The WHY and HOW of ProjectWOW

IMG_0252PROJECT WOW, OR PROJECT WOMEN OF WORSHIP,
EXISTS TO PROVIDE A PLACE OF
CONVERSATION, COMMUNITY, AND RESOURCE
FOR WOMEN IN WORSHIP.


Earlier this year, I wrote a blog titled “Being a Female Worship Leader is Hard”. At the time that I wrote it, I was simply getting some things off my chest and at the same time providing a few resources for women who might be encountering the same difficulties. In the blog, I talked about being the first full-time female worship leader hired at my church. I talked about being the only woman in a department of all dudes. I talked about the lack of song selection available for female worship leaders vs. male worship leaders. But most importantly, I tried to provide resources to help counteract some of these things. I wanted to be a mentor from afar to any female worship leaders who might stumble onto this blog.

My heart has always been for women in worship. When I first stepped into the door of worship leading, I was blessed to have a male mentor who took me under his wings and started developing my skills. He saw potential in me and took the time to invest in that potential. Unfortunately, he couldn’t help me when I came with questions and struggles about being a female worship leader. I longed for a female mentor who could teach me her ways. But unless I was living in Australia with Darlene Zschech, I wasn’t going to find anyone around here. This generation is the first wave of prominent female worship leaders in the church. And so my passion has turned to leading others up, and being the female mentor that I never had.

As this year began to fly by, I kept getting emails and responses to my blog. Women from all over… Oregon, Kentucky, even Australia. The messages were unique but all the same… I AM GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING. The more responses I got, the more convicted I became about this project. I feel called to do this project, so much so that if I don’t do it, I will feel like I am being disobedient to God’s calling on my life. It pumps me up to know that I can be a help to other women in this way.

Before you hear a bit more about the project, take a look at this video…


As you can see, there is a need… there is a yearning for community and resource and mentorship. And as I began to realize that I was not the only one going through this, I began to brainstorm how I could remedy the need. And after much prayer and discussion and advice from many people that I respect, I came up with a plan… something practical that could provide a solution… DRUMROLL…

The plan of action is to create a website… a hub… a place where women can go to be empowered for service. As I mentioned before, ProjectWOW, or project women of worship, exists to provide conversation, community, and resource for women in worship. The three areas of conversation, community, and resource would be the main focus of the website.

IMG_0256So let’s start with CONVERSATION. This area of the website would be a place to talk about and bring up topics such as loneliness… dealing with insecurity… how to lead a team of all guys… how to gain buy-in from your congregation… etc. The conversation would be fueled by 2 things: a blog and Q&A. The blog would be written by myself and a few other women who have a heart to teach and encourage women in their journey as worship leaders. The readers of this blog would have a chance to respond and converse about the topics presented. The Q&A section would be a place where women can ask any question they want. The question would then be answered by a panel of trusted women in worship either through a direct message or in the form of a blog. Again this section would simply be a place to discuss… ask questions… and start conversation.

IMG_0257The next area of the website would be COMMUNITY. This area would be a place where women in worship can meet each other and begin to form relationship. On the website, women will have the opportunity to sign up to be in a WOWconnect Group. This group would be facilitated through google hangouts, and once a month women would be able to get together online to talk, encourage, and pray over each other… even if they are located across the country from one another. One of the things that I think is so beautiful about this is that women can connect with people outside of their own environment. It is a safe place, and it is a place where women can walk alongside each other in their journey. Love this section and I really believe it is going to create some beautiful new connections between women in worship ministry.

IMG_0258The third and final area of the website is RESOURCE. This by far is going to be the largest section and ironically will be the place that will require the most resource to create. It will have 3 sections, the first being: READ. This will be a place where we can post great books and articles for women to help them grow in their journey as a worship leader. Second: SING. This will be a place where we can point women to great songs and arrangements already meant for a female to lead in church… female-led songs such as Oceans or Revelation Song. Although mostly ballads, there are some really great songs out there already and I want to provide women with a place to find some of these great songs. And thirdly: TRANSPOSE. This is the section that I am most passionate about, but might be a bit more difficult to understand if you are not a musician. So put your musician hat on for a second. I’m going to give you a bit of a music lesson…

Because there are not a lot of female-led songs out there, female worship leaders have to take male led songs and transpose them to the appropriate key. For example… in the song Mighty to Save by Hillsong, the original range of the song is from E to E , but in order for women to comfortably sing the song, they have to move the range of the song from C to C. Unfortunately, many of the resources associated with those songs are only found in the male range which makes sense because the songs are written for guys. Now when I talk about the resources available, I am talking about a few things: the Recording (or the song itself), the Music Charts (which are not much of an issue because we now have programs that transpose music for us), and the Tracks to the songs (which are basically the instrument and vocal parts of the song).

