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Pat Dryburgh

So 2007 was one of the most exciting, challenging, and overall amazing years of my entire life. I grew in my character, in my faith, in my leadership abilities, and in my health. I have seen great things and I have seen horrible things. But, through it all I can say that God has been so faithful through it all. Here are some highlights from the last 12 months:

  • In early January, I received a phone call from Trinity Community Church, asking if I would be interested in a music director position they had available. After 4 interviews, an audition, and co-leading with the former music director, I was hired as the Associate Director of Music. This was my first full-time ministry position ever. My first day was on my birthday.
  • In May I visited North Park Community Church for the first time.
  • That same week, I attended The Orange Conference in Atlanta. It was an incredible experience and I really learned a lot.
  • I was assaulted on Canada Day weekend. I ended up with a fractured orbital bone and a broken bone to the right side of my right eye. This may not seem like a highlight to most people, but it was the first time my girlfriend Sara and I went out. I ended up in the hospital for 16 hours, and she stayed by my side for 10 h. A month later, we started officially dating.
  • The next week I spoke at Camp Ke-mon-oya, the place where for the previous 6 years I had been a camp counselor and worship leader. It was awesome to see the leaders who were just starting out when I was there really take ownership of the whole camp experience.
  • In July, Patrick Voo, Jonathan Wagner, and myself attended the Willow Creek Arts Conference. Highlights were Donald Miller and The Mosaic Team.
  • In August I started officially dating Sara Denomy. Today is the 6 month anniversary of our first date (back in July).
  • On August 26th, Trinity held its congregational meeting to decide whether or not to dissolve Trinity as a congregation in the Presbyterian Church of Canada. Of the almost 400 people that voted, 97.7% voted in favour of leaving the PCC.
  • In September, I handed in my resignation to Trinity Community Church effective October 31st. I was in the same company as Carey Nieuwhof, Patrick Voo, and the rest of the Trinity staff and elders.
  • On October 9th, the Presbytery of Barrie voted against dissolving Trinity Community Church. This meant we had to leave our $1.6 million building to follow the vision to launch multiple campuses throughout Ontario to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus.
  • On October 31st, we walked away.
  • Throughout November, I was part of the team launching Connexus Community Church. Our plan was to launch two campuses in two cities in 7 days. On December 9th, we had achieved our goal.
  • At 22, I have now worked for one of the largest Presbyterian churches in Canada, and have left that church to launch two church campuses in a week. I am so grateful.
  • I have lost 17 lbs in the last 4 weeks.

I am really proud of what I have accomplished in the last 12 months, and am so grateful to God for the opportunities he has put before me. I have grown so much this year, more than any year before. I cannot wait to see what 2008 has in store! And, I can’t wait to share it all with you here.

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Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert at how to “do” church. I offer these insights only to help the church as a whole begin to rethink what we do when we gather, in an effort to create the best and most irresistible environments we can. This is not a critique of the church, but of the Sunday morning service I attended. The name of this church has been left out.

Today I attended a church in Barrie, ON. I attended the 12:00pm service (praise the Lord!). There were approximately 100-120 people in attendance, in an auditorium that seats approximately 300-400. This church hosts 4 services, which gives it a capacity of about 1600. There are lots of empty seats for people to bring friends!

In this review, I want to tackle three main issues: first impressions, the worship set, the hosting/community involvement, and the communicating.

First Impressions

I came into this experience with a little bit of knowledge about the church. I had heard they were a church of approximately 1200 people (one of the largest churches in our area) and that they were contemporary in their style of worship. I drove into the church parking lot, not having any idea where I should park or where I should enter the building. Once I found my way in, I had to squeeze my way through the “lobby” (read: incredibly tight hallway with people stopped gathering coats and engaging in conversation). I walked past a coffee table setup (I already had my tea misto from Starbucks) that was not accessible due to the clutter in the hallway. I also saw a table set up with resources, but no one there to explain what they were for or how I could access them.

