Reflection #6 on Worship in the Contemporary American Church

This is post number six in a series of random reflections I have been amassing over the past couple of years since retiring from steady, local-church, “weekend warrior” worship ministry.  These ruminations are in no particular order, and they vary in significance.  I welcome discussion on any of them.

Reflection #6: At least 50% of the churches we have visited that project lyrics on screens in worship services are not compliant with copyright laws as determined by the prevailing licensing agency for contemporary worship in America, Christian Copyright Licensing International, or CCLI.

I’m being generous here.  I bet the figure is closer to 75%.  And it’s not just the under-resourced churches that aren’t in compliance.  Even megachurches, with more in their weekly budget than some churches have to work with annually (i.e., who have staff resources that should allow them to assign someone the rudimentary task of making sure the copyright information shows up on the projected slides), sometimes seem immune to this pretty basic concept.

Why is this the case?  Well, it’s certainly not the most important thing a worship leader needs to worry about for any given worship service, so it is easy to think that pretty much every other thing related to corporate worship should take precedence over something that most people don’t tend to notice anyway.

So why should I bother?  Well, because it’s the law.  Because it’s the right thing to do.  Because it carries on the centuries-old tradition of recognizing those who have written the music that worship leaders put on our lips every time we gather for corporate worship.

What do I need to do to make sure we are doing what we need to do where copyrights are concerned?  Start by checking out the CCLI website (CCLI), which is a news-ccli-unveils-new-visual-identitywealth of information; their customer-support people are also extremely helpful.  CCLI isn’t the only licensing agency that covers churches, but it is Windows to everyone else’s Linux.  Some “liturgical churches” (see the post from a few weeks back) use One License, which covers some of the “liturgical” music not covered as thoroughly at CCLI.

How, specifically, do we need to alter our slides in order to be compliant?  In short, each song needs to feature (usually at the bottom of each song’s final slide) the composer’s name (or composers’ names), the publisher(s), the year of publication, and your license number.  The CCLI website is very helpful here: “What acknowledgments should I give when displaying song words?

So we’re covered for all our copyright concerns with a CCLI or One License subscription then?  For some churches, yes.  But if the scope of your use of copyrighted music goes anywhere beyond congregational singing, no.  The basic CCLI and One License licenses cover printing and projecting lyrics CCS_logo_3only.  Many churches, technically, in order to be completely copyright compliant, given the way they use music and/or video in their ministries, need to purchase at least another license or two.  (A really quick and dirty reference guide can be found here: “Is a CCLI License All My Church Needs to Be Copyright Compliant?”).  A great one-stop shopping hub for any and all other licenses is Christian Copyright Solutions.

This seems like an awful lot of work!  Tell me again why I should dip into my already insufficient budget to purchase one or more of these licenses?  In the words of one of my favorite worship leaders, Paul Baloche, because it “always feels good to do the right thing.  Let’s do it.”

The Lord be with you!

Coming next week (Lord willing): The pros and cons of confidence monitors.


About Warren Anderson

Emmaus Road Worshipers is written by Dr. Warren Anderson, Director of the Demoss Center for Worship in the Performing Arts at Judson University (Elgin, Ill.), where he also directs the Judson University Choir. A Judson alumnus, he has served his alma mater in a number of capacities over the past 30+ years, especially the chapel ministry, which he led for 22 years. From 1982-2016, Dr. Anderson served six different churches--American Baptist (X2), Converge, Evangelical Free Church of America, Roman Catholic, and United Methodist--as a "weekend warrior" worship musician/pastor. He is a former member of the editorial board of Worship Leader magazine. The views expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of Judson University.
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