Kim’s a worship leader who’s been on my radar through my friends over at Recreate Conference. Kim’s name has popped up often, especially with other worship directors I respect.
Her story of how she became a worship leader is not only encouraging, but shows how God calls people in many different ways. Sometimes, it just takes an obedient heart, talent, and opportunity to converge to see God move.
Kim has some really great insights here, and I think you’re really going to enjoy her responses in today’s 5 Questions!
Name || Kim Bontrager
Church & Role || First MB Church, Wichita, Kansas. Creative Arts Director & Worship Leader.
Main Instrument || Piano/Keys
Fun Fact || I have a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy but absolutely can’t help you with your back pain. 🙂
(All Emphasis from Chris)
1. How did you learn to/get into leading worship?
I was involved in music in my home church while I was growing up, but I first started leading worship when my husband was a youth pastor, and we starting building worship into the student ministry experience. I also had the chance to be a part of worship teams for large student events outside our church.
I was close friends with the ‘big church’ worship leader at the time, and learned lots from volunteering under her. But looking back now, I see that I mostly learned in the trenches by taking big leaps. Like taking a very young, inexperienced band to lead worship for a week-long kids camp, and returning to that camp for five summers.
The biggest leap was when I accepted an interim worship leader role at our church without having ‘big church’ experience. That role turned into an official staff position, and I’ve now been on staff in worship ministry with the same church for 16 years.
2. What is the most helpful habit you have developed as a Worship Leader?
Listening to the opinions and perspectives of my most dedicated and invested team members.
On the practical side: double-and-triple-checking the lyrics in ProPresenter is a very helpful habit. 🙂
3. What has helped you develop as a Worship Leader?
Learning to know other worship leaders who are like-minded and humble, and sharing ideas, advice, stories, coffee, food, tips & tricks. Watching our congregation respond and NOT respond, and being willing to evaluate why. Continual, honest analysis of our congregational personality and DNA; finding larger churches with the same personality and learning from their corporate worship gatherings. Taking the opportunity to be led in worship by other leaders outside my church.If you ask, God will bring ppl into your world who know stuff U don't. Learn from them. - @KimBontragerClick To Tweet
4. What’s one thing you wish you would have known 10 years ago?
I have two. 🙂
(1) Disruption–intended or not, positive or negative–will infuse energy into the system. Don’t be afraid of it. For example, an upsetting staff turnover seen as ‘the end of the world’ by many, will break open the default ways of doing things and allow fresh ideas to grow. It’s God’s church. Keep yourself aligned with his heart through all seasons, be open to change, and you will see how He sustains a church in spite of human ridiculousness.
(2) You were hired to lead worship. But in the next 10 years this job is going to make you wish for advanced degrees in composition, Bible, graphic design, event planning, communications, marketing, counseling, social media, architecture, sound engineering, organizational leadership, and stage design. It’s cute how you get to spend your time creating chord charts. There will be websites that do that for you (and Planning Center will be a miracle) and you will find yourself at the grown-up’s table making difficult leadership decisions and learning more about your own strengths and weaknesses than you ever imagined. Do not panic. If you ask Him to, God will bring people into your world who know stuff you don’t. Learn from them.
5. If you could only give one piece of advice to a growing Worship Leader, what would it be?
While it is important to grow as a musician and hone your skills as a worship leader, if you are on staff at a church, you are a part of a larger system. Be a fan of all the ministries of your church and take the study and practice of church leadership seriously. Don’t try to force your church into the worship mold. Be true to who you are, allow your church to be who they are, and lead where you are.Don't try to force your church into the worship mold. Be true to who you are. - @KimBontragerClick To Tweet
I love that last note that Kim added about not trying to fit your church into any other kind of mold but their own. Each local church has their own unique flavor, and we should celebrate that not squash it.
I appreciate Kim’s perspective as someone who’s served in the same church for as long as she has, because I think there aren’t many of those kind of people around anymore. I’m grateful the Kim shared her responses with us today, and you should check her out on Twitter & Instagram!