Now to let you in on a little secret… at the weekend services at CCV, we actually use tracks when leading worship. So say we don’t have a second electric player on the team, we will actually play the second electric part through a program, and our band plays along with that track. Now you know!!! But unfortunately, if that song is originally in a guy key, the tracks are not available in the female key. Sometimes we are able to transpose, or slide the notes up to the new key, but it usually doesn’t have the same quality or professionalism in the sound. For example… This past weekend I led out on the song, Mighty to Save. On Sunday morning, one of our guy worship leaders led the song in the key of A. But for Sunday night, I led out on the song in the key of F#. Instead of creating a new arrangement, we just transposed the tracks (or rather slid the notes to my key). Unfortunately, the piano lead line in the song ended up not sounding as great and didn’t have as much impact, because ultimately that song was not written for that key. So to sum it up, let’s just say this: Women don’t have very many songs to choose from, and they are in need of arrangements that are specific to them in a range that is comfortable to sing.

Another note worth making is that because there are so many male led songs and resources available, it really is easier and less time consuming to choose a male-led song for the set. To put it in perspective, it would take my music director 20+ hours to create a new female arrangement for me. Many times, there is not enough time during the week to do this.

So the solution… I want to provide this resource for churches by going through the top 100 worship songs, finding the male-led songs that would translate appropriately to a female range, and create new female arrangements for the songs. I want these new arrangements to be a resource that women AND MEN can use in their church setting to lead worship. When I was first brainstorming and dreaming through this website, one of the questions I asked myself was… As a female worship leader, what resources do I wish were available? Transposed songs and new arrangements for females was one of the biggest things that came to my mind. And the more I talked to other women in worship, the more I realized they wished for that too. So this section holds the most weight for me, but unfortunately costs the most money to create. To create a new arrangement for one song, it costs appx. $1000. Because essentially, myself and a team of musicians would be creating a new song… and recording new parts. It is a lot of time and a lot of resource required, and you can imagine the cost of just this section alone. It is a big dream, but something I believe will revolutionize the way women are equipped to lead worship.


So to recap… projectWOW, or project women of worship, exists to provide conversation, community, and resource for women in worship, and the avenue with which I am providing these things is through a website.

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In conclusion, think on these things… The worship experience in church should represent God’s kingdom. It should be beautiful and diverse. Unfortunately, women are the minority in leading the worship experience. And we as women in worship need a place where we can grow something that is a vital part of the church. ProjectWOW is that place. It is a tool that will help women to fulfill their calling in life. It is a place that will provide community, conversation, and resource. I am asking that we come together, whether you are a female worship leader or not, and help start something that will give women the proper tools they need to thrive. And ultimately, our worship experience in church will represent true community and God’s kingdom at it’s best.


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35 Hours to $50,000

I a writing this blog with 35 hours left in my fundraising campaign. We are down to the last hours!! But in the midst of all the stress that a fundraising campaign can bring, I had a very lovely wake-up-call this morning. I received an email from a female worship leader who was encouraged by my blog:

Hi! Just wanted to drop a word of encouragement. Stumbled across your blog this morning and immediately connected with your words! I never even knew I could sing until last year, because I was always doing harmonies for the key of A (or another male key). Worship has always been a huge part of my heart (I play piano and have been on a team for years!), but I just started leading worship songs at my church. Our church is currently all male worship leaders (five male leaders across three campuses). I have been encouraged to step up by these leaders and more people, but I don’t think anyone realizes just how different male and females lead – everything from communication with the team to music style to song key. (I especially don’t think that our leaders understand the key difference of male and females!) Anyways, we have a women’s conference coming up, which is making me (freak out!) look into more resources of how I can be a stronger, more effective worship leader – specifically as a female for females! I can’t wait to dive deeper into your blog and YouTube videos. I will be following you on social media and looking forward to all that will come from you! I think your recent goal to empower female worship leaders is BRILLIANT, and I can’t wait to see what is to come from you.

This message reminded me that my effort to encourage and be a resource to women in worship is truly something I feel called to. I feel as if I am right where God wants me to be and the things that I am writing about are actually making a difference in some people’s lives (even when I think I am not making any dent at all).

