I am often asked advice on how to lead praise and worship with an inexperienced team.   If you want to learn how, you will have to face this one some day: the situation whereby you have to carry a member of your band or singers, for whatever reason, even though you know this will seriously affect your worship leading and the spirit of worship in the church that service.

how to lead praise and worshipThere are many facets to this problem, but the central fact is this: you can still be a great worship leader even if your band is imperfect, or even incompetent!

How to Lead Praise and Worship But Carry Some of Your Band!

If your church is anything like mine, you are not worship leading with seasoned professionals, you are dealing with amateurs, which means that you have to be a servant and coax them along with a spirit of love and tolerance. In my book on how to lead praise and worship, I teach that there is never a reason to speak down to these people, or to embarrass them. Your job as a praise worship leader is to encourage them, even if they are poor, even if they mess up the wonderful worship leading time you had planned. I believe that the Lord will honor you for this!

Most often these individuals are trying hard, and will be crushed if you convey that you are upset with them, so please be careful even with the way you look at other band members. Remember, if you have lots of talent but no love, you are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13).  Just as you are always learning how to lead worship, so they can have a learning curve for their role too!

How to Lead Yet Carry These Guys?

There are ways and means of carrying an underachiever, but it is certainly easier in some parts of the band than others.

Singers are easy: Turn them off in the front of house with a quiet word to the sound man, but keep them in the foldback so they think they are singing. if they are actually off, turn them down a bit in the foldback.

Guitars: Similar to the above.

Bass: Much harder to hide, so I would suggest rather that you rewrite the music in a much simpler for, using basic notes with a minimum of changes per bar.

Drummers: This is the hardest. I have this situation now, and these are tough. I must say, inexperienced drummer have a habit of either slowing down in faster songs, or completely mixing up the kick and snare, so the snare is on beat one, and the kick beat two. in my church, you will often see me off mike calling out to the drummer, “the other one”, which means they have to change the kick and snare back!

The bottom line is, when you learn how to lead praise and worship and continue to serve and love with the right attitude, you will be able to bear with your less competent band members. I would chose simpler songs, even if you don’t want to. When I have one of these guys on, I will often change the songs I am doing to find something within their abilities.

Learning How to Bring the Best Out of Your Team

Finally, recognize that learning how to lead is about learning how to bring the best out of your team.  Pray and believe the Lord for an awesome worship time, even if it is not up to your standards! After all, when you are worship leading God is listening to your heart, not necessarily the quality of your music!

If you manage your team correctly, both the good and the bad members, the competent and the incompetent, then you will truly be learning not only how to lead praise and worship, but also how to lead men and women in godliness.

When you are called to leading praise and worship, there is a huge amount of joy, but this can be counterbalanced by a certain degree of pain in getting your worship leading to the point that you want it to be.

leading praise and worshipWhat Leading Praise and Worship is About

Leading praise and worship is, in fact, about those two phrases; praise and worship and leading! Sure, it helps if you play an instrument or sing well, but this is not essential when it comes to leading praise and worship. The two main requirements are that you have a heart to worship (and many people can sing or play well, but do not really know the first thing about worship!), and that you are able to be a true leader to your band and your audience.

So, what does leading praise and worship actually mean in the context of worship? We know that the Biblical definition of leading involves serving (Mark 10:45), and I believe that this is an excellent frame of reference when you consider leading praise and worship and a team.

What to Do When Leading Praise and Worship

When leading praise and worship, you ought to be responsible for the overall direction and execution of the worship in your church on any given Sunday. Most often you should decide the songs, the order of the songs, the way these songs are linked together and the style of music used, as well as specialized areas of worship such as open worship or blending into communion, etc. This should be your domain, and that means that you need to take full responsibility for every decision you make, whether it works out well or poorly.

As praise and worship leaders, we all want to know that in the successful worship times, where you really sense the Lord’s presence and power, we had a huge part in it. But when things go wrong, when the worship is tough, when the band or singers miss the mark, or the audience is bored or lost, we too have to realize that, as Franklin D Roosevelt said, “the buck stops here!”

