So you want to be a Worship Leader?

Worship Series V

C Cho-o

Leading worship is not for practice. It will be too expensive for a person to practice at the expense of other worshippers who come to worship service with certain expectations. A blind man cannot lead another blind (you know what will happen if he does). Paul H. Vieth said, “To lead others in the experience of worship is an art that requires the highest qualities of Christian devotion, sensitivity to the mood of others, understanding of the worship experience, and the skills in the use of liturgical forms through which worship becomes a reality.” The leader provides the conditions and atmosphere which enable the worshippers to “enter into” worship. The leader’s manner before the congregation should be dignified but not stiff and formal. Adequate preparation leads to greater self-confidence which will enable him to choose precise words and to avoid awkward expressions. The spirit of the leader is very important since he communicates through his/her attitude as well as through his words. His real faith and confidence in the promises of God is reflected in his attitude. 

The timing of the service is important. Punctuality should be an indispensable habit of a worship leader. The leader should be punctual in beginning the service, never allowing it to begin late. Care should also be taken not to prolong the time. Planning of a worship service must be done within the time limit. 

Selecting a Theme

Planning effective worship services is time consuming but profitable. Adhering to a theme enhances a worship service. It is determined usually by the sermon subject. The choosing of hymns and scriptures to complement the sermon focuses the entire service on the same subject and adds to the effectiveness of worship. Building a service a round a theme results in variety from week to week. To avoid repetition, many pastors follow the calendar of the Christian year in their planning. It is not enough for a worship leader to have a written worship service program in his hand. He should take the pleasure to keep in touch with other participant-leaders for better co-ordination in taking their respective parts. Our worship services are so disorganized because the leaders don’t do their homework. Just like any other important programs, there should be rehearsal for every worship service. 

Qualifications of a Worship Leader

Spiritual vitality - One cannot communicate what one doesn’t possess. Therefore, a worship leader must, first of all, have spiritual vitality in order to lead the worshippers into spiritual experience. 

Personal Qualities – Attractive personality that communicates sincerity and friendliness; ability to lead without self consciousness; clarity of voice; easy rapport with the people he leads are some of the vital qualities of a worship leader. 

Understanding of worship – A worship leader must understand the meaning and nature of worship, the purpose and nature of liturgy. It’s absolutely important for a worship leader to know what he is doing, and what he expects people to do in responding to the work of the Holy Spirit.  

Skill in Leadership – Proficiency comes through experience, but practice with self-criticism and thoughtful reflection is worthy. Nonetheless, skill is not enough, genuine religious devotion is the highest qualification

Disciplined workmanship – Conscientious preparation for each service is a must, and must be done well ahead of time - preparing and gathering needed materials like overhead projector, printed litanies or other similar items, hymns or chorus books, pictures, objects, audiovisuals, etc.  Arrange them well.

Theologically, there is no distinction between “clergy” and “laity.” Practically and functionally, however, the Bible and tradition teach that members should function according to their gifts and training. If laymen are to assist in conducting the service, they should be instructed regarding the purpose of each element and the best manner in which it may be done. 

The Worship Leader’s Preparation

Planning the order of worship - Begin by choosing a central theme to unify various elements of the service, hymns appropriate to age group, plan within the time limit.

The order of Service - He prepares the order of service and provides the setting and atmosphere. After which he must make the order of the service known to other participant-leaders, and bring them for rehearsal before the service.  

Personal readiness – Mental rehearsal and spiritual readiness are vital preparations.  Proper mental preparation will lead to a calm self-confidence.

Preparing himself - He takes dual role of spokesman for God and the leader of the people. This preparation includes spiritual, physical, and  technical aspects. 

Preparing other leaders – Teaching the meaning of worship, understanding of liturgy, familiarizing with new hymns, guiding those who are to assist in the  conduct of worship. 

Preparing the room – Early arrival should be invariable rule for the leader of worship to  make sure that the room setting is conducive to worship. Changing the sitting arrangement and decoration styles from time to time helps the worshippers feel afresh in worshipping. 

Preparing the worshippers – He facilitates the worship activity and experience of the congregation.

Some Guiding Principles for Planning & Preparing the Order of Worship

In planning a worship service, the leader should include all that will enrich and aid worship and exclude all that will detract or hinder. He should give careful consideration to planning the total service and correlating the prayers, Scriptures, and hymns around the theme. 

• Specific persons must accept the responsibility for planning worship. This responsibility should be taken seriously and carried forward with discipline.

• Plenty of time should be devoted to planning an effective order of worship. 

• The order of worship should be suited for a given congregation.

• The minister should have a definite purpose in mind as he plans the order of worship.

• Although no one season is more important than the other, many churches find it helpful to plan their worship according to the calendar of the Christian year. 

• A certain amount of variety in the order of worship will keep the attention of people and stimulate their concern in worship. 

• The use of manuals and other aids can assist leaders in planning worship .

• A printed order of worship can aid the congregation in worship

• Planning for worship includes the preparation of the building and facilities – setting. 

• Creativity in planning is essential for vital worship. 

• There should be complete preparation in the details of the service.  

• A positive attitude is essential in leading others in worship.

• The leader should speak in a natural tone of voice. Artificiality is a serious distraction. People hate duplicate/copycat; original is always the best.

• Let the minister be punctual, never beginning a service late.

• The spirit of a leader is contagious. A cheerful leader cheers up the congregation; a tensed leader make the congregation tensed; a nervous leader makes the congregation nervous. A leaders personal quality plays a very great role in leading worship. 

• One of the privileges of the leader in worship is that of participating in worship with the congregation.

• Pay heed to your appearance: no crooked ties please.

• If you’re not nervous, be nervous, but, trust in God and yourself. If you’re not nervous (a sense of awe), you’re either taking it too light or over-confident. 

In the words of Franklin Segler, the leadership of worship in the church is a difficult and costly function of the pastor’s ministry. Acceptable worship which enriches and blesses the congregation doesn’t just happen; it must be planned and developed by purposeful dedication and diligent work on the part of the pastor and those who assist him in the planning of worship. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”