Worship and Liturgy Resources - The Essentials

Yesterday, I completed the whirl-wind educational experience known as "Licensing School", a big step in the UMC on the road to ordination; upon completion and appointment by the Bishop you are bestowed the title "Licensed Local Pastor".  It is now a required step for all that are moving onto Elder or Deacon, but for many becoming a LLP is actually the goal and they continue their education through Course of Study.

There were thirty or so folks in class, most from Central Texas, but others from Southwest Texas and one from the North Texas Conference.  All of us are serving in a variety of circumstance, many as Lay Supply in smaller churches already, some in larger churches serving in youth, young adult, children, and music departments waiting for appointment or just taking the class as part of the ordination track while in seminary, others serve as volunteers and unpaid staff.

Most discussions were panel-led with some great pastors and laity serving in the CTCUMC.  After attending, one thing I felt was needed was a list of essential resources for worship ministry.  Nothing frilly or overly theological (you seminarians and fellow liturgy nerds know what I mean).  Just good resources for the folks who don't have time right now to dig into the heavier things while they barely have time to prepare a sermon, much less worship plan.

It'll blow your mind how many quarter and half-time supply pastors we have serving while holding down one or two other jobs to support a call to ministry.  I met several, and they are my new heroes.  I also understand, more than ever, how fortunate I am to have landed in a great full-time job, surrounded by stellar mentors who pour into me every day.

So, here's my list of essentials.  What would you add?


United Methodist Book of Worship (1989)
Goes without saying, but still needs to be said.

Worship and Song (Liturgies and Prayers) (2011)
This is the latest hymnal supplement adopted by the United Methodist Church.  A great resource for seasonal and topical calls to worship, offertory prayers, corporate prayers, confessions, and new creeds.  If you're going to buy this one, it's probably good just to go ahead and purchase the leader's version as well, but this volume of just liturgy resources is cheap.

Christian Year, Christ’s Time for the Church
A seminary level book that’s completely accessible.  Stookey breaks down each season of the church year. Great to read as a whole or just as prep for upcoming worship planning.  Before planning worship for any season, I choose the chapter from this book to wrap my head around the task.

The New Handbook of the Christian Year
A comprehensive UMC resource breaking down the Christian year, complete with liturgy and worship suggestions.

Upper Room Worship Book
A great resource for different types of liturgies (daily prayer, evening prayer, healing services).  Tons of music and sung psalter with a wealth of world, traditional, and ‘contemporary’ music.


GBOD Worship
Predominantly oriented towards lectionary preaching churches, there are resources for each week including sermon helps (with great ideas towards building lectionary-based sermon series), and hymn suggestions with semi-contemporary resources.

Ministry Matters
A UMC website with fantastic worship resources (among other practical things), click the worship tab for worship resources.  For each week of the lectionary, there are calls to worship, offertory prayers, etc.  Yearly subscription is $99 for access to the online library (worth it)

Worship Together
One of the best contemporary music resource sites out there, it brings together artists of the Passion Movement, Hillsong and many others.  It offers a whole lot of free stuff, including mp3 downloads of the most recent songs by their artists, including song stories.

CCLI - www.ccli.com
A music licensing company, with avenues for video and streaming licenses as well.  You have to have a license to perform anything not in one of our hymnals (or anthems that have been purchased by the church) - or you could get sued.

Ask, Seek, Knock

Right now, I'm preparing for the last half of Licensing School, a five day stint-in-residency at Texas Wesleyan.  A time of intense and practical study with some new and old friends.  Part of the deal is to prepare a sermon of 10 minutes or less to preach in front of my fellow students, with this charge from our LS leader - consider your congregation in this place.

So, I'm not supposed to preach something simply generic.  I can't recycle and cut down a previous message.  Not that I could really do that anyway.

But, I am preparing a message for next Sunday, a particularly relevant reading to Christians for the last 2,000 years, and preserved for teaching through the lectionary:

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
   Your kingdom come.
   Give us each day our daily bread.
   And forgive us our sins,
     for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
   And do not bring us to the time of trial.’ 
 And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 
 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

To say this reading from the 11th chapter of Luke is familiar would be an understatement.  The Lord's Prayer and following parable are both iconic passages in the Christian faith.

