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Advice to First Time or New Worship Leaders

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The first time – even the first year of leading worship – can seem scary. Things are a bit different from being asked to sing just a focus song or two…now, the fate of the entire worship service is in your hands, right? No pressure. Yep, we have all been there – and can all share our stories. I want to lay out five main areas that I feel every new worship leader should concentrate on to be as fruitful in their time of servitude as worship leader as possible.

1. Above all – spend your own time in worship to God.

Worship leaders – even veterans – miss this one all the time. If you do not currently have a set-aside time for worship to God that involves just you and God and no one else then don’t consider leading others in worship. I have found in my years of leading that this is the single-most essential thing that I do with worship…is worshiping God privately before I worship God corporate. Get alone in a room armed with nothing but your Bible (a physical one…no need to get distracted by notifications that you’re up next for a move on Words With Friends.), your common instrument to lead from, and you. Spend time in prayer…not just a quick prayer – a deep prayer. THANK God for the richness of your day. Ask Him to show you something about worship in your time that you weren’t aware of before. Then, spend some time in the Word. Find a scripture and meditate on it. Perhaps it is one that you heard earlier in the day and you need to go back and dwell on it a little. Perhaps it is simply opening the Bible and reading a random verse that was greeted by the breath of God in a not-so-random fashion. However you chose to do so….READ! Finally, spend some time offering songs to God. Don’t simply rehearse songs you want to do this weekend. Sing songs to Him – linger on each word knowing that they are a song of praise to Him. This is your quality time with God…make it quality!

2. Never ever ever put focus on being a performer.

I’m going to rub a few people wrong with this statement. Notice I did not say “You are NOT a performer!” You are. Let’s not get bent out of shape about it. Your pastor is a performer as well. Ever heard your pastor tell a joke or funny story in his sermon? Yep…he is performing. He knows that he needs to engage those emotions in order to keep his listener engaged. It doesn’t diminish his heart or the message. Now, if he delivered an invitation and riddled a story of the sacrifice on the cross with one-liners and jokes…we’d have a much different argument, right? Alas, your pastor likely doesn’t. Why? Because he doesn’t need to focus on that “performance” at such a crucial time. He knows when that “performance” factor is needed…and when it isn’t. He doesn’t put focus on being a performer. Neither should we. Don’t try to work against the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen plenty worship leaders who have moments of honesty in worship where the Spirit is just leading a congregation into a stir, the worship leader senses it, then the worship leader hopes to “make it even better” and starts a mini-sermon. Know that, as a worship leader, we are there to remove distractions and direct worship to God. No one becomes saved because we “sang really good” or because our song arrangements were awesome or because we urged our congregation to clap in every song. The Holy Spirit can use those things to work on the hearts of many…and a good worship leader always knows when to fade into the background and LET GOD MOVE.

3. Don’t over-analyze everything.

Yes, you are new – and no you will not be perfect. The sooner you can come to that conclusion the more time you can spend on other areas of your ministry instead of obsessing over the small things. I believe firmly in an evaluation meeting each week with worship leader and pastor to see what went wrong but also to champion what went right. Glaring issues there can and will be discussed. The fact that you were a little off pitch coming into the third verse, I can assure you, will not be. I’ve seen many young worship leaders worry about the smallest of details that no one else even noticed. Don’t sweat it…seriously.

4. Be continuously in awe.

Stand continuously amazed in the presence of God. Don’t lose a moment’s thought of “I can’t believe God allows me to serve Him!” Wake up each morning amazed by the fact that God gave you breath in two lungs that you didnt deserve…then exhale…and make a difference for His kingdom with each breath.

Above all, thanks for obeying a calling to join the Levites of God’s Kingdom to lead in worship of His Amazing name!

Ah…yes…I did say “five main areas…” right? So where’s the 5th one? Worship Leaders – it’s time for you to tell your secrets. What advice would YOU give to a new or first time worship leader? Chime in using the comments area below!

Jason Whitehorn

Owner, Chief Visionary at got worship? Media
Jason Whitehorn is a worship leader/pastor, Christian songwriter, mentor, public speaker and Christian music promoter/publicist. Jason's articles have been published in both online and National publications and has broadcast in both radio and television - reporting and anchoring for affiliates such as ABC, CNN, and CNN Headline News. Jason is the Redemptive Arts Pastor at Grace Church in the Indianapolis-Metro area.

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13 thoughts on “Advice to First Time or New Worship Leaders”

  1. Russ says:

    Jason, these are great points. I would add – Whatever you do, don’t stop. Mistakes will happen, strings will break, chords will be missed, but whatever you do stay in the flow as much as possible. Your congregation understands and they most likely don’t demand perfection. When these hang ups happen the best thing you can do is minimize the distraction and keep going! Good luck leaders!

    1. Jason Whitehorn says:

      Russ,

      Good sound advice. Ive been mentoring a young worship leader who is 19. SHe continues to amaze me with her heart and her skill. Last night she had every element come crashing down her…. MediaShout would not display music, sound issues, forgot the key on certain songs…even forgot melody. At first I thought “Do I go bail her out?” Then I thought….”nope…let’s see where this lands.” … and there she went without any media…with no amplification for her guitar…and simply worshiped. She refused to let things become a distraction anymore than they had to…

      New worship leaders need to read and re-read your advice. It’s crucial. Thanks!

      1. britton wesson says:

        Yep. We showed up for church one Sunday and had no power. Called the power company and they said service would be restored later that day. So, we lit every candle we could find, I had one vocalist and my classical guitar. We sat right in front of the congregation. One of the most engaging and awesome worship services I’ve ever been a part of. Always remember – technology does not determine worship.

    2. mari says:

      Past

  2. britton wesson says:

    On building and maintaining the worship team: have a CLEAR CUT METHOD of entry onto the worship team. Just because a player is talented, doesn’t grant them automatic access to the stage. Start them out on soundboard or presentation computer. A musician’s true heart is seen when he or she is asked to start behind the scenes. Let them come to practice, but, start them out behind the scenes somehow. If a musician is willing to do that, you learn a lot about them and their motivation for wanting to play.

    1. Jason Whitehorn says:

      Britton,

      If you rotate players…I’m also a stickler for noticing a trend when someone doesn’t attend church on days when they aren’t on the stage.

      Thanks for that input!

      1. britton wesson says:

        Jason,
        Absolutely. I can flex on missing rehearsals. Family demands, etc. But only showing up when it’s your weekend to play- that’s a whole different thing. I had that with a drummer. GREAT drummer. Didn’t want to join the church and only wanted to play on his day. Had to cut him loose.

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  5. Mike Keller says:

    I’ve heard it said a lot that being a worship leader is about being a lead worshiper, and that’s true. I think Jason has covered that point. But what sometimes gets lost is that you are inhererently a worship LEADER. People don’t follow good playing, singing, song choice, etc…. People follow people. In order for you to truly lead those people in the 30 minutes you’re singing, you need to know and love the people you’re leading. They need to know who you are and that you’re not only interested in those 30 minutes. So, yes, as Jason said, practice worshipping regularly, but also practice leading off the stage.

    1. mari says:

      Pastor Jason u got to b the most unique pastor I’ve had the privilege to talk 2 ur rt. On w/ the way u lk. Churchs 2 operate ur open minded @ compassionate in every way yes we make mistake we’er human not God u understand that we all mess up lets work on cleaning up ur dark sides, habits etc. In stead of keep bringing up 2 the surface all the time. Great job dont u go gettin g another 1 coz found ur calling !!!!!!! Stay blessed brother,friend… :))

  6. Juan Muriel says:

    Out worship is the reflexion of our relationship with God. Caring for that relationship will lead us to passionately explode in worship as we gather together. It takes longer to prepare the offering than to offer it. It took Jesus 33 years to prepare His offering…to offer Himself as a living sacrifice in 1 day.

    Mistakes will happen musically or technically speaking, but NEVER lose sight of what is truly most important, we were called by God to worship Him!

  7. Laura VanWinkle says:

    I’m a VERY new worship leader but my main rule is: If you don’t come to practice, you don’t sing. We all know we need to practice together to learn to work together. I have not had a problem with members coming to church but I do have problems with members not coming to practice and silently “dropping out”. I have 4 members besides myself who are consistent and dependable. While I’m grateful, I also find it tiring to sing every Sunday. I’ve tried reaching out to other talents to take the “load off” without success. Any advise?

    1. Jason Harris says:

      Recognizing your own limitations is the first step toward equipping. It’s good to hear your willingness to step away from the mic, but until you recruit, train, and encourage your team in leadership (not just singing), you will likely need to fill that role.

      Try looking for some scriptural cues for Christian worship leadership to guide your team. Leviticus is full of specific instructions for purification and training; God still desires our best.

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