Worship Leading Advice For The Seasoned Worship Leader

David Santistevan —  — 17 Comments

I’ll be honest.

I’m not that old, but I’ve lead a lot of worship services. I’ve attended conferences, listened to too much music, read all the books, bought the “worship is a lifestyle” t-shirt, and drank the Kool-aid.

Time Passing 3-15-2008 10-27-16 PM 4272x2848I’d be lying if I said I knew it all, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. The more you do something, the easier it is to just coast and ride your talent from weekend to weekend, service to service, song to song.

But you know that. You know your tendency to become a worship songaholic.

What about today?

Today…I’m trying to approach every service with a fresh perspective.

I’m striving to lay bare my soul before God every time.

Why? Not because I should. But because I want to. My heart is hungry for God. But it’s easy to lose that perspective.

Maybe you’re burnt out.

Maybe you’re tired.

Maybe you’re just going through the motions.

This post is written for those worship leaders who’ve been doing this for a while. If I could sit you down in a room and challenge you, this is what I would say. This is how I challenge myself.

Worship Leading Advice for the Seasoned Worship Leader

To the worship leader who teaches others, who knows all the songs, who has developed the necessary skills, and has been doing this for years…here you go:

1. Get Honest About Your Legacy – Think about the people you’ve invested in over the years. If that number is large, great. If it’s not, don’t beat yourself up. But get honest with how you’re reproducing yourself in others.

In 2013 I’m becoming more intentional than ever about raising up worship leaders. At the end of the day, make sure you pass on what you know. Don’t keep it to yourself.

2. Schedule Unprofessional Worship – It’s true. You are a professional worship leader. You probably do this for a living. But you know what’s ironic? The best worship leaders don’t do what they do in order to make money.

They lead worship because they’re compelled to. The glory of God has so awakened their hearts that they can’t help but lead. They love to get lost in God’s presence. When was the last time you worshiped unprofessionally? Just you…crying out to God?

3. Practice Again – When was the last time you practiced your instrument? Your vocals? Your worship leading? I’ve noticed a lot of worship leaders (including myself) reach a certain level of musical proficiency and then they stop. They are good enough to get the job done. They may even be extremely gifted and a step above the rest.

But what if you decided to rise above your current level? How would your worship leading improve if you sang better? If you knew more chords? If you mastered your instrument?

4. Seek Out the Best Mentors – You never become too professional to need a mentor. You may be pouring yourself out, but are you getting filled? Find someone who’s gone before you that can invest in you. They may not even be a worship leader, but they may carry a spiritual DNA that you desire. Seek out those people and learn from them.

5. Rekindle the Love – If you don’t love what you do, why do it? I’m convinced that life is too short to just plow through. Revisit the days when you loved to lead worship – when you saw it as a privilege. Listen to worship music because you enjoy it. Try a new instrument. Remember why you started leading in the first place.

I know there are worship leaders reading this blog who’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have.

What keeps you going? What keeps you focused?

What advice would you give? Share your thoughts in the comments.

17 responses to Worship Leading Advice For The Seasoned Worship Leader

  1. Hey David,
    Thanks for the post. I am a 44 year old worship leader. I have been a musician for a long time. Played in a local band and recorded a cd way back when. Growing up I always wanted to be a popular christian artist. In fact, I have brushed sleeves with some who have gone on to popularity, but never achieved it myself.(God always has a better plan, we just don’t always understand it.) I served in a church a number of years back as a music minister and recently have been serving as a Worship Pastor at a local church plant for the last 2 years. These first 2 years have been a bit tough. We have had some struggles in the worship area since our outset. Those issues have now been dealt with, but it definitely left me weary to say the least. As a musician, you just want to give your best and honor God with what you do. You work hard to treat people well and fairly, yet there is always someone who doesn’t like you, what you do, or how you do it. I worked as a shipping supervisor for the last 24 years before heading full time into worship ministry. I have dealt with people and their problems for a long time, so these things aren’t new to me. However, these last 2 years have really worn me down. I appreciate the words of advice. I have definitely enjoyed your blog. I know God will lead me through these things. I think we all know that, but sometimes it’s just good to hear someone say it. Thanks for the practical advice. Definitely a good word!

