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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Worship Team Dictionary

Worshipteam Worship pastor Phil Christensen offers a humorous glossary definitions that just may improve understanding and—dare we suggest—shine up our harmony on the worship team

A new worship team member once confided to me that she felt like a stranger in a strange land. “Learning these songs is easy,” she said, “but I think I need a translator to help me understand all the jargon!”

What “jargon?” I had just told her that the chord chart was in Dog, but we’d be starting in Cat, so she should hold back her groove until the transpo. I asked her to open her voicings and get ready to skate over the signature at the end while we resolved into the target key of the next tune of the ballad salad.

It seemed plain enough to me. Don’t people speak English anymore?

Loving shepherd that I am, though, I started a glossary to help her and others. Unfortunately, laughter kept overtaking me and I was forced to shelve the project.

So no, Family Christian Bookstores will probably never feature a Worship Team Dictionary. But all this reminds me that the same words that that might confuse people can also provide some interesting insights about the nature of our work. As you read the following, some of the definitions may resonate with you. Some are fun. Some are intended to provoke a bit of thought. Certainly, none are meant to hurt any feelings, so please receive them in the spirit offered.

And if I should fail to land in the pocket, I hope you’ll just vamp with me until we get to the turnaround….

ALTOS and BARRITONES: (ahl-toez and behr-i-toenz) People who complain that the songs are too high until they learn to harmonize.

BALLAD SALAD: (ba'-lud sa'-lud) A worship set of quiet songs intended to foster a gentle flow of worship and meaningful encounter with the Lord. The Ballad Salad generally follows the up-tempo moments of celebration (see also Rocking the Flock).

BIG KAHUNA: (beeg’ kah-hoo’-nah) Lead Pastor whom God has placed in authority over you. Honor this man. Submit to him graciously unless he asks you to break one of the 10 Commandments.

BLACK HOLES: (blak-hoelz) The dark vacuum around people in the congregation who steadfastly refuse to connect with God during worship. Sometimes accompanied by contemptuous facial expressions. If you can intercede for these individuals during worship, do so, but otherwise avert your attention to avoid being sucked into their gravitational pull. (See also Super Novas)

BLANDED WORSHIP: (bland'-dud wur-ship') The uninspired result that comes when we approach corporate worship with the pathetic goal of avoiding any criticism.

BLENDED WORSHIP: (blend'-dud wur-ship') The astonishing result of a tapestry of praise that’s been skillfully and lovingly woven together with worship ideas from the past and present. “All Creatures of Our God and King” can flow seamlessly into “Here I Am to Worship.”

CHECK UP FROM THE NECK UP: (chek'-uhp fruhm thuh nek' uhp) Important moment during rehearsal when we lower our boundaries and get honest about how we’re really doing. Often involves prayer and teaching. (See also The Hot Seat).

CHOIR: (kwy’-ehr) A disciplined group of singers who sacrifice untold hours away from home to master the intricate details of a three-minute choral arrangement. Their performance is intended to delight and inspire a room full of listeners who, statistically, will never purchase a recording of choral music.

CHORD CHART: (kord’-chart) A document that contains lyrics and a few vague musical suggestions. May or may not indicate the proper key, time signature or even exact moment of the chord change, but it does give musicians something to look at while the song goes by. Particularly frustrating to pianists, who prefer being told exactly what to do. Ideal for guitarists. (See also Sheet Music)

DRUMMERS: (Druhm-merz) Terrific people who worship God by hitting things. Churches often keep them in Plexiglas cages.

EARLY SERVICE: (ur-lee’ surv-us’) A service in which attendees may appear zombie-like. While unnerving to worship leaders and teaching pastors alike, the event is generally harmless.

FRISBEE STYLE: A deliberate approach to worship leading in which the leader’s role is “handed off” from song to song. A good way to mentor new worship leaders.

GROOVE AND FLOURISH: (Gruev and flehr-ish') The mark of a good musician interacting with other players. His or her part should land subtly in the pocket, submitting to other musicians; this is "groove." "Flourishing" occurs when a player discovers the perfect moment to emerge from the groove with a few cool, inspiring licks.

