Thursday, July 31, 2008

NHC This Sunday

We're wrapping up our "What If?" series this Sunday.

Next week begins a 3-week series that gears us up for our 40 Days of Prayer (which begins in Sept.).


Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Ever been to one of those churches that has a special "meet and greet" time built into their service...a time for people to step out of their pew and spend a few moments meeting somebody new or catching up with an old friend? Ever wonder why church do this?

I've been to a bunch of churches that do this, and most of the time, it seems to me to be either a forced thing, an unnatural thing, a traditional thing, an interrupting thing, etc. I've seen churches that only have a few guests attending, and every member immediately moves toward those few guests, making them feel uncomfortable. I've seen churches that only have a few guests, and every member ignores them, which also makes them feel uncomfortable. I've seen churches that spend five minutes or more greeting each other, and it feels like it takes another 10 minutes to get back into the flow of worship.

Well, Nags Head Church does this, or, at least, something similar to this. The difference, I believe, between the "meet/greet time" in our church (we don't call it that...we actually don't call it anything) and in some other church is that we've decided we're only going to do it if it helps us fulfill our purpose in an effective and fun way.

Here's how we do it at NHC...

We always do it in the middle (usually instrumental bridge) of a high energy song near the beginning of our gatherings. I (or whomever is leading worship) say something like, "Find somebody you've never met before, shake their hand and welcome them to Nags Head Church." And, we always do it in every gathering.

On average, about 50% of people attending are guests, either from out of town (we're in a resort community) or from our community (we aim at reaching the OBX), and about half of those people have never been to our church before, which means that, nobody is more than a few seats from somebody they don't know.

We've discovered that, these few seconds of giving people an opportunity to reach out to others accomplishes a few things:

1) We call it "corporate" worship for a taking time during a song (especially if the song is a "horizontal" song) to focus on each other, we're reinforcing the idea that, while God may be our primary focus, we've gathered "together" to worship with each other. We need to be aware of each other (and the opportunity to serve) as we're worshipping God.

2) Because the band is still playing music (and we play fairly loud), people really can't do much more than say "hi", introduce themselves and shake a few hands (which is all that is needed to accomplish the next few points).

3) Because we do it in the middle of a song, it usually doesn't last for more than 20-30 seconds, and then, we pull them back in by finishing the song (singing).

4) It gives our members/regular attenders a chance to make a connection with a guest, which is always a great thing. Because everyone's doing it, and because it's so short and simple, nobody really feels awkward about it.

5) It pulls our guests into what we're doing. Many guests (especially first-timers and the "unchurched") are timid about jumping in and participating in the worship, yet, somehow, by taking those few seconds to allow people to move and speak and smile, it breaks the ice for many of them, and the participation and energy levels usually get bumped up a few notches.

I agree that, in most churches, this meet/greet thing totally detracts from worship. But, just like everything, if it has a purpose and fits in with the big picture strategy, it can add to the worship.

Here are a few things that I suggest if your church wants to have a purposeful meet/greet time (unless you really like to make people feel uncomfortable):

1) Don't open this time up by dividing your guests from your members by asking one or the other to stand or by asking your members to only find somebody that looks like a guest.

2) Don't spend much more than 30 seconds with this...unless it's for a very specific reason. You want to give people enough time to make that easy connection without getting to the awkward, "we've run out of things to talk about" stage. And, you don't want people to get so caught up in other conversational stuff that the focus moves away from whatever is going on in the service.

3) Have some kind of music going...whether it's the band or a CD. Silence is the killer of all things fun.

4) Develop a culture in which people come to church early and stay late to hang out and meet new people (see my last paragraph below). At NHC, we built a HUGE lobby, offer food and drinks, and are constantly telling people to come early and stay late, just to hang out. You wouldn't believe the difference it makes on every aspect of your church's life.

5) Find a strategic place to incorporate this time into the flow of your service. Even if it's perfect in every other way, if you do it at the wrong time, you'll have a big mess on your hands.

