What are the steps a church needs to take to achieve musical excellence? I stumbled across Celebration Church online and was impressed with their musical excellence, their sincere and passionate worship, and their high production value. Everything flowed so seamlessly, and seemed genuine and natural. In my second “Behind The Scenes” episode, we do a deep dive into their systems, structure, culture, training, and habits, to see what helped them achieve musical excellence without losing the heart. Enjoy the episode and share it with a friend!
Celebration Worship Online
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Unknown Speaker 00:00 One of the things that I teach our team is that, you know that stage, then we get on that platform we get on it’s not a state. I always remind them, it’s an altar. I said, I’m not an altar things die for God to be worshiped in. I said, so everything about us, that is fleshly needs to die on this platform, so that God can be glorified. So it’s not about is our monitor makes perfect. It’s not about am I loud enough in the house? It’s not about this or that it’s not. In the end, we want to create a kind of worship experience where if nobody ever sees us, they see God.
Alex Enfiedjian 00:47 Hey, guys, welcome back to another episode of the worship ministry training podcast. My name is Alex Enfiedjian, your host, thank you so much for tuning in to the podcast this month. I hope you’re doing well. Hope you and your loved ones are well, and your church is doing well. And if you’re wondering why I’m saying all those things, it’s because I’m recording this in the midst of the Coronavirus. So if you’re listening in 2022, I’m sorry, that means nothing to you anymore. But just praying for you guys Hang in there. I had the opportunity this month to talk to a very wonderful church in Texas called celebration church. I don’t know about you, but I love learning from other churches who are doing things really well. And so occasionally, what I do is I call a church and record the conversation. And I call it behind the scenes at whatever church. And this is one of those episodes, I do it about once a year. And I find it incredibly helpful to see what other churches are doing in their ministry and to dig into all the details and learn how they achieve the results that they achieve at their church. And so celebration church is just crushing it, they’re doing an incredible job in their heart, their skill, their production value, and everything. And so I called them and spend some time on the phone with them. And I think you’re going to get so much out of this interview, it’s a longer one than normal. But that’s because we go into so much detail and we cover so much ground. So if you want to hear about how other churches do things, enjoy this episode, but also consider calling some churches around you that are doing well. People love to help each other usually. And so call some churches around you that are doing a great job and ask them to take their worship pastor out to coffee, or tea or lunch and just go pick their brains. Okay. So anyway, before we get into the episode, I want to tell you about our sponsor this month Planning Center. And you’ll hear in this interview how much celebration church uses Planning Center, and I’ve been using Planning Center myself for probably about 10 years now. And I could not do my job without it. It is an incredibly invaluable tool for any worship leader of any size church, if you want to get organized. And if you want to have a smooth, well run ministry, you must invest in Planning Center, it’s very cheap and affordable. And the prices are based on the size of your teams. And so they even have a free plan. If your team is under five people, over five people, I think it starts at $14 a month. And the benefit you get from it far outweighs the cost. So I want to encourage you if you’re listening, stop this, go to planning dot center on your web browser and check it out. It’s totally worth the free trial of 30 days, go do it. Alright, let’s jump into this conversation with celebration church. And I’ll see you guys on the back end. Hey, everybody, I am here with Daniel Gonzalez, who is one of the executive pastors at celebration church, a large church in Texas that I feel is really excelling in their worship ministry. So Daniel, thanks for being on the podcast.
Unknown Speaker 03:38 Hey, it’s an honor to be here.
Alex Enfiedjian 03:40 Awesome. Daniel and I had a conversation similar to this probably about a year ago. Because Daniel, I saw your church on one of your keyboard players YouTube channels, he was posting right videos of your services. And it was so good. I was immediately struck by a couple things. One, it was like so seamless, your sets were so seamless, and your arrangements were so original, and they weren’t stale. And also I was struck by your vocalists, your upfront vocalists, because they weren’t just singing the songs they were really leading. They were worship leaders. And it was like all of them, and they were taking turns doing it. And I was like, Man, this church is rocking it. And my first thought was like, who plans these excellent sets? And what is the process look like to get to this excellence. And so I decided to call you and we talked a year ago. And now I wanted to call you again. Because at my own church, we’re kind of at a juncture where junction juncture, I don’t know where somewhere and I feel like I need to learn some things from you. And I’m excited for me and us to dig into this. And I’m also excited for the listeners to be able to glean some things as well from this conversation. So let’s start like this. We’re just gonna kind of go where the conversation leads today. But I think first I’d like If you would start by telling our listeners about your church, about your worship ministry in particular, and then how long you’ve kind of been on staff at your church.
Unknown Speaker 05:11 Well, thank you very much, Alex, I really appreciate that and all your kind words, and I feel like I have just as must learn from you. And I just look forward to that. But you know, we’re here we’re in Austin, Texas. My name is David Gonzalez, married Have a lovely, amazing wife is also a communicator and speaker in our church. And I have three amazing kids who are all musical in their own way they came about that honest. And so we’re at a at an amazing church, in the Austin, Texas area called celebration church, our senior pastors are Joe and Laurie champion. And they’re just amazing. And to be in the live music capital of the world, worship and music has to be a big part of what we present in the church. And from the very beginning of celebration, church worship has been a huge priority for us to make sure that not only are we worshiping authentically, but we’re doing it with excellence. That’s an important part of the ministry. And so we’ve been this year will actually be our 20th year anniversary coming up in in October. And you know, one of the coolest things about my experiences, I actually came in at about your four, I’ve been a part of the church for about 16 years now, from when we were in a tiny storefront with a couple of 100 people, which was a mega church to me, because I had only been ever exposed to small family churches and, and so it was already huge at 200 people. But I was fortunate enough to be able to be a part of the music ministry starting up by playing the keys. Nobody knew that I sang. And over a series of events, our pastor, Lord champion, who was leading worship at the time, lost her voice. And so I said, Well, hey, I’ll just see. And she said, You can sing? And I said, Sure, I’ll do it. And so I led worship. And then kind of the rest has been history, you know, and we’ve seen over the course of these years, let’s go from that 200 people to now we have 1000s, that attend, you know, on an average weekend, we’ll have between nine and 10,000 attend our church, in that’s here in the Central Texas area. But we also have international campuses, our campus in Mozambique, is nearing 2000 people, God’s really doing revival there in Mozambique. And it’s extraordinary to see that, and then we now have a church, that’s probably about 18 to 20 months old, in Italy, just outside of the Naples area. And God’s doing a revival there. And so worship is really at the center of what we do as a church, we want to make sure that we are worshiping church, that we’re an expressive church, celebration church, you can’t have a name like that, and, and, and kind of be settled down and quiet. You know, but God, I think, is really breathed on on this ministry, and not to sound cliche, or to take any, any particular Christian phrases and kind of convolute them or anything. What we’ve seen is supernatural. And I think, Well, we’ve tried to be as just obedient to God, and to learn. When I came on staff, at the very beginning, my pastors said, we are going to connect you with as many of the great worship pastors in the country as we know, which was a handful at that time, we know a lot, a lot more now. And a lot of churches have grown in the time that we’ve grown to in which has been great. But I was able to connect with people who had gone before and done such an exceptional job of paving the way and I think I ride on their coattails a little bit and learn a little bit about what they do, and then maybe take that and, and kind of modify it to where it fits our church. And I’m just thankful that God’s been able to use that to minister to our city and to encourage and inspire our people to engage in worship. And so yeah, that’s a little bit of my, of my history there.
Alex Enfiedjian 09:07 And I love what you just shared. I literally was thinking about that last night that I think when people chase excellence and making things huge, and it’s about the numbers, and it’s about some sort of like external metric, that’s when we can get off track personally and in our walk. But when we just say, I’m just gonna strive to be obedient and humble, and let God give us the results that he chooses to give us. That’s when we are in a safe place. You know, we’re safe and he can bless it because he knows we’re not gonna get our dirty hands all over it. So thanks. Thanks for sharing that. I really appreciate that. Okay, so you are in a church of 10,000 people. I’d love to just hear a little bit about the size of your volunteer base that you’ve grown over the years because obviously when you started it was just you and a keyboard. You were the keyboard player and It has grown since then. So how many volunteers are currently involved in your worship ministry and maybe also include your production ministries as well?
