Leading Worship

These are some of the most beneficial things I have found for leading worship. And this is normally the part where I would try to inject some type of humour, but I’ve seriously got nothing tonight. Edge. Bono. Delay. Tone. Tubes. There ya go.

  • Always help your drummer load in at least one piece of equipment.
  • Learn your sound system…or at least how to plug in a direct box.
  • When services run long, be the first to suggest that your ministry be the one to cut back a few minutes. (Meaning, just don’t build back into the ‘epic’ end of ‘Saviour King’ for a fifth time.)
  • Don’t sing lead vocals on every song, every week.
  • Only mention mistakes to your team when you hear them a second time; giving people a change to recognize and correct their own mistakes goes a long way. And let’s face it…when you played that G chord in the 1st and 2nd frets instead of the 2nd and 3rd frets? You knew it. You didn’t need anyone to stop the song and point it out.
  • Get off the stage and let your team go for it every once in a while.
  • If a monitor’s not working, be the first to get up and make an effort towards fixing it…even if you have no idea where to start.
  • Arrive before your team, and leave after.
  • Say thanks.
  • And lastly, remember that you’re probably not the best worship leader even within your own church.

All this can be summed up with simply this: lead by example. I think sometimes we’re so busy trying to lead people, that we don’t have time to even be the Christ-like example to which we’re trying to lead them. And I’ve had this post in my head for so long; but I’ve hesitated to write it down, because I am so bad at doing this stuff, and so bad at being an example. But it kind of hit me this past week that when Jesus could have been going out landing lucrative guest speaker gigs, he was instead washing people’s feet. And maybe that’s the reason people listened to Him.

And even now, I don’t really want to hit ‘Publish’, because then I have to live by this stuff. Blast. 😉


48 thoughts on “Leading Worship

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Leading Worship « Guitar for Worship -- Topsy.com

  2. yep, a smile, a “thanks”, and “good job today!” goes a long way! :)

    even if your extremely sensitive ears picked up a quarter-tone off-pitch singing, and the drummer doesn’t look at you after a major segment of the song to see what we’re gonna lead the congregation into and you look like a headless chicken making wild gesticulations for him to begin shaking that salt shaker, and not to slow down at the same time, and and and…

    All glory, honor and praise to God in all circumstances. :)

  3. out of so many books and seminars on how to “lead worship” within a church setting, these few paragraphs sum up what i learned about being a leader for a music team in a church to the point.

    Actual Self-Realization is very important in worship leading, that is, realizing you’re nothing special in regards to other people and the body of Christ. Yes we serve a purpose in our role as a leader, but it doesn’t make us judge and jury on all things.

    Great post and i would agree on every single point, and write a book with just one page, put this post on it, it would be better than 100% of the stupid crap out there

  4. sorry, forgot my name,

    out of so many books and seminars on how to “lead worship” within a church setting, these few paragraphs sum up what i learned about being a leader for a music team in a church to the point.

    Actual Self-Realization is very important in worship leading, that is, realizing you’re nothing special in regards to other people and the body of Christ. Yes we serve a purpose in our role as a leader, but it doesn’t make us judge and jury on all things.

    Great post and i would agree on every single point, and write a book with just one page, put this post on it, it would be better than 100% of the stupid crap out there

  5. Those are all huge. One I would add, which you kind of hinted at, is to really encourage everyone on the team to realize that they’re worship leaders, too. Everyone might be looking at me, but it would be a completely different thing if, say, the bass player didn’t show up, either physically, or just as important, mentally and spiritually. Let them go for it and worship, rather than trying to micromanage everything.

  6. .dP.–thanks. :)

    James–thanks, too! :)

    Nicky–lol Totally! And ya, the ‘thanks’ part I so often miss, and it really does go a long way.

    Anonymous–great call!

    Jay–wow! Couldn’t have said it better. Ya, for some reason we grab a guitar and someone tells us we can sing, and all of a sudden we feel that that gives us grounds for so much other unrelated authority. I totally agree with you that we’re nothing special.

    Sal–thanks, brother. Now, let’s see if I can live it. lol

    Randy–ya, that’s a good idea. Instead of what I have pasted there now…a picture of Edge. 😉 Just kidding.

