This list came out of a discussion on Worship The Rock that invited worship leaders and worship pastors to share their top 10 pieces of advice for new or young worship leaders. Many of these people have many years of experience behind them and have some great insights that they have willingly shared.
I hope you find this list really helpful. Think of it as your own group of virtual mentors offering pearls of wisdom, both practical and spiritual.
1. Always remember that you are up before God's people to worship HIM as an Audience of One.
2. Be a humble servant.
3. Lead with authority.
4. Be Spirit led.
5. The quality of the music and the size of the band have nothing to do with how "good" the worship is.
6. Always remember who you are leading, and that each one is dealing with different struggles and pains, dreams and longings.
7. Love your people as Jesus does - only then, really, do you have a right to lead them.
8. Take yourself out of the equation – it’s all about God and all for God.
9. Accept compliments and criticism and deal with them with a humble heart.
10. Pray before and during preparation, pray before practice and pray on the day you are leading. (Main point – PRAY!)
11. Choose your songs prayerfully, and if some songs don't seem to reflect the 'topic' of the sermon, don't leave them out – sometimes God presses on our heart to sing a song that will touch someone in the congregation, but that is completely out of context – He knows best!
12. Be prepared, but be open to hear from God and be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
13. Don't be scared to make mistakes – learn from them.
14. Let God be the Worship Leader – hand it ALL over to Him.
15. Pick a few songs in the same key. It's an easy way to make songs flow from one to the next.
16. Finding one song to reinforce the topic might be enough. If you sing 8 songs all about God's power - you are missing out on 100 other attributes that can be praised.
17. Communicate with your church's leaders - worship isn't confined to the music portion of the service.
18. Pray with your whole worship team and ask God to help bring you together. It's easier to trust in someone on stage with you when you know that God is in control of your time together.
19. Practicing is important - because being a musician is a skilled job, but even if you are new and nervous - realize that God can use anyone who is willing to grow and step out in faith.
20. Accept that your position as worship leader is not above that of the pastor/vicar/minister. As such listen to what he or she tells you and follow their instructions, even if it is not what you had planned to do. They are leading their church and have been anointed by God to be in such a position. As such it is important to respect and trust their God given authority.
21. Understand that you are dealing with unprofessional musicians and singers that are using God-given gifts for His glory, not the glory of the team or themselves. It may not always be perfect, but it still glorifies God.
22. Make sure to spend time together not just practicing. Musicians and singers need to feel part of something so going out for a meal together, having prayer time together to pray for each other is essential.
23. You must have fun. God wants our praise to Him to be filled with joy!
24. Don't try to teach too many new songs.
25. Remember, you are leading them, you are serving them - it's not about you.
26. Be willing to crucify your own stylistic preference.
27. No matter how great a singer you may be put songs in keys normal people can sing. Try not to make them sing much higher than a D if you can help it.
28. If you don't have any comments to make then don't feel pressured to make any comments.
29. Attitude...ATTITUDE...A-T-T-U-D-E...! Check it, refine it, then check it again.
How the Worship Leader is attitudinally has long-ranging affects.
30. Take time to worship God on your own.
31. Be faithful in everything.
32. Know your team - spend time with your team outside of music venues. You must team build and don’t talk about business. Your team must know that you love them!
33. Know their skills – i.e. what music they can and can’t play.
34. Know your skills – i.e. what music you can and can’t play.
35. Always continue your education and improve your skills and that of your team. Give them music to listen to. Invest in them. (Videos, CDs, books, conferences, and workshops).
36. Be the leader. Don’t be afraid to make decisions. This goes back to team building.
37. Work really hard to listen to your team - goes back to relationship. Don’t get so focused that you don’t listen.
38. Don’t be afraid to let your team members reach and stretch musically. Band members need to feel the freedom to be creative.
39. Make the Sound Engineer part of the team. They are not an island unto themselves. Ask them for feedback they will hear and see what you can’t.
40. Set the bar (expectations) high and people will rise to the challenge. You must do this from day one! People need to buy into the vision and team.
41. Remember to prepare and be excellent musically, but also don't forget the heart side of ministry. The Levites of the OT were skilled musically AND their hearts were toward God. As worship leaders it is not an either/or type of things. We must have excellence of heart as well as excellence musically as we connect with God and lead others to encounter Him.
42. Remember - "There are no spectators in worship..."
43. Worship is a lifestyle - "God is not just looking for lifted hands on Sunday but for Kingdom Worshippers who walk out their relationships with the Father daily."
44. Your body is God's Temple and your life must be yielded to him in order for your worship to be valid. If not, it's like a man who ignores his wife all week and then holds her hand and gently guides her into service each Sunday and sits close to her so that the congregation can say, "Look at them. They are such a nice couple."
45. Preparation is good, but always remember to leave room for a move of God.
46. Don't try to over play or over sing to create a moment. Just create a space for him and he will come in.
47. Be gentle with the people of God. For you are an usher. Guide them into the Holy of Holies.
48. Be willing to move out of the way and let God speak to his people. It's ok to back away from the mic and worship.
49. First and foremost "guard your heart and your intimate time with the Saviour". Don't let the work of the ministry, the need, distract you from that which is most important. Be a person of the secret place. Psalm 27:4-8.
50. Remember people are your purpose. You are a signpost, a conduit for the presence of God to minister to His people. Acts 20:28.
51. Leading worship is not worshiping in front of people. Your job is to lead them. Take them where you have already been. To the feet of Jesus.
