Worship Series: Song Selection

If you’ve been following for some time, you’d know that I help out with children’s worship once a month. Well, once a month we also hold a children’s worship practice, where we introduce new songs and motions to our children’s worship team. And every month I struggle with tying to figure out what new songs I’d like to add to our slowly growing list.

Now, it’s not that I don’t have songs that I love, however, everybody has their own style of worship and artists they prefer, and I’m no different. I love upbeat and energetic praise songs and I love worship, but I’m also very lyrically driven. Obviously, I’m a writer, so I tend to be drawn to songs with powerful, biblically sound lyrics. I mean, the Bible says that true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth, and the Word is Truth (John 4:23-24).

However, when it comes to children’s worship, I can’t always choose to share or lead the same songs that I enjoy during my personal worship time, because the lyrics are sometimes too complex for children between the ages of 5-12. That’s not to say that I choose watered down songs, because that would mean I’d be underestimating the understanding of the children; and children understand much more than we often give them credit for. (That’s why Jesus said that we should be more like little children in Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Luke 18.) However, sometimes I really struggle with finding age-appropriate songs, especially because our group varies so vastly in age.

I think this is a challenge that someone leading any type of worship–adults, children, teens, etc.–faces: choosing the right songs for the particular group you’re leading. Leading adult worship, for instance, means you have to choose songs that reach a multitude of generations (unless your church has only one primary age group).

Here are three things that I started taking into consideration when choosing songs for Children’s Worship:

Tempo

Because I’m working with kids this is an important one. If we want the children to be excited about worship, we need some up-tempo songs to begin with and we have to be careful when we slow down our praise and enter into worship. Usually, I like to have a transition song, something mid-tempo, before going into worship, but sometimes it’s not always possible. Their attention span is pretty short and I’ve found that if we sing any more than one worship song, we usually lose them.

Lyrics

This is the most challenging for me. Some of my favorite worship songs are very lyric heavy. They either have a lot of lyrics or the lyrics are complex. In the days leading up to our most recent practice, for example, I went back and forth on a song that I really loved, but eventually decided against because I felt that the kids couldn’t handle it. The best songs for them tend to be those with simpler lyrics and repeating choruses, although I have found some exceptions. Songs that they are familiar with, because they hear them repeatedly on the radio, tend to do extremely well with this group! So much so, that we’ve begun to use more of such songs during worship.

Song Length

Unfortunately, we don’t have a live band for our children’s worship, so we use tracks (usually, including the lyrics). Sometimes the track we have is too long or there’s too much ad-lib going on in the track. I’ve been making notes of which songs these are, so that I don’t continue to use them or I request that a new/different version of the song be purchased. Again, I can’t lead an 8 minute worship song with this age group, since they just don’t have the attention span, and they don’t know what to do when someone is ad-libbing.

Still, even after taking these things into consideration, we just have to lead the song a few times and see how the children respond to it. Sometimes they pick it up easily and other times we end up disappointed and end up removing the song from our list.

Now I have questions for you…How do you choose which songs to use in your worship services? And how many times do you try/lead a new song before ultimately giving up on it? I’d love to hear your responses below!

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Unplug – part 2

Back in December I wrote a post about learning to unplug. In that post I was focused on unplugging from technology, but today, I want to focus more on scheduling quiet time for privately studying the Word, prayer, and worship.

Today, upon reviewing past journal entries during my personal quiet time, I noticed a pattern, and from this pattern, God reminded me of something very important.

First, I realized that every few months I schedule these days—often mornings—of quiet solitude and prayer, out of necessity. I find that I’m forced to schedule such days because I’m exhausted, depressed, and unmotivated. I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to go to work, and I don’t want to be around people. I become short-tempered, refuse to answer my phone, and I don’t want to talk to anybody. I’ve finally come to the realization that if I just scheduled these quiet times more often, I wouldn’t have to take an entire day off from work to rest.

