What does it mean to be a great worship leader? How can we… How can you be a great worship leader?
I’m taking a break from Planning Center videos for a little bit, ’cause I came across some content that I created several years ago for a conference. And I thought I’d paraphrase it and just share a little bit from my heart.
I’ve been leading in worship ministry for 17 years now, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. And I wanna share with you four things that I’ve learned about being a great worship leader.
Worship leadership, in my opinion, is 10% about worship and about 90% about leadership. Everything good relates back to good leadership. In fact, every problem or issue that I’ve experienced over these last 17 years is largely due to my inability to lead people effectively.
So what is leadership?
You’ve heard it said, “Leadership is influence.” I like to think of leadership as influencing people to help them get from where they are to where they need to be. Worship leadership is influencing people from where they are, thinking about themselves, worried, fearful, anxious, angry, bitter… And helping them get to where they need to be – In communion with God, at peace, thankful, thinking about others, patient, kind, Etcetera.
Now, you may think, well, I’m not a worship leader. I’m just on the team, I’m a drummer or I’m a guitar player.
But you’re more than just a guitar player. You’re more than just a drummer. You’re more than just a vocalist.
Maybe you’re on the tech team, you’re more than just a sound engineer. Whether you realize it or not, you have influence. And your influence is to be used to influence people toward God.
If you’re a drummer and you decide to stop drumming, for instance, or start playing a different song, what’s the rest of the band is gonna do? What’s the congregation or gonna do? They’re gonna stop and they’re gonna look at you and say, “What’s going on?”
You are influencing them. You are changing the direction of where they were headed. You have influence – positive or negative – you have influence. And everyone involved in worship ministry has influence over the worship service.
We all are worship leaders. It’s not just the one person who’s on stage or called the worship leader or the worship pastor. All of us are worship leaders.
So what does it mean to be a great worship leader? Here are for practical things you can do to be a great leader, and really none of these have anything to do with skill, so anybody can do these four.
1. Show Up Early.
Show up early. Now, you may be thinking, show up early to what? Show up early to anything that you are a part of. Show up early to rehearsal, to service times, to sound check to your meetings.
like to say, early is on time and on time is late. It’s better to be 15 minutes early than one minute late.
Here’s the deal, great leaders show up early. It helps you to do a better job. It helps you not to be a rushed. It helps you have time to set up. It helps you to think and be mentally prepared.
So if you are a guitar player and rehearsal starts at 6:00 PM on Wednesday night and you show up right at 6:00 PM, probably you’re not gonna be able to get started at 6:00 PM because you have to set up pedal board, you have to tune your guitar, you gotta get a drink of water, all of these things.
So when you show up early, you are helping everyone be prepared, helping everyone start on time.
Showing up early communicates a few things. It says, I care about this. When I show up early, it says, I care. It says that this is important to me. Showing up early also communicates that you care about the other people who are involved. So if it’s rehearsal, when you show up early, you’re saying to them, I care about you, I value your time.
Showing up late also communicates something. It says, I don’t care very much about this, or this is not important to me, or the worst case, you’re not that important to me.
Now, think of a favorite concert that you’ve ever attended, you got the tickets early, like the day they went on sale, you got the tickets. You get the VIP passes, right. Your favorite artist – you’ve been waiting for two years for them to come to town, and finally you got the tickets!
When it’s time for the concert, let’s say the concert starts and seven… Are you gonna get there right at seven? No, of course not. You’re gonna get there early, you’re probably gonna get there at 4 o’clock. You’re gonna wait in line for an hour, and then you’re gonna get there and get to your VIP spot and you’re gonna stay there for another two hours. And then the concert is gonna start an hour later than what it was supposed to. And eventually you’re gonna get to experience the concert.
But you’re gonna show up early because you care. Because you value that artist or you value their concert. It’s important to you. In fact, you’re showing honor to the artist and honor to everybody who you went with by showing up early and in anticipation of what was about to happen.
Ephesians 5:15-16 says “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Philippians 2:3, it says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourself.”
So when you show up early, you are showing others that you value them above yourself. You’re considering others above yourself, and you’re also using your time wisely. The days are short. Use your time wisely showing up early helps everyone to utilize, to maximize the time that they have together.
So great worship leaders. Great leaders, great worship leaders. Show up early.
