I’m one of those kids who took piano lessons for about a year (or until I lost interest) and then decided it was more fun to listen to songs on the radio and try to cover them. I learned chords mostly on my own and could play a couple hymns for my Dad during ministry time. So I played some piano but I didn’t, like play piano. If you know what I mean…
Fast forward to my early years at the Vineyard where I tried out as a vocalist and made the worship team. I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to lead worship. But my excitement met a quick death when I discovered that in this culture you needed to play an instrument to be considered a worship leader. This was tough and from my perspective, completely unfair. First, isn’t my voice an instrument? I feel like it is. Second, it was hard on my pride. I had the vocal skills to lead worship but this instrument HANDICAP was getting in the way. I promise I wasn’t dishonoring about it, but I did make as many passive aggressive statements as possible to make sure my Pastor knew I didn’t agree. Haha, he took it all in stride.
There is too much history here for me to unpack in a blog post, but I did work a little on piano and I also hustled my butt learning to play acoustic guitar. While I had a baby at home! I grew in my abilities but still lacked a ton of confidence as well as good rhythm. Must be the German in my roots. 🙂
About 10 years ago Chad and I joined in the launch of a new campus, and guess who was appointed as the worship leader – ME! And I was sent out like a lamb to the slaughter with a keyboard and commissioned to lead a worship community. I was going to be playing and singing at the same time – in front of a brand new church family. Guys, sometimes you just have to do it from fear into faith! That first year was completely challenging and rewarding all at the same time, and what I remember the most is how dependent on God I felt each week. I practiced and practiced each set. I tried to play most of the songs in the same keys so I could HOPEfully take my eyes off of the keyboard for a little bit. I played pads so my fingers didn’t need to move as much.
That first year was a sacrifice of my personal worship and an act of worship to God. I couldn’t press in to what the Father was doing during worship – I was too busy making sure I was playing the right chords. But after about a year?? You know how Jim Carrey sings “I got the power” in Bruce Almighty, yup – that’s how I felt. I had a whole new level of freedom in worship that I had never experienced before and the ability to flow in worship as a leader without relying on anyone else to take me there. It really was unreal. 100% worth the tears, practice, humbling moments…all of it! I’m already hoping this is encouraging to someone who is on this journey right now; it’s worth it.
I’m so glad that our worship community empowers leaders who don’t play instruments because we would sure miss out if we didn’t. But I wouldn’t be the leader I am today if I hadn’t been pushed a little…ok, a lot 🙂 by some strong, amazing Pastors.
Here are my top 3 reasons how learning an instrument has changed my worship:
I love the freedom that playing an instrument has provided. It used to distract me and now it serves me! I have the opportunity to transition myself in and out of the songs I lead. If I want to start with the chorus, I can. If I want to sing another chorus or song for a moment, I can. I have the ability to be flexible and flow with what I sense the Father is doing in the moment.
Because I can play both guitar and piano, if there is a worship leader needed for a smaller event, I’m not reliant on someone else to be able to lead. I love having some experience on the guitar because it’s great for small group or worship moments when you don’t feel like setting up a keyboard.
When I am worshiping at home or songwriting, having the ability to play around with different chords, keys, or melodies is such a gift. You don’t even need to be able to be an accomplished player, it’s just helpful!
I can think of many worship leaders who are in a season of time where learning an instrument would be a real challenge or maybe you don’t even have the desire. That is totally A-OK.
I felt commissioned to write this for those of you who feel the nudge and have been putting it off because of the time or maybe due to fear of failure. Friend, embrace the process, whatever it looks like. There will never be a time where it will be easy, but with the partnership of Holy Spirit, you have grace on your life to learn and you will never regret it.
If you need any guidance or teaching tools to help you on your journey, feel free to reach out – email@example.com