contemporary music

Music for Stewardship: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

Music for Stewardship: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

"Christian giving is a responsive act. It represents gratitude to God. It is a symbol of self-giving. Therefore, giving is not a once-for-all event, but a regular part of life. It is a spiritual discipline that reminds us who we are and whose we are.” - Herb Mather (source)

Stewardship is about taking care of the gifts God has given us. This includes managing our earthly possessions and monetary gains, but it also includes tending to the relationships we have and caring for the world around us.

Many churches spend some time during the fall months talking about stewardship. Centered around themes of gratitude and giving, stewardship is a time to talk about God’s abundant blessings and ways we can be good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given.

Stewardship often culminates in a Commitment Sunday or a time to make a pledge of time, gifts, and financial contributions to the work of the church.

It’s important that stewardship not just be about financial giving, but how we can give ourselves to God’s work, commit our lives to God’s service, and use God’s gifts to bless those around us.

New! Online Keyboard Skills Class for Church Musicians

New! Online Keyboard Skills Class for Church Musicians

Music school is great, but if you want to be a church musician in the 21st century, there are lots of things you're left to figure out on your own - things that simply aren't taught in most schools or private studios.

This includes:

  • playing and singing or playing and conducting at the same time
  • accompanying and supporting choral and congregational singing
  • harmonizing melodies (with and without chord symbols)
  • finding cadence points and vamping in the moment
  • creating modulations and transposing at sight
  • improvising transitions and creating musical underscores
  • playing 5-finger patterns in all 24 keys (12 major, 12 minor)

And the list goes on. Where do you start? How do you learn and develop these skills?

If you can relate to any of this, then this course is for you.

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts [Video]

How to Read Lead Sheets and Chord Charts [Video]

You want me to play that? Where is the left hand part? Where is the time signature? Why aren't there any barlines?

If you haven't guessed it by now, I'm talking about lead sheets and chord charts.

I'm mixing things up today and offering this post as a mini online workshop!

So, grab a pen and a piece of paper (or better yet, print out the corresponding practice files - there's a notes page at the end of the packet) and get ready for a crash course in how to read lead sheets and chord charts.

This will be especially relevant to those of you in more contemporary church settings, but I think you’ll find that the skills used in playing lead sheets and chord charts are skills we can all use - these are just basic musicianship skills, for the most part.

So even if you’re not in a situation where you're playing from lead sheets on a regular basis, I think you’ll find the skills useful in the work you do - from harmonizing to composing to playing more by ear to developing flexibility, and more.

Enjoy! (And P.S. Be sure to watch to the end for an exciting announcement!)

Worship Planning Theme: Music

Worship Planning Theme: Music

"I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music." - J. S. Bach

What a beautiful sentiment about what we do as church musicians.

There’s something different about sharing music in a worship context - it becomes something greater than ourselves, more than we could make it on our own. In a way, we become the instruments, ready to be used by God, for His glory: “Take my voice and let me sing - always, only for my King."

I’ve written a few posts like this one, with music and worship-planning resources on a specific theme or topic. Here are the links, in case you missed them:

The Good Shepherd

Today’s theme is Music. I’m writing this post for myself, really, because we’re in the midst of planning a Music Sunday at our church for later this Spring - a day to celebrate God’s gift of music and bring together as many of the church’s musicians as we can to offer our praise and thanksgiving.

Singing Our Faith: The Power of Musical Theology

Singing Our Faith: The Power of Musical Theology

We gather together on Sunday mornings, in churches old and new. In "Sunday best" and casual attire. In old wooden pews and folding chairs. No matter where or how we worship, we come together for the same reasons - to feed our souls, to shape and strengthen our faith, to be reminded of who God is.

We retell the stories of our faith, we remember God's promises, we claim God's victory over the world, we pray and praise and recite what we believe.

And we can do it all through singing. This is the power of musical theology.

Theology is "the study of the nature of God and religious belief." Musical theology refers to hymns and songs with rich, meaningful text that speaks to who God is and what we believe. 

Music for Communion: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

Music for Communion: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

Communion may be one of our most sacred traditions in the church. It's a tangible way to remember, to accept the gift of grace and forgiveness, to make Christ's sacrifice real again. Some churches celebrate communion once a quarter; others, once a month. And there are many congregations that share communion every Sunday.

You may not choose communion-themed music for every communion Sunday, but every so often, it can be nice to choose an anthem, congregational song or hymn, or instrumental piece that ties in with this sacred tradition.

Today, I'm sharing a variety of music that would work well for communion Sundays throughout the year (including World Communion Sunday, All Saints' Sunday, the Sundays leading up to Thanksgiving, and Holy Week).

Top 20 Contemporary Music Resources

Top 20 Contemporary Music Resources

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called, "Contemporary Music for Traditional Congregations," which included practical suggestions and a list of 20 accessible contemporary songs for more traditional worship (read it here, in case you missed it). I know what you're thinking: "That's great, but where do I go to actually find this music?"

I asked the same question earlier this year. You see, our church is currently having these same conversations. In fact, we're talking about it in a series of meetings this week:

- How can we begin incorporating more contemporary music into our services?
- Where do we find this music? 
- Who from our church can sing/play/lead it?

I did a little homework and today, I'm sharing a round-up of contemporary music resources - places to listen to and download individual songs (lead sheets, chord charts, instrumental parts, choral scores, etc.), where to find lyrics, and several useful collections for choir, praise team, and congregational use.

Happy searching!

Contemporary Music for Traditional Congregations

Contemporary Music for Traditional Congregations

"We need to keep up with the times!""We need to preserve our history!""We need to attract more millenials!"

Contemporary vs. traditional. It's enough to spark debate (or cause a war) in some congregations. But why does it have to be one or the other? Why does including contemporary music mean that we can't have a choir or use the organ or sing hymns? I believe there is a place for both in modern worship.

Emerging in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) was influenced by the Rock 'n' Roll of the 1950s and popular styles of the times (source). Today, contemporary worship often refers to musical style (rather than date of composition), incorporating popular song forms (verse, chorus, bridge), style (hip-hop, rock, acoustic, country, etc.), popular instruments (guitar, drums, keyboard, electric bass, etc.), and simple lyrics written in modern language. 

The big question is, can all musical styles be considered sacred? Here's what I think:

"Music has sacred significance and purpose within the liturgy whenever it brings sacred associations to the minds and hearts of the worshipers. Does all music have the potential to acquire sacred meaning? Swain (2012) wrote, 'As long as the music is a means of proclaiming the Word and is not the Word itself, it is theoretically possible for any kind of music to acquire a sacred semantic' (p. 196)." - On Musical Meaning