How to be an Effective Worship Leader
Worship ministers have the awesome responsibility of leading others into the presence of God. Some people believe the only requirement for building an effective praise and worship team is being a good singer or musician, but that is only the beginning. Understanding the nature of worship, and your role in it, is crucial.
When my husband and I first started planting churches, I had no idea how to lead worship. It was only through trial and error that I learned what building an effective music ministry really meant. Most worship leaders have good intentions, but over time many end up just going through the motions. Don’t let that happen to you!
- Spend time in prayer. If you are not spiritually strong, you will not be a good worship leader. You must have a strong prayer life. When you spend time in God’s presence you learn who He is and what pleases Him. Only then can you lead others to Him.
- Know the Word. You must know what you believe, why you believe it, and be ready to defend your faith. Worship leaders don’t have the luxury of being lukewarm Christians.
- Focus on God. Having the best worship service in town is good, but your congregation should also feel comfortable worshipping without instruments, props or familiar songs. If prestige and popularity are your focus, your worship services will be dry, dead and meaningless.
- Exercise authority. When I first started leading worship I tried to please everyone. I eventually learned that my job was to lead the congregation. If I didn’t, I was letting God down. Sometimes you have to be the bad guy. Sometimes you will make people mad and they won’t like you. Do the job God called you to do and it will all work out in the end.
- Follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. Allow God to direct you in everything. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit directs worship leaders to use the perfect song for a particular sermon or service. I was always amazed when we had a guest speaker and his or her topic went right along with the songs I picked for that service.
- Be humble. Ego and pride can be a problem with any musician or singer. Don’t think you are above becoming a narcissist because you are a Christian. They are often the worse offenders! Remember Satan’s infamous fall? The best way to maintain a spirit of humility is to develop empathy and compassion for others – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s not about you. That said, having false humility can cause even more problems.
- Don’t be rebellious. Sometimes pastors or other church leaders will ask you to take worship in a different direction from how you think it should go. Hebrews 13:17 tells us we should “submit to those who have rule over us.” If necessary, God will change your pastor’s mind. It’s not your job to pastor the church.
- Find what works for your church. Every church has a unique DNA that God designed for that particular body of believers. What works for one church will not work for another. The worship leader’s responsibility is to discover what it takes to make their church grow in the area of worship. Some things work, others do not.
- Find your personal style. God called you because He knows you have something unique to give. It’s fine to learn from others, but don’t try to imitate what someone else is doing. What moves you? What is God impressing upon you? God uses the personality of the worship leader to set the style for the church.
- Be open to change. God may move you in a direction you don’t feel comfortable with. Are you a contemporary music fan? Get ready to bring out the hymnals. Do you hate heavy metal music? Get ready for the screaming electric guitar. God loves to take us to new levels of freedom in our service.
- Don’t be lazy. Singing the same tired songs over and over will bring death to your worship service. Using songs that people are familiar with is good, but never adding fresh material is a lazy way to lead worship. Always be willing to try new things.
- Continue to learn. Good worship leaders are always learning and obtaining new skills. You must be flexible, while standing firm in your God-given authority. Listen to new types of music and visit churches that have different praise and worship styles.
- Be willing to step down when it’s time. Just like in any ministry, there will come a time when you should let someone else lead worship. Only God can tell you when that time comes, but if you are open, you will know. Don’t be afraid to move to the next level in your service. Refusing to step down when God wants you to let it go is rebellion and will only lead to misery for you and the church.
The only way to teach others to worship Jesus in all things is to practice it yourself. If you are rigid, unmoving, and unwilling to change, the people you lead will be too. As worship leaders our goal is to point people to Jesus. It really is all about Him.