worship leader

3 Questions With Justin Graves

Justin Graves is a talented and experience worship leader and a good friend of mine. He and his wife, Michelle have been leading people in worship over the past 15 years and together they founded the Justin Grave Band.

Here are 3 questions I recently asked Justin:


As you have been traveling around the country for the past 15 years or so leading worship, what have you seen change in churches over the years for good and for bad?

I started leading worship back in the 90's which was the era of big church choirs. Every church had a choir and did a big choir anthem each week. I even directed a youth choir for a few years! No matter how big or small your choir was, there was a lot of time and effort put into making sure the choir's special song was perfect each week.

Over the last 15 years the trend turned from having a big choir to having a big worship team. Every church wanted to have a killer band that rivaled any big name stadium tour. It seemed that it was all about the lights and the show and hoping that somehow would attract new people to the church. Yes, they were doing worship songs, but it felt more like a rock concert where people just come and watch a band sing worship songs instead of participating in worship.  

There are many churches still using the big choir or rock concert format, but recently it seems as though the people going to church are looking for something more authentic, more genuine. They don't care about how cool the band is or even if they are great musicians, they just want someone to lead them in worship. There are churches who have gone to a smaller more intimate group of musicians that make it feel more like you are sitting in someones living room worshiping together than watching a concert.

Don't get me wrong, I think that there is a place for all of these types of worship experiences. I do think that any of them can lead people into worship, but it starts with what the motivation is for the choir/worship team.



If you could share 1 piece of advice with a young worship leader what would it be?

Wow! Only one?! I would encourage young worship leaders not to over think things. Don't worry about creating a good 'show.' Focus your time on making sure that the songs you sing are not just fun, popular and cool, but that they connect with the theme or message each week and have a cohesive flow.

Just be real and authentic. Your congregation wants to know you as a person, they probably don't even care how good of a musician you are. You don't have to impress them, just be yourself. Be exactly who God created you to be!


Recently, you picked up and moved your family across the country to Los Angeles, can you share a little bit about why you made the move and what your prayers are in taking such a great risk?

Michelle and I have a 9 year old daughter, Gabi, who is now a working actor and through a crazy, God filled series of events, we spent some time in LA this past spring to get our feet wet to see what an 'acting carer' is all about. After some great response, Gabi signed with a manager and agent and we felt God calling our family to relocate to LA for at least the next year.

After being born and raised in Texas and having our ministry based there for the last 15 years, this is very new and unfamiliar territory! We are used to being on the road full time, traveling to different churches and leading worship across the country and now we will be more stationary in LA so that we can be available for auditions and bookings for Gabi's new career. We are excited about this new opportunity for our family, but have no idea what to expect!

You are right, this is a BIG risk! There is no guarantee in the entertainment business and to uproot our ministry and pull ourselves off the road is quite scary. By doing this we have decreased our ministry's income because we are not on the road leading worship on a regular basis and are now relying solely on the support from donors. We are also currently changing our ministry model to start providing free, high quality video worship sets and worship leader training for churches that have little to no budget for these types of resources.

I have been making some great ministry connections in the LA area and have had the opportunity to lead worship at several churches and we are hoping to grow our ministry on the West coast. This is a crazy step of faith and we know that God will provide as He always has, but it doesn't make it any less overwhelming. I have also started working at Starbucks again to help make ends meet and have made some great connections there as well!

Our prayer is that God will open doors, provide resources, give clear direction and that He would help us trust Him even when it gets tough. I also pray that Gabi will continue to enjoy her career and that God would use her to be His light!

For more information about the Justin Grave Band check out their website. You can also follow Justin on Twitter for other great worship leading insights!


NYC Experience and Excellence

Screen shot 2012-11-24 at 6.23.44 PM While in New York we went to see the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.  This was our second time to see the show and it was just as amazing the second time!  It really is an experience from the moment you walk in to the moment you step out of the door.  I take that back, the experience begins before you even walk in the doors.

There was a long line to get in, but it moved fast and this was all a part of the anticipation.  Once you enter the building the decor is overwhelming and ushers are everywhere to help you find your seat or meet whatever need that you might have.  The show flies by as there is not a moment that lacks engagement with the production and transitions flow seamlessly.  The show was an incredible experience and had the highest level of excellence in every way.

