Being a worship leader wasn’t something I chose to be, it was quite literally thrust upon me when I was in high school when our youth worship leader needed to step down for a season to focus on some familial responsibilities. I had grown up in a musical family and had formal training in vocal performance but had only been playing the guitar for a couple of years and had no real experience in what it meant to lead a band, let alone select songs that worked well together and organize a practice. Through a lot of trial and error, coaching, and the grace of God I was able to slowly develop an understanding of what it actually meant to be a lead a group in worship. Spoiler: It’s more than just singing songs. So what does the responsibility of an average worship leader look like?
Selecting music: Though this may seem like an easy thing at first glance there is a lot that goes into building a set for your service. Is there a theme of the service? Do the songs compliment each other? Can the congregation sing them in the keys you’ve chosen? Does the band know the songs?
Building the team: It may just be you and a guitar or piano, heck, it may just be you and a background track but that doesn’t mean it will (or should) always be like that. Are there other members of your community that have a desire to join you? The size of your team may fluctuate depending on the type and size of a service but it’s always good to have people you can work with as the opportunity presents itself. My wife and I have a background in an acoustic worship set so when our (only) drummer is unavailable for a service we may shrink the team down to better facilitate a set list without drums. The community you build within this team can quickly become a family in itself.
Prayer: Though this may be the token Christian bullet point that doesn’t diminish its value. Pray over your set list. Pray for your team members. Pray over the message that may or may not weave in and out of the time of worship. Pray that the Lord will help use the time to usher others into His presence. It’s so vitally important to have an open connection with Christ if you are planning to step in front of His body and lead them. Do not skimp on this, your musical talent will not overshadow a passionate relationship with Christ.
Practice: Whether it be with a full band or at home in your living room, practice is essential if you want to present your best to both Christ and your congregation. We may not be professional musicians with 30 years and 12 national tours under our belt but that doesn’t excuse us from practicing on a regular basis. Getting your entire team together can be difficult, especially when they are commonly all volunteers. Find a time that works best for the majority of your team and stick with that. The hardest member for me to be without at a practice is the drummer but that doesn’t mean the practice is canceled if they can’t make it. Currently, we’re practicing 2 hours before service starts but are working to try and find an evening that works well because we can only get so much done cutting it that close.
Communicating with the sound team: The relationship between you and your soundboard technician (if you have one) is essential. Clearly, communicate with them what you need in your mix and develop an open line of communication with them through both practice and a live service. If they don’t know something sounds off in your monitor they can’t fix it. If you don’t know common terms on how to express what you are hearing feel free to ask for their help, there is no shame in that.
Connect with the pastoral team: Some churches include the worship leader/pastor as part of the pastoral team, some do not, either way, it’s important to connect with them about your set and how you can best complement the message/service. Do they want you to come back up at the end to play a song while they pray? Will there be a theme you can jump on when choosing the songs? Pray together and ask God for his wisdom. Unity in the leadership of a congregation is a vital sign of health in a church.
There are plenty of logistical tasks a worship leader/pastor may handle outside of these that greatly depend on the church size, denomination, geographical location, and beliefs, but I find the points above as a pretty common baseline of responsibilities. As these series continues I’ll be going into more detail on each of these points and covering other ways for us to better serve our congregations and the church body as a whole. Is there anything I missed? What do you think are some of the more vital responsibilities of a worship leader/pastor?