Unknown Speaker 10:08 Absolutely. So just to kind of speak locally, locally on our team, between worship and production, we have about 300 team members that engage week in and week out. And that covers all expenses. I didn’t mention earlier that we actually have three local campuses here in the Austin area. And so you know, you’ve got teams that are going to cover that we do live worship, including band and music in our kids ministry that happens every weekend, that’s a big deal for us. One of our phrases is we want to be the church that your kids will love. And so we try to create a great experience in there too. And then we have student ministry, and we have live worship in there. So oftentimes, there can be somewhere around four to six worship teams happening in Central Texas all at the same time. And so we’ve gone through seasons where, interestingly enough, our ministry has been bigger. And as we’ve grown as a church and matured as a church and kind of determined really what our needs are on the worship team. And then how to make that duplicatable among campuses, that number actually reduced over time and became more concentrated. Because, you know, we used to have choir, we used to have all of these elements that made it great in our kind of our main campus facility, but that wasn’t duplicatable, everywhere. And so we decided, as we began to play to campuses, that we were going to change our strategy a bit, and make it more concentrated. And so our worship team on a weekend, you’ve seen it in the videos, you know, there’s others that probably have seen some of that, you know, we’re not that much different numbers wise on a platform, then a lot of other churches, you know, around the nation around the world, our band is probably about six people, typically, you know, maybe seven, and we run about five to six vocalists, and typically three of them will be worship leaders, in our definition of that would be they actually lead a song on a particular weekend. And so when you have that there’s not a ton of room to add a whole lot more people onto that platform. And there’s not necessarily a lot of reason to. But what we do is when we build teams, we are always thinking about, okay, where does this person live, maybe they can be a fit at another campus, like we’re always team building, not to necessarily grow one particular platform. But we want to make sure that every campus has a deep bench, so that people can rest and people can spend time worshiping with their family and things like that, that are important to us. And so, yeah, we’ve been very fortunate, you know, interestingly enough, being in the live music capital of the world does not necessarily mean that there are ton of musicians of the caliber that you would need to kind of do church the way that we do it, you know, and so what we have ended up finding is that it was more worth our while to take kids and, and teenagers in our church and train them into the musicians that we want them to be. And so there’s a lot of people that kind of, if you would call kind of our starter team, if you were to take a sports analogy, our starters, many of them are kids that we raised up when they were in middle school, and in or in high school, and now they don’t want to leave, they’ve gotten married, they’ve stayed here, they love the chairs, they loved being a part of it, because we really took time to develop important to them. And I think they’ve seen that. And they appreciate that. And so now they will want to plant and some of them now are having kids, which is awesome to me. And it’s just it’s really cool to see kind of what God is doing. But that’s about the size of our team at current.
Alex Enfiedjian 13:53 Yeah. And that is so cool that you guys are seeing the young people and shaping them into what you want them to become. We just had last Sunday, a couple of our team members dropped out and we subbed in high school drummer and kid who just graduated high school on bass and they killed it. And they did. Fantastic. Yeah, it’s like, so I love that you’re investing in the next generation. I agree. It’s actually easier to train them because they don’t have a lot of musical baggage that they’re carrying. Right. Exactly. Ryan slate. Now, you mentioned something about resting. How often are your team members scheduled? I’m sure it’s different per team member, but like just an average, how often would they be on platform,
Unknown Speaker 14:34 a typical average would be two times a month, two weekends a month. Let me just put it in that term because there’s a lot of our team that we have an occasional midweek student service. There’s many on our team that that really is a ministry to them that they want to be involved in. So they might do some midweek stuff that we haven’t necessarily scheduled them for. But they’ve invested themselves into the next generation to do that. And so Don’t count that they know what their load is and what they can handle. But on a typical weekend, it’s about twice a month.
Alex Enfiedjian 15:06 Okay, that’s really helpful. So are those student gatherings on Planning Center? Is it scheduled through Planning Center? Yep. So everything is on Planning Center, then
Unknown Speaker 15:17 correct. Everything we’re doing is on Planning Center, the only difference would be, there would be a different person who’s sending out that scheduling, versus the people that are scheduling for the weekend in so you do want to kind of take into account, okay, if this person has played, let’s say, the, let’s say, we had a conference in there somewhere, they were scheduled that following weekend, and now they’re scheduled for that Wednesday? Well, it’s everybody’s responsibility as their scheduling team members out to kind of look and think about that kind of stuff before you place anyone on a schedule. I think one of the kind of the misnomers of worship in in the way that we can create actual dissension between our ministry and the church is that we try to protect people that I hear people use that terminology a lot. And I don’t subscribe to it. Because it’s not our job to protect people. It’s not my job to protect necessarily the family, that sitting next to me in the church, they’re fully capable of protecting themselves. What our job is, is to steward that family as leaders in so what we do is, we want to schedule, we want to think about their schedule, we want to have consideration for their schedule, their time with their family, but there are occasional times was one of those family members, or one of those members on the team might come and say, Hey, I’d really like to get more involved in I am involved right now. Okay, well, I could sit here and say no, because I’m here to protect you. Or I can say, you know what, that’s awesome. Here’s some other opportunities, whether it’s student ministries, we even have, we actually do services in 10, correctional facilities all throughout Central Texas. And those are opportunities for people to plug in. So we make sure that we have an open door for people to let us know, hey, this is a little too much. Or I’m going through it in this season work has me doing this as me doing that I gotta back off a little bit, we’re very quick to say, Hey, I get it, let’s work it out. But we don’t want to ever give too much slack to a person where then their next step is right out the door. Because we kind of lost connection to them. We want to make sure that we’re always following up and trying to keep them connected as possible. To the church.
Alex Enfiedjian 17:29 Yeah, do you have a team of helpers who are helping you communicate and keep connected to your volunteers?
Unknown Speaker 17:36 Absolutely. And it’s not a perfect system, we’re always looking at how to improve things. I think that’s important for every ministry. Obviously, we have we’re a bigger church now. So we have more staff in the worship department than we’ve ever had before. We have five full time staff members that are in the church. And then we have our team leaders, which I may use the term dream team from time to time, that just means our volunteer base, that’s what we call them. But we have team leaders within each area. So for instance, there’s a team leader of basis, there’s a team leader of drummers, so team leader of maybe altos, in our singers. And so we’re trying to make sure that those people have someone who’s kind of keeps a pulse on what’s going on in their area. So that way, if, for instance, we have a there’s a few challenges right now, as we’re recording this, of one of our worship leaders whose daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. So she’s going through a lot of chemo treatments, and all these different things where we’re just trying to do what we can to help. And it’s very easy, I think, with a bigger team to lose sight of the individual challenges that each team face as well. Thankfully, we have people that were able to reach out and let us know and help keep us connected. So I think it’s important to empower your dream team, your volunteer base, to lead at a level that a staff member would lead. That sometimes is I think maybe we’re apprehensive to do that. Because we feel like it’s a burden upon them. But the reality is, Jesus says, hey, my burden is easy. So yeah, identifying who are those people on my team that can lead I can give them legitimate, if they’ve got to have a tough conversation, they can feel empowered to do so. They don’t got to get a pastor involved every single time. Something’s going down. And I love that. I’ll give you one quick example. We had a young kid this was a couple of years ago. He’s way beyond this now. But we had a young kid young guitarist who’s just one of these young men who they just have it. You know, some people just have this musical gift and they just this is one of those kids. And he’s an amazing guitarist and he showed up one day to a rehearsal that I was at, and I noticed he was having a hard time with music. It’s not typical and at some point I was looking at him during the rehearsal, and he’s looking at his arm. And he has the notes all written on his arm, his he’s playing. And I didn’t say anything. I mean, he’s probably 16 or so at the top. But one of our keyboard as soon as a volunteer following the SAT walked up to him. And I just kind of stood close to Jane over here, what he said, and he basically told the kid he said, hey, look, I know that you’re young. And I know that you’re new. He said, but I want you to know that you’re part on this team is really valuable. And so you know, next time you come come more prepared, because we’re all depending on you to know your part. And he’s like, you wouldn’t be on this stage. If we didn’t think you were capable of that. We just want you to know that that this is the standard like we come here, prepare. And everything in my heart is leapt because I was like, yeah, that’s what you know, it was it was a good encouragement, with some weight, but with love. And that’s what we want to try to duplicate in our team leaders. And so that’s just an instance of where the empower someone will to lead. I think they’ll rise to the occasion.
Alex Enfiedjian 21:11 That is so good. Oh, my gosh. Okay, so you mentioned rehearsal. Now, do you guys have I’m guessing you only have one service per weekend in terms of like one service type, or do you have a midweek service? And then with that question, do you have rehearsals in the middle of the week for the weekend services? What does that look like?
Unknown Speaker 21:31 Yeah, so yes, one service tight, we have that midweek rehearsal. So we rehearse every Thursday. And it is important for us, we tell people that we work for Thursday’s like we don’t work for the weekend, we work for Thursdays. So for us that our staff will do a Saturday night service. And then we’ll do our Sunday services. And then we work on Monday through Thursday schedule. So for us, the last thing we do in our week is the rehearsal. And the first thing we do in our week is the service. So they should be the same. We’ve run through the whole service with the exception of the message. But we’ve gone through all the videos that we’re going to do, we’ve gone through all the graphics that are going to go on the screen, we’ve gone through all the worship. And that’s really important to us to have that every Thursday, that makes us better for the weekend. And that’s just that’s something that’s worked for us.
Alex Enfiedjian 22:23 Can we dig into that a little bit more like, I want to ask a couple parts of this. So if you could tell us? Are you doing anything with your team as a devotional thought, during that rehearsal, or before the rehearsal starts? That’s one question. I haven’t. And the other question I have is all the video assets and all the lighting cues and everything. How far in advance are your production teams getting those assets ready for the Thursday? rehearsal? Is it coming together last minute? Or do you guys have like a good rotation of because this is all excellence? Right? excellence. It’s how we do it leading up to things matters, you know, so sorry, two questions. One is like devotional or what can you describe what your rehearsals look like, all the way through? And then can you tell us more about the production sets as well?
