Equipping the saints for the work of the ministry - Ephesians 4:12

Worship Guide for Small Churches

When churches are new, and even in the life of an established congregation, there will be times when you don’t have anyone to lead worship. Don’t worry, there are other ways to worship God in a meaningful way. Below are a few things that helped my husband and I have great worship even when our congregation was small.

1. Worship without instruments. An enthusiastic person leading the congregation in heart-felt worship can be very powerful. Having singers, musicians and sound equipment is not a prerequisite to having an anointed worship service. Some denominations ban the use of instruments (which I don’t agree with, but I digress) and have beautiful worship services. If you find someone who loves the Lord, can carry a tune, and is bold, that’s really all you need.

2. Learn how to play an instrument. I know this may sound crazy to those of you who are not musically inclined, but learning to play piano “by ear” is really not that difficult. I had to learn how to play piano very quickly after we accepted a pastor position at a church that had dropped to only a few members.

It’s surprisingly easy to put a worship set together using only basic chords. Unlike hymns, most worship choruses do not require the ability to read sheet music. Of course having a little natural rhythm helps. When I was learning how to play, our oldest son (who is a drummer) said, “It’s kind of like playing drums on the piano!”

If piano isn’t your thing, simple guitar worship tabs are another option. I was never able to stick with guitar long enough to get through the “callous” stage, but some people find it easier and more convenient than playing piano.

3. Use praise and worship split tracks. Another option is to use praise and worship split tracks. Split tracks allow you to adjust the level of the lead vocal from full volume to zero. You can play both vocals and instruments, or completely mute the vocals when you have singers but no musicians.

The biggest drawback with split tracks is the “canned” nature of the worship. Unless you have a talented sound person, being spontaneous is out of the question. It can be done, and I’ve been in services that used this method very effectively, but it does have its challenges. That said, if it’s your only option it’s definitely better than no worship at all!

4. Recruit singers and musicians. Even the smallest churches have a few singers or musicians hiding in the back row. It’s been my experience that the most anointed members are the last to come forward. Letting the first volunteers lead worship has always been a disaster for us. Early in our ministry my husband and I allowed a few people to be on the worship team without knowing if they could do the job. It didn’t work out very well.

We’ve also had decent success posting flyers (with a tear-off contact tab) in music stores, community centers, and schools. Local online publications and forums work well too, and obviously posting it on your church website, social media accounts, and church bulletins is a good idea. Take your time and do it right. Remember, it’s much easier to give authority than take it back!

Below are a few questions to ask yourself before allowing anyone to lead worship in your church:

  1. Are they faithful? If a person can’t be faithful in basic things like attendance, or if they are not willing to help in other areas besides the glamorous ones, they should not be on the worship team (Luke 16:10-12).
  2. Are they spiritually mature? The person you choose must be a Christian and have an understanding of the gospel. Also, anyone wanting to be in any ministry should feel God has called them.
  3. Are they gifted? A lot of pastors make the mistake of thinking if a person’s heart is right it doesn’t matter if they can sing or play an instrument, however, God requires our best (1 Chronicles 15:22). They should at least be able to sing on key or be proficient in the instrument they play.
  4. Are they willing to be taught? If they are rebellious, have a negative spirit, are argumentative, or have a huge ego, don’t allow them be on the worship team. Yes, a person should have talent, but most importantly they must have a servant’s heart and be humble.
  5. Are they ministers or entertainers? Don’t put someone on the worship team simply because their talents dazzle you. I know singers and musicians with tremendous abilities who can’t operate under the anointing. They may be able to entertain you, and even help build your church, but they can’t lead people into God’s presence.

Regardless of the ministry position you are seeking to fill, pray about whether the person you are considering is called to be a leader in your church. What works for one church may not work for another. God always brings what our churches need, when they need it.

Starting in 2001 as a webmaster and contributor for Ministrymaker Magazine, Kim Linton's articles and technology guides have been published on a variety of websites including Woman's Day and Intel, and featured on several news sites including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.