david santistevan


Merry Christmas Giveaway!

First of all, Merry Christmas to you! Second, thanks for being such a faithful reader of this blog. If it wasn’t for you, this wouldn’t happen and we wouldn’t be able to share valuable information and encourage each other in such a unique way. Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to 2011.

Now for the main event. I’m not sure who took this picture. I don’t know who these crazy people are. Especially the dude revealing his belly button for all to see on Christmas.

I have a prize for the person who writes the best caption for this picture. Leave it in the comments section. I will pick the one I like the most. Let’s spread a little Christmas hilariousness.

On your mark. Get set. Go.


December 25, 2010 Posted by | Random | 1 Comment

What Makes a Worship Leader Successful?

There is what the ‘worship industry’ would tell us:

Write your own songs. Put out records. Go on big tours. Sell out big venues. Write a book. Repeat.

Those are good things, but it’s possible to have all that with a barren heart and fruitless ministry. And many will never get to do THAT.

So, what does a successful worship leader do? How does a worship leader leave a legacy? In your ministry as a local church worship leader, what are you working towards?

I don’t have an answer…just yet. I’m waiting on YOU. Leave a comment and let us know.


December 23, 2010 Posted by | Worship Leaders | 2 Comments

What’s Your Favorite Musician Joke?

Bass players are just guitarists who never applied themselves.

Did you hear about the guitarist who was in tune? Me neither…

What’s the difference between a musician and a large pizza? A large pizza can feed a family of four.

How many guitarists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 13. One to do it and 12 to stand around and say, “Phhhwt! I can do that!”

Drummer: someone who hangs out with musicians.

What do a vacuum cleaner and an electric guitar have in common? Both suck when you plug them in.

What do you do when a musician comes to your door? You give him the money and take the pizza.

Why can’t many vocalists get through the door? They either can’t find the key or don’t know when to come in.

Why are so many musician jokes one liners? So the band can understand them.

YOUR TURN: What your favorite musician joke?


December 22, 2010 Posted by | Quotes, Random | Leave a comment

Creating Unity on Your Worship Team

How many stories could we tell of rehearsals gone ridiculous? Services gone sour? Worship teams with too much tension? Think about it: many musicians of different ages, different styles, different expectations, different preferences, different spiritual expectancy, different everything? Sounds like a nightmare, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t have to be. How do we create a unified culture in our worship teams?

There isn’t much that could be more important. Unity is essential for victory. Imagine any professional sports team winning the championship while breathing down each other’s necks in anger and resentment. Not gonna happen.

So if unity is so important, how do we cultivate it? What can you do today to make a difference? Glad you asked.

I don’t think there’s one canned answer but here are some quick ideas that may inspire you:

  • Talk about your vision. All the time. People are drawn to visionaries.
  • State expectations up front to potential new members.
  • Have fun together. Laugh.
  • Pray together before, during, and after rehearsals.
  • Confront disrespect (in private) the DAY it happens.
  • Validate everyone’s opinions and thoughts.
  • When you see something good, praise it.
  • Meet periodically outside of church to hang out.
  • Study the Bible together.
  • Earn your team’s respect. Don’t just demand it.
  • Show up prepared for rehearsals and services.
  • Be an encourager.
  • Bring together the old and the young to talk about gear together.
  • Ask for your team’s opinion.
  • Come together, sit in a circle, and have people share what they appreciate about each person.
  • Sometimes you have to let people go who will not submit. Bless them and release them. That is OK.
  • Constantly improve what you do. Team members appreciate that kind of leader.
  • Raise money TOGETHER. Do an outreach TOGETHER. Do something meaningful TOGETHER.

Worship Leaders, I know there’s more. How do you unify your team?

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Worship Leaders | Leave a comment

3 Effective Leaders. 3 Essential Lessons.

We all have experienced it from time to time. We go to do ministry and feel nothing. It’s as if the logistical side of ministry has stolen our passion for what we once loved to do. You remember when you were called to this but now it just feels like a duty and you long for the times you can just be at home and not rush around so much.