Unknown Speaker 23:12 Absolutely, yeah. So just kind of let you know what a Thursday night looks like. And this is going to inject another element that we’ll probably talk about later on. But on a Thursday, or Thursday, typically starts at 5:45pm. And so for about the first hour to an hour and 15 minutes, we do a program that we call accelerate. This is not something new, this is something that we’ve gleaned from some other churches, and we modified it to work for us. But this program is essentially where we train and equip people who’ve gone in past the audition process. And now they’re going through this process with the end goal to be officially on the worship team. And so this is a process where they’ll go through a couple of worship songs, they might be a band member, they might be a worshiper or lead worshiper, or whatever the case may be, and they’re going through a song, they’re going through transitions, and we’re coaching them throughout that process to develop them. If they have an issue with stage presence. We’re coaching them on stage presence. If it’s pitch, we’re coaching them on pitch, but it’s not a place that’s going to take a beginner and make them intermediate, you have to really, really have something to work with. You need to kind of be in that intermediate brains, for us to be able to utilize you in this kind of a program. And so for the first hour to an hour and 15 minutes, we’re doing accelerate once that ends. By that time, all of our team that scheduled for the weekend has arrived. And we all gathered together and kind of do a brief 10 minute devotional will give a quick thought, you know, and that would be any one of our leaders, depending on who’s assigned. To do that. We’ll bring that thought. And in Scripture, we’ll take prayer requests. And then of course, we’ll give any kind of information that people need, whether it’s about the rehearsal, we’re about to do or just other things going on in the church that lasts about 10 minutes, and then we’ll pray and we’ll break out, our band will start running through the stat and maybe any special arrangements to the music, our vocalist will go in another room and they’ll go through all the vocal parts. And we’ll do that for about 30 to 45 minutes, no later than 45 minutes, but we’ll play by ear, some weekends, we need a little more time with each and that’s fine. And then at the same time, our production teams are doing the same thing they’re running through, you know, most of our production team members are volunteer, most of our worship team is is volunteer. And so they are really kind of going through their different parts for the weekend, getting up to speed feeling good about it lighting cues, maybe modifying that during the rehearsals. And then at about eight o’clock, we’ll bring it all together. And that’s when we literally will do one run through of all the songs so that our Imad team, our camera team, they all get their bearings. Once we do that, we’ll actually go through the entirety of that segment of the service, which means we’ll put the last 30 seconds of the countdown on the screen, we played through it and we go through that set like it’s a service, energy lighting cues. If there was a pastor slated to walk up between one of the songs, we have one of our floor managers walk up and do that segment. I mean, we go through it. Like it’s the real thing. Like it’s happening, the only thing that we don’t go all the way through is the sermon because our pastors are not there on Thursday nights. And then once we go through the whole thing, we feel good. At the end of the night, we’re usually done about 838 45. And everybody’s going home. That’s a good night for folks. It’s not keeping them out till 10 1030. There were days when our rehearsals used to be four or five hours because we couldn’t get our act together. But we’ve we’ve gotten better at that over the course of that amount of time. So that’s kind of how that flows. I think that the way that you accomplish that well, is you got to come prepared. So you talked about elements like when do we get these elements, whether it’s production related or worship related, we schedule our teams out a month in advance, and we try to do our song lists a month in advance. And I say try because we will, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t change at different times throughout the month, you know, for whatever circumstance. So those things can be modified. But what we found that when people know what’s going on, they’re better prepared coming in, even if you got to change something up, they’re less stressed about it. Because it’s like, Okay, well, I can figure out that change. I know all the other stuff. Well, it’s an easy adjustment. And so we want to make sure that they come in knowing the songs that come in knowing the music, we upload vocal parts, so that when we’re doing that vocal rehearsal, it’s not the first time our vocalists are working together, we don’t want vocalist to just discover their own harmonies for stuff, because it may not be necessarily the sound that we’re looking for. If a person comes from more of a southern gospel background versus a black gospel background, those harmonies sound very different in what a person naturally hears insane. So we give them the part that we want them to sing. So it sounds a certain way, some more work on our part, but it’s better for their preparation, right. And then with the production team, the elements that we’ll get for the weekend service, the goal is to get on Wednesday by 5pm. And then on Thursday, we can go through those elements during the day with some of our production people who are staff members. But there are times when they may not get there until Thursday. And that’s the time that we’re testing it. And we might have to make adjustments here or there. But that’s okay, you know, we have what we need for the weekend. These are elements that don’t usually affect the rehearsal time. If there’s a particular weekend, let’s say we were doing a special song that had a synced up video with it. Well, we would need that much earlier in advance than a Wednesday before the word. So we want that a couple of weeks ahead. So we can get really prepared on how that will work. But excellence doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is planned out a month or two or three in advance. Sometimes that’s bad. Because if that all has to change now then everybody’s uptight about it. And so for us finding a month out on that rhythm has been pretty good. I think there is a such thing is you’re so over prepared in life just doesn’t work within the confines of our plans.
Unknown Speaker 29:25 So there is a certain element that we want to teach our team about flexibility. And how do you pivot when you need to pivot because that’s excellence to life is not a straight shot. You know, there’s a lot of curves that it throws and you can be excellent. When you can respond right to those situations.
Alex Enfiedjian 29:46 Yeah, there’s so much gold in there and I want to chase after a few of those little points you’ve made. One question I had is when your band is separate from your vocals for that first part of the rehearsal. Who is leading the band through the songs? If the vocalists are in the back? How do they know where you’re at song structure?
Unknown Speaker 30:06 Good question, we’ll have one of our worship leaders always stay with the band, and go through the songs with them just because it’s easier for them. Typically, it’s going to be the one that’s kind of the most prepared for that week, because they already know their part on the phones where they’re not leading, and it’s good. So we have one stay with the band. And then we have a vocal director position we have some of them are Dream Team, or some of them are staff. So just depending on who’s scheduled for that week, they would go back with the vocalists.
Alex Enfiedjian 30:32 Okay. And then you said you recorded vocal parts for each of your songs. My first question is, how many songs are in your rotation, because that sounds like a lot of work. Or maybe it’s just a little bit of work up front, each time you add a new song into Planning Center,
Unknown Speaker 30:45 it is that it is work. I mean, it’s not convenient, in that respect. And then there, there are always seasons where you just wonder, do we need to keep on doing this, but it pays huge dividends. And the bigger our team gets, the more central it is, there’s one particular campus that on a typical weekday is about an hour and 15 minutes away from the campus where we would record these parts, well, there may not ever be a time where that person is in one of our vocal rehearsals up here. So we want to make sure that they have the part they don’t have to think about what it is they know what it is. And so we’ll always keep that as a practice, generally, I think it’s just important to make sure that from a vocal side, and from a band side, that we show them that we are prepared, because I think preparation also tributes value to the particular person. And so I’m sorry, I forgot the other the other question that you asked or how you formulate that?
Alex Enfiedjian 31:40 Well, I can’t quite remember either. But I’m guessing you have a staff member who records the vocal parts, right for that song? Oh, this The question was, how many songs do you have in your rotate? Right,
Unknown Speaker 31:52 right rotation? Yes. And yes, to answer your question to stat, we do have a staff member, that we have several staff members who are skilled enough to do it, it could even possibly be a voice memo, right? That we record parts in, that doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to get the job done and get it uploaded to Planning Center. But as far as the songs go, it’s kind of hard to say because we don’t have it in a broad sense, we don’t have a science to how many songs that we would do in a particular given season. But if I were to kind of approximate, I would say there’s probably about 25 songs or so in a typical yearly rotation. And that’s not to say that we wouldn’t wouldn’t inject something special in that we hadn’t done in years, or whatever, we always reserve the right to do that. But I think our team needs to kind of know what songs are kind of in our flow. And so it’s about that much. And yes, you’re right. As far as adding vocals. Once we built that library, you’re doing one song at a time, what’s the newest song you’re introducing? Well, you’re doing the parts for that, right? That’s a lot less work than, you know, if you have 40 or 50 songs in your rotation, you need to do it for all of them. Right? That would be a bit harder.
Alex Enfiedjian 33:02 Yeah. Now, this is a little bit geeky, but I think it’ll be helpful for at least me to hear and hopefully the listeners, are you recording individual vocal parts in one part per file? Or is it like one file with all the parts together? That’s one part of the question. And the second part of the question is, how do the singers know which part they’re supposed to take? Are they assigned those parts? Or do they just know that’s my range? I’m going to take that part. How does it work?
Unknown Speaker 33:28 Right? They’re assigned their sign in there assess beforehand, as they’re joining the team. We know if they’re soprano, and alto, tenor, whatever the case may be. And there’ll be scheduled that way in Planning Center, that’ll be a position name for them. And so they know that as far as the way that we record it, every song will typically have four files, and one will be the file with all three parts. So you can hear them how they work together, and then the three individualized files now, if a song is typically just verse chorus, bridge, and they’re all pretty much the same. Well, we don’t need to record an entire songs worth of parts. We’ll just cover those three sections, right? And then we put that together at the rehearsal.
