Effectively Leading A Worship Band

My wife, Kirsten, and I have been leading worship together for many years. We learned early on that her gift is to sing and lead the congregation and she does that with great grace. My gift, however, is not so “out front” for the most part. While I do sing and lead worship, my gift has more to do with creating song arrangements and leading the band during the actual church services. The official title would be “Music Director” or MD for short.

This method of leading has worked well for us. Most of our local churches have volunteer musicians who love playing their instrument and love worshiping God through their instrument, but they also have full time jobs and families. Their priorities have to be in order which means that most church musicians don’t have the time to memorize every note or the format of every arrangement. In most cases this would lead to having train-wrecks in our worship services. While the occasional train-wreck is going to happen, most of them can be prevented by having someone who is “glueing it together” musically. When something starts getting a little off during a song, I can talk to the band through their in-ear monitors and pull things back together. I can also count songs in or let someone know their guitar solo is coming up. I do this by having a microphone set up that only the band hears.

Another advantage to this style of leading worship is that we don’t have to be totally glued to the same arrangements all of the time. While I do appreciate well rehearsed arrangements that work and flow well, I also recognize that as a worship leader I am not just playing music at people or even to the Lord. My job is to lead the folks in our congregation in worshiping God. So, there is the response of the people to God and what the Holy Spirit is doing in those people that has to be factored into how we are leading any particular song.

How this finds expression practically: For the most part we stick to the rehearsed format, but occasionally Kirsten will feel led to repeat a part of a song or add something that wasn’t there originally. Sometimes there will be moments where we just have an instrumental time without vocals or sometimes we will sing freely. I think the most important thing is that we are genuinely worshiping God with all that we have and we take others on the journey with us. My role in the process is to be aware of what is happening in the room and watch Kirsten to see where she is leading. Most of the time we are on the same page with little actual communication, but there are times that she goes a different direction and I have to bring the band along with her.

Here are three key ingredients to making this style of leading work. (there are many more but these are what I feel are the most crucial)

  1. Trust. I have to trust Kirsten to hear from the Holy Spirit and to lead the church. She has to trust that I have her back and will follow her where ever she goes. There’s not a power struggle going on because we both know our role and we are secure in the gift God has given to us.
  2. Preparation. There are times that Kirsten and I might disagree about a song or arrangement, but that needs to be worked out before we bring it to the stage. Once we have the set list, we get it out to our team using an online service called planningcenteronline.com. This tool allows us to send our team the service details as well as charts and MP3 files. We try to get our sets out a week in advance so that folks on our team will have time to rehearse at home and if nothing else, they can listen to the songs throughout the week.
  3. Lead the congregation past yourself. Performers and Entertainers pull a crowd to themselves. Worship leaders take people beyond the stage and into God’s presence. If we ever fall into the trap of wanting the glory for ourselves, we are destined to fail. This is what Satan did.

I hope this is helpful for anyone reading. Feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments. I certainly don’t have all the answers on the matter of leading worship, but I have been at it long enough to learn a few things and I want to share anything that would help someone else. God Bless. -K