All of us are familiar with the figure of the praise and worship leader. Most churches (even the more traditional ones) have a worship leader for their services.
But what does it take to be a good worship leader? What are the challenges and how can we become an experienced leader in this kind of ministry?
My name is Andrea Gatti (Andy) and I live in Italy. I have been involved with worship ministry since my conversion. I served as a missionary for 10 years with an organization called Youth With a Mission (YWAM). This experience allowed me to see various expressions of worship in different denominations and different nations and opened my understanding of how we worship God.
Let’s look at the characteristics of a worship leader and how we can become a successful one.
What is the role of the praise and worship leader?
Before saying what it takes to become a successful praise and worship leader, we must understand what is their role and how do they lead in ministry. By definition, a worship leader must lead others into worship; so what does this mean? Leading others into worship means following the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help others find their way into the presence of God.
This could mean leading people:
- To encounter God
- Into a time of rejoicing
- Into a time where we just enjoy God’s presence
- Into a time of repentance
- Into a time to encourage one another
- Into a time of battle, whereby confessing the future, the atmosphere and situations can be changed
- Out of an oppressing situation where the presence of God brings deliverance
In order to achieve this task, a good praise and worship leader has to:
- Hear God’s voice and understand God’s guidance – All who are born again have the ability to hear God’s voice. This is not only necessary to be a good worship leader, but it’s vital for every Christian in order to have fellowship with God.
- Be aware that he must not control people by manipulating feelings and emotions through music – The response to God must be genuine and a worship leader must know that this depends only partially on him. The role of the praise and worship leader is to show the path to God and open a way for the people. Whether or not the people respond does not depend on him — it is between the people and God.
- Understand how to create an environment that is welcoming to the Holy Spirit – God abides in the praise of His people. Creating an environment for God means creating a space where God is exalted and where He has the freedom to move without the worship leader getting in the way. We do this by first leading and exhorting the people. When we feel we have reached that place where God wanted us to go, we gently move out of the way and allow the people to respond spontaneously to the presence of God. How we do this depends on where the people are spiritually and what our starting point is, understanding the obstacles we might encounter along the way.
- If working as a team, know how to follow others (we can’t lead if we don’t know how to follow) – I believe this principle is for any kind of leadership, but especially when we are on stage (or any time we lead worship). We must recognize that God uses everybody and if a member of the team (by the guidance of the Holy Spirit) suggests going in a direction, we must be able to discern the work of the Spirit and be willing to follow. At the same time, we must discern if that suggestion is from God or not. Usually, if it is, other members of the team will sense it.
We can’t cover all of this topic in a few words, but this should give an idea of the primary purpose of a praise and worship leader which is to lead God’s people into His presence.
The must of the praise and worship leader
Like any other ministry, becoming a worship leader is a calling from God and it takes time and experience to grow in it. I always encourage people to step into their calling; however, to operate in this ministry in a healthy and successful way, a worship leader should:
# 1 Be intimate with God – We can’t take others where we haven’t been
# 2 Have a servant’s heart – Leading worship is not going on a stage and playing songs for personal pleasure. It’s an act of love toward God, His Kingdom, and His people.
# 3 Live a life of integrity – This doesn’t mean we never fail or sin, but we live a life that pursues God and His will. We must be able to sacrifice ourselves, loving and serving God and others.
# 4 Have some mastery of our art form – Since we use music or other forms of art, we must have some mastery in them and be able to navigate and move freely in them.
If these requirements are matched and God has a calling on a person, I believe this person should be active in this ministry.
When and how to start
In some contexts, believers are not encouraged to serve through their giftings, but I disagree with such a form of control. People, and especially young people, should find a healthy environment where they can grow in their calling and become who God made them to be.
A healthy way to start is to have good role models, to have someone who is willing to walk with us in our calling. However, this is not always the case, so how can we start and grow in our calling if no one is showing us how to do it?
A good way to begin is to lead worship in small contexts, like a small group or a cell group, for example. This kind of environment can be a perfect gym for whoever is starting to lead worship. A small group can be very challenging since we are very close to the audience and their response may not be ideal (i.e. a lack of participation during the worship). So yep, this is the place to develop some muscle.
The best option is to join an experienced group. We can start by going to the practice time and seeing how things work/function within the group and the worship time. Usually, if we show our commitment, people are happy to welcome us into a team, especially if the church is not big. Maybe we can start by serving on the sound mixer or do anything that would help the team.
What are the challenges of the praise and worship leader?
One of the things that usually creates problems is the lack of communication between the worship leader or the worship team, and the Pastor or the pastoral team.
Usually, the worship team feels more comfortable moving in the prophetic since this is how a worship team moves. Having a prophetic anointing and vision that is not shared can cause frustration and misunderstanding. This is why the worship team should always walk side by side with the leadership of the community. Building trust and having good communication will allow the team to move in freedom and in submission to the leaders.
Character issues can also create challenges. Being in an upfront ministry can easily lead to pride. This is why I stress the fact that having a servant’s heart is a must for worship ministry, especially when there’s a lot of exposure.
Like any other ministry, in order to have authority in a certain area, we need to have lived it in our life. Usually, God allows us to go through some challenges in order to be able to lead others out of it.
All of us are called to serve God, but becoming a praise and worship leader is a calling that He puts on lives. Serving God is a privilege and can be quite challenging, but at the same time, there is nothing like being used by God to bless others. Becoming an experienced leader is the fruit of commitment, sacrifice, and an intimate relationship with our beloved. Our love and passion will be contagious, especially when we play and sing about Him. Our love for Him will lead us to grow and be transformed into His image. This is the real key to a successful ministry.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to ask any questions or to leave a comment below.
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