Worship Leader Pitfalls #1

Hey Everyone –

Welcome to the 1st entry in my “Worship Leader Pitfalls” series. This series was created to discuss common mistakes that we can easily make as Worship Leaders, Music Ministers (or other leaders). These aren’t posted in a specific order, so it’s not a real “ranked” list – just my thoughts on various issues that can hinder us from being as productive and effective as we could be. I look forward to dialog about it on the “Comments” section and I’ll be posting this series on The Worship Community as well.

Pitfall #1 – Lack of Creative Time (CT)

This pitfall can be a huge issue with both part-time Worship Leaders and Full-Time Worship Leaders. Personally, I struggle immensely with this. “Creative Time” is time that is dedicated to the creative process. I’m assuming that as a worship leader, you are a musician, singer, performer, artist … someone who comes from the “creative” mold. God has given us creative abilities to sing, play, arrange, produce, write, and lead.

In my experience, I’ve found that we can often fall into the trap of spending the majority of our time on administrative and social tasks such as scheduling, filing, and relationship building. These tasks are important and necessary – we have to schedule our bands and singers, music needs to be filed, chord charts need to be created, and we need to maintain a pastoral/shepherding role with those who are serving in music ministry under our leadership. At the same time, we can become very frustrated when these tasks consume much of our time and we’ve not spent time in the “creative” zone.

What are some examples of what I’d consider “creative time”?

  • Alone time to just play your instrument in worship.
  • Group time (outside of structured rehearsal) to jam with your other musicians. (this pays HUGE dividends)
  • Alone time to compose songs. (great worship songs usually don’t come from desk time)
  • Writing time to journal, express your thoughts, blog, etc. (a river that is dammed up with no outflow becomes stagnant)
  • Devotional time (this will overlap with “Quality Time”, a separate entry), but so often, creative time is inspired by devotional time.
  • Restoration/Recreation Time (I was discussing this pitfall with another musician/artist/worship leader who said “Fred, sometimes the best thing an artist can do is leave the office and take a walk on the beach”!) … what inspires you?

For example, in my role as Worship Director I have several objectives and tasks that must be accomplished every week. For example, I need to have my lyrics and arrangements entered into ProPresenter and the .plist file uploaded to the projection team by Wednesday at 4:00 PM. Our team rehearses on Tuesday evenings, so all the arrangements, charts, and rehearsal CDs must be prepared prior to this. I also have staff meeting times, evaluation meeting times, etc. (case in point – today, spent about 2 hours meeting with the Youth Pastor and our Associate Worship Director on some vision casting and practical brainstorming ideas for band rehearsals, mentoring musicians, expectations, etc).

Yesterday, I finished up my “desk jobs” and “tasks” and knowing I had some other meetings this morning and afternoon, I left my office and came back to my home office/studio for some “creative time”. I was able to get my lappie setup on top of the piano, fired up MasterWriter, and finally got to work on a new praise song that was inspired by a passage in Nehemiah that I’d bookmarked weeks ago. I was charged and refreshed afterwards and excited that with some more work and CT (Creative Time), I’ll be ready to arrange/demo/ and teach this song to our congregation and potentially share it with the world.

I’m blessed to be in a position where I can pursue my creative talents while “on the clock”, of course with the understanding that I have measurable goals. I’m accountable to my “direct report” (in my case, it’s the Senior Pastor) and I certainly hope and pray that there is a measurable “overflow” in the anointing on my ministry and leadership to my local church and to the overall Body of Christ as a result of CT.

For the Pastors who read this blog … especially for the ones who are reading this because their WORSHIP LEADERS sent them here (haha!):

Most Pastors I know understand that a worship leader/musician type ministry is one that flows from creativity. My encouragement to you is to bless your creative team with some liberty to “be creative” on the clock. Have measurable goals, deadlines for administrative tasks, and accountability. Granted, some people have proven to be more responsible with their “creative time” than others and that’s why it’s important to communicate clearly about what you are accomplishing. BALANCE is the key. If a WL feels confined to a desk from 8-5 all week with a punchlist of administrative tasks and meetings, it’s not likely they will be as fresh and creative as you’d want them to be. At the same time, the WL can’t just spend all day on the beach “reflecting” on God and “thinking” about worship. They can’t be in the studio “playing” all day, and need to be engaged with the staff, the people, and the plans. Explore some ways that you can engage your creative staff and allow them to flourish.

I’ve been reading “Built To Last“, the prequel to “Good to Great” (which we are reading as a staff). I wish that I would’ve highlighed or marked it as I can’t find which chapter it was in now, but one company had a policy in place where the engineers (maybe they were researchers?) were allowed a certain amount of time to “work on anything they liked” … something that they could take initiative on and pursue. Well, it’s obvious you’d need some parameters around something like that, but I think you get the idea.

WL’s …

If you take an inventory of your work week – how much CT are you experiencing? I recently evaluated this and regretted that I wasn’t getting enough. I was ashamed to see how long it had been since I’d really sat down to compose a new instrumental theme, to compose a new praise or worship chorus, etc. As a result, I could tell how easily I could get into a rut of “familiarity” and not challenge myself. If I’m not challenging myself, how can I challenge others?

Your thoughts?
For the Kingdom,


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Fred McKinnon is a Pianist/Composer from St. Simons Island, GA. Checkout the full BIO for more information and a complete bio. Worship Interludes Podcast - This podcast features instrumentals for prayer, meditation, soaking worship, relaxation, study music, and rest. Visit the Podcast page to listen or subscribe. Follow on Social MediaFacebookYouTubeInstagramTwitter

19 comments on Worship Leader Pitfalls #1

  1. Billy Chia says:

    What are some of your measurable goals in this area?

