Thursday, April 30, 2015

Thought for a Thursday

"God is to be praised with the voice, and the heart should go therewith in holy exultation." 

Charles H. Spurgeon 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Crafting a Strong Worship Set List

                Do you think that people are standing in the congregation, analyzing the worship songs that were selected and the order in which they were placed? Or do you think they kind of ‘go with their gut’ and respond to the songs they love while sort of idling along on the songs they dislike? Maybe the answer is both, or maybe it’s neither. My hope is that people are so enraptured with the Lord that they worship Him no matter what songs are showing on the screen.
                Regardless, as a worship leader, I feel like it is my responsibility to craft a set to the best of my ability, rather than just throwing a few songs together. There are so many ways to prayerfully create effective worship sets.  Here are a couple motifs to get your creativity flowing.

Theme: Sometimes I like to center all my songs around a particular theme, especially if it relates to the sermon material. For example, if you are talking about the Holiness of God, you might use the hymn Holy Holy Holy, Revelation Song (Jenny Lee Riddle), and 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman).

Communion: On weeks that we serve communion, we might focus all of the music on the celebration of the Lord’s Table. You might try: Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)(Christ Tomlin), The Wonderful Cross (Christ Tomlin/ Matt Redman) Above All (Michael W. Smith), Amazing Love (Hillsong) .

Church Calendar:  The church year can be a great source of worship set ideas. Thanksgiving only happens once a year, you might try a set list including Lord You Are Good (Lakewood Church), 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman) and  Give Thanks (Don Moen).   You might look for Holy Spirit songs for Pentecost Sunday or songs about God’s care for creation in the springtime.

Move thematically:  This is my favorite type of set, where we move thematically through the music. For example, start the set with a call to worship such as: Come Christians Join to Sing (Christian Bateman), You’re Worthy of My Praise (Jeremy Camp), or Forever (Michael W. Smith). Next, move to a song about what the Lord has done for us. Maybe Because He Lives (Amen) (Matt Maher), In Christ Alone (Passion Band), or Made Me Glad (Hillsongs). Then you can move into our response to what God has done. For example, we might end with Lord I Need You (Matt Maher), The Potter’s Hand (Hillsong), or a simple I Love You Lord (Laurie Klein).

What are your favorite methods to create set lists? 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Few Thoughts on Prayer from Dr. David Earley’s book, Personal Prayer: the Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders

If the Son of God, Jesus Christ, needed to spend time alone with God the Father in prayer, how much more do fallen humans like me need to pray? If Christ prayed in order to lead His disciples and to carry out His ministry, how much more important is it for spiritual leaders, pastors, Sunday School teachers, and worship leaders to pray? Nothing can be more important in the life of a spiritual leader than time in prayer. For example, Dr. Earley discusses Martin Luther’s daily prayer time, which was generally two hours per day for any typical week.  But during a particularly busy week, Luther claimed that he had so much to accomplish that he would start the day with three hours of prayer.[1] Luther’s example demonstrates the need for spiritual leaders to pray: Busy leaders need to pray because it may “be the best time-saving device you have.”[2] Earley, like Martin Luther, believes that spiritual leaders are too busy not to pray. That is a serious re-prioritization that we all need to consider. What would our lives look like if we prayed first and most, and did the rest later?
The Apostle Paul provides instructions for the church when he writes “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” [3] Paul means that prayer needs to be a priority and that Christians need to be spiritually alert, watchful for how prayer worked, and thankful for God’s blessings. Apostle Paul also knew how critical prayer was in the life of the believer.
Dr. Earley wrote about many great prayer ideas, but especially three that I will attempt to apply to my own life include: establishing a daily prayer time (23), institute a regular space for prayer (27), and praying for others (33). Dr. Early recommends establishing a daily prayer time because, “most of need to set a daily prayer time or times if we hope to build a dynamic prayer life.”[4] Dr. Early also recommends establishing a place for prayer: “I have found it very helpful to establish a set, solitary place for my daily prayer time.”[5] Lastly, Dr. Earley encourages Christians to pray for others: “One of the purest and most powerful ways for a leader to express and exercise such love is intercessory prayer.”[6] Intercessory prayer, according to Earley, is “coming to God on behalf of another.”[7] I can’t think of any greater gift to give.
I am forever grateful to the person who told me that she threw herself down on the altar to cry out to God to spare my infant son’s life. She prayed fervently –desperately – and hopefully for my child, who is now a bursting-with-energy, happy, healthy 7 year old.  I always believed in the power of prayer, but I never believed in it so much as when my son’s tiny life hung in the balance. I realized that when there is no other recourse, we believe most fully. So how do we carry that depth of belief and certainty in the power of prayer into our daily lives? I guess,  more than anything, it just takes practice.
Prayer works and we need to do it.

