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Worship Leader

3 Skills Every Worship Leader Should Have

Kade Young
Kade Young
Chief Audio Guru
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It requires an amazing amount of skill to be a worship leader. The world tends to view worship leading as a menial job that requires little effort, but we, as worship leaders, know better.

Worship leaders are skilled as musicians, vocalists, team leaders, pastors, sound and lighting engineers, composers, planners, and the list goes on. So don't sell yourself short just because of what other people say or think.

Although I could easily title this post, '99 Skills Every Worship Leader Should Have', I want to highlight a few things that often get overlooked. If you don't posses the following 3 skills already, today is a good day to start building them.

Keep the worship team calm.

This past Sunday, more than half of my musicians were new team members and had never played the songs on the setlist. Due to scheduling conflicts, we were unable to have the normal mid-week rehearsal and were only able to practice 1.5 hours right before service.

I bet you can guess what the rehearsal was like. Even those that already knew the songs were having a hard time because nothing quite sounded the same.

As worship leader, I had two options: stress out or keep calm and make the most of it.

There was time in the past where I would have freaked out, yelled at the team for not being prepared and just had them all sit out while I led worship with keyboard only. Lucky for them, I have grown as a leader since then and handled this situation much differently.

The first thing was to help them relax. So, I ensured them that if we could not pull the whole set list together, we would just worship with the songs we did pull together. So we continued to rehearse, one song at a time, as I reassured them that everything would be okay. We ended up with a 2-song setlist which fit the service just right.

The most important thing is worship, not having a certain amount of songs or a certain type of sound. Tweet Quote

So, no matter what happens on Sunday morning, it is our job as worship leaders to reassure our team and help them remain calm. We must remember that the most important thing is worship, not having a certain amount of songs or a certain type of sound. When it doesn't turn out as planned, don't stress it, just go with it.

Be a good coach.

When you imagine a good sports coach, you probably see someone who not only holds their team to high standards, but also treats the players as family. He may be hard at times, but the players love him anyways. As worship leaders, we can learn from this.

What does a worship team coach look like?

  • Help your team members believe that they have what it takes.
  • Get to know your team as individuals, not just musicians.
  • Be a good communicator when both encouraging and offering constructive criticism.
  • Continually communicate expectations and hold the entire team accountable.
  • Lead by example.

The most important time to coach is during rehearsal.  Instead of having the band play songs over and over without specific things to work on, start pointing out the issues and offering solutions.

Of course, you don't want to embarrass them, but you also don't want to waste their time.  I have found that as long as you point out the good things as much or more than you point out the things that need work, the team will accept constructive criticism with gratitude.

Understand the basics of each instrument.

Although you can lead worship without knowing an instrument, it is extremely helpful to at least know the basics of each instrument. This enables you to hear exactly which instrument is not quite fitting with the mix and then offer a solution.

For example, I find that the piano, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar like to all hang out in the same range of the sound spectrum. This makes for a small, muddy and shallow sound because they are all doing about the same thing.

So, I will often have the piano player move up and octave or so and play some sort of pattern instead chording. This widens the sound spectrum and makes the mix a whole lot bigger and better.

When you don't understand the basics of each instrument, you cannot communicate what needs to change. I am not saying that you should become an expert at every instrument, but you should invest time into learning basics.

Take a few months of piano lessons, then acoustic guitar, then drums. Although you may never get to a place where you would play during service, at least you will become a better communicator with your team.

What would you add to this list?

Share in the comments below.

24 Comments

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24 comments on “3 Skills Every Worship Leader Should Have”

  1. This is really excellent. I would add a 4th point that I think is key: Be a spiritual leader to your team, not just a musical leader. Start each rehearsal with prayer. Dedicate some time at least once every 2 weeks to do life-sharing and/or devotionals with your worship team. Help coach them in life and in the Word, not just music.

    1. Nice discussion,am touched and challenged to learn some basics and not to entirely depend on the instrumentalists.Have been aspiring yet putting in little effort. I'm in agreement!

