Learning How to Lead Worship Effectively in a Conservative Church

learning how to lead worship

Learning how to lead worship inside a conservative church is a real challenge, but I believe that it is a sound and worthwhile thing to pursue.

Does YouTube Show You How to Lead Worship Effectively?

Have a look at some of the awesome praise and worship leading displayed on YouTube and you will certainly be inspired to lead effective worship.  Here is the catch… almost all the clips you are watching take place in mega churches or huge conferences, most of which are very Pentecostal or charismatic in nature!

So, in a more conservative church, is it possible to apply some of the ideas showcase on these clips and learn how to lead worship in your local church, regardless of the denomination?

Th answer lies in being wise and choosing the right techniques and ideas to apply, not transplanting the entire performance into your local church!

Many conservative churches long to have powerful worship in their meetings, but do not want what they perceive as some of the excesses that many Pentecostal churches have.

Learning How to Lead Worship… What is In, and What is Out?


Firstly, anything that is offensive to your denomination is foolish to try and bring into your conservative church. If your people don’t raise their hands, learning how to lead worship effectively must involve you not commanding people from stage to do the very thing they hate! So if I was leading worship in this environment, I would not instruct people to raise their hands.

Next, and style of music that potentially offends your people should be avoided.  Many in more conservative churches dislike heavy or hard rock, so I would only be leading worship that is more subdued with perhaps a soft rock or folk basis.

Finally, choose the songs carefully, because doing songs that are theologically dubious is sure to cause offence!  When exploring how to lead worship in a conservative church environment, I would make sure that almost all the songs were those my people recognize and love.

And yes, in a more stayed church it is a perfect opportunity to do beautiful arrangements of hymns.  Hymns do not have to be boring and dull, but if you do them right, they can become masterpieces of God’s love, touching hearts in both conservative and charismatic congregations.

So if you are learning how to lead worship in a more traditional church, be careful what you command people to do, choose a style that most will love, and do songs they know, especially new or even rock arrangements of some of the classic hymns. With a little bit of wisdom and care, and the right training, you can have a major impact on your local conservative church and touch people’s lives every time your lead worship!

For the Love of Worship!

love of worship

love of worshipHow many times have you been involved in a worship time that has flopped or is going nowhere, and you have stopped and asked yourself “Why am I even here?”

Other people may say that it’s a great worship time, that the music is excellent, that the singing is awesome, but you know deep down in your heart that there is no true worship going on… And your spirit is frustrated!

What you are experiencing is a love of worship, and a desire deep within to not settle for something less than true and genuine worship.

Why do we practice hard, do our best and play and sing to our best ability when we are involved with the worship team? It is for the love of worship!

Why do we press hard in a quiet times, spend time reading the word of God praying and preparing our hearts? It is for the love of worship!

Why then are we grieved when we see so many people pretending to do worship and only offering at best a good performance and at worst a glorification of themselves? It is for the love of worship!

When you genuinely love worship, you do not want to settle for anything less than true worship. You do not want a happy clappy time, you do not want a great performance and you do not want people coming up to you afterwards and saying that your singing or you’re playing was awesome.

When you genuinely love worship, what you want is from God to transform people’s lives as they come before his throne worshiping. As a praise and worship leader, it’s not enough to do a good job or a professional job, you want to see the holy spirit moving on people’s hearts as they humbly worship Jesus.

I believe that anything less than that is a love of good music, clever playing or singing and most often a love of self… Let us not fool ourselves thinking it is a love of worship, because if we genuinely loved worship we will pay any price, sing any song and do anything we could to see God’s holy spirit impact on people’s lives as a worship.

Although our intentions may be good, many times we settle for less because we think that that is all that we can do. But when you have seen God’s holy spirit move so beautifully and so powerfully in a congregation, you learn to not accept an imitation of the real thing!

If you are a worship leader who genuinely wants to be used by God and a powerful way to impact your congregation, I urge you to get on your knees and beg the Lord for more anointing, more skill and above all a heart that is totally devoted and totally thirsting for God.

Why do we do what we do? For the love of worship, that’s why!