So I am writing this update to ask for your help. Will you be a part of empowering these women… specifically the ones that keep reaching out for support and encouragement? I have 35 hours left to raise $50,000 and I need all the help I can get!! Would you consider making a donation and/or spreading the word to anyone and everyone possible? I can’t do this without you!!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

FUNDRAISING PAGE

indiegogo

 

ME Benefit

MEbenefitI love being a part of the women’s ministry at my church. There is genuine connection and community. The leadership team not only cares about us as women, but how we can serve as women of the church. This upcoming event is an overflow of the heart of the ministry. Here is some info about it:

ME Benefit: A gathering with a Missions Emphasis

Come join us on Tuesday, July 22nd @ 7pm, as we gather together, just us women, to enjoy yummy desert and become refreshed and inspired through a time of worship, sharing, and connecting. (That’s the ME part)

Then, some of our women who are a part of home-based or personal businesses will have the opportunity to engage us. The idea is that as we gather together, we get a chance to know each other better and find that the goods and services we might want or need, can not only be purchased at this event, but will act to serve others. (That’s the BENEFIT Part)

This is how it works: Vendors will be set up with their items or services, guests may shop these booths, and a portion of the proceeds and all the fees, will go toward the purchase of the land used to minister to the Kawangware community in Africa (Chosen Children of Promise or CCP), where our sponsored child, Violet lives. There will be raffles and a place to donate available as well. This will be a fun, one of a kind event you won’t want to miss and a GREAT place to bring along a friend!

I am excited to be a part of this event in more ways than one. First of all, I get to lead worship! Second, I will be one of the vendors that night! At my booth, I will be selling my CD and a portion of the sales will go towards the purchase of this land for CCP. Also…

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!!! As you know, I am in the midst of trying to raise $50,000 to empower the next-gen of women in worship. I will be showing my video the night of the event and allowing people to donate to this cause at my booth. If I raise the full $50,000, I will be donating $1000 to CCP. I feel so blessed to partner with the women’s ministry at CCV as well as CCP in Kenya.

If you can’t make it to the event, feel free to visit my fundraising page to find out more.

Empowering Women in Worship

I have had the privilege of leading worship at my home church, Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA, for 7 years now. I love my church and my community… and I LOVE what I do. Although different than what I thought I might be doing in life, I feel as if I am right where God has called me. And that is a fun and exciting place to be! But like anything else, a calling comes with its share of obstacles. Although trying at times, it has been an amazing learning experience. I have learned how to rely on God when feeling alone, and I have learned to believe in myself and the calling God has on my life.

As a result of my own journey, my passion has heavily turned to equipping and empowering women, specifically women in worship. I want women all over the world to know they are valued beyond measure, that they have unlimited potential, and that they have a unique gifting and calling within God’s kingdom. And the more I dive into this calling, the more I feel God shaping it. Deep in my heart I feel like this calling is going to turn into something bigger than myself. Have you ever felt like that?

I know this to be my first step: A WORSHIP ALBUM DESIGNED TO EMPOWER THE NEXT GENERATION OF FEMALE WORSHIP LEADERS.

But what comes next? I don’t know. This vision is what I will start with, and who knows what it will turn into. That is why I love serving God and trusting in his sovereign will for my life. Because he always has a plan, and I can’t wait to see where He takes me on the journey of empowering women in worship.

Check out this video for more info on my first step:

TO DONATE CLICK HERE

 

 

#projectWOW

I launched #projectWOW (Women of Worship) this past week, and I have been overwhelmed with the positive response about the vision of the project. It is an album designed to empower the next generation of female worship leaders. And more than that… I want to provide a healthy environment for women in worship in whatever way possible. I have until July 25th to raise the funds needed to accomplish this project. And any way that you can help would be amazing! Here is the link to find out more: #projectWOW

When I first started revealing some of the struggles I was facing as a female worship leader, I was amazed at the messages received from other women in worship.

“…I am a female worship leader, this is my fourth year of leading worship and am only 19. I found your blog post about being a female worship leader really helpful and your music and voice beautiful. I was the only female worship leader at my church in Sydney until just a month ago and have experienced similar things to you that you put in your blog. Just wanted to say thanks for putting yourself out there and being vulnerable, its nice to know there are others out there facing the same things 🙂 and if you have any more wisdom please do share it on your blog or via email. Thanks! God Bless!”

“Oh wow. I am so glad to know that I am not the only one struggling with this– haha! For me, I still hear comments from guys telling me that they find it hard to sing with me during worship, while the rest of the girls would say that they love singing with me. Haha.”

“Can I message you? I’m leading worship temporarily, and I’m a full-time “fill-in” worship leader at my church. I’m just very discouraged and I’m dealing with a lot on my plate right now, worship leader-wise. Thank you for being a voice for us girls!”