Alex Enfiedjian 34:08 That’s okay. It’s funny because I kind of gravitate more towards your approach. But I not very recently, I took out the music director of Hillsong, Los Angeles, actually, he’s Hillsong Hall of West Coast. And I was asking him similar questions. And he’s like, Oh, we don’t put any files in Planning Center. We just tell them. Here’s the recording of the original you better learning perfectly. And I was like, I guess they’re Hillsong and they can figure it out. But yeah. Okay. So this has been really helpful. Now, in terms of developing singers. You said, You used to have a choir, you don’t have a choir anymore, at least on a regular basis. What do you do with singers who they want to be involved, but they’re not quite at the caliber that you need them to be at? How do you get them involved or help them grow? What does that look like?
Unknown Speaker 34:55 Man? You know, that’s always a hard question. And that’s a constant tension among any church. Members, or any church worship teams in dealing with potential members, or people who just, quite frankly, they’re never gonna be at the level to really utilize them. And I think as your church grows and grows and quality and excellence in what you present, then your standard goes higher, we’re moving from a choir, we just realized one to keep up with that amount of people from an communication standpoint, in that season became really difficult for us. And we decided to pare that down, plus and acquire. Now not everybody’s great, you know, there’s some people in there, they’re just completely tone deaf, I don’t know how they got in, but they got in. And that gets to be a little bit of a challenge sometimes. So we kind of needed to move a different direction there. But as far as singers who we have to feel like there’s a benefit to working with the singer, so if you’ve got somebody who has an amazing soloist voice, but they don’t hear harmonies very well, well, that’s a person that from my standpoint, I say, let’s take time to work on them and develop them, we’ll put them in our accelerate program, we’ll work specifically on these areas, we’ll give them some resources. We’re very fortunate now in this day and age, to have so many amazing resources available at our fingertips that, you know, when the church started, we didn’t have all that, you could look, just do a quick YouTube search and find some amazing videos on how to learn how to hear harmony. So we’ll try and give resources and stuff for people to be able to utilize and get better. However, there are always going to be those people that come and you just know, it’s not gonna work, they can put all the work in, they want to get to a decent place. But that’s not the standard for us anymore is to have a decent singer on the stage. And so I think for those people, one, if they are really adamant, I want to be a part of this. And my responses, like I don’t know, you know, I don’t think this is going to work, I’m not going to just shut them down immediately, because they’re passionate, I’m going to encourage them. Then to take another step, I’m going to say, Well, here’s what I need you to do, I need you to find a quality vocal teacher, and work with them, and see if there’s an improvement in your skill level. And then we can talk again, I said, but that’s going to be the only step that you can take, I think that could get you a step in the right direction. If this is something you really want to do. Most people are not going to do that, you know, they’re just going to kind of bow out. But in a lot of cases, I just have to let the person that I don’t know that I don’t think this is the best fit for you. But I can think of some amazing places where I think you’d really enjoy serving in that could be I mean, around the church, there are many different places, I think the important part of that situation is I or anyone on our team have to be willing to hand that person off to another leader in the church who can now implement them into another ministry. So it’s not enough for us to just say, No, you didn’t make the team. And you never hear from us again, you know, this is an American Idol. Like this is the church. And these are people who, for whatever reason, this was important enough for them to audition. And so we want to make sure that it may not be a step onto the team, but it might be a step in their journey with Christ or their faith walk is going to put them in an area of ministry that they’re really going to thrive in.
Alex Enfiedjian 38:16 That’s so good. Now, you mentioned auditioning, and one of my questions was about how you develop your singers into worship leaders. But I’m guessing that’s going to be answered as we talk about your accelerate program. Now your salary program sounds like it’s kind of your audition process, not your audition process, but it’s the step for people who are ready to move into being part of the team. So what is the actual first step of getting someone involved? What is the audition process look like? How do these people find you? Or how do you find them? And then how do you put them into accelerate and what is accelerate look like?
Unknown Speaker 38:54 Well, the two channels for getting involved in this gets a little a little bigger. outside of just our department, we have a process called connection point. And a lot of churches would call it a growth track process where people get involved with this new membership or get involved on on a serving team or in whatever capacity we have a similar kind of process. And ultimately, at the end of it, you can determine the top three teams I’d love to serve at. And so at that meeting that final class, we’re going to have a worship representative there to answer all the questions of those that want to get involved. The next step from there is they will submit an audition video. So we do everything through an audition video. It’s easier, it’s less hurtful to feelings if it doesn’t work out, all of that good stuff. So people would send in an audition video. And then we have a team like I won’t even see those audition videos. We have a team of people both Dream Team and staff that come together and observe them and just determine of those people Is there anyone here that it’s worth it to go to a live parties should with. And so if there is, their next step will be a live audition that’s in person, they’ll answer questions about their faith, they’ll answer questions about, Are you a member of the church because no one gets to serve on our platform that’s not a member of our church, unless they are a guest, you know, worship person or something from somewhere else, we just take them through that criteria that we have, just generally for being on our team, we obviously hear them seeing we work on harmonies, we kind of hear where they’re at. And then we give some feedback. From that point, if a person has great thumbs up on everything, then we’ll move them into the accelerate program. And so we let them know what that audition, you’re being accepted into our accelerate program. We never tell them, you’re being accepted. You’re not even auditioning for a worship team, you’re auditioning for accelerate. That’s the terminology we use. So that everyone who has an accelerate for the first time knows that they’re not on the worship team. Now, yeah. And so then we take them through the accelerate program. Now, as an aside, there’s some times where we have people currently on the team that we put back through it celebrate again, now they’re still on the team, we’re just kind of refreshing a few things in them. And so the program really, as it’s developed, now, lend itself to kind of training up someone who may need a lot of work in one particular area to someone who may just need a little bit of a realignment in certain things. So that would be Yeah, that would be the odd process there. And then once you get into accelerate, there’s just a whole nother development method to get you to a place where you can actually be on the team.
Alex Enfiedjian 41:40 So can you talk about accelerate, so it’s before your band comes to rehearse? How many people are involved? How long of a process is it? Are you guys playing through the same songs that the band’s gonna play through, I mean, just describe it a little bit.
Unknown Speaker 41:55 Absolutely. So for a typical team member accelerates, going to be about eight weeks. And that will qualify typical as there’s a person with real gifts, but they don’t have much experience in using that gift. So we know it’s gonna take them some time to get where we want them to get, but it’s not going to take forever. So it’s typically for them to be about eight weeks. So what we’ll do is, you’ll have a full band, so you’ll have 12345, to six people there on the band side. And we’ll have about five different vocalists that are there on the vocal side. So anywhere between 11 and 12 people at every accelerate, night, and there’ll be cycling through. And so just to talk timeframe a bit, let’s say there’s someone on that team, that’s just extraordinary, and they have plenty of experience playing the church, well, they may be an accelerate for three to four weeks. And we might go ahead and move them on to the team after that, and then we’ll plug someone else in to that spot. So in every accelerate, let’s just say wave, there would be 11 to 12 people. And then following that there would be another 11 to 12 people or however many people have have signed up during that season, there’s certainly times of the year where there’s less involvement and accelerate, like right now there’s a ton because everyone wants to get involved, they’re making changes to their life and their schedule. And it’s an opportunity, as we start getting kind of towards the back half of the fall. Yeah, we can’t find you might have five people in the program, and we’re filling the gaps with some of our pros that are there. And that’s fine, too, it’s still just as important. That’s kind of the timeframe, the way that it works in a particular night, is you’re going to arrive at 545. And the first thing that we’re going to do is we’re going to get you trained if this is your first time, we’re going to get you trained on our in ear monitoring system, how to work that, for a lot of people who don’t have experience in leading worship, that’s a new thing. So there’s an adjustment there, we’re going to teach them just how to use the equipment, this is your mic, if you’ve been assigned mic three and pack three, then you’re gonna stand in this spot on the stage, it’s all ties in together. And then what we’ll do is they’ll have been assigned two songs, one upbeat and one slower song. And yes, typically their songs that are in that are set for that weekend. And they will learn those songs, you know, in their own time. And then we come together, we’re playing the song as if we known it. And so we’ll do a sound check with them, get them used to the environment a bit and then we’ll start having them play through the song. And so they say they play the upbeat song. We’re gonna have them play that. And then we’re going to pause to do individual coaching. And so we’ll have about five to six coaches in the room, every accelerate again, couple of them will be staff, most of them between team and they’re going to walk to their designated areas, whoever’s on the drums, whoever’s on the bass, whoever’s on the keys, whoever’s leading worship versus whoever’s just singing a harmony part. Those are two different coaches that go to them and just kind of give constructive criticism or not criticism, but critique and to really kind of build them In the area where they’re weak, and then we’re gonna have them do it again. And then we’ll work on the slow song, we’ll have them do it again. And then we’ll have them do a couple of passes of the two songs together. And that’s important, because then we can work on those transitions between the songs, which is a thing that we really pride ourselves in, is showing people how to really transition well between songs. So it feels seamless. Even if you’re changing keys by one semitone by one half step, we can still make it feel fluid instead of it being really dissonant in those transitions. And so, oftentimes, for us with the band, The hardest thing for them to learn is how to do transitions. Well, they can learn how to play a song well, but we end up spending more time with them working on those transitions and those dynamics, oftentimes, with worship leaders, and singers, the hardest thing to get them to do is to learn how to be expressive and how they lead worship. They just stiff as a board up there, and we’ve got to now get them, okay, loosen up a little bit, you know, lift a hand a little bit, coach people a little bit look confident. And man, that takes time, you know. And then so we make sure that when someone is really improving in that area, we make a big deal about it. Because we want to, we want to reward the behavior that we want to promote, right? And so we do whatever we can to help people through that and overcome that stage presence. If it’s eight weeks, and they’re still not where we need them to be, then we’ll put them in the program again. It’s like, okay, it’s gonna be another eight weeks. If at the end of that second weeks, eight weeks, that’s not working, then we’re probably going to just have to sit them down and say, hey, look, these are some things you’re going to have to work on in your own time. And if you want to re audition again in the future, then you’re more than welcome to those all have to be in person. Here our heart kind of conversations.
