Know Your Why

Yesterday I preached at my church, Vine Church. The sermon was called, “Know Your Why” and we discussed how to align what we do with our why. You can check it out below.

Relational Leadership Principles


For the past 15 years I’ve been on church staffs in one form or another. I’ve led worship. I’ve led students. I’ve consulted with churches and trained worship teams. I’ve analyzed church systems and worship services with lead pastors. I’ve been around the world and seen a lot. At the same time, I have my own band that travels to play music or lead worship at conferences and venues all over the U.S. As time has passed, my understanding of church has evolved; My worship teams have expanded and disbanded; My community involvement has increased and decreased; I’ve received more notoriety as a musician; We’ve played on bigger stages and smaller stages; And so on. But I’m constantly asking myself how true success is measured or attained.

I keep coming back to vision and relationships.

I’m not sure if there is an official term such as “relational leadership” as it relates to this, but that’s the type of leader I want to be. And that’s the type of leader Jesus was and is (and is to come?)

Over the past few years, I’ve been keeping notes of things I’ve learned as a leader. Not all of them will apply to everyone in everyway. But the ideas and concepts are important, whether you’re a church leader, CEO, quarterback, lead singer, office manager, doctor, etc.



Know who you’re called to be (both as a leader and as a church community) and it will make decisions and actions easier. I don’t think anyone is called or sets out to be a big jerk. And I don’t think anyone sets out to get off line from where they’re headed. But it can happen easily if you aren’t constantly recalling the vision to yourself and your team.

[You may have to pass up on good opportunities or ideas.]



Of course when you’re the leader there are times where you have to lead/make tough decisions/hold people accountable. But if they are important to you they will feel important to you. If you set out to make them feel important so that they will work harder, they will sniff that out and know that they are just cogs in your church machine. That is not only offensive, but counterproductive to the vision. Instead – actually care about them and what’s going on in their life and they’ll likely want to be on your team. Then together you can pursue the vision.



If you are solely interested in how people can serve your purpose, you and they will be frustrated. If you help them figure out their purpose (both personally and as part of the team), they will be loyal and you’ll both end up fulfilled. And this unity will propel the vision forward and draw other people in.



It might sound a little cliche, but we have to constantly remember that leaders are only as good as the team around them. Nobody can do things completely alone. Everything is a team effort. Make sure you continually remember that and state it to everyone. Look at someone successful and 100% chance they have a team around them.

[Think of famous athletes we know by a single nickname: Brady or Lebron. Or think of an athlete that even competes alone – like Tiger Woods. Or a solo musician – like Johnny Cash. They are mentioned by name, usually by themselves and many times are in front of people by themselves. But as talented as Tom Brady is, he wouldn’t have as many rings as he has without coaches, offensive line, solid defense year after year, etc. Lebron didn’t win a ring until he teamed up with Wade and Bosh. Tiger has coaches, doctors, more doctors, caddies, doctors, etc. Johnny had a band, producer and  promoters.]




Take the criticism and deflect the praise. That is part of leadership responsibility. Give criticism to your team privately but give them praise publicly. When someone tells you a song or event missed the mark, take responsibility. Whether you planned it or not is irrelevant. When someone comes up after the worship service to talk about how great you sounded, be thankful, but give a simple reminder that it has a lot to do with the guitar riff and bass groove.

[This was never more apparent to me than during Kevin Durant’s MVP speech a few years back. He reached the individual pinnacle of his sport, yet he spent the entire 27 minute speech deflecting the praise onto everyone but himself. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxVAOoQeNJ8 ]



My friend Brandon said this to me one time and it was revolutionary to my relationship to my leadership style. If you have discussions up front about things, people won’t have different expectations. The responsibility is on you to be honest, as the leader. If you are not, and somebody has unmet expectations, and therefore is hurt/angry/upset, you can blame yourself. When you set expectations up front and make sure people are on the same page from the beginning, it will set you up for success in the long run.

