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10 Ways to Define Success as a Worship Leader

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A couple weeks ago I poised the question, “What do successful worship leaders do?” How do we define it?

If it doesn’t necessarily involve big tours and best selling records, what does it involve?

Here’s some ways I define success:

  • A congregation that engages in the worship experience
  • Musicians that improve musically
  • Musicians that grow closer to Christ
  • A team that grows numerically
  • Other worship leaders are being raised up
  • Music serves people rather than distracts
  • A team that worships and has a passion for God’s glory
  • A discipleship plan is in place
  • A team that follows and respects your leadership

Notice that all these items don’t just involve you. Effective worship leaders don’t just look internal, they pour themselves out for others. That’s the nature of leadership and the nature of a successful worship leader.

Notice there were only 9 ways listed. The last one is for you to add. What defines success for you as a worship leader?



January 7, 2011 Posted by | Worship Leaders | 1 Comment

Nobody is Talented

This book and this book ruined me for blaming extraordinary performance on talent.

It’s true that if you’re 4′ 5″ you won’t beat Lebron James in one on one. Your physical DNA is a good starting place for certain career paths.

But it’s not everything.

Those who are extraordinary:

  • work extremely hard
  • show up when they don’t feel like it
  • seek out mentors
  • invest hours upon hours of time improving
  • increase their knowledge
  • practice well
  • fail a lot
  • refuse to give up
  • invest financially in getting better
  • contribute more than consume
  • wake up early
  • think differently about failure
  • consume a lot
  • manage their time well
  • don’t watch much TV
  • think differently about success
  • see their work as more than work
  • would do what they do for free
  • admit when they’re wrong and where they’re weak
  • learn things wherever they are and whomever they’re with
  • have a driving passion

Don’t blame your inability to succeed on ‘not having enough talent’.

What do you think? Are people talented or do they just work hard and have unique experiences that make them better?

January 6, 2011 Posted by | Practice | Leave a comment

Are You Maximizing Your Weakness?

I was midway through the song and gasping for air. This key was way too high for me. Especially at 9:15 on a Sunday morning. Approaching the “payoff” moment of the song (the highest part), I said a quick prayer and went for it. Crack. Croak. Embarrassment. Failure.


Isn’t it funny how when we succeed we think of ourselves higher than we actually are and when we fail we think we should quit? Worship leaders, let’s face it, our self-esteem is tied to how we perform. The skillful boatload of worship leaders creating records and writing songs and touring the world doesn’t help us either. We feel that success is tied to those items, as I mentioned in this post.

You have weaknesses. You know what they are. And believe it or not, those who serve with you know what they are whether you talk about them or not.

What weaknesses?

  • a weak(er) voice
  • lack of music theory knowledge
  • lack of instrument knowledge
  • inexperience leading worship
  • stuttering
  • bad public speaking
  • etc, etc, etc

Instead of hiding from your weakness and pretending it doesn’t exist, face it. Surround yourself with people who are better in that area and allow them to serve. Great leaders are not great leaders because they don’t have weaknesses. They are great leaders because they empower those around them to shine where they themselves lack.

It’s time you maximize your weakness and be vulnerable with your team. Allow others to shine. Lead out of humility and you will foster an incredible team.


January 5, 2011 Posted by | Leadership | 7 Comments

Why You Should Get A Kindle Too

For Christmas this year I got a Kindle. As an avid reader, I knew I wanted to transition to an e-reader sooner than later. I get a lot of questions as to why I didn’t just get an iPad. Well, after much thought, research, and reading Michael Hyatt’s insightful posts, I decided on the Kindle.

Before you iPad users start hurling electronic, flaming darts at my Kindle, read on.

Here’s why I like it and why you should get one too:


Whereas the iPad is a multitasking device, the Kindle is simply an e-reader. I think this limitation is one of its strengths. For me to focus on reading great books and getting the most out of it, I don’t want to be distracted by Twitter, Facebook, email, blogs, notifications, etc. I think people read less these days because of those very distractions (which can be great in moderation, btw). As I’ve read the Kindle the last couple weeks, I’ve forgotten about the device and get immersed in the book. Score.


Most Kindle books cost between 7-10 bucks. You can’t buy books at Borders for that price any day. There are also over 775,000 books to choose from, which is the largest selection of any ebook market. I’ve tried to find books in Apple’s iBook store, and they’re just not there most of the time.