I often hear people say that the church is not putting on a "show" and shouldn't be compared to tv productions or broadway type shows.  I agree that the church is not putting on a show as what we are doing is far more important!   We lead a congregation of people in a worship experience and the level of excellence we should hold ourselves to should be much higher!

Whether you agree or disagree with this perspective, I hope you will consider these questions as you think about guests who visit your church:

Does the exterior of your church building create interest or curiosity of what occurs inside the walls?

As a guest walks into your building what do they see?  smell? hear?

How engaging is your worship experience from start to finish?  Are the transitions seamless?  Does the production enhance or distract?

As guests leave the building and parking lot what do they see?


View other posts in this series:


Under Construction

Making the Most of What you Have

Attention to Details 

Starbucks Everywhere

Different Perspective

3 Questions with Robbie Seay

RobbieSeayBand-01-big Robbie Seay was one of the first worship leaders I connected with many years ago after I first became a Christian and was attending Metro Bible Study in Houston.  It has been fun to watch Robbie's career develop since that time and to have had the opportunity to partner with him for several events over the years.

I have always loved Robbie Seay Band's music, but once I had the opportunity to get to know him off stage, I became even more impressed.  Robbie carries himself with great humilty and seeks to minister to everyone he is able to connect with on and off stage.  Here are my 3 questions with Robbie Seay:

1) Who are the top 2 or 3 artists that have shaped your music and why?

Rich Mullins - he swam against the current of conventional Christian music in so many ways. He lived with abandon and beyond his career or fame. His songwriting covered all of life, rather than finding a niche of worship or singer/songwriter..he covered it all and never apologized for it. I miss him greatly.

David Crowder - David and I went to school together. He used to pick me up at 630am on Sunday mornings to setup the sound system at UBC, a church that my brother started my freshman year at Baylor. I saw his work ethic, commitment to songwriting and excellence. We got to know each other behind the scenes. His music has taken diversions through the years, but there is always 3-4 songs on each record that move me deeply - and inspire me to know Christ more deeply and to write from that place.

Travis - My favorite band hails from Glasgow, Scotland and I remember hearing them for the first time - it's that great moment all of us experience when we discover music we feel was made just for us. I have always loved their songwriting, the way in which they refuse to take themselves too seriously and their willingness to recreate their sound.


2) Having travelled the world leading worship and playing music, is there 1 memory that stands out more than any other and why?

In 2005, RSB had the joy of touring with David Crowder and Shane & Shane - all guys that came up together here in Texas. I still talk regularly with them today and so I look back on those 40+ shows we did together that fall with the fondest of memories. It's usually the time off the stage that stands outs and yet that was a tour I would sit out front for both of their sets and just marvel at the musicianship and honesty coming from the stage. I'll never forget that tour!


3) If you could tell young musicians and worship leaders 1 thing, what what it be and why?

I would use a megaphone and say: Stop comparing yourself!! Let the pressure of being something you are not fall to the ground. Recognize your talents and limitations and don't hold them up against anyone else. Work your butt off. Write. Rehearse. But more than all of this, Live.

I wasted some years consumed with my "career" and reputation instead of truly living.

I look at David, and he didn't sit around planning and scheming his set lists or devoting countless days to his style or reputation.

He lived.

He fought, He wrote, He sang, He ruled, He loved. He wasn't perfect. He confessed. He doubted God and ultimately trusted Him.

My hope for all songwriters and worship leaders (including myself) is that we reboot and start living. That is where worship comes from. That is the place where fruit is birthed in our life as we study scriptures, love our families, take adventures, serve the vulnerable, share great meals & commit to following the Holy Spirit where he leads rather than where our careers are directing us.


Connect with Robbie Seay Band here:






Here are some other posts in this series:

3 Questions with Jason Caston

3 Questions with Becky Kiser

3 Questions with Peter McGowan

3 Questions with Tim Peters

3 Questions with Greg Smith

3 Questions with Mike Sharrow

3 Questions with Sophia Nasim