In many churches, fresh worship leaders are thrown in at the deep end to see if they sink or swim. We know that it’s a lot more than just singing songs: worship leaders have a huge spiritual responsibility. However, they also need to understand how to arrange a song musically, when and how to communicate with the congregation and at the same time, be competent in their craft. A staggering number of people I’ve had the opportunity to chat with over the years just don’t know how to train worship leaders that cover these bases. Here is a simple but effective method that I have personally found really helpful:
1. How to train worship leaders: where to start the process
Before getting started with how to train worship leaders, I strongly recommend that your potential worship leader is already a vocalist in your team, and you understand their musical ability. If someone is willing to humbly serve without the responsibility of leadership, that’s a good sign. We want roadies, not rock stars. I’m also assuming that you already know where they are at with their walk with God and have taken time to build a relationship with them at this point.
Hear this: please do not make someone a worship leader just because they have a strong voice! Vocal ability does not equal spiritual authority. This is such an obvious statement but churches around the world do this so often. Is this person passionate about Jesus? Do they care more about the Scriptural truth of the lyrics they are singing about than the cool song? Does God seem to be giving direction in this process, too? If the answer is yes, then let the training begin!
One final note: ensure your worship leaders are continually growing spiritually. This is a highly practical guide, but it is all for nothing without clear discipleship. That doesn’t have to come from you necessarily, but it needs to come from somewhere! Pray for them. Support them. Love them!
2. One Or Two Songs
My niece is just about getting the hang of walking. When she was sheepishly gripping to the couch to keep balance, we didn’t throw her into a 100m sprint race. Obviously. Her ability to balance on her feet takes time, practice, and baby steps. It will be a while before she’s mastered her stride.
There is a lot of information for a worship leader to take in. Ask them to lead a song or two – preferably outside of a Sunday service if possible. For our context, our Creative Team Nights are a great opportunity for new worship leaders to lead. This way, they can drench those two songs in prayer while the more experienced worship leader covers the rest. Work with them as they learn how to pick song keys and start to understand the arrangements. The idea is this: rather than sprinting on weak and wobbly legs, we’re giving the new worship leader a chance to find their balance first.
I like to call them “co-worship leaders” during this phase. While the newer worship leader focuses on their one or two songs, I can focus on the rest – the other songs, as well as things like the arrangements and the announcements.
3. An Announcement
Once the newer worship leader is comfortable with leading their portion, I like to get them to handle one of the announcements. This is entirely dependent on your church setting, but in ours, the worship leader is often responsible for welcoming people, the offering, and for closing the service.
These announcements take practice. Don’t get me wrong, you can probably get by simply making it up as you go along, but in order to serve your church well, it’s good to know what you want to say. Keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, and practice lots with your newer worship leader before the service.
4. Reverse the Responsibility
By now, your potential worship leader should hopefully be growing in confidence. At this point, I flip things on its head – I will take a small portion of the worship set and maybe one announcement, and the newer worship leader will take the rest.
The reason I like doing it this way is so the newer worship leader can be confident that there is someone right beside them as they grow. I can always troubleshoot where necessary. In my experience, one of the areas where most new worship leaders struggle most is in the song arrangements, so I like to be on hand to help keep the standard high. It’s also a great way to provide “on the job training” where necessary, and perhaps most importantly, build relationships, which is essential!
5. Take A Back Seat
The newer worship leader should be almost there at this point. Now, take a back seat and let them lead. Only say things when absolutely necessary or if asked, but encourage the worship leader to take charge.
6. Get Out Of The Car!
Before long, the worship leader should have reached a point where they no longer need you. If this is the case, get out of the way! Let them do what God has called them to do, and give them the space they need to flourish.
I hope you found this helpful! Soon we’ll talk about the theology behind leading worship and how that affects our role. Do you have any advice as to how to train worship leaders? If so, let me know!