Worship Talk with Chris Sligh

I've been wanting to start something cool on this site where we can put together some questions for worship pastors, leaders, and musicians across the country. Questions about life, worship, whatever.

I had the opportunity to ask my friend Chris Sligh a few questions about worship, leadership, and development. You may know Chris from his appearance on season 6 of American Idol, but these days, he is Creative Director and Worship Pastor at Shoreline Church in Austin, TX. 


Chris Groat- How often do you guys at Shoreline write songs and what does the process look like?

Chris Sligh- We are constantly writing. We're still fully learning our process, and I'm sure it will change as time goes on, but for now we are all writing separately & then we do "1.5 hour demos"- basically record a piano or acoustic version of the song. The team turns their 1.5 hour demos in to me & I listen & suggest changes as I see fit. If they rewrite to my satisfaction, we then produce a studio recording. If the song never quite "gets there", we have a pile of "almost/maybes" that we let sit. Once a studio recording is finished, it's considered for intro to church. The studio recording is what our band learns from, so a song isn't put on schedule w/o studio recording. 


CG- What’s your absolute favorite guitar to lead with?

CS- My favorite guitar is my 1980 Gibson ES-347. No guitars compare for me.


CG- What song has your church really been getting into lately?

CS- "No Longer Slaves" is our current #1 song. Our congregation loves it.


CG- How do you personally strive to grow as a better leader every day?

CS- I am working to empathize w/people more & understand that though I ask people to do it my way, it's my job as the leader to help people make the jump from their way to mine. And then once I can trust them to do it my way, I leave them alone & encourage them to use my way as a "jumping off point" for their own creativity & leadership growth. But none of that happens if I don't get them to feel included in the process of them choosing to do it my way in the first place : )


CG- What does an average work week look like for you?

CSEvery week is different w/some same elements. Monday 1:30-3:30 is Creative; Tuesday 10-11:15 is Sunday planning w/our Lead Pastor; 10-12 Wednesday is Worship Team Meeting; Thursday 3:30-5 is staff rehearsal prep; 6:30-9:30 is rehearsal. All around that crap, I mix the service each week (usually Monday), I do various things w/ our video dept, I work on recording, I write, etc. 


CG- How do you instill an urgency for community and fellowship in your team?

CSI don't know that instilling urgency for community is possible, honestly. We are trying to create a community that fills a need in people's lives... and I think we're succeeding. Every week, we have 10-15 people show up who aren't even scheduled, just to hang out & be a part of the family.


CG- How do you handle auditions?

CS- We do auditions once a quarter. Once they audition, we spend another few months getting to know them, mentoring them & workshopping them before they ever get on a mic.


CG- What is your favorite book on worship?

CS- Galatians


CG- What do you do to build up your worship leaders/production team?

CS- We workshop them & critique them. No one gets on stage w/o first workshopping at least 3 times & us seeing improvement each time.


CG- What is your favorite Scripture and why?

CSGalatians. I struggle w/Paul's differences w/Jesus but I love how Galatians is simply shock-full of practical living.


CG- Any advice/encouragement for younger worship leaders?

CSI'd say: work harder than any worship leader you know; be more on time than anyone you know; be more prepared than anyone you know; practice towards greatness; believe that God's calling is to anointing & blessing; and finally- to not be a jerk. Don't be a jerk. No matter how good you are.