    Am I to take it that “#1” means this will be a series? If so, I like it. 🙂

  2. Daddy says:

    Great! This applies to pastors as well! We can all get so busy doing the things that have just “got to be done” that we don’t make time for the more important, creative ideas the Holy Spirit is trying to lead us to. Good counsel for all!!!

  3. alex says:

    Fred, really good stuff. I enjoyed reading it and will forward it on to others… could blogging be considered CT time?

  4. Alex,

    I think so – absolutely. I think it’s something best observed in moderation … I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum – spending too much time reading everyone else’s blogs, writing my own, and not enough time writing songs. When it’s all said and done, I’d rather write worship songs that bless the Body of Christ (and my local congregation) AND I’d like to think that I can dialog about worship and leadership on my blog and impact folks for the Kingdom that way, too.

    It also depends on the environment and leadership where you serve … in some cases, where the pastor, etc., are active bloggers, it’s an easy sell. On the other hand, if you have leadership who think the whole subculture is ridiculous or a waste of time – it becomes a hard sell.

    For the KIngdom,

  5. Billy – ABSOLUTELY
    Dad – Thanks!

  6. Ben says:

    Dude! This is a great post Fred! I struggle a LOT with the multiple hats I have to wear and balancing and prioritizing. I’m a worship pastor on a small staff church and being the only “creative” guy on the staff, I’m blessed with the communications, web and all that stuff (which I actually enjoy doing). The only problem is that the weekend suffers since I struggle finding that creative time for the music and worship.

    Great post!

  7. Hey Ben –

    Thanks for the comment .. I just visited your blog and commented there as well – interested to hear more about your audition process.

    I’m glad the article was a good read for ya – w/ all our various hats, Creative Time can be hard to come by – we have to make it a priority, and I think everyone will be astounded by how much more “fresh” we are in what we bring forth!

    For the Kingdom,

  8. Mark says:

    Hi Fred,
    I share your frustration in the “creative” realm of my ministry, but for entirely different reasons. My position as lead worshiper in a very small congregation is as an unpaid “volunteer”. My “paying” job is as a small business (read music store) owner, and, try as I might, the demands of my day (including family) leaves precious little time for that “alone” time that I can just sit with my Lord and Savior. Even then, the “creative” is not usually foremost in heart and mind.

    Thanks for the insight……

  9. klampert says:

    great stuff fred..

  10. Jack Kinsey says:

    Hello Fred,
    Setting aside time to be creative is a struggle I think even for someone like myself who is a Deacon and assist P&W leader. I concur with others who have commented on this being a problem even for us volunteers. I think more important is our private time in prayer and personal worship. I’ve always relied on the Holy Spirit to guide my creativity. I often go for months without new songs or lyrics. Yet they come when He inspires them. Sometimes they come and I don’t have the ability to record them or write them down. This is often frustrating to me wanting to share these with others. Yet it seems at these time it is only for me to share back to God. So I have grown to accept these moments and cherish the times when He has given me new words and songs to praise and worship him. I appreciate your share this with us. This is an excellent article and I will look forward to your future writings.

    God Bless .

  11. Jack,

    Thanks so much … I wholeheartedly agree with you about the prayer and personal worship time. That’s actually an entirely separate “Pitfall” that I’ll be addressing shortly … and is one of the absolutes we must hold to. I appreciate your reading and sharing.

    For the Kingdom

  12. The company you mentioned is 3M and the beloved post it note was invented in a guys mandatory creative time (every leader ought to read those two Jim Collins books. Be sure to check out the monograph follow up he did for non-profits on Good to Great. You can get it at amazon. Little single chapter soft-cover.)

    Here is my advice. You will never see creative time just drop in your lap. For context, Friday is my one day off a week (and I ain’t complaining about that at all, better than planting rice all day long 7 days a week like some of my Vietnamese friends. Plus, one day was good enough for God, so what’s my gripe and technically I have my Saturday mornings until 2 PM). I schedule Thursday afternoons for creative time, so I have to pace Monday-Wednesday like that is all I the time I have. My goal is to keep delegating more until I get all day Thursday as creative time. Then two years from now, add Wednesday afternoons and so forth. It all comes from the base of raising up leaders whom you can delegate effectively to. Once again, raising up leaders should 51+% of ever persons job in ministry.

  13. Fred says:

    Jordan –
    Awesome – would you share some more details of what a typical “creative time” looks like for you?


  14. Hey, no problem. I threw these up on http://www.worshiptrench.com as well. here is:

    1. sometimes I walk and reflect on key decisions

    2. a trip to Barnes and Nobles or Borders to see a) what is selling b) titles of books for creative metaphors c) perusing periodicals on various topics

    3. blog reading of sites on worship, theology, technology, and design of various sorts and types.

    4. an occasional trip to the museums in Fort Worth (The Modern especially)

    5. listening through all the new release samples on Itunes, Urge etc.

  15. Hi Fred, great stuff here! What would u do if your senior pastor just won’t allow you to flow with the move of the Spirit? Its frustrating as a worship leader to have him call the shots just because he likes it that way. Guess you’ve not heard this one b4, he even says “don’t worship in the Spirit but do it in understanding” Submit he says!!!! Help!!!

  16. Fred says:

    Hi Janet –

    This is a great comment and question … one that I’d love to tackle in a future posting – so stay subscribed and tuned! Thanks for it.

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