Mentoring novice worship leaders is a crucial part of our work as experienced worship leaders. As you will see in this series of posts, education alone falls short in providing much-needed direction in the life and ministry of worship leaders. In these six posts, my friend Bobby Craig draws from his extensive research in this field as part of his doctoral project to help us understand the vast need and how we, as more seasoned worship leaders, can best fill the gap. If you missed the previous article, check that out first.


By Dr. Bobby Craig

I just ordered a new thesaurus but when I finally received it, all the pages were blank. I have no words for how I’m feeling. (Free dad joke for you to try out).

Mentor is a word probably best defined by associated words you might find in a thesaurus: teach, coach, advise, train, pilot, counsel, guide, lead, shepherd, show, tutor. Each word has its own nuance, but I think all are part of an overall understanding of the term, mentor. To complicate things further, mentor has become both a verb and a noun and in other forms can even be an adjective (i.e., a mentoring worship leader).

There are a lot of definitions out there, some a good bit shorter and simpler than this one, but this is probably the most comprehensive definition of mentoring I came across (and many other definitions draw heavily from this one). Bozeman and Feeney define it this way:

Mentoring: a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé).[1]

Historically, the term was first used in ancient Greek literature when Odysseus, seeking to educate his son, turned to a close friend whose name was Mentor.[2] It is unclear when the term became either a verb or a noun, but in any case, since Homer’s Odyssey, “wise and trusted advisors have been called ‘mentors.’”[3] It further began to be a term for the intentional process of the veteran’s relationship to the novice specifically related to any actions contained therein.

One connection we can readily see within our Christian context is that to “disciple” or “discipling/discipleship.”  Most often, “mentoring” is used in a corporate/business context, and “discipling” is used (almost exclusively) in a church/Christian context. They certainly are similar and do inherently contain aspects of one another’s functions and purposes. However, I believe one distinction important to note is that discipling is a call made to every believer while mentoring is a call for leaders to develop other leaders.

Though both definitions are alike in many ways, mentoring in this context carries additional connotations. Mentoring entails the daily doing of ministry with a more-experienced leader training the less-experienced, whereas discipling connotes the guidance of one’s spiritual growth by a more mature Christ-follower. The two terms can be seen as part of one another, but neither fully describes the necessary relationship between veteran worship leaders and novice worship leaders. The point here is that worship leaders cannot obtain all they need to know about leading worship ministries by natural giftedness. Similarly, no amount of academic training in colleges or seminaries can prepare one for such a ministry. However, a veteran worship leader can and should intentionally invest in a novice worship leader through a process of mentoring.

Let me clarify one other aspect of my terminology as well. When I use the term “worship leader,” I am referring to the one who is in charge of planning, developing, and facilitating a comprehensive worship ministry in the local church. I know that “worship leader” is often used simply to identify the “lead vocalist” on any given song or any given Sunday, but I am referring to the ones who used to be called music ministers, music pastors, worship pastors, ministers of music, or the like. There is so much more to it than just singing lead on a song. This so much more is so much better when passed through a mentoring relationship from a veteran worship leader to a novice worship leader.

This article is a little more nuts-and-bolts and groundwork in definitions. In the next article, we’ll “get in the weeds” a little further and look at both Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings and examples of mentorship. I look forward to sharing more with you.


[1] Tim Sharp, Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts: Helping Others Find Their Voice (Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 2011), 26.

[2] “Mentor (Noun),” in Merriam-Webster (Merriam-Webster), accessed October 25, 2019, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mentor.

[3] Olya Kovnatska, “Say Yes to Mentoring!” Strategic Finance; Montvale 95, no. 11 (May 2014): 48. 

Dr. Bobby Craig

With nearly thirty years in worship ministry leadership in various churches throughout Alabama, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, Bobby has experienced almost everything a church music ministry can throw at him. Not only does his vast experience provide support to his ministry, but he also holds a Bachelor of Music from Samford University in Birmingham, AL, a Master of Music from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, and a Doctor of Worship Studies from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Bobby currently lives in Moulton, AL with his wife, Heather, and three daughters, Evangeline, Eliza, and Melody.