To some in the church, there’s a sense that praise and worship is evolving. Are you wondering if the ministry of a worship leader is changing? Does the title ‘worship leader’ have a biblical basis? How would you define a worship leader?
The purpose of this page is to give an overview of the nature and role of worship leaders. In doing so we want to provide helpful resources.
Most importantly, it’s vital to know and practice true worship. Check out this primer from the Gospel Project.
By looking back, we see that Worship Leading has evolved from the biblical days throughout the church’s history. For instance, according to the Bible we would have called Worship Leaders priests or Levites. So these levites were to lead people in a time of worship. Later they became minstrels or musicians, and eventually developed into a minister of music. Today, this is what we consider a traditional choir director or orchestra conductor.
Meanwhile in contemporary music we began to see the title of Worship Leader popularized. A worship leader is someone who leads God’s people to adore, praise, give thanks, help express how they feel and repent during a time and place of worship.
Below are lists of practical responsibilities typically shared by worship leaders across evangelical contexts. Hopefully this helps paint a down to earth picture of what a typical work week could look like.
The Worship Leadership Program at Visible will prepare you for everything as a worship minister. Learn more about Worship and Modern Music.
Next we will look at theology. It is no surprise that our view of worship is going to affect how we lead worship for our congregations. This is why this short video from the Austin Stone Church is so helpful. It explains a possible misconception about what worship leaders do. Perhaps they lead the congregation into the presence of God? Consquently, this and many other questions are determined by our theology and tradition.
For instance the definition of worship leading varies among denominations. The two main views either lean towards traditional or contemporary worship.
First is traditional worshsip. This type of worship typically consists of hymns and minimal use of instruments. Usually, the only instruments used in a traditional worship service are the piano or organ, along with a choir and/or orchestra. As a result, the worship leader in this setting (usually called a music minister) leads a time of singing a few hymns typically chosen in line with a lectionary.
Second is contemporary worship. This is the most common form with non-denominational churches. However, many denominational churches have added a contemporary service option to their Sunday services to accommodate those who prefer this style. Contemporary worship is usually defined by a full band and using worship songs that were written within the last 20-30 years. As a result of this shift, hymns are used sparingly and typically done in a contemporary way.
It is vital to know and practice true worship. Check out this primer from the Gospel Project.
If we look back, we see that worship leading has evolved from the biblical days throughout the church’s history. Originally in the Bible, we would have called Worship Leaders priests or Levites. These were the chosen ones to lead people in a time of worship. As we moved further along, they became minstrels or musicians. Musicians later developed into a minister of music and now what we consider a traditional choir director or orchestra conductor.
After that contemporary music began to see the title of Worship Leader come about. A worship leader is someone who leads God’s people to adore, praise, give thanks, help express how they feel, and repent during a time and place of worship.
As contemporary worship has developed over the past 50 years, there have been changes in theology around this topic. The outcome has been a rise of the more popular views: seeker-sensitive style, prosperity gospel, and charismatic.
First, the seeker-sensitive view centers around the non-Christian.
Naturally, the components of the church service are planned/created with the intent to be as inoffensive and easily understandable by someone who has never been to church. The idea is that nonbelievers would feel comfortable in the church service. Therefore, the hope is they will not be confused by the songs being sung, or words being used that would be considered overly “churchy.”
A worship leader in this style of worship may lean towards songs that are vague theologically, or maybe even secular/popular songs that a non-Christian would recognize from the radio.
Second, a church that follows a prosperity gospel platform believes that God only wants good things for them. In other words, suffering or pain is not supposed to be a part of their lives as Christian.
In the same vein, songs and preaching center mostly around the blessings of God. Above all, he wants to make their lives better. As a worship leader in this style of church, the majority of the songs they would lead would have a very uplifting and positive tone.
Third, in a charismatic worship setting the focus is more on the spiritual aspect of worship.
Here the emphasis is placed on the use of spiritual gifts during church services. Charismatic worship leaders will typically leave more space in their worship sets and tend to be more spontaneous. While they might have a planned worship set, they are also willing to let that go if there is something else they are feeling led to do instead.
Now that we looked at different traditions and styles of worship, we are going to move on to different types of worship leaders. Generally s peaking, there are some notable personality traits of a worship leader.
In short, many would consider themselves as creatives or artists. Some worship leaders have introverted personalities, while there are others who are considered outgoing, extroverts.
But if there was one common personality trait of a worship leader, it would be that they enjoy being in front of people and have a strong sense of leadership. Similarly, they probably have the gift and ability to draw people in and people want to follow them towards God.