Alex Enfiedjian 46:57 Yeah. Do you have like a roster then of people who are on a waiting list? And then when you graduate people you call the next group in? Because obviously, you have to have a limited number.
Unknown Speaker 47:08 Yeah, yeah. And we do. Again, some seasons are busier than other seasons. And so what we’re going to do is we’re going to kind of assess the skill level. And we’re going to start with the person who is most likely to be able to graduate early out of the program, because then we can get another person in a lot quicker. And so that’s just more of a logistical thing. And the reality is, you know, we only got one drum set up there, right. So oftentimes, what we’ll do is we’ll schedule one of the guys to be in the drummer seat, and then we’ll schedule another drummer to be at accelerate, who’s just watching. And they’re going to be the next one in that seat in some time. And so that secondary scheduling is really that just at the mercy of the coach, they kind of determined that part. So those are, those are kind of the details where I kind of I don’t get it too far into that. Because I trust our coaches to kind of know, their crop and who they’re trying to train what they need to be exposed to.
Alex Enfiedjian 48:04 Right. And your coaches are some of them are volunteers, just the tip, most of them.
Unknown Speaker 48:09 Most of them are Yeah, they’re just people who’ve been in our church for years. They’ve been doing it for years. They love the church. And they give their time to train others. Yeah, they’re amazing.
Alex Enfiedjian 48:18 Is there someone though, on staff who like the accelerate program is kind of their primary responsibility, making sure that and is it also scheduled on Planning Center?
Unknown Speaker 48:27 It is scheduled on Planning Center? And yes, I wish there was someone on the team where it was their primary thing. It’s not there is a person who runs with the scheduling of it. But really, right now, it’s a team effort. I do think that as we grow as a staff, that’s one of the things we’ll do someone’s main responsibility is going to be making accelerate work, because it’s so profitable for our ministry. It’s like if you really want people who get your culture and get your style, man, that’s the way to do it. Yes. So
Alex Enfiedjian 48:56 it’s so genius. Good job. So one of the things I was thinking of is you have all these new people coming in, and they’re bringing, like you said, their own style, but you’re trying to form them into the style that celebration church is, but what about tone like keyboard tones and electric guitar tones, bass tones? Do you guys have like your own set of gear that they play on? Or do they bring their own? And if so how do you make sure that the tonal consistencies stay at the level that you want it to be?
Unknown Speaker 49:26 Yeah, so that’s, that’s a, I don’t want to say it’s a tension that we manage, per se. But tone is subjective, right. And so you do get to kind of a place where, you know, you can get two amazing guitars side by side, they have different preferences and different things. And so there’s a few things that we do that are pretty universal. For instance, our amps, they’ll use our apps, whoever’s coming in, we have the same app, so we can at least know that we’re going to get pretty similar gain and volume levels and even tone to a certain degree will be as long as you They don’t come in with a ridiculous pedal board, that just completely changes all of that. And then what we do is we encourage certain pedals. And I say encouraged because the reality is there’s stuff that we would prefer that some people just can’t afford, right. And when you get into purchasing pedals and everything for different places, that can get really one really expensive and to really difficult to maintain, because, you know, petals break a lot. And so one of the things that we started doing in our campuses, we don’t really do here at the primary campus, but is we’ll use a helix, the line six helix pedals, there, and then what we’ll do is our music director here, will put certain presets build certain presets within those pedals that are universal and good goatees for people to use. And that kind of helps to make make sure it’s sound and our tone are similar. So that’s one thing that we’ve begun doing. And that’s working right now, for our campuses. Especially, it may be even something that we adopt here, you know, I don’t really know. But the quality of tone in our guitars here at this campus is much higher. So you know, I trust them that when they’re walking in, they know what we’re going for. Yeah. And they don’t get far from the mark on that.
Alex Enfiedjian 51:17 Yeah, I mean, we’ve thought of that for us as well, like, do we dictate and say, This is the best tone and effects that we want you guys to play? And then you have a bunch of disgruntled guitarists, or, you know, I’m sure everyone would go along with it, because it’s good, kind, servant hearted people. But, you know, they might mumble about it under their breath. But, yeah, yeah, we’ve thought about that. And the reason I bring it up is because you know, you have that Luis, your keyboard player who’s on these videos, He’s incredible. And he’s building these patches. And I’m just wondering, like, when he’s not playing, you know, how do you get the same quality from your keyboard players? If it’s all coming from his own stuff? You know, and that’s why I brought up the question.
Unknown Speaker 52:00 Right? Yeah. So he actually he’ll create the patches for us. Okay. So he actually builds the patches for every song. And those songs are those patches, you know, I mean, it’s a mainstage patch. So there’s nothing that he’s using, that you can’t make happen on mainstage. So that’s the beauty of what he does, really just an amazing, creative, brilliant, brilliant guy, brilliant thinker. And so then yeah, we can just send those patches to the other campuses, and they’re using, in most cases, we’re using the Nord stage, you know, model, whether it’s a three or two, or whatever the case may be as your main board. And then there’s the second dairy boards, usually just a controller. And so we can use those same patches, no matter what campus software.
Alex Enfiedjian 52:43 That’s awesome. Yeah, one of the things I really admired about you guys is your arrangements to your songs, and how they don’t feel like a Nashville import. I know you guys do use some backing tracks, but you don’t sound like oh, it sounds exactly like Phil, it comes version down to every little tonal detail. You there’s there’s your own churches feel to the arrangement. So can you share a little bit about that? How you guys get that creativity from your team? And you’re not just like, mimicking the album? Exactly. I mean, there’s definitely, you know, inspiration from the album and the bones in the, you know, even the guts are there, but the hair color and the jewelry is how do you how do you guys go about creative arrangements?