So, leading praise and worship involves you not only setting the direction and pace of worship, it also sees you bearing the responsibility for whatever goes right or wrong during worship. You cannot have one without the other.

Leading Praise and Worship Means Leading Your Team and the Congregation

Leading praise and worship also involves leading your band and singers, dealing with the difficulties they can present, which can sometimes draw more pain than tears. YOU have to decide who is on this week. YOU have to decide what part each will play, and YOU have to tell them when they are out of line, but do this always in love!

Yet throughout all of the worship leading trials and tribulations, ultimately you mus always remember that you are in this position of  leading praise and worship to serve; to serve the Lord, to serve the Pastor and to serve both the congregation and your fellow musicians and singers. A great leader leads by serving others. A great leader leads by inspiration, not by a climate of fear and intimidation, yet as I travel the world I see gain and again worship leaders who believe that they are dictators, ruling in a climate of fear.

Leading praise and worship is first and foremost about worship, and worship is about serving. Worship leaders, I beg you, please do not laud it over your troops with an iron fist. Be strong, but also be full of love, full of grace and full of a serving heart. Then you shall truly rise to be the worship leaders you long to be. If you want more teaching on leading praise and worship check out the full Worship Training package.

True confessions: I love praise and worship hymns!  I am a modern worship leader and I LOVE praise and worship hymns!  Hymns are great!  They are majestic, and many contain more theology than the average sermon these days!  Old folk love them, conservative folk love them, but many younger praise and worship leaders have thrown them out (along with everything before 2000) when they are leading. Gee, they even think the Beatles are uncool (such ignorance!).

praise and worship hymnsPraise and Worship Hymns Are Cool!

Somewhere in the middle cries the voice of reason. Now granted, some praise and worship hymns are funeral marches, long, slow, boring and brain-numbing. Some contain rubbish theology and some are just plain irrelevant in both use of language and subject matter. Some are practically unsingable, except to 13th century monks! However, in amongst these types of praise and worship hymns are some of the greatest songs ever written, and some of the most majestic songs you could ever sing when worship leading!

Praise and Worship Hymns Add to Your Worship

Now, if you are young, and don’t believe me, check a few of them out. Praise and worship hymns like, “And Can It Be,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “How Great Thou Art” are awesome. As worship leaders, we need to be considering these songs for inclusion in our worship services, because there is an amazing level of worship and teaching in the songs.

My preference, both personal and of my church, is that we sing at least one of our favorite praise and worship hymns every Sunday service. If you are creative and musical you can play it in such a way that it is exciting and awesome, and you can venture into the very presence of God using these old songs. On top of that, the old folk in the church will be thrilled. So you win either way. Trust me, guys; there are some great songs you cannot live without in the hymns section!

But if you are going to do a hymn, don’t make it into a funeral march! The older folks will love hymns done in a new and a fresh way, so pray and ask God for some innovative ideas to make the hymn into a modern masterpiece. Then watch God unite all ages as they worship Him using this old but new song!

A Word of Caution About Praise and Worship Hymns in the Service

One word of caution, especially to the conservative evangelical denominations. There is a huge tendency to have the worship songs, with the modern beat and instruments, and then insert the token hymn for the oldies, doing this with only an organ or a piano, played in a traditional yet boring style. I strongly caution you against this, because this only promotes the “us verses them” scenario, the “your music verses our music” polarizing we see in churches.

The best way is to just roll from the modern worship songs into the praise and worship hymns, seamlessly, and using a similar modern style. The majority of older folk will appreciate the fact that you are including their song preference, and making it your own, and trying as hard to make it special as if it were your own style of song. Thus, you can use well played hymns to join hearts in worship, rather than having the separate song for the oldies.

Praise and worship hymns should provide a wonderful theme to unite the old and the young in your church, but there are keys that will help you bring these grand old songs to your church in a new and fresh way. Our calling in worship leading is not to stay stuck in the past, but to draw the very best of the past into the present day and adapt the best of Christian heritage to today’s modern worship.

If you want to learn more about worship leading with praise and worship hymns, I am giving away a free report entitled, “Arranging Hymns For A Modern Church”.