6) Imagine yourself as a guest who knew nobody, or better yet, as a guest who hadn't been to church in would this time make you feel welcome and comfortable?

One more thought...if your church isn't being friendly to each other, and especially to guests, outside of this meet/greet time, it will totally come off as forced and fake. But, if your church has already shown to people, before they reach their seats, that you are a friendly and welcoming church, this meet/greet time can very strongly reinforce that perception, or you may not need it at all.

So, what does your church do? Are you so friendly that you don't need this time of connection during the service? Are you so cold that people would freak out if you tried to do this during a service?


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I've finally had time and energy to finish revamping our band's website, It's been dormant for about 9 months, so we're excited to have it back up. It's not completed yet, and there's one big piece to add which should be coming soon, but it's good enough to make public.



I've led worship, now, for several youth events. One day events, week-long camps, weekly youth group, and lots of stuff in between. Youthy people are complex creatures, and I'll be the first to say that it can be incredibly frustrating to "lead" them in musical worship. I have had a few great experiences, but most of the time, most youth just come across as disengaged and almost completely uninterested.

This week, our Contagious Youth are participating a four-day mission event called Impact Outerbanx. The MilePost13 Band was invited to lead worship each morning, as several youth groups in our area gather together for worship at our church building before dispersing into our community to serve. I'm actually fairly impressed with how many kids are participating in this event (about 80 by my guesstimate), and it seems most of them are, at least, somewhat interested in being involved in the worship.

But, one of my biggest youth-worship pet peeves took place on day one...and is has nothing to do with the kids.

It drives me crazy when the youth leaders think it's OK to stand/sit separate from the youth during music worship, which is what happened on Monday. Actually, this happens at nearly every youth event I've ever led worship for, and I just can't figure out why. And the worst thing about it is, often the adults aren't just hanging with the youth, they're spending the time talking and doing just about anything else than engaging in the worship (I understand that, sometimes, there are important things to be done during the worship, but most of the time...).

Here's why this bugs me so much...

It sets a poor example by saying to the youth (even if the leaders don't mean to):

> I have more important things to do than worshiping God.
> I don't want to spend this time with you.
> I don't have to worship God the same way you're being asked to worship God.
> I don't have to be engaged in what's going on.
> I can stand off to the side and hope that nobody hears my voice or sees me worshipping.
> I don't like this kind of "youth" music.

I've actually, when I've had the opportunity to, spent the time to gather youth leaders together before an even begins to encourage them to hang with their youth during the entire even (unless there's a specific reason not to). Up on the stage, you can see the difference it makes when both the youth and adults are worshipping together in one space.

And, it's not that the kids need some chaperoning and guidance. As I said, the youth that are coming this week seem to be engaged, and, if nothing else, they're not sitting on their butts and talking and texting and disrupting (we turn the music up too loud to make that much of an option anyway). It's simply that, when one commits to being a "youth leader" (whether full-time vocational or pert-time volunteer), they've already acknowledged the fact that they're going to be an example for these kids, through their words and actions, of what a true worshipper can look like. It makes perfect sense to me that being an example is just as important during a worship gathering as any other time.

And, having said that, it's not, either, that these kids need somebody to show them how to sing loud, and clap their hands, and close their eyes at the right time...that might be the last thing they need.

What they need is for their leaders to say (through their worship):

> I'm here to worship God.
> I'm here to worship with you.
> We're equals before the throne of God.
> I'm serious about all of that God stuff that comes out of my mouth when I talk to you.
> I don't care how I sound or look as long as God is pleased with my worship.
> I don't care what the music sounds like, what the worship leader looks like, what the room feels like...I just want to worship.

More than likely, most youth aren't going to notice when their leaders are standing off to the side, appearing to be disengaged with the worship. But, I guarantee, they do notice when their leaders are engaged. Lead by example...all of the time. You'll make my job as "worship leader" so much easier.


