How Do I Lead Worship Musicians Who Are Better Than Me?

Hopefully, you’re surrounded by amazing musicians in your worship ministry (every worship leader’s dream)! But if you are, you might not know how to lead them, guide them, and give them direction. Maybe you don’t know how to “speak their language”, or you are intimidated by their skill and experience. In our final Q&A episode of the month, Justin Bell, Brenton Collyer and I share how you can learn to lead musicians who are much more talented than you in a way that is winsome and respectable.

Also See: Helping Your Band Beat Busyness & Embrace Musical Simplicity
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Alex Enfiedjian 00:05 Hey everyone we are in the final week of our three part q&a series. I’ve got Brenton Collier and Justin bell on the line again. Hey, guys, hey, hey, how’s it going? All right, we got one last question to answer. Today’s question is about how to lead musicians that are more musically skilled than you are. So before we get to the question, I want to let you know this episode is sponsored by Audible. My favorite way to listen to audiobooks. I don’t often have time to read a book, like sit down and read, but I can always listen to audiobooks when I’m working out or cleaning the house. So check it out. Try it for free for 30 days and keep your first book for free, even if you cancel your membership. And remember, leaders are always learners. So go to worship ministry training comm slash audible or click the link in the show notes. Today’s question comes from Levi and lartin in temperates, Bedford, Michigan, which sounds like a cool place to live. And he writes, hey, Alex, my name is Levi. I’m 18 years old. And I’ve been leading worship for the youth band at my church for a while. And I’d like some advice on how to lead my peers properly. It’s tough to lead a team of friends and teens my own age, especially when I know that I’m not the best musician. Any help. So if I had to sum up Levi’s question, I would sum it up like this, he’s having trouble taking a leadership position amongst people who are one his age to his friends, and three more musically gifted than he is. So Justin, how would you help Levi answer his concerns?

Unknown Speaker 01:34 Yeah, I would say that, that is something that can be awkward when you’re leading people who are your peers, and who are your friends, it can be a challenging thing to navigate through. But I think that you can do it, and God will definitely show you and give you some of those boundaries, it’s okay to be friends with the people that you lead, I think it’s, it’s actually really healthy. If you have a sort of friendship, if it’s just this business, you know, type of relationship, I don’t think that’s totally a good thing, either. I think being faithful and your character will earn you respect. Over time, you know, these people are going to struggle a little bit seeing you as a peer and a friend, but then now you’re their leader, it is going to be a process for them. So be patient with them. But your character in your faithfulness over time, will earn that respect. I think it’s important when you’re working with musicians that are a little bit better than you that you’re constantly improving yourself. Because they see that and they respect that. I think it’s a really great act of creating culture, to ask them for help. Ask them to teach you how to play, how are they doing that amazing sound that you want to go after? How did they dial in that tone? How are they able to hit that note, just to ask for their help. And that creates a really good culture in your ministry of being humble asking for how constantly growing, you can lead the way with that printing.

Unknown Speaker 03:05 You know, the a couple of thoughts that I had are leading a worship team, leading them musically is just one element of your leadership, you know, and so you may not have a whole lot to speak into their musicianship and the playing of the songs. But the way that you set the tone spiritually, the way that you cast the vision for the worship, gathering, the way that you put the setlist together and communicate with them throughout the week, those are all ways that you are being a leader over that team. You know, sometimes you think of a worship leader saying, Okay, my job is to lead the music. And that is true. But you know, if you’re not as strong in that area, like just like Justin said, you know, grow, but you don’t lead in these other areas, you know, lead these musicians in these other areas. You know, on the other hand, sometimes that can be a huge blessing. If you have good musicians on your team, that’s great. Let them exercise those gifts and go for it if you got a drummer that is really strong. And actually, recently, I’ve had two or three different conversations with people that have asked me, How do I lead my drummer? I don’t play drums. I don’t know, I don’t speak drums, you know, what do I say to them, you know, and so given them a couple ideas, but big picture, it’s like, well, if they’re good at it, like let your leadership could be, hey, I’m gonna get you the songs ahead of time, I want you to learn the parts as best you can. And I want you to come and play strong and play confidently. And I’ll let you know if I want you to change something. You know, that can be how you lead that musician. Having people that are better at things than you are on your team is awesome. You know, if you’re trying to be the best musician on your worship team all the time, you’re just going to handicap your worship team, to wherever your ability is, if you’re if you want to be the smartest, tech savvy person at your church, you’re just gonna handicap you, you know what I mean? So it’s good to have better smarter, more experienced people on your team, but just lead them in other ways. To his point about leaning your peers, that can be a tough thing. Okay? So if you if you’re leading like a student ministry, it sounds like or young adults or something like that have whoever is the pastor or the director over that ministry, or even if it’s the worship Ministry of your church, have them in some way communicate to that team, hey, I have this person, I have instituted them as the leader over this ministry, let them lend their authority to you, so that you can have leadership and authority over these other people. Because if you’re just kind of like these, my friends, hey, I’m in charge now. Yeah, I’m gonna be kind of weird. But if the youth pastor comes and says, everybody, I’ve put, you know, this guy in charge, I want him to lead you guys, I want him to make the decision. So that can be really go a long way, I think. Awesome.

