By Chuck Dennie
Leadership in worship is not about you. It’s about the leaders around you. I spent many of my early years as a worship leader learning this lesson the hard way.
I was the front man for a Christian band called By the Tree for about 10 years. In 2005, I felt God calling me to the local church. It’s a calling I have loved! I started leading worship at a church in Oklahoma City called LifeChurch.tv (now Life.Church) about 12 years ago. At that time, about 8,000 people attended every Sunday. I went in as a 27-year-old kid not knowing what I didn’t know. I thought an ethic of hard work was admirable, so I put all I could on my own shoulders and ran as fast as possible. I believed it was noble and that God was pleased. What I didn’t realize is that by tackling so much, I was effectively blocking other people from using their gifts and talents.
We learn more from our failures than our successes, and man did I learn from this one. It was one of my greatest leadership mistakes, and that is why I want to share it with you.
I learned many things while serving under Craig Groeschel’s leadership at LifeChurch.tv, and one of them was this: Delegation creates followers, but empowering releases leaders. When I first heard this principle, I quickly realized that my leadership needed to change. So, if you are a worship leader, let me ask you: How many people around you have you released as leaders? Or do you just delegate tasks each week? We should measure the leadership health in our churches by how many leaders we are developing and releasing.
The past couple of years I’ve been blessed to work with an amazing church in Illinois called The Crossing. I’ve learned lessons from the leadership there, and I’ve also seen successes in the leaders I’m developing. One of those success stories involves a young leader named Kyle. He is a natural leader, and he instinctively raises up teams around him. Kyle understands what other leaders don’t: Leadership is about working yourself out of a job. It’s about putting the next person up. It’s about being bench strong. It’s about developing leaders so they’re ready when the time comes. This is leadership!
I have seen Kyle do this on many occasions, and recently we put him into a higher leadership position because of it. The Crossing has 10 campuses in five states, and Kyle was doing a great job leading worship at one of our locations. A year ago, he tore his ACL, and that kept him off the stage for several weeks in a row. Something like that usually has a big impact on a church. But Kyle had put together such a great team that no one even knew he was gone.
I know what you’re thinking—as a worship leader you want people to know you’re gone. You want to feel like, when you’re not there, things will not run smoothly or be as good. Let’s face it—each one of us wants a pat on the back to recognize we are missed when we are gone. But when we place more emphasis on leadership from the stage, we miss the beauty of leadership offstage.
Kyle had worked himself out of a job, and I noticed. His campus pastor noticed. We all noticed. One of the greatest needs in churches today isn’t buildings, resources, or programs—it’s leaders. And if leaders are our greatest need, then our greatest contribution to the church and the kingdom of God is to develop and release leaders.
How many times do we see a leader move on to a different organization or get called to another area in the church and no one is ready to take their place? I know God has called us to develop the next generation and to release leaders, and I believe the greatest litmus test for us as leaders is to look around and see how many people’s lives have been influenced by our leadership.
Many of us are afraid to take a risk on a leader. Maybe it’s because the potential leader doesn’t sing well enough, doesn’t play well enough, or lacks certain knowledge of the culture of our church. But the greatest way to learn is to be in the game. You can instruct players on the bench all you want, but it’s when you release them into the game that they learn the most. Will they make mistakes? Absolutely. Will they fail? Most certainly. That is why you’re there to help guide them through the process.
My challenge to you is to release leaders. Don’t delegate tasks—release leaders. My prayer for you is that in four or five years, if someone were to ask whom you have impacted, multiple people would stand and you would glorify God together.
Leadership is not what you do onstage, it’s what you do offstage. Leadership is about working yourself out of a job. Leadership is about empowering those around you so more ministry occurs and God is glorified.
Chuck Dennie is an award-winning musician, producer, and director. He was a founding member of By the Tree and worship leader and campus pastor for Life.Church. He serves as creative director with The Crossing, Quincy, Illinois, and lives in Franklin, Tennessee. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.