Worship Leader Training

By EXW Staff, Writer
January 13, 2017

Follow Me:

By Samuel Lane

Worship is given solely for Godís glory and honor. God is worthy of praise whether or not we receive anything our self from God in the worship time. But because of his amazing grace and love for us, he comes to us and we feel his presence. Things happen when God comes, he rains on us, he delights over us and quiets us. His love and healing power comes and our lives are changed. We gain a new understanding of who God is, and learn to hear his voice. Our relationship with him is strengthened. Worship is essential in our relationship with God. If we know God at all, how can we ever cease worshiping him?

INTRODUCTION

Hi, I hope that you find this worship leader training a useful resource. When researching for this, I got through a lot of teaching, and was quite overwhelmed by all the different things I had to consider - I felt that if I didnít do everything, then I wasnít doing my job as a worship leader. But thatís not true. This teaching isnít a load of rules. Itís just a few things Iíve learnt from my own experience as a worship leader and from the teaching that Iíve received over the years. Just some friendly advice and guidance to help you in leading worship. Please take it or leave it, itís up to you. There are no rules to worshiping God. I hope you enjoy reading it.

"It really doesnít matter, in my opinion, the form of worship, the structure of worship - What really matters is the reality of worship. Did worship occur?" (John Wimber)

Topics covered in this teaching:
Leadingworship
Worshipheart
Prayerpreparation
Practicalities
Song lists
Open your eyes
Dynamics
Leading a band
Songselection

I pray this teaching would bless you and equip you as a worship leader. I pray that you would find it really helpful. And that you wouldnít feel the burden of rules or restrictions, but instead, feel more freedom in leading worship. I pray that God would bless you, and teach you himself. I pray that he would anoint you for worship, be with you at all times, and come in power when you worship, in the name of Jesus Christ! God Bless Samuel Lane

LEADINGWORSHIP

Leading worship is amazing; to be given the responsibility of leading people into intimate worship with the living God is such a blessing. It could be the most rewarding and worthwhile thing youíll ever do! But the responsibility can also be quite overwhelming. Itís not an easy job, and is often frustrating, exhausting and even demoralizing.

Leading worship is a call to humility. We have to respect the trust that God has given us and be a servant to his will, staying humble, selfless and willing to learn.

The role of the worship leader is to engage people with God. I think of it as trying to get everyone to forget who and what is around them; to get them to worship God as if there is no-one else in the room, and to encourage their own relationship with God. Worship is a corporate activity, and we are all one family. But I want people to have freedom in worship, a sense of abandonment as they sing to God. I donít want them to be concerned with what everyone else is doing. I donít want them to have to rely on a worship leader to be led into worship, I want them to be able to lead themselves there. I want to encourage them in their own personal worship.

"The responses between God and his people should be dynamic, natural and spontaneous" (John Wimber)

The most important thing you can do when leading worship, is worship God personally. If you passionately worship God, then people will see that passion and be drawn into worship themselves. Your own worship and passionate relationship with God will model and teach others how to worship continuously themselves.

It is important that youíre yourself, donít try to be anyone else when you are leading worship. Donít compare yourself to others, and donít compete with them in your hearts. Do what God has made you to do, God has made you different for a reason. Use your own musical style and giftings, You have to be real, you have to be yourself, otherwise it wonít work.

In reality the real worship leader should be the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit directs the worship through you, the worship leader. You need to be open to what the Spirit is doing so he can lead you in leading the people. "Real worship is worship led by the Spirit" (Carl Tuttle)

WORSHIPHEART

As worship leaders, it is important that our hearts are in the right place. Worship is not just expressed through our songs, but through a life that is devoted and pleasing to Jesus. If we donít spend time with God throughout our whole lives, and leading worship is just a thing we do on Sundays, then it is not a real honest expression of worship. We must be in an attitude of worship continually. And we must look to be holy and pure in sight of God.

"Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of Godís mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Romans 12v1-2)

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name." (Hebrews 13v15)

Holiness, Godly character, remaining or spending time with God, is so important. The more time you spend with God, the more you will become like him, and the easier it will be to recognize his voice. God will bless you in those times, increase your anointing and your heart for worship. God is always with us. If your heart is in line with his, then youíre both going to be doing the same thing. And God will be there working with you and through you when you lead worship.

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." (John 15v4)

You canít lead anyone into worship if you are not there yourself. It is essential that we worship on our own, when weíre not leading. It is so important to have our own time with God. Otherwise our relationship with him suffers. In the times that I have alone with God he speaks to me personally; I can feel his love and his presence, I get refreshed, he gives me new songs to sing and he gives me guidance for everyday situations and for leading worship.