Unknown Speaker 53:31 Well, that’s a good question. Because that probably is less a science and more of a feeling for us. There are some songs that you know, we play pretty straight to whatever was on the original recording, we’re pretty close, we’re within 80%, at least, of what’s there. But then there most certainly are times when we kind of throw you know what we say here, they’re a little stank on it. And just have a have a little fun with, you know, very fortunate to have grown up the person who really taught me how to play and taught me how to really seeing was a he was a black gospel minister, who just happened to be a phenomenal musician and vocalist as well. And so I grew up in the Hispanic church, playing a lot of, of that style of music, being trained by this guy who’s in the black gospel kind of church opened up a whole new world of music to me that was complex and fun and energetic, to then coming to celebration. In its days of the 200 or so people were it was Chris Tomlin and, and just straight as an arrow, that four on the floor. And so I’ve been very fortunate to be exposed to a lot of different kinds of music. That’s a part of who we are, as a church, one of our models in our churches where a church that that looks like heaven. In other words, we want to celebrate every, every race, every background, all of that. And so we want to make sure that we inject that so there are sometimes these Where we’re just like, man, a little bit of that coming out, like we need to, we need to incorporate that. Speaking from my experience, but the reality is, there’s a lot of people on our team who have similar stories, they have a lot of musical background in different areas, Southern rock and, and black gospel. And I mean, just all over the place. And so they have ideas, I think one of the one of the limiting factors of a lot of churches music programs is they see the style as a brick wall, limiter, like that’s the parameters, it’s a brick wall, and I see the parameters as a threshold, it’s like, there’s a little bit of give there, let it give a little bit. Now, don’t let it give so far that it breaks, but let it give. So if, if one of our keyboard is in the middle of a rehearsal is feeling this certain passing chord, that sounds really gospel, Lee, I’m not going to stop the music and say, That’s not how the record goes, I’m gonna say, Hey, man, if you were feeling that, maybe we should all do that. Let’s see what it sounds like. Or if someone is feeling a particular motif or a particular break in a song, they might just do it in the rehearsal. And we might all really like it and decide, okay, let’s do that again. But this time, let’s all do it together. Let’s see what it sounds like. It can turn into something really, really cool. So I have to be willing to give enough freedom and liberty for our band members to do some things in rehearsal that not necessarily on the record, because we might find something beautiful and really go with it. Or we might determine our man, let’s not do that. Because there’s something similar on the next song, and we don’t want to, you know, whatever the case may be, and that’s okay. They don’t take the fence, because there’s an ability to kind of risk a little bit and not feel like you’re going to get beat up for it. And it could turn into something, honestly, just pretty amazing. And in some cases it has, as we’re recording this, we’re about to do a conference where we’ve taken the song way maker, and what’s everybody’s thing in that right now, man, just amazing song? Well, we decided, hey, we’re going to give this a little more of a gospel flair, just change up a couple of chords. And man, it turned into an evolution on this song that I’m like, we’re almost going to have to record it and get it out. Because people are not going to believe how we did this off. But you’ll see it at some point. It’ll be odd where you could watch it. And you’ll know what I’m talking about. But it evolved because of team members coming in and saying, Oh, well, what if we did this? And what if we did that, and this works with this. And we just allow them to create in that way. Now here’s the thing. And this is where I don’t know if I’m the one to give people liberty in this or not, but if they feel like I am and if they’d be willing to take it, I say go for it. Not everything arrangement wise that we do at the main campus is necessarily duplicatable, at every other campus. And that’s okay. That’s okay, the skill levels are different. And so it doesn’t make us better, it doesn’t make them not as good. It just means it may not work there. Or maybe just skill level, maybe they’re just not there yet. But they can be soon. So what we’ll do is we’ll let them know what we did. And they can opt in, or they can just say you know what, we’re actually it’s gonna be a little harder for us, we’re going to keep it straight, doesn’t change what that how impactful that worship experience is going to be for that campus, not to the people that are attending, right, because they weren’t at the rehearsal. And so it’s okay to it’s okay to do that. But sometimes it’s accident. Sometimes it’s intentionality. Sometimes if we’re getting bored with a song, but we know our people are not getting bored with the song, then we might put a spin on it and make it fresh for us. And that’s okay. As long as it doesn’t get to a place where it’s unrecognizable. Right,
Unknown Speaker 58:49 I think for people because we still our chief goal is not to please ourselves, but as to please the heart of God, right leading people in worship, and but I think you can do that, while having fun, being energetic, you know, maybe doing the mashup, we’re always looking for mashup opportunities to connect songs. I think that’s fun and unexpected for people and they seem to really enjoy it kind of takes it into like a six year yeah. And we’re observing you we listened to a lot of music and there might be something that we glean from somebody else. Throw it in, why not?
Alex Enfiedjian 59:22 That’s so cool. Yeah. Now, I’m curious about how you manage tracks with that mindset. Because I have a couple young people on staff here who are pushing me we’ve I’ve always been like anti tracks. I’m like, No, if we, if we don’t teach our band to execute, you know, the arrangements the right way, and we just start filling in the gaps with tracks, then they’ll never get better. And so I’ve been like, that was my philosophy for a long time. But now they’re like, No, no, it’s just like little subtle things here and there that we can add. How do you guys find flexibility while you still use some backing tracks because I do believe you use some backing tracks.
Unknown Speaker 59:59 Yeah, when Yes, that is that is correct. Different people will have a different perspective on whether use tracks and how to use tracks. We’re pro tracks, we love using them, we’re not pro over using them in that the track is doing the heavy lifting, and we’re not, you know, we think about it practically, you know, these tracks are recorded with 1516 to 20 different keyboard parts, well, there’s only so many keyboard parts two guys can play. And even as great as Luis is, you know, he only has two hands at the end of the day. And so, we will put typically a C auxilary stuff that’s in the track, it’s a little weird little cynthy stuff, that’s just, we’re gonna stay to the main parts that are iconic. But those little spices and stuff that are in there, we may have them in the tracks or rises certain things that have more effects, special effects than like an actual musical part. And then we have the obviously the click is going. So we have a typical boat going into the weekend, we have an arrangement, we know what we’re going to do. And we’re probably not going to stray too far from that we might put a song on the end, or maybe add courses on the end or whatever the case may be. That’s pretty simple. But we do every first Wednesday we do a service called pursue Knights. And these are men of worship in flow kind of service, like you don’t know where we’re going to go. There have been times we’ve had a whole set at the beginning. And by the end, we realized that we played completely different songs that were less that. So in those instances where we’re using tracks, they have to be really flexible for us. So we’ll use oftentimes just a click, or a cliff with maybe some kind of a motif, that’s a droney note that might be a fifth that we know will work over any chord that we play, or whatever the case may be, we may use a more sequence track that just has a lot of markers as a marker in front averse market in front of pre chorus marker in front of chorus. And that just means that our MD is going to have to do a little more work on jumping around if we decided to repeat a chorus or a burst that wasn’t in the arrangement. But the great thing about Ableton and using whether it’s multi tracks or live community or whatever is that they’re built, to be able to come back in on that downbeat. If you need to switch that up. One of the things that we’ve been experimenting with lately is the playback system from multi tracks right now, we’re actually using that at one of our campuses, our newest campus, which we’ve been seeing amazing results with that. So that’s another opportunity that you know, if anyone listening, whatever looks that up, it’s a lot simpler than the Ableton and multitrack combination, it gives you a lot of flexibility. If you’re the type of team who we are, at times you do a lot of mini singing or time coding may not be the best platform for you. That’s where you want that Ableton effect. But it’s something that we’re definitely looking at for ease of use and ease of volunteer use. But we tried to create those tracks to where they’re flexible for us like that we shouldn’t be working for the track, it should be working for us. And so that may take some training, it may take an MD training a little more on kind of getting around the the you know what buttons to hit per song, all of that. But it’s worth it for us now, our team. I mean, they prefer to use tracks, even in nights where we flow in, it’s just, we’re still using tracks 85% of the time, and even if it’s just a clip, even if it’s just a clip, right? Yeah, yeah,
Alex Enfiedjian 1:03:29 we definitely use click and I have conceded to let them try track. So we’re gonna report back to my listeners, probably make an episode about the pros and cons of using tracks. So I want to talk to you, you said transition transitions are huge for you guys. And I have noticed that in watching your services, your guys transitions are just flawless. So because it’s not even just that you’re transitioning from song to song so seamlessly, but from even band to speaking moment back to band, it’s like incredible to watch. So share your mindset on transitions and how you do them and all that.
Unknown Speaker 1:04:09 Well, I heard it said once and I think it was Jensen Franklin who said it years ago that a relay race is won or lost in what’s called the transfer zone of where the transfer that baton. And so that to us, the transitions are the transfer zone. It’s the handoff from one thing to the next. So we want to make that as smooth as we can possibly make that so when we’re creating maybe a set, maybe we just feel like this is really the song set, then we’re going to start thinking about things like okay, who’s going to lead the song, which is going to put it in a certain key, which if that person sings it, the best key that’s going to serve them well is let’s say it’s D major. And our second song is going to be somewhere in the key of G missing the key of G and our final song might end up being somewhere in the key of B flat and we Gotta get now to three completely different keys for different people. So we’re going to think about that. And we’re going to start thinking about what those transitions are going to feel like and look like. And so what we’ll do is, we’ll kind of know from, you know, it’s pretty easy for to get from a D to A G circle of fifths. But it’s a lot harder to get from a G major key signature to a B flat key signature net feel great. And so I’m going to think about those things in my head. And if I can get kind of just a little geeky for a moment, I’m not a music theory major, or anything of that nature. But there’s a lot of music theory that does go into my thinking, I’m going to be in the key of G major. And I know that I’m going to go to a B flat that I’m automatically thinking, Okay, the thing that makes G major major is the third, which in this case would be a B, which does not work well, with a B flat. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to tell the band at the end, hey, I want you to hit a G chord, but I don’t want anyone hitting the third, which means all my guitarist, that last G chord is going to be a power chord for you. For all my keyboardist is going to be a G with no B, I don’t want to hear a B anywhere on that last note of the song and hit that, that g without the third, we’re going to wring that out. And then I’m going to have them now. Because you have no reference for whether it’s major or minor as it starts to sit there, I can easily now have them walk up from, let’s say, a G without the third. Now the next note up will be an A on the left hand, an F on the right hand, and then the next note up will be a B flat, then all of a sudden that g without the third actually turned into a G minor, and nobody even realized it. But you’re wondering, okay, how did that feel so natural, it’s because we were intentional about taking the one note that made it a major out. So you can kind of palate cleanse for a little bit, and then we’re able to kind of sneak one by you by getting it into B flat. So that gets a little into the weeds of kind of how I think about some of those transitions. But I am always thinking about that. How do we make it seamless? Now, the biggest part of a transition is, is the music director, like for any church that can wear equipment will lead you or allow you to need to have a music director, you need to have someone who’s talking in all the ears of the band members. And the vocalists ideally, if you’re using wedges, it may not work. But you could probably still talk to the band at least because MD drives the bus. That’s what we say, like the worship leader might be in the passenger seat, the worship leader might be the navigator and say where we’re going. But at the end of the day, if there’s a deer that runs in front of that bus, that bus driver is going to make the decision about one to two, not the passenger. And so you have to have an empty that you’re willing to trust with that and they’re going to fail a few times, you have to be willing to allow them to do that. But they’re the ones who are thinking about the spacing in between a song when we need to go into the next song, how do we need to do that. So if we end a typical song, and though we kind of like to do a swell at the end of the song, it’s we ended, our music director while we’re swelling is going to start counting in the next song, he’s going to hit that flit 123, boom, and then we’re into the intro The next song, so we don’t let anything fade out before we’re ready to go into that next song. And then all of a sudden makes them feel like they’re connected, even though they’re really not naturally, we just kind of forced that connection. And, and it works. And we practice that a few times to get it right and get the feel right. When one of our singer or our pastors comes up in praise. Let’s say we end a worship song, like King of kings or something that’s just a big, triumphant, big note at the end. Where they’re swelling, he’s coming up. And he is exhorting the people to praise and worship. And now he’s about to go into a quick thought, before we go into prayer, we’re going to shoot as well, then our music director is going to count 123. And we’re going to softly come into either the chorus progression or bridge progression, whatever kind of fits that moment, and we’re going to play that really softly. All band is going to accommodate that we’re gonna play that underneath him. If he starts ramping up, and he’s getting excited, and people are getting excited about what we’re what he’s saying, we’re gonna build the dynamic behind it. Like we’re here to serve, we’re here to create this atmosphere. And if if God’s saying something is resonating with people, then we want to so we might swell again, we might go back into the song again, but we’re always ready. One of the things that it again, this might be I don’t know how close how in the weeds, you want to go on this kind of stuff, but I’m down to this is a journey.
