2. Set the Expectation for Leadership
There seems to be an unspoken idea that women don’t need to come prepared to truly lead during a worship service. However, we often say we are looking for more than just good singers—we want our leaders to be zealous worshipers and thoughtful counselors whether onstage or off. We have tried to set and reset the expectation that our ladies are leading even if they are not singing the lead vocal on a song. Whether you are leading on melody or singing harmonies, you are leading! This means we encourage our female leaders to lead with the same countenance and fervency throughout the entire worship set even if they are not the lead vocal. Why is this important? Because as leaders on a stage, we set the temperature and tone for the people in the room, and our prayer is that the men and women attending our church would see every song as an opportunity to passionately celebrate the truth and beauty of who God is. When we lead with disengaged body language and reserved singing, we communicate that something about a song isn’t very important, and that’s just not true.
It’s important to encourage and invite your female leadership into shepherding the room when they step up to lead a song, whether through prayer or verbal exhortation during the song. Begin to invite her to be sensitive to feeling out a room and listening to the Spirit during a service—He knows what your people need to hear and how they need to be led and encouraged.
3. Give Feedback
The thing I hear most from women leading worship is that they are just plain unaware of how they can grow. They aren’t hearing frequent feedback or encouragement regarding their leadership, but they want to know! I have yet to come across a woman in leadership who is content with haphazard leadership—they all take this calling and opportunity seriously. Likewise, we need to be developers who affirm their calling and gifting by offering frequent feedback. If you have taken our online program, Foundations, or if you have read our Field Guide, you know that our culture has a high value for feedback. We want our leaders to see the ways they are gifted and the ways they can stretch those giftings to glorify God. So where do we begin with feedback? Identify the ways your female leaders are strong—maybe it’s in harmonies, maybe it’s in countenance, or maybe you have seen their gifting to shepherd and counsel. Celebrate these gifts with your vocalists!
We all know we have things to grow in, so honor the time and commitment of your female leaders by pointing out areas of potential. You may have a vocalist who has an incredible stage presence and posture but lacks skill in easily hearing and singing harmonies. Make them aware of this opportunity for growth, and encourage them to listen to artists and albums that model it well, or better yet, take the time to work on harmonies for your songs in rehearsals.
Try not to present a problem without a solution. If you see immense potential in one of your female leaders, you do them no favors by allowing that area to go undeveloped. Bring up what you see and make a plan to get better!
4. Use Rehearsals as a Training Ground
If you lead with many different female vocalists or if you have been leading with one who gets little to no practice time with your bands, consider inviting them to your rehearsals and structure the time to make room for their development.
Maybe your goal and aim for your vocalists is the ability to give a call to worship or read Scripture over the congregation. Think through the pieces of your liturgy that your female leaders could be owning, and use rehearsal as a time to practice that. As you run through transitions, ask her to read a few verses to get a feel for proclamation with instrumentation behind her. Perhaps one of your female leaders has expressed hesitation in praying during service, so ask her to pray during rehearsal to become more comfortable in that element.
We have encouraged our worship pastors to even use rehearsals to run songs in various keys with their female vocalists singing lead, even if they don’t anticipate having her lead that song for a few weeks. Many women lead without an instrument and can’t get the feel of a tune without the help of some accompaniment, so rehearsal is often the best time to get her acquainted with song structure, key and melody. This is also a chance for your bands to become familiar with changing the key of some of your frequently-led songs.
We all know how nerve-racking it can be to be asked to do something on the spot without practice, and it takes repetition for you and me to become comfortable leading a worship set outside of just singing. Likewise, give your female leaders space to try new things and receive feedback!
If you are a pastor in need of female leadership, I encourage you to pray! Ask God to reveal to you women who are gifted and called to lead your body and when He does, honor Him by offering encouragement and clear paths of development. Lastly, I want to encourage you that if you have women leading with you that you have yet to develop, it’s not too late to challenge and encourage your team. As I have served with Austin Stone Worship, I have seen God answer our prayers time and time again to provide female leadership for our team, and I believe that investing in their growth is honoring God in that provision. As believers, we should strive for excellence in all things, especially when the task before us is feeding God’s sheep. Sunday morning is not just some holy experience. It’s fuel for the believer and encouragement for the faint of heart that God is near and active and cares for us. Let us not be guilty of neglecting to pursue excellence in the leadership of this incredible calling.
This article on women in worship originally appeared here, and is used by permission.