Worship Thoughts for the New Year

worship leading and worship thoughts

This morning, January 1st, I sat outside the balmy Sunshine Coast heat doing my first quiet time of the year, and this was one of my daily devotionals, so I thought sharing this with you might be of use.  It’s from a devotional book I read every day by Marva J Dawn.

2015 needs to be the year that our worship leading reaches new heights, not a cut down version of last year.  What do you think of  this passage…

worship leading and worship thoughts Worship Thoughts to Start 2015

God of grace and God of glory, on your people pour your power;
Crown your ancient Church’s story; bring its bud to glorious flow’r.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.
Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1878-1969

We often don’t ask enough questions or the right kind of questions about the foundations of what we are doing. Just as scientists sometimes begin to perform medical procedures before anyone has raised the necessary moral objections, so it seems that many congregations today are switching worship practices without investigating what worship means and how our worship relates to contemporary culture.

The Scriptures, the history of the Church, and my own faith, experience, and training convince me that the vitality and faithfulness of our personal and corporate Christian lives and the effectiveness of our outreach to the world around us depend on the character that is formed in us.

What concerns me is whether our local parishes and denominations have thought thoroughly enough about worship and culture to function effectively in contemporary society. How can we best reach out to this society without “dumbing down” that essential character formation?

My major concern for the Church has to do with worship, because its character-forming potential is so subtle and barely

noticed, and yet worship creates a great impact on the hearts and minds and lives of a congregation’s members. Indeed, how we worship both reveals and forms our identity as persons and communities. . . .

In light of the “dumbing down” that happens in worship in some places, we might paraphrase Neil Postman: “When the congregation becomes an audience and its worship a vaudeville act, then the Church finds itself at risk; the death of faith and Christian character is a clear possibility.” . . .

It is not too late to ask better questions as we seek to make worship meaningful for persons in our present culture. . . . Can the Church be a place of meaningful talking, attentive listening, and profound thinking? In short, can we develop a theology of worship for the Church to flourish and grow in a turn-of-the-century culture?


Before we adopt any worship practice, O Lord, guide our thinking . . .Amen.

Let’s make this year the best worship ever!

Worship Song Books

worship songbooks

Worship Songbooks: The necessary evil?

I have seen so many great musicians and singers in churches tied to worship songbooks. There are almost possessed by them, and cannot do anything not written in the book. Even worse, they can’t play anything different to the way they originally heard it recorded on the CD!

worship songbooks  I encourage ALL people on stage to have the songs MEMORISED. This is, indeed, a scary word, because it takes a degree of effort and dedication. Believe me; you will rarely see a professional band with music sheets on front of them on stage. Why shouldn’t we be equally as good?

However, worship songbooks are considered very important because of the large number of songs we have these days in church. They also can avoid embarrassing goof ups on stage.

Considering both sides of the debate, songbooks on stage are probably a necessary evil (and certainly better than an embarrassing mistake), but should be there for glancing at only, not staring at!   Songbooks also allow last minute changes, so you can have a flash of inspiration and throw a song not scheduled for the morning in, knowing that everyone with a songbook has the words and chords at their immediate disposal.

So, after years of soul searching, tears or frustration and prayer, here are a few suggestions on how to set up worship songbooks:

1. RESTRICT THE NUMBER OF SONGS: Unless you are Superman with the memory of an elephant, you cannot have five and a half thousands songs in your repertoire. I recommend that you have several categories in your song book:

a) Current song list: around 30-40 songs which you are currently using in church regularly. These are only the REGULAR songs you sing, not songs you sang once 10 months ago, or ones that one of your worship leaders does but everyone else hates.

b) Supplementary list: around 20 songs that are not real regulars, but are used often enough to not be expelled from the lists. Over time one of these may move up into the Current song list, or you might relegate one of the Current songs back to the Supplementary. Sounds a bit like the English Premier League, doesn’t it?

cworship songbooks) Hymns: Keep these in a separate list, because, as we all know, they will never die. Now, some of you young trendies in church reckon that all hymns are funeral marches. Think again!!! While some are woeful, there are lots which are classics, and which go great with modern band backing. Songs like, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Amazing Grace” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” if done well, can be awesome worship experiences. So, guys, put them in the lists, and use them, and see how they go. I try to use at least one hymn in a service, not for the oldies but for myself, because many are superbly written and deep in theology.

d) Home Grown: I love to hear of churches who are writing their own material. Encourage it in your people, because churning out what others have written is not the height of creativity, and God is a creative God. Now, you will need to audition songs, and not accept junky songs just because one of your guys wrote it. However, if you are patient and careful, and if you press into the Lord and ask Him for great songs, you will see wonderful home grown songs and then you, the team and the people will be blessed.

