One of my favorite things to do is to develop leaders. Especially in the arena of music and “worship music.” I find great personal fulfillment and joy in recognizing, developing, and unleashing leadership potential in people.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to be in places of ministry where I could pursue that kind of mentorship and discipleship through music. It’s a beautiful thing when someone who is appropriately skilled (or has the potential) and has a desire to serve others through music can be given the time and space to develop their leadership skills.
Here are a few thoughts about leading worship with more than one person and using the concept as a development space.
1) Not everyone is skilled or even “gifted” to be THE leader.
That’s ok. Everyone on the team is leading by default, but there are some who will step forward and lead vocally or musically in a way that is different than just being part of the group. We see this obviously in the person who has the official role of “worship leader” or “minister of music” or “music director.”
2) The “Worship Leader” must check his or her ego at the door.
We can’t be threatened by others who have the potential to lead. It’s very Christ-like to recognize, develop, and unleash folks in their potential. Some of my most fulfilling times of “leading worship” come when I’m back on the drums or in the third row just watching a young worship leader serve the body in and through music.
3) The Setlist on any given Sunday (or gathering time) can be a great space for variety and diversity.
Granted, there’s something to be said for the familiar, there’s also something to be said for engaging the congregation with a diverse “face” on the team. One of the best ways to do this is to have more than one person “lead” throughout the setlist.
- Maybe that means a person vocally leads one song and another person vocally leads the next.
- Maybe it means that a person sings verse 1, everyone sings the chorus, and another person sings verse 2.
- Maybe it means that a person other than the worship leader prays before a song.
- Maybe it means a person other than the worship leader reads a scripture before a song.
- Maybe it means a person other than the worship leader shares a brief personal story in between songs.
- Make sure those of your singers who are going to “lead” vocally get the song and charts far enough in advance to live with and learn inside and out. You want them to be comfortable with the parts that they are going to be leading out on.
4) Find a rotation schedule that works for you.
The team might consist of several folks who are capable of leading worship and the possibility of rotation presents itself. As the primary worship leader you might have a conversation with your pastoral/administrative leadership about the possibility of you leading leaders and/or teams of leaders. You don’t have to be up front every gathering.
I do understand that in smaller congregations you might HAVE to be upfront for every gathering, but you might also have some folks on your team that you could work with to make point #3 happen.
5) Give “ownership” of a specific gathering to a developing leader.
Be there with them in rehearsals and during the gathering to help them lead if needed, but don’t lead for them. Let them make mistakes – correct them later. One of the ways I see development happening where I am is to let one of our young student worship leaders lead every other gathering. Just in the course of the last semester, he’s grown in leaps and bounds in his skill and his leadership of people. We’re still working on some administrative leadership skills, but in giving him ownership of a specific gathering he’s developing those skills in an accelerated manner.
6) Encourage your team members (whether they are leading out or not)!
One of the surest ways to hinder leadership development is to overly criticize without any encouragement. Constructive criticism is necessary and beneficial, but so is encouragement! Let them know you’re so proud of them!
Do you have any other thoughts, tips, or advice to add?
Russ Hutto is currently volunteering in worship leadership at St. Simons Community Church where he also serves as High School Worship Mentor. During the day he’s a mild mannered graphic designer and makes print magazines look snazzy. Russ is also the editor of The Worship Community.com.