Yesterday morning at Compass we announced to our church family that we’ll be leaving in January. Not an easy day but we are incredibly thankful for the 8 years of ministry God has given us here with these people. It has been more than we could have ever asked for.
Leaving is hard because we love the people and we’re thankful for that. Very appreciative for all the prayers and encouragement so far.
While we are sad to leave, I’m excited to be the Worship Pastor at C4 Church in Ajax, Ontario (just east of Toronto) and will be starting there in January. God has been so good to us in this whole process.
Great days are ahead for C4 and Compass. I have no doubt about that.
One of the real issues at Christmas is how to get the message of Christmas heard in a world full of noise, distraction and urgency. How can we simply, strategically and successfully share the world-changing, life-shaping story of the birth of Jesus Christ in a way that people will actually hear and pay attention to?
You mean Facebook can deliver a sweet little chocolate every day when I crack it open?
Well, not exactly! But Facebook can deliver this great message of Christmas in a way that people can find and share in a very simple way. I don’t need to tell you how many people from your church have Facebook accounts but stop for a minute and think about how many connections in your region/city/town – people who don’t go to your church – there are through Facebook. How many people in your area are people in your church connected to through Facebook? Probably a very high number. So why not use a great resource like Facebook to help reach those people in a medium they’re already used to engaging? This is what we’re trying at Compass this year.
Each day from December 1 through December 25 we are posting a graphic on our Facebook page with an Advent verse along with a short (one, two, three paragraph) reflection on that verse and how it impacts us at Christmas.
Here’s what it will look like once we start posting our daily Facebook Advent Calendar on our page:
We begin the Christmas story as a sunrise begins the dawn of a new day bringing forth light. The light of the world, Jesus himself, is promised to the people of Israel walking and stumbling in spiritual darkness. Hope shines brightly in a time of darkness and despair to a nation on the brink of destruction. The prophet Isaiah uses both past and present tense language to make clear the certainty of the prophecy regarding the coming Messiah, the ‘light of the world.’
Light by its very nature exposes the darkness. Without the contrast of darkness we would not see light emerging, its glory or its grace. Jesus came to illuminate our hearts and minds with Himself. Without Him we remain in darkness, but just as he revealed himself to the nation of Israel he reveals himself to us each new dawning day. Once the light of Christ shatters your darkness there is no snuffing it out. So we celebrate and “declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
Because of the social nature of Facebook and how liking and sharing are already encouraged as natural parts of engaging, we are encouraging people to like and share these posts each day to help spread this great message of Christmas far and wide.
We are pretty excited to see how God will use this little act of faithfulness at Christmas to share the story of the birth of Jesus with our online audience and the ones our church are connected to. Remember, you’re not sharing with your friends but their friends and their friends and… you get the point.
At this point I need to give a big shout out to Steve Fogg @stevefogg at Crossway Church in Australia for inspiring this. They did it last year and got us excited about doing it at Compass this year. Check out Steve’s blog and Crossway’s Facebook page for some awesome ideas and inspiration.
Okay so want to know how we made this happen? Here’s the best step-by-step notes I could come up with:
Come up with your list of 25 Advent verses. Search online or you can use our list of December Advent verses if you’d like a headstart:
Design a graphic template you can use each day. Our Facebook image size is 610 x 458 pixels. We decided to go with a look that was consistent with our Christmas Eve service design but that didn’t have our Compass logo or name on the graphic itself. Remember that every time these photos are liked or shared there is a link back to your page so we decided to go with something that was less Compass-specific.
Use Photoshop or your favourite graphic design software to make images from your template which include the text of the verse. Yes, you’ll need to do 25 of these graphics! #slowbutcheap This would be a great task to involve a high school student or even hire someone on fiverr (my secret weapon for lots of jobs!) to make this happen.
Here’s what a few of them together looks like:
With our method, we needed to upload the photos somewhere so they could be accessed by our social media team to post on Facebook. We do this on our website since it’s built on WordPress and we can just upload files as media until we need them. You can use any file host server to have a place where the files can live until they’re ready to go live on Facebook.