    Don–thanks, brother.

  7. Ben, that’s an awesome point. (Sorry, we must’ve typed responses at the same time…hehe.) They’re all probably just as important (and maybe moreso) than we are. Awesome comment!

  8. Thanks a lot Karl! This is definitely true, and thank you for putting your own pride aside to say what needs to be said!

  9. Ha. I laughed at “don’t go back and do the epic end for Saviour King for the fifth time.

    Very wise words, Karl. I get the feeling that if I lived up in Temecula, you and I would hang out. That’s where you live, right?

  10. i would add a few:

    – prepare to practice well. Nothing more stressfull than a bad practice! This is usually because the leader hasnt come prepared and with a mind that has fully thought through what they want to happen. This also includes leading the team in practice, being firm and inclusive at the same time!

    – pray together as a team at practice

  11. Jeff–no worries. :) Now let’s see if I can follow it! hehe

    David–lol That song is like, 12 minutes long, and I promise you I’ve played with teams where we’ve done it for at least 20. 😉 haha

    And I work in Temecula, but live in Corona. If you’re ever in the area, we’ll get lunch or somethin’!

    Cam–ooh, good points. Prayer, for sure. And the preparation one is something I don’t do very well at times. I’ll show up to practice and realize that I chose a set, but didn’t even think through it and the transitions. Awesome comment, man.

  12. I love that comment about “mistakes…the second time”. Excellent advise… we musos are a sensitive bunch often… and we’re often the first to think we’re doing a bad job. A dud note mid chorus is enough punishment – we dont need a glare from the hallowed ground! 😉

    Having said that… third dud note in three rounds of the verse… you’re going to need a gentle rebuttal!

  13. Great post. And excellent advice.

    Another suggestion :
    – never be at at critical or negative to another team member during the service (even using looks or body language) – if there’s something to be said, do it in a sensitive fashion later..

    I had a moment I immediately regretted on Sunday. I was leading “The Stand” and at the end there’s that bit where it repeats the bridge softly after the chorus. We came out of the chorus and I started singing that bit and was expecting the acoustic guy to follow me with some quiet chords. He didn’t, and as my hands were off my guitar at this point I just had to keep singing and ended up doing it a capella (and I’m not the most confident lead singer around). I think it actually worked out alright from a congregation perspective (thanks to the magic of reverb) but I was unsettled and as we left the stage after that set I jokingly said to the acoustic guy “you really left me hanging there” and instantly knew that was a mistake. He’s not the most confident guy in the team and I don’t want to make him feel bad. He kept apologising to me for the rest of the day, making me feel even worse. Sometimes it’s just better to keep your mouth shut.

    To make myself feel better during the communion later I managed to merge the 6/8 chords D G Bm G (aka You Hold Me Now) into 4/4 chords D A Bm G (aka With or Without You)… nothing like a subtle U2 reference to make things right again. The only person who ever picks up on it is our keyboardist, but she’s a U2 fan also so it’s all good!

  14. Anytime you can get some U2 in there, it’s a good thing. 😉

    And great point on not getting down on someone until another practice or a private meeting later. I’ve made that mistake too, in the form of glares across the stage meaning, ‘If you turn that tremolo on again, I might have to kill you.’ lol Never a good idea.

  15. Just wanted to let everyone know. My friend sent me this amazing link http://www.churchmix.com it’s free to sign up and it’s a 25 year pro sound mixer giving video lessons to volunteers at Rock Harbor church in Costa Mesa CA! It rocks. I’ve already learned a lot more about the sound board and what everything does. He gives some great tips. Just thought I’d give you the heads up.

  16. Thanks Ben, that site looks interesting. I think I’m pretty casual with my team as far as them trying harmony, etc. Our keyboardist is an old pro so I couldn’t teach him a thing, except when we first started working together he said “hey the emphasis is always on the 1 and 3 beats.” Had to correct him on that one — he just isn’t crazy about contemporary Christian, but is coming along as he sees the congregation enjoying the sets. I’ve tried diplomatically to instruct our Cajon ( box drum ) guy so he plays the role of a drummer, keeping the band together, rather than being all over the map like a percussionist. Made some progress, but straight-ahead drumming is boring for a percussionist.

