Christmas Thoughts on Isaiah 9

December 26, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

Like many of you, the day after Christmas (Boxing Day in Canada!) is really my first opportunity to breathe and relax in a busy December. Christmas Eve services take lots of work, lots of prayer, lots of preparation and Christmas Day is time very well spent with family. December 26 has become, for me, a great day I look forward to every year.

Leading up to Christmas this year I was drawn more than usual to Isaiah 9 and the four titles given to Jesus, the awaited Messiah.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

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Wonderful Counselor
Jesus is incomprehensible wisdom. He knows what we need more than we do. He knows how to lead us where we need to be and He asks us to trust Him as we follow.

Mighty God
Jesus is strong and powerful in the same way God has always shown His strength. Jesus is the powerful incarnation, strong enough to save His people from their sins.

Everlasting Father
Jesus is eternally existant in trinitarian communion. Begotten from the Father, present and active in creation, now glorified and magnified in majesty.

Prince of Peace
Jesus is given dominion from every sea to every sea and His kingdom is always and only advancing through peace. Jesus is the one who brings peace to every difficulty.

‘Twas The Week Before Christmas

December 17, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

Worship leaders and teams all around the world are getting ready for Christmas Eve and Christmas services. We’re anticipating hundreds of millions of people gathering together at every kind of worship service you can imagine at every time of day in every time zone in every country on the planet. Amazing.

'Twas theWEEKbeforeChristmas

Worship leaders, you have one week between now and the moment your services begin. How should you invest that time? What should you be giving your attention to over the next 7 days?

Of course there are people to be scheduled and set designs to be built and candles to be lit. Please do the tasks of your job so that you don’t get fired! But along with that, where should you be giving your energy to help ensure success for your Christmas services?

Let me share with you where I’ve learned to focus my attention and energy in the last week leading up to Christmas. Not in order of priority or preference:

 

Prayer

This is sometimes a given but it should never be a given.

Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.
Psalm 127:1

Unless the Lord encounters people and changes lives, the worship leader sings in vain. Unless the pastor prays, the people come to a nice event in vain.

Pray for your Christmas services, for your Christmas events. Pray for your staff and your worship teams. Pray for the invites going out to the community. Pray for every person who will sit in every seat during every service in your worship space.

Pray for the preacher or whoever will be speaking from God’s word during your Christmas services. Pray for people who will say yes to the invitation to follow Jesus. Pray for God to be showing Himself in amazing ways in their lives even right now.

This week keep prayer at the forefront of your Christmas service preparation.

 

Programming

Depending on your style, flavor and denomination of church you will have a certain level of freedom when it comes to programming your service.

If you’re still choosing songs or fine tuning the elements of your Christmas worship service I’ve found that simplicity wins the day when it comes to this time of year.

Choose songs that people want to sing – Jesus-focused Christmas carols. Include readings from the Christmas story. Preach the birth of Christ and the radical implications of incarnation.

Christmas is not the time to get tricky or clever. People are saying yes to the invitation to come because they’re expecting the manger and the shepherds and the hark the heralds. Don’t make enemies over the baby Jesus!

 

People

As you’re thinking about Christmas Eve services and all the work to be done, remember that you (hopefully!) have hoardes of people from your church who have their regular jobs, their family commitments, their own craziness this time of year PLUS they’re thinking about how excited they are to be involved and how much work there is to be done for Christmas services!

Take time this week before the big day to send an email or give a quick phone call to let people know that you appreciate them and the work they’re doing to help your church get ready for Christmas.

On the day of your services have you thought about how you’re going to treat volunteers? If you have multiple services do you need to feed them? How are you going to include their families? Remember that many of them are giving up a big chunk of time (willingly!)  and as their pastor you would do well to recognize and acknowledge that.

Spend time this week thinking about your people and how their involvement is significant for your Christmas services.

Merry Christmas! May you have moments over the next week to be amazed and in awe of the God who loves you enough to come and be with you.