Leading worship is a time of serving the church, it cannot replace your own personal time of worship, you need to be able to receive somewhere. Otherwise you will dry up and burn out.

Itís important that you worship God yourself when leading, but, if you donít consider the people, you will lose them. Donít get lost in your own world. Especially if you are in a different place emotionally and
spiritually. If you are feeling depressed, then itís not going to do them any good if you selfishly lead them in mournful songs. The same goes for musical taste, sometimes you may have to play songs you donít like. But if itís going to serve the church, then lay down your agendas, your pride, your desires, and God will bless you for it.

Check your heart to see what is giving you the desire to lead worship, make sure it is not selfish ambition, Check that it isnít because you desire to be seen and heard. God knows your heart and will humble those who are proud.

"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14v11)

Let me ask you these questions: Has God called you into leading worship, or not? Has he given you the desire to lead people into his presence? Are you a worshiper? Do you have a vision for worship? Is this your passion? Or is something else driving you? Think about these questions carefully, and be honest with yourself. The call to worship leading is a call to serve. It is not for exposure or satisfying the ego.
This is very important. Worship leading is not a performance. You will hurt others if your heart is not in the right place. Stay humble, on your face before the Lord. "Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve".

PRAYERPREPARATION

I can honestly say that leading worship is one of the most emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually draining things Iíve ever done. Many times, before leading worship, I have been totally desperate before God. Knowing that I haven't got enough strength to go through it all again, feeling totally inadequate, totally depressed and totally unworthy. It is so important to make sure you get prayer.

Itís essential to get alone and pray to God for his mercy, strength and anointing, as well as receiving prayer from others. Thereís nothing worse than feeling totally alone when youíre leading worship. Surround yourself with good people, people who you can trust, be accountable with, and go to in times of need.

"The worship experience ought to be very sympathetically, very sensitively, conducted by people who are fully prepared of the Holy Spirit. One of the greatest and most important things a worship leader can do is spend some time in intimate fellowship with the Lord - before they come to bring the church into worship" (John Wimber)

Pray for Godís spirit to come, pray for direction, ask God what he wants to do. Prepare your own heart, seek his face, open yourself to hear Godís voice. Pray that peopleís relationship with God will be renewed. Pray that lives would be changed. Pray that people will meet him for the first time. Pray that people will worship with all their heart. Pray for freedom in worship. Pray for everything.

At times Iíve been so tired and stressed before leading worship. Try and prepare for leading worship before the actual night, get more sleep if you need it, try and figure out the songs you are going to do before hand etc. Make it as easy for yourself as you can. Cover yourself with prayer. If I pray with the band before we start rehearsing, then everything goes so much better and easier than it would have done if we hadnít prayed.

Musicians and especially worship leaders are often under a lot of spiritual attack. Your ministry will not go unopposed. Satan does not appreciate our worship leading one bit. The enemy will do whatever he can to disrupt the worship of Jesus. Broken strings, sore throats, headaches, faulty sound equipment, car problems etc. are all part of his attack. On a couple of occasions whilst leading worship, Iíve been given sudden excruciating headaches, which have meant that I couldnít sing anymore because the pain was so bad. These things need to be prayed against.

A massive part of the spiritual warfare is sin and distraction, watch what you watch and think, lust of the mind and eye, even teasing and joking. Youíre often vulnerable just before and after you lead worship.
You are assaulted with all sorts of insecurities and temptations. Do not get down on yourself. Find someone you can be accountable with, someone you trust, and be totally honest with them. God uses the broken hearted. By remaining in him, being in a continuous attitude of worship, you can really work against any temptations that come your way. Itís the best way of freeing yourself. And donít forget there is always grace for those who fall.

"The one who is in you, is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4v4)

Often the worship time that we have as a band, is totally different to the worship time that the congregation has. We cannot judge our performance from how we feel afterwards. It is never as bad as you think. Donít get down about any mistakes you make, everyoneís done them. If you are feeling bad afterwards then get someone to pray for you. Itís pretty common to feel this way. Often, when Iíve felt nothing personally in the worship time, God has come really powerfully to the people. God is worthy of our praise and sometimes he just wants to see where our motivation is.

Keep yourself in a humble attitude; always serving, always learning.

PRACTICALITIES

There is a lot to leading worship. Just because you have musical ability and skill does not mean that you have worship leading skills. The opposite is also true; if you donít have great musicianship skills it doesnít necessarily mean that you canít lead worship.

