SEASONING: Hosting an effective Worship Workshop

WorshipWorkshopI’ve always enjoyed conferences. I come away from them rested (even in spite of getting no sleep), encouraged, challenged, and excited, with a fresh of vision of what I can do and how things can be.

Wouldn’t it be nice to take your whole team to a conference? Sadly, that’s probably not feasible – the complexities of work & family schedules, not even account for church finances.

A few years back I began putting on Worship Workshops for my teams & those interest in one day joining – ‘mini-conferences’. We held several for our youth teams, & they not only gave our people a fresh vision & a renewed passion, but also served as an opportunity to invest in future talent which we could then integrate into the team.

Here’s what we did:

Saturday often works best, though I have held ‘mini-workshops’ occasionally on Monday nights at my home as well – you need to be careful to not ‘steal’ too many Saturdays from volunteers. Plan 2 to 3 of these a year, evenly & strategically placed as to build up the team before important moments. For a youth team, right before a new semester starts there is often a surge of visitors to our youth group – it’s particularly important to be ‘on’ on such nights. For adult teams host a Worship Workshop shortly before you begin planning for important Seasons/event on the church calendar, like Christmas & Easter.

Saturday Worship Workshops should star around 11:30 A.M., and provide FOOD. There’s nothing like food to get church-folk to an event.

Begin with a prayer, encouraging everyone to grab a slice of pizza, then pop on a short 15-20 minute video clip that you think will be good for your team. There are many excellent video resources available online & on DVD. Be sure to have open-ended questions prepared to facilitate a discussion afterward, which will ‘bring home’ the DVD’s message. This will not only give them some professional insight, but will give people time to eat, fellowship, & it’ll wake them up so they’ll be mentally present for the rest of the workshop. I usually schedule 30 to 45 minutes for this.

Next, begin the official ‘workshop’. Historically, I have reserved a few different venues at our church (another good reason to do these on Saturdays – available space) to make sure we had adequate ‘separation’ and divided our teams by vocals, drums, keys, rhythm guitar, and electric lead guitar. For each group, I hand-picked a volunteer that I knew personally – mostly members of my worship band, Saint Lewis – to run a 45 min to 1 hour long session where they gave the musicians/vocalists tips which will make someone at any talent level more of an asset to a team/band. This looks very different per instrument, so I gave each session leader the freedom to teach what they have found helpful for the role they fill on their teams. For instance, for the vocalists I taught a primer on classical voice (stomach breathing, head/chest voice, jaw/palette/mouth positions, etc.) and practiced parts. For keys, however, I had a skilled local player share what aids a keyboardist when playing with a band: simplifying the left hand, playing higher on the scale, et etc.

After this, I did something new, which you may or may not want to include in yours: a short writers breakout. I am a professional songwriter & love to see original songs birthed out of local churches. Under these circumstances, a short devotional primer on the hows & whys of worship songwriting can plant the seed for a future group co-writing partnerships. This could lead to a specific workshop on songwriting, where you could co-write with your team for your church!

Otherwise, release your younger team members, but not without getting names & email/phone numbers for everyone in attendance.

Lastly, I like to schedule an official rehearsal for our primary team, having them stick around, so we can spend some time familiarizing them with the new songs we hope to introduce over the next few months. That way they aren’t entirely new to us when we begin rehearsing them during our evening sound-checks.

Change whatever portion of this format as you think will best serve your team. Add a time of sharing & prayer, or a “new songs” roundtable where people can share songs they’d like for us to lead in the future. Each workshop with naturally have its own uniqueness, yet the event rarely hurts the churches pocketbook.

Have you or your church ever hosted a Worship Workshop? What worked or didn’t work as well as you hoped?

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