Over the weekend, I had an opportunity to reconnect with my friend and mentor, Nathan Del Turco. Nathan is the Pastor of Student Worship at Central Christian Church, which has a total of five campuses across the greater Phoenix metro in Arizona. His years of experience, knowledge and wisdom as a worship leader and Pastor has been incredibly influential in the lives of many people (myself included). Wherever he goes, the worship ministry grows spiritually, grows in number, and the caliber of excellence and professionalism is raised. He is one of the best in the business, and I am honored to call him friend. I sincerely hope that the wisdom shared in this interview helps to take your ministry to the next level.
An Interview with Nathan Del Turco
Fox Watterson: Thanks for doing this, I really appreciate it! Let’s get right into it. How many students on a weekend does Central bring in, across all campuses?
Nathan Del Turco: Approximately 600, across all five campuses.
FOX: How long have you been leading worship?
NDT: Ten years.
FOX: How many of those years have been leading student worship?
NDT: I’ve been leading worship in student environments for all 10 years. Even when I was leading adult services I would lead in our student environments as well.
FOX: How long have you been a student worship pastor?
NDT: Approximately five years.
FOX: Do students benefit from being lead in worship by other students?
NDT: Absolutely! I think as Student Worship Pastors/Leaders we have an incredible responsibility to set the pace, and then get out of the way. I think youth ministries would see more genuine worship cultures if they would allow students to get on the platform more. Our young creatives grow exponentially when they have the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them, and our students who attend services have an opportunity to be led by people who are in thick of life with them. There’s something beautiful that happens when we release our young people to lead.
FOX: Do students need to be lead in worship differently than adults do?
NDT: Yes and no. I think engagement is different. I always encourage our young worship leaders to lead in a way they would want to be led. I don’t think it’s as difficult as we make it. If we’re excited to be there (generally speaking) our students will be excited to be there. I also think it’s important to unpack WHY we worship for our students. They aren’t going to buy something they don’t know anything about, so it’s important to lead them and not leave them in the dust.
FOX: What leadership tips/tricks do you have to get the best results out of your student leaders?
NDT: Heart for the House! One of the things I’ve poured into my teams for years is the idea that there’s no platform greater than the other. Everything we do is to better the house. I try to help them understand that whether they are playing guitar, leading a song, pushing faders, or welcoming other students at a service, every single job is important!
We’re committed to excellence, but not obsessed with perfection: It’s important for all of us to bring our best to the table. When we bring our best, we’re communicating that it’s worth the effort. Worth our time and worth our energy. I’m reminded of the words of David in 2 Samuel 24:24. “But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
I’m a huge advocate for TEAMNIGHTS. It’s a place for you and the creatives on your team to CONNECT, GROW, and WORSHIP together. Don’t underestimate the power of just spending time together. This may look like a bi-weekly game night at first, or a night with worship, teaching, and workshops. Whatever the details of the gathering, the most important thing is connection and making sure that your team leaves smiling and full. Don’t underestimate the power of laughter! Brian Houston from Hillsong says it best, “Church should be enjoyed, not endured!”
FOX: What are some occupational hazards of leading or students?
NDT: Busy doesn’t equal Healthy! Be okay with doing what you have within your means to do. Don’t stretch yourself or your team too far. Commit to the process, and take it one day at a time. Along those same lines, comparison is your enemy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for networking and sharing ideas. However, don’t get caught up in comparing your success to other church’s accomplishments. Remember, God created YOU uniquely. So be true and lead from your heart!
FOX: What is the benefit of having a full-time pastor in charge of youth worship?
NDT: I think whether or not the program needs a full-time pastor over youth worship depends on a lot of variables, but the benefits are the same. That being said, here is the biggest one in my opinion: Consistency. Having the program overseen by one person who has the margin is incredibly beneficial. Youth worship is unique in the sense that most churches don’t contract musicians for it. Meaning, whoever is overseeing youth worship oversees a lot volunteers. Now… pairing that with the fact that youth ministry is all about relational time with students and mentorship, it’s extremely difficult to have a healthy and vibrant youth worship program without someone with the margin to oversee leadership development, culture, musical excellence, scheduling, and service details.
FOX: Are the roles and responsibilities of a youth worship leader and a youth worship pastor the same?
NDT: It’s all in your church’s terminology. In my experience and current role, our worship “leaders” are the ones who lead most of the services, and our worship “pastors” (who also lead) oversee the programs. As a Worship “Pastor” on an ideal week/weekend, in regards to programming/services, for me, it looks like this:
1. I work with our Programming Director to finalize all program details for the coming weekend. Scheduling, Music, Creative Elements, Message, Announcements, etc.
2. I make sure that all worship leaders, musicians, and production have everything they need to execute a stellar service!
3. Services kick off with our Youth Pastors, Presiders (Hosts), and Worship Leaders at the helm. This frees me up to bounce between campuses and encourage our teams, build relationships with new team members, and spend relational time with students. I’m leaving out a lot of details, but you get the picture!
FOX: How do you go about recruiting student musicians and worship leaders?
NDT: Your best recruiters are your volunteers. Encourage them to invite their friends to TEAMNIGHTS and get connected. Another way is the most simple but the most scary for some people. JUST ASK. Yep… I said it. Spend time before and after services connecting with students. Spend intentional time investing in your young vocalists who want to lead worship. Take them all out for coffee and get to know them. You never know, they could have your job one day!
FOX: Do you miss being on the platform every weekend?
NDT: I’m still on the platform a considerable amount of time between our adult and student services. However, my goal is to replace myself. I think as Worship Pastor’s we have a responsibility to remember that it’s not about us. Our task is to help encourage and equip these young musicians, aspiring worship leaders, and up and coming engineers toward God’s plan for them! We have to be willing to trade our spot for the next generation to take theirs!
FOX: Any advice for students wanting to get involved in leading worship?
NDT: Jump in! There’s nothing more incredible than being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. The future in bright and God has an incredible plan and future for you. This is your ministry, own it!
FOX: If you went to Hogwarts, into what house would you be sorted?
NDT: Slytherin. I took the Pottermore.com test.
Nathan Del Turco is a Worship Pastor from Gilbert, Arizona. He is the Student Worship Pastor at Central Christian Church, a five-campus church in the East Valley of the Phoenix Metro area. Nathan has been leading worship for ten years, and has a passion for working with young worship leaders and students. He and his wife Stacey have a daughter (Harbor) and are expecting a boy (Alastair) very soon. Fun fact: Nathan has a deep love for all things Harry Potter.