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Worship Leader Institute Testimonies

Worship Leader Institute’s 2013 Tulsa class was our most diverse and exciting yet. For seven days, our newly enhanced faculty trained an unprecedented number of students from Boston, Seattle, California, South Carolina – even South America.

The ages and backgrounds represented this year were as diverse as the geography, including participants in high school, retirement and everywhere in between. Our number included two pharmacists, a chiropractor, several music directors, a few full-time worship ministers, two licensed pilots, elders, deacons, and a city mayor. The youngest was a high school quarterback who marches first trumpet during the half-time shows of his own games (talk about multi-tasking!).

Worship Leader Institute 2013 J.T. Haney 8 - Version 3
Photo by J.T. Haney

To accommodate the needs of such a large and varied group – our number was more than double the previous year – we needed comprehensive and dynamic class work. So this year’s WLI’s curriculum centered on what we call holistic worship leading: the first three and a half hours of each day were reserved for core competencies starting with bible study and scripture memorization, then moving on to scripture recitation, the power of smiling and non-verbal communication, microphone technique, eye contact, stage presence, body language, directing and beat patterns, prayer, transitions, breaths, tempo management, dynamic contrasts, extended rests and holds, and cut offs, among other topics. These abilities represent what we consider to be a non-negotiable skill set for effective worship leaders. Because of their importance, all of these skills were not only explained, but also practiced through training exercises within an actual church auditorium environment.

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Jules Cseszko leading a class

With holistic worship-leading classes serving as the foundation for the institute, we have been able to grow the course to include other crucial worship leader know-how. The afternoon sessions of WLI detailed advanced topics like music theory/ear training, voice care and management, worship planning, worship technology, vocal tuning, and conflict management.

The faculty charged with delivering all of this content included me, resident musicianary at Park Plaza Church of Christ; my daughter, Melissa, Vice President of Acappella Ministries; my son, Anthony, vocalist for the group, Acappella; Gyula Cseszko, choral and orchestral conductor from Melbourne, Australia; Mike Rogers, music professor at Dallas Baptist University; Melissa Kirby, speech language pathologist at Vanderbilt Voice Clinic; Shane Coffman, Worship Minister at Memorial Drive Church of Christ and director of the Tulsa Workshop; Gary Moyers, Acappella alumni and current director of Moyers Design in Lubbock, Texas; Robert King, choral director at Lipscomb; and Robert Oglesby, director of the Center for Youth and Family Ministry at Abilene Christian University.

Our faculty, as well as the institute as a whole, received rave reviews from the students. “It was more challenging than any business seminar,” said Joe Lennon, former president of Fidelity retail distribution, “the experience greatly exceeded my expectations.” Most exciting, though, was the acclaim for the returning students’ program, in which participants received additional one-to-one training in voice lessons, worship planning, music arranging, and stage presence. “The second year is incredible,” said Mark Schinnerer, a second year student from Carlsbad, New Mexico who plans on returning every year, “This is probably the most rewarding experience I’ve had in my life.”


Worship Leader Institute 2013 testimonies

In addition to students returning, several congregations sponsored more than one leader for training, which we encourage because the bonding generates accountability between the leaders. Such accountability then refreshes and reinforces the material long after the institute is over. Comradery is an integral component of the Institute’s success, so we facilitate bonding through paired exercises, shared meals and a private networking group. With this group they can continue to benefit from one another’s experience and feedback. We feel this network is one of the most valuable ongoing resources we offer the students.


Worship Leader Institute from last year.

We are thankful to God for giving the growth we witnessed this year. Also, we want to thank Park Plaza Church of Christ, Broken Arrow Church of Christ, and all the volunteers for their contributions, without which Worship Leader Institute 2013 would not have been possible. We eagerly look forward to next year’s WLI. You can choose either August 2 – 8,2014, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or begin your week of training on July 26. For more information, contact Bill@Acappella.com


WLI students sharing the Word

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15 Comments for “Worship Leader Institute Testimonies”

  1. I was a student at this year’s institute. I would highly recommend this training to any songleaders that are out there, no matter what level you are at. There is more potential in leading your congregation. You can be more effective as a leader. If you’ve been worship leading for 30 years or 30 weeks, it will pull you out of your comfort zone. It will stretch you. I assure you though, you will be better for it!