With 25 Advent verses, we asked 5 people to each write 5 short devotionals. The outline we asked the writers to follow was:
What – what is the meaning of this verse and in particular to the original audience
So What – why this is important for us (relevance to 21st century audience)
Now What - what do I do with this.
To manage all of the content, we setup a simple Google Docs spreadsheet with a column for the date, a column for the post (this is the devotional content) and a column with the link to the photo of that day’s verse. We simply copy and paste the devotional and links to the images into this spreadsheet and share it with our social media team so they have access.
Once the devotionals are written and your graphics are designed, you can use Facebook’s posting tools to add your updates and set them to go public each day from December 1 through December 25. If you are wanting to do this on your personal page you’ll need to post it manually each day. Setting the time for each post to go live is only available on pages.
All in all, putting together a Facebook Advent Calendar is a simple operation but it does take some lead time. Working backwards from December 1 we figured we needed to receive all of the devotional content by November 26. I had the graphics with the verses done by November 15 or so. Our communications team meeting to nail down all of these details happened on November 7. Again, we had seen this done last year and it was already on our radar.
Would you be willing to share this post with your online audience? Click below to send a tweet or use the like/share buttons on this post. Thank you for doing that!
I’d love to hear other ideas of how you or your church are trying new ways to engage your audience with the message of Christmas. Is there anything you’ve done which has really been successful? Anything you’re trying for the first time this year?
My friends at Harvest Bible Chapel are releasing a new Christmas EP “Awaited King” November 26 on iTunes but you can get a preview of two songs today on NoiseTrade. I’ve also got free copies of the Awaited King EP to give away to FIVE winners – details at the bottom of this post!
I’ve had a chance to listen through and these are familiar Christmas songs done in ways that you have never heard. This is not your sitting by the fire, hot chocolate and hanging stockings Christmas album. These songs are strong declarations of who Jesus is and how his birth was the beginning of a world-altering revolution.
You can check out the first two songs from the Awaited King EP today on NoiseTrade and buy the songs tomorrow on iTunes.
Want to win one of five copies of the Harvest Worship Awaited King EP? Comment on this post with the title of your favourite Christmas song or maybe your favourite lyric from a Christmas song.
Five winners will be chosen randomly from those who leave comments. We’ll choose winners at noon on November 27.
One question I often get from worship leaders has to do with evaluating our Sunday morning services. Worship service evaluation is a key opportunity to learn and develop as a worship leader.
How do you debrief as part of worship service evaluation?
Great question. Debriefing our worship services and events shows that we care for our congregation and what they are experiencing when they come to our church. We know that everyone has lots of choices in how they can spend their time so we have a responsibility to honour their time and commitment by providing an experience worth their sacrifice. (Aside: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the people of your church owe YOU some kind of commitment by showing up on Sunday, giving you an excuse to just mail it in. God calls His people to gather and He calls leaders to lead the people once they’ve come. Take that call seriously.)
Debrief or evaluation will generally look at the specific elements of a service and gives leaders the opportunity to look at what went right, what went different from what was expected, and what went wrong.
Don’t be afraid of asking hard questions in your debrief and remember that the intent always is to learn, to improve and to move ahead in your work and your creativity.
Okay. So how do we do debrief at my church?
Well, technically we don’t. We don’t debrief.
Not on a regular basis week-to-week and not because we’re lazy or don’t think improvement is important. We definitely do. Working together to continually improve in all areas of creativity and execution are a key part of the learning development of any team.
So how do we accomplish this?
More PREbrief, less DEbrief.
What’s the difference?
Prebrief happens before the event. Debrief happens after the event.
Prebrief is about expectations. Debrief is about execution.
Prebrief is about what should happen. Debrief is about what did happen.
The major difference here is that our prebrief is designed to set up expectations of what will happen during our service on Sunday: who is going to pray here? what mic will they use? what is on the screen at this spot? Talking through all of these expectations and who is responsible gives us a sense of rehearsing the entire experience before it actually happens to see if there are any transitions or steps along the way which we are missing.