Worship Leader’s Christmas Resource Roundup

November 6, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

If you’re not already up to your eyeballs in Christmas, it won’t be long! Just like Sunday comes every week, Christmas comes every year and we have this incredible opportunity of welcoming people into our churches for Advent, Sundays leading up to Christmas, Christmas Eve services and maybe even a Christmas Day service.

Of course the story we tell and the songs we sing at Christmas better be focused directly on the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the Messiah, the incarnation of God Himself but how we present that story and invite people to engage with it can be a challenge.

Over the years I’ve learned to leverage every creative option available to me at Christmas to help create one beautiful moment of worship in our services. It’s easy to let the lyrics of all-too-familiar Christmas songs just whiz by (don’t get me started talking about the Hark The Herald Angels Sing lyric – “Hail the heav’n born prince of peace / Hail the Sun of Righteousness”) and yet there is depth, beauty, history, promise and emotion wrapped up in these songs and stories.

Christmas is without a doubt the easiest time of year to invite people to church. They are much more likely to say yes to an invitation to a Christmas Eve service than at any other time of year. What I’ve done here is to gather together some resources to help you plan before, during and after your Christmas services to have the maximum impact possible in the lives of people you are trying to reach.

First of all, I’d love to share a free resource that I created for you so that you can design and implement a Facebook Advent calendar for your social community. This is a free downloadable ebook that will share step-by-step details to share the incredible news of Christmas with your church and to help your church share it with their community! An easy, free way to have big impact this Christmas and help invite people to church for your Christmas services.

Cover2Thanks for your interest in this ebook!
Click here to download this resource now:
How To Create A Facebook Advent Calendar

 

 

 

 

 

Songs

Probably the first thing on your mind as a worship leader is the songs you will sing during your Christmas services. Of course there are always the standards and the usual suspects but if you are looking for new songs to include as either presentation or corporate worship then you need to look at the list from PraiseCharts of their top Christmas worship songs.

PraiseCharts___Customer
Motion Graphics

The visual of your auditorium/sanctuary is pretty crucial to your Christmas worship service experience and Jeff McIntosh from Church Motion Graphics has some incredible Christmas video bundles available for really reasonable prices. Buy a bundle or get access to the library through his media subscription.

 

Videos

Worship leaders are often looking for videos to include as creative content in their Christmas services. Maybe you’re looking for something funny like kids telling their version of the Christmas story or something meaningful like a story of redemption around the Christmas season. Whatever you’re looking for the guys at Worship House Media have got it. They’ve gathered together all of their Christmas videos so you can find exactly what you need!

Here’s one of my favourites that we used in our Christmas Eve services a couple of years ago –

 

Christmas Story

Of course every year you’re going to include the Christmas story in your services and share again the incredible news of the arrival of Jesus. If you’re looking for a beautiful, creative, inspiring way to do this for your church I can’t recommend The Story of Christmas from Church on the Move enough. We presented it as part of our Christmas services two years in a row at my previous church and the impact is incredible.

Watch this video from Church on the Move’s presentation of The Story of Christmas in 2012 –

Purchase the score, audio tracks, script and cueing video for The Christmas Story to help you prepare this amazing creative element for your Christmas services.

Stage Design

The visual experience in your auditorium is more than what’s on screen so you definitely want to think about stage design and how that will add to your Christmas services. You can go traditional with trees and poinsettias and candles or you can go out of the box and very modern. Of course every worship leader loves to use pallets in their stage design!

Make sure you check out the Christmas ideas and inspiration over at ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com for some great visuals and write-ups that detail how to pull off that great idea for your Christmas stage design.

Even at Christmas pallets can be used for stage design!

Even at Christmas pallets can be used for stage design!