Alex Enfiedjian 05:55 Yeah. And as Brendan was talking, I had an idea that like, you don’t actually have to lead any music to be a worship leader. Like I think I’ve actually heard of some people who run their worship ministry, but they don’t play anything, they just facilitate. And I think that’s a really good point. That as leaders, we’re not called to be the best or smartest or most talented person in a room, we are called to be the leader of the group, and 99% of the time, that means relying on the gifts and talents of other people. And all our job is to do is to give them direction, guidelines, boundaries to work within casting a vision, creating goals, confronting bad behavior, that is your job, not necessarily being the best musician, like Brenton said, rely on the good musicians ideas to make the songs better, you know, you don’t have to be the one with all the ideas. Now you do have to know what you want to get after. And you have to be confident to point people towards that. But you don’t have to be the one to generate all of the ideas. And I think the feelings that you have of like self doubt, and fear, there is always that in leadership, like I constantly feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, honestly, you know what I mean. And there’s also kind of, especially when it comes to dealing with your peers, there is this fear of man slash people pleasing, that can kind of get in there. And then we don’t want to confront people or offend people because they’re our friends. And we want them to like us. So what I would say in that situation is as you lead your friends, you should be loving, Be kind, be gracious, be humble, be open input. But don’t let the fear of displeasing your friends keep you from taking the ministry in the direction that God has clearly called you to go. And so that means just lovingly pointing people in the direction that you want them to go, and then just helping them point their gifts in that direction.

Unknown Speaker 07:54 If I could jump in Alex, you know, I think that as a leader, if you’re a young man or young woman listening in, and you’re in a leadership role, or thinking about that, or someone’s asked you to be there, there’s a certain level you got to be prepared to be, I don’t know how to say it’s exactly but but on the outside a little bit, you know, a leader is just in a different spot than everybody else. You know, I’ve led worship teams as young guy with my friends and peers, and, and we’re still awesome friends joke around, still much hanging out all the time. But there’s was that element of like, but I’m in charge of these people sometimes. And, you know, that can be just a real small thing. Or maybe maybe everyone doesn’t sense that I don’t know. But as the years go by, that definitely becomes more of a thing. And you can still have wonderful friendships and great relationships with the people you lead. But there is that element, every leader no matter what field they’re in, has that element of I’m in charge and responsible for this, I’m just at a different spot than all these people. So you just I’ll just throw it out there and just say, be prepared for that. And then the last thing I was gonna say is if you’re looking for a place to start musically, and you’re like, Oh, I can’t go learn how to play drums and keys and bass and suddenly become this expert musician. learn some basic music theory. And that’s going to go a really long way. If you can, you know, talk in terms of arranging songs, play a whole No, play eighth notes, play up higher above middle C on your keyboard, just some, you know, registered arranging things that’s going to go a really long way in being a strong musician, even if you don’t expertly play those instruments. That’s good. Justin, any closing thoughts?

Unknown Speaker 09:37 Yeah, you know, one of the things I was thinking about a common I guess, issue that I’ve experienced when working with really talented musicians is that sometimes they actually need coaching on when to play and when less is more. One of my favorite musician stories is about a great musician and drummer. named Dave Grohl after he was done playing with Nirvana, I guess he got this gig with Tom Petty. And they played this song that all it required was the bass drum and the hi hat on one in three, and the snare drum on three, there were no fills in this song. And if you’ve ever heard Dave Grohl drum, you know that the guy just, I mean, he kills it. And he played this gig with Tom Petty. And that’s exactly what he did. He did what the song was calling for, in Tom Petty came up to him at the end of the gig. And he said, You are the best drummer that I’ve ever played with in my life, and you have a gig whenever you want it. And it wasn’t because he was showing up, but because he was able to show restraint. So your way of leading some of these musicians is to, to help them and coach them. I think back to a number of years ago, we had this guy come in audition, who he looked like he came out of the 80s, he was a professor at Musicians Institute, which is a prestigious musician school down in Los Angeles, this guy, I mean, he could totally shred on the guitar. And I remember we played the song Hosanna together. And he just went into a full blown Metallica solo in the the bridge of Hosanna. And part of me talking to him, he’s way better at guitar than I’ll probably ever be. But I had to share with him that it didn’t really work there, what he was trying to do. So part of your job is to help these musicians know when less is more when they should play these things. And then I would also say that if you have, you know, all of these musicians that you see them as being more talented than you to maybe be in prayer and watch for signs. Because sometimes God will use these things to show you that maybe your season leading in this capacity is coming to a close, I used to always say you always want to be on the lookout for your replacement. Even if you’re planning on going, you know, not anywhere for a long time. Just to be on the on the lookout God may be raising up your replacement or someone that you can really pour into that may become a worship leader and another youth group in town or, or whatever. So that that’s what I would add to it.

Alex Enfiedjian 12:13 Man, it’s so wise. And I would agree with Justin that so many players overplay. And my friend just showed me an article from the bass player of Prince’s band prince who just passed away recently. And she said Prince would always tell us that even though we’re only a five piece band, there’s actually a sixth member space. And I was like, Oh, yeah, and I actually did a whole podcast episode on this topic called helping your band beat buisiness and embrace simplicity. So check that one out. I’ll put a link in the show notes, but so much wisdom you guys thank you so much for sharing to the listeners. That’s it for our q&a month. If you’re being helped by this podcast, please leave us a review on iTunes. It helps us a lot. Again, we probably won’t do many more q&a episodes, but you can always email me any of your questions and I will communicate directly with you through email to help answer them and I’m sure Brenton also would so Brenton. and even Justin, Justin, what’s your email address? It’s Justin at right CEO awesome. Alright guys, thanks so much for listening. And I’ll see you on the first of the month where we will be talking about building healthy happy high functioning volunteer teams. God bless you guys. Bye