What I Learned from Leading WorshipGod08

I think I’ve recovered from last week’s conference. What a joy to see so many folks come from so many different places to learn and experience what God has told us in the Psalms about worship. Although we barely scratched the surface of the topic, I think people went away encouraged and equipped, with plenty to think about and apply.

After a few weeks, I’ll meet with the admin staff and talk about what worked and how we can serve people more effectively at the next WorshipGod conference in 2010. In the mean time, I wanted to share a few things I learned during the course of leading this year’s conference.

1. Having a detailed schedule really helps.
Chelsea, my daughter and assistant, made sure each day that I had a clear road map for everything that was going to be happening that day. I added my own notes to it, including transitions and introductions. Sometimes I’ve tried to do those on the fly, and they just don’t work as well.

2. People flow with things better if you tell them in advance what’s going on.
This year I was more proactive in letting people know things like why we were teaching so many new songs (because we wanted them to go home with new songs for their churches), what the aim of the conference was (not only to rediscover the Psalms, but to rediscover the unsearchable greatness of God), and why I was recommending certain books (by quoting from them). No doubt I could have explained even more than I did, but I’m understanding how important it is to give reasons for what we do.

3. We are very normal people worshiping an extraordinary God.
That fact that we’re “normal” came across maybe a little more clearly than I would have hoped. On the first night I announced that Delaware was part of New England (it’s not). We also announced that there would be coffee served the next morning (there wasn’t). On top of that, there were numerous musical train wrecks. One band started a song in two different keys and had to start over. On the last day,  the music team modulated in “God Shall Arise,” but the attendees didn’t catch it. So we sang an entire chorus in two different keys. One soloist couldn’t hear the intro to a song well and started off about a 4th too low. I stepped up on stage during the first of those situations to remind everyone that the Holy Spirit doesn’t leave the room when we make mistakes. It’s okay to acknowledge what’s going on, laugh about it, and start again. God gives grace to the humble. His strength is perfected in our weakness. Jesus looks better when we look normal.

4. It’s helpful to have a conference theme and a new CD with the same focus.
We sang or taught six songs from the Psalms CD over the conference. They helped not only reinforce what we were being taught, but also enabled people take that teaching home to their local churches through the songs they learned.

5. Push harder for variety.
We used different leaders and teams this year, including a 40 piece string ensemble for one song, a three piece band, loops, an eleven piece string ensemble with a rock band, a horn section, and an 80 voice choir. But I’d like to do more in the area of diversity. Not only regarding instrumentation but in the kinds of songs we sing and the way they’re put together. The Psalms show a tremendous variety in type, length, and mood. That could be reflected more in our songs and meetings.

6. Shorter is better.
Every meeting went longer than I had planned. The longest was 2 hours and 45 minutes. The shortest was 2 hours and 20 minutes. We mixed it up with giveaways, announcements, and Scripture recitations, and people seemed engaged, but we can do better. I want to shoot for something between two hours and 2:15. It’s longer than most church meetings, but our goal is to equip, bless, and model, which takes more time.

7. One of the best parts about any conference is the people who come.
I’ve already heard numerous reports of how much people enjoyed connecting up with other people at the conference. I was able to hang out with some friends from Harvest Bible Chapel, as well as have many other conversations. We had guests over to our home Thursday night, Friday night, and Sunday afternoon  just to make sure we could get some quality time with a few of the folks who taught at and attended the conference. Those were rich times. I also enjoyed meeting some of you who read Worship Matters, and being able to thank you personally for your encouragement.

8. What I do after a conference matters.
If I don’t have a plan after a conference, I usually default to pride over what went right or discouragement over what went wrong. So, on Monday morning I went to Starbucks for four hours and started reading “The Fountain of Life” by the Puritan John Flavel. He simply seeks to extol the glory and splendor of Jesus Christ. I also spent some extended time reading the Psalms. I made it my aim to remember how merciful God has been to me in Christ, and how much better it is to meditate on what Jesus has done than on what I’ve done. It refreshed and restored my soul.

9. In the end, God is the only one who can make our labors count for eternity.
We spent months planning, strategizing, praying, discussing, administrating, and preparing for the conference. But after all is said and done, I’m very aware that God alone can change, convict, and encourage hearts. Any fruit that was produced in and through people’s lives is due to God’s Spirit working through the means of the Gospel and the Word. All the glory belongs to God. All the gratefulness belongs to us. And I am very grateful.

Those are some of the things I learned this year. I’m sure I’ll think of many more in the days to come.

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15 Responses to What I Learned from Leading WorshipGod08

  1. Ken August 8, 2008 at 9:45 PM #

    This is really good and really helpful, Bob.

  2. David Santistevan August 8, 2008 at 9:49 PM #

    How far in advance to you begin planning for an event like this? How large of a staff do you use to pull it off? Seems like a great conference. Would love to come sometime.