Unknown Speaker 1:09:45 Okay? Okay, so let’s say in the case of, he’s ramping up and we’re wanting to go back into the song, the scariest thing for people if we’re in a song, like, beautiful name, and he’s ramping up, but we’re in the middle of the chorus. We’re not at a place to go right in at the top. But I always coach Our team is no matter where we’re at in that course, if he’s wrapping him up into, then we’re going to begin seeing in where we’re at. So what that looks like is, instead of starting from the top, what a beautiful name any other beautiful name, it is the name of Jesus Christ, okay, in the name of Jesus. So we might be coming in where we’re building, we’re not quite in that. What a beautiful, we’re not there yet. We’re in the we’re kind of, towards the end, will we ramp up the music, we might only seeing the Sunday tea, what a beautiful day it is. So we’re going to start singing wherever we’re at, instead of just leaving a long space of no singing until we get back to the top dude. Yeah, I’m telling you, man, trial and error, right is like this, we learned those things by, you know, failing a few times. But a lot of people are apprehensive to do that. And I don’t know why exactly. Or maybe they just haven’t quite gotten the revelation of that, that that works. But the people in the church are hearing that melody, because you just been singing that song. So they’re kind of singing along with the band anyway, right. So when you come in, no matter where you’re at, in that chorus, even if you’re in the right smack dab in the middle, and that’s where you have to come in, go ahead and come in there, and let the band build behind you. And now when you get back to the top of the chorus, again, is going to feel huge right there. Because it builds this tension, as you’re rising to that. And so we train our team members to know that. And to get that the last thing we want to do is just be the band’s ramping up. But we have to wait a whole nother four to eight beats to be able to sing. And we’re not going to do that, we’ll just come right in where we’re at, and then jump into the song. And so we’re thinking about that we think about the songs that we do behind offering. You don’t want them to be too upbeat, where rushes the speaker, but you don’t want it to be minor either. We’re not trying to depress people. So we’re thinking about the progression, we’re thinking about the energy that we want to convey in that we don’t overplay in offering time, because that can be distracting. We want people to hear what’s being said, you know, at the end of a service, we’re typically played one of the songs that we did earlier at the set, you know, just instrumentally. But every now and again, we change it up. And we might do something a little more groovy that guys in the band just would say, hey, I’d love to close out with this song, you know, or reggae version of this song, but we’ll just do it. Why not? It’s the into service. And it kind of is a little bit of a musical release there too. Those are kind of just some of the ways that we think about some of the actual methods that we literally use our MD the whole time is talking to us. Our MD will tell us even if our pastor, our pastors can be very spontaneous. And he might walk up in the middle of the setlist on a Sunday morning because he received a text that somebody just went to the hospital for this, he might feel like he wants the whole church to pray. Well, our MD is only one of us that can see that. So our enemy is going to be telling us pastor Joe’s on his way to the stage pastor Jones way, like they are communicating a lot of information to us to make sure that we’re never caught off guard by things like that. And so as a musician, as a singer, you really got to get used to an MD talking and it not taking you out of the moment of worship.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:13:38 Yeah, so the MD I did want to talk a little bit about that. I’ll put a link to one of your videos in the show notes or you can send me the your favorite one doesn’t matter. But the MDS talking a lot like you said, but what other responsibilities do they have? Do they also learn every single persons part? And are they the ones who are telling the band? Hey, you’re not, you know, you’re not playing it? Right? You’re doing this wrong? Are they doing all of that stuff? Or is it mainly Hey, we’re gonna land on the floor? Let’s go into the intro. Is it mainly like transitional moments? Or do they are they expected to know like every part of an arrangement for the whole set,
Unknown Speaker 1:14:15 not expected to know every part of an arrangement they’re going to know the main motifs, right? The main parts of that arrangement, if there’s a guitar part that plays this melody line that leads into the bridge, and that’s missing, there’ll be quick to say, hey, the lead, you know, Eg one is what we call our lead guitars. You I need you to play this motif here. Remember this or maybe they just forgot that remember this part and, but they’re not necessarily going to know every single person’s part. They will call out chords from time to time, especially if it’s a chord change. You know, maybe they’re feeling in that moment, man, what if instead of doing the six minor chord, we did the three minor chord, we might do that on the fly. That happens from time to time, we’ll just say three in the band knows that. They’re going to Go to whatever that three chord is. And so it’s that, yeah, it’s transitions. It’s ending the song ended on a four, it’s counting in the next song. They’re kind of more the driver from that standpoint, they’re getting us where we’re going. And taking whatever Avenue they feel in that moment is the best way to get there. They’re serving the worship leader, because the worship leader might need something done a certain way, the MD is there to serve, you know, but once we get into the service, they’re there to drive. And so it is it is a big responsibility. And what we don’t want to do is, in reality, a lot of those parts and things of that nature, we’ve gotten it to the team enough in advance and with enough quality, that they could learn that on their own and bring that
Alex Enfiedjian 1:15:47 Yeah, yeah. Last musical question I want to ask you, and then I want to just talk for a bit, just a second about the production side as well. But for the musical side, we didn’t even talk about your set building process, I was surprised to hear that you are picking songs kind of based on the singers prime range, and you’re just picking keys. Because at our church, we always try to like pick relative keys. And even if it’s a little too low for me, I’ll still go with it just because it’ll flow better into the next song. But talk a little bit about your set building process. And what goes into that. And obviously, you’re looking at your singer scheduled for that week as you pick songs, and he’s so what, what else could you tell us about how you make great sets for your church?
Unknown Speaker 1:16:31 Well, like I said, we try to be out a month in advance, you know, ideally, this the case, we don’t always hit that in every single case. But that’s the goal. And so we really, oftentimes, we want to do the songs first, like, are we introducing a song, you know, their song really hitting right now, if we know what the sermon series is, is there a song that really resonates with the series, like we’re thinking about that kind of stuff. So we want to get that out. And then that kind of informs vocally who needs to be scheduled to be able to do that, like, who really fits that song. There’s, we’re doing this song. never lost by elevation church, I don’t know if y’all know that one. It’s kind of a gospel II kind of vibe, kind of with a swing, beat to it very heavy, like an old school rhythm to it and very gospel II kind of progressive. Well, we want to make sure the right person sings that song, you know, someone who has soul, someone who has a lot of range, because there’s a lot of places that it goes. And so I’m not just going to put anybody on a song like that. And so I’m thinking about that. I’m thinking about the keys, because there are times where we might see something that’s a little lower for one person, because it works better with the rest of the set, especially if we’re doing a mash up. That’s okay. Like, I don’t say that we have to do it that way. We have to do it the other way. But what I will say is, when I was introducing the never last song, I knew who I wanted to sing it and I knew for them to just slay it, it needed to be in a key that was probably about two whole steps higher than most of the other gals on our team can sing. Yeah. And I wanted this song to go over. And I wanted people to get behind it. And I needed the energy that she was going to bring to it, and she crushed it. Now honestly, no matter what key we put that song, if people already bought it, they love it. And so we can, we can change that up. But I do want to make sure that I’m setting our vocalist up for success, because I also know that they do their best, I know the struggles that I have on a higher rain singer. And so you know, the songs that I sing, I like them mostly, if it’s an upbeat, it’s going to be B or C, if it’s a worse, it’s going to be D or E like, that’s where I like to be. Because that’s where I’m best in my singing. If it gets much lower than that there’s not as much projection I can do. And so then I would just stop to say it might be better that someone else do their song, because I won’t be able to do it justice as they would be because their range is more suited for that. So when we think about singers, we also, we also want to make sure that they’re going to be able to lead that song at their best. And that may make it a little higher than what you would typically do for a congregation. But that’s okay. I’ve found that we are more successful kind of when we do it that way. We will have acceptance to that. Like if I’m doing a man, a man event men night, every song that we see is probably going to be low for me. Yeah, because I want to, I want the guys to see it. I want them to sing loud. And so I want to I want to be a good baritone range. And that’s okay, you know, so we do think about that. I’m not saying we don’t ever think about that. It’s actually on our minds a lot, but I think we kind of weigh Okay, what’s best gonna represent the song has the best gonna connect with people. And for certain songs, it might be better for it to be keyed for that vocalist than for the congregation. So we’ll do that and then we’ll figure out the keys that will work and that we really like and then we’ll start to kind of think through the transitions. Because what we found is we can make any key connected and the key, we just have to take some time to figure out how to make them connect.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:20:10 So good. Alright, I want to talk just one question about production, because it seems like your production team is doing a great job. And they’re pretty cute into your worship team as well. So I hear the music director, say, and the song 1234. And then right when he says, One, the lights come up at the right time, and everything just seems synced. So one question I have is, is your production team hearing the music director, talkback mic in their booths? Is that’s one question. Yes.
