The core principle is to make it easy for the average person to worship.
12 Practical Tips For Worship Leaders Who Are Just Starting Out (and to those who’ve been doing it for years!)
1. Prepare as much as you possibly can. There are numerous benefits to being well prepared. It gives you peace of mind, confidence and calms the nerves. Remember the adage “prepare as if everything depends on you, pray as if everything depends on God.” Don’t just rehearse your set, also practice the presence of God.
2. Memorize the songs if possible, or big chunks of them. Practice until the music and singing is second nature. You’re training your brain’s muscle memory for your fingers and ingraining the tonal pitch center for your singing. This will free you up to be more spiritually sensitive and engaging with the congregation.
3. Transitions: Work on your transition game. Think through the songs so they flow smoothly. Practice the transitions between songs. Rehearse them over and over until they are clear in your mind. Visualize them.
4. Speaking: Write down what you’re going to say and where. Use bullet points. Rehearse talking and playing your instrument at the same time.
5. Be a good host. Imagine you’re inviting guests into your home. Be warm and welcoming. Then, take them on a journey that draws them closer to God.
6. Relax. Breathe. When we get excited the tendency will be to rush the tempo. Pace the songs at a sing-able tempo.
7. Be you. Don’t try to be like somebody else. David didn’t take out Goliath wearing Saul’s armor. Use your strengths. Don’t kill yourself trying to copy a song’s recording. Simplify your arrangements.
8. Use good time management. If your church has a tight time frame, rehearse using a stopwatch or timer. Work out the timings.
9. Get in the God Zone. For the days or hours leading up to the service, position yourself so you can receive from God. We minister from the overflow of the heart (Luke 6:45). So, sow to the spirit (Gal 6:8 ). Eliminate distractions. Try to organize your other responsibilities so you can be focused on this one thing. You may want to fast or eat lightly. Invest a little more time with God.
10. Pray. Pray for the congregation, the team, the pastor and message, and your role. God will work through you. Ask for intercessors to pray for you too. See also this post on discernment, The Standard Answer.
11. Warm up your voice. All vocalists should do this. Check out Vocal Coach for great voice resources.
12. Projection: Double check all the song lyrics with the projectionist and review the flow with him/her.
13. (BONUS!) Finally, bring your “A Game”. Lead clearly, confidently, and with authority. God has called you to this role, in this place and at this time. So, feed the sheep. Help the people in your community express their worship. They may not know how to do that until you show them. Model it.
By Rob Still
Every instrument needs love, care, maintenance, and things that just plain cost money.
Good musicians are continually looking to improve on how they play. Good music and worship pastors should be continually looking to approve on how they think.
Music and worship pastors are constantly on the lookout for new and good music.
Has your worship or music pastor written a lot of music for the church?
Many local worship and music pastors might not have someone in their life that is a musical (or even spiritual) mentor.
My absolute favorite gift of appreciation I’ve ever received was this piece of artwork that a piano player I worked with made specifically for me. She took a picture of my hands playing the guitar, sketched it, and then used wood pieces to create the amazing matte. Thanks, Pam. I know you’re reading and I cherish this piece of art every day.
By Ryan Egan
Worship involves realizing and thanking God for what He has done. He launched this whole worship thing by creating and loving us. Our part is responding to what He started. There’s a lot to be thankful for.
So we both have a part to play in the worship interaction. And just like any form of communication, there are points at which it can break down.
This reminds me of the communication model I used to teach to public high school speech class students.
Person A formulates an idea. (Bling – the light bulb goes on.) Person A desires to share the idea with Person B, so Person A encodes the idea in a message designed to communicate the idea in as clear a way as possible. Person A then sends the message in some form of package toward Person B. Assuming that Person B is paying attention, they realizes that Person A is the sender, and that the package arrives intact, Person B then opens the package and decodes the message. (Bling – the light bulb goes on.) This results in Person B’s response or feedback idea. (Bling, the light bulb goes on again.) Person B then encodes and packages the message and sends it back to Person A.
But to even call this model “communication” is pretty optimistic. Most of us have played those party games designed to exploit how easily things break down. Assuming Person A has an idea, assuming Person A desires to communicate it, assuming Person A has the capacity to send it, assuming Person A is aware of Person B, assuming Person A correctly encodes and packages the message, assuming Person A sends the message in a way that actually gets to Person B, assuming Person B notices the incoming message, assuming Person B has the capacity to decode it, assuming Person B bothers to decode it, assuming Person B interprets it correctly, assuming Person B has a response and a desire to share that response, assuming Person B encodes, packages and sends the new idea successfully… Assuming, assuming, assuming….
Thankfully, God is a part of this, and helps things along the way. My mind begins to spin when I think of how incredible the task would be for Eternal God, who knows all, is everywhere and everywhen, to actually create an idea so small that our finite minds have a hope of grasping it. But He can. And He’s aware of us, and has paid an incredible price for that interaction to occur.
No, if this process breaks down, we have to take the blame.
So many things easily distract us from even noticing that He’s trying to connect. Sin, certainly. But also focus. How easily I find myself falling into wearing the blinders of being so caught up in getting my part right, that I miss everything else. Sometimes I have to deliberately listen.
Then, when I get it that He’s communicating, I can miss understanding it or place my own slant on what He’s saying. I need to recognize His voice. I need to know His Word well enough that I can use it verify that what I think He’s saying now fits consistently with He’s said before. The more I walk and interact with Him, the better and more quickly I hear.
Once I get His message, I have to want to respond. It’s easy to just simply enjoy the warmth of receiving and forget that I can or need to respond. I also have a tendency to get so wrapped up in creating or packaging my response, that the opportunity to send it passes by. If I try to package the response in an expression that’s new or less comfortable for me, that’s also distracting.
