Here at OurChurch.Com, we have wrapped up September’s theme, Musicians Month, and are transitioning into October’s theme, Sounds from the Church. Since I’ve been playing music virtually all my life, have a masters degree in music composition, and currently lead the contemporary worship band at Family of Christ Church in Tampa, FL, Paul asked me to take the blogging baton for this next series of articles about using audio on church websites. I told him I wanted a 25% bonus and a new Martin D41 acoustic guitar. He said he’d give me a quarter and a slick new pick. I think I need to work on my negotiating skills.
Many churches these days have or are starting a contemporary worship service. This can mean many things, but one general commonality is the use of contemporary Christian worship music with praise and worship bands. These bands come in all shapes and sizes doing Gospel music, worship songs, folk songs or Christian rock. Some groups have just one worship leader with a guitar while other churches have a full band with an orchestra. So how does your worship team relate to your website? There are many ways to promote, facilitate and improve the musical worship experience in your church both for your worship team and the congregation using your website.
Interactive Music Section:
Many churches that have a website use that website for distributing limited information. They may list the worship service schedule, the staff, have a calendar and tell a little bit about the beliefs and mission of the church. Websites like these are not taking full advantage of the all the opportunities a website provides. With a few additions and a little time, you can take your church’s website to the next level improving its effectiveness with staff, volunteers, the congregation and visitors.
One thing you can add to your website is an Interactive Music Section. This would be a couple of web pages which are devoted to the music of the church giving the congregation the opportunity to learn songs, find music, give their input and volunteer. Here are a few suggestions:
- Have a list of the music your worship team played on Sunday. Provide the lyrics for the songs so they can better learn them. Be sure you have the proper licensing permissions. If you do not, you can link to another website which has the lyrics. You can also provide links to where visitors can get a copy of the recorded songs. Many times a song will be played on Sunday and a member of the congregation will really like the song and want to buy the cd. If a song is an original song by someone in the band, you may be able to put the song on your site. If it is a copyrighted song, you will need to link to a website where they can download the song or purchase the cd.
- List the music that will be played over the next few weeks. If you do not plan that far ahead, at least list the new songs that will be introduced over the next couple of weeks. Teaching new songs to a congregation is probably the most difficult thing a worship team does. This will allow your congregation to learn the music before the actual worship service and thus better participate in the worship.
- Have polls and a place for reviews, comments and suggestions. One thing most praise teams lack is feedback. They probably only hear from a couple of people each week, if any, and get the typical, “I really enjoyed the worship today.” This doesn’t really tell them what the person enjoyed, whether they thought the new song was great, they liked the songs that were chosen, or if the worship team happened to be in tune that week. Also, usually the only people who make a comment to the band are people complimenting the band. Congregations tend to be too “polite” to speak their criticisms…at least not to the band anyway. Give your congregation the opportunity to review songs, comment on the praise band in general, or suggest a new song. You can also have polls on what peoples favorite songs are. Since you’re looking for honest feedback, make it possible to send comments anonymously and don’t post them on the website.
- Join us!! There are generally 2 possible paradigms for a worship team: the worship team is a way to get people involved, or the worship team is there to provide the best quality worship leading possible. Either way you are probably either desperately looking for a musician or could always replace that keyboardist who is always late to practice. Also, many churches have special music where someone could perform a solo and don’t forget the non-performance jobs that need to be done like running the sound board/video projector or setting up and breaking down equipment. A sign up page can allow people to offer their services easily.
It’s great to have a section of your website which allows the congregation to more actively participate in the music of the church, but don’t forget about the worship team themselves. Create a Musician’s Section. This section may need to be a password protected area depending on what you put on the pages. In this section you can include:
- The musician schedule. If your musicians don’t play/sing every week, no doubt you have a schedule of when each member plays/sings. Usually this information is distributed on a piece of paper, which is probably lost within hours (if not minutes). Putting the information on your website means anyone (with internet access) can find out when they are playing/singing any time.
- A Calendar. What events are coming up that the band is participating in, when are practices, when is the Fall Festival, ect. This may be combined with the musician’s schedule if you have enough room on the calendar to include all the info.
- Worship team related announcements.
- Upcoming music schedule and new music. Let the worship team know in advance what songs will be done when so they can practice on their own. Also, put a list of the new songs you will be working on with lyrics, chords and a place to get a recording. It’s always better for your musician’s to be familiar with a song before practice rather than taking an hour of practice time for everyone to learn it.
Do you have some creative people in your worship team that have written some worship songs? Maybe the whole band likes to sit around and jam after practice and has come up with some new music. Well don’t keep it to yourselves; share it! I know, as a worship leader myself, I am always looking for good new music and I’ve found there are a lot of good songwriters out there who aren’t name Matt Redman or Chris Tomlin. It’s just harder to find them.
- Record your songs. Take a couple of Saturdays and record those original songs. If you have a praise band then you probably have a sound system. So you already have a lot of the equipment you need to do a decent amateur recording. If you want a better recording, you can talk to a recording studio about getting some recording time. This will cost a bit more, but it will probably sound a lot better (and maybe they’ll give the church band a discount). TIP: Be sure to practice and get the music down pat before you begin recording. This will make the recording experience go much smoother and faster and thus making more enjoyable.
- Distribute the music. This can be done in many ways so be creative, but here are some options to get you started.
- Put the music on your website! I bet you never saw that one coming. Make sure you have permission from whoever wrote the song, but once you have that, this is music you can legally put on your website.
- Post the music on free worship song websites. There are several websites out there, such as FreePraiseAndWorship.org and ShareSong.org that exist solely to help people find and distribute worship music. You do not have to give up any copyrights or licensing rights when you do this.
- Share the music in Peer-to-Peer networks. Millions of people connected sharing music and other files; some of them are bound to be worship leaders, especially when the church music budget is less than your Taco Bell budget.
- Fundraising. If you have several songs, you may want to consider putting together a cd and using it as a fundraising tool.
Be sure to consider copyright and licensing options before distributing your music. I highly recommend officially copyrighting the music before distributing it, just in case. It can prevent some unforeseen bad situations in the future. This won’t prevent you from being able to share the music freely and it’s a good thing to do just in case. Here are a few copyright tidbits: (not to be taken as legal advice)
- A song is technically copyrighted as soon as it has been put into some physical form. So, if you type out the lyrics to the song or you make a recording of it, it is copyrighted.
- If you copyright a song, always put the copyright info on printed music or cds. It isn’t required by law, but it informs the user of that print or recorded media that the song is copyrighted.
- Officially registering your copyright with your government can provide you with additional legal rights and a more solid, provable case that you own the copyright. In America, it’s as easy as filling out a form and sending it, along with the $45 fee and a copy of the music to the US Copyright Office and you’ll be official.
- You may also want to license the music with a company like CCLI. Then again, you may also want to just let people use the music freely.
- It’s a common belief in the music world that you can copyright a song by simply mailing it to yourself via certified mail and not open the envelope. The idea is that, since the certified mail will have a date on it, you can prove when you wrote the song, however, there are a lot of holes in this theory. First, you already own the copyright as soon as you print or record the song. Second it’s nowhere near as official and legally binding as actually registering the copyright with the government.
- You can find more helpful info about copyrights at About.com and, of course, at the US Copyright Office.
Take your church website to the next level and start using it to its potential. Remember, a website can do a lot more than just convey basic information. Providing a way for your congregation to more actively participate in the church’s music as well as other aspects of the church’s ministry helps them to become more involved and feel more connected to the church. This also helps attract visitors as they see that you care about their opinion. It will take a little extra effort, but I think in the end, you’ll see it was worth it.