Music Chat

I am downloading the new Third Day album, "Revelation" as I write this (listening to track 2)...look for my review later in the week. My favorite Christian band, 3D will be on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno tonight (probably on air around 11:30pm EST).

Chris Tomlin's new album, "Hello Love" is scheduled to come on 9.2.08. Because we use a ton of CT's stuff here at NHC, we're very excited that we'll be learning some great new stuff this fall!

Lincoln Brewster's "Today Is The Day" should be hitting the shelves on 9.23.08. We also use a lot of LB's stuff from his "All To You...Live" album, so we're anticipating some more great, new stuff to sample at church.

Listening to track 3 of the 3D album, now, and it sounds just like what we've come to expect from them...which is a good thing.


Friday, July 25, 2008

NHC This Sunday

This Sunday is a great follow up to This Post about connecting with a local church body...


Monday, July 21, 2008

The First Two Minutes

I've discovered that, the vast majority of the time, the first two minutes of our worship gatherings set the tone for the rest of the 1 hour 15 minutes we spend together. No matter what we do for the next 1:13, those first two minutes seems to control the atmosphere, energy and mood of the remaining time.

If we open with a prayer, the entire gathering tends to slow down and take on a more contemplative feel.

If we open with a silly video, the entire gathering tends to feel much more loose and casual.

If we open with a high-energy song, the entire gathering tends to feel charged and emotional.

If we open with a technical problem, the entire gathering seems to fall apart.

Of course, we realize that, God is more than capable of throwing our plans out the door and doing whatever He wants to. But, we also recognize that we have a huge responsibility during those first few minutes to help point everyone in the direction we believe God has led us to go. At Nags Head Church, we believe that every part of our worship gatherings should be connected with every other part in a seemless act of worship. The offering, the songs we sing, the prayers, the should all just be the next natural step in our worship journey each Sunday morning.

How do you set the tone for your worship services? Do you recognize the huge responsibility you have in those first few minutes to set the course? Do you even care?


NHC This Sunday

> Sunday mornings are always draining for me, as I guess they are for most people in church leadership (and, having said that, I'm glad I'm not a pastor/preacher). My day begins at 6am, and I'm usually out of the church building by 12:45. But, it's always a good kind of draining. I love getting to the church building on Sunday, knowing what lies ahead, and I love leaving the church building on Sunday, knowing that (usually), I have nothing important to do for the rest of the day.

> The energy that seemed lacking from last week was back again this morning. The more I do this worship leading thing, the more I discover that the atmosphere for the entire worship gathering seems to be set within the first minute or two. I think I may blog more about this later...

> So, there was supposedly this tropical storm named Cristobal aimed right for our little stretch of islands yesterday evening...we never saw it. The youth group even met at the church building last night instead of their normal spot on the beach because of the forecast, but it was basically the prettiest evening weather we've had here in a long time... Not that tropical storms are anything like full-blown hurricanes, but once again, God protected us (we haven't had many direct hits in the past several years, which is a blessing).

> Next week is "Backpack Sunday"! Yesterday, we challenged all of our folks to wear a backpack to church this coming Sunday to help us create a buzz for Operation Backpack, which is coming up in just a few weeks. We've even got some sweet prizes to give away to the people who show up with the coolest backpack. Don't know what Operation Backpack is? Stayed tuned for more!

> It still cracks me up to hear the kids in Kidmo screaming at the top of their lungs during our worship gatherings. When they're loud enough, we can hear them through the walls, which is awesome! Our Kid's Church Team rocks (as do all of our teams, me thinks).

> A friend of mine brought a coworker with him yesterday. She's from the Ukraine, here for the summer working and experiencing our culture. I met her after the second gathering, and asked her what she thought about our church. "This is a lot of in the Ukraine is never any fun." It's these kinds of comments (not that church is fun, but that this person, who maybe doesn't have a relationship with God, thinks church is fun) that really make it worth while for us. And, in between the fun stuff, she heard a powerful message about God's desire for her to know and live for Him (not that our sermons aren't any fun).