Earley, Dave. Personal Prayer: the Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008.

[1] Dave Earley, Personal Prayer: the Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008),  5.
[2] Dave Earley, Personal Prayer: the Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008), 5,

[3] Col. 4:2, NIV.
[4] Dave Earley, Personal Prayer: the Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders (Chattanooga, TN: Living Ink Books, 2008), 24.

[5] Ibid., 28.

[6] Ibid., 33.

[7] Ibid., 34.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Do rainy days and Mondays always get you down? Let's start with sleep.

The incurable Monday Morning Blues; it’s that post Sunday fatigue and discouragement that comes on late Sunday night or early Monday morning.  It’s probably going to show up week after week, so we really need to create a game plan to keep this regular bout of discouragement from bringing us to the point of burn out.  I don’t see this Monday fatigue as any sort of spiritual lack, but rather, our human bodies’ response to stress and adrenaline. Great preachers, such as Charles Spurgeon, and even the prophet Elijah, suffered from depression or discouragement, so why wouldn’t the rest of us struggle at some time or another? It happens to the best of us. We can’t avoid it, but we can be prepared for it.

Pastors and ministry workers are caregivers, constantly in touch with the needs of others, and finding ways to meet those needs. But rarely do we stop and consider our own needs. This is the time to care for our own souls and bodies just like we would care for someone else in a similar state.  Creating our own soul care plan will help us work through these difficult days.

For me, a good night’s sleep is a total game changer. My outlook greatly improves when I can get some good, solid rest. It’s like an emotional reset button. Of course, it’s hard for me to unwind on a Sunday night, so going to bed early is almost impossible. Sleeping in would be marvelous, too – but with small children that need help getting to school, that’s generally not a viable option.  Instead, I try to make Sunday nights as relaxing as possible, so I can unwind and get to bed at a normal hour. I also get up as late as possible on a Monday morning, even if it means rushing a bit to get out the door. That extra half hour of sleep in the morning is totally worth it.

I also try to build in some moments of rest throughout the day on Monday.  For example, if my toddlers fall asleep in the van at some point, I’ll spend some time just resting in the presence of God. Not sleeping, but relaxing with God on my mind. Maybe I’ll read a little Scripture or meditate, but mostly, I just rest in God. Think of it as praying without words. It is a peaceful time that has a soothing effect on my soul, and I always come away feeling more inspired and energetic than I did before.\

My last hope for rest is to sneak in a nap either Sunday or Monday afternoon. I usually crash somewhere around Sunday afternoon, and fall asleep on a heap on the floor, underneath a handful of small children.   It isn’t graceful, but it is effective.

What do you do? How do you give yourself the extra rest you need to deal with Post Adrenaline Depression?

Links to consider
 M. Scott Bashoor has a great explanation of the Monday Morning Blues: The Pastor’s Weekly Wreck.  
Rick Warren talks about Dealing with Discouragement.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

Father in Heaven,

We thank You for Your faithfulness. We praise You for your mercies. We awe in Your unending love.

Just like the expectant hope we have for the long cold winter to become spring, we know that even in our darkest days, You are at work.

When we are weary, You refresh our hearts.

When we are broken, You bandage our wounds.

When we wander away, You call us back to You.

When we feel hopeless, we put our hope in You.

You are not bothered by our needs, but You delight in satisfying them. We have an expectant hope that you will answer all our prayers even when we cannot see You working. Just as the flowers bloom again each spring, You faithfully breathe new life into our dull and dreary hearts.

Help our hearts to bloom with Your love, that we might share with others the sweet fragrance of Your mercy, Your faithfulness, Your hope, Your love. 


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Thought for Thursday

"How quickly we forget what it's all about. We can get so strategic that we worship so our church will grow, not because He is worthy. But we're doing all this because God is worthy and we want to worship Him." -Tommy Walker 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Wednesday Worship Tip: Do's and Don'ts for Congregational Singing

How do you notify your congregation that it's time to stand and sing?

Do: Invite your congregation to join in worshiping the Lord through song.  "Please join us in singing 10,000 Reasons." "This morning, please join us in worshiping God for His love for us." "Let's thank God together with the song, Thank You, Lord."

Don't: Scold them for not meeting your musical expectations. "What? I can't hear you, sing louder!" "Come on, Congregation, you can do better than that!"