    Where I’m falling down the most is in my expectations. The reality of a small church, at least ours, is that there is only going to be so much dedication to the ministry. And you may find yourself with only one or two vocalists you can generally count on — even that goes out the window around Holiday weekends and summer time. Be prepared to lead all by yourself on occasion ( or take lots of time off during those periods so you don’t come off as a sour puss ).

    I’ve thought about formalizing things with some sort of Worship Team guidelines document. My initial thought was “expect to be participating at least 40 weeks per year.” Praying about that one — might do more harm than good.

  17. Samuel–aye. :)

    Rhoy–lol I’ve received ‘the glare’ as well. haha

    Ben G–great link! Thanks!

    Randy–tough situation. My church isn’t terribly small, but small enough that at least 3 times a year, I’ll end up leading alone. I’ll be praying for you about the formalizing thing. Seems like a good idea, but ya…might be risky.

  18. Coolmusings, that’s a tough situation.

    In a ideal world we would have a dedicated, teachable team who are there every week with the right attitude – the reality is in a small church sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. I know if we introduced a ’40 weeks’ standard to our church we would lose most of the team (including myself and at least one of our other 2 key leaders… sometimes the balance between a happy marriage and commitment to worship ministry is a difficult line to tread… lol) I’ve learned recently that leading by yourself, or with a very small team, can sometimes be a good thing. Last Sunday we only had 2 acoustics, percussion, and a couple of singers, yet many people in our church thought it was the best worship we’ve had in a while. Offering up something raw and seeing what God does with it is sometimes better than making everything all slick and tight and perfect with our own efforts.

    What’s with the emphasis on beats 1 and 3 though – isn’t that some sort of polka beat?!

  19. Polka, LOL I didn’t major in music but I think my older Keyboardist was referring to the music he grew up with where the beat was usually on 1 and 3. Then we migrated to more modern music with the emphasis on the “Satanic” backbeat ( 2 and 4).

    Well 40 weeks per year was arbitrary but that gives you 3 months off. What works for the congregation can often become drudgery for the worship team ( play familiar songs over and over ) Some seem to be mature enough to deal with that — for others perhaps sessions of six months on the team should be broken up by six months off. I’m probably one of the ones who should take time out for that reason.

    What I’m doing now is using a “pre-service” song as our opportunity to do new or special songs, which makes it easier for me to use primarily familiar/popular songs during the worship set.

  20. Baggas–great points on leading alone sometimes. :) We don’t do a commitment thing either…but I might be blessed by having a lot of dedicated people.

    Randy–that pre-service song sounds awesome! We do the same thing with a post-service song…makes it way easier to introduce it later. We also play new song mp3’s as our pre-service ambient music as people are walking in or we’re praying or what-not.

  21. Yeh we do the same Karl – put new songs on a CD to play before and after the services for a few weeks before we do it – that way it’s not completely unfamiliar to the congregation when we start doing it in the service.

  22. Prayer/discussion/patience and when is it time for the top-down leadership approach. Sometimes when you have a problem, or perceived problem on your worship team you have to arrive at a decision, explain it and let everyone know that you aren’t taking a vote on it. That’s the short answer to a couple of issues I’ve been wrestling with in leading worship. The long answer, which I’ve been discussing on a couple of other forums, is below. Getting input from other experienced worship leaders is just so valuable!!
    “Well my story seems to be changing to “when you think it’s time to move on, but then things change.”

    This issue is slowly simmering and as I discuss it with more leaders at church and continue to pray, clarity is arriving. Praise Him for that. Our Senior Pastor once said, play music that will be comfortable for everyone who walks in the door ( whatever that means ). Frankly, he has somewhat disengaged from the worship aspect of our church. When it’s his turn to lead every other week or so, he just pulls out six old songs he knows by heart.

    So I discussed it with our Youth Pastor who may very well become the Senior Pastor in a few years, or less.

