The advice of this series is intended to make leading worship a joy. Once you come to the Sunday morning (or whenever you meet) worship service, you should be confident and well prepared spiritually and musically.
A worship leader needs to be able to think of a lot of things all at the same time: playing the right chords and rhythms, singing the right notes and words, upcoming changes and dynamics, transitions, reading the response of the congregation, and giving yourself the freedom and flexibility to make changes on the fly as the situation warrants.
Oh yeah, and you need to attuned to the Spirit of God and the meaning of the songs you are leading!
This is a lot to keep track of at the same time, but being organized and having a plan can make a big difference.
There are a few other random notes I want to squeeze in here at the end, since they don’t really fit anywhere else.
1. Your voice is an instrument. Self-centered worship leaders want to lead worship in ways that best suit their own musical preferences. If you’re a gifted vocalist, then you’ll be constantly faced with the temptation to throw in your own pop-inspired ad-libs and runs.
If you try to do some acrobatic vocal tricks in the microphone, then the congregation will probably just drop out, stop participating and start watching you. This is an eclipse of God’s glory, because their gaze is directed towards the skillful musician rather than the God who gave him that skill.
Stick to the simple melody, and you’ll be a better worship leader.
2. Check the PowerPoint.
One obvious facet of worship leading that I have not addressed here, is the fact that one of the worship leader’s biggest responsibilities is to make sure that the words to the songs are reproduced in PowerPoint.
I recently led a new song for three weeks in a row when I was finally told that the words were wrong on the screen. For 3 weeks! I dropped the ball here. If the words on the screen are wrong, then all your hard work in practice goes down the drain.
3. Scripture during musical breaks.
I’m not a fan of musical breaks or guitar solos during worship. It shines the spotlight of the congregation’s attention on something other than God. But some songs need a break because it makes sense musically.
I suggest a compromise, which has worked very well in our church. During musical breaks, have a scripture reading that fits the worship theme to display. This keeps the congregation’s focus in the right place but allows you to keep the musical break.
4. Always be prepared to break a guitar string.
I always break my G-string.
[I’ll pause while you finish giggling like a 3rd grader]
If you always break the same string, like I do, then try this. Take a used, unbroken string off your guitar that you normally break, and keep it in your guitar case. When you lead worship, have this string in your back pocket. If you break a string, then you will have a pre-stretched string that you can put on quickly.
If you break a lot of strings, practice changing it while standing up and see how fast you can do it.
Also, it may help to have an in-case-of-emergency backup plan. Have the band learn a 2 minute, instrumental song that can be played on a moment’s notice without you. If you break a string, ask the congregation to continue in prayer or reflection for a moment while you change the string (with the one in your pocket) and the band plays softly. This will be a lot less awkward than you abruptly stopping the service.
5. Conclude the set with a meaningful prayer.
This signals to the congregation that the musical set is over and you’re moving to the next element in the worship service. When you do this, talk to God like a man. You don’t want to sound like the guy who is more comfortable singing to God than talking to God.
If you have to, write out a prayer that captures your desire for the worship service and pray that. Public prayers are different from private prayers. You don’t want to nervously ramble on about whatever pops into your head on the spur of the moment. Save that for your devotion time.
Prepared prayers are no less spiritual than impromptu prayers.
God bless, and to God be all the glory!