How did you get here?
In many churches, the modern Worship Leader is an individual who has been plucked from their congregation because their musical ability, yet often with little leadership experience, biblical knowledge or spiritual maturity. The result is a worship ministry which, although it may be musically competent, can be spiritually and pastorally negligent. This was certainly my story and it could very well be yours as well.
I remember stepping out of the professional music scene having been out of church life for more than 8 years. My Christian upbringing, my musical training and a few character references meant I was quickly leading a worship team at my local church before I really knew what I was doing. I gave it my best shot but I was spiritually immature, pastorally insensitive, biblically ignorant and relationally dysfunctional. Those first few years were a pretty bumpy ride and it took several false starts and a few ‘deep end’ experiences to jolt me into reality.
Sure I may have had potential, but I was a baby being trusted with some pretty important power tools. Even as I moved into my current role, many aspects of my leadership were untested and well and truly undercooked. Every area of my leadership was tried and tested and in many cases left wanting. I’ve had a very patient Senior Pastor, and very loyal team and an incredibly supportive staff, eldership and congregation to help me navigate leadership over almost 10 years.
Leadership is Relationship.
Worship team leadership is primarily about relationship. It’s less about function and more about the posture of my heart toward people and what it is God wants to call out of them.
On reflection, I think leading your team can be broken down into four key categories. When we teach on team leadership through the Worship Academy, we focus on how to lead your teams spiritually, pastorally, practically and musically.
For example, Spiritual leadership explores the why of worship. Having a solid biblical understanding of worship and the theology behind it is key to leading others in meaningful worship ministry. Worship is our response to a revelation of God through Jesus. The more we lead our teams to experience Jesus, the more powerful and authentic our worship of Him will be.
We also explore the pastoral responsibilities of team leadership. Often a talented vocalist or musician assumes the role of leading their worship teams with little experience in pastoral oversight, conflict resolution, courageous conversations, emotional care and support or navigating team dynamics. The reality is that when you lead people you inevitably have to lead through times of conflict, pain, and grief, as well as times of joy, unity and peace. You don’t learn that from mimicking your favourite musicians on Youtube or listening to podcasts. You learn by getting in the trenches and being guided through these seasons well.
The practicalities of team leadership cover everything from how to recruit volunteers and build teams, manage events and run effective rehearsals and services. How do we establish a healthy culture of communication for example, manage rosters and run auditions. How do we deal with band members that don’t show up, how do we use technology effectively in different sized churches or manage volume restrictions? The list of challenges Worship Leaders face on a weekly basis is quite impressive. Rest assured you’re not the first one to face these challenges – even though your situation will be unique to you.
Finally your ability to communicate musically is critical to the role of a Worship Leader. I’ve found this is often where some of the greatest frustrations between team members can appear. A Worship Leader with no understanding of music theory or language can often hear in their head where they want a song or service to go, but their inability to communicate that in rehearsals and during the service itself can undermine your teams efforts and your ability to lead your congregation effectively. By developing your musical vocabulary, your understanding of music theory, training your ear, and further developing your own musical gifts on your instrument or voice, you’ll be able to more confidently lead worship teams of any size and trust that they will have your back as you lead the congregation.