In this interview with Jason Chandler (worship pastor), we discuss the worship ministry at West Ridge Church and how that influenced Easter at West Ridge.
How does worship for Easter differ from a normal service?
At West Ridge Church we strive to use music in an authentic and engaging way to worship God. To create this culture, we believe in using as many resources that we have available to us to help point someone walking through our doors to Jesus. Logistically, this means our worship environments consist of a wide range of instruments, ages, and nationalities in both men and women as they lead our people to worship their Creator. This philosophy applies on a weekly basis, but translates even more as we prepare for Easter. Like any organization, we identify certain dates or seasons as a time to emphasize our philosophy. Easter is one such time for us to pursue authentic and engaging worship through the lens of joy in celebrating the resurrection of our Savior.
This means we plan our Easter services around communicating a central message that Jesus is risen. Our services, set lists, and arrangements all point toward this truth as we plan and prepare for Easter. Whereas a normal service focuses on a specific teaching or moment, Easter requires a higher level of focus. In light of this focus, we feel that it is imperative to hold ourselves to the highest standard of preparation. Through researching songs, resources, and other elements that may help someone understand the love our God has for His people, services at West Ridge consist of many types of songs and styles: all-sing anthems, reflective songs, and choruses lifted as prayers.
This year, for example, our theme for Easter is “He is alive in us.” To help promote this idea, we decided to create an inclusive, all-sing dynamic to our worship set and have ten or more singers on stage to help lead through the various songs. In addition to our regular band (acoustic, two electrics, bass, keys, and drums), we plan to incorporate other resources like extra drums/percussion, strings, and custom built tracks to accompany the set. All of these elements come together to invite others to worship with us as we celebrate that Jesus is alive in us.
How are you building culture and energy around your volunteer team?
All of our bands and teams at West Ridge are volunteer-based. As a creative ministry, we have adopted a philosophy of excellence through service with a foundation upon a true love for Jesus Christ, and our teams live it out every week. As the worship pastor, I feel it is my responsibility and privilege to constantly cast our vision and encourage our team with gratitude and positivity. One of the things we have created is what we call the musician’s wall. Our players come in to their own space on our backstage wall fit with name plate, coat hanger, shelf, wall-mounted guitar stand, wall-mounted tuner, and wall-mounted mic clip (respectively). The purpose behind this musician’s wall is that our volunteer band would feel and know that they are valued in a tangible way.
What’s the biggest challenge you’re trying to overcome for Easter this year in the worship team?
This Easter, we have felt a strong burden to create an atmosphere that invites “all sing” moments that draw people into worship. This means more than just incorporating more vocalists, but also helping our team understand that everyone on the stage is a worship leader. For this reason, we encourage all of our band to sing regardless of whether or not they have a microphone in front of them. Not in a “canned” way, but out of a true joy to worship and lead others. For example, if you see a bass player focused on his/her hands and looking down compared to one who looks truly happy to be there and actually singing the song that’s being played, which one would inspire you to sing to God?
What kind of tweaks are you making as a team to take your worship to the next level?
I believe in order for our church to hit a new level of worship, several small tweaks need to be made. Many people never stop to think why we join in song when we gather… One tweak would be to have more on- and off-stage reminders of why we even do music in services. One of our main tweaks that I believe all churches have to constantly stay on top of is monitoring the cultural climate of our community. This means bringing Kingdom culture into today’s culture by creatively approaching services to tear down any barriers people may have to point them toward a God that loves them.
What kinds of songs are working at your church right now?
One of the main things that I have found for our church is that Sunday morning services are more conducive to anthems and “all-sing” moments. Our other theaters (students, young adults, etc.) respond more to reflective and emotional worship songs. I believe the dynamic here is part to do with crowd sizes and community culture. In my experience, larger crowds (1,000 or more) respond more to anthems so that everyone can collectively sing together more easily. For us at West Ridge Church, some songs that our people have really been celebrating with lately are:
- All The Poor and Powerless – All Sons and Daughters
- Jesus I Come – Elevation Worship
- Great I Am – New Life Worship
- Alive In Us – Hillsong
Tell about how you get new musicians/vocalists and the process they take to join the team.
We grow our team in two ways: people approaching us out of a desire to be part of the team and at least once a year we have open audition calls. For the open auditions, we have signups for any instrument or vocals and schedule a whole day to have people come in. Then we follow up with them via email or phone calls. Throughout the year the regular process is as follows:
- Once they have expressed an interest in serving, we respond with an email that explains our philosophy of worship, expectations, and request an mp3 or video of them playing/singing.
- If acceptable, we then schedule a live audition where we provide them with 2 songs to learn and they play/sing their part with our click or loop track to get familiar with our system.
- Pre-audition: Get to know how they came to follow Jesus and why they want to serve at West Ridge Church.
No—We explain why they are not moving forward, give them things to work on, and encourage them to try again after improvements have been made.
Yes—Walk through the next steps of getting plugged into any one of our five theater worship opportunities.