smith

I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears
To heavenly joy and freedom
From earthly bonds and fears
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

Why thus so sadly weeping
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious
Though now He bids us part
Oft have we met in gladness
And we shall meet again
All sorrow left behind us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I go to see His glory
Whom we have loved below
I go, the blessed angels
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed
I go to find again
And wait for you to join us–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

I hear the Savior calling–
The joyful hour has come
The angel-guards are ready
To guide me to our home
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit–
Goodnight, goodnight till then

from Watch The Rising Day, released 17 August 2010

©2010 Detuned Radio Music
Written by Matthew S. Smith
Based in part on a hymn text by an unknown German writer, translated by Jane Borthwick

Find sheet music for Matthew Smith’s songs here.

This is from the Vineyard’s Inside Worship blog and it is excellent advice from a seasoned leader. I would urge you all to take the 3 minutes to watch this. Here’s just a couple of gems:

“My plea to our wonderful worship leaders is that we would keep it simple, keep it pure, keep it unsullied, keep it intimate, keep it centered on Jesus, telling him how wonderful he is…. When we waffle around the edges of the Scripture, we lose our edge and so everything to me has to be theologically sound and doctrinally satisfying.” 

“It’s easy to get caught up in the complexities and techniques of leading worship and forget for a moment what we’re doing. In this short interview Eleanor Mumford shares with us some thoughts on what makes our worship distinctive and urges us to keep it simple.”


I’ve been over to Shalon Palmer’s site where he is offering a new product described as “atmosphere and ambience that fits in your pocket.” Shalon has crafted a set of loops that can be used to fill out and enhance the sound of any worship band. The loops come in 12 keys and last about 20 minutes in a free flowing style with no rhythm or click track to contend with. Simply fade one in, play your song and experience a fuller, richer sound. These are especially well suited to small teams or solo leaders. I really like his use of what I would call accent notes that truly make the pads work with any chord progression. I played along with several on my own and instantly could see how useful they would be in corporate worship. I come from a tradition where singing spontaneously in the Spirit is a special part of worship. These pads provide a beautiful, unobtrusive backdrop that allows me to play along or simply lift my hands and enter into unhurried worship.

Personally, I hate using iTunes for something like this. The free Director Media Player app is my go to app for tracks like this. Very easy to setup a playlist without the extras surrounding iTunes.

You can order the pads via Shalon’s site. They are regularly 29.99 but if you use the code “worshiptools” at checkout, you’ll get a 25% discount!  Check the video below to see worship leader Caleb Harkins describe his use of the loops and then go on over to and check it out. Visit the Facebook page and give him a “Like!”


Caught this article by Jamie Brown via Musicademy and I re-post here because this is such an issue in the local church. I marvel at the reluctance of worship leaders to adjust the keys of the songs on Sunday so that the average singer can joyfully join in. It’s frustrating when either insensitivity or, worse, the desire to show off vocally, trumps the need of worshipers to be able to engage in singing. The following is great insight.

From Jamie:

I’ve written before about the art (it’s not really a science) of choosing the right key for your congregation, so I won’t go into all those details again. You can read this article if you’re wondering what guidelines to follow (generally) to choose congregation-friendly keys. But if you’re not convinced that it matters what key your songs are in, here are some effects that high keys have on a congregation.

They stop singing
They might not all stop singing at once, but they do start dropping off like flies pretty quickly. The brave and enthusiastic will keep on singing. But the people who are on the fence about singing (and you know that every church has them) will stop singing first. Then even the eager will start dropping out because their throats hurt.

They get confused
Here are the questions that start going through the congregation’s mind when the key is too high: Am I supposed to try to sing that note? Maybe I’m just supposed to listen to the worship leader sing it? I guess I’ll sing down an octave, but that feels really low, that can’t be right, can it? Am I just a really bad singer? Will the next song be more singable?

They get tired more quickly
When the songs are in unsingable keys, people will get worn out more quickly. After just one song in the stratosphere, people are going to want a break. Why? Because it feels like exercise. And it is, in a sense. If you’re singing songs in really high keys, you’re asking people to do a vocal work out. And it’s tiring.

They focus on (and blame) you
People don’t like feeling uncomfortable. That’s a basic fact of life. And when people feel uncomfortable, they look for someone to blame. So if I’m Joe the Plumber and I come to church on Sunday and the songs are all really high and unsingable, I’m going to blame the guy/girl who’s leading them. Now the worship leader is the focus and Joe the Plumber isn’t singing along. Not good.

They get conditioned to be spectators
After several too-high songs, or after several weeks/months/years of unsingable songs, your congregation will be conditioned to not sing along. They will have learned that it’s much more comfortable for them to listen to/watch you sing. At this point, you’ll really to have work to get them to sing along with you. Shouldn’t it be the opposite in the churches? I’d rather my congregation be so accustomed to singing along in church that it feels foreign to them to just listen/watch.

I can’t overemphasize the importance of choosing keys wisely for congregational songs. If the Psalmist said “let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3) then surely our number one priority is unified singing. Good keys are the basic building blocks of unified singing.

Gotta love this: Ocean’s Edge School of Worship, a ministry of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, is a 10-month full time discipleship and training institute for the next generation of worship leaders and musicians. “You Alone We Praise” was recorded with the Class of 2012. Visit their website for more information about the school.

