You earn the right to sing new songs by singing their favorites.


Just like you earn the right to speak by listening, as a worship leader you earn the right to play new songs by first playing their favorites. {Tweet this!}

At first this didn’t sound fair, or even Biblical. But in a brand new congregation this is essential.

Just like you really want to teach them your experiences with God through your repertoire, they really want to show you their church’s history and repertoire through their favorites.

Just like you want to show them your musical skills, they want to show you their music so they can show you how they can sing along well. They want to feel valued and show you they can be really good, too.

I’ve gotten this all wrong before. And still do. And you know what? God isn’t necessarily smiling on either side of this equation!

Swallow your pride as a musician. Let it all out to your Creator. He knows. Ask Him to heal up whatever holes other churches or people in authority over you in the past have carved. Ask Him to point them out, and fill them with His Son’s Love.

Then, meet those people where they’re at. Find a band member who’s good at their instrument and knows what the congregation likes. Ask that person to periodically meet with you to help you select good repertoire.

Ask God to humble you and help you muck through the pain of doing so. I promise there will be growing pains. But God will let grace flow from your ministry, and others will jump on board to your leadership train because you took the time to listen to their wants and needs.

They don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care.

It may not always be the most fair or even Biblical– but in your role as minister, which is more important? The music or the relationships?

It’s literally taken me years to realize this. I kind of feel like a jerk! Ask God to heal that, too.

“Lord, please forgive me for not seeing this simple truth sooner when your Holy Spirit tried to reveal it to me. Show me how to lead with firmness when needed, but softness toward the hearts of the congregation even if it means laying aside my rockin’ playlists. Make me like a little cloud of grace, where people feel loved by You when I am near them, and to be like a contrail of grace that lingers long after I’m gone. Make me more like Your Son. Bring on the growing pains. Cultivate in me a pastor’s heart for your sheep. Amen.”

Instead of saying I’m a music minister– in your head, rearrange it to say Minister of Music. Ministering to their hearts and needs is first, music is just the avenue + as a result, comes second. {Tweet this!}

You don’t have to be a doormat to be a servant-leader.

A few tips for dealing with “Post-traumatic-personal-playlist-loss” disorder:

  1. Pray over those K-love | Emerging Voices | Hillsong faves of your’s and see which fit their hearts. Make sure they’re catchy and easy to sing. In doubt of that? Ask a friend who is your average melody-singing worshiper and see what they think. Then do them as a special with your spouse, best friend, one of your students, or talented band member.
  2. If there are a few songs you just know God wants to add to the repertoire for worship set- start by doing it as a special, offering, or prelude for 4-6 weeks. I’m not joking! That seems like forever, but I’ve heard it takes 3 times to stick, and with members coming and going out of town- your best bet is 4-6 weeks. The band won’t resent the extra rehearsing. I promise.
  3. Put 3-4 of these songs’ mp3s in the pre-service countdown slides, announcements, or welcome video… and leave them there. (i.e. don’t put a new 3-4 each week!)
  4. Especially if your senior pastor loves these songs- meet with him or her, too. Ask him or her to go more in-depth about what they like to sing. It’ll show respect and earn trust.
  5. Less is more. Introduce them one new one at a time, and stick to your guns. Wait for another 4-6 weeks after the in-the-service-debut so it catches on before adding another new one into the mix.
  6. When you do their favorites, whether they’re a million years old or not- just freshen it up a bit. Write your own electric tab or drum part and meet with that band member to rehearse. It will change the entire sound- plus build a relationship with that one person!
    Sometimes, if there’s a song they love but you hardly agree with theologically: just throw it in (I call it the ‘ole “Father Abraham”).
    I’m not saying become a people-pleaser. But just once in a while it’s okay if it makes them happy. I think God understands the mildly shallow or inaccurate lyrics. As long as it’s not heresy, throw it in once a quarter or something!
  7. Pray, pray, pray. My friend, church elder, and guitar student Coy reminded me that we have already been given all the authority from God to pray over the congregation’s needs. Pray for soft hearts, pray to be used + poured out, pray to be an ally and friend to the congregation. Pray they will see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven. Pray you’d be softened, too.

Blessings on you and your ministry. Thank you for reading. If you need prayer, feel free to contact me on my |Contact Page| or even just to say hi.

I pray that God can give us all strength to be worship leaders that lead more like Jesus!