While the books are cheaper, it’s also easier to spend money on them. I have the 3G + wifi version so I can download any book anywhere in less than a minute. Painless spending. Keep it under control, and this is a great thing 🙂


To be honest, the Kindle is just fun to hold. It’s super thin, light, and easy on the eyes. I’ve heard people say that they get a headache after staring at an iPad for too long. Not sure if that’s true, but the Kindle really looks more like paper, which is great on the eyes.


Let’s face it. For the most part, you only read a book once. They usually just sit on a shelf for the rest of your life and just take up a lot of space. I like things to be minimal and organized, so the Kindle is great. I can hold up to 3,500 books on it. Did you hear that? 3,500. That’s more than I think I’ll ever read in my entire life. Here’s to a clean, clutter free home and lots of books. Score.


This is such a great feature. Start reading a book on your Kindle, head over to your laptop and pick up where you left off with the Kindle app, then leave the house with your iPhone/iPad and continue reading. Each device syncs wirelessly. I love the fact that I have can have ALL MY BOOKS with me at ALL TIMES. Wonderful.


January 4, 2011 Posted by | Reviews | Leave a comment

Worship Team Workshop Ideas

One of the best things I think we’ve ever done with our worship team is to provide monthly workshops. Since we work with volunteers, mainly who are in high school or college, it’s a great way to unify our team, grow our team numerically, impart to the next generation, and improve our musicianship.

As worship leaders, I believe God entrusts us with musicians and singers. It’s our responsibility to steward them well. I don’t want my team to simply feel ‘used’. I want them to have fun, catch a passion for worship, grow closer to Jesus, improve their musicality, and ultimately be released to serve God in other parts of the world. I hope that is your desire too.

Workshops are a discipleship tool we just started in the Fall of 2010, once a month. If you are a worship leader, I wholeheartedly recommend you do some sort of training with your team throughout the year. You don’t have to do it just like we do, but do something. You may not feel you are even qualified to teach on some of these topics, but I bet someone on your team is. If not, teach what you know. You don’t have to cover the entire encyclopedia of musical and worship expertise right now. Give what you got today. Don’t wait for ‘that time’ to come.

For the remainder of this post I wanted to outline some of the workshops we did in 2010 and some of the key topics we covered. We try to keep our workshops one hour in length, highly interactive, and include lunch (trust me, it helps). Based on mine (and Kate’s) experience, we wrote our own curriculum. Feel free to use this stuff. We didn’t invent it 🙂


  • Check out this post. No need to repeat myself here.


  • Bring in a guest worship leader and interview them in front of the team. We invited worship leaders from other local churches, youth group worship leaders, and young aspiring worship leaders.
  • Do a visionary teaching on “Why We Lead Worship” or something practical like, “Practical Helps for Worship Leaders”.
  • Leave time for Q & A
  • Attend a local conference or worship night together


  • Listen to a song and have each team member diagram what is happening using this sheet. (This sheet is from Paul Baloche. Btw, check out his instructional DVDs, which would be another great idea for a workshop. Just watch it and then apply it).
  • Teach on ‘groove’, ‘playing in the pocket’, ‘listening to other musicians’, ‘less is more’.
  • Rotate different musicians in and out, have one of them start a groove, and the others match it. Have the room comment on how they did. Stop and applaud the good you see and kindly point out what went wrong.
  • Pick a couple songs, provide sheet music, and rotate musicians in and out quickly to give ‘the groove’ a try.


  • Teach on the role of a background singer (matching the tone of the lead, being aware, less is more)
  • Pick a song and demonstrate some options. Have others sing.
  • Utilize a band and do a humorous demonstration of “what NOT to do”.
  • Communicate your personal vision for worship team vocals. Sometimes a simple vision is all it takes to get everyone ‘on board’.

WORSHIP LEADERS: Have you done any workshops before? What are some things you’ve tried?


January 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best of the Blog 2010

Can’t believe today marks the end of 2010. While I should be relaxing, reading, sleeping, or hanging out with my wife, here I am blogging. I’m obsessed 🙂 Well, I wanted to leave you this year with YOUR FAVORITE POSTS from 2010. These were the posts with the highest traffic this year.

Enjoy. And Happy New Year!



In a previous post I talked about questions worship leaders should be asking. Here are some questions if you’re part of a worship team: Am I listening to the other musicians or lost in my own world? Is my heart right with God? Do I hold my ideas loosely and submit to the worship leader?

Read the full post here.


Yesterday at the Ignite conference I taught a breakout session on 7 healthy disciplines of a good worship leader. I hope these are helpful to you. 1. Lead out of your story

  • Are you leading out of a ‘NOW’ faith or yesterday’s encounter?
  • What has God brought you through?
  • What is God currently doing in you?

