david santistevan


Spontaneity vs Preparation

Last night at our weekly worship nite we had a special guest worship leader Aaron Schweinberg with us. Aaron was the worship pastor at APC a number of years ago before I was here. I actually used to play drums for Aaron back in the day. Let me just say it was an incredible evening. The presence of God was so strong as God’s people declared truth and lifted up the name of Jesus. Powerful.

As I was worshiping last night, I was observing how Aaron led worship. The entire night was pretty spontaneous, except for maybe a few opening songs. Aaron is a master of flow. He has an incredible amount of music memorized, a diverse repertoire of song styles, and has really learned how to flow with what the Holy Spirit is doing in the moment. He also has one of the best voices I have ever heard in my life, which makes each song he does even more intense and powerful. It was awesome and I just soaked it up.

This brings up a question in my mind.

How do we balance spontaneity and preparation? Are we supposed to have just one or the other? Allow me to outline the pros of both approaches:


  • A healthy dose of spontaneous worship is an important reminder that worship is not just about executing hit songs. Each worship service is unique. The Holy Spirit wants to breathe upon each of our gatherings in a fresh way.
  • It’s difficult to just ‘go through the motions’ if worship is spontaneous. In a love relationship, it’s the spontaneous times that can create the best memories.
  • Spontaneous worship will push your musicians to become better at ‘flowing’. I think less experienced musicians are too ‘into the chart’ that they don’t look up or really focus on what God is doing. Teach them how.
  • When you as a leader are led by the Holy Spirit and begin to flow into a string of songs that have a particular theme, momentum is created. Aaron did a great job connecting one song to another that was similar in theme.


  • When you prepare your worship team and a culture of excellence and discipline is created, the music enhances rather than distracts. Sometimes when everything is totally spontaneous, each member of the band does whatever they want and it can create confusion, unless your playing with pros.
  • Preparation leads to more effective spontaneity. The more disciplined your team is, the better they will flow when the moment comes.
  • Preparing arrangements is a great way to teach your musicians the dynamics of playing in a band. Less is more. Each instrument has their part which contributes to the whole. Sometimes that contribution should be to not play. I have seen firsthand how this discipline has helped raise up some great young musicians in our church.
  • Preparation helps you as the leader focus on what really matters in a worship service – ministering to the Lord and leading your congregation to do the same. Executing arrangements and leading the band MUST come secondary to those goals.

Bottom line: strive for both. Dive into the tension and raise up a worship team that plays great music but also knows how to flow as the Holy Spirit leads.


July 8, 2010 - Posted by | Worship, Worship Leaders


  1. Was ” we will ride” spontanious?

    Comment by @iambendavis | July 8, 2010 | Reply

    • It was requested by Jeff. Aaron said in the mic, “Did Ben Davis request this?” Awesome.

      Comment by santahara | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  2. Great post!

    Comment by Mark | July 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks Mark! How are things going in the great Minneapolis? Miss you, man.

      Comment by santahara | July 8, 2010 | Reply

  3. amen. good stuff, yet again.

    Comment by Kate Griffin | July 15, 2010 | Reply

  4. I tried to live spontaneous lifestyle that Americans seem to embrace so much and failed miserably at it. I choose disciplined lifestyle over spontaneity because it works much better for me and takes a lot of stress out of my life.

    Comment by Walter | November 4, 2010 | Reply

  5. […] I prepare to lead worship for a retreat this weekend, I don’t just want to do it professionally. I want to approach my […]

    Pingback by The Pitfalls of “Professional” Worship Leaders « david santistevan | November 5, 2010 | Reply

  6. […] of submitting to what a song really needs. Since I’ve already addressed the need for both preparation and spontaneity, I want to focus on one very important aspect of preparation; and that is the arranged […]

    Pingback by 10 Tips For Great Arranging « david santistevan | November 16, 2010 | Reply

  7. […] of submitting to what a song really needs. Since I’ve already addressed the need for both preparation and spontaneity, I want to focus on one very important aspect of preparation; and that is the arranged […]

    Pingback by The Weekly Wrap-Up « david santistevan | November 21, 2010 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: