I’ve had the privilege of serving for over 25 years as a pastor, worship leader and worship leader trainer. In that time I’ve also had the privilege of developing many worship leaders one-on-one, in groups and online, who were at different levels of maturity and skill.
I’ve worked one-on-one and life-to-life with four to five worship leaders, very closely with at least 80-90 worship leaders (in live, extended mentoring situations), and less intimately with a few thousand other worship leaders through online training experiences.
At some point, I settled in on what I was looking to see in a beginning worship leader, and what I was looking to see in someone who was wanting to mature as a worship leader.
Here are some ideas from my experience that may help you—whether you are a pastor, worship leader or a developer of worship leaders.
12 Questions We Must Ask About a Worship Leader
A worship leader is a spiritual leader, and is modeling spiritual leadership for the congregation every time they step up to lead worship. For that reason, all the qualities that we look for in any spiritual leader in the church—be they a pastor, elder, small group leader or youth worker—apply to the worship leader as well.
These are the 12 questions I am always quietly asking in the background as I prepare to work with a worship leader, at any level of skill or maturity. I hope these questions can help you as you do the same.
1. Are they humble? Humility is an accurate understanding of yourself; not too high, and not too low. I’m looking for a worship leader who is comfortable in their own skin, but considers others better than themselves (Phil. 2:3).
2. Do they have a vibrant secret life with God, and are they intentional about their own formation? Jesus went off regularly to pray. If a worship leader is more drawn to the limelight of the stage than to the searchlight of intimate friendship with God, they won’t self-feed in their spiritual life (Luke 5:16). I want them leading themselves in worship first, when no one is listening, before they are leading others.
3. Are they able to take direction or correction? Is the person eager to receive direction, and do they apply it quickly—or are they reluctant, over-confident and slow to respond (passive aggressive)?
4. Are the accolades and affirmations of people too important to them? If a worship leader is not centered, not growing rich in their private life with Jesus, they’ll draw strength from the accolades that come with the turf of visible, musical leadership (Matt. 6:5).
5. Are they doing what they do to serve, or to gain favor? I’m looking for a servant to others—someone who takes Jesus seriously when he says that the greatness is found through caring for others (Matt. 23:11). A worship leader must be a Giver; not a Taker. (This is why I move slowly with teenagers.)
6. Are they good husbands or wives, parents and family members? My radar is always up, reading the worship leader’s family dynamics, in their particular stage of life. Are they working to love those God has placed closest to them? Or are they self-absorbed and letting others carry burdens that are theirs to own?
7. Are they willing to train others to take over for them? This is a biggie. Are their feet glued to the stage, or are they free to defer to others and to create a path for those around them to fulfill their callings? If a worship leader does not have at least a lean toward being an equipper, I’m slower to work with them. (In another post soon, I’ll write about working with artists, and the slight difference in this area.)