 

Event Planning

Maybe your church is doing a bigger Christmas event this year and you’re looking for some resources to help you with planning – communication, invitation, setting some goals and targets for the event. Of course this kind of thing is helpful for Christmas Eve services too so you need to check out this series of articles at Sunday Magazine which tell the story of Cross Point Church’s A Merry Music City Christmas event and how the staff and volunteers from that church worked to pull off an incredible event that had major impact for people in their city.

Last year I was fortunate enough to be in Nashville while the event was happening and got to visit for myself. It was unbelievable! Fire pits, tube hills, hot chocolate, Christmas music – all the great things about the Christmas season wrapped up in one event designed to bless people at Christmas and invite them to Christmas Eve services. Amazing.

 

Follow Up

Obviously you don’t want the relationship with people who attend your Christmas services to end once they walk out the door. However you plan to communicate with them you need to prepared to gather contact info and also with the delivery method you’ll use. I found this great article over at ChurchLeaders.com that will be helpful for you – 6 Easy Ways to Follow Up With Christmas Guests

 

Hopefully this is helpful for you! I’d love to hear how you use these or other resources in planning and delivering your Christmas services this year. Share this with your friends and then share with me your best resources!

Moments of Inspiration

October 23, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

One of the reasons I go to places like #hillsongconf is to be inspired and challenged to push further in creativity through the leadership of experts.


This photo captures a beautiful moment of personal creative inspiration that leads my brain and my heart down some new trails of possibility for our church.

AND.. The craziness of inspiration is that it’s not at all about the visual and the lights and the stage and the wow. What we do at C4 will probably never look like this. But the experience surrounding this moment is the inspiration that sticks with me and triggers some dreaming.

Don’t fall for the trick of monkey see, monkey do that so many artists and leaders end up chasing. You can’t see this and then say, “Let’s do that!” That’s not inspiration, that’s imitation.

But place yourself in situations where inspiration is real and present and then use your brain, your ability, your context and your responsibility to turn that inspiration into experiences which impact and inspire others.

5 Words of Advice for a Worship Pastor’s First Day on the Job

September 16, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

Moving from volunteer worship leader to paid worship pastor is a big jump and an incredible opportunity. I’m always cheering on people as they step into a new role and I’m often asked for advice as someone starts working at a church in their role as worship pastor.

Starting well will help you set a good course for many years of successful ministry and will allow you to thrive in your role. Stumbling out of the blocks won’t completely derail you but if I can help you avoid some early missteps then everyone wins!

Every church, job description, set of expectations and co-worker dynamic will be different based on location, size of church, history, tenure of the senior pastor (to only name a few factors!) but here are five words of advice I give to worship pastors who are just starting out in their new job at a church for the first time.

 

THREE WAYSCOLLABORATIONINCREASES CREATIVITY-5

 

1. Don’t Neglect Your Soul

I’ve been in full time worship ministry since 2005. Long enough to see too many worship pastors leave their church job, leave the church and some leave the faith altogether. Don’t neglect your soul.

Success in ministry at the expense of your relationship with Jesus is a terrible trade.

Success in ministry at the expense of your relationship with Jesus is a terrible trade.Click To Tweet

Personal worship outside of rehearsal and Sunday morning is crucial. Prioritize time in prayer away from the office. Read scripture for more than choosing songs that match your pastor’s message. Celebrate the work of Jesus in your family and your community.

Your identity as a follower of Jesus is so much more than what you do as a worship pastor and your ability as a worship pastor will flow out of your own relationship with Jesus. Don’t neglect it.

 

2. Your Pastor Trusts You

By inviting you to lead the flock under their care, your pastor has already expressed great trust in you. You may not be BFF’s yet with your pastor but invest in the relationship and take time to learn how you can serve them, encourage them and be part of shepherding people the way God has called you to do together.

Your pastor loses sleep over the people in your church and trust me when I say that they care very much about who is leading their church in worship. By hiring you and giving you this opportunity they have already shown you how much trust they have in you.

