Although there are a lot of online resources to get worship leader training, nothing replaces robust training that comes from hands-on ministry experience.
As Dr. Ken Steorts so aptly put it in this interview with Worship Musician Magazine, it’s possible to have a “music college meets discipleship program.”
“I highly recommend rigorous training with theological education in a community of believers, but I want to introduce what worship training could entail across all kinds of contexts.”
Worship Leader Training & Understanding The Biblical Basis of Worship
The Biblical basis for worship is one that has gotten misconstrued in a lot of societies. We’ve made worship into an event rather than understanding that the biblical basis for worship is a response to who God is.
Biblical Support for Worship
Scripture is full of commands to worship, praise, and sing toward God.
Singing is the vehicle that God has given us in many ways to worship him. Deuteronomy 10:21 says, “He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.”
This is important for us to carry with us when we are trying to lead people in worship or those who are taking part in worship. Because we know him and see his greatness and our response to that is to worship him.
Anything that does not line up with Scripture is unacceptable to God. Trying to worship God in our own way, outside of how the Bible teaches us to worship Him, is wrong. To rightly worship Him, we must know who God is and how He desires to be worshiped.
Personal Worship Principles
Before we’re able to worship together with each other it takes work, focus on our own hearts, and worship is a response to who God is. We can’t begin worship leader training without such a response to God.
If we are going to worship God well, then we need to be someone who is consistently growing in the word of God and who can study it on your own. If you’re waiting on a sermon or message to do that for you, then you are not carrying anything into worship with you. When we worship, you carry your growth and knowledge of the word of God into a particular week, you carry what you’ve seen God do in your life in that week, and carry into worship a greater understanding of the salvation that you’ve received.
These things all come through consistent study of the word of God and through prayer.
If I’m not praying and it is not a consistent part of my life then I’m going to struggle to worship because I’m going to carry selfishness into times of worship together. You will carry sin and it will skew your view and understanding of who God is and that’s when we run the risk of making worship about us.
In order to worship well, we should be rooted very clearly in consistent growth in the word of God. Prayers should line your heart up with God instead of trying to line God’s heart with yours.
It is an ongoing practice to grow in the word and pray consistently because the reality is the flesh is weak, so we need community around us. It is important to have people in your life that keep you from wandering.
Live life with other believers that will hold you accountable to make sure we’re doing these things. If we’re not consistently growing in the word of God then we’re going to miss what He’s doing around us.
Corporate Worship Principles
When it comes to worshipping together in a corporate setting, it is one of our greatest opportunities to worship.
We fail to understand each one of us is on a journey with God and he is teaching us different things at different moments and times. We seem to carry that God is doing the same thing in each and every one of our lives but the reality is he’s doing different things many times in each of our lives.
When we are gathering together with a large group of followers of Christ, we are affirming together the greatness of our God and at the same time, we are multiplying what we know of who God is. It gives us more things to worship about because we learn and see the things He’s doing in their lives that he has maybe not yet done in our lives.
When worshipping together corporately we ought to celebrate the greatness of our God and the things that together we have seen him do with our very own eyes.
Worship should ultimately be rooted in our understanding of the gospel, and not in what we do. The more we understand the work of the cross, the work of Christ, the more we can understand the love, grace, and the mercy of God. When we understand these aspects of God which are all found in the word of God, it allows worship to become a natural part of our lives. Worship is a response to who God is and what God knows. All of it is rooted in what God has done in Christ on the cross and that ultimately what He will do when all is said and done when we are home. Worship becomes our response to God rather than something we try to manufacture.
When we lead worship, Christ must always be the center. It cannot be rooted in the songs themselves. It can’t be rooted in us as the leaders or in a manufactured experience. These things all fall short of genuine worship. Only God proves Himself worthy. Our churches for too long have made worship about the style of music rather than the one who’s worthy of our worship. We’ve bought into an experience rather than the greatness of God.
If we are not careful we will become distractions from God rather than worshippers of God. We have to trust that God is worthy. We have to trust that Christ fulfills our desire for worship. We don’t have to create an experience. We don’t have to use a specific style. We have to lead with a wonder of God where we can celebrate Him together.
