worship band gathering

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Report from TUNE UP 2019

Thanks to all who joined us on August 17, 2019 at Christ Church United Methodist Church Sugar Land (Sugar Land, TX).

The TUNE UP gathering is an annual event in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod for contemporary church musicians. Over 50 participants from 20 different churches gathered in the Houston area in August for a day of training and networking. This was the sixth annual event that brings together a diverse group of leaders and participants to work on issues related to band-led worship in a congregation.

One of the unique things about TUNE UP is the multi-denominational atmosphere. This year musicians and worship leaders from Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Nazarene, and non-denominational churches all participated in an ecumenical and collegial environment.

The gathering began with opening worship and presentations from Clayton Faulkner (Director of Worship, Faith Lutheran, Bellaire, TX), Craig Gilbert (Purposed Heart Ministries, Alvin, TX), and Mark Swayze (Pastor of Contemporary Music and Community Growth, The Woodlands United Methodist Church, The Woodlands, TX). Words of welcome were offered by DeAndre Johnson (Pastor of Music and Worship Life, Christ Church Sugar Land, TX). The opening worship band was formed by the track leaders for the day. This included music led by Brian Christopher Clay (Worship Leader and Director of Communications and AV technology, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Knoxville, TN).

Healthy relationships among band members quickly emerged as one of the main takeaways for the day. Many of the struggles and conflicts that bands run into can be best addressed through healthy relational connectedness both at and away from church. Leading worship together begins with mutual respect and care for one another.

After opening worship everyone divided into instrumental, vocal, and tech breakout groups. The instrumental breakout groups were divided by specific area (worship leader, acoustic/electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, and sound tech). There were also conceptual track offerings in the afternoon that included sessions on leading in humility, working with what you’ve got in your specific context, invitational leadership, and running an effective rehearsal.

One of the highlights every year is the “Coaching for Bands” session. This was essentially a masterclass on arranging music for bands. A group of volunteers from the attendees were spontaneously selected to form an “instant band” that had never played or sang together before. They were given a popular worship song to lead together. After a run through, they received feedback and help with their musicianship and presentation from a panel made up of the breakout group leaders. By the end of the session the group had made great strides in improving their cohesion and leadership of the song.

One attendee who has participated for several years commented, “Each time we think, ‘We’ve gone every year – what more can we possibly get out of this?’ Then we attend and remark on the way home, ‘Wow! So glad we went because we learned this and this and that.’ This is why we want to see this keep going. We learn new things each time AND we also realize how far we’ve come in implementing items we’ve learned in the past when they are suggested to others during the current event. Such a great opportunity to exchange ideas with other groups that we do not currently get anywhere else.”

Another attendee commented, “The concepts presented are applicable to any style of worship, not just contemporary. Listening with an open mind uncovers the challenges we face and encourages us to use new thinking in our approach to worship and music and excellence in execution.”

Plans are underway to hold another TUNE UP event in 2020. This website (TuneUpGathering.org) will have updates and registration information.

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