I walked into the auditorium and was not greeted by anyone. I stood around drinking my misto for about 10 minutes until some friends from Connexus came and said hello. I was not greeted by anyone from the church, and was not offered anything to give me an insight into what to expect during the service, or to provide information about what happens during the week in this church community.

I found my way to a seat in the back, close to the aisle (even though I would never leave a service unless something really offended or scared me, I always like to have an escape route). My exit plan was foiled part way through the service when a family asked me to slide in.

Overall first impressions: I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived, and really didn’t find any comfort in the lack of welcoming. I still don’t know the name of who led worship, who was hosting the service, or who the communicator was.

Worship Set

I was pretty excited about hearing what this church had to offer in terms of their music environment. I attended Harvest Bible Chapel Barrie back in July, and had really enjoyed the music that the church of about 600 could produce. It looked like it was going to be a full team, with drums, bass, keys, electric guitar, acoustic, and 3 backup vocalists.

The set began with the worship leader welcoming people to the church and inviting them to join him and the team in singing. He didn’t really grab the crowd’s attention, as most people were still coming in while he was talking. He also spoke as if he was speaking to about 10 people, rather than trying to engage an audience of over 100. The first song began with him on acoustic, and then the band joined in, successfully recreating the Maranatha Praise sound of the 80’s and 90’s. The mix was very quiet, with the keys and electric guitar completely unheard. When the vocals kicked in, they really overpowered everything else in the mix.

The team performed 4-5 songs, almost all of which I did not recognize (they did do “Not To Us” by Chris Tomlin, which was also successfully recreated to fit the 90’s feel). There was very little in terms of dynamics, most because everything was so quiet. I will say, those for whom this church is home were really singing out. However, I had a hard time being engaged because I was so lost. It made me really think about the purpose of music in a service. I know that this church’s model is not the same as that of Connexus, but at some point they must ask the question “what do our guests think?” It actually got to the point where I had to sit down because I was so uncomfortable. If I were an outsider, I likely would not have enjoyed that aspect of the service one bit, and would fear having to endure it again just to be a part of that community.

On a positive note, the team did play well together. Only once did there seem to be a bit of miscommunication. Otherwise, the songs were well performed, and as I said, really engaged those who call this church home.

Overall Worship Set: The set was really long, and didn’t have much in the way of coherency. Songs did not flow from one to another, and the topics did little to set up the message. The sound was really outdated, and the mix so low that I was uncomfortable even singing the one song I did now for fear of being heard louder than the band throughout the auditorium.

Side Note: During the last song, someone from the crowd (who I knew to be one of the pastors, only because my Connexus friends knew him) got up and started talking about God delivering us and helping us through hard times. He made a very big blanket statement that all of us were dealing with something we couldn’t get through. Even if this is the case, I have a big problem with people that do not know me telling me how things are going in my life.

The Hosting/Community Involvement

This is the one aspect of every church service that I am constantly critiquing. 9 times out of 10 this part of the service is so insider focused, it leaves those who are not part of the community out in the cold (this even includes our own announcements at Connexus, which we are working to make more engaging and outsider friendly). This morning there were very few announcements. I heard something about a skateboard ministry (Jesus loves skateboards). I also experienced something that my parents described to me once as the most uncomfortable experience ever at a church (though, to a less degree than they went through). During the announcements the host had those who were attending for the first time raise their hand. Once they did, they were given a book about 2 inches thick. I can tell you if I were an outsider, my first though would be “great… I went to church and all I got was homework.”

The Communicating

The very first thing the communicator did this morning was lead the congregation through a chorus. The chorus had something to do with God being more than enough. Aside from the very southern accent applied to the name “El-Shaddai,” the song was even more outdated than those in the worship set. If I was uncomfortable during the worship set, I was really uncomfortable while the communicator played through this song.