> We've got two new people who are in the auditioning process with the band. We haven't brought anyone new on in a while, so it's exciting to see the possibility of growing.

> One of the coolest parts of the summer for us is, every week, seeing familiar faces who vacation down here the same time every year. We only see them once a year, but the fact that they choose to continually worship with us on their vacation is cool. And, every now and then, a connection is made that will last a lifetime.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Prosthetic Limb

On one of the worship leader forums I'm a part of, the below comment was made in a discussion about Commitment to a Church/Worship Team:

I play and sing at two different churches. Therefore, I don’t attend either church when I am not playing. Nobody at either church has a problem with that. I know that there are several other musicians and singers that also play at more than one church. Each of the two churches that I play at require only a commitment to show up and play good music. Neither has a requirement to be a member. Neither has a requirement to be “involved” in church activities, other than playing music.

I don’t know a whole lot about the other musicians that I play with. I don’t think that most others know me. This doesn’t cause any problems with anybody, in either church.

My point is, that in two churches, at least, all of the “requirements” are not necessary.

Maybe it's just me, but the attitude of this individual and these churches just goes against everything I've ever known to be true about the body of Christ (ie. the church). Don't get me wrong...I think it's an awesome thing when people can feel free to help out other churches in ministry. We've "borrowed" musicians from other churches in the past when we've had a hole to fill, and we do several things throughout the year where we invite other church bodies to join with us.

The issue here is, as the commenter so clearly spelled out, this individual is not a "member" of any local church body, and neither of the churches he plays in seems to care. If I know anything about the Scriptures and God's call on the Christian life, it is that He has never called any believer to go for an extended period of time without joining themselves as a member of a local church body. Whether that commitment means signing your name to a church covenant or simply agreeing in your heart and with your mouth that you're committed doesn't really matter, as long as there is an acknowledged commitment.

By "member", what exactly do I mean? I'm not talking about being a member of a church like you might be a member of the boy scouts or a member of a book club...I'm talking about being an actual, physical member of the "body" of Christ, as outlined in I Corinthians 12. Literally, a serving hand, balancing finger, a listening ear in the living body of Christ on this earth, committed to serving the rest of the body in an intimate way. This, according to the Word of God, is how each and every believer should be seeking to live his/her life.

It seems to me that people who have no commitment to a local church are nothing more than a prosthetic limb. Typically, prosthetics look and act like the real thing at first glance, but a closer look reveals that they are hallow, hard, cold and stiff.
A prosthetic limb is used only when needed to serve a very specific task. It has no real connection with the rest of the body.

This person has no blood vessels that connect him with the heart and breath of the body he serves. He has no muscles or tendons to connect him to the power and strength of the body he serves. He has no skin to connect him to the protection and intimacy of the body he serves.
He has no nerves to connect him with the feelings and emotions of the body he serves.

He is only used for a specific purpose, meaning he is completely useless for anything else. If he hangs around when he is not being used, he is literally a dead weight. And, really, he's filling space on the body that could be given to somebody who is willing to commit to being a real, physical part of the body.

And, the thing that really gets me about all of this is the fact that the two specific church bodies mentioned above really don't seem to care. They both have an opportunity to bring this individual in and help him learn to experience what the body of Christ is really all about. They have an opportunity to help this person grow some roots and mature, but instead, they're only helping to further this individual's immature idea of what being a member of the body is all about.

Ultimately, prosthetic limbs get banged up or outgrown and discarded. In contract, I don't know anyone who would cut of their healthy left arm and chunk it in the garbage just for the heck of it.

Surely, this kind of attitude is totally acceptable in the world, where people are often invested in their jobs only as far as their paychecks, committed to their hobbies only as far as it satisfies their personal goals, willing to spend energy in their friendships only as far as they are receiving something in return.

