Blogging LIVE from Wonder09: Willow Creek Worship Arts Conference

Hillsong starts at #wonder09 in a few more minutes! Room pack... on Twitpic

I’ll be posting as much as I can from the conference which is Wednesday June, 10th through Friday June 12.

These are my notes / recap of my favorite moments and quotes from today.  Oh… and by the time this post goes live, it won’t actually be ‘live’ but oh well.  It was an exciting title.  The notes are after the break.

Also, I had the neat experience of connecting to other Twitter users real time at the conference. I one of the vendors exclaimed my name when he saw me walk up to the table! He’d seen my tweets about the conference and recognized me from my picture on my profile.  Earlier in the day I connected with a stranger who happened to be in the same breakout session.  Even leading up to the conference, I found friends of mine who were also going to the conference.  It’s neat to see social networking in action IN REAL LIFE!  Now on to the notes…

Day 1 Opening and 1st Session:

  • Opening: “Worship Leader Warm-up” – great parodies of our worship leader stereotypical moves (the microphone clap, the holding your chest while singing, the jumps we do… the clothes and styles that are popular right now).  Absolutely a fun and funny way to start the conference and set the tone!
  • “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord” – Jeremiah 29:11 – a wonderful song was addressed to worship leaders as we struggle and press in what God has called us to do.
  • I also enjoyed the dance / drama that talked about the inspiration and frustration of the creative process – realizing that what we do still comes from someone greater than ourselves (God).
  • Realizing the Key Enemies of Wonder (Wonder is where where creativity is cultivated).  Top enemies of wonder for me were: Hurry, Noise, Information Overload, Unrealistic expectations, and the Absence of Celebration. (I have to actively work against those in order to overcome)
  • Never forget the moment when you realized the awesomeness of this: “Jesus loves me”
  • Take time to enjoy life.
  • Top people I’m thankful for in the moment: Nick, Fran, Dr. Rodney, Sha, Willow Church Fam, Michael, Cheryl, Latrice, my small group
  • I still have to get Shauna Niequest’s book: “Cold Tangerines” – I absolutely love her writing that draws you from the colorful details of everyday life to a celebration of thanks for all that God has made.
  • Isaiah 29:13-14 – when our hearts were far from God – when we worshiped out of habit and grew cold, God responded by astounding us with wonder upon wonder. – what a powerful thought!

Session 2:  Interview with Darlene Zschech and Hillsong United leader Joel Houston

  • Building a Worship Culture: “Serve the Lord with Gladness” – Psalm 100 and Psalm 45: God will anoint us (worship leaders) with the oil of Joy (gladness) and set us above our companions  – this is literally the call of a worship leader.  it’s humbling to see exactly how God calls us out and equips us.
  • Intentionality in developing teams / leaders: being intentional about building pathways for people to find and develop their gift for leading in worship.
  • Training is done weekly: Spiritual teaching as well as musical teaching.  Getting your own lessons outside of church is also expected.
  • THIS IS HUGE: Being Committed to People for more than what they can (or can’t) do for your ministry.  Being willing to walk with them through the process of finding their right fit in ministry.  We have to earn the privilege to speak the truth in love to people.  When we have earned that, we can give people negative feedback yet they know that they are still loved and cared for.
  • Hillsong has a songwriting culture, where all of there songs are reviewed, workshopped, tweaked, critiqued, and developed.  Many people are involved in the process and they even have a pastor who reviews the lyrics to be sure that they are all biblical!
  • “Generational Transition” – being mindful that we’ll need to replace ourselves. Being prepared for God to give the increase and being able to accommodate that because leadership has already been developed.
  • Hillsong Church: “Church isn’t built on the gifts and talents of a few, it’s built out of the sacrifices of many”
  • Worship Leader Real Talk: don’t focus on a ‘dry audience’ or how people aren’t responding – we have to refocus on God in those times rather than be frustrated.  God may be working powerfully in their hearts, but YOU are looking for something you can see with your eyes (and that doesn’t require FAITH).
  • Keeping your heart fresh / having a soft heart: Digging into the word is essential, Be led by the Spirit of God.  Keep your spirit nourished and your soul fed.  Have time to get away and do something that you enjoy.
  • Proverbs 16:9 – God’s plans prevail – he’s already given us what is actually needed.
  • Avoid the temptation to lead the way your leader does.  You have to find your style  – not live to copy another.
  • Encourage someone else! See them grow and released into their ministry!
  • Be BIG! BE BOLD!

