david santistevan


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

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

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 to Get the Most Out of Reading Blogs

Do you read blogs? Obviously you do because you are are reading this right now. I do a lot of reading but when it comes to reading blogs, I prefer the ones that are brief, practical, and teach me new things. I simply don’t want to read a book when I sit down to read blogs. I like to read fast, archive what is helpful, and apply what is practical.

That’s why I write a lot of list posts (they can be scanned quickly) and how to’s (practical). Here’s how I would recommend you read blogs:


While the internet has revolutionized our lives in numerous ways, if we don’t plan how we use it we won’t get anything done. I make it a point to not read blogs throughout the day. It keeps me from doing the work I’m supposed to do. So schedule it. It depends on the day, but I’ll either scan blogs early in the morning or late afternoon. Don’t allow the internet to keep you from contributing rather than consuming.


I personally use Google Reader. But there are scores of others. Rather than visiting individual sites or even clicking links from Twitter, subscribe to your favorite blogs. Then you can set a dedicated time where you read. This has helped me be more productive and focus. Twitter becomes more of a scan and less of a link jumping exercise.


It has been incredibly helpful to group my blogs in folders. My current folders are Blogging, Business, Christian, Finance, Leadership, Productivity, Technology, Worship, and Young Adult Ministry. I have all my blogs listed in their proper folder. This helps me read blogs based on the mood I’m in. I can select precisely what I want to read.


Like I said, I prefer to read blogs fast. But sometimes there’s a power packed post with content I can’t resist. Use something like Instapaper or Evernote to save posts for later and revisit them when you have a day off (I prefer Instapaper for its simplicity here).


The power of blogs are in their practicality. When I come across a post that is incredibly helpful, I’ll save it in Instapaper, revisit it later, and add an action step to my task list. Otherwise ideas get lost. Life gets too busy. When you read something you’d like to do, write it down and make it happen.


Another perk of reading blogs is how it engages you in a community. Bloggers love it when you comment on their blogs. They want to interact with you. They want to learn from you. They may even want to highlight what you are doing. It will also help grow your blog, if you have one. This could take a really long time, so be careful here. Find the best blogs and comment. Add value.

I hope this blog has been a source of encouragement to you. As I’m setting some goals for 2011, I’d like to continue blogging and writing content that is of interest and benefit to you. In my blogging I seek to be engaging and helpful.

So, will you help me?

What issues are you facing that you’d like me to address?

What are some more things I should write about?

Thanks for the feedback.

December 10, 2010 Posted by | Blogging, Leadership | 5 Comments

A Most Powerful Daily Question

A number of weeks ago I wrote a post on contributing and consuming. Whether you like it or not, you are doing one or the other. You are either taking or giving. You are either watching or participating. You are either criticizing or taking your own risks that add value.

This concept leaves us with a most powerful daily question:

What will I contribute today?

Instead of watching the news, go create some good news. Instead of reading another book, go write one. Instead of getting lost in your blog 🙂 go connect with someone personally. Instead of buying yourself more stuff, go give some of it away.

Approach each day, each moment, each interaction with others as a way to contribute rather than consume.

Asking this question and then living it can truly change your life.

So, today. These few hours. You only live it once. What will you contribute today?


December 8, 2010 Posted by | Leadership | 4 Comments

Do You Contribute Or Merely Consume?

Something that I’ve noticed about this generation of young adults is that we are very good at consuming and criticizing. We consume media, teaching, church, and information. And then we spend time venting our opinions on it all.

Contrary to what you think I might say, this can be a good thing. We are looking for what is real. We want honesty on display and we want to join with those who are making a difference.


There is an aspect to our lives that we need to recapture and that is contribution. What are you contributing to society? What difference are you making? Do you merely consume or are you contributing?

Think about it. We don’t follow leaders who only sit in coffee shops. We aren’t fans of artists who release 1 album a decade. When watching football we don’t focus on the bench. Action is inspiring. People didn’t follow King David and sing songs about him because he sat around and had a sweet palace. He defeated Goliath and won people’s respect.

Find a problem and solve it. Don’t just criticize those who are doing something. Step out on the front lines and do it. Get involved in the leadership of your local church and serve. Use your gifts. Until you do, I don’t think your criticism is valid. We listen to those who do something.

What about you? What are you doing? Share with others what God has recently been stirring in your heart.

November 26, 2010 Posted by | Leadership | 9 Comments

How You Can Create Great Art Every Day

Do you ever feel bogged down by having to go work for another day? Are you overwhelmed and not slowing down enough to actually enjoy what you do?

I think all of us find ourselves in this place from time to time. Allow me to challenge your thinking.

You are an artist…and everyday presents an opportunity for you to create great art. But you may not consider yourself an “artist”. I mean, you don’t write songs, sing, play an instrument, paint, sculpt, listen to the Beatles, grow your hair extremely long, or just chill out for a living. Maybe you do. Or maybe you’re a pastor. Or a business man or woman. Or a nurse. A doctor. A sales clerk. A retail salesman. A waitress. A computer programmer. A teacher. Fill in the blank.

Seth Godin so brilliantly conveys in his book, Linchpin, that the world of work is changing. If you want to stand out and really make a difference, you need to create art. No longer are you just a replaceable cog in the machine who is told what to do. You are an artist.

What does this look like?