Read the full post here.


Last night at APEX we tackled the controversial issue of dating. Quite fun. I shared a number of principles that I offer for your viewing pleasure. Much of this is from the teaching of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church. Enjoy: Christian Dating Principles for Both Men & Women

  • Maximize your singleness for God.
  • The most important thing about the person you are dating is their relationship with God. How are you helping that?
  • Don’t pursue a relationship until you are ready to marry
  • Be reasonable – don’t set your expectations too high or too low

Read the full post here.



I’m of the belief that the best way for you to become better at what you do is to seize it. Don’t wait for a mentor to approach you, seek out your mentors. As a worship songwriter, I always observe other writing styles – what melody works, what doesn’t, what lyrics are unique, which aren’t, etc. In this post I just wanted to outline a few worship music songwriters that I admire and what I’ve learned from them. My desire is that you use the same curiosity with the music you like and apply what you learn from them. And also, study these guys. They’re the best.

Read the full post here.


I always wonder who comes up with this stuff. The best worship songs ever? Who decides? Is this God’s top 50? In all seriousness, what is your current favorite worship song?

Read the full post here.


*Mia Fields is a songwriter from Hillsong Church in Australia. Hillsong wasn’t just given great songwriters… they are people living in community, challenging one another. Songs come out of righteous living, but also out of grace. Why songs?

Read the full post here


A great worship set does not just consist in the type of songs you choose, though that is crucial. A great worship set must also have space for the Holy Spirit to do what He wants to do. I understand that some reading this post may come from an evangelical tradition that is more liturgical in form and not so contemporary. I hope we can all benefit from these tips:

Read the full post here.


I don’t know about you, but I started out with a pretty glamorous view of music. The stage, the lights, the ripping guitar solos; that’s what I saw. What I didn’t often hear was the amount of work it took to get to that point. I was always attracted to the finished product but never wanted to think about the time spent alone home practicing. Well, now we recognize that if we want to be great, it’s going to take some practice. Here are a few points that have helped me greatly in my journey to be deliberate about my practice time. Hopefully they’ll help you in yours.

Read the full post here.


Besides the ever so subtle shouting of “crap” instead of “clap” from the stage (who has ever done this?) :)there are some common things that worship leaders do that I’d advise against (and I think your senior pastor would appreciate it too).

Read the full post here.


December 31, 2010 Posted by | Weekly Wrap-up | Leave a comment

The Top 10 Worship Songs I Led This Year

I thought it would be helpful to list my favorite songs from this past year. All of these are great and come highly recommended. There were a handful of other songs we did but these stand out in my mind (in no particular order).

1. Our God

2. Forever Reign

3. Christ is Risen

4. Healer

5. Holding Nothing Back

6. How He Loves

7. With Everything

8. No One Higher/The Stand

9. Yahweh

10. Glory to God Forever

What favorite songs did you do in 2010?

December 30, 2010 Posted by | Music, Worship | Leave a comment

Lessons Learned From 4 Great Songwriters

I’m of the belief that the best way for you to become better at what you do is to seize it. Don’t wait for a mentor to approach you, seek out your mentors. As a worship songwriter, I always observe other writing styles – what melody works, what doesn’t, what lyrics are unique, which aren’t, etc.

In this post I just wanted to outline a few worship music songwriters that I admire and what I’ve learned from them. My desire is that you use the same curiosity with the music you like and apply what you learn from them. And also, study these guys. They’re the best.


I appreciate Matt for his masterful lyricism and unique melodies. Matt can take complex theological terms and use few words to express it. His writing is deep, yet accessible. All of his albums are great, but for starters, I’d recommend his live album “Facedown” and even his most recent “We Shall Not Be Shaken” .

Lesson learned: immerse yourself in God’s Word and express its truth using as few words as possible.


I think the strength of Paul’s writing is in its accessibility. His songs are immediately singable to anyone and build masterfully in emotional strength. His songs are about one thing, easy to follow, make sense, and connect with what you want to say to God. My favorite album from Paul is “A Greater Song”.

Lesson learned: think about the comman man/woman in your songwriting. Will this make sense to them, do they want to sing this, and is it singable for the average vocal range?


Reuben Morgan writes the best melodies of anyone I listen to. If you’re not familiar with Reuben, think Hillsong. He’s written incredible songs like Mighty to Save, My Redeemer Lives, Eagles Wings, and Stronger. People love his songs because they just make sense, they are also immediately engaging, and musically innovative. He writes very simple, anthemic melodies around big truths.  I love his solo project “Everyone”, which sadly is out of print.

