We all want to get better, right? We’re looking to improve our craft, expand our influence, and make the biggest difference in our lives. Nobody wakes up and thinks, “How can I blend in, waste my time, and spend my life on meaningless things?” Especially as worship leaders, we’re looking to improve our craft. We read books, attend conferences, and practice our instrument. But what if I told you that what you were doing wasn’t enough? That there were some things you should practice that you may have never thought of?
That’s what I want to share with you here – some highly targeted, focused action steps that will make you a better worship leader.
Are you ready? Here we go…
10 Action Steps for Worship Leaders
So, my worship leading friend, if you want to take your leadership to another level, here are some lessons to apply:
1. Start Conversations with Strangers – I know, weird, right? But worship leading is conversational. In order to lead people in worship, they need to trust you. It’s difficult to do that without solid communication skills. The more you practice starting conversations and speaking to strangers, the more comfortable you’ll be on stage.
2. Practice in Front of a Mirror – You know what I mean. When some people speak, they make you nervous. Others, they help you relax and prepare you well for what’s coming. Watch yourself speak and see how nervous, poised, or relaxed you come across. Speak clearly, smile, enunciate, be compelling, and speak with a conviction that is honest and real.
3. Pray Without Music or an Instrument – The best worship leaders aren’t just song-singers. They have learned how to engage with God in the secret place. Worship leadership is more spiritual than it is musical. Learn how to cry out to God for an extended period of time without your instrument. For extra credit, try this with your team. There’s something special about a worship team that is familiar and at home in the presence of God. Get to know your God even more than you know your instrument.
4. Study Humor – In a recent podcast episode, I asked Martin Smith for some worship leading advice. Do you know what he said? Use humor. Humor helps people relax, keeps them engaged, and can help sustain more extended worship times. At the very least, practice smiling more. A smile goes a long way in helping people relax and feel comfortable.
5. Memorize Scripture – I like to think of this as “filling your tank” or “building a reserve” for when you need it. Hiding God’s Word in your heart is more important than memorizing all your favorite worship songs. The ability to recall God’s promises to mind in worship is like nothing else. Aaron Keyes has some great advice on this.
6. Sing Spontaneously – If I want to take my wife on a date, I don’t simply read a script. That may go down in the books as the worst date ever. It’s alive, spontaneous, and in the moment. If you want to lead effective worship, you must move beyond rote recitation of songs at times. Learn the skill of spontaneous singing. For an hour, sit with your instrument and worship God with your own lyrics and melodies. Make them up on the spot. Sing your prayers.
7. Study Theology – Your worship can only advance as far as your current knowledge of God. The more you see of God, the more you can love Him. Be a constant learner of who He is. Study His character. Become a student of His wonders. One of the best ways to do this is to read great theology books that expand your thinking, lead you deeper into God’s Word, and leave you with a sense of awe.
8. Do a Menial Task for Someone – There’s something about the stage that can knock you off balance – the applause, the praise, the attention you receive. Make sure you are never “above” any task. Do something for someone who can’t repay you. Serve someone in the silence where there’s no crowd, applause, or local church fanfare.
9. Mentor Someone – Remember, worship leading isn’t just about you and your talent. It’s about the talent, destiny, and potential you see and release in others. Start mentoring someone now. Don’t just worry about your calling. Enable someone else’s.
10. Rehearse Slowing Down – Young worship leaders are nervous. Matter of fact, even the most experienced get nervous. But rather than being overcome by nerves and rushing through a slew of worship songs, they learn to give their worship sets space. Rehearse sitting in silence. Rehearse vamping on a chord progression between songs. Get comfortable in the typically “uncomfortable” moments.
When seeing a top 10 list it’s easy to get overwhelmed and not do anything at all. Here’s what I suggest: start with one of these today. No pressure to get through the entire list in a day. Focus on just one – and notice the impact it has on your heart.
Worship leader, remember: there is more at stake on Sunday morning than great music and emotional songs. You are creating context for people to encounter Jesus. And the better you do that, the more we will see Jesus and be transformed.
Your best worship leading is yet to come. God has called you. Your church needs you. It’s time to rise up.
David is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also a blogger on his website content on worship, leadership, songwriting, music, creativity, and social media. He typically posts 5-6 times a week, so stop by or subscribe via RSS or email.