[It will also make #7 and #8 easier]



People are different, have different experiences, etc. Have an open mind as a leader. Or you’ll only attract people like yourself. You might like it, but it’s not what the world needs and will not breed success. Life is a continual journey. We will never stop being refined. People are dynamic so leadership will be dynamic. So staying openminded is the only option.



Waiting is key. Quick reactions to solve problems are sometimes necessary, but making the right decision outweighs making the fast one. It might not be fun or feel good to have something hanging over you, but experiencing that over a short period of time is far better than making a decision that temporarily lifts the weight, but causes more trouble in the future.



The future is now. Yes God holds the world in His hands. Yes Alpha and Omega, but the Kingdom is here. The Kingdom is present. We cannot control everything external going on around us, but we do have control over our present attitude and therefore reality. We always look forward to where we see the vision taking us, where the strategy will work, reaching the next goal, etc. But if we aren’t present, none of that will matter. How does the now relate to the future? How am I being shaped today in this moment?



Many times we make leadership too complicated and overthink it. This list might even confuse you. Keeping it simple (#1 – knowing who you’re called to be and #2 – prioritize people) will not diminish importance, just confusion.



Are there some I’ve missed? What have you learned that you can share?




In March 2013, I was notified that I was named 2012 CCM Network International Songwriter of the Year. That was such a great surprise and very humbling. I won radio promotion, amongst other great things.

In February, I won the 2014 WAMMIE (Washington Area Music Award) for Gospel Vocalist of the Year. I had been nominated a few times before, but I assumed I’d come up short again. Emily and I didn’t even attend the awards. However, I won! So exciting.

Then in April, I was notified that Made for More won the 2014 KCCM (King Cat Christian Music) Song of the Year. With that award, I won some recording gear, a MIDI guitar, cash and other things.

***Added June 2014 – Turns out I also won the 2014 KCCM Live Performance Award for Dance Dance Dance from Our Hope [Live]! You can see the trophy above.

In February 2015, I won a WAMMIE for both Gospel Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year, for Our Hope [Live]. We also played live at the WAMMIES and played Dance Dance Dance, mashed up with Beat It and 25 or 6 to 4. Great night!

I continued to be very humbled by the opportunities and recognition I’ve received recently. I 100% know that God gave me the gifts I have, so I’ll continue to use them to impact people for Him. However, just because God gives us gifts, it doesn’t mean they’re handed to us. I have and will continue to work hard at playing guitar, singing, songwriting, etc. It’s important for me, and you, to remember that God may give us things, but we are the stewards of them.

Angel 95 FM

Hello amigos,

In February I got an email from Angel95fm in Manhattan, KS asking if I’d be interviewed for a feature on unsigned artists called “Off the Grid.” So a couple of weeks ago, we recorded the interview (before I found out about the recentl KCCM Song of the Year Award) and the show aired this past weekend. You can listen to it here.



Let me know what you think by commenting below!



The Windy City (and by windy I mean freezing)

It’s cold here. Emily and I have been to Chicago a few times now for multiple doctor visits and tests, but typically it’s in the Spring or Summer. I’ve heard this 25 degrees with ice cold wind is nothing compared to December – February. We take a cab when we go out together, but when I’m out TCB, I just walk. It’s cheaper and it gets me a little extra exercise carrying the groceries through the streets of The Windy City. So yeah, the chapped lips won’t quit. But overall, it’s been great to be here with Emily, being a support and encouragement to her.

As for the medical stuff…Emily is handling everything like a pro. Her first dose of chemo wiped her out, energy wise, as she slept for almost two days straight. But for the most part, she avoided the worst momentary side effects. She has been herself everywhere we’ve been, and people love that. It seems that most people at a hospital are grouchy or depressed. She might have some anxiety but is generally joyful and you can tell it brings joy to all the people that meet her.

She’s started her blog and you’ll get a peek inside what it’s like for her if you want to check it out. She already has posted some great stories and photos. Check it out HERE and comment to show her some love!

Thanks for reading and loving us!


2 Months in Chicago


So here we are.