HAND-BURGER: (hand-ber-ger’) The painful result of carrying musical gear through a narrow doorway and not paying attention.

HOT SEAT: A chair placed in the center of the room for a member of the worship team who needs prayer; the rest of the team gathers around and ministers to them. (See also Check up from the neck up.)

HUMILITY: (hew-mil-ih-tee’) The beautiful quality in a talented artist of considering others more important than him or herself. Closely associated with servanthood. Rare.

HYMNS: (himz) Historic praise music. Usually boiled down to 4-part arrangements on a single page with normal rhythmic flow extracted. Lyrics are often stunning, and many of the melodies are almost as powerful as the timeless truths they carry. These songs are infused with the heart-cry of a billion Saints and should be treated accordingly. Ignore at your own loss.

IN THE POCKET: (in thuh paw-kett’). The subtle groove created by mutually submitted musicians.

OPEN/ROOTLESS VOICINGS: A stylistic practice of both guitarists and keyboardists in which primary notes of a triad are substituted or dropped altogether to create versatile textures. Can be puzzling to newbies who briefly wonder why a C chord would contain only a D and a G.

ROCKING THE FLOCK: (Raw-keeng’ thu flawk) The effect of an up-tempo praise song on God’s people.

SEVEN-ELEVEN MUSIC: (7-11 mew’-sik) Praise songs that repeat the same seven words eleven times, or some similar configuration. These are generally enjoyed by youth, but annoying to older adults.

SHEET MUSIC: (sheet mew’-sik) A document containing detailed instructions for a musical arrangement. Perfect for keyboardists. Particularly frustrating for guitarists, who 1) hate to be told what to do and 2) usually can’t read it anyway. (See also Chord Charts)

SIGNATURE: (Sig-nuh'-chur) A musical phrase that helps define or set up a song, most often heard in the introduction. Well-known signatures include the opening 6 piano notes of "Shout to the Lord." The signature often forms the "turn-around" for the piece and the closing notes, as well.

SUPER NOVAS: (soo'-pehr noe-vuz’) People in the congregation who visibly connect with God during the worship events. Not a dependable indicator of their maturity, but impossible to miss and a joy to observe. (See also Black Holes)

THE THRONE-ZONE: (Throewn-zoewn) The place we’ll spend eternity, and therefore the place we should spend every possible moment on planet earth right now.

VIBRATO: (Vi’-brah-toe) A technique used by singers to help hide pitch problems.

Phil Christensen is worship pastor at Cedar Hills Evangelical Free Church (CHEF) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He is married to Mitzi, the Beauty Queen, and is father of four great kids. Phil has served as a worship development missionary in the Pacific Northwest and is co-author of two books for Kregal Publishing. You can reach him via email at philc@chefc.com.

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November 2, 2005 in Worship | Permalink

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I wanted to "correct" one of your definitions in a light-hearted manner that reflects some of my own experience.

BLENDED WORSHIP: (blend'-dud wur-ship') The name given to a technique where a service is constructed to make all of the people happy all of the time, and ends up making none of the people happy none of the time... especially when the people singing don't understand either contemporary or classic music but try to do both together anyway.

(just for fun...)


btw, I LOVED the definition of alto and baritione...

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Nov 2, 2005 11:26:09 AM


I disagree with you. Blended worship is a beautiful mix of traditional and contemporary. it embraces the new without throwing away the old. Many people love this style, young and old!!

Posted by: Pastor Dan | Nov 2, 2005 2:35:53 PM

Yeah but Pete...
your definition of BLENDED WORSHIP is Phil's definition of BLANDED WORSHIP. Isn't it? That would mean that "Blended Worship" remains undefined. Yet, in my experience, that's okay because "Blended Worship" means so many different things to so many different people that a definitive definition is almost impossible.
Perhaps it's one of those "an enigma wrapped in a riddle" type things.
Either way, BLENDED & BLANDED do have a common thread...it's the "dud" as in...
(...-dud wur-ship') I JOKE-I TEASE!!!

btw, I loved: CHOIR and the tension created in CHORD CHARTS & SHEET MUSIC.