But, the church has been called out by the Living God to be different. We've been called to commit, invest and give sacrificially to a local body. I just don't understand how any single Christ follower can even survive living with anything short of that...surely God has created us for more?


As I said, the commenter confesses to know and follow Christ, so, for the sake of clarity, we're not discussing using seekers/unchurched as musicians in a church band...that's an entirely different discussion altogether.

NHC This Sunday

This Sunday, we'll be focusing on figuring out what Godliness might look like in our lives...


Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday Blitz

> It appears we don't have too many Josh Groban fans in the church. The song went really well, and fit perfectly with the message, but it was like we were singing in front of a brick wall. Or maybe that was just the overall vibe of the entire seemed the energy level was way down yesterday.

> The message was solid. Don't Give Up! I'm guessing it's something that a lot of other people needed to hear as well.

> I taught my NHCU: Discovering Worship CLASS for about the 6th time yesterday. Haven't taught since November because we've been out of town. I only had 10 students, which is just under the perfect size for that class, but we had a good time, and I finished early for the first time ever, although I had to cut out some stuff as I was moving along. One of my goals for today is to edit (again) my material so that I don't have to feel so rushed as I'm teaching.

> We'll be wrapping up our "What If?" series in a few weeks, and moving on to something new. One of my favorite things to do is create the graphics for stuff around the church. I'm certainly no professional, but I think I get by pretty well considering. I am very excited because we just purchased a copy of Adobe Illustrator, which is much more intense and fun than what I've been using.

> Speaking of which, here is the final version of the "40 Days of Prayer" graphic that we decided on. Thanks for your help!

> The MilePost13 Band will be performing at the annual Watermelon Festival at Kitty Hawk Kites in Nags Head, NC (directly across the street from the church) on August 14, from 11am to 3pm. This is a fundraiser (can't remember what for at the moment, but I'll let you know) that KHK puts on every year, and they've asked us to provide some music. We're stoked, and praying hard for some "cool" August weather...

> That's all I've got for today. Need to go do some real work now, and then grab some lunch. Later!


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today Marks...

...One Year of incredible blogging by yours truly. Actually, if you consider that I didn't blog at all for a few months while my wife was in the hospital, I really haven't been blogging for a year, but who's counting?

My archives tell me that my first official post was on July 12, 2007, and since Practical Worship was my first blog (I now have a few other blogs), today's the day.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled lives...


Thursday, July 10, 2008

NHC This Sunday

Last week we played The Who. This week...a little Josh Groban. Can you guess which song?


Monday, July 7, 2008

I'm Coming....

TRUNKorTREAT '08 is coming faster than you know it. I've got a great idea for this year's commercials, so stay tuned!


Sunday Blitz

> Great Sunday all about Freedom! Three of our pastors who normally don't preach tag-teamed the message, speaking about Freedom from Family Stress, Freedom from Economic Tyranny and Freedom from the Fear of Death. All three did a great job, even if they collectively went a little longer than we're used to.

> We opened up bother gatherings with The Who's "I'm Free". Actually, we did a cover of Geoff Moore and The Distance's cover of The Who song (which is a good thing because after finding a few videos of The Who's original version, you wonder how anyone had the vision to make that song sound good). It's fun to do something unexpected every now and then and keep people on their toes.

> The 9am gathering was packed out...I don't think there were any empty seats left by the time all the tourists arrived around 9:15 (you'd think people on vacation would have the easiest time getting to places on time...), and the 11am gathering was pretty full as well. We didn't have time to squeeze in our last song ("I Am Free" by Jon Egan) at 9, but we did at about some high energy worship!

> It was a great day, personally, as my wife, Tricia was able to attend a full worship service for the first time in nearly a year. She was even able to ride with me on Sunday night to and from our Communion Gathering, which was really awesome. I love you, Tricia!