The speaker stated from the top that the bottom line for the morning was that we need to read our bible’s every day. That is a bottom line that I could understand. That is a bottom line that an outsider could understand. However, all throughout the message, the communicator introduced new ideas every 5-10 minutes, and by the end I really had no idea what the bottom line was anymore. He talked about Jesus and the 12 leftover loaves (John 6:13). Somehow these loaves represent the 12 months of the year, and the “leftover blessings” we carry with us from year to year. He jumped through a few more verses totally unrelated to loaves or reading the Bible every day, and came to three main points. I don’t remember them.

At the end of the message, the communicator had everyone bow their heads and close their eyes. He made the invitation to “invite Jesus into our hearts as our personal saviour.” He had people raise their hands if they wanted to accept the invitation. I know I shouldn’t admit this, but I was peaking. While he was saying “thank you” to a few people who had raised their hands, from my vantage point, I couldn’t see anyone with their hands up. After this he had everyone stand up, and invited anyone who had put up their hands to go to the front to be prayed for. No one went. So, somehow the message went from being about reading our bibles, to having loaves of blessings, to accepting Jesus as our “personal saviour.” Even as someone who had gone to church for the last 7 years, I can tell you I was totally lost.

Overall Communicating: From some of the stories the communicator shared, it seems that he was a missionary of some sort. I am not saying this is true of all missionaries, but for many missionaries, being a missionary does not mean they have the gift of teaching/communicating. Again, I am not a professional, or an expert, but I did not sense this gift with the communicator this morning. He was interesting to listen to, and had a ton of energy that I am sure if poured into an avenue that best suits his gifting, could really make a huge impact on our world.


As my disclaimer disclaimed, this is not a critique of this particular church as a whole. There are so many other aspects to church life that my 1 h 10 min in a Sunday morning service does not reveal. However, for most people, Sunday mornings are the first steps into church life. My experience this morning overall was not engaging or irresistible.

My Takeaway

There are so many things I learned from my experience at this church. First is the importance of first impressions. A big reason why I wasn’t engaged during the worship or the message was because I did not feel like they wanted me there. I did not feel as though it made any difference to them if I was there or not. It made me wonder if those who walk through the doors of Connexus for the first time know that everything we do is for them, and that we would not exist if it weren’t for them.

It also gave me a lot of new ideas about music in church, its purpose and the win when we do music each Sunday. I am going to be writing a post in the next while called “The Case For Fewer Songs,” where I hope to tackle the question “how many songs should we do in church?”
Last Word: Again, I really want to make sure people know that I am not critiquing this church or any other church with the attitude of superiority or pride. I am passionate about seeing the church communicate the timeless message of Jesus to a culture that otherwise has no interest. I want to see every church be the absolute best it can be, and the only way we can do so is by looking at what we are doing, and continuing to improve. The same is true of this church, Connexus, and every church that wants to have an impact on our generation.

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A while back I started a message board thread at about having musicians on a church music team that aren’t followers of Jesus. It spawned a 12 page discussion, which was pretty far beyond what I expected. Some people have very strong feelings about the subject, while others were trying to hear both sides to form their own opinion. In the end we made a decision at Connexus on our own, but it was still interesting to be a part of the conversation.

For myself, I am open to having people who don’t consider themselves followers of Jesus to be part of our music team. I think that as a church we need to be opening, not closing, as many doors as possible for people to step into a relationship with Jesus, and this seems like a very logical door for a lot of people.

There are many people who base their position in this matter on the worship services in the Old Testament. They argue that because of the high level of “cleanliness” (or holiness) needed to be a part of the worship services then, that we need to be as careful of our personal holiness when approaching God in worship today.

Personally, I look at the way Jesus invited people to follow him. He didn’t even expect them to believe he was who he said he was (really, they didn’t get who he was until after he returned to heaven). All he asked was that they take a step and follow him.

Now, I am not saying that we allow someone to lead before they’ve decided to follow Jesus. In fact, because of the high level of responsibility that I do believe rests on the worship leader, I think we do need to be continually calling our worship leaders to a higher level of character and devotion. But, when it comes to the musicians themselves, I really believe that if we want to be a church for everyone, then we need to be including people in as many of the church’s life activities as possible, and that includes being a part of the music team.

