While today’s worship leaders are expected to possess a great many abilities, spiritual or musical, there are a few, which are above styles or fads that come and go. I believe these 7 qualities come under this category and are therefore essential for any worship leader to retain and practice consistently.
1. Prayerful Life
(Luke 5:16, Matthew 6:6)
A worship leader must be a person of prayer, setting apart at least an hour every day for silent prayer, Bible reading & reflection. Some recommended best practices are praying in the morning, choosing a place where one can be alone, memorizing at least one Bible verse during this time and turning off all sources of distraction / noise like mobile phones / music players. The journey of becoming a worship leader begins with being a worshipper and there’s absolutely no substitute for daily personal prayer.
2. Listening Ear
(1 Samuel 3:10, Numbers 9:7-9)
A worship leader should be a keen listener with ears habitually open to hear and obey what the Lord says – like Samuel and Moses. Whether it’s planning a set-list, organizing practice sessions, forming a team, recruiting new members or training others, it must all start with checking with God on what He wants and then doing just that.
3. Team Player
(1 Corinthians 12:15-17)
The worship leader should meet with other members regularly to pray as a team, work out/practice songs together, understand each other’s strengths & limitations and move towards becoming a united ministry. The person operating the sound system or lyrics projection is as important as the drummer or lead guitarist on stage, so treating everyone with respect and working together as a team are high priority qualities. Outside ministry, he/she should also build and maintain good relationships with others.
(1 Peter 5:5, 1 Timothy 5:17)
A worship leader must be a humble servant of the church, willing to work with and for others – the pastor/preacher, people in other ministries, (intercession, mercy-works, healing, deliverance etc.). For example, if the pastor asks for a particular song to be removed from or added to a set-list, the worship leader must have an attitude of submission and comply. He/she must have a sound understanding of the vision of the local church, how each ministry is working towards it and ensure the worship ministry also plays its role accordingly.
5. Musical Skill
(1 Chronicles 25:7, 2 Chronicles 34:12)
In the first point, I mentioned there’s no substitute for personal prayer. On the other hand, there’s no substitute for practice either. In the books of Chronicles we read about how the Levites were skilled in music for the Lord. Similarly, the modern worship leader must also spend quality time in developing vocal or musical skill. The minimum level needed is to be able to sing on pitch and play the right chords. Even if he/she is a non-musician, learning basic concepts like key, rhythm and tempo is essential for team communication. The worship leader should also identify improvement areas in the ministry and lookout for adequate training opportunities.
6. Ministerial Competency
Worship is not music, but a mediocre worship leader can reduce it to just that – a mere musical performance of songs with Christian lyrics. Here is where the quality of ministerial competence comes in. The worship leader must know how to deliver a worship set in a manner that people encounter God during the session; how scripture, prayers, music and songs tie-in together; how to minimize distractions; how to seamlessly transition from one song to the next; how to engage the congregation in participative worship; what the different worship progressions are and how they can be used; how to leverage technology in ministry and so on.
7. Pursue Excellence
(1 Corinthians 14:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 9:24)
A worship leader should not be easily satisfied even when things are going well. He/she should look to the Lord with an expectant faith and wait on Him at all times to know what’s next. Taking constructive feedback from others and working on any limitations identified are good practices for continual improvement. Making oneself accountable to someone (an elder or spouse or friend etc.), sharing and praying with that person regularly will help strengthen one’s personal walk with Christ. The worship leader should constantly and passionately strive to “be excellent in what is good” – Romans 16:19
Image: Bill Whitt
Gangai Victor is a worship leader / trainer from India. You can read more of his articles @ his blog Votive Praise