I had a blog reader write me this week about advice on how to be a better worship leader. While I’ve never been any more than a music director for a church, I’ve been blessed to work with a ton of great worship leaders over the years, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot under their great leadership.
From my position as band member and occasional music director, here’s what I think makes a great worship leader:
1. They lead by example. Instead of talking about excellence, they show it every week when they get onstage to practice or perform. This by itself raises everyone’s game each week, knowing that a high level of excellence isn’t just going to be expected, but demonstrated from the top down.
2. They pre-prep everything. From charts to specific stylistic changes, great worship leaders prep everything long before rehearsal. This keeps everyone from wasting time, helps musicians prepare accurately, and sets a precedent that playing onstage requires a lot more effort than showing up to a single practice.
3. They’re constantly mixing it up. From changing the way the arrangement of the songs to song selection, great worship leaders figure out ways to keep it interesting and challenging for everyone onstage.
4. They have a 4-1 compliment/criticism ratio. People are hungry to be valued, and the best worship leaders realize that genuine compliments focus people far more than criticism ever can. Instead of constantly criticizing musicians for their mistakes, profusely complimenting the parts of a musician that you would like to see grow really works, and creates an encouraging and healthy environment for musicians to grow.
5. They reach out individually to members of the band. One of my favorite worship leaders I ever worked with would call me every Sunday night, and ask me what I thought I could add to the next week’s worship keyboard-wise. This made me feel more engaged, and making me practice twice as hard during the week.
Engaging musicians one-on-one give you the opportunity to encourage them, communicate what you need from them more clearly, and gain insight into how to motivate them to give their best during worship.
6. They keep it low-stress. The best worship leaders I’ve ever worked with knew how to laugh at mistakes, crack jokes onstage, and generally not freak out when crap would inevitably happen. Stuff is going to go wrong, and when it does, the entire staff is going to look to the leader to see how they react. If a worship leader freaks out or throws a temper-tantrum, the rest of the team will likely react the same way later down the road.
7. They’re consistent. From everything from changing out songs last-minute to attendance policies, great worship leaders don’t constantly change their standards. This keeps people from feeling mistreated or accusing the leader of playing favorites.