I study the Word, I pray, and I attend church and bible studies regularly, but these quiet moments are worth so much more to me because I’m not rushed, there’s no one around to interrupt me, and I’m focused on only one thing—pouring my heart out to God and listening for His voice. My prayers during these times resemble a conversation one would have with an intimate counselor or closest friend. These are the moments in which I confide my deepest fears and struggles, ask clarifying questions, and seek direction. And I hear His voice!

These moments are so precious to me. He comforts me, covers me with peace, reassures and corrects me, and points the way. And so I question, why don’t I schedule these moments every evening, when I come home from work? Why don’t I release everything over to Him and let Him renew and refresh me, every day?

The truth is, life is hectic. It’s busy and stressful and we’re often consumed by the next activity, the next meeting or party, or the next thing on our to-do list. We’re easily distracted and focused on so many other things that we often neglect the most important thing. More important than the relationships with the people around us, more important than our job, more important than whatever we have planned to do, is the relationship we have with our heavenly Father. I don’t know about you, but I can’t do life alone; I need His presence with me wherever I go and in whatever I do. It’s time we stop pretending we can get by without Him! If we think that we can get by on a few crumbs we receive on Sunday mornings, or Wednesday nights, or the scraps we pick up elsewhere, we’re sadly mistaken. It’s what we do in our personal time to deepen our relationship with Christ that satisfies, strengthens, and changes us.

Second, as I realized that this is what I needed to do, God reminded me that it’s what we all need to do. Whether we have a secular job or work in a ministry setting, God desires these quiet moments with each of us to remind us Who He is, to recharge and refresh us, and to change our perspective about our lives in terms of His kingdom. God wants to do amazing things in and through us for the glory of His Name, and if we’re distracted by our desire and plans, we can’t see the bigger picture and what His desires and plans are. If we’re exhausted and stressed out because of our over commitments, traditions, and lifestyle, then when God calls us to do something, are we willing to be used with joyful heart? Or are we too tired? Too grumpy? Too distracted by all the other things on our to-do list?

To conclude, I recommend we all take a good, hard look at what our current commitments and lifestyle looks like, and make a purposeful stance to schedule absolute alone time with our heavenly Father. If this means heading to our car for an hour, hiding in our prayer closet, locking our bedroom or bathroom door, or heading to a secluded spot in a park, so be it. We need this time with God, our Father, as much as we need food or water, and honestly, many of us are slowly dying of hunger and dehydration. Let’s stop making excuses, and give God the very best of our lives, time, and resources, instead of the leftovers.

As Michael Catt says in his study, Refresh: The Road to Revival, “What we bring to God is a reflection of what we think of Him.” What are our lives reflecting?

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for His Name’s sake.

~ Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

How desperate are we…really?

Monday nights we host a Bible study at our local Starbucks. It’s a nine-week study on Michael Catt’s Refresh, which focuses on three areas of our spiritual journey: desperation, surrender, and persistence. So far, we’ve only been focusing on what it means to be desperate.

The power of desperation is something the world cannot comprehend. In a world where strength is lauded, we see that broken people have unexpected power with God. ~Michael Catt, Refresh

Tonight, as we finished up and I began making my way home, I started thinking about Psalm 119. I think it’s the longest psalm, so I’ll just highlight some of the verses that came to mind…

  • Oh, how I love your instructions! I think about them all day long (verse 27, NLT).
  • How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey (verse 103, NLT).
  • Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path (verse 105, NLT).
  • Your laws are wonderful. No wonder I obey them (verse 129, NLT)!
  • I pant with expectation, longing for your commands (verse 131, NLT).
  • I rejoice in your word like one who discovers a great treasure (verse 162, NLT).

If you’ve read this chapter, you know that the author is talking about the Word of God; the Law of the Old Testament. But it got me thinking, is this how we feel about the Word of God? Do we pant with expectation and longing for the Word? Do we rejoice as we study the Word, as if we’ve found a great treasure in every verse read? Are we excited by it? Are we desperate for it?