We find that the following aspects or qualities are most important for faithful and spiritually healthy worship ministry.
First, a great worship leader would be described as someone who is creative.
For example, they have the ability to take songs that have already been done and are well known, then present it in a fresh, new way. They creatively organize church services with other components of worship and can weave them all together.
Worship leaders work well within the public. Because the role is centered around people, it is very important for them to have solid communication skills. This is why they possess an ability to accept various feedback and can respond back to it in a healthy way.
Effective worship leaders are self-aware and have the ability to improve. Above all they will do what is good for the church, and for the people they are leading.
A great worship leader has musical abilities. It can be very distracting if a worship leader sings off-key or is not playing his/her instrument well. It can take away from the entire worship experience if they have not developed this talent. Musical ability is vital to worship leading. We should seek to be as effective as possible with vocals and instruments.
Finally, spiritual maturity and a relationship with God that has depth are just as important as music for great worship leaders to have. They are grounded in scripture. They are able to teach others the art of worship in order to produce other worship leaders and teams.
One of the most common questions we get is about worship ministry as a vocation. The truth is that sometimes the lines between worship ministry and administration (or another ministry function) are not so clear and often overlap.
Not all worship leading positions have the same job responsibilities and therefore can look different for each person.
For example, some worship leaders are employed full-time. They have a number of services and teams to organize. On the other hand, others might be in a part-time position for their church. This is usually true if it is a smaller church and they either cannot afford to have a full-time person or they simply don’t have enough tasks for the worship leader to manage. A part-time worship leader may also be the product of having more than one job.
Another capacity level is to become bi-vocational. This means they have two jobs that may be completely unrelated to each other. For instance, Monday through Friday would be in an office, and Sundays are at church.
By and large, worship leading requires great skill, extensive training, and a calling to lead God’s people. Therefore it is not something that can be entered into lightly, but will involve discipline, humility and must start with a love for the church.
We find that many worship leaders’ journeys begin in their home church.
Typically the first step is to start developing skills as a musician and learning to play with other musicians. This can be accomplished by joining a worship team and learning from the current worship leader and other members of the team. Learning to lead worship is best learned from other worship leaders. They can help train and pass on the knowledge that they’ve obtained.
After gaining some experience as a worship team member, then other opportunities might come up to start leading. Becoming an alternate worship leader, or leading in smaller groups for other ministries can be a great way to start practicing.
For those who feel called to pursue worship leading as a career, it is strongly recommended to continue their journey with formal education. After all, worship leaders are both spiritual and musical leaders. Therefore it is best that they receive training in both areas to truly prepare themselves to lead a church.
Another important practice is to refine your musical skills when learning how to lead worship. For example, some practical skills to start working on would be in the area of music theory and then applying that to an instrument.
Let’s face it – it can be difficult to lead a band without any knowledge of music theory. However, start small and learn a few chord progressions. Then begin learning the language of music and how other musicians like to work together. Growing in musical skills will help any worship leader be able to lead more confidently and communicate more effectively with their team.
Depending on the church, there may also be an opportunity to do some formal training. Some churches offer private lessons, classes, or even mentorship programs. This is a great way to grow and learn from the local church.
In most cases, however, many churches do not offer any training programs in-house for worship leaders. This leads to a number of people to look elsewhere for the training they need.
Over the last 20 years, this has become a growing trend among Christian colleges. They have been offering some form of a worship leader program or training for Christian musicians. But how do you know which school and/or program is the right one?
This brings us to a short summary about worship colleges. You can also read a more in depth article about the importance of formal education in a worship leader school.
Worship schools are continually popping up across the country, and even around the world. With so many options available, it can be difficult to know which one has the program you’re looking for.
Some schools offer condensed training through a certificate program of some type. This scenario is typically non-accredited and designed to simply provide some basic training and get you right back leading in your church.
On other hand, some schools for worship training are housed within larger colleges and are one of the hundred programs offered. Though not as many, these schools usually offer a bachelor’s degree in worship or musical leadership. Many have started offering master’s degrees in this area as well.
Lastly, there are also schools that have been developed specifically just for worship training. These schools are either started by a particular church or are partnered with a church denomination. For example, the most famous school of worship is arguably Hillsong in Australia.
In conclusion, education and training for worship leading is valuable. This is why Visible Music College’s mission is to train and equip musicians, technicians, and business professionals in craft and Christian character, for effective service in the music industry and in the Church. Visit our certificate, bachelors, and masters level worship programs to learn more. Visit or contact us and let us know how we can help.
The Worship Leadership Program at Visible will prepare you for everything as a worship minister. Request more information about Worship and Modern Music.