david santistevan


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

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

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

11 Questions Every Worship Team Member Should Ask

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?

Do I speak and play with a spirit of humility?

Am I constantly learning or do I pretend to know it all?

What if I prayed for an hour before I came to play with the worship team?

What if I expected God to move in power as we worship?

Do I show up prepared and on time?

Am I contributing to the team spiritually and emotionally or just musically?

What if I encouraged the other members of the band?

Am I invested in my local church or is it just a gig?

December 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized, Worship | 6 Comments

Things That Are Awesome

  • Lincoln Logs
  • French Presses
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Legos
  • Ernest P Worrell
  • Voltron: Defender of the Universe
  • Apple Computers
  • 90s Vineyard worship music
  • Pizza
  • Christmas
  • Guitars
  • Accordions
  • Chips & Salsa
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Christmas Trees
  • Family
  • Books
  • The picture up there
  • Pianos
  • Marriage
  • Beat Boxing
  • Tuba performance majors
  • Mom’s Mexican Food
  • Laughing till it hurts
  • Sega
  • Guitar solos
  • Roller Coasters
  • Coffee shops
  • Free Wifi
  • The Dollar Menu
  • Coupons

I may have just revealed too many layers of nerdiness. Oh well. Now it’s your turn. Think back over the course of your life and share one or two or twenty things that have been awesome.

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Random, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Weekly Wrap-Up


3 Ways to Engage Non-Christians in a Worship Service

Do you ever feel a little weird leading worship when there are unbelievers in the room? Imagine how they feel. It’s more than a little weird to step into a room of jubilant people singing weird songs, clapping their hands, maybe dancing, and maybe, just maybe waving the dreaded streamer. I remember the first time I raised my hand in worship (notice I said ‘hand’. Singular. Gotta start somewhere). It was a big deal for me. I also remember the first time I encountered a streamer waving dancing lady. No comment.

Read the full post here.


The Best Worship Songs…Ever

I always wonder who comes up with this stuff. The best worship songs ever? Who decides? Is this God’s top 50?

Read the full post here.


Recommended Books for Worship Leaders


How to Practice Better – Worship Leading

In a previous post I talked about how important practice is. But not just practice…deliberate practice – practicing those things that will make you more effective at what you do. When we think practicing we typically think of pianists and football players. But what about something like worship leading? How do we practice that? Yea, I could try to lead worship more often but what about those times when I’m by myself?

Read the full post here.


Happy Thanksgiving


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.


Read the full post here.

Interesting Links:

Vicky Beeching talks about “10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Leading Worship”

Seth Godin on “Where Do Ideas Come From?”

Steven Furtick on “A Ministry Momentum Killer” & “3 Things This Generation Demands”

Brad Lomenick on “5 Tips for Communicating Well”

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized, Weekly Wrap-up | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for:

  • My beautiful wife of 1 and a half years
  • My dog Riley who keeps all our noses plugged
  • The call of God
  • The best, most fun family ever
  • Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ
  • My church family – APC, APEX, Worship team – love you all
  • Books and music
  • Learning new things
  • The grace of God
  • Peanut Butter – come on somebody

Your turn. What are you thankful for in 2010?

November 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

3 Ways to Engage Non-Christians in a Worship Service

Do you ever feel a little weird leading worship when there are unbelievers in the room?

Imagine how they feel. It’s more than a little weird to step into a room of jubilant people singing weird songs, clapping their hands, maybe dancing, and maybe, just maybe waving the dreaded streamer. I remember the first time I raised my hand in worship (notice I said ‘hand’. Singular. Gotta start somewhere). It was a big deal for me. I also remember the first time I encountered a streamer waving dancing lady. No comment.

In a related post I talked about 8 ways to engage people in worship. But I want to narrow our focus today. How do we more skillfully engage non-christians in our worship services? If a healthy church is one that has a consistent influx of unbelievers, we need to learn how to connect them. And I don’t believe it involves watering down the Gospel.

I feel this tension every time I lead worship. I’m glad they’re there. They don’t know what’s going on. I desperately want them to experience the power of God.

Here are some ways to engage:

1. Play good music

It makes sense that as unbelievers step into church they aren’t thinking about how to flow in the Holy Spirit and which isle to dance in. They are watching people. They are watching you. They are listening to the music. They are reading the lyrics. Don’t allow sloppy music. Work hard on being good.

2. Sing easily understandable songs

When I’m picking my setlist, I ask the question “will unchurched Joe understand this?” I know I may personally like the song that talks about burning for God in an ocean of wind, but will that make any sense to an unbeliever? Probably not. Focus on songs that articulate the Gospel and aren’t too abstract.

3. Address them

It’s so important to acknowledge unbelievers and empathize with their situation. Bring them along with you. This involves speaking to them, being real, being likable. Don’t freak people out with your personality. Tell them it’s OK if they don’t sing and just stand or sit there. In the meanwhile, pray that the lyrics and presence of the Holy Spirit will reach them deeply.

What would you add to the list? How can we better engage non-Christians in our worship services?

November 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

How to Write Better Worship Songs (Part 2)

*If you are a songwriter, consider these posts a ‘songwriting checklist’. By no means is it an exhaustive dictionary on songwriting. For the first post on how to write better worship songs, go here.

  • Always Be Prepared to Capture Ideas – remember that time you had a great idea but you waited to write it down only to forget it? Maybe you don’t remember that. But it happened. I think. Oh well, I don’t remember. The point is to set up a simple system for capturing ideas. I personally use Evernote. I can capture ideas in different ways – write out lyrics, sing melodies, etc. Plus it syncs to all my mobile devices. Brilliant. But you could also just use a notebook, voice recorder, etc. Just carry something with you at all times.
  • Sing Your Prayers – don’t try to be too innovative or cool in the early stages. Start by just singing your honest prayers to God. Listen to what others are praying. What is your pastor preaching? Write what you hear.
  • Write with other people who are better than you – it’s OK to admit it. Actually, if you want to improve you need to realize right now that you are not the best. Many promising songwriters are stifled by their pride & arrogance. They won’t adjust their ideas. Another person can you give you some much needed perspective on your song. Plus they may be better at lyrics, melody, theme, etc.
  • Test your song – the best songs are songs that people engage with. But how will they engage if they’re only sung behind the scenes? Here’s my suggestion: find small groups of people to test your song on. A small group. A prayer meeting. Your spouse. Your church staff. Start small and see how it goes. Not every song you write needs to be done corporately. Maybe it will need more work. But go ahead and test it. I once heard someone say, too many ideas are born and lost in isolation.
  • Spend time worshiping
  • Revisit your ideas the next day – when struck with inspiration, your emotions are high. You think you’ve just written the greatest song ever. Chill out and revisit your idea tomorrow (given you’ve captured the idea in Evernote). You won’t be quite as impressed but it will force you to work hard and make it a great song.
  • Check your theology – run the song by your pastor for theological insight. A great melody mixed with lots of passion and bad theology is not a good song, whether “God gave it to you” or not. A trusted pastor can help you determine if your song is actually true, if it’s too me-centered, or if you’re just worshiping your own worship 🙂

Songwriters, help me out. What helps you write better songs?







November 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

How Not to Invite Someone to an Outreach

November is “Action Month” for us at APEX. Each of our small groups are doing an outreach this month to put our faith into action. We made this video as a promo piece, but it may be too ridiculous to actually promo anything 😉 however, here it is in all of its glory. Hope you enjoy the humor.


November 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: