What does it mean to be a worship leader? We know it is not simply to sing songs or play music: There is so much more.
A worship leader sets themselves apart to minister to the heart of God and lead others to do the same when we gather as a Body. We serve others by pointing them to the One who gave His life for us and is worthy of our everything.
1. Pursue God above all else
The most important aspect of your life is your relationship with Jesus. The “more” that we long for in every aspect of life is found only in Him (John 17:3), for He only fulfills every longing of our hearts.
- Do you set aside a regular alone time with God, cultivating a closer relationship with Him?
- Do you feel connected to Him and have an increasing hunger to be with Him?
- Do you give Him first place in your life and seek to live surrendered to Him?
For those whose answer is no or not really: Begin by setting aside a regular time to talk with God daily and endeavor to keep the appointment with Him. Pray Scripture-based prayers and from your heart, then journal what you sense the Lord revealing to you. You will never regret building a personal history with God.
Some helpful posts on growing your relationship with God:
2. As you lead, maintain a dominant melody line that others can follow
Sing a melody line that can be followed by the majority of the people in the room, even though who do not often sing or sing well. Do not overly embellish or sing the song in a key that is much too high or low for most people to comfortably join in.
Finding the right key
If you’re not sure of the right key for your voice and the congregation, find a recording or YouTube video of the song by a singer with a similar range as yours who is singing it in a congregational setting the majority of the time (men look for male singers and ladies for female singers).
Hint & Example: If you are a woman wanting to lead a Matt Redman song, find a female singer singing the song to get an idea of a key that would work for you. Sing through the highest and lowest portions of the song to be sure it will work.
3. Don’t choose too many unfamiliar songs at once
It’s fine to introduce new and original worship songs, but remember that many in the congregation will be learning the song for the first time even though you may already know it well. Congregational worship is a time for every person to unite together in praising God with one voice; it is not the best time to constantly showcase new songs we’ve learned. Prayerfully choose new songs as the Lord leads.
Consider choosing one new song per set and perhaps only a few times a month. You can also let the congregation know before starting the song that it is new as a sort of “heads up” and even go over the chorus first with them.
Helpful Idea: Introduce the new song during offering or ministry time, or include it on a CD of recorded music played in the background prior to service.
We want to engage everyone present in worship, and if they do not know the song, they cannot participate in singing to the Lord as easily unless they are gifted musicians or singers, which the majority may not be.
Mike Bickle, director of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO, has expressed that worship leaders sometimes think the enemy is bringing oppression into the atmosphere because the people are not joining in worship, when in truth it is because the songs we have chosen are new to them. (I agree!)
Don’t fret if this doesn’t work for your specific situation. This scenario may vary depending on the community you are apart of. For example, if you are apart of a new church plant or similar situation where there are many new people, it will not always be easy to choose songs everyone is familiar with.
4. Make room for the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit desires to do so much more than we often think about. Be expectant! He yearns to draw many to know the Father through the Son, bring healing to hearts and break the chains off of those stuck in sin. Such demonstrations of God’s power and love often come in the midst of corporate worship.
As God dwelling within believers, the Holy Spirit longs to help us worship Jesus on earth as it is in Heaven. Don’t get stuck in the routine of singing “verse – chorus – bridge” or the musicianship of leading a team so much that you lose sight of the real reason we are here.
As already mentioned, this begins in your personal time with the Lord as well as in seeking His heart for the community you are leading. Prior to the weekly meeting, seek Him in prayer concerning the worship time. God may desire to release a new song prophetically over the people or lead us in a time of thanksgiving that will bring freedom to weary hearts among the people. The possibilities all begin and are brought forth through His Spirit’s leadership, as long as we follow His lead.
5. Remember that you are a minister to God and example to the people
We are not just singers and musicians showcasing our talents, or just getting to do something we enjoy as an art form. We serve as a model of how to worship God by our example and give them a place to do so as a unified Body. People do watch us and learn from us, for better or for worse.
We are servants and ministers of God. In some ways, we assist in shepherding the people’s hearts through the songs we sing each week.
Songs that are aligned with God’s truth and heart teach us about Him, draw our hearts to love Him more, and help us magnify Him above every idol or trial that might attempt to beset us.
6. Know your team members and their hearts for the Lord
Care about their motives for serving on the team. As worship leaders, singers and musicians, we are here to worship and lead others; we are not there to put on a concert or build our own reputation. We want create a space for the Lord to be lifted high that all may be drawn to Him, not us.
There is so much more than just playing together once or twice a week. We need to spend quality time with our team members. We want to be an encouragement and inspiration in their lives as family in Christ.
- Ask them about their relationship with God and what true worship means to them.
- Ask them about their vision as a worshiper, team member, and musician, and what part you can play in helping them grow in these areas.
Pray for your team members
Ask God to help you see them through His eyes. Cultivate relationship. Make sure they are included as a part of the Body as a whole. Give them Sundays off to worship with their families or rest in the presence of God. (By the way, it’s also good to have an assistant or substitute worship leader so you can have a Sunday off from leading once in a while too!)
If any of your team members is there of the wrong motives or dealing with compromise, first seek the Lord; don’t automatically assume rebellion. Remember that it is the Lord’s kindness that brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4). No one is perfect, yet compromise must be addressed. It is an issue when outright rebellion or dangerous deception, coupled with an unteachable heart is involved (after having confronted them in a godly way).
You can know whether someone is simply struggling but genuinely loves the Lord, or if they are willfully choosing rebellion by finding out if they want to be set free.
By seeking the Lord and also asking the team member if they desire freedom from the struggle, you can discover whether someone is simply struggling but genuinely loves the Lord, or if they are willfully choosing rebellion. You could also ask them if they are open to or already pursuing the help of God, their pastor, or a Christian counselor in the area of struggle.
7. Remind yourself: God sees you and your heart
Sometimes we don’t get the encouraging pat on the back. Sometimes we fight our own doubts and insecurities. Don’t give up! The Lord loves when we minister to Him, and when we help others grow in doing so as well.
Your role as a worship leader is valuable to God and He sees your heart. Above all else, keep pressing into Jesus, cultivating an intimate relationship with Him.