Do: Lead by example. Raise your hands, clap, and show authentic, appropriate emotion.

Don't: Lead with a fake smile or bored/pained expression.

Do:  Plan and prepare the best that you are able. "Dear God, please guide me in planning worship music today."

Don't: Ignore the Holy Spirit if He leads you in a different direction.

Do: Get a good night's sleep the night before so you are at your best.

Don't: Stay up too late to do well.

Do: Ask God to move mightily in your heart, in your worship, and in the church.

Don't: Forget to have a servant's heart as you work with your team and congregation.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A spiritual plan.

It is as critical to living as breathing, as necessary as water and air. And yet few Christians - pastors included - don't struggle with carving out a time-slot from our busy lives to spend time with the Lord through prayer and Bible study. Something always seems to get in the way, and even good things can keep us so busy that we gloss over the most important thing- our relationship with Jesus.

One of the few things that I recall from visiting my grandparents was their daily devotional time. I'll never forget watching my Grandma, white-head bowed over her Bible, pouring herself out over the Words of God.  She with her cup of hot water, and Grandpa with his grapefruit. Nothing between them but their open Bibles and open hearts. Perhaps it was easier because they were  retired, or perhaps not. But I hope to cultivate such a strong habit in my life that my children and my children's children want that daily devotional time, too. I hate to admit it, but it's hard for me  to accomplish.

My life is busy, as yours is as well- I have a husband, small children,  ministry, writing, and teaching. Family and friends and bills and dirty clothes and a thousand other things all demanding my time and attention. And I am almost never alone in this phase of life with small children in need of love and attention. So where do I begin? How do I create space in my day for the most important Person?

A professor of mine in seminary, Dr. David Earley, had an idea that I return to when my spiritual life begins to wane. He taught me that if I want to grow in my relationship with God, I need to have a plan. In his class, we practiced creating and using 2 to 4 week spiritual growth plans. I tried and failed, tried and failed, and I even failed some more, but even my failed plans took me further than I would  have been if I had no plan at all.

Dr. Earley suggested that we use our plan at first to increase the time we spend with The Lord. Where am I right now and where do I want to be in 2 weeks? How do I get there?  How much time do I spend with The Lord? How much time would I like to spend? What is a realistic increase for the next few weeks? Do I use a reading plan or a prayer model? These should be incorporated in the plan, he shared. And then we pulled out our calendars and scheduled the plan. A consistent time and place was the ideal means of making our plans stick, but that wasn't always practical. I tried getting up at 4am, and found out that didn't work at all. So I changed around meetings and work schedules, weaving in a little time here and there. When I finished a plan, I evaluated where it had taken me and then created a new one. I felt like most of my plans failed, but still my relationship with my God grew.

I believe God rewarded my efforts to know Him better, to hear His voice, and to love Him more.  The more time I spent with Him, the more I wanted to be with Him, whether sitting quietly in prayer or soaking up His Word. As I reflect on those early plans that I created, I realize I need to create another. It's time for me to re-evaluate my schedule, my priorities, and my time spent so that I can make course corrections that will keep me in step with the Holy Spirit.

How do you make your time with God a priority?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Monday Blues: Adrenaline Dump

Do you get the Monday blues? Not just the “oh, no, I have to go back to work on Monday morning,” blues, I’m talking about serious depression, exhaustion, and general bad mood that comes on anywhere from after church on Sunday to as late as sometime on Tuesday. It’s the ministry low that comes on after the ministry high of doing church on a Sunday morning.
You might be pastor, worship leader, or even volunteer.
You’ve given it your all for the weekend services, serving God and serving people, and suddenly, you crash. Maybe you felt great in those special moments of ministry, when you felt completely connected to God and His Word and His people. But when the church lights are turned off and the door is locked, the soaring mood plummets. I’ve always called it the Monday blues. After a great high from preaching or leading worship over the weekend, I often wake up Monday morning, tired, soar, and feeling absolutely miserable. Is it a coincidence that I wake up on the wrong side of the bed Every. Single. Monday?  I’ve heard it called the pastor’s hangover. The Monday slump. A case of the Mondays. Only recently did I learn from my friend, Pastor Rachel, that this is known as adrenaline dump.

