I think I’ve recovered from last week’s conference. What a joy to see so many folks come from so many different places to learn and experience what God has told us in the Psalms about worship. Although we barely scratched the surface of the topic, I think people went away encouraged and equipped, with plenty to think about and apply.
After a few weeks, I’ll meet with the admin staff and talk about what worked and how we can serve people more effectively at the next WorshipGod conference in 2010. In the mean time, I wanted to share a few things I learned during the course of leading this year’s conference.
1. Having a detailed schedule really helps.
Chelsea, my daughter and assistant, made sure each day that I had a clear road map for everything that was going to be happening that day. I added my own notes to it, including transitions and introductions. Sometimes I’ve tried to do those on the fly, and they just don’t work as well.
2. People flow with things better if you tell them in advance what’s going on.
This year I was more proactive in letting people know things like why we were teaching so many new songs (because we wanted them to go home with new songs for their churches), what the aim of the conference was (not only to rediscover the Psalms, but to rediscover the unsearchable greatness of God), and why I was recommending certain books (by quoting from them). No doubt I could have explained even more than I did, but I’m understanding how important it is to give reasons for what we do.
3. We are very normal people worshiping an extraordinary God.
That fact that we’re “normal” came across maybe a little more clearly than I would have hoped. On the first night I announced that Delaware was part of New England (it’s not). We also announced that there would be coffee served the next morning (there wasn’t). On top of that, there were numerous musical train wrecks. One band started a song in two different keys and had to start over. On the last day, the music team modulated in “God Shall Arise,” but the attendees didn’t catch it. So we sang an entire chorus in two different keys. One soloist couldn’t hear the intro to a song well and started off about a 4th too low. I stepped up on stage during the first of those situations to remind everyone that the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave the room when we make mistakes. It’s okay to acknowledge what’s going on, laugh about it, and start again. God gives grace to the humble. His strength is perfected in our weakness. Jesus looks better when we look normal.
4. It’s helpful to have a conference theme and a new CD with the same focus.
We sang or taught six songs from the Psalms CD over the conference. They helped not only reinforce what we were being taught, but also enabled people take that teaching home to their local churches through the songs they learned.
5. Push harder for variety.
We used different leaders and teams this year, including a 40 piece string ensemble for one song, a three piece band, loops, an eleven piece string ensemble with a rock band, a horn section, and an 80 voice choir. But I’d like to do more in the area of diversity. Not only regarding instrumentation but in the kinds of songs we sing and the way they’re put together. The Psalms show a tremendous variety in type, length, and mood. That could be reflected more in our songs and meetings.
6. Shorter is better.
Every meeting went longer than I had planned. The longest was 2 hours and 45 minutes. The shortest was 2 hours and 20 minutes. We mixed it up with giveaways, announcements, and Scripture recitations, and people seemed engaged, but we can do better. I want to shoot for something between two hours and 2:15. It’s longer than most church meetings, but our goal is to equip, bless, and model, which takes more time.
7. One of the best parts about any conference is the people who come.
I’ve already heard numerous reports of how much people enjoyed connecting up with other people at the conference. I was able to hang out with some friends from Harvest Bible Chapel, as well as have many other conversations. We had guests over to our home Thursday night, Friday night, and Sunday afternoon just to make sure we could get some quality time with a few of the folks who taught at and attended the conference. Those were rich times. I also enjoyed meeting some of you who read Worship Matters, and being able to thank you personally for your encouragement.
8. What I do after a conference matters.
If I don’t have a plan after a conference, I usually default to pride over what went right or discouragement over what went wrong. So, on Monday morning I went to Starbucks for four hours and started reading “The Fountain of Life” by the Puritan John Flavel. He simply seeks to extol the glory and splendor of Jesus Christ. I also spent some extended time reading the Psalms. I made it my aim to remember how merciful God has been to me in Christ, and how much better it is to meditate on what Jesus has done than on what I’ve done. It refreshed and restored my soul.
9. In the end, God is the only one who can make our labors count for eternity.
We spent months planning, strategizing, praying, discussing, administrating, and preparing for the conference. But after all is said and done, I’m very aware that God alone can change, convict, and encourage hearts. Any fruit that was produced in and through people’s lives is due to God’s Spirit working through the means of the Gospel and the Word. All the glory belongs to God. All the gratefulness belongs to us. And I am very grateful.
Those are some of the things I learned this year. I’m sure I’ll think of many more in the days to come.