Unknown Speaker 1:20:41 Okay. Yes, they are. They are they hear every everything we’re all saying to each other. They hear it. Okay.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:20:47 That’s good. And then my other question is more just generic, which is how do you keep your production team and your worship team linked together as one team, and foster like a good unified team spirit and good communication between the two different groups?
Unknown Speaker 1:21:06 Right. And that’s hard. That’s hard. I think that, you know, oftentimes, in a worship setting, you have some, not all, but some extroverted people. And then in production, a lot of times are introverted people, that’s why they’re serving in that place, that that’s their place of expression. But they don’t necessarily want to stand in front of everybody. So we make sure to kind of communicate a few different things. One, we always say that we’re all the worship team, we’re all worship leaders, till our person who does like the lyrics and the verses on the screen, I’ll say, hey, you’re preaching that message with our pastor, like, so you’re a preacher today, like, that’s you, if you don’t do what you do, then we’re gonna have a challenge, you know, our audio guy, he’s a worship leader, because in the end, he could shut that whole worship thing down with one swing of a fader. You know, it’s just so he’s a worship leader, more of a worship leader than we are on the stage. And so those positions are important to understand. I think the key is just making those teams understand that they’re just as valuable is what’s happening on the stage. And I think that sometimes, we can think of it as well, the people that are exposed are more valuable than the people who are behind the scenes. But you know, even in the Bible, it says it is a smaller part, right? That we are more in and I don’t mean smaller in terms of importance, I just mean smaller in terms of visibility. It’s like no one really thinks about their pinky toe until they stub it into something, you know, and, and it just it, it shuts everything shuts the whole body down. And so we, when we do our devotionals, things like that, like on the rehearsal, nice, as I mentioned, it’s all of us together, we all stand on the stage for that 10 minutes in the circle. And it’s worship team side by side with production, we communicate. One of the biggest Love Languages of production people is communication. So they know everything that the worship person knows, they know, they know the the order of the service, they know the song set, they know the arrangement, we’ve given them the arrangement. If they have a question that they need to stay in too quickly, we’re going to answer quickly, they’ve got to run on stage to ask us a question run on stage. So that’s a question. And we try to value them and have relationship with them. I think that’s, that’s a really important part. But ultimately, it’s about the culture that you set, they feel valued, then you don’t ever have to really worry about the tension of them. Feeling like the worship ministry is more important than them. I think we do that when we kind of have this mentality, that the production teams there to do what we want them to do. And you know, they’re there to serve us. And I’m just like, now, man, like, you know, we’re on the same team. This is for the same cause, same reason, same purpose. And I want them to be just as successful as we are. They hear everything that we say every piece of communication. Again, going into those rehearsals on Thursdays we go through all those lighting cues. So that’s why they’re so good on the weekend is because we’ve already done it a few times. And they know it. And so we have, you know, our main lighting guy is 19 years old, or guy who’s right behind him. It’s just as good as 17 years old. Like these are kids, man. But they’re learning they’re prepared. They’re going through it in rehearsal, they feel confident in what they do. When I go up and talk to the 17 year old, I don’t talk to him like he’s a 17 year old. I talk to him like he’s an adult. And like he’s a professional. And he appreciates that because he doesn’t want to be treated like a kid. You know what 17 year old does, right? So it’s just adding value. And I’ll tell him when he’s done some great things and I’ll tell them the things that I didn’t quite enjoy. And I’ll tell them why. I think that’s the most important thing to do with a young person. You don’t just tell them what to do you tell them why. So they can get that young. And, man, you know, for me, live production is so important to the church, at least the way that we do church and I would never Don’t want to devalue them. I want to make them feel just as empowered as anyone you know who’s on the platform singing or playing an instrument.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:25:08 So good. Oh, my gosh, Daniel, thank you. As we wrap up this conversation, what would you say over the last 16 years that you’ve been leading at this church? What would you say are some of the key habits or practices that has made your ministry what it is today?
Unknown Speaker 1:25:25 Oh, man, well, definitely trying to create a family atmosphere, in the sense of everybody feels value, everybody feels like they can belong. I think that’s very important. Making sure nobody’s left out, you know, making sure that there’s no musician that is just sitting in the corner all by themselves, like, how do we connect them to the greater thing and you know, in some cases, there’s certain responsibility that’s on them. But we want to make sure we’ve done everything in our power to make them feel like they can belong and be valued. You know, one of the one of the things that I teach our team is that, you know, that stage that we get on that platform we get on, it’s not a stage, I always remind them, it’s an altar. I sit in on an altar things die, for God to be worshiped in. I said, so everything about us, that is fleshly, needs to die on this platform, so that God can be glorified. So it’s not about is our monitor makes perfect. It’s not about am I loud enough in the house, it’s not about this or that it’s not. In the end, we want to create a kind of worship experience where if nobody ever sees us, they see God, you know, whether their eyes are closed or open, they’re feeling the presence of God. And so I tried to teach our team that, you know, to the best of my ability, so that we understand that this whole thing is not about any of us. And in fact, the reality is not even about the people that are in the room. Everything we do every single weekend is only about Jesus, we’re just all the very fortunate beneficiaries of His grace and His love in the fact that he doesn’t want to eat a meal by himself. He wants us all at the table. And so you know, that’s a big, a big key and big reminder. Nonetheless, thing is, because he’s that kind of a god, he deserves our very best. So we should be excellent. We should be doing whatever we can to create an experience where people can be can can be inspired and engaged with the message. We’re setting that tone, that atmosphere. And that’s what excellence truly is. Excellence isn’t perfection. Excellence is just doing the best with what we have. And that’s what we try to do each and every week.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:27:36 I praise God, Daniel, that he brought you to celebration church 16 years ago, that he let the pastor’s wife’s voice, get lost to that. And let you step up into leadership. I’m so excited for that church. And I’m just so helped and so encouraged by this conversation. Now, you guys are coming up on 20 years in October, and I’m not sure when this episode will release. But you’re going to be releasing an album that celebrates all the music that has come out of your church over the last 20 years. Where can people find that album? Where can people find you? And how can they just stay connected to you online?
Unknown Speaker 1:28:14 Absolutely. Well, the album, they can go to celebration dot church. And there’s a worship tab that that’s there where they can find all the information about the album. We’re still going through the process of branding and all of that kind of stuff. But it’s essentially going to be a celebration of 20 years as a church in the Austin area. We have some new music on there, we have some older music that we’re kind of refreshing and throwing out there. And I think it’s really going to be a blessing to people. We’re really excited about that. As far as I’m concerned, you know, I’m pretty easy to find on Instagram is just at Daniel Gonzalez, do nzei le s and you know, always there, you know just kind of kind of posted about music, posting about thoughts posting about the church, you know, and my hope is just to be I think at this place in my life, just to be an encouragement to people and to be a help to people to be a coach and a mentor to people that maybe I can help them not repeat some of the mistakes that I made as we were doing this and do whatever I can to help people be successful, including the people in our church. And so, man, just a privilege to be with you today. Alex, thank you so much for inviting me dude.
Alex Enfiedjian 1:29:25 Thank you. You have been encouraged man to help too many people today. So thanks, Daniel. All right. I hope you guys were helped by today’s episode. I will put all the links in the show notes, checkout celebration churches, new album, checkout planning, center our sponsor and see how much you’ll be helped by them. I can’t recommend it highly enough. And that’s it for today. I will be back for another helpful episode next month. God bless you guys as you faithfully serve Jesus. Stay close to Christ. Amen. Bye