If you follow me or my wife on any social media platform, you’ve probably heard by now that we are in Chicago for the next couple of months as she undergoes an autologous stem-cell transplant to treat her aggressive Multiple Sclerosis. (Autologous means they take her own stem cells, separate the good from the bad, and reinfuse the good ones) This will include a lot of poking and prodding; chemo; nights in the hospital; walking everywhere; etc. Basically a huge disruption to the comforts we have in life.

Earlier this year when we were planning the live worship record, which released last month, I was simply following what it seemed God had next for me as a worship artist. As the process unfolded, it was clear that the theme behind the project was God being our hope in the ups and downs of life. In the midst of the darkness, He is light. (Title: Our Hope) But Emily and I didn’t know this stem-cell transplant was also in the works. So somehow, God worked all of this out and worlds are colliding here and now.

I honestly feel like God is telling me the Christian singer guy to put my money where my mouth is. It’s one thing to sing about God bringing hope and peace during the rough patches of life, but it’s another thing to live it out and let people see it. And he’s telling the husband and personal me, there is no separation. You are you and I and Me no matter what’s going on in life. The person you are sitting at home watching Netflix is the same you singing out the name of Jesus with a guitar strapped to you. I’m still figuring out what this all looks like…

So here we are. In the midst of the muck. Trusting in God. Placing our hope and trust in Him.

I’m going to keep updating my blog to let you know what’s going on here in the Windy City. And hopefully use this season to encourage you, and us, to keep looking for God in the midst of the chaos. He is at the center of it all.


ps. You can also follow Emily’s Tumblr as she’ll be updating it as time goes on in a much more creative way than me.


Hey guys,

So you may have heard/seen by now that we’re recording/filming a live CD/DVD at our April 28th concert in Chesapeake, VA. The costs for something like this are pretty high, as you might imagine. I’ve sent out some support letters to some close friends, and now I’m invited you to invest in this project too. You can CLICK HERE to watch the video, read info about the project, and check out the rewards you get for getting on board. Please share with your friends too!

Thank you for always being so supportive and encouraging. I can’t wait to see what happens next!


Breakout Session Notes

Thanks for checking out my breakout session at the conference today. This session was 90 minutes, so these are kind of the bare bones of notes, but I hope they help. Please keep in mind that this is most in the context of worship planning or leading people in worship. I’ll post the audio here when it’s done!


What is worship? Basically, worship is our response to to something we love. Maybe it’s football, or our family, or money. Hopefully first and foremost it’s God.


  • So when we talk about worship, we first have to ask, “Who?” So our response, or our worship, is towards God for who He is…not just His name, but His character and nature. Who is God to you?
  • Who is God to the people you’re trying to reach? How can you connect them with Christ?


  • What other response could we have to God? To the Creator? Savior? Hope?
  • He commands us to do it
  • Not reasons to worship – it feels good, obligation


  • Everything starts with vision. You have to know where you’re going if you want to get somewhere. Once you know who God has called you to be, as a leader and a church, you’re vision will become clearer. It will make decisions easier. You might have good options that every other church is doing or everyone in your church wants you to do, but if it doesn’t line up with your vision, you’ll have to say no sometimes. Nobody wants to be around confusion. Why would a new person want to be a part of something that is confusing.
  • We have a clear path. We start with a vision for the church. To reach unchurched people in our community. In order to further that vision, we plan worship services that will be a place where we can worship God together. So we take scripture and put themes around it to help people understand that God loves them. Each week is a sub theme, which supports the theme of the series, which supports the vision of the services, which support the vision of the church.
  • Our community is not your community. Get to know the people in your community. Do what they do. Go where they go. It will help you understand how to reach them.


