staying current

If you lead a modern worship ministry, you are probably concerned about staying “up” on current musical and cultural trends.  Churches particularly focused on reaching people through modern culture have the unique challenge of keeping a finger on the pulse of society, and the worship pastor or creative arts pastor carries a large amount of that load.

Incidentally, if you are not concerned about being aware of pop culture and music, I would guess (I could be wrong, of course) that either you are at a church which does not engage culture or you have yet to realize the value of being relevant.  For more on the differences in how churches treat culture, read one of my more popular blogs, “two kinds of churches.”

Over the past 10 years working at both Browncroft Community Church and Lakeshore Community Church in Rochester I faced the challenge of somehow staying current while managing all of my tasks.  I do not have it figured out completely, but here are some things that have worked for me.

1.  If you haven’t already, clarify the top style(s) of music that fit your church.  For some churches this choice is easier than others.  The senior pastor, worship pastor, creative arts pastor, and elders, if necessary, must agree on where you are headed.  When I worked at Browncroft this choice was much harder because we had both classic and modern services, and both were in transition.  Isolating where we needed to focus musically was hard.  When I worked at Lakeshore, a seeker focused church that unashamedly said it was a rock ‘n’ roll church, we still had some clarifying work to do.  Here is a chart I used to help me.  You may want to create your own.  In the end having clarity will save you a lot of time.

Worship Genre Worksheet

2.  Visit the Billboard website.  Today, Sunday, when I am writing this blog, Kelly Clarkson’s tunes Stronger is at the top of the Hot 100.

3.  Cruise iTunes.

4.  Start a suggestions group made up of people from your target demographic.  At Lakeshore I needed to get in touch with where the teens and early twenties were at, so I created a private Facebook group where I could interact with them.  Then I asked them about their favorite albums and songs to get a start.  After that I would occasionally post a topic I was researching and see if they had a suggestion.  Usually they had very good ideas.  Two things are important with groups like this. 1) Make certain you choose the right people.  2) If they make a suggestion, do everything you can to use it.  Only say no if the idea is completely off base.  If you choose the right people, you will be able to have a high rate of success.  If you say no often, you will burn them out and they will pay no attention to you.

4.  Check out Relevant Magazine.  Relevant is very good at staying on top of what is happening musically and spiritually in the younger generations.  Here is a recent article on Cultural IQ.

5.  Watch new movies.  Lots of them. In a brainstorming meeting a year ago we were discussing the upcoming series on EGR’s, or “extra-grace-required people,” which is Lakeshore’s kind way of describing difficult people.  The first message was going to be a on people who are just mean, and I immediately thought of Despicable Me.  Lakeshore was nuts enough to begin the first service with the opening clip to this movie.  If you have seen the movie, you know that it is a spectacular and hilarious portrayal of someone thrilled with being mean.

6.  Pay attention to news topics.  ‘Nough said.

What do you do to stay on top of current musical and cultural trends?