Should a specific song need to be done which is not on the list, then the worship leader is responsible for providing the music and words. So, these lists don’t restrict you and stop you using other songs, but they do provide a streamlined way to deal with the worship songbook issue.

2. Everybody needs a book: I am not a fan of seeing copious amounts of paper strewn across the stage. How much better, neater and easier to find is a songbook, which contains all of the above mentioned song lists. No excuses then for missing a chord or the words.

3. The song book needs to have simple chords: Complex songbooks (such as many of the ones published) are great for trained musicians, but many musicians nowadays cannot read music (I am one of these). Chords are quick, easy to follow and give sufficient flexibility to allow musicians to improvise. Sometimes the piano player complains that he or she needs the complex, written music. If this is the case, they are likely to be completely inflexible, so taking their sheet music and giving them purely chords is a great way to encourage them to loosen up. If they still complain, let them find the complete music themselves. For the rest of humanity, chords are the way to go.

worship songbooksIn one church music team I led, there was an older man who played piano beautifully, but point blank refused to use chords, insisting on using the sheet music for every song. I decided to gently overrule him, and gave him chords alone, and he wined and complained week after week, but I kept encouraging his efforts. Within a few months, he was operating from chords brilliantly, and because he was not reading notes, he was not playing the melody, leaving plenty of room for our vocals. He then surprised both himself and me by becoming very creative, adding little bits here and there, and he eventually became one of the best pianists I have ministered with. Oh yes, I should mention that we stayed friends throughout: he’s a great guy!

4. Try to fit 2-3 songs to a page: That way you save paper, and trees, and the greenies will be able to come to church with a clear conscience. It is also easier to carry around.

5. Now you can do songs not on the play list! If the Lord speaks to your heart during worship to do a song not on the play list for that day, guess what: you all have a copy in your songbook. Just haul it out and away you go. This enables you to be sensitive to the Spirit, and enables all the band and singers to go with you!

So, while worship songbooks are not the be all and end all, they are very useful in both song selection and in helping your band and singers to keep up to speed. They are also a great tool for cell groups and people who just love to worship at home. Make sure EVERY PERSON in the band and singers gets one. This also helps to build solidarity among the team.

So, in summary…

Let me reiterate one final point: the songbooks are FOR REFERENCE ONLY, and not to be sight read. I encourage my guys to learn the songs and, yes, even memorize them. Hard work, true, but much more professional. (Can you remember the last time you saw a band on MTV singing from sheet music on a music stand? No, I can’t either!)

However, if you change tack mid-service, everyone will have the worship songbook and thus the power to be right there with you.

How to Lead Worship by Engaging Your People

how to lead worship with passion

how to lead worship with passionIf you want to learn how to lead worship effectively, one of the key elements you need to establish is how you can best engage your congregation.


As I travel the world and visit many churches, this would have to be one of the most overlooked areas I witness.  Time after time I see the praise and worship team up there singing and leading away while the congregation just staring at them, or worse, checking their cell phones.


Learning how to lead worship in an anointed way must involve the worship leader engaging the congregation.  There are simple ways to do this, but the issue is  that we are not there to “do our thing” while others watch.  In fact, if that’s all that happens that I would say that, no matter how good the worship, the music or the presentation, we have failed in our sacred calling of worship leading!


Engaging People is How to Lead Worship


Our calling to not to play great music but to lead our people on a journey to the throne of God.  The come to church with troubles, distractions and things they are thinking about, and out duty and privilege is to lead them on this incredible journey from where they are at as they walk in to an incredible experience of worship and fellowship with the Holy Spirit.


The tools we use for this include our instruments, our voices, the things we say and the songs we choose.  Therefore, we must use all of these tools to not just provide a good experience, a great sound or a terrific show, but to provide a way whereby people can worship God deeply in Spirit and in truth!


So next time you lead worship, take the time to look at your congregation.  Are they with you?  Are they truly worshiping? Are they checking their phones or chatting to friends?  It it is the latter, no matter how good your music is, you have failed in your calling!


If you notice that a lot of your people are not engaged with you, don’t just keep barreling on hoping that they will get it right.  Have a good look at your song list, and ask yourself if they like the songs as much as you do!  Try listening to the Holy Spirit as you lead, then modifying what you are doing to make sure that you are actually engaging the people.


By doing this you can learn how to lead worship more and more effectively and become a huge asset to your church family, as well as filfilling your sacred calling as a worship leader.



Worship Leading or Worship Driving?

Worship Leading not driving

Worship Leading not drivingWhen it comes to worship leading, we all want to do a great job leading an inspiring our congregations into deep worship experience. However, some congregations are a lot more difficult than others to lead, and so many zealous worship leaders find themselves driving their people rather than leading them!

Signs of Driving Your Audience

One of the key signs that you are driving an audience rather than leading them involves you as a worship leader carefully observing the people you are ministering to. You need to know that your congregation is with you every step of the way when you are worship leading, and one of the classic worship leading mistakes occurs when the band and singers are lost in worship, but the congregation is simply standing there looking at them.

As a general rule, if people are looking at their watches or checking their cell phones you have lost your audience. You are no longer leading them but attempting to drive them into worship, and they clearly don’t want to be there!

Another sure sign of driving your audience or driving them occurs when you are constantly imploring them to greater heights of worship. It is okay to verbally encourage them from time to time, but when this is a constant thing you would do well to stop, look at yourself and what you are doing, and ask if you are actually leading them!

Signs of Leading Your Congregation

Successful praise and worship leading is not about whether you worship, but whether your congregation follows you into worship. A sure sign that you are leading your people successfully is when you can see the majority of the audience lost in worship, with their eyes closed, hands raised and maybe even a smile on their faces.

Another sign that you are leading your congregation occurs when open worship explodes spontaneously from the Somme you are single, rather than being forced or concocted by the worship leader. When you sense God’s power and anointing taking control of the meeting, you can be sure that you are worship leading rather than driving.

So how can you lead rather than drive your audience every week?

One of the best things you can do is to get some good worship leader training, because the more training you have the more skilled you will be at directing and leading an audience deeper into the presence of God. Another thing you can do is to spend more time with the Lord, because your worship leading ability will be directly dependent on the vitality of your personal relationship with God.

And if you find yourself driving your audience, and all of us do from time to time, this is the time to step back and let God take over. Trusting His leading can change the situation where you are driving people into worship they don’t want to be a part of into authentic, powerful and life changing worship leading.

How to Lead Worship Without Playing an Instrument

How to Lead WorshipVery few people can tell you how to lead worship if you do not play an instrument. Many of the great worship leaders you hear of today are also musicians, and many of the most songwriters as well, so clearly there is an advantage if you play an instrument when learning how to lead worship.


As a worship leader for over 20 years, I find it much easier to lead worship if I am playing my guitar. Having my own instrument allows me to control the ebb and flow of music, to create the atmosphere that I feel is necessary, and to control the pace and key of the song. My guitar serves as a bridge between the singers and musicians in the worship team, and therefore, if you can play an instrument, I recommend that you lead worship from your chosen instrument.

Learning How to Lead Worship Without Playing an Instrument is Hard, but Not Impossible

Learning how to lead worship if you are unable to play an instrument is difficult but it is not impossible. The jump you need to make mentally is that you are doing more than singing. You have to take control of the situation, and lead your band and singers in the direction you feel in the Lord the service needs to go.