The more I write about it… the more response I get. Which is why I feel as if I am right where God has called me to be. #projectWOW is more than just a new album. It is about empowering these women… the ones who feel alone and discouraged… the ones who just want to quit. I want them to know that they are valued beyond measure and that God can use them in such a beautiful way! Check out this video to learn more…

DONATE TO #projectWOW HERE

Be Strong and Courageous

Tomorrow I launch a new project campaign. I am scared and nervous. Yet I am filled with anticipation and joy. This feeling is all too familiar. I remember the last time I launched a fundraising campaign. I felt a loud calling from God to do something beyond what I was capable of doing on my own. So I went. I followed. Amazingly enough, God provided for my every need. How come we so easily forget the provision and faithfulness of God? I have recently been reading through the story of Moses and Joshua. I love Moses’ words to Joshua before he is about the enter the promise land:

Deuteronomy 31:7-8 (NIV) “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Joshua was called to lead the people of Israel into the land the Lord had sworn to his ancestors. What a daunting task! He was about to face many cities in war, and he was going to confront many people who didn’t want the Israelites in their land. Joshua could have easily said, No God. Choose someone else. I am not ready for this task and I don’t have enough faith in your provision. But he didn’t. Instead, he obeyed and followed God. He was strong and courageous as the Lord went before him to claim the promise land.

Just as Joshua was called by God to something greater, once again, I feel a loud calling from God to do something beyond what I am capable of doing on my own. The new vision…

Image

Although I have a long, daunting task in front of me, I am inspired by Moses’ words to Joshua and I picture him saying them directly to me. “Be strong and courageous… the Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.” I love what Christine Caine says in her book, Undaunted, “What is impossible with people is POSSIBLE with God. We just have to believe that God has called us to go into the world in His name, and not listen to the crippling or even paralyzing labels and limitations imposed on us by others. We cannot allow them to DAUNT us. Whom God calls, He qualifies.” God will qualify and provide according to His will. I have no need to be afraid.

So tomorrow… I boldly and courageously step into a new journey of God’s calling. And I will continuously remind myself of God’s faithfulness and provision. My prayer for this project is spoken so eloquently through this passage of scripture:

1 Peter 4:11 (NIV) “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 

#projectWOW

The Lost Art of the Love Letter

loveletterRemember when people used to write letters and send them through mail? More importantly, what happened to the lost art of writing LOVE letters? There are so many beautiful love letters that expressed exactly how people felt in the most memorable of ways. I adore the writing of these famous love letter excerpts…

“I drank no coffee since I left you, nor intend to till I see you again. There is none worth drinking but yours, if myself may be the judge.” Johnathan Swift, 1721

“I have always thought you the cleverest, most agreeable, absurd, amiable, perplexing, dangerous, fascinating little being that lives now or ought to have lived 2,000 years ago.” Byron, 1812

“Life isn’t half long enough to love all the different things about you in. I shall die in the middle of a little laugh at some new funny thing that I adore you for.” Katherine Mansfield, 1915

“Don’t expect me to be sane any more. Don’t let’s be sensible… I came away with pieces of you sticking to me.” Henry Miller, 1932

Why did we ever stop writing like this, or feeling and thinking in such poetry? The words are so beautiful and heartfelt. Today, we tend to think abbreviated. We might send a “:-)” over text or a “143” over email. These can be meaningful, but what would happen if we sat down to write a handwritten thank-you letter or left a sweet note on a post-it for our loved one? Dare I say we would appreciate the words that much more?

I decided to try a love letter myself, and I decided to write it to the one who means the most to me: God. Sorry that it is not hand-written (this is a blog), but I believe that it still makes my point, and allowed me to express my love in a more creative, heartfelt way.

Dear God, 

You are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands upon thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. You are a jealous God, and for that I am grateful… that you would care for my attention. You chose to give your life for me. You bled and suffered so that I might be free. Your sacrifice brings me life. 

I long to sit in your presence forever and a day. I long to bask in the beauty of your glory. I long to see your face. But if not your face, your shadow will do. Because seeing any part of you is worth it all. I will wait for you like the moon waits for the sunlight. Shine on me and let your reflection be a testament to my lasting devotion. All my love is for you and I am yours… all of my heart, mind, and soul.

Yours truly, 
Ashley Beckford

There is too much love in this world to have it go unexpressed. Try writing a love letter to someone special in your life… a significant other, a best friend, a family member, etc. Let’s bring back the lost art of beautiful and meaningful writing. And let’s show love to those who matter most.