    He’s pretty much on the same page with me and wants the church to grow. Part of that is drawing in young men, especially young family men like him. So after all the talk, it really seems the mix I’m doing is about right and there is fairly broad support for what I’m doing but that support is primarily from outside the worship team.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have a rebellion on my hands. The Youth Pastor suggested that in this case, the top-down approach may be appropriate — that is, pray, meet with leadership, develop a vision/plan and then explain to the team why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that’s how it’s going to be.

    The argument is given: “but we don’t see many visiting young men or young family men” — and you may never see them for long if all of the music is designed to appeal to older hymn-lovers and women ( not all women gravitate towards ballads so that’s a generalization). Many of our oldsters realize the future of the church is younger folks so they don’t mind the newer, more energetic music — and actually many of them like it.

    So I think things are looking up. I just have to find a couple more singers for those Sundays when some are gone. If we find new singers who will really commit, then the future of the existing, less committed singers might be in question, if you get my drift.

  23. Hmm. I’ll definitely be praying for ya, bro. Sounds like you’re handling it well though, with prayer and counsel from others. Tough situation for sure. How old is ‘oldsters?’ Because even 60 years old means born in 1950, and that puts teenage and college years right around Beatles, Doors, and Zeppelin. Old isn’t what it used to be, and so you may very well be right that they will dig the more upbeat songs every so often. :)

  24. Yep, I grew up with those groups. It’s going to work out. It’s not the congregation but a few on the worship team that make some static about newer, upbeat songs. I’m working on ignoring the peanut gallery. :-)

  25. Oh, gotcha. Do you think maybe it’s because they might have a hard time admitting that those songs are actually challenging them too much? I’m not saying that’s what it is, just something that popped in my head.

  26. If you mean too challenging in the technical/musical sense, no. A few just don’t care for anything but ballads and hymns. There is also the feeling that we don’t have enough band to pull them off. Since we’ve come up with our own version of numerous songs that, on the original recording, sound like a full rock band, this was my mistake in playing them the original recording. :-) Our Youth Pastor and much of the congregation are totally on board doing a mix of songs, including some contemporary driving tunes. Interestingly, the Senior Pastor is coming around — I know it’s not his cup of tea but I guess he sees which way the wind is blowing.

  27. Well, sounds like it’s just a couple musicians, then. A compromise between some hymns and some driving stuff should work great, I would think. :)

  28. Time for a break. My attitude is suffering so it’s time to take a month off here and there. This Sunday is church family camp, which usually means 25% of the church will be gone. This year it sounds as if it will be 75% and my entire worship team is either at camp or otherwise out of town. Our senior pastor graciously offered to do a couple of songs for the relative handful of older folks who will be in church, so I can go get lost for a couple of weekends and adjust my attitude.

    I’m also asking for all of October and probably all of next summer off ( I’m not on staff). The risk here is that I’m going to begin to have a serious negative attitude towards our worship team. I see many other volunteers in our church who “own” their ministry and plan ahead for coverage if they’re going to be out ( non-emergency, non-illness).

    We can’t expect all of the volunteer vocalists, etc to be on hand every week, but I’ve been hoping they would coordinate enough for some coverage, without me having to play social secretary.

    I’ve been leading every other week ( generally) for a few years now, so I hope and pray some time away will bring back my usual positive attitude.

  29. Randy, I have great respect for you for doing that. We all need to at times, and I’ll be praying for passion and clarity when you come back. Thanks for the encouraging example, brother!

  30. We have a thread on this over at:

    Obviously one solution is to schedule team members for specific Sundays in the future, and encourage them to commit to that ( not, “unless something else comes up”). Several worship leaders over on that forum suggest that we’re setting the expectations too low. This also implies that you be prepared to go solo if team members balk at being given requirements for participation.

  31. Hmm, good points. That’s been something that’s worked for me…making sure I can do it alone. For some reason, then people almost feel challenged to try to be a part of it.

    Also, just making sure there’s a lot of good friendly fellowship on the team. Like, making it something that people are bummed if they have to miss.

  32. Absolutely incredible.

    That was not easy to read and I know it will be even harder to put it into action personally. I’m just glad you were the one who had to write it and not me.

    Thanks for pouring your heart out.

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