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16v7)

However there are benefits. The more skillful you are at your chosen instrument the more comfortable you will be when leading worship. And it will also draw people into worship more effectively. If you are having to think too much about playing your guitar, which chords to play etc. then youíre not going to be able to worship God and lead people to him as easily. Itíll make things a lot easier if you improve on your instrument. Play along with worship tapes and with other people, practice, improve your skills, make your gift of service to God as good as you can make it. Itís him we are trying to please.

"Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy." (Psalm 33v3)

Play through songs until you know them off by heart, words and music. Making mistakes, forgetting the words etc isnít the end of the world but it does help if there are fewer distractions. Also if you make mistakes, try not to highlight them by making faces or stopping and apologizing. Just carry on, because it can take the focus off Jesus. Most people donít notice mistakes anyway.

SONGLISTS

It is very useful (to you and the band) to have a song sheet made up for when you are leading worship. Even if you know all the songs off by heart, it is still useful to have them displayed in front of you, so that you can refer to them, think about which song to do next, make sure you get the words right etc.

It means that you can be more flexible to what the spirit is doing, because itís easier to think of other songs when they are visible to you. Often for me, I have been leading a song and Iíll look at the sheet momentarily and see a song that I wasnít going to do. But God would point the song out to me and tell me to do it next, and that song would be just right for the people and we would enter an amazing time of worship.

It is really important to be open to Godís direction when leading worship. Remember, you are here to serve God and his people. If you feel God speaking to you during the set, then obey him. Even if it means that it screws up your amazingly thought out plans.

Put more songs on the sheet than you intend to do, so that you have flexibility when leading to change direction and do something that God might tell you to do. Plus, If youíve made up a list of songs one week, and the worship time was really good, it doesnít mean that it will work again. Donít use the list again. God will probably want to do something different next time, so make up a new list and do it through prayer.

SUBMISSION

An important thing to talk about, is submission to your leadership. You need to communicate with the leadership. It can be hard if you and the leader are trying to do different things. But remember, you are on the same side, talk to them about what you think God wants to do in the service. Find out how many songs you can do etc. The leader may want to interrupt the worship after a couple songs with something God has put on his heart. Expect things like that to happen, be flexible, donít get irritated that he/she has got in the way of what you want to do. If you feel that God has told you to play a particular song, and the leader seems to be doing something else, then just quietly talk to them, say what you feel, and ask them whether you can do the song. If youíre hearing from God then the leader will probably agree that the songís a good idea. You must be humble and submit to God and his appointed leaders.

"Do nothing out of vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2v3-5)

OPEN YOUR EYES

As you lead people into worship, it is important that you know what is going on with them; how they are responding in worship. To do this you need to open your eyes every now and then, and see what is happening out there. Be aware of what God is doing. You can see if the people are following you or not, and if they arenít, then you can change things to bring them back into worship.

You need to get a balance between looking after the congregation and worshiping. If you are constantly looking at them, you wonít be able to worship God. And you canít lead people somewhere if you are not there yourself. People will find it very disconcerting if you arenít worshiping, but instead are looking out at everyone.

If you are passionately worshiping God yourself, then that passion will come across and draw people into worship too.

You need to read where the people are. Remember, worship leading is serving, so you need to start where they are. They wonít be in the same place as you, because youíve been preparing for worship already. Are they ready to worship? Sometimes you know itís going to be a good time because people seem really up for it, and you can feel Godís presence in the room. Itís as if God is just waiting for you to start so he can do his stuff. Those times are so good.

Other times though, you may need to prepare their hearts. Before every time of worship I will say a prayer in the mic, inviting Godís presence, just to try and focus people on God before they start. Each person will be in a different place. If you donít prepare them, they may sing the songs without really feeling them and engaging with God. Sometimes you may even feel God calling you to do a song of repentance to get them in the right place. Be aware of what God is doing, and if you discern that people arenít worshiping then pray to God, and examine yourself, have you been worshiping? (you can do all this and still play the song) Wait for God to come and give direction. Hopefully, you can discern these things before you start, and then pray accordingly and get your heart right before the Lord.

You may be a great singer/guitarist, but if you forget what youíre doing, get lost in your own world, youíll be a distraction. Especially if youíre just singing really loud and putting loads of elaborate riffs into the melody etc. Always be sensitive to the people, and listen to the band, youíre not competing with them but working with them, so check yourself occasionally. You have a responsibility to lead worship, but not a responsibility to stand out or sound amazing.