Maintaining perspective in ministry is essential. This is part of what makes a leader a great one. When the tribe is feeling overwhelmed and distracted, a leader steps in with the necessary perspective that lifts spirits.

How do you get to that place? I’m assuming YOU want to be THAT kind of leader. I have had the privilege (and still do) of working with some of the best leaders on the planet. Every meeting with them was and is an opportunity for learning. They carry that perspective I mentioned earlier.

Here are a couple of those people and what I’ve learned:


I learned a lot about prayer from Matt Brown. I was fortunate to meet Matt as a young freshman at NCU and was immediately struck by his passionate leadership. Matt led a lot of outreaches and continues to do so but nothing was ever attempted without prayer. I’m talking intense, exhausting prayer. He stayed close to the heart of the Father and listened. If it is your responsibility to lead people spiritually, you can’t afford NOT to pray. It’s easy to put prayer on the shelf with all the other demands that come. But great leaders know they MUST pray.


What struck me about working with Dave Pedde in college was his wisdom. Wisdom that would pretty much leave your pride speechless. I regret not writing down or recording EVERY CONVERSATION we ever had. This wisdom came through his vulnerability with God. He wasn’t perfect and he wasn’t afraid to share that with those he mentored. He learned to recognize his imperfection, find his source in Christ, and communicate truth others. Great leaders know their weakness, press into God’s strength, and are open with those they lead.


Great leaders have laser focus on what they’re called to do. In order to focus, there’s many great things they simply cannot do because they have a vision from God. They have a mandate to carry out. They don’t try to be balanced and please the masses.  When you’re around Jeff Leake for any length of time, you know his mandates: loving the ONE who is disconnected from Christ, church planting, serving the poor, reaching the unreached. He communicates this all the time. A staff meeting doesn’t go by where you don’t feel the vision. That’s what great leaders do. Zero in on what God has called you to and don’t swerve trying to please everyone in the process.

Who are some great leaders you have served with? What did they teach you?

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Leadership | 1 Comment

How To Audition Worship Team Members (without losing your mind)

I know you’ve been there. You’re the worship pastor, the worship leader, the music minister, the architect of spiritual atmospherics, and you have some people on your team that can’t cut it. Their attitudes drain the life out of rehearsals, their musicality is poor, they show up unprepared, late, and with a Big Mac, super-sized extra value meal that they proceed to eat during rehearsal. And they just don’t seem to take instruction or work with a team very well.

How did you get here?

I think we’ve all been in this place where we either inherited a worship team mess or we created one ourselves. I’d like to help you with some tips on how to go about auditioning worship team members in a way that will help you, not paralyze you.


It is better for your worship team to consist of you and an acoustic guitar than with a harmonica enthusiast, drunk percussionist, horn section, rain stick amateur, 7 year old drummer, pot-smoking dulcimer player, and someone who likes to sing. OK, that was a bit ridiculous. But it’s better to have a smaller team that is tight than a massive team that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Build your team slowly over time. You don’t need 40 acoustic guitar players like Hillsong. Start small. Create quality environments with less.


Now, I know many churches hold auditions. My philosophy here is that it’s difficult to say no to that many people. Rather, engage with your congregation. If you encounter musicians, invite them to hang out at your rehearsals a couple times. Don’t say, “Hey bro come join our worship team. Wanna play next Sunday?” Keep it casual until you know for sure this person is a good fit.


If you assess someone who wants to be on the worship team, be up front immediately about what you’re going to do. Don’t beat around the bush and say you’ll get back to them. You won’t. It’s confrontation we all like to procrastinate on. Just tell them. Trust me, they’ll appreciate your honesty up front. Suggest ways they can improve. Tell them you’ll listen to them again after a few months of hard work. It’s not that you enjoy turning people away, it’s that you want a skillful team that knows how to minister worship music. You need a certain degree of musical skill.


