10 Thoughts for Church Keyboardists

By Dr. Barry Liesch

Do you want to have a more fulfilling worship ministry?  Here are ten thoughts which will increase your motivation, spur personal growth, and sharpen your goals as you serve the Lord.

1. Sit down and write out on paper your identity as a church musician.

Clarify what you want to be and do.  Compose short statements that really motivate you.  For example, ” I am a triumph maker. I help people meditate on Jesus. I help our church discover its corporate voice. I help people feel.  I open up the hymn and chorus texts. I bring dynamism to the service and help it flow.”

 2. Don’t expect ministry to be a form of emotional therapy.

Do you have low self-esteem?  Do you have a need to be complimented?  Worship leading, believe me, is a risky way to be built up! ? Ministry tests  your emotional maturity.  All performers must learn to expect withering criticism.   Do what you do for the Lord without expecting to be stroked.

3. Cultivate loving relationships. 

Identify with your people— Jesus is our model.  In the presence of His Father, Jesus calls us his “brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:12)—that intensifies and deepens his relationship with us.  If your relationship with someone becomes strained, be the person to make the move toward reconciliation.

4. Worship while you perform.

This is not easy in actual practice—you are busy thinking, executing, listening, observing (I understand!).  The better you master your music each week, the more free you’ll feel to worship.

5. Commit yourself to learning one new thing each week.

Improve your reading and improvisational skills.  Impose boundaries on yourself: concentrate on a single bar, phrase, harmonic progression, or style.  Focus on becoming comfortable in a new key. Or, explore the possible voicings of a single chord.  Don’t feel that you must practice a whole piece—work on part of it.

6. Risk emotional vulnerability.

You are probably the emotional center of the song service.  Keyboardists and guitarists can usually influence the congregation as much or more than the song leader.

I sometimes talk to myself like this: “If you don’t feel anything they won’t; if you don’t risk anything they won’t; if you’re not wide awake they won’t be; and if your worship isn’t costly there’s won’t be either.”

Have the courage to follow your intuitions and convictions.  If you are experiencing goose bumps while playing, stick with that.  Discover exactly what—musically and otherwise—triggered it.  What moves you is important and will help you play with conviction.  If you discover a great line of theology or a poetic image that’s captivating, go to your instrument and find ways to bring that to everyone’s attention.

Engage not only your mind but also your emotions when you practice.  Allow music to strike you with force.  Laugh.  Cry.  Then when the something like that feeling comes up at church, your stored up memory will kick in—you’ll not be lacking emotionally!

7. Don’t allow a perfectionist attitude to paralyze your progress.

You are going to make mistakes (try to minimize them of course).  Any improviser will make some “clams.”  But wouldn’t you choose an inspired performance with flaws over a sterile one?  I’m not encouraging recklessness: test your “runs,” “riffs,” and “licks” at home first.  Perform only what you can reasonably pull off.  But remember, your goal is to make a contribution.

 8. Let your personality come out!  

Many leaders are all bound up.  Feel free to embellish a chord, a rhythm, or raise your hands (if it’s appropriate).  Be aggressive, not neutral.  Remember the Master you serve.  Remember how much you love the people and would like to see them experience authentic worship.

 9. Share (rather than hoard) your ideas with others. 

Determine to be vulnerable: ask questions when you need help. Create an open learning environment.

 10. Know when to step down or retrain.

This is a hard one!  A more skilled musician may join your church.  What will your reaction be?  Will you be willing to step down? Or if styles change, will you self-initiate some form of retraining?  People with this statesmanship attitude are respected.  If you are a keyboardist, the keyboard books at worshipinfo.com can help you retrain or extend your skills.

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2 thoughts on “10 Thoughts for Church Keyboardists

  1. I was particularly blessed by points 4 and 7…. because personally I find it hard to forgive myself mistakes and also difficult to worship while playing, probably because I am so intent on playing 100% perfectly…. I know I need to trust the Holy Spirit more in this aspect and not rely only on my own (limited) skill….. I definitely need to be less “mechanical” in my playing and learn to interact more intuitively and emotionally with music.

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