    • It was a blessing, William, to see the students as well as the instructors provide a very encouraging approach for students to step out of their comfort zones to grow.

  2. This week was amazing. We learned so many details of the leading worship that I’m surprised we fit it in one week. They brought in people from around the world to make sure that we got the best training. Its also amazing how in a week we made life long friends. I can’ t wait to return next year to improve more.

    • Jimmie, That’s why many are returning next year, because there is much too much material to master in one week. I’m so glad you are taking this so seriously!

  3. For some time now my friend and minister, Peter Clark, has referred to me as a “worship” leader but I must confess, I’ve always felt much more like a regular old “song” leader. No longer. After participating in the 2013 WLI, now I “get it”. I’ve always known God was calling me to more than starting on pitch but I was hindered by both a lack of confidence and a fear that my friends in Christ would somehow think I was trying to be the center of attention. WLI has equipped me to put those insecurities aside and holistically lead my brethren, together as a body, to the joy of expressing our love and gratitude to our God. If you are leading God’s people in singing and have a sense that your worship could be so much more, do your brethren and yourself a huge favor and inquire about the Worship Leader Institute. You’ll be tremendously blessed if you do.

  4. As a 2013 graduate of the WLI, I would highly recommend attending the institute. If you are leading singing at your congergation, come learn the skills to become a worship leader, there is a BIG difference. The Lord deserves our best in worship, WLI teaches you how to bring your best.

    • Time is so precious, we wanted to compress the absolute best teaching within the time frame to help maximize the impact for every leader. Thanks for sharing, Luke.

  5. At the WLI, students come from all across the nation and even the world to better themselves as worship leaders. The love of Christ is what bonds the students from these diverse places. This love is also seen and evident in the instructors at the WLI. All are commited to serving the Lord and that was awesome to witness and be a part of. As a 2013 graduate of the WLI, my life has been changed forever!

    • I’ve seen tremendous growth in you already, Scott. Thanks for your kind words about our instructors, as we attempt to assemble the best staff possible.

  6. The first thing that impacted me was a verse in one of the assigned scriptures. (Ps 66:2 Make His praise GLORIOUS…) I realized that at times in the past, while making His praise, I and the praise probably could have been a lot more glorious. I feel like the WLI team (a) puts you in a friendly, analytical mode and then (b) gives you some tangible, corrective “how-to’s” in the glorious praise department. Not in a critical fashion, but with kindness and reasoning as well.

    Secondly, there is great encouragement in learning and growing together with other brothers in Christ who have similar passions and are facing similar struggles. And so there were some fantastic iron-iron moments where you could feel the sharpening taking place, especially in the peer reviews.

    Thirdly, as a songwriter and “singing promoter”, for a while I’ve been aware of the impact that the Acappella company has had on our fellowship, but I’m not sure that I was quite aware of the great spiritual wellspring of joy and praise that God has produced in the Lancasters. The Spirit was evident and overflowing to the other staff members as well. It was great just being around them all. The whole week I felt my mind constantly being drawn back to lines like “give me water from the well that never runs dry!” and “we have seen His glory!” (There was even once when I thought of “Everybody said but nobody did!)

    And finally, I have to say that my favorite part of the whole week was the truly wonderful praise and harmony that broke out here and there, because it sort of “gift-wrapped” the instruction in such a way that it can be the “gift that keeps on giving”. I think that’s the goal of all this; not to the end that we would be better leaders, but that the better leadership gives rise to more glorious praise gifts to God. And so it was not just “Here go do this stuff…” but “let us show you how this works best”. I feel that God has truly smiled on me!

  7. When is the workshop? I read the article about it, but don’t see the date.

  8. […] We suggest a two-fold strategy for serious worship renewal: In addition to the congregational equipping Praise & Harmony Workshop, we recommend that you sponsor your most talented song leaders to attend the annual Worship Leader Institute. Read more about The Worship Leader Institute here. […]

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