I was a young adult when I first started leading worship for junior high kids. Many years later I was ‘called up to the big leagues’, the Weekend Assemblies. Our church happened to be filled with music industry pros. Though I was in my mid-30’s, I was a beginner at leading worship. It was all a little intimidating. 🙂
Here are some ideas that have worked for me. They’re helpful when you’re starting out leading worship, or mentoring those who are, and good reminders for those of us who are more experienced. The core principle is to make it easy for the average person to worship.
12 Practical Tips For Worship Leaders Starting Out
1. Prepare as much as you possibly can. There are numerous benefits to being well prepared. It gives you peace of mind, confidence and calms the nerves. Remember the adage “prepare as if everything depends on you, pray as if everything depends on God.” Don’t just rehearse your set, also practice the presence of God.
2. Memorize the songs if possible, or big chunks of them. Practice until the music and singing is second nature. You’re training your brain’s muscle memory for your fingers and ingraining the tonal pitch center for your singing. This will free you up to be more spiritually sensitive and engaging with the congregation.
3. Transitions: Work on your transition game. Think through the songs so they flow smoothly. Practice the transitions between songs. Rehearse them over and over until they are clear in your mind. Visualize them.
4. Speaking: Write down what you’re going to say and where. Use bullet points. Rehearse talking and playing your instrument at the same time.
5. Be a good host. Imagine you’re inviting guests into your home. Be warm and welcoming. Then, take them on a journey that draws them closer to God.
6. Relax. Breathe. When we get excited the tendency will be to rush the tempo. Pace the songs at a sing-able tempo.
7. Be you. Don’t try to be like somebody else. David didn’t take out Goliath wearing Saul’s armor. Use your strengths. Don’t kill yourself trying to copy a song’s recording. Simplify your arrangements.
8. Use good time management. If your church has a tight time frame, rehearse using a stopwatch or timer. Work out the timings.
9. Get in the God Zone. For the days or hours leading up to the service, position yourself so you can receive from God. We minister from the overflow of the heart (Luke 6:45). So, sow to the spirit (Gal 6:8 ). Eliminate distractions. Try to organize your other responsibilities so you can be focused on this one thing. You may want to fast or eat lightly. Invest a little more time with God.
10. Pray. Pray for the congregation, the team, the pastor and message, and your role. God will work through you. Ask for intercessors to pray for you too. See also this post on discernment, The Standard Answer.
11. Warm up your voice. All vocalists should do this. Check out Vocal Coach for great voice resources.
12. Projection: Double check all the song lyrics with the projectionist and review the flow with him/her.
13. Finally, bring your “A Game”. Lead clearly, confidently, and with authority. God has called you to this role, in this place and at this time. So, feed the sheep. Help the people in your community express their worship. They may not know how to do that until you show them. Model it.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Would love to see your ideas in the comments.