Fear of Alone

Last week, I conquered my fear of going out alone. I know this probably sounds weird to some of you, but I hate being alone, specifically alone in public. I think I am such a people person that I don’t like to keep conversation in my own head. But last Friday, I was forced to.

bike

I went to the beach alone…
Rented a bike alone…
Rode my bike several miles alone…
Locked up my bike and shopped downtown Huntington alone…
Got tacos and ate on the beach alone…
Was stalked by a seagull alone…
Read my bible and wrote in my journal alone…
And drove home alone.

Yeah, this sounds a little depressing right? To me yes. But to some of you, this is like a dream. Unfortunately, this day was very difficult for me. I hate it when I am forced to have conversation with myself. I would rather talk it out with a human being. But I realized that this day of alone time was the best thing that I could have done. Although some moments were awkward and weird, I was forced to work through my feelings and emotions by myself. I was lost in my own thoughts and my own arguments. I was trapped into finding solutions on my own. I was with me, myself, and I.

Surprisingly, I found more peace than I thought I would. I was able to spend time with God, the creator of the universe. Especially when I am so often surrounded by noise, this was very refreshing. God seemed so much closer and so much more accessible. God really does move and speak in the silence. Ultimately, by the end of the day, I felt not so alone. I felt as if my conversations now had a counterpart, and my questions now had answers. Life was much clearer and my fear was much smaller.

I still love people, and I still prefer noise. I guess that is just my personality. But I now know that I need to make more time for silence in my life. Alone is good. Alone is needed. Alone helps me to see things much clearer.

Flying Through Open Air

When I was in Jr. High, my school had an amazing ropes course. It was really high in the air and was very challenging. Coming from a person who is terrified of heights, I was not too excited to do this in P.E. class. But unfortunately, I am also very competitive and love a good challenge so despite my fears, I did it anyways. I started with some of the easier things like the wall climb and the zip line. Check. But when I got to the harder ones, especially the trapeze jump, I second guessed my yearning to do it. 

In order to tackle the trapeze, you climb up a 40 foot wooden pole like a ladder, but instead of steps, you are placing your foot on small metal U’s coming out of the pole. Not the most stable of ladders. Of course you are strapped into a safety harness that will catch you if you fall, but you are not thinking about that as you get higher and higher… further and further away from the safety of the solid ground. The higher I climbed, the louder my breath became. The higher I climbed, the further I was from comfortable. But being in Jr. High where peer pressure is a part of every day life, I forced myself to take one more step… and one more step. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, I reached the top. I was relieved until I realized that what I had to do next was even scarier than the climb. 

Trapeze

I had to pull myself up onto the top of the pole and balance without holding onto anything! What?! For someone who was deathly afraid of heights, this was the most frightening thing yet. So, very carefully and with all the confidence I could muster, I climbed up onto the top of the pole. 

I was frozen.

Ahead of me was an even more daunting task than before (I didn’t think that was possible after what I had just gone through). Ahead of me was a handle that I had to jump to… and remember this is 40 feet above the ground!! They wanted me to leap from a tiny pole to a handle. It looked so far away. 

Now what I want to talk about next is the jump. And not the grab of the handle (which I did successfully!), but the time in between the jump and the grab. The time where you are flying through space with nothing to hold onto. The time when you are virtually leaving one platform and looking towards the next. It is scary. It is uncomfortable. But it is necessary. In order to get to the next step, you must take the leap and endure the place of no foothold. 

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To be honest and transparent, my worship department is in such a place right now. My boss resigned and his last day was Christmas Eve. It was not a bad exit. God is calling him to other things and I wish him the very best! However, my department is in transition. We have taken the leap off of the log and are now flying through the air waiting to reach the handle. We don’t know what is next or what God has in store for our department. 

To be more transparent, I have faced several challenges during this transition time. My first challenge is trying not to look back to the platform I just jumped from. I am tempted to go back to the familiar, but God doesn’t want that for me. His plan is best and he knows the exact color and shape of the next handle. My prayer in this season has been to not only be content in the open air, but also to look forward to the handle. God knows the exact color and shape that we need in the next season… the color is going to be stunning and the shape is going to be exactly the shape needed to grab onto. 

My second challenge has been the temptation to freak out! When you are flying through the air of transition with nothing to hold onto, it is easy to get scared and uneasy. So my most recent prayer has been that of trust. Trusting in God despite the circumstances and surroundings. Trusting in God can be hard, but it is the best thing to do in a season of transition. I have found security in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” God knows the plans He has for me, and all I need to do is trust in his plans. No need to freak out! 🙂 

Prayers are appreciated while myself and my department fly through space, trusting in God and his plans for the next season of ministry. In the meantime, I enjoy the open air! It is a rather nice breeze.