Posted by: Ben E. | Nov 2, 2005 2:46:06 PM

ALTO & BARITONE: The voice parts of most congregation members if they were to be classified. Unfortunately for them, ALTO and BARITONE are rarely found among those leading the songs causing them to stare ahead blankly when the songs get (frequently) too high for them to sing comfortably.

Posted by: John Calvin | Nov 2, 2005 3:16:03 PM



John Calvin,

You are SO right! Never go above C or D! Transpose the song if you must but stop singing so high!

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Nov 2, 2005 3:59:10 PM

Good point John!
I'll go to Eb (E flat) but after that, it certainly can become solo territory.
I do need to do a better job in watching what key's I'm using.
Ben E.

Posted by: Ben E. | Nov 2, 2005 5:25:49 PM

Something's missing in this glossary: A definition of worship. I'd love to see Phil's tongue-in-cheek definition, but I'd also love to hear some serious responses. I've been pondering the question for more than 10 years and here's the definition I've come up with (limited as it may be):

*Worship is a response to an encounter with God.*

Along with that, what is the task of the one we call "worship leader." I'll suggest two: first, to worship; second, to lead the congregation into an encounter with God so that they can worship as well.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Nov 2, 2005 6:48:47 PM

Hi, Randy - I like your definition of worship. It takes into account the essential truth that worship involves us responding to some aspect of God that He has revealed. Some do exhibit a negative response to the revelation of God, though, and that couldn't rightly be called worship.

With Jesus being God's greatest revelation to us, here's my current definition: "Worship is responding to the Father in a submitted, adoring relationship to Jesus Christ." It's still a work in process - like me. (You might enjoy the list of 60 teachers' definitions of worship from my backpages www.philchristensen.com/subpage6.html)

Appreciate your thoughts!
Blessings, Phil

Posted by: Phil Christensen | Nov 4, 2005 1:27:34 PM

Love this dictionary. I plan on sending it to my worship team members.

Peter...I enjoyed your lighthearted definition of "Blended Worship". On a serious note, in my experience I wouldn't say that no one is happy with blended worship (although there is a lot of truth to your definition). The one group that is happy is "blended people" (people who enjoy blending worship). Every style of music misses a group of people and thinking that you can blend the two styles together and satisfy everyone will eventually land you in the mental ward :-)

This leads me to a question/comment I want to pose. I love certain hymns and realize that there are some choruses that lack substance (not taking anything away from them). However, it seems hymns have reached a status among some where they are (undeservingly, in my option) placed on a higher plane than choruses. There are timeless hymns as well as timeless choruses and they should be treated as such. I feel it has become trendy to speak of the "rich doctrine" & "imagery" of hymns all the while implying that choruses don't have any doctrine or imagery. I disagree with this. These ideas have just started forming in my mind and I'm looking for someone to agree or disagree with me. What do you think?

Posted by: Kevin West | Nov 5, 2005 4:28:54 PM


Ironically, since at my church we avoid the hymns more than most, I disagree. I think there is a HUGE difference between a line like "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord" and "What language shall I borrow to thank you dearest friend?" A lot of the "praise choruses" do NOT have any meaningful depth, and because they are designed to be used in a LOT of different places and settings, they are also often very lacking in "doctrine", too. (This non-specificity can be good though, don't you think?)

Timeless choruses? I've yet to run across one that I didn't get tired of after 2 or 3 years (or less). How many churches couldn't bear to sing "Shout to The Lord" anymore. Of course, that's over-use, too.

Anyway... I don't use a lot of the hymns (we have a LOT of formerly de-churched and over-churched here, and a hymn does NOT go over very often) but I still think they're more "timeless" than the modern praise chorus, but only time will tell...


Posted by: Peter Hamm | Nov 5, 2005 4:47:50 PM

I like to look at the abilities and skills of those around me when decide what music to use.