    • It has always been ironic to me that in our effort (Life long) to become the person the Bible tells us to become, that we become sensitive listeners, accomodating servants, tireless workers, and friend to all that in corporate worship we cannot be/do all things to/for all people. There will always be a larger than we like percentage of pastorship and people in the pews that we don’t quite meet their expectations of creating a church service. It is very important and personal to these people and it is very hard for them to say nothing. A pastor we had one time said that people are always comparing how they feel inside at church with how they felt in the church where they grew up, and I believe he was right. God does not want us worn out (Please do not take this as you being an inadequate Christian or leader if you are worn out). You can still be an engaging, caring, loving person to someone who’s advice you have chosen not to follow. Can you imagine the opinions people had about leadership when they had been walking in a desert for 40 years? I haven’t seen this in the Bible but I don’t believe God wants us hiring ourselves out as whack-a-moles either full-time or part-time.

    • Jeff, this is such a refreshing comment. Thanks for your honesty. There’s a host of worship leaders out there who started young, hoping for attention. Oftentimes God reveals a beautiful plan that is a lot different than what we thought. But His way is better and his idea of success is greater. Thanks for being faithful for so many years.

  2. Another good subject David. I recently moved to the traditional and blended services at our church. I did it for a few reasons but the main purpose being that the contemporary songs were all beginning to sound the same to me. More than half of our church attend the contemporary services, so God and people are being served, but it’s hard to put your “All” into that kind of format with those kinds of feelings, and God wants the best we can do. Our traditional and blended do hymns and a few contemporary with more traditional arrangements. The harmonies are a lot more sophistcated, the arrangements almost always go beyond I-IV-V with minors, and the generally more mature level of musicianship is a hoot and a half. The free flow, the improvised solos, the more wide range of styles, as at least two times a month we do hymns with strong western swing and jazz qualities. I lead less often but the main leader is very gifted at choosing and bringing out songs to the point where they become “New each day”. God is good, all the time.

    • Awesome, Dennie! How many types of services does your church have?

    • Dennis – I completely agree with your assessment that the contemporary songs generally do sound the same. It is because they are the same. People who can’t rise above that basic level have no concept of what a musician with more skill even wants to do — they tend to classify all music beyond what I call the “pablum” level which presently persists in most contemporary songs as being too “prideful”, too full of “busy-ness” — whatever. I do not believe that the only songs that are “worshipful” are the “pablum” level seen in most songs. While they often have a good spirit about them, I feel like “where’s the meat?” God expects us to continue to increase in skill over our musical lives, but frequently some leaders/bands just don’t value or want you to take things up to the next level because they can’t follow you and they get lost.

  3. I am in no way a ‘seasoned’ anything, especially in the ‘worship leader’ category. Your advice still hits home though, especially #3. How often do we get comfortable with where we are as a musician and decide, “I can just capo it. No need to learn any new chords.” Within complacency is not a good place to live. A friend of mine is one of the best at challenging himself on his instrument. He’ll take a song he’s played for years and learn it in a new key. I tried it one time and found it is amazingly difficult to play a song you know very well in a key you’ve never played it. It’s been a great exercise for me.

    I like #4 as well. And I remember what my granddaddy used to say – “the salty old guy in the back that never says anything… he’ll give the best advice. It won’t be easy to get though.” I’ve found that, too many times, I gravitate towards the most outspoken/visible person to seek advice and input. They may be excellent at what they do, but are they good teachers? How well do they share? How are they with critique? I’ve found that the best advice/input is rarely freely given.

  4. So, it’s been almost 10 years – 520 Sundays of praise and worship. It is still magical when we are there beginning. The alarm goes off on Sunday mornings and the devil goes to work. How many times can you get up for this – but the money is needed. Am I doing this for the right reasons? Whew. The band is awesome and the praise is really good. How long Lord – how long? Until You say this is enough. I will praise You until You say enough. Difficult, yet a joy.

