10 Reflections on Worship Leaders

Over my years of church consulting, I’ve heard many, many stories about the person who leads the church to sing during a worship service. The title varies (e.g., Minister of Music, Worship Pastor, Song Leader, etc.), but the task is generally the same. Here are some of things others have most affirmed about worship leaders, followed by concerns most often raised.

When church leaders affirm worship leaders, they often affirm:

  1. They lead worship; they don’t just direct songs. This may be the most common positive I’ve heard over the years. You can tell the difference when the person leading truly wants to guide the congregation to worship. 
  2. They’re theologically strong. They know theology matters. In most cases, one of their criteria for evaluating a music selection is its theological teaching. 
  3. They coordinate the entire service to promote strong worship. They work with other pastors—particularly, the preacher—to tie together the elements of the service without creating something that feels rigid and forced. 
  4. They strive for excellence. They make that commitment not because they want to produce a good “show,” but because they believe the Lord deserves our best. 
  5. They get out of the way. That is, they clearly lead, but it’s almost as if they lead invisibly. You just know they want to point people to Jesus.  

On the other hand, here are some of the concerns raised:

  1. They move too quickly in making changes. This is particularly the case when shifting worship styles. 
  2. They choose songs that are almost not sing-able. They can sing the songs as soloists, but the songs don’t work for congregational singing. 
  3. They’re apparently comfortable with less than the best. Disorganization and poor production are common, and no one seems to want to address those issues. 
  4. They “preach” more than they sing. Well-placed words are welcomed, but sermons between songs become problematic.  
  5. They leave little time for the sermon. Even when the service plan gives sufficient time for preaching, they still use more time than planned—and preachers feel like they must cut their time. 

What might you add to the list? And, I encourage you to add a positive if you choose to add a negative . . . .  


  • Robert Ivey says:

    Worship leader are often more “in tune with the Spirit” when it comes to the direction of a particular service than the message that the pastor shares (I have felt that a few times after a service). My big concern is that we have lost the understanding that worship is more than just music, and that the primary “worship leader” is the be the pastor.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    A useful analogy for the relationship between the pastor and others who play a role in leading worship is the horse-drawn vehicle. such as a cart or wagon. I lived in farm country when I was a boy as I still do now and in England where I lived as a boy, horses were used to pull loads as well as tractors and even to plough fields. It was just after World War II.

    Vehicles which are pulled by a pair (or by a team of several pairs) have a pole which attaches between the wheel pair. This helps to ensure that the pair or team are drawing the cart or wagon in the same direction. and not in different directions if they were simply harnessed to the vehicle. The farmer or farm worker drives the horses or leads them, depending upon the weight of the load. He determines the direction in which the horses will draw the vehicle and guides them in that direction. Now in a church service the pastor is the farmer or farm worker driving or leading the horses and the horses are the other worship leaders and the congregation. (The farmer is ultimately God in the person of the Holy Spirit.)

    In some churches for various reasons the pastor will abnegate this role and in doing so it can have a deleterious affect upon the church service. Instead of moving in one direction, it may move in several different directions. The pastor may abnegate the role because he is not interested in music and may not understand its role in the church service. He or the music leader may have the mistaken idea that music leader and service leader are separate roles. He may have a music leader who has a strong personality and is insistent that everything should be done his or her way. He may be a newcomer to the church which may have been without a pastor for a while and in which a member of the congregation has taken on the role of selecting the hymns and songs for the service and another member of the congregation the role of leading the congregation singing. These two members may have become accustomed to functioning independently. The music for the church service may be selected without any thought to the occasion, the part of the service in which it is used, any Scripture that is read, or the pastor’s sermon. The hymns and songs may be placed at junctures in the service because that is where a previous pastor or a previous church that church members attended placed them. The result is the church service moves in different directions instead of one. It may zigzag this way and that way and go nowhere.

  • Gary says:

    Great post!


    Southern NH, USA

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