 

3. Your Pastor Is Your Boss Is Your Pastor

People who work for their church have, by nature, a very strange relationship with their boss. There are as many staffing structures as there are churches but at some point your pastor is going to be your boss is going to be your pastor. And that can be weird.

Your job security is dependant partly on your spiritual wellness but your spiritual vitality should never be dependant on your job performance. It can be very difficult to separate those two things but the sooner you can build pastor relationship with your boss, the better. He wants you to thrive both as a follower of Jesus AND as a worship pastor and if his priorities are in the right place they will be in that order.

 

4. Love People Before Leading Them

Once you are hired as a professional worship leader that means you are on staff at a larger than average church that can afford to pay you and also has certain expectations of what will be delivered on Sunday morning. It’s easy to fall into the trap and believe that you are there to perform for the crowd and help them check off the worship box.

Spend time every Sunday walking through the seats just talking with people and asking them how they’re doing. Get out to the lobby or the parking lot and say hi to people as they come in to the building. Get down and high five some kids as they’re walking through the halls. It’s important for people to know that you see them and care for them as people before you lead them.

 

5. Go To The Funeral

Someone gave me this advice almost 15 years ago and it has served me well. Go to the funeral. When you hear of a tough thing in someone’s life, show up. If someone on your team has a death in the family and you’re able, go to the funeral. They won’t think it’s weird or out of place, you won’t be overstepping your bounds and you aren’t setting a bad precedent. Just show up.

Your presence during tough times will speak volumes to the people who are serving alongside you and will help grow the pastoral shepherding heart that God has already placed inside you. Go to the funeral.

 

 There’s 5 Words of Advice for a Worship Pastor’s First Day on the Job.

Those of you who are in full time paid worship ministry, what would you add to this list?

What advice did you receive when you started in your first worship pastor position?

3 Ways Collaboration Increases Creativity

September 8, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

Collaboration sparks creativity

Collaboration and creativity seem to be at odds with each other. People who put themselves in the magical creative camp often present themselves as these mythical creatures who need to be left alone, undisturbed, solely focused on their great masterpiece until they’ve determined it’s ready for the world to see.

3 Ways Collaboration Increases CreativityClick To Tweet

Collaboration – working together with other people on a common task – becomes a threat to the creativity, ability and artistry of the individual.

Except when it doesn’t.

Over the years I have seen the benefits of collaboration far outweighs the pitfalls to the point that there’s almost no creative work that I do – songwriting, service planning, sermon series brainstorming – completely on my own. Collaboration has become so vital to my creative process that I almost can’t imagine it happening any other way.

“Well.. that’s because you’re just not that good!,” you might say. And you might be right. Except no great artist in the history of the world has ever been a solo creative, flying under the shadow of darkness, revealing their greatest work to shouts of admiration! Painters, sculptors, and yes.. even Steve Jobs.. have had apprentices, co-labourers, patrons and employees who have helped inspire them to create even better work.

Here are my three ways collaboration increases creativity:

  1. Collaboration makes the final product better

    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that we can make something better than me. What we can do together will always be better than what I can do on my own. Our ideas, our talent, our inspiration, our ability working together will result in a better finished product than if I had been left to my own devices.Obviously there is a caveat here. Process. The process to get from inspiration to completion has to be there or we’ll have a bunch of passionate artists throwing their ideas into a mish-mashed mix of mess.Process involves the steps of creativity and also the personality of creatives. Each person has something to offer as well as the right time to offer it. If you bring together the right people and the right process, look out! The finished product of creative collaboration will always be better.

  2. Collaboration makes me better

    Working with other artists always pushes, encourages, affirms, shapes and refines my creative ability. Songwriter with other songwriters helps me see where I’m on the right track as a songwriter and opens my eyes to some things I should work on. Planning a large event like a Christmas Eve service with other creatives can confirm some of the ideas I have and bring new ideas to the table that will challenge me to be better.Never once have I left a brainstorming session, a song co-write or any other kind of collaborative creative experience and felt like it was a waste of time or that I had become better at what I do. Creative collaboration always makes me better.