  • Don’t just have people “greet each other in the name of the Lord.” Prompt them with a question to discuss. It’ll help them get to know each other.
  • Use images from pop culture to help people connect scripture. Jesus spoke in parables, it’s probably a good idea.
  • Don’t just have announcements. Have opportunities for people to connect and serve.
  • Think outside the box. ie Knock Off series – taste tests for original vs knock off brands to help people connect the dots of authentic vs knock off faith.
  • Add a fun opening song. If your theme is unity, open the service with The Beatles’ Come Together as people gather. It’ll break down barriers and help people’s minds become open to see God as bigger than just something we do on Sunday for an hour.
  • Worship in private so your public worship is authentic.
  • Leaders – lead. By example. Does rehearsal start on time? Are you ready when rehearsal starts? Why would your team member make it a priority to be there on time if you don’t? Do you know all the songs like the back of your hand when rehearsal starts? If not, maybe your band doesn’t need to learn them in advance.
  • Start with prayer and devotion. It will help focus people on the reason we do what we do.
  • Preparation is vital. If you aren’t prepared, people can probably tell, and if they think about you, then you are a distraction. It will help everyone experience God in an undistracted way.
  • Know what your theme is: Pray accordingly; Choose songs accordingly.
  • Technical issues or blatant music mistakes are a distraction from the focus of our worship, which is God.
  • TRANSITIONS. Make smooth transitions. 12 seconds of awkward silence can kill someones connection with the Spirit. Be responsible with the responsibility.


  • worshiptogether.com – for new songs/videos
  • CCLI – for charts, lyrics, licenses
  • churchstagedesigns.com – for creative stage ideas
  • worshipleader.com/Worship Leader magazine
  • The Air I Breathe – Louie Giglio
  • planningcenteronline.com – worship planning/schedule/organization
  • ProPresenter – lyric/video projection
  • worshipmatters.com – blogs/devotions/thoughts
  • leadworship.com – instructional DVDs/articles


Remember that no matter what we do, no matter how creative or how good we sound, only Christ can transform people’s hearts and raise them to life!

Our Conference Breakout Session

UPDATE – Here is the post with the summary of the session: http://keithelgin.com/2013/01/breakout-session-notes/

Hey everyone,

So I’m pretty pumped that I’m teaching a breakout session on worship at a conference this weekend (that will look nothing like the above picture). And I’m even more pumped that after pre-registration, my session is already full!

So when I say “teaching”, I really mean “learning”. When I say “learning”, I mean that in preparing, I’m realizing how much I’ve learned about God, people and worship the longer I’ve been involved with worship stuff. It’s great to have a moment to stop and realize how much wisdom God gives through experience, when I typically just go go go and implement what I learn without ever really stopping to appreciate that I’ve learned it. I also hope I’ll learn a lot from the people in the session. I like to ask questions, as well as give my opinions.

And when I say, “I’m” teaching, what I mean is “we’re” teaching. See I need your help. Can you answer a few of questions for me? I’d love to reference some of the answers during my breakout (without names). If you’d prefer to post here and not have me share it, just say so in your comment.

Thanks for your help! Hopefully I’ll get a copy of the audio, and if so, I’ll share it here.



1. As someone who attends a church service, what do you wish the planners/programmers would know?

2. As someone who attends a church service, what do you wish the worship leader/music leader would know?

3. If you play/sing on a worship team/lead worship, etc, what do you wish your leader knew?

4. What distracts you most from God during a worship service?

Happy Thanksgiving








Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I’m so thankful for the many blessings in my life. From my wife, to my church, to my band, even to you for simply taking the time to read this, I am truly blessed beyond what I deserve.

A friend sent me an email this week with the original Thanksgiving declaration from the Continental Congress in 1782. I found it fascinating to see exactly why this day was initially set aside, and then to consider everything that’s been added to it. Originally: no pilgrims. No turkeys. No football. But, the day was set aside to give thanks and praise to God, not just for what He does, but more just who He is. So in the midst of the family, stuffing, Redskins victory at Dallas, parades, etc., stop and thank God simply for who He is. Have a great Thanksgiving!






THAT the following Proclamation for a general THANKSGIVING on the twenty-eighth day of November [instant?], received from the honorable Continental Congress, be forthwith printed, and sent to the several worshipping Assemblies in this State, to whom it is recommended religiously to observe said day, and to abstain from all servile labour thereon.

M. WEARE, President.
By the United States in Congress assembled.

IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States: —– Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.



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