Additionally, much of the time these interaction occur outside of the solitude of personal time with God. Worship often occurs in community. Other people are around. Sometimes they help me to focus well, but other times they create distractions. Even my role – what God has called me to do – can become a distraction.
It’s amazing that worship happens at all. So I’m thankful that He knows our limitations, and never tires of trying it again.
So during your worship times, expect God to show up in the conversation. Pause to listen. Sometimes His voice is loud, sometimes He’s quiet. (And if you arrive at the interaction already tuned to His frequency, you’ll be miles ahead.) Then, after a moment to reflect on His message, thank Him for His touch and then allow for time to respond. Anticipate something good. God is speaking with you!
So, what is worship? There have been many deep and philosophical posts on this topic throughout the years, some here and some elsewhere. The word worship (and its many interpretations) is at the heart of many discussions, debates, and disagreements. We’d all agree that the idea of “worship” in the context of how it is expressed in our corporate gatherings can be a pretty explosive topic.
But when you boil it all down to the essence of what it REALLY is, worship is pretty simple. Beyond all the genres and style wars; beyond the arguments over traditional, blended or contemporary; and even beyond the proactive versus reactive discussion, worship isn’t all that complicated. It’s basic.
To have worship, you must have an object to receive the worship. Worship isn’t what we sing or do to one another, although those can be done in a worshipful manner. Worship needs a target. In our Christian faith, God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, the One that causes all to be, is the target of worship. Whether it’s a response to God’s goodness, His qualities, or His actions toward us, or whether its an offering that we give to “show” our devotion to, affection for, or faith in, worship is directed towards God, not others, and not us.
Simply put, the definition of worship is when we render reverence or homage to a deity or sacred item. There is always an object or a target intended to be the receiver of worship.
We’ve heard many times over the years that worship is a lifestyle. While this is true, I believe that sometimes the INTENTIONAL and SPECIFIC nature of worship can be lost in the broadness of that statement. Of course, we want our lives to be lived in a worshipful manner, but sometimes we might be missing out on the specific nature of the simplicity of worship.
I cannot worship (verb) if I do not focus on an object (God). I must be mindful that when I am singing songs to worship God (or any other worship activity) that I can and should actually be singing TO GOD. Not just casually singing a song that makes me feel nice, or even sincerely singing to tweak my emotions. We should be mindful that for true worship to happen we must view it as a spiritual activity. We are connecting our spirits to God’s Spirit, in a sense. We tune our hearts to that frequency that resonates with God’s heart.
Target = God. God is the object of our affections (and we are the object of His). We don’t just love blindly. The same is true for worship. We engage in worship activity (singing, prayer, study, service, etc.) so that the target of our worship is glorified. Do you think God needs our help to bring glory to Himself? Yes? No?
If not, then why does He choose to allow humans to be the vessels of His glorification (glory) throughout the earth?
I once heard a friend sharing about worship that used the imagery of a conquering king who raises statues (images) of himself in the conquered lands so that people would look on those statues and see the king’s “glory.” It would be a constant reminder to those people who they belonged to, so to speak.
Using this imagery, we can see how that God chooses to “raise images” of Himself throughout the earth. We are those images. We are created in His image. We are not literally God running around this planet, but we are “made” in His image.
What does that have to do with worship? Well, worship is our chance to be LIVING images, lively stones, if you will. Our ultimate act of worship is to become a living sacrifice. Not just for nothing. It is a spiritual “system” that brings us closer to Him, and at the same time allows us to be image-bearers of God Himself.
As we worship, we reflect God’s glory. So, not only are we giving our worship to the target (God), but the target (a living one) also uses that worship to make Himself known. There is an underlying evangelistic element to worship that many times we don’t ever acknowledge. And if we do, somehow we get so focused on the evangelistic part that we forget the worship part.
My encouragement for us is to make the primary thing primary. Let worship be simple and uncomplicated. When you plan your worship sets start with the notion that what you’re crafting will actually, literally be received by an Almighty, Living God. Remember that even in a corporate setting worship is first and foremost FOR and TO God.
Sure, we need to be aware of the people we serve. Sure, we need to be mindful of transitions and the best ways to present and establish worship activity and environments that encourage our people to participate. And sure, we need to be mindful of offering the best that we possibly can in that moment…
But let’s not ever forget that the best part about corporate worship…is corporate worship!
We get to come together and lock arms and raise our voices as one. We get to lift our hands and our hearts together, many small individual streams of worship trickling out to join one raging, rushing river of worship that rises to the very ears and heart of God Himself.
Remember that when you’re crafting setlists, when you’re working on harmonies, and when you’re charting out arrangements.
By Russ Hutto
This worship planning post may end up asking more questions than it answers, but these exact questions are being asked in my worship ministry right now. Perhaps you are going through the same thing, or maybe you’ve already been there.
I try to view myself as a missionary to the community around my church. It isn’t very hard to imagine. My culture is much different from that of our average attender. I am from a middle class suburban upbringing, while the church is in a mostly poor, rural area. We are directly across the street from a large trailer park, but other than that, there is mostly farm land. I was brought up on Motown, punk rock, and U2, while most of these people grew up listening to Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Hank Williams.
How far do you go to meet the people on their own turf? Is it not selfish to only play the style of music that I am familiar with? Now, this discussion must be taken with the assumption that God has no favorite genre. If He does, we should only play that style. Seeing that we don’t know His style preference, we must conclude that all musical styles (more or less) are equal, and the content is where God finds pleasure. Some may then be lead to think that style does not matter at all. I would disagree with that statement, but again, I am still not completely certain how to determine the perfect style for a given situation. However, through prayer and experience, here are a few guidelines I am using.
By Josh Hamrick