Worship Tools 10.31.12

October 31, 2012


The Secret To Generating Your Best IdeasDavid Santistevan

Preparing Spontaneity in Worship – Part 1 by Sam Hargreaves

New Music and Charts

Justin Brooks is the contemporary worship leader at Church of the Incarnation in Dallas, TX.  He and his group, The Uptown Worship Band have released a great new treatment of some hymns as well as some liturgical music and original material. It’s called Hymns and Psalms and the chord charts are already available on their site. Order the CD here!

Visit IGNITECHARTS.coma service created by songwriters specializing in taking your songs and turning them into professional lead sheets, choir sheet music, or simple guitar charts.

Worship Leading

5 Tips to Improve Your Worship Leading and Singing featured at the Worship Community

Worship Tech

Has anyone tried out Worship Keeper planning software? Thoughts? 

Learn an Innovative Sound Check Method that Makes Musicians Happy at 7am! – By Andy@Musicademy

Avoiding Software Update Headaches – from Church Tech Arts

Worship Design

7 Tips for Creating an Engaging Worship Space from CCI

Veteran Technical Director and CCI Solutions Church Relations Director Duke DeJong shares ideas on how to create an engaging worship space. Join Duke on Facebook at &

The Screen Is The New Hymnal: 3 Steps To Better Worship Slides by Chris Bennett

“The screen is the new hymnal. This is both amazing and horrifying. Amazing because you can now introduce a new song with a few clicks instead of obtaining a new hymnal, but horrifying because now anyone can design their own digital hymnal… The design of worship slides may not seem like a big deal. But, second only to their Bible, they are the most important thing people read on a Sunday.”

Here’s Part Two of Mark Aaron Humphrey‘s Six Principles of Worship Design (Miss the first part? Six Principles of Worship Design (Part One))


Worship Tools 9.11.12

September 11, 2012


Rethinking the Worship Wars By Justin Deeter
“When it comes to worship styles we must think like a missionary.  No one method is superior to another, but one method might better advance the Gospel of Jesus in your community.” 

Weighing in On the Worship Wars by Matt Marino
“It doesn’t have to be a choice between a great band singing unsingable songs or being trapped with an organ and an archaic hymnal. Worship could be a recovery of the ancient pattern of Christian worship, artfully and powerfully done, with music that is culturally appropriate to the context you are in.”

 The Role of Singing in the Life of the Church by 
“In short, the God who has held back nothing from us, not even his only Son, deserves far more than the dregs of our attention and the leftovers of our affections.” 

Worship Leaders & Leading

The Worship Leader and Character from Biblical Worship, the blog of Music and Worship Leadership at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
“Robert Murray M’Cheyne: ‘It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus.  A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.’  Worship leaders need to seek to be conformed to the image of Christ daily.”

You are Called to More than Music by Jason Hatley


Top Ten Songs of Sending from Cardiphonia

Earlier,Cardiphonia released a post of their top opening songs for worship. This week the song collection revolves around the idea of sending God’s people forward from worship and into service.

Are you aware of the Liturgy Fellowship Facebook page hosted by Cardiphonia? A great resource!

Guitar Technique

How To Use A Cut Capo by Chris Vacher
Last week Chris shared a helpful post on using a capo. This week he moves on to using a cut capo.

Tech: Audio/Video

How to Plan for the Worship Band by Chris Huff

Our Motion Loop Render Settings by Jeff McIntosh at Church Motion Graphics
“The settings you choose to render your video files are very important. Unfortunately a lot of programs don’t give you clear direction on what settings to choose for desktop playback. Here is a detailed list of our hand-crafted render settings from our many years of research, testing and failed attempts….”

Worship Tools 9.4.12

September 4, 2012


10 Tips for Co-writing from Russ Hutto

Video: Principles of Songwriting with Paul Baloche

Audio / Video

New Songs

Cardophonia recently posted their top ten opening songs. The four hymns are below, check out the retunes and modern songs here.


1. Praise to the Lord (Redemption Hill Arr.)
We love this 4/4 driving arrangement from Redemption Hill, Richmond. We don’t always use the extra bits but the overall feel is great.

2. All Creatures of Our God and King (Traditional)
A great call to worship to song reflecting the call of the psalm 117.

3. Be Thou My King (Rend Collective Arr.)
Like ‘Praise to the Lord’ above taking Be Thou Vision and giving it a driving 4/4 rhythm makes it a great opening song calling us to return our ‘vision’ to the Lord.  We keep the old words but the Rent Collective arr. inspired us.

4. O Worship the King (trad)
A clear call to worship that establishes our relationship in song.  God as our King and his people as feeble and frail needing his mercy and strength. Helps to give the song more of a rolling 6/8 feel.


The Worship Wars: An Alien’s View from @TanyaRiches

What Luke’s Two Old Men Teach Us About Worshiping Through Song from @bobbygiles


“Skilled worship leaders may select music with the intention of leading worshipers from adoration to confession to assurance to thanksgiving and preparation for instruction, but this is not the norm. The more likely mind-set is that worship leaders will select and sequence music that will wake people up, then get them fired up, then settle them down for the Sermon, and send them home afterward feeling good.”

Bryan Chapell in Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice