Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Grand Worship Experiment

I wrote early last year about the "Grand Worship Experiment". This was where we consolidated teams down to one team and began using a worship strategy team to meet monthly and assemble the next month's sets.

We are coming up on almost a year of using this process and the results are off-the-charts. Our repertoire has expanded and has become very current. We just completed our January planning meeting and I am amazed looking over next month's songs... they are all excellent... not a dog among them. If you aren't into worship and music you might not appreciate that statement... but a year ago our song selections were weak with an occassional winner... today the sets are energetic and passionate from start to finish most weeks. I am so pleased with this turn around.

We have also picked up a couple of people and, with the consistency we've gained by using the same team each week we have seen a few people, particularly vocalists, really step up big as they've gained confidence and experience. Something really happens when you lay your hands on someone (figuratively) and let them know that the role is theirs... we now have a minimum of 3 people carry the vocal lead any given week... and usually 4 or 5 different vocal leads on 6 or 7 songs... and they are all getting more comfortable in the role and any one of them could today lead an entire worship set alone. That was not possible a year ago.

The real goal is to work myself out of a job in the worship team. It currently still needs and depends on my leadership a great deal but it is growing less dependant weekly. This year I have targeted a couple of people to see them step up and lead more letting me begin to disappear. The system in place lets a team determine songs... and the team was trained by me on song selection... so if I leave they still pick using my model and thought process. The System allows multiple leaders. Although there is one leader responsible for the flow the service doesn't have to center on them. This allow me to not sing at all and still guide the feel and direction. Its a little hard to explain but it is happening.

We defined a purpose early on as a team, and the purpose quickly morphed into a model for our sets. It goes something like this:
Raise them to their feet in celebration,
Lay them on their face in adoration,
And Lift them up again a new person

By reminding ourselves of this each week we can easily arrange songs and styles to accomplish this. Our first part of the set is celebratory, moves directly into intimate worship for a song or two and then end with a big vertical anthem. We have virtually eliminated what we used to call "middle songs" that are usually beautiful ballads but are neither celebratory nor intimate and we concluded weren't moving us toward our purpose.

Yes, it can seem a little programmatic and there is always room to move and change with the spirit, but this has revolutionized our worship experience in the church. A year ago we were regularly having serious discussions about the "6th row wall"... it seemed like whatever we were doing on stage was getting about 6 rows back and falling to the floor. The first few rows were fully engaged in praise and worship while everything from there back seemed lifeless. This phenomenon we blamed on sound systems, leadership, styles, demons, whatever we could think of... today its a non issue... the congregation is fully engaged front to back... it would be difficult most weeks to identify a "section" of the sanctuary not full participating in the worship service.

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