In recent years, the “Worship Leader” has become a fixture in most modern churches. Today, “worship leader” refers to the person who directs the church during the music portion of the service. When you’re looking for the right worship leader, what do you look for? How do you find them? Here are some tips.
- Be aware of what “worship” really is. Worship is not just music. It’s so much more (Romans 12:1). To regard our “worship” as merely the musical portion of a service is to miss the full splendor and importance of worshipping God. Before you begin seeking out a “worship leader,” it will help to give some attention to what “worship” is all about. Worship leader Bob Kauflin wrote, “As I studied Scripture…I quickly realized that the Bible, especially the New Testament, didn’t give much space to my role as a worship leader. None, to be exact.” Where did this lead him? First, it helped him realize that “Ultimately, our worship leader is Jesus.” Second, it drove him to an understanding of how the Bible models worship leadership in the Old Testament (e.g. 1 Chronicles 15:22). Perhaps your own efforts to define worship and “worship leader” will be the most helpful thing as you seek for the right “worship leader,” whatever that is…biblically.
- Be aware of the fame-seeker. Leading worship can be a glamor-seeking job. Standing in front of the whole church displaying one’s musical prowess or guitar-jamming skills can easily allure someone to the position of worship leader for all the wrong reasons. None of us are completely free of the sin of pride, but you must be alerted to those who may desire to lead worship for the wrong reasons.
- Be aware of the musician-only mentality. Because “worship” has become confused with “music,” it is also easy to confuse “worship leader” with “music talent.” This confusion leads to the mistake of choosing someone for their music talent rather than their Christian testimony and pastoral heart. A worship leader is more than just a musician. He is first a Christian, and second, is someone who is fit to lead others in exalting Jesus Christ. Third, he is someone who has the musical wherewithal to lead others in singing.
- Consider your volunteers. Those who currently volunteer in your worship services may be best prepared to serve as worship leader. For one, they have already proven their willingness to serve by ministering. Second, they have a testimony (hopefully a good one) within the church. They are not a stranger to your people. Third, they are aware of the specific approach to music that your church holds. Biblical worship music ranges in style and tone, yet Christians can get very excitable (i.e., irritated) when the “worship” in their church does not match what they are used to or comfortable with. Worship styles are a polarizing topic among Christians. It is helpful to utilize someone who is aware of the church’s unique approach to worship, and who can graciously maintain or incorporate biblical principles in the use and practice of worship music. (For great church media, click here.)
- Consider your pastoral staff. If we really think biblically about the role of the worship leader, we may come to the realization that there is not a whole lot of difference between the role of a pastor and the role of a worship leader. You may realize that your worship leader is already on your pastoral staff. No, he may not be able to play the guitar like Chris Tomlin, but he may have a theologically-informed mindset about worship, plus an awareness and ability in music. A friend of mine who has done some deep thinking on his role as worship leader told me, “I am first a pastor, and on the side I happen to do stuff with music.” He’s a great musician, but he doesn’t hold that up as his primary talent or role. He integrates his ability with music with his role and calling as a pastor. Check this article on finding a pastor for more guidance in this regard.
A worship leader’s greatest asset is not his wide repertoire of worship songs, but his pastor’s heart. His most helpful training is not his four-year degree in music, but his careful Bible study. Bob Kauflin’s definition of “worship leader” can help to clarify your understanding as you search for the right worship leader.
An effective corporate worship leader,
aided and led by the Holy Spirit,
skillfully combines biblical truth with music
to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to join him in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God
and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.