When an athlete takes the field, or a pastors turns on the microphone, his or her body sends a surge of adrenaline hormones to prepare them for fight or flight. These hormones help you think more clearly in the moment, give you extra strength, energy, and awareness so you can either stand up to the task or run away as fast as you possibly can. This gives you that extra boost you need to interact with the congregation as you sing or gives you that extra edge when you preach. You feel excited and alive! Your body may buzz with energy. But your body can’t sustain this level of intensity or adrenaline for long. And as all of the hormones leave your body, you crash. You may experience fatigue, depression, sadness, bitterness, irritation, stomach upset, and even soreness. These same hormones suppress memory, so all of yesterday might just seem like one big blur. You might wonder, if I did so well, why do I feel so poorly? If I loved ministry yesterday, why do I want to quit today? Your bruised and battered feelings aren’t a reflection of your ministry abilities. It’s a reflection of your body’s use of adrenaline and how easily it recovers. It varies from person to person and from week to week.
I’m still learning to recognize the emotional ramifications of my Monday morning slump. But it helps to have an honest friend like Rachel who can objectively remind me that my grumpy feelings are related to the previous day’s adrenaline surge and not to my family, friends, or ministry.

Do you experience the Monday morning blues? What do you do to cope? How do you work through it so you can begin another week of ministry and mission? 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Prayer for the Weekend

Father in Heaven,

Your Word is truth. You always keep Your promises, every single one.

You are a shelter in the storm, a help in time of trouble, comfort in sorrow, and strength when we are weak. You heal our broken bodies and mend our broken hearts. You hear our cries of pain and our cries of praise. You listen to our voices when we call. You love us. You have made us Your own.

As Sunday comes close, we ask for You to give us a sense of Your Holy Presence, an expectation of Your nearness, a desire to know You more. Provide us peace in anxious preparation. Give us the words to say and sing.  Help us praise and preach with eloquence and excellence. Give us love for those who hear us. Grant us time to rest.

We ask that you will move in our hearts, our homes, our sanctuaries. Move in mighty and mysterious ways that can only come from You. Protect us in times of spiritual warfare; defend our families and guard our hearts.

Please pour out your Holy Spirit upon us all. Anoint us for this weekend’s worship. Let us praise You with our whole hearts so You can fill us up again.

In the powerful name of Jesus,

A thought for a Thursday...

"For God wishes to be seen, and He wishes to be sought, and He wishes to be expected, and He wishes to be trusted." -Julian of Norwich

Thanks to Renovare for sharing this quote!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Are you bored at church?

Have you ever felt like you just didn't connect with God during a worship service? You showed up, ready to praise the Lord, but the service felt empty, dry, or just boring. Or maybe your mind was just everywhere but on God, with so many things running through your head - your to do list, your grocery list, stress at work, your children's sports schedules… oh wait, were we supposed to be praying just now?

Yes, I’ve had Sundays that felt just like that.  And I’m the worship leader.

There’s a couple of things to consider when worship feels dull…

First, our feelings don’t always tell the whole story. Jesus said, “For where 2 or 3 gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). So whether we feel God’s presence among us or not, He is right there with us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He meets us where we are. So when we are scattered, bored, annoyed, sad, or lonely, God meets us there. It isn’t the worship leader’s job to lead us into the presence of God… simply coming together in the name of Jesus means we are in the presence of the Almighty God. It is our responsibility as worshippers – whether in leadership or not- to cultivate our awareness of His nearness. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. How would our outlook of a church service change if we came, expecting to find God in our midst? How would we change if we made an active choice to believe that God would be there with us no matter how we felt?

Secondly, we cannot worship well a God that we do not know. When I was in college studying music, I remember being rather bored when I had to listen to recitals given by students that I didn’t know. Since I knew nothing of their ability, their style, their education, their performance meant little to me. I felt like I was hearing the same old pieces of music over and over again. But when I listened to the senior recital given by my future husband, I was enraptured. I was invested in him personally, as his fiancĂ©, and musically, in his performance – I had listened to him practice for hours on end, worked through difficult passages with him, discussed the composers of his pieces, and worked hard to accompany him for part of the recital. My investment in him as a person and in his work made his recital exciting and important to me.

The same is true with Jesus. If I am not very invested in Him, then spending time in a worship service probably won’t be that meaningful to me. But when I spend time with Him, daily wrestling with His Word, working hard to know Him better, sharing my life journey through prayer, seeking to accompany His work, then I am far more excited to spend time worshiping Him alongside of my church family.   

My question is this: how can I adjust my time so that I have a little more time to dig deeper spiritually? How can I spend my time more wisely so that I can invest it in Jesus? What would change if I closed my browser and opened my Bible? Would I be different if I spent some time on my smartphone studying a Bible app instead of Facebook? What will you do?

Need ideas to help your congregation worship? Here's 7.  

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