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A Field Guide to Contemporary Worship: How to Begin and Lead Band-Based Worship Paperback – October 31, 2011
About the Author
Andrew Boesenecker is a freelance performer, composer, consultant, and clinician in Orange Park, FL, where he serves as Music Director at Cross+Road Lutheran Church.
Jim Graeser is the founding pastor of Cross+Road Lutheran Church in Fleming Island, Florida, where he has served for twelve years.
Top customer reviews
There is tremendous advice in regards to pastoral care for the congregation in this handbook. The writers rightly point out people would "grieve the removal of `their' worship service" if traditional worship was outright replaced by contemporary worship in one's congregation (8-9). Likewise, for those planning contemporary worship, it is important to understand what they are leading is worship, not performance (9-10). I also appreciated the balance between something new and something traditional - that is, liturgy, or an order of worship (10-11). Other practical matters are addressed such as where to place a band in relationship to the congregation and how to position PA equipment in relation to both. For example, I didn't know the differences between microphones (123-124), how to properly place a monitor (138-139), and the proper way to coil and protect PA cables (171-173). These are the grace notes of the handbook which will definitely stand out for me as particularly helpful.
Several parts of the book addressed my main personal concerns with contemporary Christian music and particularly its presence in worship - that it can be a theological fir or mismatch with the congregation (29), whether music should constantly be playing (they, and I, say no) (35), and what if the congregation doesn't want to sing along for various reasons (36). For the writers, it comes down to offering everyone, both the persons they call regular church-goers and the "unchurched," something which meets them where they are at and is relevant.
While those matters were addressed, I'm walking away from this book with more questions and more frustration about contemporary worship than I had when I began. I was disappointed that theology was specifically addressed on pages 26-29 (midway through each plus one page of lyrics for around two pages total), an amount just over the page space granted to matters of copyright, equivalent to that of where to physically place a band in a worship space, and dwarfed by three chapters on PA systems at 33, 18, and 38 pages long, respectively. I knew something was amiss when the opening of chapter 5 of 14 states, "With your theological compass and an ear for singability..." (33) which came off, to me, like it was saying, "That's that. Theological mission accomplished." The handbook, then, is lopsided.
This handbook, to me, posits ideas based on many assumptions and without much context. Indeed, American culture is less about a primarily auditory experience and shifting (shifted) to a visual experience. However, this is presented as "just because" and not due to how mediums have changed, as if to say people have changed, not the medium. Also, statements like "just pull up YouTube on your iPhone and immediately get up to speed" (5) may seem like a reality in the US but it left me wondering about those on the other side of the digital divide. Yes, much is stirring in the US culture but I question what "our culture" is, really (5). Assumptions about shared cultural experience are not helpful, in my opinion, particularly for the church. Ironically, as this section about how US culture is changing when it comes to how we consume media, I couldn't help but notice this handbook is not currently available as an ebook...
I found it difficult to find information in this handbook and determine what is most relevant to a reader's situation. Sidebar boxes have no discernible pattern. Some have tips, others have inspirational quotes, a few are inspirational quotes without clear context, and several are plugs for the writers' website. Rather than provide important highlights to the main body of text, they end up, to me, like a smattering of jigsaw puzzle pieces and it's up to me as the reader to discern their import. The table of contents is sparse and I couldn't help but think short bullet point lists could have been helpful to help the reader have a compass before diving into a chapter. For example, why not provide a short list of equipment with concise descriptions right at the top of chapter 10 instead of having each new type of equipment need to occur every few pages? (Microphones, 123; Mixers, 128; Speakers, 135; Monitors, 138; Cables, 140; etc.)
The handbook presentation, to me, comes off as amateurish and lacking focused editing. Beyond being "illustrated" with four photos (pages 4, 5, 25, and 30) and two cartoons (42 and 210) all culled from an online stock photo repository and with questionable prescience, I also found the photos of various pieces of PA gear overwhelming and the accompanying copy lacking and I was amazed at how many of the gear photos were low-resolution, pixelated messes (149, 155, 173, and 197, for example). I was disappointed to read the software program PowerPoint referred to in a pejorative manner without reasons why it isn't the best choice for a worship setting, nor why the suggested church-specific presentation software was better and what differences / similarities there are between them (165). Again, there is a lack of context that left me disappointed and the screenshots of the various software - not even edited from the Mac desktop, simply imported as screenshots - are not informative and are, to me, unprofessional (166-167).
Finally, the handbook contradicts itself several times. For example, the writers say avoid the "stage" and keep the band on the same level as the congregation so people feel like "we are all singing this together" instead of as a performance (9-10), and theologically that the band should be off to the side in a best-case scenario so it is not a performance and the focus of worship (18-19), yet some diagrams depict a "stage." (176) In regards to lyrics, the writers say to embrace corporate language over personal language as often as possible (26). But later, one of the positively-portrayed song examples lifted up uses a lot of "me" language - right above an example of negatively-portrayed song example with "me" language (28).
If the audience for this book is those who need to be convinced this is a healthy way to do worship (people like me), there's not enough here to help us understand the "why." If it's for those who are already doing it, the handbook is preaching to the choir. Perhaps there is a middle audience, then, who are willing to forgo any reasonable amount of researched convincing and will simply go with it because what's most important to them is the "how."
Thanks for reading. - thelifemosaic