13 Things I've Learned in 13 Years of Full-Time Worship Ministry

I recently shared this list with an online group of worship leaders from all over the country...

For what it's worth here are some things I've learned as a full-time worship leader in a local church (not a para-church ministry or as hired worship leader from time to time). I literally wrote this in about 5 minutes... right off the top of my head... just felt like it's stuff we should talk about.

1. You have 3 basic hats to wear: (a) to some degree you need to be able to think like a theologian, (b) labor as an artist, and (c) shepherd like a pastor.

2. If possible, it's best to have a mid-week rehearsal (something other than Sunday morning!) where you separate the band and the vocalists.

3. Invest in your worship team members... use part of your rehearsal to ask "how things are going," and/or to talk about various worship topics. Take your team to lunch on occasion... sometimes the whole band and sometimes a few people that you really feel like you need to connect with... because you pick up that they have some real needs, etc. You might be the one person on staff who understands the unique struggles of artist/musician types: insecurity, some need of approval of talents, comparing oneself with others, etc. TALK about that stuff! And your family issues... a LOT of artists have family issues!

4. Be you. Don't try to be someone you're not... if you grew up listening to hard rock and love to play the electric guitar, do it! If you love jazz, go for it... if you're a choral director, celebrate that. Don't ever think that there is ONE type of "legitimate" worship leader.

5. If you're married, your spouse is your GREATEST confidant and partner... listen to him or her... be in agreement with him or her before you make any BIG decisions.

6. People LOVE it and usually respond very positively when you are vulnerable... be a little more vulnerable than feels comfortable... that's usually when you really strike a chord.

7. Invest in emerging musicians/artists. Since about 2006 I've invested in one high school student a year. Someone who: (a) has a demomstrated level of skill, (b) a real heart and passion for worship & music, (c) shows a trajectory for continuing on in music.

8. It's totally fine for women to lead worship.

9. Create good/regular communication patterns with your pastors(s) and staff. Have mentors... have at least one person in your life that you could tell anything! Spiritual isolationism is a recipe for disaster. Lead or be a part of a small group.

10. Take a day off. If you don't you will surely burn out.

11. Money will be an issue. You will, most likely, not make a lot and will have to learn to tithe by faith AND pay bills, etc.

12. Always be learning.

13. Balance the creative, the technical, and the relational... kind of like #1 - but it's really important.


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