I was totally blessed to hear the song “You’ll Come” being sung by thousands of creatives gathered in the name of Jesus Christ and being replenished spiritually as they sing with arms lifted high “Lord Come, Let your Glory fall as you respond to us. Spirit rain; flood into our thirsty hearts again”. To know that even world-famous worship artist like Hillsong United face frustration and need to be recharged is so powerful!




Breakout Session A: How to Build a Rockin’ Praise Band with Stan Endicott of Mariners Church

Key Points

  • Build as much consistency with band members as possible – people have to learn each other and be able to ‘feel’ each other for greater growth and progress
  • Communicate as much information as possible about your expectations for the style / grove of a song before people arrive for a rehearsal.  It’s key that people are engaging with the song(s) with this in mind before they arrive.  This also fosters creativity!
  • This music is still entertainment so we must create excitement and grab someones attention naturally before we’ll be able to connect to them spiritually.
  • I loved this worship lead statement ” Let’s fill God’s house with God’s word” then have the congregation repeat a scripture that leads into a song.
  • 70% of music in church is what you’ve rehearsed – the other 30% is padding, fill, and open space – this kind of music needs to be rehearsed as well!
  • Listen to the other parts (and be sure the mix is right so you can hear them well). you want the band to fill the entire campus – not everyone trying to paint in the same spot.
  • The band / worship team should have the attitude of supporting / helping the worship lead to be the best that he or she can be.
  • Key elements in a worship Community: Brokenness and Celebration – we have to bring both if we’re going to have authentic worship TOGETHER.
  • Tip to help communicate to your sound guy:  Watch a DVD of your favorite concert – with the sound muted. Identify how the mix should change according to what’s on the screen.
  • Tip for rehearsal: LAYERS – if rehearsing 4 songs – rather than spend 30 minutes each on the songs, layer it by doing 7.5 minutes on each song and cycling through so that the team can practice remembering the songs continually.
  • Freedom vs. Structure: we’ll learn it exactly as it is written in practice, but be ready for it to be done differently.


Overall the day one was AWESOME… so great that I forgot to eat dinner before the Hillsong Concert!  I came home at 9pm just as excited and full of energy about all this as when I left at 8am!


But NOW it’s time for bed.  Night night!

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  • Ruth

    Thanks for taking notes. I totally enjoyed reading them.

    • *hug* hey Ruth! we’ve got lots to talk about Sunday! See you soon!

  • Brandon

    Darren you may not remember me and that’s fine. My name is Brandon and I met you after the good Friday service in the gym at Union Station. I stayed after the service a bit to help out with the tear down. Anyway, we talked briefly, (I had lost my job and my fiance and I are postponing our wedding.) Well that’s still the case, just wanted to jog your memory. But man, thanks for taking the notes. It was good to read these because my notes are often abstract things that I sometimes forget the context of. I think I might come revisit your blog sometime in the future. Very good stuff here. Thanks again.

    • hey Brandon! I do remember meeting you and was sorry that I didn’t get your contact info so we could keep in touch. I’m glad you sent a message! I’ll be emailing you personally soon!

      I’d been promising myself to post my notes for almost 2 years, I found it useful when I read someone else’s notes from a conference I hadn’t attended so I thought I would contribute as well. I have a total of 18 pages of notes to digitize so I’ll try to hack at it soon!

      Thanks for writing!

  • Darren – thanks for taking the time to talk and connect on Friday – I look forward to being a part of your life and having you as a part of mine.