What does it mean to be a worship leader or minister of music? It goes beyond music and being a musician. It is more than simply singing songs and leading others to sing with you. Keep reading for seven helpful areas of wisdom for every worship leader.
1. Cultivate your own relationship with God.
Cultivating your relationship with Jesus is the most valuable wisdom you can follow. The “more” that we long for in every aspect of life is found only in Him (John 17:3). We do not need Him simply because we are in ministry though. We need Him because every one of us is nothing with Christ and His redemption.
Spending quality time with God is crucial: studying the Scriptures, praying and worshiping at home. Is your time with God consistent? As you pray and read the Word, is your mind being renewed and your character becoming more like Christ? Are you seeking to love and obey Him in everyday life as you study His Word?
If you need help in this area, begin by setting aside a regular time with God. Endeavor to keep that appointment with Him. If it can’t be every day, try setting aside a few hours on your less busy days. Pray Scripture-based prayers and journal the things the Holy Spirit highlights as you pray and read His Word.
What is our mission as worship leaders?
A worship leader doesn’t just do music. Their assignment is to minister to God’s heart and lead others to do the same, both on and off the platform. They are called to exalt Jesus, making His worth known to the congregation. Worship leaders serve others by pointing them to Christ who set us free from sin.
2. As you lead, maintain a dominant melody line the congregation can follow.
Sing the melody line so it can be followed by the majority of the people, even though who do not sing well. If you overly embellish a melody, it will be difficult for the congregation to learn and follow it. Likewise, choosing a key too high or low for most people to comfortably join in will also deter them from singing.
Not sure of the right key for your voice and the congregation? Try finding a recording or YouTube video of the song by a singer with a similar range as yours singing in a congregational setting the majority of the time (men look for male singers and ladies for female singers).
For a woman wanting to lead a song typically sung by a man, find a female singer singing it for ideas of what keys to try. Then sing through the highest and lowest parts of the song to be sure it will work.
3. Avoid choosing more than 1-2 unfamiliar songs per service.
When introducing a new song, you’ve already had several run through with your team. The congregation, however, is hearing the song for the first time. It’s more likely people will disengage when you introduce too many new songs at once.
Secondly, congregational worship is not the time to showcase your newest songs or favorites from other artists. It is a time for every person to unite together in praising God. Prayerfully consider every new song, being sure it is theologically sound, God-centered and fit for congregational singing.
Helpful Advice: Introduce the new song during offering or ministry time, and/or include it on a CD of recorded music played in the background prior to service. You can also simply go over the chorus first when introducing the song. Next, be sure to include the song two or three weeks in a row to help the people learn it.
4. Don’t forget to let God lead.
God sent His Holy Spirit to live within every believer, and this is a reality that is amazingly personal. Remember the words of Jesus when He spoke of the Holy Spirit’s role as a teacher, guide, comforter and counselor. He yearns to draw many to salvation, bringing truth to doubters, comfort to the grieving, and conviction to sinners.
Scripture References about the roles of the Holy Spirit: John 14:26; John 16:7-15; 1 Cor. 3:16; 1 Cor. 2:10-11; Eph. 1:13; Eph. 1:17-20; Rom. 8:26-27; Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Thes. 2:13.)
Furthermore, don’t get stuck in the routine of going song-to-song or sing “verse-chorus-bridge.” Allow the Holy Spirit to inspire adoration of Jesus in your heart—even as you multitask between music skills and team leadership.
It’s okay to linger when we sense God may be leading us to. He may want us to pray over the congregation. Perhaps your local church is facing a trial and a Scripture verse comes to mind. Don’t be afraid to share this while the instrumentalists continue to play softly, or between songs. You can prepare for these times as a team musically, and also as a worship leader, preparing in prayer before a gathering.
5. Remember you are an example to those you serve.
Again, worship leading goes beyond music and musicianship. We are not just singers and musicians showcasing our talents and being creative as we love to be. As ministers, we model what it looks like to worship God both on and off the platform. People are watching us and learn from us, for better or for worse.
As servants of God, the songs we sing and the prayers we pray are instrumental in shepherding people’s hearts.
Songs rooted in God’s Word teach us about Him. They draw our hearts to be in awe of Him, strengthening us to lift Him up above all else in our lives.
6. Get to know your team and their hearts for the Lord.
You should be invested in your team and their motives for serving. As worship leaders and teams, we are not there to perform a concert or gain popularity. Why are we leading? Why do those on our team want to be there? We want people to be drawn to God, not us. Both our own motives for serving and that of our team members are key.
Pray for your team members and spend quality time together as a group.
- Encourage them, listen to them and pray for them.
- Ask about their relationship with the Lord.
- Find out what worshiping God means to them.
- What part can you play in their vision as a musician serving the Lord? Ask them how you can them grow in these areas.
Pray for God to help you see them through His eyes. Be sure each member has some Sundays off to avoid burnout. They can then take time to worship with their families or rest. (Note: You can also benefit from having an assistant or substitute worship leader so you can have a Sunday off sometimes as well!)
Challenges with team members
At times a team member may have a wrong motive for serving. Or perhaps one of them is struggling with sin. Before hastily axing them, seek the Lord! Don’t automatically assume rebellion.
As you meet with them, remember to be gentle. Recall that the Lord’s kindness brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4). No one is perfect, yet compromise must be addressed. Start by asking them what’s going on before tossing out your assumptions. You also do not have to have a plan right away. Prayerfully work out a plan.
It is an issue when they are in actual rebellion or dangerous deception, especially if they have an unteachable heart. If this is apparent after meeting with them, pray for wisdom and direction. You may even need to meet with your pastor regarding the situation.
Ask the team member if they desire freedom from the struggle. Their answer can help you plan a course of action. It’s important to know whether they are simply struggling but genuinely love the Lord, or if they are willfully choosing rebellion. You should also ask them if they are open to seeking godly counsel and how they are asking God’s help with the issue.
7. Don’t lose heart.
We won’t always be encouraged or affirmed by others. At other times we may fight our own doubts and insecurities. Don’t lose heart!
Strengthen yourself in the truths of God’s Word, such as in Ephesians 2. Your role as a worship leader is a valuable part in the Body of Christ. Above all else, focus on cultivating your relationship with Jesus and serving His people faithfully.