How To Fail As A Worship Leader In 10 Easy Steps


You probably didn’t wake up thinking, “How can I be the biggest failure possible today?”

We never set out to fail.

But when left unchecked, it’s easy for us to develop bad habits that take us where we don’t want to go.

As a worship leader myself, I’ve found that failure has a lot more to do with how we handle the small stuff behind the scenes, than it does with what happens on stage.

So here are 10 ways to ensure you fail as a worship leader. Reader, beware:

1. Leave God Out Of It

We all know how easy it is to go on autopilot – to just go through the motions. But when it comes to leading worship, we need God more than anything. We can’t just rely on our experience, talent or routines.

2. Don’t Communicate

Any artistic person falls prey to this. Don’t leave your team out of the loop. Don’t just coast from service to service. Err on the side of over-communication. Speak your vision constantly. Call team members, just to see how they’re doing. Care for your people.

3. Forget Others, Focus On Yourself

Your worship team is not a platform for you to shine. Focus your energy on raising others up and releasing them into ministry.

4. Ignore Technology

Many of us, in our zeal for something real, limit ourselves. We refuse to take musical and technological risks for fear of distracting from worship. What’s something you haven’t tried before? From creating loops, using a click track, trying new lighting, to plugging in an iPad – take a new risk. It may just help open up a new facet of worship for your team and congregation.

5. Leave Theology to the Preachers

Theology isn’t just for the preachers. If you’re not pursuing an ever-expanding view of God and immersing yourself in the Word of God, your worship leading will suffer. How can you lead people to a God you don’t care to know?

6. Ignore Your Pastor’s Vision

If you’re artsy, you know you have a hard time submitting to authority, particularly if they don’t seem to understand you. However, there’s nothing more important than for you to submit to the vision of your Senior Pastor. He’s been given a vision for your Church. He understands where God is taking your church. Humble yourself and carry it out with passion.

7. Lead Out of Routine, Not Vision

If today you have vision, tomorrow it will be gone. Vision is a flame that needs stoked every day – not just for yourself, but for your team. Don’t fall into the routine of rehearsal, service, rehearsal, service. Give your team a vision worth dying for.

8. Don’t Worship. Fake It.

The more you lead worship, the easier it is to fake it. Which is why personal worship is more important the more you lead. If you want to be effective, your personal worship needs to outshine your public worship. Spend time with Jesus every day and put that on display when you stand before your congregation.

9. Make Your Music Confusing

This can be such a tension. Musicians need to stretch their creativity to stay engaged, but the congregation needs something simple to engage with. When in doubt, err on what is congregational. Corporate worship is about the people of God engaging with the presence of God for the glory of God. If your music is confusing and keeps people watching, something needs to change. Invite them into the experience. Engage them in worship.

10. Be Unprepared

How many rehearsals have I attended with an unprepared worship leader? I’d rather not count. There’s nothing more frustrating than attending a rehearsal where the stage isn’t ready, the music not thought through, the leader clueless. Think through your rehearsal with focused organization. Be 100% prepared and ready. Your team will love you for it.

Nobody is the perfect worship leader. We are all on a journey. There’s grace if you mess up.

But, I would say the work of leading people to encounter God’s greatness is worth our greatest effort.  That makes our development worth it, wouldn’t you say?

What are some other ways we can fail as worship leaders?

[Image via STOCK.XCHNG]


David Santistevan

David is a worship pastor, avid blogger, musician, and music nerd. He has recently written a free, 20-part email course for worship leaders, called "Next Level Worship Leading. Check it out here.

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  1. says

    Wow…. fantastic stuff…. I’d love to send this to my worship leader but I don’t want him to think it is my subtle way of accusing him. :) I’ll figure it out.

    This is one of my favorite posts I’ve read here… thank you!

  2. says

    Such practical and important advice. What others? How about: “scold” the congregation for not being responsive enough … and … use only the music you like and don’t consider the rest of the ‘body’. Great post!

  3. says

    how about “play boring music”? if the congregation is falling asleep to a ballad at 8 a.m. i’m not sure how much worship is going on.

    or how about “don’t understand your congregation”…18 year olds probably want to hear something different than 40 year olds or 70 year olds

    • says

      Good perspective, Tyler. This is the biggest challenge of a multi-generational church. Everyone has different preferences. Sounds to me like you guys cater towards the young? Love it.

      • says

        generally, we do have a younger readership, yes, though I try to cover as many genres as I can without sounding like a fool. I think young people are just as likely to like Hillsong as they are to like Underoath or Switchfoot, whereas the older generations kind of know what they like and pretty much stick to it…and that “it” is pretty much contemporary stuff like Casting Crowns, Third Day or Francesca Battistelli. To actually respond to your comment, though, yes it is tough for everyone in one congregation to appreciate all the elements of a service (sermons, worship, fellowship) when there can be cultural gaps even within a family. I know it is tough for me as a music reviewer to sit through certain kinds of music, but that might just be me haha :)

  4. says

    Great stuff. I really appreciate number 6. Coming under authority is so important. As a worship leader I’ve found that as I have submitted to the vision of the house I have had more freedom given to me to try different things.


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