Are You a Song Leader or a Developer?


One of the most fruitful worship leaders I know is a 58-year-old mediocre singer who’s DEAF in one ear. He leads a racially diverse worship ministry of over 100 volunteers in a church of 2.5K.

Another worship leader I know is 65. He’s taken a very dated service to a well done, technologically savvy worship expression with one of the best social streams I’ve seen. He rarely leads a song but has developed DOZENS of young worship leaders in a church of 500.

I know worship directors that DON’T play guitar or piano, yet they lead the whole worship ministry from a soundboard or drum set. Churches of 3K+


Most senior leaders think TOO SMALL when imagining their next worship leader. Their goals are typically someone young with exceptional stage presence, high anointing, and low cost.

It’s been my joy to help multiple churches find their next worship leader. Probably 100 phone calls in the past 5 years – helping pastors expand their idea of “I need a worship guy”.

What if I told you your next best worship leader would be a much better PASTOR than a PERFORMER.

What if I told you they might do things that build God’s kingdom in ways that don’t translate well to YouTube.

What if I told you they would need to be paid a significant living wage –  but in return might disciple 10 fold your other candidates.

I appreciate that each church has a unique journey and this advice might be something for 5 or 10 years down the road. This very well might be the time you need a solid chief musician on stage, but consider the idea that the right

PERSON may not fit the PERSONA (of a typical worship leader).

A not entirely unrealistic binary to conclude my point:

1. A+ stage savvy worship leader. Anointed, brave, bold, worker bee. Impressively, makes the weekend “happen”.  Prone to burnout or acquisition from a bigger ship.

2. C+ stage savvy worship leader that develops dozens of A’s, B’s, and C’s across all positions for years and decades.  Makes weekend “happen”, but it’s a little messier. Prone to irrelevance or church planting 😉

Helping your worship leaders and teams tell the story of God in worship. My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring worship leaders and teams. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more about how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.



Recording as Discipleship

The Making of How Glorious You Are

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I co-wrote, produced and played on a live recording for my previous church in August 2015. Four months into production, I was let go from the church. Much of the process of finishing the album revolved around my ability to mix the songs on the cheap as an employee, so needless to say it was delayed. Working on this record after my departure felt like I was writing a love letter to an ex-girlfriend and having to mean it. Ultimately I had to finish it, because so many, including myself, had already invested so much. I want to share a little about this album and the creative community behind it to encourage churches to create record their own expressions of worship.

Creativity flourishes not in certainty but in questions. – Sue Monk Kidd


When the church planted 20 years ago we named the worship band “Poured Out Like Wine” because it sounded more sustainable than “Mike’s Praise Band”. Over that time we recorded 6 full lengths albums, 5 EP’s, and 5 singles. We built a studio in the church and trained hundreds of musicians, songwriters, and recording engineers over the years. You might call it “recording as discipleship”. We have has some limited success with royalties and labels publishing our songs, but we never had anything you could call a “hit”. No substantive reviews, nods or buzz. A long, slow, ordinary creative flow with hardly anyone noticing other than our church. This is where it gets interesting. In our little church, the worship leaders and songwriters have been saying something new for almost 20 years. With hundreds of our own songs weaved into the typical modern church liturgy, we have lived the dream week by week. Most artists would kill to have a couple hundred people in a room singing along to your song. It’s been good for all of us.

Each name on this CD jacket represents hours, months and years of discipleship. The songs have formed us, but more importantly, the hours spent creating together have formed us more into the image of Christ. 


The preachers preach and the songwriters listen. We summarize the message into something memorable and singable. As the community embraces seasons of rejoicing or weeping, the songwriters are the attentive storytellers coming alongside the church to give voice.


This slow kingdom coming peeks into the world a little today the release of “How Glorious You Are”; the title track was written in between theology classes when I realized once again the centrality of Christ in worship. JR Rund and Wilfred Cuthbert bring their country leanings on “Songs of Joy” and “The Steadfast Love of the Lord”. Lauren Kamal wrote and sang (8 months pregnant) a deep reflection on the presence of God on “We Can’t Contain You”. “Oh Jesus” was written by our sound guy turned bass player tuned songwriter, Jonathan Hicks – it’s the most ‘Vineyardy’ song on the record. “Come Holy Spirit” is my favorite worship song I’ve ever written or recorded. It just says and does all the things I want a church song to do. I wrote the first song “One True God” when a really good friend told me he had quit Christianity – it’s the wrestling of doubt and faith against a Tom Petty chord progression. This is a very vocal record with all 6 singers (worship leaders) pretty much singing all the time.

For this recording, we used ALL local church people except for the drummer and mastering engineer. We made a 20K album for 3K! So many musicians gave up time at work and rehearsed hours and days to make this happen. We labored over the songs for months before setting them free.

You can buy the record HERE

You can STREAM the record everywhere

You can download the chord charts HERE


My name is Mike O’Brien and I am passionate about teaching and mentoring through music. My calling is to use my experience as a producer, worship leader, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist to come alongside musicians, helping them more fully worship God with their instrument and lives. Find out more how I can help your worship leaders and teams HERE.