People are very self-conscious and emotionally attached to their musical skills. You will quite possibly offend some people when you turn them away. Maybe they were the “main drummer” at their last church and feel they should fulfill the same role on your team. Don’t just turn them away but suggest other areas in the church where they could serve. We always suggest the choir for those who want to be on the worship team but don’t have the skills to be that front-and-center.


You need people who are fun. You need people who have a heart for God and for music. You need people who are humble and can take instruction without ‘knowing it all’. Learn how to see that. I’ve worked with musicians who were a little weak  but because they had personality, heart, and humility, I was able to train them to be better. If someone already knows it all, you probably want to suggest another area of ministry 🙂

WORSHIP LEADERS, What did I miss? What are ‘auditioning practices’ you have tried?

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Worship Leaders | 4 Comments

5 Ways You Can Improve Your Leadership

The subtitle of my blog is “Worship. Leadership”. The reason for this is because worship leading is so much more than just singing songs, maneuvering through a worship set, holding band rehearsals, and listening to music all day. Being a worship leader involves leadership. It requires spiritual leadership.

I mean, noboday wants to follow a worship leader who doesn’t worship, right? Nobody wants to follow a worship leader who doesn’t love Jesus, right?

In this post I would like to outline 5 ways to improve your leadership as a worship leader. Or any leader, for that matter. These are things you can start doing now. I have a huge heart for you and believe God wants to use you in incredible ways.


Part of what we do as worship leaders is plan. We plan a weekly setlist. We plan Easter productions and Christmas productions and scheduling and a host of other things. When you beging to immerse your planning in prayer, it shows in your leadership. It’s not just about getting things done. It’s about the presence of God, discipleship, vision, passion, expectancy. These are the things you want to impart to your team and congregation and it comes through prayer.


If you don’t plan it, it’s not going to happen. This is so important. Make your discipleship intentional. I’ve already written a previous post on How to Disciple Your Worship Team, so I won’t repeat myself here. I find it healthy to plan your year out before it happens. Sure, plans may change. But force yourself to get away for a few hours or a whole day and plan an intentional discipleship strategy for those on your worship team. You want your worship team members to grow musically, spiritually, and be sent out to do the same.


There’s nothing more frustrating than working with a ‘leader’ who is not prepared. Do the work to ‘set the table’ for your worship team. Put front end work into rehearsals, think through challenges you may face, set the stage, plan your devotional, know where you are going. It will seriously improve your leadership and likelihood of people sticking with you.


I know thinking can be scary. You finally have to face the things you failed at. You have confront what isn’t working. But to be an effective leader you need to not just ‘do work’ but you need to ‘think about work’ to ensure you’re doing the right things. Is what you’re doing aligned with the vision of your lead pastor? Are you fulfilling the vision God has called you to? Are you stressed and losing patience with your team? These are the kinds of things you want to face weekly, think through them, pray through them, and come out stronger.


You may not think it’s that important, but taking the time to recognize individual people for what they contribute to your team is so beneficial. Not only does it encourage them but it increases the likelihood of them following you. People love to be recognized and will follow a leader who appreciates what they contribute.

LEADERS, what is ONE THING you have done to improve how you lead?

December 16, 2010 Posted by | Leadership, Worship Leaders | 2 Comments

How Close Should Sunday Morning Worship Reflect the Recordings?

Over the years as I’ve talked to many worship leaders, I have encountered different approaches to Sunday morning worship – some who are vehemently opposed to structure and click tracks and arrangments and others who have their entire worship set planned to the ‘T’ without much wiggle room.

One of the questions that has come up time and time again is how close should Sunday morning worship resemble the recordings? I mean if Chris Tomlin, Jesus Culture, and Hillsong do it it’s gotta be from God’s rulebook, right? Well, maybe not God’s rulebook. But it can be helpful to use what others have done.

I like to strike a healthy balance between personal arrangements, recorded arrangements, and the spontaneous.