What do you think? What does your church do? Are you willing to reconsider?

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Last Friday morning I woke up with a horrible feeling in my throat. I tried to clear it but could not. My nose was stuffy as well. I first thought it was just allergies to dust, until I started going through my day and realized that it was not going away. My whole body ached. This is not good when you’re two days away from launching a church.

On Saturday I felt even worse. I had some errands to run so I took care of those, and then my brother, his girlfriend and Sara came up for the weekend. We went out for dinner with my parents that night (see below for side story). By the end of the night I pretty much had no voice. Sara and I went and got some meds to hopefully fix the problem.

Sunday morning I woke up and tried to just let my voice rest. I tried to start my car when I was ready to go, only it wouldn’t catch. So I took all my equipment and put it in my mom’s SUV (drenching my shoes and socks in the snow) and headed south. I got to the theater and didn’t do much labour other than setting up my stuff and just trying to feel better.

That morning my voice was pretty much shot. I thought it sounded horrible, though some people said it wasn’t bad. I left that afternoon and had to call our student ministries director to lead worship that night as I just couldn’t do it.

Monday I hoped I would feel better. I didn’t. Then Tuesday. Then Wednesday. Today, I still don’t feel 100%. We’re having rehearsal tonight, and my voice is still hoarse and I still have a cold. This is not fun. I really hope I’m better for Sunday.

Any tips how to get better?

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We came, we saw, we launched (half of) a church!

This weekend we launched Connexus: Barrie, and it was a great success. We saw hundreds of people brave the brutal winter weather to make it to our Grand Opening in Barrie for both the 8:30 and 10:00am services. Not only that, but our friends from Global TV made their way up to begin shooting for their documentary on evangelical churches in Canada (read more about it here. I’ll have more on that in a couple days).

This Sunday we launched our series called “A Very Dysfunctional Christmas.” We’ll be talking about how not every family (read: most families) don’t have what many would call a “normal Christmas.” Hollywood has done a good job at inflating our expectations of what Christmas should be, when in reality things aren’t always as great as we’d hoped. Our first message was called “I’ll be (Gone) For Christmas.” A lot of people feel they don’t belong, especially in this season. Carey talked about how in Jesus, all of us are welcome, no matter who we are or where we’re from. It was a similar theme to one of his messages back at Trinity, where he said the biggest lie church’s tell is on their church signs that say “Everyone Welcome.” While the message of Jesus may be that, often churches do not live that.

Musically, we started the service with “Everlasting God” by Brenton Brown. This was the last song we played at Trinity, and it was a great moment to be able to bridge the gap between the two church communities. Next was “Salvation is Here” from Hillsong Church. Right before the message we played “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day. After the message we introduced a new song by David Crowder called “The Glory Of It All.. Out of all of the songs we have introduced since I started at Trinity, I have never heard such positive feedback as we got for this song. The lyrics really speak to the season, and the story of salvation.

Oh, the glory of it all is you came here
For the rescue of us all is, that we may live
Oh the glory of it all, oh you are here
With redemption from the fall, that we may live
For the glory of it all, oh the glory of it all…

I think it’s going to be one of those songs that people just take and make their own. It was a great moment.

I’m really excited about bringing these songs to Orillia this week as one of our other worship leaders leads the team in Barrie. It should be fantastic.

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Nathan asked in a previous post why and how I got started in leading worship. It’s quite the tale. So sit back, relax, reach for your chai latte (hands off mine) and enjoy.

The story starts back in the winter of 2002. I had been attending a youth group at Byron Community Church, my home church for the first 3 years of my Christian walk. At home I had been writing some worship songs that I used in my personal devotion time, and at church was playing guitar for some of the youth worship teams. In February of 2002 the youth group went to a retreat at Muskoka Baptist Conference called “SnoCamp.” That year, they held a talent show on the Saturday morning as one of the activities. I decided to enter and played a song I had written earlier that week (and finished the night before) called “All I Need.”