52. Your worship set should grow out of your own personal worship time. Don't just choose songs that go together.
53. Be a student of the Word, always.
54. Have a love for the Bride.
55. Pursue excellence not perfection.
56. Be relational to your team, to the congregation, and to the staff.
57. Form relationships: Start off with a barbeque or whatever and invite everybody (pastor, musicians, vocalists, fader jockeys, etc.) and get to know them. Consistently schedule non-church time with them. You will not regret it.
58. Actively seek input from team members: ideas, suggested material, etc.
59. Require attendance at practice(s) as a prerequisite to service, regardless of giftedness.
60. Don’t add anybody to the team who you have not established a relationship with. It is easier to add folks to the team than to dismiss them.
61. Plan ahead: If your tech team knows who is playing, and your frontal people know which songs will likely be covered, the set-up is done ahead of time and the frontal folks can practice individual parts and harmonies beforehand.
62. Actively direct / arrange. Many worship leaders do not articulate what they want, but expect everybody to just know.
63. Establish a set of signs to guide your team know what you are going to do next.
64. Establish discipleship: mentor somebody, expect your team to mentor others, have nights of worship where folks can bring instruments and play with each other. Mentor small group worship leaders. Have small group leaders mentor others.
65. Be real.
66. Use what you've got! If you're new, chances are the team is new as well and you probably don't have all the pieces yet. Just use what you've got and watch what God does.
67. Less is more! Too often, we can replace "excellent" with "loud".
68. Listen more, and then play. If you're not listening, you're playing too much.
69. Worship with "recognizable" songs. Don't teach too many new songs. Maybe 1 or 2 a month. And then do that song the next week and again a few weeks later to solidify it.
70. Hearts on fire, minds on ice! Don't let your passion for Jesus override your abilities. You CAN do both, have passion and play within your ability. That works best.
71. Above all, boast only in what Christ can, and is doing. Not what you are. Try this when people give you praise, say, Thank you, Praise God! In doing this, you're blessings the person for seeing the gifts God has placed in you and you're "deflecting" the praise up to God where it rightfully belongs. You don't want to absorb any of it, It's Toxic!
72. Remember, you can do nothing on your own. But through Christ, "All things are possible".
73. Worship through the songs in your own personal time before you use them, make them your own, and read the words through as a prayer. I always find this helps me prepare.
74. Know what you believe and why you believe it. Know what you want to do and know why you want to do it.
75. No matter how busy you are at your role, concentrate on worshiping. This is the part you will be modelling to the congregation.
76. Don't let talent overshadow other weighty characteristics when choosing your team.
77. Consistent tempo is way more important than being flashy.
78. You will get tired of songs way faster than your congregation, because you presumably listen to worship music a lot. Don't avoid playing songs two weeks in a row, especially newly introduced ones. Let your congregation get to know the songs well, so they can focus on God. As a side note, don't bring in songs you're only going to do once because it matches the sermon.
79. Don't start all your fast songs at the volume ceiling. Leave room for dynamic lifts.
80. Have capo versions of the chord sheets for songs in guitar unfriendly keys. (E.g. C#m could become Bm Capo 2).
81. Don't make big reactions to mistakes. The congregation may not notice the mistake, but see your negative facial expression.
82. Get a decibel meter. Volume is highly subjective. If people claim you're "too loud" you need to be able to check it out so you can bring the volume level down or tell those people what the real deal is. (We play at 85-90 dB, which for a band with live drums is remarkably quiet. Most people who think we are "too loud" actually just don't like live drums).
83. Set up your gear first. Get to practice and service as early as possible to set up your whatever so that when your team gets there you can assist/socialize with them. This will also make them get ready faster.
84. It's not a funeral. Last time I checked we worshiped the RISEN Lord. If he'd stayed in the grave I'd understand expressionless dirges.
85. Pay attention to you performance technique. I know it's a dirty word, but we are performers (just with different motives). A pastor has to understand the dynamics of stage presence and so do we.
86. Have integrity. Get a CCLI license and stay within the boundaries. Is your integrity worth making illegal copies of CD's and music? Hopefully not.
87. Get serious! Before picking up a mic or guitar, get serious about the Word...I just get alot of worship leaders that aren't digesting meat yet.
88. Study Timothy and Titus about the behaviour of leaders in the church (sober, not given to adultery, etc.)
89. Study James and learn to control your tongue and keep your ego in check.
90. Go through the Old Testament teachings on worship. Remember once Isaiah got a glimpse of true worship his comment was "I am ruined" because he realized that he will never measure up to the Holy God....thank god for Grace!
91. Put a "Paul" in your life to hold you accountable and be transparent.
92. Connect with as many people as possible in the body and build relationships...don't be the music minister that appears right before service and disappears right after.
93. Don't let the music team become a clique. Keep them engaged in serving through the body.
94. Carry lots of extra picks in your pocket, two extra 9 volt batteries, and bring two guitars (assuming you’re a guitarist!).
95. Dont' allow tubas or eight year old kids that play the clarinet on the team.
96. Pick songs that are true to Scripture... if you aren't sure than talk to your pastor about them.
97. Get a good sound man! Your sound man can make you or break you, so make sure that who ever mans that board knows what he is doing and how to do it – otherwise you will have bad mixes, feedback and that will mar the service. Send your sound guys to training at a seminar such as Syn-aud-Con, AES or some of the others here. Good sound guys don't just happen.
98. Remind musicians to check their tuning before each performance.
99. Map out your songs and strive for a sense of dynamics – tension, release and build.
100. Remind vocalists about mic control – back off on strong notes and get closer on softer notes – don’t drive the sound guy crazy.
101. Remind everyone that if you can hear just yourself – you’re too loud!
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