Breaking Out - ch. 2

By Stephen M. Newman
Founder, and Author of Experiencing Worship
May 07, 2002

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Tools To Help Change

Where are you coming from:

Hymn only.

Hymns with older choruses blended into the service.

A true blended service.

Where do you want to go?

Traditional/Contemporary Blended 40/60

Pure Contemporary

Most worship leaders that I know want to go totally contemporary. I don't mean that they want to abandon hymns and do only Vineyard music. It's in the instrumentation that they desire the contemporary sound. Let's define contemporary music before we move ahead. It is in the instrumentation that we are speaking. There are some new choruses that are not helpful tools in worship as there are hymns that are not. I grew up listening to bands comprised of guitars, drums, bass, and keyboards. It was rare that I listened to an organ unless it was a B-3. Why would I listen to that type of music throughout the week and then want to worship with a pipe organ? I know I am stepping on toes here but the fact is that churches need to be relevant to their people. It is no wonder that churches don't' grow when nothing has changed in years. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. Nothings changed. If you agree that the church must make changes in order to reach people then let's move on. What are some helpful suggestions:)

1. When starting the change, use the contemporary instruments and arrangements to sing hymns. The tunes are familiar and it's only the instrumentation that's different. I suggest that you ease in the amount of instruments you wish to use. It's not wise to have a total band set up on the first Sunday. Ease into it by adding a bass guitar or acoustic guitar first. Do it for several months before adding anything else. Set drums up and don't play them for months. Let the people get use to seeing them in the auditorium before you have someone play them. Remember that moving slow is the key! Worship leaders and music ministers shoot themselves in the foot by moving too fast. Change is tough and the key to change is slow moving.

2. Make sure you have the support of your Senior pastor and other staff. There is nothing more frustrating than doing it alone. If you don't have support from the leadership of the church you will go nowhere with it. The leadership extends to those who you work closely within the music ministry as well. A big question to ask yourself is "Is there a need for it here?". Remember that these people have been here longer than you and will be here when you are gone. Get support before you move on.

3. Do you have the committed people to pull off what you are wanting to do? When you finally move into the setting you desire, remember that it takes more than an organist and pianist to effectively reproduce contemporary music. Band experience is necessary and having those experienced in a band setting is essential. The more instruments you add the more difficult it is to play together. How proficient are they and can they play together?

4. Have a long term plan in mind before you begin. If your experience in contemporary music is limited, it will take time for you to get your skills in order. When you begin working with a band and group of trained vocalist it can be intimidating at times if you are not comfortable in that setting. Set goals of where you want to go and get training to help you as a leader. There are some great conferences out there that can help you in this area.

5. Choose your people carefully. As you know, music draws in all sorts of personalities. When beginning a team make sure that their hearts are in the right places. The larger the group the more problems that can arise from the different personalities. I recommend that you have a list of guidelines and qualifications for your people. This will help them know what you expect from them.

6. Help your people from the start to become worship leaders. In the contemporary setting the role of the vocalist and entire group moves from a song leading support to a worship support. They are there for the purpose of helping produce quality music for worship but are also there to help lead it. A worship team can help you or hurt you in leading worship. Train your people on what Biblical worship is and what their role is as a leader on the platform. They are no longer a music and vocal support but leaders of worship who need to model it before the people.

7. Begin early sharing your reasons for wanting to move to a contemporary setting. Along with getting support to help you move into a new style, begin sharing with as many people as you can about your vision and the reasons you feel it is needed. Communicate with the people. Put it in publications, bring in others outside the church to support your position (a Worship Leader from another church that is already doing it). Share statistics of growth that has occurred in other churches who have gone that route. Use examples of churches within your denomination that have moved to a more contemporary style and how they have been successful. Get the information into your peoples hands that supports your position.

8. Start a service earlier than the main service or on a Saturday night to start. If you feel that your church is not ready for the blended service on Sunday mornings during the prime service, work on an alternative time. Start a new service for the "younger" people on a Saturday night or Sunday before the 11:00 a.m. service. Should you choose this route I caution you to be careful that you don't go hog wild with it. People will be watching you. How you approach this service may affect your chances to move the rest of the church in that direction in the future. Eye's will be on you even though it is not during the main service. Make this service contemporary yet tolerable to the older person. This method of approach has been the most effective in our experience. What you will find is that the people who desire that style of music in worship will be drawn to it. In many cases that service will become the "main" service in your church. Remember that it won't happen overnight. Be patient and if it is God's will it will happen.

9. How does your congregation view you. What do they think of you as a person and minister? One of the most important factors you need to be aware of is your reputation as a leader in the church. Do the people have confidence in you? Have you proven yourself at that church in that setting? Do they trust you? Do they know you heart for ministry and is your life reflective of it? If the people don't have total confidence in you this type of change will never occur. We as staff are outsiders to the local church.( I am speaking of the smaller churches in rural settings.) How the congregation views you as a leader and minister will have everything to how much they will allow you to do in the area of change. Get the trust and develop relationships with key people. Prove yourself and your motives, and people will allow you to move in the areas that you feel called.

Breaking Out
  • Are You Willing (Chapter 1)
  • Tools To Help Change (Chapter 2)

  • Stephen M. Newman
    Founder, and Author of Experiencing Worship
    Read more from Stephen M. Newman

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