> Speaking of which, it was also my first communion gathering with our church in about 6 months. Although the numbers were down, it was, as it always is, a great time of fellowship and worship. The band went "unplugged" with an acoustic set...even pulled out an acoustic bass guitar. We introduced Hillsong United's "Lead Me To The Cross" (look for it again next Sunday morning), which is quickly becoming one of my new favorites, and we pulled out Todd Agnew's "Grace Like Rain" which we hadn't done in a while.

> Some cool events coming up in the next several weeks for our church include:

Impact Outerbanx - A youth event that was started a few years ago by a local methodist church, but has grown to include other local youth groups this year. From what I know so far, it's an intense, four-day (July 28-31) mission blitz on our community, with each group getting an opportunity to serve in a different way each day. The groups will be meeting at our church building each morning before heading out, and the MilePost13 Band will be leading some worship to get their day started.

Operation Backpack - An outreach event for our community. We've been collecting new school supplies at the church, and will be setting our building up as a distribution center on August 9. With the economy the way it is this year, we're hoping this will be a great opportunity to serve our local families. We've invited other local churches to join us, and hopefully it will grow in future years.


Friday, July 4, 2008

40 Days Graphic Update

40 Days of Prayer is a time of preparation for our church as we get ready for 40 Days of Purpose beginning this October. We haven't done the 40 Days of Purpose campaign in a few years, and our church has grown to the point that many of our partners have never experienced 40 Days with us before, and most of us who have need a good reminder. The time of Prayer will help our entire church body focus in on getting ready for God to do something big in and through us this fall.

Thanks for the suggestions. Tell me what you think...

For this one, I tried a darker shade of blue that the last one I posted.

Dark Brown...
Light Brown...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

(Bump) Crummy Church Signs

In Honor of This Post...

My New Favorite Blog

And, I now have a fun new activity as I drive around Durham with my new camera!


NHC This Sunday

Ever heard a church band rock a The Who song? You will if you're at NHC this week!

20 points to the person who can guess which The Who song we'll be doing (it sounds so stupid to use "The Who" in a sentence like the two sentences above...).


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

40 Days Of Prayer Graphic

Our church will be walking through 40 days of prayer this fall, and I'm working on a graphic. I'm trying to keep it simple but bold to convey the idea that prayer can be simple but bold and powerful. I like what I've got below a lot, but I'm looking for a third color (for the date at the bottom) to work well with the light blue and black, and I'm not crazy about the darker blue.

Any ideas?



PS. Mad props to anyone who can correctly name the font I've used...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sunday Blitz

> Lots of fun! The band was right on with everything, and the church really seemed ready to worship from the start. It's so much more fun when all we have to do is get the ball rolling and then get out of the way.

> The message was dead on, especially for a few members of our band who are being faced with some self-control temptations in the form of teenage kids. :D

> It was a special day for my family, as my wife and I dedicated ourselves to raising our daughter, Gwyneth in a house centered on God. Both of our families stood beside us in front of the church, and the entire church body stood with us, all to say that they are supporting us over the next several years. I still can't figure out how anyone can do this Christ-following thing without a loving church family to walk along with.

> Our new stage lights are adding a lot to the atmosphere of our space. They're pretty basic at this point, and we'll be adding more later, but just about anything was an improvement from not having any lighting on the stage.

> I changed up our announcement graphics after having them look the same for over a year. We don't spend much time during our worship gatherings with announcements, so we have an announcement loop that runs before and after. I've read that people tend to stop looking at things like that after about 2-3 weeks UNLESS you give them something new to look at (and by new, I mean more than text). Here's a sample...

> The MilePost13 Band is working on a few new songs that are really solid. I can't wait to introduce them to everyone. I love how our church totally embraces everything we bring to them.

> Last week was a busy week for my first full week back at work, so I'm looking forward to a little more relaxing week this week, including the extra day off for Independence Day!