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How to Identify a Worship Leader

Becky Pechek

Becky Pechek

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After the lead church planter, one of the very first people you want on a church planting team is a worship leader. And continuing to raise up new worship leaders is bread and butter to a growing church. Why? Because we want people to learn to experience and respond to God deeply and intimately in our churches. Musical worship is a key tool for nurturing a church that regularly and authentically encounters and is transformed by God’s presence in the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, it is probably a good idea to know what to look for when you are hoping to recruit and raise up new worship leaders. What might be some key characteristics of a potential worship leader? Here are a few ideas:

Spiritual Life—

  • They have a deep, intimate relationship with God. Worship is about orienting our lives around God. A worship leader must be already doing this in her or his life, or they cannot lead others to do it. As we love to say in the Vineyard, “you can’t serve what you ain’t cookin’.”
  • They must be able to lead others in worship. This seems like a “duh” thing to point out, but the fact is that many very talented musicians don’t automatically know how to do this. The goal is not to just play music or conduct a sing-along. Worship leaders need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit in such a way that others are also led into his presence through the music. This can be a gift they already have or it can be learned, but it has very little to do with their musical skill level (beyond the basics of rhythm and pitch) and a lot more to do with their ability to follow the Holy Spirit.

Character—

  • They are servant-hearted. You want people who are willing to show up and do the unglamorous things, as well as get up on a stage. Are they consumers of church, or are they willing to serve the body by washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, or changing dirty diapers?
  • They have integrity. It might occur to you that this is something any leader needs, not just a worship leader, and you would be right about that—in fact, you may notice that most of these apply to all kinds of leadership. When you put someone in front of the church, especially up on a stage, you are telling people: “Follow this person. Be like this person.” So you want people who are demonstrably pursuing holiness. People who follow through and don’t constantly try to cover up their mistakes or weaknesses. People with strong character. (This can take a little time to discern—give them a chance to mess up or react to pressure and see what happens.)
  • They are growth-oriented. They take the time to practice and grow in their abilities, not only musically but in maturity. They read and study the Bible. They ask questions and seek out advice. They are teachable when they make mistakes and they are open to feedback.

Community Engagement and Commitment—

  • They are committed to the church. Whether through membership, faithfulness, or some other gauge, you want to see that they are committed, not just dabbling or shopping.
  • They are connected in community in your church. They need to be meaningfully engaged in the life of your community. If they just show up and leave on Sundays and aren’t willing to share their lives with others, they’re not ready for leadership.
  • They are part of a small group. Whether they are leading one, leading worship in one, or simply attending one, you want them to be engaged in a small group. Small groups are hugely important in Vineyard culture, both to facilitate and nurture the “everybody gets to play” distinctive, but also to develop close, self-disclosing relationships with people in the church. Small groups are one of the primary places where discipleship, pastoral care, and accountability take place, and we want our worship leaders to be elbows-deep in all those things!
  • They demonstrate a love for the whole church, not just for worship. You’re looking for people who see the big picture. They understand the value of all the ways that people engage in relationship, discipleship, and connection in your local church, not just the things they are most personally attracted to.

Musical ability—

  • They can carry a tune. Yes, they do need to have some musical ability, but they don’t necessarily need to be very skilled musicians to lead worship. If they have all the qualities above, plus a basic sense of pitch and rhythm, they will be able to learn enough to get started leading a couple songs without too much trouble, and they can grow from there.  

So, there’s a good list to get you started. Is there anything you would add to this list?

And, for more on raising up worship leaders, check out our webinar on the topic—four seasoned worship leaders bring a lot of gold to the conversation.

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