Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - 6 Ways to Teach New Songs Quickly!

One of the biggest requests at All Saints has been for new songs, and new ways to sing familiar songs. Most worship leaders and music directors know that music should be taught to a congregation slowly, allowing all members to learn the melody and take in the meaning of the lyric.

With only 8 weeks for our residency, we don't have the luxury of time, so we're having to look for creative ways to teach new music. Our goal is to leave at least 10 new songs in their repertoire than can be sung after we leave.

Here are some of the tools and tricks we're using to introduce new songs:

Stretch, Don't Leap
This is a congregation that sings from a hymnal. If we brought in the latest song from Third Day or Switchfoot, they'd be lost, they'd stop singing, and we'd lose their trust. Instead, we're starting with what they know by singing contemporary arrangements of well known hymns. Then, we're stretching out into new songs that have hymn-like sensibilities, like "In Christ Alone," "10,000 Reasons," and "My Heart Is Filled With Thankfulness."

Work the Prelude 
As people are gathering for worship, we're playing new songs that we want to teach them over the next few weeks. Even if they're not participating in the singing, the melodies will start to seep into their musical subconsciousness. The same can be done with anthems, postludes, and Communion songs.

Use Social Networking and YouTube
Most popular worship songs and hymns have lyric videos on YouTube. Each week, we're posting a video of a new song on the church's Facebook page. We're also posting them on our Infinitely More page for those who aren't church members. We post them a few days before the service and encourage folks to turn up their speakers and sing along.

Create MP3s
We often create our own arrangements of well known songs, or at the very least, sing them in a different key than the original artist. To help the choir and band learn music, we're creating mp3s and emailing them to the musicians along with the sheet music. Again, we do this a few days in advance so they can have time to prepare for the service.

Let People Know What You're Doing
During our first week, we realized that some people were singing the hymns exactly as they usually sing them, and not necessarily at the tempo that we were playing. Last week, before the service, I announced, "Sometimes, singing an old song in a new way can help to reopen the message to us. This week, we'll be playing some hymns that we know you'll love, but we'll be playing them with a slightly different style. If it feels a little different, just follow Gerald and his guitar, and we know we'll have a great time singing!" Even this simple piece of instruction encouraged the congregation to listen, and it helped with both the new arrangements, and the new songs.

Teach The Children
Okay, this seems sneaky, and maybe it is, but it works. Most services have a 'children's focus'. Studies show that these simplified lessons resonate powerfully with adults as well. We're using this time to teach new songs to the children. For songs that are kids only, we'll teach them directly in the Sunday School, but for songs that are also appropriate for the fuller congregation, we'll teach them during the children's focus. By having this slow, direct teaching time, we can teach a full song to the congregation, and also ensure that the church's repertoire has some songs that are appropriate for youth services.

We're spending January and February as Musicians in Residence at All Saints Church in beautiful St. Andrews By-The-Sea, New Brunswick. 
Follow our adventures at 

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - The New Chapter Begins...

Tonight, something special begins...

If you haven't heard our recent news, we're spending the winter in beautiful St. Andrews By-the-Sea, New Brunswick. In our 2-month musical residency at All Saints Church, we'll introduce new forms of contemporary and creative worship and expand the musical team.

Here's the welcome video we made for the congregation:

Tonight, we're hosting our first worship service. We're going with an Epiphany theme and a contemporary format, similar to the Gathering worship services we used to hold in Toronto.

Songs will include:

- a soulful arrangement of The Huron Carol
- We Three Kings, with a celtic flair
- Come, Now is the Time to Worship
- How Great Thou Art

We'll also sing our new Christmas song, 
Tonight Everywhere Is Bethlehem.

For those of you in musical leadership, you'll recognize that two months isn't a very long time to help build a music program. But we're encouraged by the openness and enthusiasm that we've found here. We're excited about connecting with the musicians in the community, and confident that God has something great planned for all of us.

Over the 2 months, Worship Wednesdays will be inspired by this St. Andrews journey! Stay tuned to see how things unfold...

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Book Review - Ghost Boy, by Martin Pistorius

Martin Pistorius was an active little boy, until the day his body began to inexplicably deteriorate. Within 18 months, Martin was completely non-responsive, spending his days strapped into his wheelchair, staring into nothingness. As far as his parents were concerned, their vibrant child was gone forever. And for four years, he seemed to be. But suddenly, Martin started to wake up. He became aware of the world and the people around him, but with no physical functions at his disposal, he had no way to communicate. He spent 10 years trapped in his physical silence, until one caregiver finally looked into his eyes, and realized he was looking back at her.

Martin's story is inspiring, captivating, disturbing, and nothing short of amazing. The opening chapters caught my attention with Martin's beautiful writing and imagery. But I quickly found myself checking the cover to confirm that this was an autobiography. How could someone who had been trapped in a vegetative state, who had been simply left to die, be writing this book? I'm always conflicted when autobiographies contain photos - it can become a little self indulgent - but you need these photos. You need to see where Martin started, how much he deteriorated, and how far his journey has taken him.

I read this in December, and throughout the month, we had the opportunity to sing in several seniors and longterm care homes. We saw many patients who looked similar to Martin in his worst days. I've always been conscious of smiling and singing to each patient with love, but this season, after reading Martin's story, my actions changed. I lingered a little longer on those who didn't seem to respond immediately. I made a point of looking into their eyes, and making sure they knew, "I see you." Sometimes I would get a flicker, most times not. But if Martin's story teaches us anything, it's to pay attention to each and every person. It's a reminder that souls live even when bodies fail.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Happy New Year!!!!!

As we say goodbye to 2013, we are filled with gratitude for a year of challenges and blessings.

We're excited to see where God will take us in 2014. We'll be sending out a newsletter soon with news about all our plans and how you can participate in our adventures. To join the list, please visit

Worship Wednesdays will return next week, kicking off a new year of ideas, encouragement, and inspiration for worship leaders and Christian artists.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And never brought to mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And days o’ lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my dear 
For auld lang syne, 
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet 
For auld lang syne!