Here’s my thoughts:


As a busy worship leader, this is great. You don’t have to personally and creatively arrange every single song because someone has already done that work. Just listen in, take notes, and teach. It’s nice to use what they’ve done and build upon it.


Young musicians are not typically honest about how bad they are. I don’t know what it is but it’s easy for we musicians to get an inflated view of ourselves. We easily blame external factors (can’t hear, can’t see the music, use the “it’s OK I’ve got it” comment, etc.) for our mistakes. Maturity is learning to admit when you mess up (maybe I should save this for another post :))Holding young musicians accountable to learning and playing their part of a recorded song teaches them a much needed discipline if they want to be good musicians.


At my church we typically do four songs for our main worship set. Not all four of those songs are sequenced and perfectly arranged. I usually leave one or one and a half for flowing purposes and ‘see where it goes’. This keeps the worship time from becoming too mechanical. Listen in to the Holy Spirit and follow Him where he is going.

Worship Leaders: what are your thoughts on the “do it like the recording” debate?

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Worship, Worship Leaders | 4 Comments

REVIVE: A night of worship for young adults

I’m pretty excited about this event we are planning here in Pittsburgh next month. A handful of churches, a handful of worship leaders, a handful of young adults coming together to worship God.

If you are interested in coming or bringing your ministry, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

Come be REVIVED.

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How To Practice Better – Acoustic Guitar

*This is another post in a series on “How To Practice Better”. Check out the other posts on worship leading and bass guitarSubscribe for free to receive regular updates of my posts.

The acoustic guitar is the instrument in the band that is oft-overlooked and rarely practiced.

Why is that?

It’s because most people who aspire to guitar stardom start with an acoustic. They want to be rockstars but they realize it is extremely hard work to be good – to shred, melt faces, blow people’s minds with fingering speeds Jimi Hendrix would envy. So they learn three chords, two strum patterns, and start playing worship songs. They eventually take their bad practicing habits over to their Epiphone Les Paul and digital effects pedals, thinking they have finally made it. Far from it.

But what if you want more than that?

Here are a few tips to help you practice better with your acoustic guitar:


I know I say this a lot, but it’s important. Pull out a metronome and practice those crazy strums in perfect time. Work on that internal clock. Most often the drummer is blamed for bad time, but the acoustic guitar is quite often an offender. Your band will thank you and maybe buy you a new guitar for such dedication.


It drives me crazy when acoustic players strum full force through an entire song. Relax. Sometimes all that is needed is a strum on the downbeats. But not just any strum. The most passionate strum you have ever strummed in the history of strumming. Slow your pick down. Sweep slowly over your strings, covering the entire length of that downbeat. Pour your passion into the simplicity. Play it like it’s the coolest thing you ever played. If you start arguing with your leader that it’s too simple, you may not be on the team much longer 🙂 Great music has space.


I can’t stress this enough. I know it’s cool to learn bar chords for the first time. Sorry to disappoint, but they’re not that cool. Especially on an acoustic guitar. The best tones for an acoustic are open chord voicings. The less fingers you use and more open strings you strum, the better it will sound. Sometimes I will even detune my guitar to something like DADGAD in order to utilize more open strings. Also, get to know your capo. When a song is in the key of Ab, don’t play bar chords. Use your capo and get that open sound. I know some guitar players call the capo a “crutch for the weak” but I think THEY are the weak ones! In all seriousness, it’s not a matter of weakness. It’s a matter of good tone.


I know it’s tempting to show up the lead guitarist with your smooth jazz leads, but just stop it. You are there for rhythm. Learn how to harness what you know and contribute only what the song demands. This goes for all musicians – submit to what a song needs. Don’t show off all you know within the course of a song. Don’t seek to impress, play simply.

Acoustic guitarists, the floor is yours. What is ONE PRACTICE TECHNIQUE that has helped you become better?

December 14, 2010 Posted by | Practice | 7 Comments

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