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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

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

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

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

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

3 Ways Worship Leaders Can Deal with Discouragement

With my recent posts on worship leading blunders, it’s easy to laugh at the mistakes when you’re in hindsight. You can look back, learn, laugh, and grow to become more humble.

But in the moment it’s not so funny. Sometimes when we miss the mark, we get discouraged.

You’re asked to lead a song and you botch the lyrics…again. You’re excited for this rehearsal only to feel like no one on your team respects you. And that comment from a church member about how you don’t flow in the Spirit doesn’t help either.

Sometimes it’s easy to laugh at mistakes but sometimes it hits too close to home.

How can we be better prepared for this? Here’s 3 Ways:

1. Draw confidence from God’s love

Musicians and worship leaders need this. We have a tendency to base our self worth on how well we do. While we should place a priority on excellence, that has nothing to do with our self worth. Before we are musicians and singers and worship leaders, we are loved by Jesus. Period. You’ll also be a more effective worship leader with this truth at your core.

2. Surround yourself with those who believe in you

I have a great relationship with my Senior Pastor. I know he believes in me 100%. That also doesn’t mean he’s not afraid to point out what needs improvement. Surround yourself with great leaders who believe in you and take to heart what they say. Don’t allow the criticizers to discourage you. Be polite, but listen to those who love you.

3. Plan Well

You see, a lot of mistakes can be avoided if you prepare well. Look ahead and put out necessary fires before they happen. Things may still go wrong, but at least you’ve done all you can to avoid them. Spend time in personal worship, put front end work into your rehearsals, plan your setlist.

What about you? What has helped you deal with discouragement?

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Worship Leaders | 1 Comment

Common Worship Leading Blunders (Part 2)

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Vicky Beeching recently wrote an excellent, thorough blog post on dealing with disasters in a worship set. If you’ve been a worship leader for any length of time, you know encountering a disaster is a “when” not an “if”. Vicky gave some great advice for a variety of situations and I suggest you read it.

Whereas my last post was on worship leading blunders you should avoid, I wanted to expand on Vicky’s post to include a few more ‘blunders’ that just seem to happen…and how to recover. Here goes:

When You Say “Crap” instead of “Clap”

This may never happen to you. I mean, it hasn’t happened to me once. It actually happened twice. Let’s face it: sometimes you just say the wrong word. The best thing to do is move on, but if it was so obvious to the rest of the room that people are laughing at you, go ahead and laugh with them. Embarrassing as it is, it is a healthy reminder that you’re not an indestructible rock star for everyone to stand in awe of. Be human. Lead with humility. Laugh. Now, go. Lift up a ‘crap’ of ‘plaise’. 🙂

When that song didn’t ‘take off’ as you expected

Not every song you do needs to be done over and over. Some songs resound with certain congregations, others don’t. In my experience, there are three types of songs: songs that are instant hits, songs that take 2-3 weeks before they’re hits, and songs that need to retire. It’s not that they’re bad songs, necessarily, it’s just that your congregation isn’t engaging with it. So test a song out a few times and if it’s just not “working”, let it rest in peace.

The off-beat tambourine lady is on the front row

Actually, I don’t really need to specify that she’s on the front row. She’s ALWAYS on the front row. That’s what off-beat tambourine lady’s do. It must be in their contract. The best thing you can do is try and ignore it (I know, it’s tough) but also show the congregation how you want them to clap (check out what Jon Acuff has to say about clapping). The off-beat tambourine lady has good intentions, but she will threaten to bring the entire room into a code red state of chaos. As the leader, keep referencing the proper clap. And pray the tambourine breaks.

What about you? What are some blunders you’ve encountered?



December 6, 2010 Posted by | Worship Leaders | 1 Comment

Common Worship Leading Blunders

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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).

Also, are you wondering what a picture of Jack Black has to do with anything? Well, imagine leading worship like he sings. Just sayin’.

Keeping your eyes closed the whole time

While this may be great for your personal worship, I think a worship leader needs to keep his eyes open more often than not in order to connect and draw in those who are there. It won’t matter quite as much once the faith of the room rises up and people are lost in worship. I always say the goal of a worship leader is to lead people to a place where they don’t need you anymore. Open thine eyes till then.

Singing every song

If you are a worship leader who has the best voice, it’s OK if you lead every song or if there’s no good singers on your team. But if you have some great vocal talent on your team, defer the lead vocal to someone else occasionally. It’s actually a great rest for your voice and you can focus on actually leading in worship. Not to mention it empowers those who serve with you.

Fill in all dead space with the ‘vocal moan’

You know what I’m talking about. Some worship leaders feel that if they don’t sing a song, or moan, or talk, that God is packing up His bags. I understand the pressure. You don’t want there to be awkward silence. You want people to enter in. But it can also be incredibly distracting to have you moaning for 5 minutes while I’m trying to worship. It just doesn’t sound good. Especially if you’re a background singer. Moan and sing all you want in the dead space. Just pull your mic down.

Forgetting to pray until 3 minutes before service starts

You’ve been there. I know it. You’ve had a crappity crapface rehearsal and then it strikes you… we forgot to pray. So you woop out the desperation, “God rescue us from this crappity crapface rehearsal and make us sound good” prayer. I have a better idea. Sprinkle all your rehearsals with prayer. You don’t have to pray for 45 minutes before every song, but pray short, faith-filled prayers throughout. Prayer has an incredible way of calming down dominant musician personalities and focusing everyone on what matters.

I could go on. Expect a part 2 on this one.

What are some habits that we should avoid as worship leaders? How can we improve?

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Worship Leaders | 9 Comments

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