Co-leading: Using Multiple “Leaders” in One Set


Something I’ve always aspired to in all of the places I’ve been given stewardship in the areas of worship leadership is the idea of having a team of worship leaders. Not just one focal person the whole time and definitely not the “most talented” guy or gal having a monopoly on the entire setlist on any given Sunday.

Some days it works out well, and others it takes a whole lot more work.

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we dive in: EVERY PERSON on the stage is a worship leader in a sense. The person calling the shots, the person strumming the rhythms, the piano player, the choir, the bass player, and yes even the drummer!

This brief article is not written to suggest that the team is not a leadership team…because it is!

This article is all about coaching and mentoring. And ultimately about empowering people to use their gifts.

So, what I DO mean about co-leadership for the sake of this article, is the people who are vocally leading the congregation. Or to simplify the lead vocalist (not necessarily just anyone who sings the melody, though). The person who through their singing, cues, and presence leads the band, and congregation into worship.

At times in our journey this will be easy to find, because there are naturally “up front” people. Then there are other times when we need to coach and mentor folks up into those roles.

But what we need to be willing to do first, is to LET GO of the leadership mantle ourselves. We should not ever be threatened by raising up, training, and sharing that mantle with others.

Since I started as a music/youth pastor double threat it was easy for me to dive into from the beginning. We didn’t have a band…so we begin to recruit and develop. After a while we had an awesome student band, filled with more than one person capable of leading.

At another stop in my journey, we had a beautiful multi-generational team in which EVERY single song in the setlist was led by a different person. Does it have to be that way? Not necessarily. Were some songs vocally better than others, sure, because people were on different steps in their growth process, but they all had one thing in common. A key leader in their life who saw potential in them and gave them an opportunity.

Now every now and then some of those that had potential took longer to develop than others, or didn’t blossom out at all. Them’s the breaks! You have to learn how to roll with the punches and learn from every experience.

Some places of worship will only want the most excellent in front of other people leading. I get it! We want to offer the Lord a great sounding offering of praise and worship, right? Makes sense. But I also know that the Lord smiles down on the hearts of leaders who not only pursue excellence but who also take time to invest in those who show that musical and leadership potential.

I’m at a place now just like this. We have several environments where we can “farm system” some of our growing leaders. And then we have several other environments where they can continue to learn and grow. In our youth ministry, we’ve just implemented some individual lessons and some small group music theory classes to help students who are interested in that sort of thing. They are EATING IT UP!

There are many of you who will be at small churches who might not have the luxury of being able to rotate leaders. Don’t be discouraged. Keep your eyes and ears open. Look in all spaces. Don’t look down on the young! Some of my best co-leaders throughout the years have been under the age of 18!

Here’s a few tips for using multiple leaders in one set:

  • Pitch the song in the right key for that vocalist.
  • Make sure the style suits the vocalist.
  • Make sure the vocalist knows the song ahead of time.
  • Encourage the vocalist with appropriate feedback.
  • Critique them with loving feedback if necessary.
  • Work with them above and beyond rehearsal times if they lack confidence.
  • Share a verse with another vocalist or let them lead out on a bridge.

Have you used multiple vocal leaders in one setlist? How did it go? Share your tips and advice!