Here are some steps which may help you when leading without an instrument…

  1. Choose songs carefully, but choose them as a musician would! Make sure that you choose them incompatible keys, and do your best to select songs that are in keys which lead comfortably into each other. I like to start any lower key like F, and progress through the key of G and then finish in the key of A. This is a nice and gentle progression throughout song service.
  2. Talk to your musicians. Talk to them before the program begins, clearly outlining the direction each song will take, and the number of times you will sing each session of the song. This way you can control the direction of the song service despite not holding an instrument to coordinate this.
  3. Liaise with one member of the band. While it is great to communicate with all the band, make sure you select one person to act as a linchpin between you and the rest of the musicians.
  4. Talk to your musicians during the service. As a singer, the easiest way to communicate with your band is to pull the microphone away from your mouth and speak directly to them of mic. This way you can communicate what you want, when you want and be able to lead and guide them directly during the song itself.

Although learning how to lead worship when you are not playing an instrument is more difficult, it also opens great possibilities to concentrate on your singing and leading, and to move about in a way that is not possible when you are playing. It allows you to better communicate with the congregation and, if you learn how to communicate with your worship team effectively, you can certainly become a competent amazing worship leader, whether you play an instrument or not.

You can become an effective and powerful worship leader whether you play an instrument or simply singing when you lead. Learn how to lead worship by learning the right techniques and communicating effectively with your worship team.

How to Lead Praise and Worship with Power

Many people want to learn how to lead praise and worship, but very few manage to do this with genuine power.  Yet there are things that you can do that can cause your leading to become more powerful, and these are open to everyone regardless of how experienced you are, or how good a singer you might be!


How to Lead Praise and Worship Starting with Your Heart


Leading Worship with PowerLearning how to lead worship starts with your heart.  What happens on Sunday needs to be a reflection of what happens throughout the week in your personal devotions with the Lord, not something you turn on when the congregation arrives.


In fact, I don’t know how to lead praise and worship without my heart being fully and totally engaged with the Lord!  It seems fake or contrived if your walk with the Lord is not on track.  To lead with real power I believe that you have to be a worshiper in your quiet times as much as on stage.


Make the Right Choices


Choices are an integral part of leading worship.  You need to choose the right songs, make sure they are in the right keys, and arrange them in the right way to inject genuine power into your leading.  I often choose songs that are in the same key, and make sure that they are within most people’s range, ensuring maximum involvement from your congregation.  I always try and select songs that most people are familiar with.


However, even if you choose the right songs that people know, arranging them is another challenge.  Growing as a worship leader should involve a fair amount of learning about song construction and arrangements, because powerful leading depends on maintaining a flow between songs, so that the worship experience resembles a journey towards the throne of God.


Learning How to Flowwith the Spirit


The longer I lead the more I understand that the Holy Spirit loves to surprise us!  When you first start learning your ministry, you tend to have a heavily scripted service planned.  That is, we will do this song this many times, then the chorus twice, etc.


Now please do not misunderstand me, I am not against planning.  It has been well said that failing to plan is planning to fail, but in my experience planning how to lead praise and worship to the tiniest detail can restrict the Holy Spirit, and people’s adventure of worship!


Plan, by all means, but do not lock yourself into a plan.  Always be free enough to hear from the Spirit and change mid-stream, and then you have the best of both worlds.  The best times I have ever had in worship involved the Spirit leading me in ways I did not expect, and this is an exciting way to develop your gift!


So if you want to learn how to lead praise and worship with genuine power, prepare your heart, choose songs wisely and always be ready to deviate from your scheduled plan!

How to Lead Worship by Preparing Properly

Learning how to lead worship can be a long and difficult task, especially if you have nobody to help you.  Where do you start, how do you inspire others and where do you go in the worship?  These are all important questions that need to be answered and it is my hope that these few tips will help you learn how to lead worship the easy way.


Preparation is How to Lead Worship Effectively


Prepare your heart: 

Pray and really seek the Lord, not just before you begin the service, but before you even select the songs.  Make sure your heart is right before Him, don’t brush any sin under the carpet, and ask God to use you as His instrument to lead the people closer to Himself.  Lay aside any hidden agenda you might have and pledge to serve him alone in worship.


How to Lead Worship by Preparing Properlyhow to lead worship” src=”http://worshipleaderonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/worship-leader-10.jpg” alt=”How to Lead Worship”http://worshipleaderonline.com”>how to lead worship” width=”380″ height=”238″ />Select Songs People Love: 


The biggest mistake you can make when learning how to lead worship is to choose the songs you like.  You are not there to push your own songs and your own musical tastes, you are there to lead the congregation in praise and worship.  If you are just learning how to lead worship, make sure than the people know and love the songs you select, even if you don’t like them!  It is far easier to lead people in songs they know and enjoy rather than teaching new songs to them!


