A Look Behind the Leader: Jared Heddens

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Heddens jared portraitHeddens leads worship at South Harbor Church in Byron Center.The task of leading worship/music in a church is much more than notes on a score or lyrics on a screen.

"There's also the shepherding of people ," said Jared Heddens, worship director at South Harbor Church in Byron Center.

"My real job is to equip the saints. And that's not just a congregational perspective but for my team as well," said Heddens, 42.

His South Harbor worship team roster consists of about 50 players, vocalists and technical folk, although there are usually only five to seven people on the worship platform at any one time. Heddens is in the front on a typical Sunday, but that's actually a fairly small part of his full-time job. "It's about resourcing and equipping teams to do the work of ministry," he said in a recent interview.

And in that process he is developing leaders.


Hedden's work pattern is more monthly than weekly. During the first week of the month, he is already working on scheduling for the following month. The second week brings more specific service preparation.

"The last couple weeks are lighter on that and more devoted to interacting with my team volunteers – personal study and longer term planning," he said.

That's more the shepherding part of his ministry.

The director makes a significant effort to supply team members with everything they need in advance so they come to weekly rehearsals ready to go. But he also preps the congregation.

"We have a high rate of newer songs in our rotation. And we can do that because I post in advance (on social media) what we're going to sing and have the songs on Youtube so people can get at them ahead of time."

Heddens and lead pastor Tim Wilson work at creating a thread though the entire service. The worship director has access to sermon scripts and planning notes to help weave together themes.


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Among current songs used in worship: "Christ Our Hope in Life and Death" (by the Gettys and Matt Papa), and Hillsong's "Good Grace."


Heddens grew up in Three Rivers, MI in a family where his dad was the church song leader and mom the piano player. As a youth he studied both violin and trumpet, but picked up a guitar at age 14 and soon was playing for his church youth group.

"I put together the first band our youth group ever had," he recalled.

After high school he ventured north to Grand Rapids and Cornerstone University where he majored in music and music education. Heddens was involved in music at the school's chapel, but also played regularly at churches he attended.

"Worship leading has been one of the most consistent pieces of my life," he noted.

Fitting in with the musical motif is his wife Holly, a fellow music major and an elementary school music teacher. The couple has three children.

Since college Jared has pursued various musical avenues, including directing the pep band at his alma mater. He joined the staff at Magnify Church (formerly Blythefield Hills Baptist Church) in Rockford where he served in various roles for nearly 10 years. In addition to playing guitar during worship nearly every week, he also was music director for several of the church's major Easter musicals.

"Jared first came to us as an intern and made a huge impact," recalled Magnify director of worship arts Vicki Modert. "He is gifted in every area and is professional, versatile and enthusiastic."


Heddens signed on as worship director at South Harbor in 2010, its very first year as a church plant in the area Harbor Church six-campus system.

He said the most challenging thing for him in his ministry is not about music.

"Interpersonal relationships are really hard for me.... it's a point of growth in my life that I spend most of my energy on," he said.
Which means "people things" like pouring into the lives of his team members doesn't come naturally.

"I'm not a pastor, but functionally with my team that is a definite part of my role," he said.

Yes, he loves it when the congregation and worship team are jelling and going great. But just ask him what's most satisfying to him. Those are "off the stage" moments, such as team members leading a VBS or going on a mission trip.

"The recognition that the people I've worked so hard to support, resource and develop are there 'doing the thing.' That's always something that's lit my fire – like a proud 'Dad' moment."

Editor's note: If you have a suggestion of an area church music/worship leader for a profile in this "A Look Behind the Leader" series, please contact us and tell us who and why!
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Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: -Mlive.com (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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