For us, this happens every Friday afternoon. My pastor and I meet together along with whoever is leading worship (if it’s not me) as well as whoever is doing our announcements/host role. If there is another significant piece in the service we’ll sometimes invite that person but generally this meeting is 3 or 4 people. I print out a copy of our Planning Center outline for each person and we start at the top and work right through to the bottom.
In particular, we are looking at specific elements such as:
Call to worship – What’s the first thing our host or worship leader will say to our congregation to help orient their hearts and minds away from the distractions of the week and toward Jesus. Generally we like to use scripture like Psalm 121 or another passage which speaks of how God is calling us to come and focus on Him. Spend time rehearsing the first thing you’ll say on Sunday morning to begin your service.
Prayers – Will the worship leader pray at the end of the set of songs or will our pastor do that when he comes up? What is the theme/direction/purpose of that prayer? Should we key on some of the lyrics/ideas from the songs we’ve just sung? This avoids uncertainty on Sunday morning or the awkward stare followed by “Uhhh… I guess.. I’m praying? Dear Jesus.. Uhhh..” Don’t be that guy.
Introductions – If you are including something out of the ordinary in your service who is introducing that element or person? Should we have their name on the screen? Is there something about this event or ministry that our congregation needs to know outside of what they’re going to see/hear on Sunday?
This isn’t a perfect science for us but it’s allowed us to mentally walk through our entire service, minute-by-minute and create a set of expectations around who is responsible for which elements on Sunday. This gives my creative mind the opportunity to focus on what I can expect to happen instead of worrying about what may happen and it’s a great opportunity to build trust and communication among different people on our team.
One major disadvantage of debrief is the fact that I can’t do anything about what happened other than do it differently next time. We should of course be learning from our mistakes and improving the quality of what we are doing but the opportunity to PREbrief what may be potential hiccups gives me the opportunity to correct what may go wrong before it even happens.
Needless to say this is a great opportunity to bring new members of your team along in understanding some of the inner workings of your leadership culture and expose them to different ways of tackling different issues. If you have a young worship leader or someone you are mentoring in a leadership role this kind of meeting will grow their confidence not only in their own ability but also in how you are leading them.
One last advantage of prebrief over debrief is that when things do go wrong on Sunday (and things will always go wrong!) you now have a vocabulary on your leadership team when it comes to addressing the mistake. Instead of a response of “I didn’t like how that transition happened” we can now say “I thought we had talked about that transition and I expected it to go THIS way.” Again the onus is on leadership to make sure expectations are in place and carried through rather than blaming others when things don’t go quite the way we thought they would.
You may not be in a situation where you are able to get 60 or 90 minutes weekly with your senior pastor just to walk through the service to prebrief the whole experience but maybe this is something you can start on your own. Be as critical as possible and do what I’ve laid out here for you – mentally and verbally walk through every element of your service and talk through who is going to do what and when. Maybe after you get comfortable doing that you want to bring in your key AV/tech volunteer or another worship leader. Maybe you can include the person doing announcements to give them some confidence. There is definitely more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to this idea!
So while I would definitely affirm the value of debriefing and the power it has to correct mistakes for the future, don’t neglect the hidden value of prebriefing your services or events to create some incredible experiences for people who attend.
Vertical Church Band is writing some great songs which my church (and many others!) are loving to sing. Their new album “The Rock Won’t Move” releases TODAY and you should definitely check it out. This album is worth having in your library!
Go here to buy “The Rock Won’t Move” from Vertical Church Band on iTunes
Here’s a little bonus for you. Click below for a FREE download of the title track from Vertical Church Band “The Rock Won’t Move” as well as a chord chart for you to share with your worship team. You are going to want to learn this one.
I’m so thankful for the guys at Harvest Bible Chapel and how they are collaborating together to write and share new songs for their church and the church around the world. God loves it when His people sing new songs and Vertical Church Band are helping us do that!
Chris Vacher Married to Sonya, dad to Avery, Emmy, Isabelle and Anderson. Director of Worship at Compass Community Church near Toronto. Founder of WorshipRises and doing my best to follow Jesus in the midst of it all.