  3. Bob Kauflin August 8, 2008 at 10:52 PM #


    Our review meeting will be in a couple of weeks. But we begin planning in earnest about 9-10 months out. We have to have the seminars and speakers lined up by January. The core admin group is me, the conference director for Sovereign Grace, and my daughter/assistant. But there are a host of men and women that actually pull it off. A woman in the church oversees housing and gift baskets, a guy on staff oversees the bookstore (for which he built shelves to display CDs), another oversees the exhibitors and notebooks, my wife oversees the stage design, the church tech director oversees the sound and lights, another staff person oversees recording of 30+ seminars, etc., etc. Plus dozens of folks volunteer as ushers, greeters, helpers, and all-around servants. All of them humble and joyful. It’s a privilege to serve God’s people with them.

  4. mark August 9, 2008 at 1:33 AM #

    your comment #2 reminded me of something an experienced older instructor taught me during some sales classes i was taking for my job: you can do just about anything you want with your customer – as long as you let them know what you’re doing (and why)… ;-)

  5. Nate Fancher August 9, 2008 at 1:00 PM #

    comment #3 was one of the things that also encouraged me about the conference; Not necessarily the “normal factor” in itself, but the way the gospel was emphasized at the center of it. In other words when Christ is exalted by very normal people, it’s so much more attractive. When people’s normalcy is void of Christ it just becomes people drawing attention to their great humility…. =) That’s just a turn off… – Thank you for making Jesus the focus!!

  6. Stephen Altrogge August 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM #

    Bob – Excellent post. It’s helpful to see how you lead people through various events. Seeing that you stepped up after the first worship train wreck is helpful. And your response after the conference was very helpful as well. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. Jonathan Baird August 9, 2008 at 2:43 PM #

    I would really like to have a dvd of your friday night session. The way you lead us through those aspects of the Psalms; Expression, singing in the Spirit, and the smiting Psalms (i forget the name for them) was vey helpfull and I would like to share it with my worship team, but I think it needs the visual to get the full effect. Would that be possible?

  8. Damien Drago August 9, 2008 at 9:13 PM #


    I cannot thank you enough for your careful planning for this conference. I appreciate all your above thoughts as you are seeking to improve every year you plan for one of these events. Our worship team is feeling immediate benefits from attending Worship God. I walked away more thankful for you and how God uses you to serve His church.

  9. Thomas Clay August 11, 2008 at 5:11 PM #


    I think comment #8 is the most overlooked area of doing a conference. So much prayer and prep work goes into pre-conference but typically very little goes into post-conference. I think after our True Church Conference is when I am most vulnerable. We get so many wonderful words of encouragement, and praises to God (and those who give them are being biblical in doing so) after a conference and we are most prone to pride and self-gratification.

    It’s then that we need to pray more and have a plan to lay all of the compliments and kind words at the Feet of Christ and say “behold the work of Your Hands!”

  10. Rick August 12, 2008 at 11:10 AM #


    Great conference, and great reflection here on it! I read another comment here about possibly getting a DVD of the Friday night session. I would be interested in the other main sessions. I was unable to be there Wed. night or Thursday night because of travel and visiting a friend, but I would love to have a chance to see the singing time that was before the speaker, including, of course, Mark Altrogge’s announcements! When I arrived alone Thursday morning, everyone I talked to kept looking for a white wrist band and I had no clue what they were talking about!

    Thanks again! Next time, sell tickets to those meetings at your house!!

    Great is His faithfulness!


  11. David August 12, 2008 at 3:12 PM #


    I think having the conference theme and new cd with same focus really helped strengthen both. It certainly reinforced using the songs back home at our church. We are already using the song “The Lord Is” within our corporate worship and ties in excellently with the sermon series we are going through in the book of Job. And thanks again for the kind gift!

    In Christ,
    Dave “The first guy” from DE

  12. Ed Schief August 16, 2008 at 7:55 AM #

    To point #3 – making mistakes and being ‘normal’:


    I’ve been to about four billion church conferences, and about 6 hours into each one the you-don’t-measure-up feeling would start to creep in. Then someone would make a mistake, and I’d relax. I think new people who sit in our congregations feel the same way. Their fall-back position is that the people on the platform have it all together and are somehow different, better and farther along than they are. We should always do our best – just not take ourselves too seriously.

    Really, really like your attitude about all this. It’s engaging.

  13. Daniel August 28, 2008 at 2:25 PM #


    I think you should change the schedule of Worship God to 2009. I really want to go to Together for the Gospel and/or New Attitude in 2010. Thanks Bob!


  14. Bob Kauflin August 28, 2008 at 3:54 PM #


    Funny you should ask. I’ll be posting on the change in plans for the next WorshipGod conference shortly…

  15. Michael Hard September 3, 2008 at 10:27 PM #


    As for the length of the meetings, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every night I walked away from the times of worship full of praise and the times of instruction not just fed but stuffed. Two and one half hours is long but I don’t think it is too long. Every moment was a precious gift from God.
    Thank you.


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