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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The ‘Funnel’ Approach To Worship Song Set Design

In my last post I unwrapped the specifics of The Four Step Approach to Worship Set Design. Now, I’d like to give you another approach to worship set design called the Funnel Approach. (credit due to Sally Morgenthaler)
Just like a wide and then enclosing embrace, you are moving your people from broader, all encompassing, less threatening songs to songs of greater intimacy.   
The Funnel approach is also called the PMTCA formula.  This stands for Praise, Mercy, Transformation, Consecration and Adoration
Here is the song set design in specifics:
·    Lead with songs of Praise – These are often high energy, all encompassing, with a broader view of God and expressing the least vulnerability in music genre and lyric content.
·    Move to songs of Mercy – These songs focus on God’s mercy and grace to us.  You are now beginning to personalize the music, the prayers and commentary between songs.
·    Transition to songs of Transformation – These are songs that challenge us to change and transformation (by the power of God’s Spirit).  These songs are usually lower in energy and slower in tempo. The stylistic genre and lyrics are often increasing in vulnerability. They are more specifically about God and the challenge of the Gospel.
·    Change to songs of Consecration – These are songs of personal dedication. These can be placed in an unbroken line within the context of a longer music set or can be used as a call to response after the sermon is given. 
·    End with Adoration - These are songs focusing on God and His greatness. While you may spend time in quiet, more meditative songs, most worship song set designers will end on higher energy songs of celebration.  

Do you ever wonder if developing songs sets in this way is simply emotional manipulation? Should we avoid “manipulation” in worship? Watch for an upcoming post on manipulation by abdication. I think you may find it to be a fresh take on this subject.
Stay tuned . . . more on song set choices coming your way.


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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Four Step Approach to Worship Set Planning - Applied

In the last post I promised you some practical applications for the Four Step Approach to Worship Set Planning. Here are some pointers to help you apply the Four Step Approach:

A.   Begin where the people are at by singing songs of testimony.
·      Start with a song or songs of personal testimony or experience.  These are more subjective in content. In the midst of the challenges of life it allows them to acknowledge God’s goodness to them personally.
·      Encourage them to consider what the Lord has done for them – personally and specifically.  He is the God who comforts us, clothes us, gives us the songs of the birds and the flowers of the fields, etc.  Meet your people where they’re at.
·      “For He knows we are but dust” (Psalm 103:14).  Although songs of testimony would be a shallow steady diet, they still have their place.  God likes us to thank Him for the way He has personally blessed us in real and tangible ways.  This may be the only place some people can start.  When Jesus walked on this earth He touched people where they lived.  He humbled His language and His perfect communication skills just because He wanted to touch our lives where He found us.  Should we be any different than Jesus? 
·      Examples – And That My Soul Knows Very Well (Russell Fragar & Darlene Zschech), My Redeemer Lives (Reuben Morgan), Friend of God, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), My Jesus I Love Thee, Thy Word, This Is The Day, Heaven Is In My Heart

B. Gently move the congregation into songs of thanksgiving for His past favours. This is a concentration on what God has done. 
·      Move them from a consciousness of what has been done in and for them (testimony songs) to who did it in and through them (thanksgiving).
·      Joyful, not mournful
·      Songs of Testimony and Thanksgiving are often the same or very similar.
·      Examples – How Can I Keep from Singing, Trading My Sorrows, Your Love Never Fails, My Glorious, O Give Thanks, Give Thanks, Thank you Lord For Saving My Soul.

C.  Move people from songs of thanksgiving for past favours to songs of praise for who He is today, His present mercy, His character, Higher and more intimate concepts of God.  (Examples – God of Wonders, Forever, How Can I Keep from Singing, Praise Adonai, Sing Out, Good To Me, Hosanna Hosanna, We Bring The Sacrifice Of Praise)
  • The closer we move to the goal of mature worship, the more the songs will be concerned with God Himself, and less of ourselves.  “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30)

D.  If you are successful in moving people to a mature, deep worship, then any emotional responses are not mere soulishness and emotionalism.  They’ll have depth and devotion for grounding.  (However, mere emotions are not always necessarily an indicator of God’s moving in lives in a deep, life changing way)  Another description is to “bask in the presence of God.”  There is a deep sense of our need for God.  We’re in awe of who He is.  Often, the songs at this point use more simple words to allow for Christian meditation.  (Examples – Filled With Your Glory, God of Wonders, Great is Your Faithfulness (Baloche / Kerr), We Exalt Thee, Blessed Be The Lord God Almighty, Create In Me, Lord You Are More Precious Than Silver)  Be delicate in breaking the sensitivity of this moment.  It’s a special time of healing and restoration.
·      “Singing should not be considered an end in itself.  But people have to be led from the natural to the spiritual and from the expressions of self-needs to an expression of spirit-worship.  This is the task of the song leader.  If he succeeds, he will be a leader of worshipers more than a leader of songs.” - Judson Cornwall.