Also, You donít need to sing throughout the whole set. Singing can be very tiring. Give time for people to use their own words and expressions of worship. And model it by singing your own worship, rather than telling them to sing in tongues or whatever. Sing with the people, step back from the microphone occasionally (if you have one) and just worship God. Or you could simply listen to the peopleís voices, it can be amazing.

Maybe you should just stay in silence for a bit, which can be very powerful, some words of prophecy or a new song might appear. In these times, use the opportunity to ask God what he wants to do, where he wants to take you, and listen to him.

Once youíve started worshiping then try not to interrupt the flow too much. If you stop between every song and say a prayer or introduce the song, it can be really distracting for people. However sometimes, if you do sense apathy, or some kind of spiritual oppression etc. it may be good to stop and pray, Pray to God, focus the people, but donít talk at/to them.

Try not to tell people what to do, "now everybody headbang!" for example. People may not want to headbang at that point in time! (but the same goes with less extreme actions, such as clapping your hands) Donít talk and manipulate people into worshiping a certain way, it has to be their own decision.

Itís not your responsibility to make them worship, if theyíre not willing, then thatís their own problem. Let the Lord inspire their response. There must be freedom in worship.

DYNAMICS

Dynamics are so useful when leading worship. There are many benefits, if you change the volume and feel (the dynamics) of a section or song, it can keep peopleís attention from wandering off.

Many new worship leaders (especially if they are limited musically) will play the whole song and all other songs after it with the same rhythm and volume. This can get boring and people can lose their focus on God. Often it is the case that they play songs quiet and slow because it is easier to change chords, that isnít necessarily bad, and they can do this well, but if they introduced some change in volume/pace it will keep the people with them.

When leading worship Iíll often change the feel of the song and play a chorus a bit quieter than usual. If you reduce the volume of a section, it has the effect of focusing people on what theyíre saying more, rather than just singing songs and words without thinking about them. This is a good thing, especially if you feel that people are not engaging with God. Then, once youíve engaged them again, you can build it back up and get people fired up and passionate.

Often choruses of songs need a bit more "umph" behind them. If you increase the volume slightly towards the end of the verse, you are telling everyone that you are about to go into the chorus (this is especially useful when you have a band that is following you) and if you donít build it up they expect you to repeat the verse.

But donít overdo it on the changing of dynamics, this can be worse than keeping it the same because people just get frustrated with having to change. They feel like their worship builds up, but then gets cut off and interrupted. Or they feel like they canít get intimate with God because enough time isnít given for quiet worship, and they have to keep getting fired up for God.

Donít pre-plan dynamics for songs. If you feel people are getting tired of dancing around because their enthusiasm has lowered, then bring it down a bit. Use the Holy Spirit and what God is saying/doing to direct you. Keep yourself open to his voice. Do what you already see the Father doing. Changing dynamics does not mean changing the speed. Changing the speed can throw people off because they keep singing the wrong timing and get frustrated

LEADING A BAND

Leading the band is a major aspect of worship leading (that is if you have a band) The more you play with a band or group of musicians the easier this will get. You need to be able to lead the band so that they know what section of the song you are going to; whether you want to build it up or bring it down; or whether you want to start improvising and let the Holy Spirit move on a couple of chords etc. You want to aim to have unity within the band, so that if you go somewhere, they do the same. It can sound pretty bad if the band have different ideas and arenít in the same place.

Having song lists for the band can really help, and if you take time to go through the songs before the worship time, you can sort out any problems that arise and give guidelines to how you will do the song. For example, telling them that after the second chorus, you want to repeat it, and have a solo afterwards etc.

However, when you are being led by the spirit in worship, it is rare that your plans are kept to. So communication with the band is really important for these times. First of all, make sure everyone can hear your voice and instrument. It is very hard to follow the worship leader when you canít hear what theyíre singing or playing. And also, tell them if youíre going to change the order of the songs. It is not easy following a worship leader thatís led by the Holy Spirit. Some people are better
than others at feeling where itís going to go, but make your communication with the band clear.

You need to figure out a way of communicating with them during the worship time. The best way for this is through body language. I play guitar, so when I want to bring it down, I wave my hand in a downwards motion. If I want to build it up, I will start stamping my feet and will strum a lot harder so that the musicians will notice the extra intensity and follow by doing the same with their instruments. If I want someone to do a solo, I will turn and catch their eye and give them a nod or mouth "solo" to them. Making eye contact can really help if you want to communicate with the band. Basically though, the band will soon learn to read you through your body language and then leading them gets a lot easier.

