My current Top 5

It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything on here, for a number of good reasons that I won’t elaborate on now. Hopefully I’m finding some rhythm again that will allow me to dedicate more time to writing out thoughtful posts here more often, but for the sake of keeping this site from accumulating too many cobwebs in the meantime, here’s a little something that I hope is helpful to someone out there.

I thought it would be kind of fun to quickly highlight my “Top 5” most helpful resources that I use right now as I plan and lead worship. So without further ado, here they are:

5) Facebook Groups (facebook.com) Ok, I know – this is probably a no brainer but I’ve loved how easy FB makes it for me to communicate thoughts, link to articles, post videos etc. to my team. Before I discovered FB Groups, for example, there were so many times I would come across an article or blog post that I felt would be really helpful to share as an encouragement or resource to my team members, and sending an email with a link works but is a bit clunky. Facebook makes it super easy – and honestly, the likelihood of most of the people on my team seeing it is much higher on FB than if it would be if it were to land in their inbox. Plus, Facebook allows comments, so it enables discussion to take place on posted content that wouldn’t really be possible elsewhere. I haven’t utilized this feature as much, but FB Groups also lets you create documents for the group, so if I wanted to I could post the current team schedule, etc.

4) Evernote (evernote.com) It took me a couple tries of downloading, deleting, then downloading Evernote again before I finally got the hang of how useful it really is, but now it’s one of my favorite tools. I use it to organize thoughts, lists, bookmark things I want to check out later – whatever. The best part is that it syncs in the cloud between my laptop and my iPhone, so I can literally take a note (text, web clips, audio, picture) any time I have an idea, wherever I am, and I know it will be stored across all my devices. I don’t have to worry about manually syncing or losing notes – they’re just always there.

3) Shift Worship All Access Plan (shiftworship.com) These guys create great content and they have a package that is too good to pass up. For just $149 you get an entire year of unlimited downloads of everything on their site. The highlight for me are their “mini movies”, which are short 3-5 minute videos that can be used as calls to worship, sermon illustrations, or elsewhere in a service. Even if you just use a few of these you’ll get your money’s worth, and we have used at least a dozen in the six months since starting Redemption. They also have a large number of stills and motion backgrounds. One helpful thing I enjoy is the “service planner” feature, which suggests “bundles” of media pieces that would work well together in a service.

2) Creation Swap (creationswap.com) This is a great site with tons of high quality free graphics that are perfect for use as lyric backgrounds, sermon series artwork, etc. One thing that’s particularly nice about this site is that the content is mostly all generated by artists who create with churches in mind. That makes it a bit easier to find content that will work right “out of the box” for church use. Translation = less stock hunting and Photoshop work for Ryan.

1) Spotify (spotify.com) This is unquestionably the resource with the most “game changer” potential that I’ve come across recently. For those who haven’t checked it out yet, Spotify lets you legally stream pretty much any song ever recorded. What this means for worship leaders is that we suddenly have access to an enormous library of artists, arrangements, and new music. In the past if I were to go searching for, say, a fresh hymn arrangement, I had a few options available to me – do a YouTube search and hope to get lucky, dig through the iTunes Store and try to find something useful from a 30-second preview clip, or rely on the bands and albums that I already had in my library and were familiar with. Sticking with that same example, with Spotify, I can simply type in the name of a hymn, and *bam* I have a whole list of recordings that I can listen to in their entirety! And, what I’ve found as I’ve used this method is that I almost always end up discovering a new artist or album that I wasn’t aware of before, so the potential for expanding my exposure to worship artists and songs for the church is exponential. Literally, every “new” arrangement that we did during Advent/Christmas this past year was something I discovered through Spotify. And there were more that I found that I am already planning to use next year!

Additionally, Spotify lets me create sharable playlists. What this means for worship leaders is that I can make a playlist of the current week’s songs and simply email the link (or post it in our FB Group) to my band members that week. Then they have instant, free and legal access to (multiple) artist recordings of the music we’re doing that week.

The free version alone would earn Spotify the top spot on this list, but I love it so much I happily shell out the $9.99/month for the Premium version (ad-free streaming plus use of the mobile app on my iPhone). If you haven’t checked out Spotify – do it.

These are just a few of the great resources out there that make my job just a bit easier. If you happen to be reading this and are a worship leader, what are your few favorites? I’d love to hear what others are finding to be helpful.

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