  • Ask, “Who can I bless today?”
  • Bring solutions to your boss instead of problems.
  • Focus on people.
  • Don’t just generate ideas. Get them done.
  • Don’t just say. Do.
  • Ask, “What’s something I could do that’s different or ‘out of the ordinary’ for my line of work but would make a positive difference?”
  • Pray over your projects.
  • Pour passion into your projects.
  • Ask, “What can I do to be remarkable today?”
  • Ask, “What one project will make the biggest difference today?” and do it.
  • See every interaction as an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to use you.

See? No paint brushes or guitars required. But by all means, use them if you can.

What art will you create today? What difference will you make today?

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Leadership | Leave a comment

How To Practice Better

I think we all know that what makes a person better at what they do is practice. In the book “Talent is Overrated”, Geoff Colvin talks about the massive amount of hours it takes to make someone an extraordinary performer; however, it’s not just practice that makes perfect, it’s what he calls “deliberate practice” that makes all the difference. It’s not just sheer hours; it’s utilizing those hours wisely.

For example, if I practiced worship songs on the piano 4 hours a day for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t make me an extraordinary pianist. It might assist in making me a good worship leader, but in order to be an extraordinary pianist, I need to deliberately practice scales, arpeggios, finger-strengthening exercies, repeat difficult passages till my hands hurt, study music, hire a piano doctor, etc. It’s not just practice; it’s deliberate practice.

Now, I understand your goal may not be to become the Tiger Woods of your field, but are you improving? We should all always be improving what we do in order to better serve God and increase our effectiveness.

Here’s some simple tips:

  1. Study the greats – whether your area is ministry, business, music performance, worship leading, etc, study those who are outstanding at what they do. Great performance starts with intense learning. Ask the question, “Why are they so successful?” I’ve tried to develop a lifestyle of learning. Wherever I am, whomever I’m with, I want to learn something new. Another key: listen more than you talk 🙂
  2. Cut out the non-essentials – I think part of what makes someone a great performer is concentration. They aren’t trying to live a ‘balanced’ life. While the rest of their friends were hanging out, they were practicing. I understand this may sound intense, but practically speaking, if you can let go of that 1 hour of TV (which won’t enrich your life in any way), use that time to practice. Great performers use their time wisely on what matters.
  3. Hire a coach – this may not apply to everyone, but great performers have coaches. Find someone who knows more than you do who can see your weakness and help you get better.
  4. Apply it – make sure you get in the game. Take what you’re learning behind the scenes and apply it to what you do. This is the gauge as to whether your practice is working or not.

What else would you add? What are some ways that you practice?

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Leadership, Music | 6 Comments

How Cooks Forest Helped Me Stay Focused

For the past week, Emily and I have been leading worship for a couple’s retreat in Lancaster, PA with our great friends Brad & Rebekah. On our way back to the ‘Burgh, we decided to drive a couple hours out of the way and spend a night at the Gateway Lodge in Cooks Forest, PA.

Beautiful place. Quiet, serene, peaceful, slow.

Did you hear that? Slow.

Mini excursions like this help me re-focus my life on what is most important. For me, it’s not that my job is extremely busy (though there are seasons, for sure) it’s the way I go about my job.

  • I make it busy
  • I’m stressed when I don’t need to be
  • I don’t spend enough time simply waiting on the Lord in prayer
  • I do things I could delegate
  • I race about doing menial tasks rather than focusing on people
  • I spend too much time doing what Scott Belsky calls “Insecurity Work” (Twitter, Facebook, Reading Blogs, checking stats)

Cooks forest is reminding me to focus on what matters. So I decided to write out a mini-list of some of my ‘main things’. I want to use my time wisely to focus and accomplish goals in these areas. Hopefully it will inspire you to write a list yourself.

  • Seek God’s face first thing every morning
  • Spending time with my wife, the most important person in my life
  • Continue to write songs for the church to sing
  • Make this blog an encouraging resource for worship & church leaders
  • Continue raising up worship leaders and musicians at APC
  • Invest myself in creating a culture of worship at APC
  • Raise up leaders and make disciples of young adults in the Pittsburgh area
  • Loving people and leading them to Christ

So what’s your list? How do you keep yourself focused on the ‘main things’ in your life? I encourage you to find a peaceful spot (doesn’t have to be cook’s forest :)) and think, pray, & write. It will go a long way. Go ahead, you have time. Just do it. You can’t afford not to.

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Leadership | Leave a comment

How to Handle Failure & Success in Ministry

Sometimes you can’t shake the feeling. Questions plague your mind. Doubt settles in. Am I really “called” to do this? Have I chosen the right career path?

And then there are other times where you feel on top of the world. You ‘feel’ anointed, called, gifted, used by God, important.

Whatever ministry you engage in, worship, preaching, pastoring, small group leadership, announcements, greeting, coffee preparation, you’ve had feelings of inadequecy. There have been times in my ministry where I’ve felt, “God, did I choose the right thing here?”

I’ve already addressed what to do when inspiration lacks. In this post, allow me to ease the tension by saying it is normal for anyone in ministry to feel this way. The goal of a minister should not be perfect execution but perfect trust in God. If you are basing your calling on your performance, your emotions will take you on a wild ride you don’t want to be on. Whether we “feel” effective or “feel” we’ve failed, God loves us and God is using us. Isn’t it true in ministry that when you’ve felt you’ve missed the mark someone heard exactly what they needed to hear from God?

Weakness. God likes to shine through our weakness.

I’m not saying to go intentionally suck at what you do for God to use you. Yikes. Work hard. Pray hard. And then just do it. Trust God with results. Stay faithful.

Be encouraged today. You belong to the God of the universe through strength and weakness.

November 2, 2010 Posted by | Leadership | 1 Comment

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