As I break this down for my congregation, I feel convicted that it's an important passage to dwell on together with my peers heading into Licensed Local Pastor territory.  But what do we need to learn from Christ here?

Discipline and persistence in prayer?
Directness and simplicity in prayer?
The familial relationship that Christ is us to in giving us permission to call God "Father" as he does?

Yes, all of these things are important.

But also there's the contrast that the Lord is drawing between the hospitality of humans and God.  A human being, even in Jewish society with it's strict code of hospitality, might tend to not open the door.  The Lord is not saying here that God won't open the door and listen to our needs - but that God will open that door so much quicker than a person would.

Even so, we're called to be persistent in our prayers.  Are all pastors persistent in their prayers?  I would say no.  It's time to change that.

But on the flip side, while the Lord seems to be more clear in this parable than many others, what if Jesus is trying to say something different to us with the neighbor knocking at the door?  What if the person at the door is, in fact, God, and we're the ones that are too busy with the stuff of life to let God in?

To take things bigger - are our churches to busy with stuff that we call ministry to let the Lord in?

Discipline.  Simplicity.  Persistence.

Ask.  Seek.  Knock.

#CTCGetLicensed #NoRegrets

So, here I am in the midst of the Central Texas Conference's month long take on licensing school.

You heard me right.  A.  Month.  Long.

In the middle of the summer, I'm spending three Saturdays and then five days in residency learning how to become a licensed local pastor for the UMC.  This family man was less than excited at the proposition of this long run through class.  I'm all about getting things done, and the old model of an eight to nine day, all day stretch sounded really appealing to me.  Would that have been tough?  Yes.  But ... Yeah.  Missing many Saturdays in the middle of the summer ... Not exciting.

I started this thing in quite the funk - even in the midst of knowing I'm called to do it.  Ever been there?

But then a few days before this venture was supposed to start, with a 4:30am wake-up call so I could make it to Waco by 8am, our conference BOM Coordinator sent out the list of my fellow attendees.  And that's when I started to get excited.  Because a lot of my friends were going.

While most of us weren't excited about having to make a trek bright and early on a Saturday morning, as we arrived together for our first day of class together, we realized that while we were here to be schooled, we were also here to build relationships.  Which is my favorite part of any ministry venture.

Our table quickly grew together as the first day went on, and realizing that the Twitter conversation was lagging, we decided to hash tag the proceedings - #ctcgetlicensed.  Because that's how we roll.  While things got silly, we had some really powerful speakers come our way and needed a way to preserve what we felt was important.

I get jazzed off community building.  Our licensing school has been set up in such a way that we're working together as candidates to lift each other up.  There are many other young candidates for ministry, like myself that I've come to know over the last year. But on the flip side, there are many Lay Supply Pastors serving small, part-time charges in the conference.  You don't see a lot of them around - they don't have a huge standing in the conference, because they work part-time hours for what a lot of people would consider tiny churches.

I myself find these Pastors (as they are, indeed) an inspiration.  Most of them have a full time job else where to really pay the bills.  On the weekends and during the week they serve sometimes two charges across towns and regions.  These Pastors are likely the only staff for their churches of a few to 40 or 50 people.  And you know what?  These folks may just be the life-blood of the conference.  Just think about the work they do.  And a lot of them have already been doing this work for months.  I come to find that the new schedule for licensing school, this spreading out of things, is actually for folks like them.  I can take nine days and call call it work - I'm not that important yet at my job, I will be one of four clergy on staff when I finish up school.  For these ladies and gentlemen, they are their church's person.  Amazing.

So I'm loving licensing school.  It's not a crazy lot of new information.  But it's a lot of old friends and new ones.

In a goofy daze on the first day due to a lack of sleep and not enough coffee, my hash-tag-creating table jumped on the #noregrets train with regard to just about anything we could think of at the time.

What I've learned over the last couple of weeks of licensing school is that it's not just a step on the path.  For many, being licensed is the final step in their call as pastors, for the rest of us it's part of the process in heading towards Elder.  But for all of us it's an important stop on the way to take stock of the gifts that God has given us - namely the communities in which we serve and the community we're building with one another as we journey together over the next several weeks.

So, #ctcgetlicensed.  #NOREGRETS.