Okay. Number two: Show up prepared.
Let’s say you’re a guitar player.
And you come to rehearsal and you forgot your guitar, or you didn’t change your strings, or you forgot that one pedal that you need, or you didn’t practice, you showed up late. How successful is that rehearsal going to be? It’s obvious, it’s not gonna be successful at all. Because you didn’t come prepared. Great leaders, great worship leaders, show up prepared.
So when you show up prepared, we talked about this a little bit ago, but when you show up early, you communicate, you care. When you show up prepared, you also communicate, you care – you communicate to everyone around you that you value them.
It also shows that you’re committed to excellence, which God desires. Psalm 3:31-33 says, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous. It is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp, make music to Him on the ten-string lyre. Sing to him a new song, play skillfully. And shout for joy.”
Play skillfully. So whether you’re playing or singing, or you’re leading in tech ministry, maybe You’re responsible for lyrics or videos or lighting… Do it skillfully. When you do it skillfully, you do it to the Lord.
But in order for us to do that, we have to show up prepared. We have to be willing to put in the time to be prepared. So that means we have to practice. Practice is what you do at home on your own time. Rehearsal is what you do together as a group. And great worship leaders show up prepared.
They put the time in, they practice.
Now, this doesn’t just mean instrumentally or vocally, maybe if you’re on the tech team, you need to look over the order of service and kind of think through the songs, and maybe you need to get the lighting set up. Maybe you need to get Propresenter set up with lyrics, so that everything’s ready to go.
When you show up prepared, you have greater influence, in fact, when you show up prepared, you are positioning yourself for greater influence.
Leadership is influence, and if you want to be a great leader, you gotta show up prepared.
So I have this recurring dream every now and then, and it’s kind of like a… But I’m so used to the dream now that I just expect it, and then I get through the dream. I wake up and say, “Oh, there’s the dream again!” And it’s never exactly the same, but it’s always the same plot.
And the basic plot of the dream is, it’s time for us to sing or lead worship or have a service, and we’re not prepared, or I’m not prepared.
I can tell you, I’ve had this dream probably 15 or 20 times over and over, and it’s the same plot, and I’m always stressed. I’m always anxious in the dream, I’m ready to wake up because we’re not prepared and we’re not ready for this service or whatever it is that we’re planning.
When you show up prepared, you are positioning yourself for greater influence, and so great worship leaders, whether you have this kind of dream or not, great worship leaders show up prepared.
You see, great worship leaders are willing to practice at home. They’re willing to put the work in, so that when it comes time for rehearsal, it comes time for the service, they are prepared and ready to exhibit their influence to lead people into worship.
Now, the third thing is, Communicate Right.
The third way that you can be a great worship leader, to have great influence, is to Communicate Right, work on your communication.
Now, my brother says that communicate right is not grammatically correct. So for all of you grammar nerds out there, I’m sorry. Communicate correctly. Communicate right.
Good communication is the key to every healthy relationship, and that includes with your team, your worship team, your ministry team.
Communication, I think should be three things. It should be clear. It should be consistent and it should be helpful.
So let’s look at the first one, be clear.
Don’t leave any room for doubt. Make sure people know exactly what you need or what you’re expecting. I like to think of it this way. I try to think of every question that might be asked and then I try to communicate that before it’s asked. And if I’m communicating something to my team through an email or verbal communication or maybe a video like this, and nobody has a question, often I feel like that’s a good thing. Because that means I prepared and I communicated everything that needed to be communicated – so they didn’t have questions at the end. Eliminate the doubt, be clear.
Secondly, be consistent.
By this, I mean respond quickly to text messages and emails, or maybe Facebook messages or however you communicate. Just be consistent.
Your team shouldn’t have to wait 48 hours for you to respond to them when they ask a question. So be consistent with your communication.
And then three, be helpful.
Be helpful. So before you communicate, ask, “Is this going to be helpful? Am I being honest? Am I being kind? Is this gonna be hurtful?” Or worse; “Is this gossip?”
Now, there are sometimes where you can communicate something that’s helpful, but it also can hurt a little bit. Sometimes you need to have a frank conversation with someone on your team. But the approach should be from your heart, from your mind… “Am I trying t o be helpful or hurtful?”
