"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Youth Ministry Topics Developing Student Praise and Worship

Worshiping Our Audience of One (Part 5)

Cynthia Cullen


Here are some resources I use to keep track of the newest worship songs:

  1. The website www.worshiptogether.com , which includes a lot of the cutting edge music.
  2. I’m a huge Vineyard Music fan because their lyrics are always written toward people that have a nominal understanding of God. All of their lyrics are so scriptural and musically the people can sing them. They do so well in communicating simple things about God in a non-churchy format.
  3. Integrity Music. They’re pretty edgy with their alternative label called Vertical Music. What we choose would come off of that label.

A couple of great books for a worship leader to read would be "Heart of the Artist" by Rory Noland of Willow Creek. It’s a very good look at the "how-to’s" of the worship ministry and it goes into the tough issues of leading a team of creative people. As a worship team we read that book last year together to discuss what issues were brought up by that book.

This year we’re reading "Worship a Way of Life" by Patrick Cavanaugh which deals more with the why and what of worship. Also, any book written by Dr. Robert Webber on worship is an excellent resource. "Worship Evangelism" by Sally Morgenthaler is an incredible resource and a helpful handbook for me as a leader.


NorthStar Church started in January, 1997, as a church plant. One decision made early on was that we would have excellent music and worship from the beginning. In order to accomplish that we hired professional musicians. This is critical to your success as a church start. As a ministry you haven’t had the time to build the worship team. When you start your ministry in your first weekends there is an incredible excitement that gets lost if the music is terrible because you’ve had no time to identify or train them.

Within NorthStar’s first six months of existence as a church, we paid a drummer, a bass player, and a keyboard player. Within six months, we were able to phase out the paid players with volunteers who wanted to be a part of the music ministry. If you have a professional level of music in your worship team, you will draw excellent musicians. Excellence breeds excellence in worship.

The relational stickiness comes in developing your team when you have some who are paid to perform and some who are volunteer. I covered that time with a lot of prayer. As you develop a worship ministry, this is just a growing pain that you have to go through to get to the next level. Communicate constantly with your team so that they understand your philosophy and the vision of where you’re headed as a ministry team together. Also, God really helped me as we built this team, by keeping relationships key.

After that first band was developed, which played together for the first two years, we developed a second band. Developing a ministry with depth is a very slow process, it does not happen quickly. If it happens quickly your turnover is going to be terrible. If you have a good band going, it seems scary to add new members and develop a second band, but it helped to curtail the burnout in music ministry.

We’re currently running three services on a weekend and will shortly go to four, and it’s too much of a time commitment for most of our members to be away from their families every weekend. Our vocalists minister one weekend a month, with our band members ministering two weekends a month. I pray constantly for the family members of our worship team members because I understand the commitment that each family is making to allow them to minister on the weekend.

In addition at NorthStar we have a student ministry band for the high schoolers and a college and singles band for The Crossing services. In addition, there’s music on the elementary school level and a middle school band in development. There are many more aspects to the worship team than just what is seen on a weekend service.

People in music ministry in other churches are often afraid to change something about their worship ministry slowly. Something I’ve have to realize as a leader, is that you are always going to be six months to a year ahead of your people. That’s because you’re the leader. You need to be always sensing a feeling of unrest.

I attended a conference where that innovative pastor Andy Stanley shared this wisdom about leaders: "If you’re not uncomfortable. If you feel like things are moving too slow, that is good because that means you’re the leader and that God is dealing with you now and you need to make changes. But you just have to realize that people are a lot slower at taking change than you are."

Are you working under a traditional pastor but want to go more contemporary? My advice would be to do a few things, but don’t try to do everything. Take the time to develop maybe one or two things with excellence. As for that one little new thing that you try, maybe you only do one new opening song. That one song could be done with the praise team and then you bring the choir in. In your worship ministry begin to slowly add some different elements, but don’t to do it all at one time.

If God is in your ministry, you’re there for the long haul. It may take you two, three, maybe five years to implement the vision you have for the worship ministry in your church. But if you’re convinced that this is where you need to go and you do it slowly and you do it with excellence, I don’t think you’ll find the resistance that a lot of people find when they go in and make 50 million changes in their churches. People’s feelings matter to God and they should matter to you as you’re leading this worship ministry in your own church.

As you’re developing a music ministry, err on the side of people and relationships, rather than the program. Some of my greatest failures in leading a ministry have been with people. I’ve made every mistake that could possibly be made, most of them being people mistakes rather than musical mistakes. People mistakes are the worst. I’m a High D personality, which is a good thing to be in a music ministry because you have a lot of conflict to deal with. I’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s more about relationships than performance.

My whole philosophy of ministry has been formed from the mistakes I’ve made in other music ministry situations and here at NorthStar. I’ve become so non-program driven. In my ministry, the program will suffer before the people will. I can err on either side, because sometimes I get so into the people that I forget about the program. But if I’m going to err, I’m going to err towards the people. When it comes down to making a tough decision, I’m going to choose the people over whether or not we’re going to pull something off in the program. If something is not working because this person has an issue, I’m not going to replace that person. We’ll just drop the song, because people are more important. I’ve also learned the hard way that it’s not right to use people as if they’re there to fulfill my own purposes and goals.

Musically I feel pretty good about the decisions I've made. But my greatest failures have been with people. I wish it had been the other way around. In the last five years I’ve made some decisions that I didn’t clearly communicate. My lack of communication has hurt people. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how good your program is, it’s all about your people. If my people aren’t growing or becoming more like Christ, I’ve failed.

My life verse is Matthew 5:16 – "Let Your Light so shine before men that they may see Your good works and glorify Your Father which is in Heaven." My name, Cynthia, means "Reflector of Light". My heart’s cry is that my decisions in ministry always point others to glorify God in word and in deed. People matter to a compassionate God. My life and the lives of those that I lead must reflect good works so that it will bring all honor and glory to God.