Many students who attend Grove City College are musically gifted. This unique campus trend was something I noticed very early on in my time at the College. Because of the wide variety of organizations and events, there are many opportunities for students to engage in worship. Students who wish to take a leadership position often hope to take a role as a worship leader. The College’s worship leaders are students who excel musically, and have a strong desire to spiritually support others.
I have been close friends with Grace DeMember since the beginning of my time here. She has been leading worship since her freshman year, when she was part of a chapel worship team. As a senior, Grace is now a worship leader on a handful of teams including chapel worship, Young Life and Warriors. Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down and hearing about her experience as a worship leader at Grove City College. Grace is obviously very passionate about leading worship and it was humbling to hear her perspective. I hope that if you are interested participating in worship at Grove City College, her responses will be beneficial and applicable to you.
How did you first get involved in leading worship?
My parents both led worship at the church we went to when I was little and I grew up pretty immersed in worship music. We had band practice at our house, and my brothers and I loved listening to them play. They often practiced right after we went to bed (they had a full band, so I’m not sure how my parents expected us to actually go to sleep) and one of my brothers and I used to sneak downstairs and watch during their practice. Sometimes they would catch us and let us come mess around on the instruments. It was so much fun. Some of my favorite people were in that worship band and I looked up to them from a very young age.
I grew up seeing so many people I loved and admired leading worship onstage, and I wanted to learn guitar so that I could play and sing at church. When I was in 7th grade, my dad started teaching guitar to a couple people in our youth group with the intent of preparing us to lead worship for our peers. There were a couple of leaders in my youth group who saw a lot of potential in me and encouraged me to really pursue leading worship. They gave me opportunities to play and sing with the youth band pretty early on (they had a much better high school student playing with me so I could learn from her) and I learned pretty quickly. For a period of time, I alternated between singing and playing guitar, but eventually I was able to do them both together. I had a piano background as well and started playing keys and singing some weeks.
What skills are necessary to lead worship?
First of all, you have to have a personal relationship with Jesus and want to serve Him; your heart needs to be in it. Secondly, you have to be musically solid enough to actually worship and lead others into that experience. If you’re too caught up in what chords you’re playing, you won’t be able to enter into that sacred time with the Lord. Also, if you’re making a lot of mistakes, it’s incredibly distracting to people who are really trying to worship. It also helps to have experience being in charge of a group of people. You have to be confident in what you’re doing for people to really respect you and buy into what you’re doing.
What challenges do you face as a worship leader?
Pride – wanting the glory of singing/playing in front of hundreds of people for myself instead of giving it to God.
Having to hold “auditions” – it’s hard to tell someone that they’re not the right fit for a group of people who are serving God.
Getting so caught up in “performing” well that I forget about the reason I’m singing/playing.
How have you seen yourself grow or change because of your experience as a worship leader?
I have grown so much in my relationship with the Lord through leading worship. It has been so cool to have such a practical and tangible way to use my gifts and talents to both glorify God and serve others. I have also learned so much about putting my identity solely in Him and not in what others think of me, or even in what I think of myself. Leading worship has also given me so many opportunities to grow as a leader of people, and I am so appreciative for that.
Does your role change based on what organization or team you lead for?
Honestly, the heart and purpose of it isn’t all that different from group to group. As a worship leader, my job is to provide an opportunity for people to encounter the Lord through music, and that purpose is the same for every team I have led. The size of the congregation/group, skill level of the team, sound of the team (acoustic vs. full band), and age of the team obviously changes from group to group, but my role mostly stays the same. There are times when my job is more to mentor and help younger worship leaders as opposed to leading a team myself, my even then, my job is to lead them into a time of encountering the Lord.
What suggestions do you have for students who aspire to lead worship in any manner at Grove City College?
I would say to simply look for opportunities to get involved. Freshman chapel worship is how I got started with the Grove City community, and once other people knew that I had experience leading worship, I got asked to lead for other groups as well. I would also introduce yourself to current members of a team you might want to be on because people are always graduating and moving on and teams are often looking to replace people.
What is your favorite part of being a worship leader?
I love music, and I love that leading worship is an opportunity to glorify God with the gifts He has given me. I especially love getting the opportunity to enable lots of people to have an intimate experience with God. Corporate singing is so powerful, and it always amazes me that God would choose me to be a leader of something that significant.