You can also indicate what section you are going to do by singing the first line early or even just the first word and dragging it out a bit. Even singing "Ohhh" before a line can indicate that you are going to do the chorus again. It is amazing how subtle things are picked up on, and help you lead the band. You need to find things that are natural and work for you. You donít want to have to think about these things when you are there worshiping God.

Solos, by the way, can be really useful, if done sensitively. God can really move in them. You can sometimes literally see the effect, as God moves through the music. Something breaks over the people and a new freedom and intimacy is released among them which can be amazing. But, be careful not to do solos all the time or just to "perform". You have to
be careful not to draw attention to yourself.

REHEARSE

If you have a band, itís really important that you rehearse with them and go through the songs. Whether you do this for an hour or two before the worship time or on a different evening doesnít really matter. Extra rehearsals are good if you have some new songs to go through, or if the musicians arenít quite as good as youíd like them to be. If the music is unrehearsed and therefore not very good, it can be a distraction and will take away from the worship time. You donít have to have an amazing band to have good worship times, but you may have to simplify things if the band canít handle it. Donít push them too hard, work with what God has given you.

SONG SELECTION

"Song selection ought to be directly related to the ability of the worship leader to read where the group is and to cleverly, and artfully and spiritually select the songs that will best express the place where the group is" (John Wimber)

Be in prayer when selecting which songs to do, ask God for direction, worship on your own. Play through some songs and see if he points out any in particular, you might feel a strong sense of his presence while playing a certain song, but for others songs it may feel really dry. Often (but not always) God gives me a couple songs that I know I need to do, and I get excited about them. And then I build the rest of the set around those songs that I know God has given me. Some songs will just feel right and youíll know Godís presence and peace when you play them.

Be wary of choosing lots of songs that focus on self and what youíre going through etc. Worship is for God not yourself.

"Worship is us giving glory to Jesus regardless of what is happening in our life, itís a sacrifice of praise, not denying our feelings but laying them down in order to worship him. He is worthy of receiving all that we are as we surrender to him. Whether we give him praise when in our pain, the focus must not be the pain or brokenness, but the God who can far out give us and heal us and is wanting to lavish his love and mercy on us as we come to him"

Donít just use songs because of the reaction it gets, make sure the motivation for choosing a song is Godís direction and nothing else. If you use a song too often, it will lose itís effect, there are only so many times you can sing the same words over and over again. Even if itís an amazing song. Put songs away for a while and bring them out later when theyíre fresh again.

Use the lyrics in songs to lead people into worship. Donít use the style or the music or the mood or reaction to determine your set list. Songs may sound really good next to each other but that doesnít mean that theyíre leading people into intimacy with God. Thatís a mistake Iíve made. Iím not saying that musical flow isn't important. If the songs flow musically it really helps, music is a powerful tool God has given us. But use the lyrics to lead them into intimacy with God. Singing "Come Now is the Time to Worship" after youíve been worshiping for half an hour just doesnít make sense.

The first song is quite important, It should engage the people with God, lift them out of everyday life. but as the worship progresses you need to think about where to take them from there. What is God saying? Do you need to go to a song of thanksgiving, or rejoicing? or something else? Try and make a logical flow so that the songs lead on from each other. Donít jump around different themes but think about the journey into intimacy with God. It is important to be sensitive to where the group is. Sometimes you can feel his presence immediately, and you can respond to that, but sometimes it can take a bit longer.

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise, give thanks to him and praise his name" (Psalm 100v4)

NEW SONGS

New songs are important for keeping worship fresh, and they often correspond to what God is doing at that time. Always be on the look out for new songs, new ways of expressing your love and worship.

When leading worship though, you donít want the focus to be on the new song, so try and introduce the song slowly to them. Many people use the first song in a set as the time to do new songs because it means that worship isnít interrupted because people havenít got into it yet. But this is hard work and can be quite awkward with everyone looking up at the screen reading the words. I find that a better place to do it, is in the ministry time or communion. These are times when the music isnít the focus, but people can also hear the words and learn the song without interrupting anything. Again, see what God says, there may be times in the middle of worship occasionally, when doing a new song will work.

I encourage you also, to try and write your own. Be creative, use the gifts that God has given you. Maybe you could get together with a friend who writes songs and get their advice, or even co-write a couple. You canít sing a song more passionately than a song youíve written yourself. The more you write the better theyíll get.










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