And all that I need is your love
For you I live, I will live for you Jesus
Nothing compares to your love
More than anything else I want to be with you
To be with you, Jesus.”

The song had a sweet rap part in the bridge, which was the part I had written the night before. Anyways, I played that song during the talent show, and amazingly I won the contest. They offered me the opportunity to play the song that evening during the worship time. The band leading that week were friends of mine from our church, and a couple members agreed to play along with me. So, we put the words up on PowerPoint (I still used that back then… I didn’t convert until this year) and in front of over 400 people, I had my first opportunity at leading worship. It was an incredible experience, and at that moment I knew that my purpose was to use music to help people connect with God.

Throughout the next couple years I began to lead worship at youth group and during the Sunday adult services. When I went to school at Emmanuel Bible College, I found myself under the wing of an incredibly talented worship leader, Travis Doucette. I learned a lot about leading the congregation rather than simply playing songs for them. Even lessons as simple as choosing keys that the congregation can sing, and making sure that I take the time to teach new songs properly.

The next year I was asked to be the leader of the traveling worship team, “Living Stones.” It was composed of 8 members, plus a staff leader. We traveled all over Ontario leading for youth groups and congregations. That was a great introduction into leading a team of people for a prolonged period of time.

As I left EBC, I focused most of my musical experience on my band, My New Obsession. We were a 4 piece worship band from London and Kitchener. We played gigs across Ontario as well, at churches, youth groups, outdoor festivals, etc. We released a CD (which can be bought from iTunes!) called “About A Fallen World.” During my time with MNO, I struggled with why I was doing music. I was also struggling in my faith, and really just wanted to do music to make a living. I wanted to play bars, write secular songs, and just give up on the Christian music scene. We eventually took a break as I played for Hello Kelly, a pop-rock band from Orangeville, Ontario.

It took me a long while to get back into leading worship. I led a bit at my church in the time I was with HK, but nothing too regular until My New Obsession got back together in the summer of ‘06. Then in the winter of 2007, I started attending a church in London and got involved in the music team again. However, just over a month in I got a call from Trinity Community Church asking to interview me about a position to lead their music team.

I was somewhat hesitant at first, even though I had made the decision shortly before that I wanted to go back to school so I could still get involved in ministry. After a few interviews, some intense winter driving (that seems to be coming back in full force this week. Thanks mother nature), and some intense prayer I made the decision to join the Trinity team. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget.

And now, continuing where I left off with Trinity, I am the Associate Director of Music at Connexus Community Church. A year and a bit ago had you asked me if I would go back into ministry and leading worship, I would have said probably not. However, looking at where I’ve been led over the last year, I have to say that this is exactly where God wants me.

And I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Well, somehow, someway, we’ve done it. We have somehow miraculously launched two campuses in a span of one week. We had an amazing response from our volunteers, and ended up with over 700 people total in both campuses, which was very encouraging. We have found some glitches in the system that we are going to be working on this week, but overall the response has been fantastic, and we are so excited about our Barrie official launch this Sunday.

On Saturday morning we arrived once again at 6am to load the trucks in. Setup went much quicker this weekend, as most of the Orillia team had participated in the training in Barrie the week before. As far as the main theater setup, we were much further ahead by the end of Saturday than we were the previous week. By 11am we had set everything up, EQ’ed the room, and had several of our musicians come in and check out how things looked. We were torn down and back in the trailers by noon. The next day I arrived at 6:30am after waking up at 5:30am, getting cleaned up and then re-installing ProPresenter on the MacBook Pro for Orillia. When I arrived all the trailers were emptied and things were rolling very smoothly. We even started the service this week almost on time (8:33am compared to last week at 9:00am).

Overall I think the weekend was a huge win for our staff, our volunteers, and for PCI who came up to give us a hand once again. We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we are on good footing as we move into our first grand opening.

