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.
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.
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.
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.
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 even know. The truth is I didn’t want to be the worship leader. In fact, I was so wounded from my previous ministry position that I really just wanted to sit for a while. 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.
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.
In 1983, upon finishing a short term mission in Haiti, my wife and I moved from our home in northern Alabama about fifty miles south to become youth pastors in a small church in Alexandria, Alabama. We had a strong sense that God wanted us in full time ministry, but we struggled at times with exactly what it was he wanted us to do. When we were asked to take this position we jumped in with both feet. One thing we didn’t realize was that in a small church full time ministry doesn’t always mean full time pay. So, I had to do some work outside the church while still being expected to be a full time youth pastor. It was in this church that I had my first experience leading worship in front of a congregation.
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 1986 when I became the worship leader at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anniston, Alabama I had very little confidence in my guitar playing ability. I had only been playing for a few years and had not led worship with the guitar except in small group settings. After taking the reigns as worship leader I was content to allow our pianist to be the lead instrument. Most of the time I didn’t even play the guitar because many of the songs we sang I had not yet learned to play.