The Word of God is how we get to know God, intimately. It’s how we learn His character, how we learn to understand His heart, and it’s through His Word that we are challenged and transformed into His image. If we claim to be desperate for God, but won’t open a Bible, then are we really desperate for Him? If we claim to be desperate for Him but won’t turn off our television or computer, or we won’t put down our cell phones long enough to spend quality time with Him, then are we really desperate for Him?

Some may be thinking, “But I just can’t. I can’t find the time. I can’t understand the Word. I can’t get excited about the Bible.” These are excuses. I believe that we use the word can’t way too liberally. The word can’t states an impossibility; that we’re mentally or physically incapable of learning, studying, reading, praying. That’s obviously not the case if you’re reading this. The truth is, anything we truly WANT to do, we’ll make time for. We have the freedom to choose how we spend our time–yes, the Holy Spirit can, and often does, prompt us–but we, alone, are responsible for our choices. We can choose to study the Bible. We can choose to spend time in prayer, and ask God to give us a hunger for His Word and to help us understand it. We can choose to worship Him and show Him how truly thankful we are for His grace and mercy. We can choose to be obedient and allow Him to direct our paths and write our story. But we can also make the choice not to. The question is do we really want to?

Desperation for God comes when we recognize that we’re nothing without Him; for without Him we have no hope, no future, no purpose. Desperation for God comes when our heart is overwhelmed and overflowing with gratitude for all He’s done, all He’s doing, and all He’s promised to do! When we’re truly desperate to know God, to have fellowship with Him in an intimate way, we’re not going to let anything come between us and Him. We’re not going to give Him the leftovers of our day, we’re going to give Him the first fruits! We’re not going to find time for Him, we’re going to schedule time for Him; because otherwise all the other things in our busy lives will push Him out.

So, I ask again…how desperate are we…really?

Worship Series: Pride

Pride is one of the enemy’s best tricks. It sneaks up on us when we’re least aware of it and can destroy our ministry, our character, and pretty much every area of our lives. So, what exactly is pride? The dictionary defines it as a “high opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority.” Basically, in terms of worship, this means that we assume we are more important or valuable because of a particular ability or skill we have. Generally speaking, we’ve ignored the fact that God has given us our particular skill or ability, and instead of using it to glorify God, we’re using it to glorify (and inflate) ourselves.

Some questions that we should ask ourselves often, in order to identify whether or not we’ve fallen into this trap are:

  1. Why am I leading worship?
  2. Do I feel called to lead worship?
  3. Do I feel put out or offended when my skill or ability is overlooked?
  4. Am I trying to stand out and gain attention, or am I working in unity with the other band members and under authority of the leadership?
  5. Am I respectful of the leaders’ decisions?

Pride is a tricky thing and God detests it. The pride of mankind is what pushed Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Pride is what caused men to build the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, and pride caused the devil to lose his place in the heavenly realm. In the Old Testament, king after king (2 Chronicles 26:16; Jeremiah 13:9; Daniel 5:20; Isaiah 10:12) is seen losing his power and authority to rule, because of pride; and nation upon nation (Isaiah 13:19, 43:14; Ezekiel 32:12; Zechariah 9:6, 10:11), destroyed because of their pride.

Psalm 10:4 says, “In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God” and 16:18 says “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Pride says that we don’t need God and we can accomplish everything on our own, but humility and wisdom show that we can do nothing on our own; we need God. This is why Proverbs 11:12 states “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” We should never fall into the trap of thinking we can do everything through our own ability and skill, because at any given moment God can take away our gifts and talents.

Furthermore, there is a great difference between those who are gifted with talent and those who are actually called to the ministry. Sometimes someone may be talented, but not called, while those who are called aren’t necessarily the most talented, but heavily anointed. However, this is a topic for another time.

For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world. ~ 1 John 2:16