  5. This is great advice David to all worship leaders I think, not only the seasoned ones. If I may add one more:

    Love the Lord above everything else.

  6. Well I’m late to this conversation, but since I would qualify as “seasoned” here’s a thought or two. First, I must confess to not practicing as much as I should.

    Re: “Schedule Unprofessional Worship”, I do love to worship with no agenda when possible, sometimes I’ll play & sing along with the IHOP prayer room worship stream, they are awesome! (http://ihop.org)

    Advice? Don’t let the enemy steal your joy. Ministry can break your heart, but the Lord called us to a relationship, not a job. One of my heroes is is 84 year old Caleb – “give me that freakn’ mountain”

    The other thing I’d say is keep the faith of child – always trusting God. I’m honestly excited about worship ministry even as one who has been-there-done-that many a time.

    Thanks for your perspective Dave!

  7. Interesting article, but I think on the topic of becoming a more proficient keyboardist we need to realize the limits.

    For professionally trained pianists, most worship team band keyboard work is like going back to 4th grade after you’ve been in college for years.

    Point being: under the current “less is more”/leave the bass notes for the bass guitar player/play chords/only use 4 or 5 main patches/don’t get the keyboard part “too busy” so just play the main chords mentality that is what our band, and most bands I’ve been in, do, there really is not any room for what has always constituted meaningful piano playing. The only thing regular piano training applies to worship band keyboarding is the solid understanding (generally lacking in the rest of the band members) of music and chord theory and auditory abilities to sort out from hearing a song what the chords, time signature, key signature, etc are. The rest of piano playing generally has little to no place in current worship band music.

    This fact needs to be emphasized quite strongly. If a keyboard player thinks they will get to “be their best” for the Lord using their talents, they are going to get a very painful, rude awakening playing worship music. This is terribly disappointing that things have by and large come to this state, but being more highly, professionally trained ends up becoming a terrible heartache when the worship leader who has little to no musical understanding starts trying to tell the keyboard player what to do, instead of letting them practice their craft.

  8. Another realization comes with being a “seasoned” worship leader- you can only do so much with your talents for God within a local church setting.

    The more skilled you become over the years, the less likely you are to continue to find appropriate levels of output for your skills in the local church setting. Indeed, it may be in any church related setting. This is primarily due to the facts that “worship songs” are designed on “purpose” to be “basic” (whatever that is) so as to be easy for the congregation to sing. The congregation is rarely challenged beyond this basic level since we don’t want to “lose” them. Hence, there is really little room within the church for most serious musicians who want to continue to increase in their skills and bring the levels of music up higher. Since most churches have little to no outlets for musical expressions for serious musicians operating at professional levels of musicianship, it is pretty much mandatory for a seasoned musician to seek out opportunities to continue to grow and learn and use their giftings in community or regionally based professional music organizations, orchestras, etc. Generally only in some of the larger megachurches is there room for multiple levels and types of music ensembles/drama groups, etc.

    Since church music ministry is very time consuming, this can be a challenge for the seasoned leader who unfortunately is pretty much limited to expressing themselves at a higher skill level during a special offertory number and not much else available. If your heart has been broken over this sad state of affairs, as mine has been more times than I can count, you need to seek your own level outside the church and play to the Lord’s glory there, so that you can continue to put up with the “crumbs” you get trying to glorify the Lord in the worship band at your local church. It is important to recognize that just because there is no room in the local worship band/team ministry for the expression of your talents it doesn’t mean that you are somehow needing to abandon all music. Go where the Lord opens doors for you outside the church, and let Him help you build relationships with people needing Him and the gospel inthese other community/professional groups. This will help to mitigate your frustrations in the worship band somewhat.

    If that doesn’t work, you may just have to quit the band and put up with the lower,simpler levels of musicianship the best you can, or even leave the church you’re in and find somewhere else to go to church that more suits your needs rather than be upset and hurt every Sunday.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Recommended Reading - January 23, 2013

    [...] Worship Leading Advice For The Seasoned Worship Leader – David Santistevan [...]

Leave a Reply

*

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>