  3. Collaboration makes others better

    As we mature we become more and more aware that our creative collaboration is not just about the finished product and it’s not just about me. Part of our responsibility as artists is to develop, encourage, cheer on and actively develop other artists. Whatever your level of creativity or skill, someone at some point – a teacher, a mentor, a worship leader, whoever – took time to intentionally pour into you and part of that legacy is the opportunity to pour into others.Collaboration allows others to be better in many of the same ways that collaboration makes me better. Within the context of relationship and creativity we are able to show new ways of thinking, demonstrate new skills and give a safe place for artists to explore their ability in a new way for the first time. Don’t overestimate this.Any artist with a desire to be part of creating great work will understand that investing in people will always have the greatest return and creative collaboration is an incredible way to see that happen.

So next time the opportunity for collaboration within a creative setting becomes available, say yes! You might be afraid, you might be intimidated, you might be insulted but the reasons to say yes to collaborative creativity always outweigh the reasons to say no.

Three great reasons to pursue collaboration in our creative work Click To Tweet

Collaboration makes the final product better. Collaboration makes me better. Collaboration makes others better. Three great reasons to pursue collaboration in our creative work!

Thoughts on Songwriting and Community

August 25, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

 

Kingdom Come Screen 3  (1)

A year and a half ago I came to C4 with a dream to see us write, sing and share songs that captured the story of what God is doing among us and through us.

Last summer I sat in a little loft with three friends and we wrote a couple songs, one of which we’ve been singing on Sundays this year.

Earlier this summer that song was sung at the wedding of one of those friends who was part of writing it. Tomorrow another one of the writers will sing it at the wedding of two other friends of ours.

Pretty incredible picture of a song capturing a unique season in the life of a community and how the song itself can play a significant part of the meaningful events within that community.

So thankful for the glimpses of God’s activity we’re able to catch with the songs we’re writing together and excited for the songs which are yet to be written, yet to be sung, yet to be part of beautiful life-changing celebrations.

Creativity Begets Creativity

August 15, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

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Creativity inspires creativity. The other night Sonya painted the one on the left, this morning the girls got out their paints and did their own artwork.

The same is true in your own life. Personal creativity inspires creativity in others but also in you. You don’t master any craft the first time you try, continued work at being creative helps inspire new creativity as your art and skill develop.

Why I’m Excited To Go Back To Work

July 25, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

After an incredibly restful, restoring, rejuvenating and FUN three weeks of vacation I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday.

Wait.. Did you read that right? You bet you did.

My holidays were incredible – full of the best parts of life, long nights with friends, laughing around the table, splashing in the water, ignoring whatever time the clock says it is and just BEING with one another. Wow.

(I took this photo standing in water up to my knees at my parents’ cottage. I wish I could tell you this was an unusual sunset of Burridge Lake but it’s like this pretty much every night of the summer. Hard to beat the view! ‪#‎nofilter‬ )

And while the time spent on holidays was life-giving, my time doing the work I was created to do is exciting and joyful and stretching and fulfilling. My work is part of my life and part of what God has created me to do. So I love it! And yes, I can’t wait to get back to work on Monday.

Wouldn’t it be great if all of life were like vacations? Maybe. But maybe we enjoy them more knowing that they’re only part of life. And maybe we can enjoy our work more when we know it’s only part of our life too.

Vacation Tips for Creatives

July 7, 2015 | Get free updates of new posts here

Summer is off to a great start and many of you are going to get some holiday time to get rested and rejuvenated. If you’re anything like me you struggle with the tension of connection while you’re on a break. How “connected” should you be or should you allow yourself to be while you’re on holidays? Especially if you fall in to the camp labelled creative you may find this to be a difficult transition from work to vacation.

