Friday, September 28, 2012

#230 Worship leader conferences

Christian culture absolutely loves a conference. It's such a popular enterprise that there is now a conference for every facet of evangelical life, and the bigger the conference, the more likely that it will be sponsored by a corporation or nine.  Fortunately for the economy, the realm of interacting with the divine and unsayable (which the Christian tradition often calls “worship”) is no exception.

The entity of worship has so many types of conferences that now there are even conferences specifically for worship leaders. The websites and brochures for worship leader conferences state and restate that worship leaders and church creatives have been commissioned to lead remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. They want you to believe that they believe this. These conferences charge on average $330 for 3 days of gathering with worship specialists to “keep you engaging with God” and “offer the prayers of your congregation with more authority and humility.” They call it a bargain, the best you ever had. Sizable evangelical churches and all Acts 29 church plants have a conference budget for occasions such as these so that the worship leader, select members of the worship team, and even a lucky intern or two may attend.

At these conferences you are often invited to present your own original worship song to a panel of experts that includes major publishers (the brochure's words) who will give you their professional feedback on just how worshipful and relevant your song is exactly. I don’t think any of us even want to think about what would happen if there were no industry professionals to critique the remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, do we?

Along with relevant education in songwriting and pastoral worship, you'll find workshops on the art and maintenance of backline. These workshops have names such as“Worship Lighting,” “Wireless Mics in Worship” and (wait for it) “Who Moved My Console?” For the visual ministry teams that modern evangelicalism requires, there are workshops on “Multi-Screen and Environmental Projection on a Budget” and “How to Effectively Organize and VJ Your Visual Media Library.” If nothing else, worship conferences highlight the fact that there are positions on church payrolls to fill the aching spiritual void that is met by Visual Ministry. We often take these for granted.

But even a worship conference wouldn’t be a conference without Sponsor Resources.  The sponsors hold their own workshops with titles like “Be A Part of Something Beautiful. Is An [Insert Brand Here] Website For You?”, “Engaging Mobile Phones With Your Presentation” which is sponsored by church presentation software, and “Yamaha Keyboards In Worship: Equipping Instruments Of Praise” — sponsored of course by our friends at Yamaha.

Best of all, record labels buy slots for their artists to lead worship. They want their artists to worship during various sessions and workshops in hopes that other conferees will take those songs back to their churches to perform on Sundays so the artists and labels get to collect CCLI publishing money. Once the labels help cover costs and provide materials, their artists get the coveted evening slots. It really is quite a strategy. Upon leaving the conference you will be strenuously encouraged to give feedback, and the most glowing reports will appear on the conference website to inform next year's applicants. The worship conference website insists that attending their event is “one of the most important ministry decisions you’ll make all year.” And who are we to argue with that?