Select Songs That Go Together Musically:


If you do not have an understanding of what songs can flow from one to the next seamlessly then ask a musician who understands this.  If you are committed to learning how to lead worship learn how to understand music as well, because the two go together.


As a rule of thumb, I would start by selecting songs which are in the same key.  You can even select say 3 songs in one key, then 2 songs in the next key up, enabling you to modulate yet still flow from one song to the next.


Select Worship Team Members Carefully


If you can select your team, make sure you choose those whose hearts are pure and who have some degree of skill in singing or playing.  Choosing prideful yet good musicians often sees them taking over, but selecting good hearted poor musicians makes the entire process difficult.  If you cannot select the team (perhaps because you have an established roster), contact each member privately and encourage them in their gift and their support as you lead.


Watch your Timing:


Going overtime is another problem I often see in those learning how to lead worship, and from the pastor’s perspective it is rude and disrespectful (unless God is doing something amazing, in which case you seek the pastor’s blessing to continue).  Time each song as near as you can, and always try and go under the allotted time.


Learning How to Lead Worship Takes Time


No matter how faith-filled you are, learning how to lead worship takes time, so don’t expect to get everything right the first time.  My aim is to improve little by little, week after week, and to get some worship leader training to streamline and quicken the process.


Being a praise and worship leader is a huge privilege and a beautiful journey, but applying these principles should see you start the race well.  Take the time to grow in your craft, increase your skills and train in leadership, because learning how to lead worship is a lifetime journey.

How To Lead Worship

When You Lead People in Worship, When is it Too Loud?

When you lead people in worship, how can you tell if it’s too loud?

Years ago when I was in a Christian rock and roll band, we used to have a saying :” if it’s too loud, you’re too old. ”
It’s a funny saying and for a rock band it’s probably right, but when you lead people in worship, this does not necessarily follow! As a worshipleader, I’m not sure excessive loudness fits in the music service of a church.
When we lead people in worship, we have the amazing opportunity to bring people into the very presence of God. This is our calling, our priestly responsibility and our privilege.
When we lead people in worship, there is a number of essentials that go into the mix to make for a great worship service.  Volume is most often not one of these!

The Essential Mix to Lead People in Worship

Prayer and preparation are on the top of the list.When I lead people in worship, I spend a number of hours in prayer and preparation. I give myself to reading God’s word and there are a number of devotionals I love to read. During this time I pray about the songs that I am going to do for that meeting.

Lead people in worshipAnother important ingredient is great unity in the band. At practice and on the day of the service, it’s important that we have a like mindedness

and a singleness of purpose. This includes every member of the team: drummer, bass guitar, lead and rhythm instruments, vocalists and the sound man/woman. Unity is imperative to a great worship team. Scripture says that when we have unity, God commands the blessing.
Song choice and good flow from song to song is also very important, as is knowing when to modulate, when to have light and shade (loud and quiet).
The last thing I want to mention here is the reason for and the theme of this blog.

I visited a Church recently and while I enjoyed the service, in the worship I was “confronted” by a wall of sound. While the music was good and the mix was balanced, it felt more like I was at a concert than at a worship service. As I observed the band and the interaction with the congregation I couldn’t help it think that something was missing.


When you Lead People in Worship it Involves Everyone

Worship in a church service should be a corporate event. That means that everyone should be involved in the worship, the band and the congregation. I could not hear any of the congregation singing. Come to think of it, I couldn’t hear my own wife. Her lips were moving but I couldn’t hear her. If you are in worship and you can’t hear the congregation, it’s too loud.
It’s important to have a good sound balance coming from your front of house. If its too soft you have no control of the intensity of your mix and

people can’t hear you. If its too loud, people can’t hear themselves, and that doesn’t lend itself to great corporate worship.
Everyone involved in the production of the Worship service is important and a good mix is vital to the success of each service.
When you lead people in worship, inspire them, encourage them but don’t deafen them!