If you’ve been to any worship conferences in the past 10 years, you’ve seen this scenario: Paul Baloche teaching a packed-out workshop. Workshop is over and…he has a long line of 20+ people waiting to talk to him. Half of them have a CD in their hand.
What is that CD? It’s probably a demo of their music that they want “discovered”. Many worship leaders seem to attend worship conferences with a box of their demo CD’s, with hopes that they will hand one to a well-known worship artist, like Paul, and be contacted by a record label the next week with an offer of a record deal.
Is it a sin to take demos to worship conferences? No.
Is it strange to wait in line for 20 minutes so that you can hand your demo to Paul Baloche? Well…maybe.
In the world of “Christian celebrities” that we live in, it is no surprise that many worship leaders these days have the secret (and oftentimes not-so-secret) desire to become a “celebrity worship artist”. They see the itinerant worship leader lifestyle as glamorous. In their church office, after reading an email from a church member complaining about how loud the drums were on Sunday, the worship leader might daydream about being in a professional studio, working on their worship album, with producer, Ed Cash.
Many worship leaders have become hustlers at these worship conferences, so I have a new term for them: worship hustlers. The workshops are great, but these worship hustlers are distracted because they are anxious to get their demo into the hands of the workshop speaker.
Having many friends who are worship artists and music industry leaders that speak at these conferences, I know how often they get approached by worship leaders asking them to check out their music. I personally don’t know anyone who got a record deal (or even a song cut) from doing such a thing. I’m sure there are a few folks out there, but they are few and far between.
So, if you are reading this and you are a worship hustler, I want to challenge you with a few things as you attend a worship conference this Summer/Fall:
1. Make it your primary objective to learn and grow as a worship leader. Make it worth your church’s money (if they are paying for you to attend) and your time. Attend as many sessions and workshops as possible. Take TONS of notes. Glean from those who have been doing it a lot longer than you have.
2. Meet other attendees. I am often shocked when I talk to a worship leader who just attended a worship conference with a thousand people in attendance and they came back not having made one connection with another attendee. Don’t be anti-social (or a social media addict glued to your phone every time you’re waiting for a session to start). Get off your phone and introduce yourself to the people next to you.
3. Die to whatever dream you have of becoming the next big worship artist or getting a record deal with Integrity Music, etc. Don’t let your personal dreams distract you from giving your 110% to the ministry God has called you to at your local church. When you’re at the conference, look for ways to serve others, ways to take what you’ve learned back to your church, and ways to become more effective as a worship leader at your church.
4. Leave your demos at home. I believe in networking. I do a ton of that myself. However, if your secret desire to become the next Chris Tomlin is causing you to just use people as stepping stones to achieve your dream, you need to stop it. Don’t take your demo to the conference. Don’t wait in line to give your demo to Paul. Instead, wait in line to tell him how much you appreciate what he shared in his workshop and how his ministry is making an impact in your local church.
Now, I am not saying it is wrong to hand your demo to people at a conference. My point is: don’t let that become your false idol. Pray about it and if you really sense God telling you to go hand Paul your demo, do it.
But, in the meantime, be content and satisfied serving in the local church that God has put you in. When your life is over, God is not going to ask you, “How many people heard your songs on the radio?” “How many people knew your music?”
God has a purpose and a calling on your life. It is possible that your calling is being an itinerant worship artist, but don’t try to force it to happen. Be patient. Wait on The Lord. God wants to use you where you’re planted.
As you attend a worship conference this year, enjoy it. Meet fellow worship leaders who are in the trenches just like you. Keep your phone in your pocket in between sessions and focus on the people that are right there next to you.
A special thanks to Wisdom Moon, our guest blogger. Wisdom is the Founder of AllAboutWorship.com – a resource that exists to equip, encourage, and inspire worship leaders and songwriters