Music is our celebration of the God that we know. It is our celebration Of what Christ has done…What he’s doing…and what he will do. When the music flows out of our heart for the gospel and our love for the God of our salvation then we will be able to lead others in worship.
Logistical and Practical Advice for Worship Leader Instruction
The choice of song is one of the biggest and most important aspects of worship leader training and will be an ongoing craft of being a worship minister.
It is really simpler than we make it out to be often. We have to ask ourselves: “Is what we’re singing true?”, “Does it line up with the word of God?”, “Does it focus on the greatness of God?”, and “Is this worship toward us?”
As we’re choosing songs, you have to choose songs that proclaim truth.
Choose songs that work together that you can flow between each song, which is another important aspect to worship. When you’re gathering groups of people, there are enough things that will become distractions. We should put sets together that limit distractions. If we’re stopping between every song, you’re planting an opportunity for distraction.
If you’re someone who is writing songs for your worship gathering, you have to go back to making sure your message is true and can it be backed up by the word of God.
Are you writing about self rather than pointing to the greatness of God? In our songwriting, the natural human direction is always to write about ourselves. We have to be very careful to purposefully lay ourselves down and to the side and make sure we’re writing songs that don’t point to us.
One of the trickiest aspects to consider is that you are in some way pastoring a group of people. Cultivating team dynamics are a key ingredient to worship leader training.
Those that are a part of your team have a responsibility to them. Too often we approach it as anybody that wants to be a part of something just dives in, but we should be pouring into them.
Worship is not just singing songs and getting people on stage to do it, but it is a response to the greatness of who God is. We have to make sure that we are cultivating that in those who are taking part in our worship teams.
Inevitably there is going to be a conflict between people in our teams so we need to have a plan. You should coordinate with your lead pastor. Every church is different, but the thing you can always do in the initial response to conflict is to point to the reality that the enemy is always lurking and seeks to divide us.
As a worship ministers, you have to constantly reinforce that we will not allow anything to take away from our focus on the greatness of our God. The number one thing is that you and whoever you are accountable to in your church must be on the same page and will need to come up with a plan on the front end to deal with conflicts amongst your team.
Coordination and Communication
Remember, we are not just one person to coordinate and communicate – we must fit into the team.
There is a lead pastor at your church that is going to be opening the word of God on any particular week and you’re setting the table for that point in time. There needs to be a community between you and your pastor so that there’s coordination to where you’re going and where your pastor is going.
You want to make sure you’re not going in two different directions and that you’re working together.
In regards to the media team, if you can coordinate and communicate upfront and clear with them, you can eliminate distractions during service. It will allow things to flow smoothly so the pastor, the worship leader, the media team will have a strong understanding and is prepared each week.
The purpose of this is not for a good show, but so you limit the errors and keep the focus on God and his word.
Practice and Preparation for Worship Leader Training
Practice and coordination together is very important. When we are dealing with your worship team you want to schedule what your practice will look like and stick with it.
If your schedule is always changing, it will be difficult for your team to conform to a lack of consistency. When you practice you don’t want to waste time. We must be prepared so when people come to practice you all are ready to go or else it will kill morale and allow seeds of disunity to be planted quickly.
Worship Leader Training Collaboration
For whatever reason leaders don’t spend a lot of time together and that goes the same with other staff members as well. Collaboration should be a regular habit in worship leader training.
This is an enormous error on our part because we need to be consistently learning from other people that do what we do. Many of the strongest aspects used in leading worship are things that we learn from other people. From watching them, talking with them, hearing from them things that they used in leading worship. If we don’t spend time with others then we’re going to get in a rut and we’ll never grow outside of that.
If we’re not consistently growing, then we are regressing.
We should spend time within our community to encourage and learn from each other. There are many things we can get from one another and the bottom line is that we need one another. Being someone that leads people in worship and being a part of a church in that capacity is not an easy road. It is not one that we should be doing alone as far as worship is concerned.
Wherever you find yourself, reach out to other worship ministers, have coffee together, pray together, listen to what they’re doing -even those who may be leading worship differently than you. Worship leader training is done best through authentic community collaboration. There is always something that you could adapt and use to lead worship to grow as a worship leader.