And if your intention is to be helpful and you’ve thought through it and you communicate clearly and you communicate consistently, eventually it will be helpful for them. Even though it might be hurtful in the moment.
Communication, in my opinion, is about 40% listening. Of course, there are non-verbal cues, non-verbal communication and verbal communication, but listening is a huge part of communicating. God gave you two ears and one mouth. You should consider the ratio when communicating. : -]
Really, you should listen more than you talk. And I don’t just mean listening to respond. And this is a, this is a huge deal.
We could go on and on about this.
But if you really wanna be a great leader, you have to learn to listen well. Listen to understand. Don’t listen to respond.
So most people, when they’re having a conversation, they’re listening, but they’re thinking… Their mind is constantly churning, and they’re thinking, “How can I add what I wanna say into this conversation?”
And so that’s why often, people will use words like, “um”, “and”, “so”. Subconsciously, we’re filling the space so that nobody else will jump in, and frankly, people are bad listeners.
If you wanna be a great leader, a great worship leader, you’ve gotta learn to communicate well, and that involves great listening.
So listen to understand. Don’t be thinking, “How can I respond?” while they’re talking. Be thinking, “What are they saying? How are they feeling about this? What are they actually trying to communicate?”
So be listening, let them talk, give them a break, give them a pause, don’t interrupt. Don’t force them to rush what they’re saying. Take a break, listen, and when they’re totally finished talking then…
And this is a tip; Repeat what they said back to them.
Repeat what you heard them say. I promise it will change your leadership if you repeat what you heard them say. Because they will feel valued. They will know that you are listening, that you care about them, and that what they said is something that you have taken to heart.
Okay, so communicate. Be clear. Be consistent. Be helpful. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word, fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
So our communication, a word fitly spoken, should be one that is helpful to those who are hearing it. We’re being clear, we’re being consistent we’re being helpful.
And you guys know this, but it’s not just what we say. Is how we say it.
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Okay, the fourth thing you can do to become a better leader or a better worship leader, is make this one of your goals: Make It Better.
Make it better. Whatever you’re working on. Whatever you’re responsible for, whatever God has called you to. Constantly be thinking, “How can I make this better? How can I improve this?”
So maybe it’s playing an instrument, you’ve been playing an instrument for 10 years. Ask yourself, “How can I improve in my instrument playing?” Or if you’re a vocalist, “How can I improve my vocal skill my vocal range? If you’re responsible for lighting at your church, look for ways that you can improve the lighting to enhance the worship experience.
Don’t just say it’s good enough. Great leaders, great leaders… They say, “How can we make this better?”
Now, this is true even in the little things. I honestly believe, when you take care of the little things, God will bless you with greater things. Take care of the details. Pay attention to the details and ask, “How can I make this better?”
Now, maybe this is not for you. Maybe you’re not a detailed person. That’s okay. But somebody on your team is. And so ask for their help. Get them to be involved and say, “I want us to improve how we look or how we sound, or our service flow” Ask for their opinion and then let them speak into the process.
You see, better is not a destination at which you arrive, it’s a pursuit for which you strive.
Better is not a destination at which you arrive, it’s a pursuit for which you strive.
So, strive to get better.
Now, one thing about getting better is that you have to be willing to evaluate. And when we evaluate, I like to say there’s nothing off-limits. Everything’s on the table for evaluation.
You have to let your team know, it’s okay to evaluate, it’s okay to give me feedback. And then, when they do give you feedback, don’t get defensive, say Thank you, and then work to make it better.
Here’s the deal, there’s enough mediocre to go around. A lot of people are just mediocre, they’re just coasting through life and doing just enough to get by. Great leaders… I guarantee you, everybody that you look up to, that’s a great leader, they’re working, they’re constantly working to improve. To make it better.
1 Thessalonians 4:1 Paul says, “Finally then brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God, just as you actually do walk, that you may excel still more.”
Excel still more. Make it better.
1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
Leadership is influencing people to help them get from where they are to where they need to be, and that’s what worship leadership is all about. It’s about 10% about music… 10% about worship, and 90% about leading people well.
You have influence. All of us have influence. All of us are leaders.
What makes a great worship leader?
These four things will help: 1. Show up early. 2. Show up prepared. 3. Communicate right. And 4. Make it better.
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