National Worship Leader Conference 2017
Last week I attended the National Worship Leader Conference in Lenexa, KS, produced by Worship Leader Magazine, and hosted at Westside Family Church. I've been in a lot of different worship environments over the course of my life, including many different churches, many conferences, and even in churches in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. I worshiped with tens of thousands of men at a Promise Keepers conference in Boulder, Colorado, and I've played in the worship band for a women's conference. I've worshiped (and led worship) with groups that were primarily made up of pastors--always a very special treat--and I've worshiped with thousands of Free Methodist pastors and lay leaders from all over the world at our General Conference. But I have to say that there is really no experience of worship that is quite like the experience of worshiping among hundreds (or even thousands) of worship leaders and worship team members at a worship leader gathering.
Worship leaders and people who serve on worship teams (whether they serve as musicians or technical people, or other kinds of worship artists) are usually on the platform every Sunday, playing their instruments, leading their congregations in worship, managing all of the little details that are part of a modern worship environment and experience, and we worship along with our congregations as the lead worshipers, but frankly, we often have a lot of things to do and to think about on a Sunday morning. We strive for worship experiences that are authentic, but it would be dishonest to say that we aren't distracted at least some of the time by the various responsibilities that we have, to keep the service moving with some kind of meaningful flow, to play our instruments well, to sing our songs well, to avoid mistakes that might distract our fellow worshipers in the pews from the encounter with God that we hope to facilitate with our music and prayers.
Don't get me wrong--I love leading worship, and Sunday morning worship is literally the highlight of my week, even though I do sometimes feel like I'm juggling a lot of things.
For this reason, many of those of us who serve as worship leaders cherish opportunities for worship in other settings, outside of our usual Sunday morning services. We worship privately in a variety of ways during the week, but there is no substitute for being among the family of God in a corporate worship environment, and when we get to be in the congregation (as we are at a worship conference) instead of leading from the stage (as we usually are in our home churches), we treasure it--it often drives us to our knees and moves us to tears. It is not uncommon for those conference worship times to be particularly sweet and meaningful, as we have the opportunity to worship unencumbered with the responsibilities that are ours on a typical Sunday morning.
These worship leader conferences include Bible teaching that is geared specifically for people involved in the sorts of ministries we participate in--and there are many practical workshops and seminars on topics as varied as leadership, prayer, vocal and instrumental techniques, sound, lighting and media, songwriting for the church, and much more. Yes, it's a lot of content in a short period of time, and it feels like drinking from the proverbial fire hose, but each year I take away a handful of things that have helped make me better, and each year I come away refreshed and ready to jump back into the ministry of leading worship with fresh ideas and new music, and new perspectives on what we do.
I'm grateful for the ministry of leading worship, and I hope and pray that your worship experiences on Sundays are rich and meaningful encounters with the living God. Our team prays for you each week, and we hope you will pray for us as well, as we prepare to worship with you.