    2. Glad you enjoyed the post, Kateu. The beginnings of learning any instrument is tough. But just keep at it because one day it will 'click'.

  2. Great article, Kade, and a great point added by Dan.

    A 5th point might be to continually DEVELOP and NURTURE the talent of the team - helping them learn to better use THEIR gifts to glorify God... and encourage them to grow in their contributions to the team.

    For me, there is no better feeling than helping someone else develop their tools and skills - and helping them become an effective Worship Leader...

    1. I totally agree, Bryan. What an amazing opportunity we have as worship leaders to continually pull out the best in our team.

  3. Love it! I completely agree.

    On a side note...

    You should re-write this article for the non-music church leader! A lot of these points are valid and can crossover. 🙂

  4. It would be awesome if the team would just let go and simply worship as a family unit once a month. If they have built their confidence as a team, then once a week would be great. In this way, they would know where they are in terms of being intimate with the Father and they could go forward and minister to the congregation freely and with no reservation on their part.

  5. Thank you for your post. This is great stuff that I wish I had seen a couple years ago. Oh well lesson learned the hard way. I am curious though what you would say to individuals leading in home small groups. currently a friend of mine and I host a monthly in house worship night. Though I have been running a worship small group for a couple years now there is still a lot that I have to learn. Any tips?

    1. Hey RJ - I have actually never led a small group so can't help you there. Sorry!

  6. Hey everyone! Kade, I'd like to add to #4, that worship leaders should also have a basic knowledge of sound engineering. I've found that many vocalists and even instrumentalists have problems communicating with their sound teams things like monitor needs, what a DINand XLR is, how to EQ their in-ear mix. So they are often frustrated at Sound Texhs and lash out at them. And we ALL know that a sound tech needs to be one of your best friends!!!!!

  7. Great advice Collaborative! Just this past Easter, I remained calm and worked with what I had this past Sunday but I had one of my members freaking out. I had already given the music out a month in advance, yet how can I or we properly handle these type of people? It's quite challenging to deal with others who think you're offering before the Lord isn't good enough?... of course I don't need their affirmation but it's tough to hear that when you feel your team should trust you to lead them when you're the leader... any thoughts Kade?

  8. Hey Kade, this is great! I'm definitely sharing this and needed to be reminded myself as a worship pastor the need to coach the team and limit "freak out" moments. We have a desire as musicians to achieve perfection, but God is more concerned with our hearts. I have to ask "is what I'm bringing truly worship, or is it about me?"

    God bless!

  9. I am a non-instrumentalist who leads vocally. I have often felt helpless in leading my team because I didn't have a working knowledge of the audio board, drums, electric guitar, etc. Over the years of leading, and especially in recent months, I have made an effort to learn (not just stumble across) information. This has definitely made me a more "complete" leader as well as more confident. Thanks for this article.

  10. This is great stuffs. We are a small group so having 15min devotion before practice helps the team to connect with God as a team. And I find it helpful to have separate bible study dedicated to worship team too. The more we soak in His word, the more we become passionate and dedicated to our team and God. Thank you Kade. I will share this to our other worship leaders.

  11. Kade, Thanks for this. I agree with everything you said. I might add that as a worship leader don't take it personally. I have had issues at times with people "calling in sick" at the last moment, which at times can really affect the set list because all of the sudden you are w/o a certain instrument or vocalist. I would go from being really excited about the service to completely frustrated. And that would inevitably trickle down to the rest of the team that practice. After some reflection I determined the main reason I would get so frustrated was because I took it personally when this would happen. I felt when team members did this it was due to a lack of respect for me and the work I out in to planning a service. Once I purposed to not take it personally it was much easier in these situations to keep calm and remind myself that God is never caught off guard by these little hiccups, even if we might be.

  12. Hey Kade!
    Thanks for the discussion I have found it insightful. I agree also with particular things that have been shared; as worship leader it is important to note all the fronts you are leading from and know how best to guide especially through proper communication.

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