And you never know, you might just have an opportunity to see what we’ve been up to a in a few months…

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There are a lot of blogs out there these days. There are also a lot of Christian ones. Over to the right you’ll see a list of blogs that I read regularly. Some are good friends, others are leaders I respect but have not yet personally met. Some are about worship, others are about general leadership. Some are about media and others about how we are communicating relevantly to our culture.

I titled my blog “Journeys of a Rookie Worship Pastor” because, well, that’s what I am. For the last 8+ months I have been on this incredible journey that most 22 year olds would not have the opportunity to be on. I have learned a lot, and have grown a lot. I have made amazing friends and have enjoyed the community I am a part of. When I started blogging I wasn’t entirely sure how personal I should make it or what aspects of my job an/or life I should focus on. I thought I may offer some tips to help other young worship leaders, or just share my thoughts as I wrestle through common struggles that I think worship pastors of all ages and levels of experience face.

I guess all in all I want this blog to be useful. It’d be great if people could google something like “worship pastor help,” and find a blog full of helpful tips and hints. So, in the next few weeks in whatever spare time I have (spare what-now?) I will try to focus on how to help the general worship pastor community with how to communicate the gospel to our culture.

What questions do you have? Who do you admire as a successful worship pastor? What lessons have you learned along the way?

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That’s about the only word I can use to describe this past weekend. In a span of 36 hours, we went from having no equipment to successfully producing two Sunday morning services with video! A great big “kudos” to all of the volunteers who served this weekend, from those who came at 5:30 on Saturday and Sunday morning to those who helped with hosting and family ministries during the services, and those who stayed behind and helped tear down. It was an incredible display of people following a vision and a mission, sacrificially giving their time and talents to help produce irresistible environments for their friends.

As for the music team, even without a mid-week rehearsal or time before the first service to try the songs out, they were able to pull together a great set. We did three songs this week: Your Grace Is Enough (Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin), I Am Free (Jon Egan, Peter Furler), and All We Need (Charlie Hall). I have to admit that they weren’t the most seamless in terms of transitions from song to song, however our team really pulled together and were able to play the songs close to flawlessly, which was a great win! The people in the congregation really appreciated, I think, having the opportunity to worship once again with our music team, and to know that they will feel comfortable bringing their friends to hear the music.

I’m trying to map out my next few days, and here’s what I’ve got lined up:

  • Putting the finishing touches on our new rehearsal space. We’ve just got to hand in the permits and the check and we’re good to go!
  • Selecting songs for December. Each worship leader does this for the services they are leading, and I have to select for the 4 services I am leading this coming month.
  • Figure out how I’m going to do auditions in rented space.
  • Continue to update our Planning Center account.
  • Put together a Christmas wish-list for my mother.
  • Help plan my girlfriend’s move to Barrie! She is moving here in mid-December.

So, a busy few days, but hopefully I will get a good jump on everything tomorrow.

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One of the toughest challenges we faced in the music ministry going portable was where we would rehearse. Obviously without a building, we’d have to rely on outside groups to lend or rent us space. Throughout this week I’ve called over 20 churches. All of the ones that responded had the same answer: there is so much going on through the week, they had no more rooms available.

So, after a little more searching I contacted the principal of a local school in Oro; the same school that Trinity met at until they moved into the new building. The principal is a musician on our worship team (bass and keys) and was so, so helpful. After two days of discussions, it looks like we will be able to use the facilities for the cost of the permit. Because of our non-profit status, and because the purpose of the rentals will be to help develop youth and adults in the community, we will be able to use the buildings free of charge. We are so, so blessed first to have incredible people in leadership throughout our community, and second to have that leadership pull to help their local church when it is in need.

Starting as soon as we can get the permit approved (probably a few days) we will have access to a great, central rehearsal space.

What is your most pressing need in your ministry? And how are you using the leaders in your community to help remedy the situation?

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