Lemme 'splain:

When I led worship at a church with guitar monsters, drummers-gone-mad, vocalists with serious acrobat abilities, and a congregation reflecting the same I made use of rather modern music and techniques (modernizing a hymn, rearranging a refrain, instrumental solo breaks, rhythm jams, jazz modifications, etc).

When I led worship at a church with 2 organists, classically trained pianists, not a guitarist to be seen for miles, operatically trained vocalists, and a congregation reflecting the same I made use of historical music and techniques (standard hymn arrangements, frequent picardy endings, majestic modulations, traditional voicings, etc).

My thinking is this: God groups us together according to His will and how He needs us to be. I assume, then, that He has gifted certain churches with certain musicians for certain times. This is all subject to change, but I choose to work with what I've been given.

BTW: I LOVED THE DEFINITIONS!!! They'll posted in my office tomorrow!!

Posted by: Monica | Nov 5, 2005 5:26:12 PM


Good comments! I'm curious to hear your thoughts regarding this point (or anyone else).

Don't you think the reason you are tired of hearing "Shout to the Lord" is because you (or your church) has sung it too much? And don't you think it would be the same for a hymn too? Case in point: I was at a church where the pastor wanted to sing "The Solid Rock" for an opening song every Sunday. We did this for about a year. By the end, my drummer was ready to start throwing sticks at me. I know this is an extreme example, but I believe it make a point. Here is another example. I have on my worship team someone who doesn't like singing hymns because they grew up playing the organ in church and played hymns over and over again (they say because that’s all there was). Now this person tells me they are tired of them and ready to sing the new songs God is putting on hearts.

“Open the Eyes of my Heart” may not have the depth you are speaking of, but to the person worshipping with it, it has plenty of depth. The depth is found in the intimacy of the words the person is using to worship God. I can just see Paul Baloche worshiping with his guitar and out comes the words “open the eyes of my heart Lord I want to see you”. There is, no doubt, something awesome in that phrase.

But let’s take another song: Above All. “Like a rose trampled on the ground, You took the fall, and thought of me, above all.” There is some serious doctrine and imagery in that song. Ironically, our church only sings this song a hand full of times a year because we sang it a lot when it first came out. It’s good to give songs a rest every once in a while. Don’t you think?

To be clear, I am NOT against hymns. I simply think hymns and choruses should be valued equally and used according to the vision of the church.

Posted by: Kevin West | Nov 7, 2005 4:30:50 PM

I love your definitions!

I'm backing up a bit, but thought I'd pass along a great definition of worship I recently read from Louie Giglio in His bool "The Air I Breathe": "Worship is our response, both personal and corporate, to God - for who He is! and what Ha has done! expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live."

The whole book is great as well. I would encourage anyone to give it a read!


Posted by: Timothy Curirn | Nov 8, 2005 9:47:46 AM

Perhaps a bit late in the conversation, but I have a perspective on worship. Col 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..." With this model, *anything* becomes worship.

Peace, Love, and Fried Chicken

Posted by: Benichols | Nov 9, 2005 12:48:05 PM

Some I have picked up:

PRAYER SOLO: Coined by my athiest brother-in-law. It occurs when a worship leader goes off into a 5 minute or more prayer set to music that seems to not end, and leaves the band confused as to what they are to do next.

LEADING BY THE SPIRIT: Christian-ese for "Winging-it".

Posted by: Andrew | May 8, 2006 2:25:06 PM

I see worship as a way to bring pleasure and delight to God; He asks that we worship Him, so as I see it, worship is not about us, but about Him. Even though worship brings me great pleasure, I believe that it is ultimately to bring Him pleasure!

It is easy for musicians to tire of songs; we practice them and practice them at worship team and choir practices. I would caution leaders to remember, however, that in our hurry to adopt new songs and more new songs, we forget that many of the congregation (or the real worship team, if you will), have only sung the songs a few times during the services, and find pleasure and comfort in the familiar.

Posted by: Jeannie Hignell | May 9, 2006 2:16:28 AM

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