Cheap In Ear Monitors?

I’m a big fan of in-ear monitors. But let’s face it: they are expensive, especially for a small church. My church is pretty small, around a hundred people on a given Sunday, and we just invested in a new sound system a couple years ago. But IEMs just weren’t in the budget. My friend Brett, who leads worship at the church that planted mine, uses Aviom equipment for his team. I definitely see the value, but again, the budget just wouldn’t allow it.

That said, I did politely insist on an IEM for myself. It’s wired right to a small mixer that sits on the stage behind me. Inelegant, but effective. Minimizing the sound on stage is always a good idea, and having my own customized mix has gone, for me, from being a nice perk to an essential.

I’d still like to outfit the rest of my team with IEMs, but with a team of eight or nine people on a full Sunday, Avioms, nice as they are, are out of the question. So I read Trevor McMaken’s article In-Ear Monitors on a Small-Church Budget with great interest:

So we came up with a simple way to take a step toward IEMs without breaking the bank, while we save up for the full system. The mix is still created at the mixing console and shared by a group of musicians—we used this just for our drummer, bass guitar, keyboards and electric guitar—but it did cut down on our stage volume drastically. I thought I’d share it with you in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

Not quite Aviom-level, but still a clever idea. I might have to try it!

Deeper Meanings Of Christmas Carols

Some writers from Christ and Pop Culture have written a blog post called “The Deeper Meaning Behind Our Favorite Christmas Carols,” including my personal favorite traditional Christmas song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”:

Here I’m reminded why I need Christmas to come, and why I need a God who comes near. He comes to ransom captive people who are exiled from Him by all manner of rebellion and righteousness — and the busyness of celebrating. He comes to free us from Satan’s tyranny, granting us victory over death and Hell — and the empty hollowness of a full season of rejoicing.

Read the whole article for some background information on “The Friendly Beasts” and “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus” as well.

Christmas Carols: The Good And The Bad

I struggle with Christmas carols at church. I really do. Don’t get me wrong: I love Christmas music in general, but while Relient K’s “I Celebrate The Day” is a fantastic Christmas song, it doesn’t really fly at my church. My folks want traditional Christmas carols, even the ones with questionable theology.

So I took comfort in Tim Cole’s post at Worship Tips:

You’ve probably guessed, I am not personally a fan of Christmas carols. I’ve always found it a tricky issue to navigate – especially when working for an Anglican church when doing the “traditional” Christmas stuff was kind of part of the job description.

Well, it’s not just Anglican worship leaders. 🙂

But Tim doesn’t do away with traditional carols entirely. After providing a few reasons to consider excluding carols from your services, he lists a few reasons you might want to include them after all. He closes with:

So, are some carols terrible? Yes. Are some theological nonsense? Definitely. Am I personally a fan? No way! Will I be using them at Christmas services? Absolutely. When used with some wisdom and discernment they can be one of the most powerful evangelistic tools we have.

Top 15 Worship Songs of 2012

Worship Leader Magazine has published this year’s top 15 congregational worship songs. No great surprises, but my favorite of the bunch is definitely #11, “Oh Our Lord” by Paul Baloche, David Leonard, and Leslie Jordan (perhaps better known as All Sons And Daughters). I’ve found that it makes a terrific call to worship, and I often sing with our Sunday night kids’ group as well.

Stage Presence

Just last week, I approached one of my backup singers and thanked her for always smiling onstage. She’s such a bright and encouraging presence up front, because she always looks like she’s genuinely happy to be there singing for the Lord. So David Santistevan’s latest post, How To Improve The Stage Presence On Your Worship Team, is well-timed.

But for the most part, worship teams across the world have zero stage presence. They are silos – lost in their own instruments. They look bored, lost, and quite frankly…dead. They have this glazed look in their eye, like they’re saying, “You know how many times I’ve done this?”

Frankly, this is something I struggle with. As a volunteer worship leader, I don’t have the time to invest in rehearsal that I wish I did. So when a song is unfamiliar, my stage presence suffers as I glance at the music more frequently.

But the performance isn’t David’s only concern. One of his tips for improving your stage presence:

Pray for your congregation

Amen to that!

How Expectations Can Help Church Leaders

Tim Miller shared some great thoughts about the expectations that your congregations bring with them about the music you perform. Most people aren’t expecting a performance equal in quality to what they hear on the radio, but there’s still a level of proficiency, as Tim puts it, that we need to consider. In my view, this is especially important when nonbelievers arrive.

There is a level of proficiency necessary below which a team becomes ineffective at connecting with the congregation. Who sets that level? Not God. He’s more interested in a concert of joyful noise by people whose hearts are sold out to Him. It’s partially set by your musicians. They have to be able to work together effectively and efficiently, or things crumble and the team becomes ineffective. Because you work pretty closely with these folks, you know what works with them and whether or not a new musician will probably make the grade with them. Everyone wants to be effective and to work with others who help one another have impact. So this thought probably isn’t new territory.

The Sound Problem

I love how this article by Brian Gowing starts:

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve gone into a church and heard 3 or more different perspectives on the way things sounded I’d be pretty well of by now.

He goes on to list some of the very valid reasons we can honestly disagree on sound issues:

People hear different things. You can play the exact same song through the same equipment sitting in the exact same spot and get different perspectives from every single person.

And offers some tips on how to solve the problem, starting with the most important step:

Pray as a team for guidance, unity and resolution. NEVER start a meeting like this without praying first. At the very least it helps to set the expectation that we’re doing this for God’s glory not for us as individuals.

Good information for any church, because this issue affects nearly everyone.
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Vocal Health Tips For The Winter

Just in time for the colder months (depending on where you live, of course), Musicademy offers some tips on caring for your vocals during the winter:

With the cold weather upon us, the voice can take a real bashing so it’s important to look at how we can best look after it in the winter months.

Most worship leaders I know are guitarists and obsessively take care of their guitars (me included). But don’t neglect the musical instrument you were born with.

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Weekend Links

For all you worship leaders, musicians, pastors, and ministry leaders serving the church tomorrow, please know I’m praying for you!

Scott McLellan asks you to consider “sunsetting” some of your ministries or efforts this coming year:

I think now, even in the midst of your Christmas preparations, is a good time to think about sunsetting in your church, ministry, or organization. 2012 is coming to an end, and there could be some aspects of your operations that simply do not need to carry over into 2013.

Worship Tips, via their Twitter feed, reminds us that:

Our goal should be that people say: “God is good” NOT “worship was good” or, “the worship leader was good”.

Chris Vacher offers some tips on how to avoid Worship Band Breakups:

Ever been a participant in a band breakup? The only thing worse than the impact of a band breakup might be what happens in a worship band breakup.

Here you can read some Advent thoughts from Elizabeth Scalia.

Lastly, before you take the stage this Sunday, be sure to read these practical tips on microphone technique from the Worship Community.