In the next post, I’ll cover the “funnel approach” to worship set planning. Stay tuned . . .

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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Four Step Approach - A Greater Understanding

The Four Step Approach to worship set planning is very intentional on moving us from being internally focused and subjective to being externally focused and objective.

Come with me to a typical Sunday morning in many churches . . .

The worship leader steps up to the microphone on the first song and loudly proclaims, “Let’s give God the highest praise just because He is deserving of all our praise.” That sounds great and it is certainly theologically accurate but it may not connect with the real life of many of your church members when they first come in the door.

That morning the family in the back row:
·      Had a hard week of illnesses, missed homework assignments, and rough days at work as they worried about layoffs in the company.
·      Didn’t get enough sleep the night before.
·      Dad slipped on a bar of soap in the shower and forgot that all the bath towels were in the dryer downstairs, sending him streaking to the laundry room, much to the horror of his wife and children.
·      They ran out of milk for cereal and the entire family is complaining.
·      Little Johnny threw his shoe at Mom and left a welt on her forehead as she tried to get him out of bed for church.
·      Everyone scrambled into the family car and drove across town to make it in time, only to get a speeding ticket.
·      Finally, when they show up at church they looked down to see that little Marcy is wearing her rubber boots and has tracked mud all the way down the aisle . . . leading right to her spot with an undeniable path of incrimination.

As wonderful as this family is, they’re not yet ready to respond when the worship leader calls out, “Let’s give God the highest praise just because He is deserving of all our praise.”

And that’s OK.

We need to acknowledge where people are really at when they come into our worship service.  They are often very self-conscious and obsessed with the day-to-day “stuff of life.” 

Why is that OK?

God is a God of grace. He understands what we are made of. He knows our weaknesses and yet He loves us fully and accepts us completely.

God describes our fragility in the scriptures:

“A voice says, “Shout!” I said, “What shall I shout?” “These people are nothing but grass, their love fragile as wildflowers. The grass withers, the wildflowers fade, if God so much as puffs on them.  Aren’t these people just so much grass? True, the grass withers and the wildflowers fade, but our God’s Word stands firm and forever.” - Isaiah 40: 6-8 (MSG)

So – if “God’s Word stands firm and forever” what does His Word say?

  • “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” – Isaiah 42:3a (NIV)
  • “For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.” – Psalm 103:14 (NLT)
  • “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV)

  • “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1 (NIV)
  • “Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” – Romans 8:26 – 28 (MSG)

If God, who is to be the focus of our worship and exalted above all, approaches us with such understanding then surely, we as worship leaders within the church can extend grace to our people when they come into worship bedraggled, unfocused, self-consumed and broken.

The Four Step Approach brings this understanding to worship set planning. It reaches into our common frailty with God’s grace and understanding, meeting us where we are at and gently but intentionally encouraging our people to focus on the God of glory.

The intention of the Four Step Approach is to move our people from a focus on “what God has done for me” and change this to a focus on God, not just for what He has done for us but just because He is worthy of praise. 

However, this doesn’t happen instantly.  We are human and we often need help in changing our focus. 

In the next post, I’ll share practical pointers on applying the Four Step Approach to Worship Set Planning.

In the meantime, if you feel like one of the bedraggled today that I described above, rest in this; God is for you and not against you. He looks at you and smiles with warmth and love beyond compare. Your disconnected feelings, unkempt heart or disheveled spirit don’t affect his love for you one bit.

Doesn’t it make you grateful to know we have a God where we have nothing to prove to Him? He’s already taken care of that – on the cross!

Stay tuned . . . practical helps are on their way.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Putting Song Sets Together – The Four Step Approach

I was newly married and trying to impress my beautiful bride, Elsa with my handyman skills. 

I was going to mount a garbage can on the inside cabinet door under our kitchen sink. 

I grabbed the power drill and proceeded to drill a hole straight through the cabinet door. Oops! Elsa was gracious and forgiving. But so much for impressing my new bride.

I’ve decided since that day that I generally never trust a guitar player with a power tool.

When a master craftsman goes to build a fine piece of furniture he or she can’t just throw random pieces of wood together and hope it comes out beautifully.

A master craftsman requires a plan, tools and great skills. (They also require patience and precision which is exactly why I don’t build clocks or furniture)

Building a worship set is a lot like this. You require the plan, tools and skills.

Over the coming posts I’ll be writing about different plans that may help you in putting a worship set together. Think of them as woodworking plans to build beautiful grandfather clocks – they’ll all look a little different but the end results serve the same purpose.

The first ‘plan’ is the Four Step Approach. This has been used by worship leaders for decades. Many have been given credit for this plan so it’s hard to say who the original proponent of this plan is.

Here’s a little teaser graphic. In my next post I’ll start to break this down step by step.

Until next time, if you’re a guitar player – be very, very careful with those power tools.


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