Some people are able to drop their phone, social media and digital connections for a couple of weeks and feel no desire to stay in touch whatsoever while they’re on holidays. Some (and I’ll put myself very much in this group!) don’t necessarily want or feel the need to be technological hermits while they’re on a break from work but may not know how to balance those two things.

How can I rest my mind, body and soul while still taking advantage of the things I enjoy about technology?

Is that you? Ever ask a question like that? Maybe you’ve had to justify your use of technology while you’re on holidays to a boss or co-worker and never really been able to explain how you’re able to set some clear boundaries for that.

Vacation tips for creatives: how to go on holiday without being a hermit.Click To Tweet

So let me share with you my process and maybe there’s something here which could be helpful for you.  Let me be clear, this is my process and this isn’t mandated to me by anyone and I’m not mandating that this is how you should do this. I’ve learned three easy steps that I can do to be rested, to be not distracted by work and at the same time to stay engaged with the great things I love about technology.

But why not just ditch technology while I’m vacation? Why not just take the opportunity for a break from all of these things which take our endless? For me (again.. this is for me.. not necessarily for everyone..) this is a way to intentionally express that my job is not who I am. If my identity is so wrapped up in the role I get paid to do that my life drastically changes when I’m on vacation, I’m admitting that a big chunk of who I am is defined by the job that I do. And yet that’s not true. When I’m on holidays from my job I still continue to be who I am while living a very different daily or weekly schedule, freed up to do more of the incredible things I love to do but I’m not able to do as much while I’m working.

So what’s the balance that I’ve found for me? Three strategies around the things that seem to be the three biggest issues for creatives while they’re on a break from work: email, apps and calendar. I’ve developed three strategies that allow me to get a good break from these three things while I’m on vacation.

Here’s a quick photo to describe my three strategies:

 

vacationtipsforcreatives

 

 

1. Email

I know this is not possible for everyone but I have all of my email routed to gmail. Whether you email me at my work or personal address it goes to my gmail inbox and all of my email is managed there. While I’m on holidays I simply setup a filter in gmail to label all email delivered to my work address and have those moved away from my inbox. Any incoming work email gets a label (in this case “Vacation”) and get archived so they’ll be waiting for me in a separate labelled folder when I get back from holidays.

This allows me to continue to check email without being drawn into any work conversations. I’m also not afraid to open my inbox with the prospect of seeing emails related to my job because those are all filtered away from my inbox and I can access them when I’m back.

Of course there’s an autoresponder setup to let the sender know I’m not receiving their email until I’m back in the office.

2. Apps

For me, I use my phone every day for all kinds of things. Some of those are work-related and lots are not so I’m not going to ditch my phone for my entire vacation because I do lots of non-work stuff on my phone. I’m guessing you do too.

One thing I do, however, is delete social media apps from my phone so that if I want to tweet, post, share, etc I need to do that from the web browser (clunky!) or from my computer. The blessing of vacation time is that I’m on my computer less than when I’m at work so there’s a natural reduction in social media consumption.

I do keep Instagram on my phone since it’s a ton of fun and most of my instagram connections are personal and not work relationships but while I’m on holidays I remove Twitter and Facebook apps from my phone.

3. Calendar

While I’m on holidays I don’t care about what’s happening in the office, staff meetings, events in our building, etc (of course I care, I just care more about not being reminded of those things while I’m on vacation) but I also have personal things on my calendar that I do care about even while I’m not working. Holidays for me does not mean locking myself in a room and living monkly solitude. Holidays are about freeing up time for community, time with friends, experiences with family, making memories doing things that I’m not able to do while I’m working because of the demands on my schedule.

So I go into my calendar app (I use Fantastical on my computer and phone) and unsubscribe from my work calendar. At our church we have a single calendar subscription with all church events and those simply get removed from my calendar so that I can continue to use the tool without the distraction of being reminded of the things happening in our building while I’m away.

Hopefully that’s helpful. Three quick strategies to allow you to disconnect while you’re on holidays without becoming a hermit!