Lesson learned: write melodies that ‘soar’. Don’t settle on the first melody that comes to you. Tweak it until it is singable, cool, unique, and emotional.


Brian thinks deep and expresses poetically. A lot of Brian’s songs introduced me to theological concepts that weren’t ‘on my radar’ but should be. Many young songwriters simply rehash the same phrases over and over. You can tell Brian seeks God and lives his songs as he writes them. Can’t say I have a favorite album here, but check out this live record to start.

Lesson learned: Write out of your life. What is God speaking to you and your church? Think deeply about it and find fresh ways to express it.


December 29, 2010 Posted by | Songwriting | 8 Comments

How Worship Leaders Can Prepare for a New Year

A few days ago my friend Brad Leach wrote an insightful post called “5 Things I’m Doing to Attack the New Year”. Practical, helpful, and wise. It got me thinking about what worship leaders can do to prepare well for a new year.

I have a heart for worship leaders to do more than just lead worship. I’m not talking about being busier for the sake of busyness. Don’t just fill up your schedule with tasks to keep you occupied. Do the right things. Do the things that make the biggest difference. And do them well.

As worship leaders, we are often preoccupied with music and scheduling. We have to pick a killer setlist out each weekend, we need to schedule the band, we need to prepare for Easter, we have that week of special services coming up. Great.

But what else?

What is your strategy for discipleship? What apprentice worship leaders are you raising up? What are you going to do in 2011 that will have some major impact?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to reflect on 2011 and simply say, “well, we played some cool songs. We had a killer Easter production. We used loops, got tighter jeans, and sound better than ever.”

Let’s go deeper.

The start of a new year is a perfect time to figure that out and prepare yourself for what’s ahead. So here’s a list of things you can do to attack your new year with fresh vision.


I love fasting at the beginning of the new year. Well, I don’t always love it when it’s happening because I love food, but the spiritual focus it offers is amazing. When I fast, I’m realigning my heart with the first commandment – to make sure I’m loving God above all else. And also to wean myself off of distractions to that goal. As a worship leader, is so important to keep your heart alive in God as you lead people to encounter him. Btw, I always get focused with this hilarious video on fasting.


This may seem like ‘duh’, but a lot of times we just mirror what everyone else is doing. What is your church and culture all about? What are the things you want to see happen? What are the big events that will make a huge difference this year? Write more songs as a worship team? Go on a missions trip together? Do a recording? Start a new campus with your apprentice worship leader? Seek God. Write it down.


After you’ve written down your ‘main things’ – the things you want to see happen in your worship team, meet with your senior pastor. It’s important that your vision supports his. They should be the same. He needs to agree on what your doing. Even if he doesn’t agree everything on your list is necessary, he’ll appreciate that you’ve prayed it through and planned it out. He may even suggest some things to work on.


Part of what makes certain worship leaders great is their depth in God. They’ve walked through trials. They devour Scripture. They read great books. It’s easy to coast through a year without read much of the Bible, if any at all. Don’t let that happen to you. Make one of your goals to grow a deeper passion for the Word of God. The Word of God is the fuel for your ministry. Everything else will let you down. For a suggestion, I always read THIS.

There are other things I could add, like pursuing a tighter sound and deeper creativity, but that is really secondary to these four things. It will really help you to zoom out and think about your year before you start living it.

Are there other things you would add to the list?

December 28, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized, Worship Leaders | 1 Comment

15 Ways to Spend Your New iTunes Gift Card

I know all you Apple fanatics out there got one or twenty iTunes gift cards from Santa and are sitting at your Macbook or iPad right now wondering, “What should I get?” I don’t know about you, but I want to make my iTunes cards count. I don’t take it lightly 🙂

So here’s what I’d recommend from some music I’ve enjoyed in 2010.

  1. Hammock: Chasing After Shadows, Living with the Ghosts
  2. Hammock: The Longest Year EP
  3. All the Bright Lights
  4. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
  5. Broken Bells
  6. Casey Darnell: EP
  7. Elevation Worship: Kingdom Come
  8. Future of Forestry: Advent Christmas EP, Vol. 2
  9. Jesus Culture: Come Away
  10. Jonsi: Go
  11. Michael Olson: Sacred Invitation
  12. The National: High Violet
  13. One Sonic Society: Sonic EP
  14. Robbie Seay Band: Miracle
  15. Vampire Weekend: Contra

How would you recommend I spend my iTunes gift card (if I had one)?

December 27, 2010 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

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