How To Develop Worship Leaders

As I have conversations with pastors and worship leaders, the question I am asked more often than any other is this: How do I develop worship leaders?

I hear this question from leaders who desire to serve other churches by training future worship leaders, and I hear this question from leaders who want to train a worship leader because they need one in their own church.

This is a topic that could fill multiple posts, and at some point I plan to come back to this idea and cover it more thoroughly; but in this post, I want to provide some brief thoughts that I hope will be a help.

If you want to develop worship leaders, you need to:

  1. Give them opportunities. If you lead every song of every service, no one else will ever be developed. And letting someone else lead when you are away on vacation doesn't count. You need to be in the building to provide feedback. Let aspiring worship leaders begin by leading one song. When that is mastered, let them plan and lead an entire service with your supervision. Also, give them opportunities in every area of the worship ministry. Young worship leaders need to know what they're asking for when they request "a little less acoustic guitar in my ears." The best way for them to learn is to work in the audio/video department and any other departments of the worship ministry.
  2. Know them and allow them to know you. Invite developing worship leaders to sit-in on meetings, help you plan services, have dinner in your home with your family, and observe you living life. It's not enough to know that they can play their instrument well (although it's not less than that). You need to know this individual as a person, and that is only going to happen by spending time together.
  3. Talk theology, not just music. Being a skilled vocalist, instrumentalist, or director is vital to being a successful worship leader, but that is not the only skill that is necessary. Remember that this is essentially spiritual work. We work to lead people to know and follow God when we gather on Sundays. We need to encourage aspiring worship leaders to be skilled on their instruments but we also need to insist that they spend time knowing God through prayer and studying the Bible. Being able to organize the worship ministry is important, but caring for the souls of the congregation is much more than just making sure all the musicians show up on time.
  4. Create a culture of empathetic analysis. Everyone needs to be open to critique, even you. This critique needs to take place in a culture that is empathetic and safe. Because we want to grow and improve, we analyze how Sunday's service went. Did the slides progress at the right time? Were the harmonies in-tune and balanced? Was the mix good? Was the keyboard part too busy? Why was there so much distortion on the electric guitar? The choir seemed sluggish - why? Did the passages chosen for the Scripture readings seem to fit the service, or did they seem to come from nowhere? All of these questions and more need to be on the table every week and as the leader of the worship ministry you need to be the first to ask them of yourself. This will create an environment where it is safe for others to ask questions and for you to analyze and critique the work of others. Empathy without analysis will lead to stagnation and slow development. Analysis without empathy will lead to discouragement. Empathy plus analysis is needed.
  5. Stay in touch. Once you've trained a worship leader and sent them on to serve in another church, don't forget about them. Stay in touch. Ask them how it's going. Find out if there is anything they need that you could help with. If they're still in the same area, combine your resources and work together when feasible. Demonstrate by the way you relate to one another that your two churches are not in competition but are actually on the same team. Who knows, maybe down the road the roles will be reversed and you'll need the assistance of this worship leader that you had the privilege of helping to develop.