This article is titled “Worship Service Etiquette” simply for the reason that I couldn’t come up with a better title. There are probably as many ways to conduct a worship service as there are churches. The leadership of each local church is given the responsibility of seeing that God’s vision for their church is implemented. However, I do believe that there are certain considerations that should be made in the implementation of a worship service vision.
My journey in worship leading had a humble beginning to say the least. Like a lot of children and teenagers growing up I had an infatuation with lead guitar players and rock-n-roll bands. However, it wasn’t until I was 23 years old that I actually began to learn to play the guitar.
There are no concrete rules when it comes to selecting a set of songs for a worship service. Many factors can determine what songs are sung and the order in which they are sung. One such factor is the amount of experience and skill level of the worship leader and band members. The style of music and the order of worship are usually determined by the pastor or other church leadership.
In 1987 a friend and I went to Anaheim, California to attend a worship conference at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. During one of the afternoon sessions following a time of worship, someone in the audience began to speak in tongues in the hearing of the entire assembly. There must have been a thousand people in the large auditorium, so I could just barely hear the person speak. However, almost the minute they began I felt my heart jump out of my chest. I thought, “Oh no; I’ve got the interpretation to this tongue!”
In my book “The Making of a Worship Leader” I share the following story.
I vividly remember the first worship band practice I led as a full time worship leader. Here I am the worship leader of a church that was once two churches. Many of the members of the praise team I didn’t know nor was I totally convinced I wanted to know them. The truth was I didn’t want to be the worship leader. Only out of submission to the pastor’s request was I in that position. At first I had no job description, no training and no clue as to what I was doing.
One Sunday morning around 8:30 our worship band gathered for morning rehearsal. We met early because Sunday school began at 9:00 a.m. and we wanted to have some time to look over the song list and get a sound check. Some of us looked like we had just climbed out of bed with the rest of us wishing we were still in bed.
It is important for each church to develop a working philosophy for their worship ministry. Having a worship philosophy helps to establish the values, priorities, and practices of worship in the church. Once a philosophy is established the information can be disseminated to the congregation. This will help each person to understand where worship fits in the priority list of the fellowship. The amount of energy, time and money spent on worship will determine the value and priority of worship in each church.
An important role of a worship leader is that of a mentor. The scope of mentoring includes at least three groups of people; the congregation, the singers, musicians and others involved in the worship ministry, and those who are called to be worship leaders.
I get e-mails on a weekly basis from young worship leaders who are struggling to understand their calling. Many of them do not have role models or mentors to help them as they develop their calling and talent. Confusion and frustration often arises because of the lack of communication between church leadership and these rising leaders. Much of this anxiety can be avoided if the worship leader has a clear knowledge of his role in the ministry of the church. Job descriptions are helpful, but they will vary from church to church. However, there are some key roles in ministry in which all worship leaders should fill. The first role I want to mention is the role of a worshiper. That may sound somewhat obvious but it is very important.
I believe scripture teaches that those who are called to Christian ministry are to be held to a higher level of accountability than the average church member. This no doubt applies to those who are called to lead worship be it the “worship leader/music minister” or other members of the worship ministry. Though one person may be delegated to oversee the worship ministry and be the one “out front,” it is my philosophy that all members of the worship ministry are worship leaders. As such there are certain criteria such as character qualities, spiritual maturity, and anointing that should be examined when leadership considers someone for a position in the worship ministry.