Worship Leaders: It IS all about YOU!

All about youLike it or not, if you are the worship leader at your church, it IS all..about…you!  Just not in the way you would expect.

You are in charge of planning, preparing and executing one third to one half of the entire service.  How well you do that is essential to the people you are charged with leading week after week.

I know there is a lot more to being a good song leader than what the congregations hears on Sunday morning.  It takes a lot of work away from the stage to create a service that effectively inspires God’s people to worship rather than being entertained.  The responsibility for that lies squarely on your shoulders.  In that sense, it IS all about you.  It is about how you view the gathering and how you prepare for it.

Choosing Better Songs

If you want the majority of the men and women in the congregation to sing with the team, you MUST choose better songs.  By better songs, I mean songs that have clear, compelling, theologically grounded and Christ centered lyrics.  Songs that talk about God, the Cross, Christ and any other biblical topic that would inspire God’s people to sing to God!  If you want us to sing, then choose songs that are WORTH singing!

Let’s be realistic.  The christian “worship” business is exactly that: a business.  And business is good!  The business, of that business, is to sell the latest worship recording by the latest worship artist.  To be clear, it is not your job to make your congregation sing the latest worship song put out by the worship business.  Your job is to sift through the plethora of disposable songs they offer to find the jewel.   That, my friend, takes work.

The wrong way to choose songs

People on the worship team were always suggesting songs for us to use.   Like you, I would typically put the CD’s they gave me in the car and listen to them as I drove places.  What I noticed over time was that I was always drawn to songs that had a great musical hook, groove or progression.  I’m a guitar player, so any cool guitar work immediately moved a potential song into the “We should do this”category.  That is the entirely WRONG way to approach songs for the worship team.  What matters MOST, when it comes to song choices,  are the words we sing.

The right way:  Read the Lyrics before you listen to the song!

I learned this trick 10 years ago and it has served me very well since then.  The first thing I do when I get a new song is I read the lyrics without listening to the music.  Great music can often mask poor lyrics.  Reading the lyrics without listening to the song first, will help you spot issues you might otherwise miss. When I read the lyrics I am looking at three things:

Does the song contain error or half-truths?

First do they contain any error or false doctrine?  You would be surprised how utterly clueless our modern song writers are to basic Bible theology. If you are not sure about it, ask your pastor for his thoughts.  Give him a copy of the lyrics and ask him if he sees anything wrong with them.  (Side note:  once you pare the list down to the songs you think would work, give them to the pastor for his input)

If the song is off here, you should eliminate it from consideration immediately.

Does the topic make sense?

The next thing you want to consider is the topic of the song:  What is the song about?  Do you need another song about this particular topic at this particular time? Does it even make sense as you read it or does it seem that writer was merely trying to get things to rhyme?  When you read a song without listening to it, it is EASY to spot weakness in this area.  There are so many songs to choose from that you should cross these types of songs off the consideration list and move on.

Is the song too vague?

The last thing I consider at this stage is the clarity of the song.  Some lyrics are vague and so touchy-feely that only a few people in the congregation might even understand them.  If the congregation won’t get the poetic theme of the song, however clever it might be, they won’t sing the song.  If they won’t sing the song, then into the reject column it should go.

It is up to you!

As the worship leader, you have the privilege, honor and responsibility of shaping the worship life of the congregation.  We gather week after week after week and sing the songs that you have chosen for us to sing. Sometimes for YEARS!  If you take this aspect of song selection seriously you will have the distinct honor of participating with God in transforming our lives.  If you don’t, we may just wither on the vine.  I hate to say this, but it IS up to you.  In a very real way, you are the worship gate keeper of the congregation.  Rise to the challenge.

For more on Worship Leading, read this article on Worship Leader Make-Over: Defining the Goal of a Worship Leader

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on October 10, 2014, in Christianity, Church Leadership, Contemporary Church Culture, Worship and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Restless Pilgrim

    I’d say that the most useful thing a music leader can do is to choose songs which tie into the theme of the service (readings, sermon etc).

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    • Hi Restless,

      I agree that is important! A greater issue for evangelical worship leaders, in my humble opinion, is they choose very poor songs for the congregation to sing! Choose any chord progression in G major and insert “Blah, blah, blah, God, blah, blah, blah, Me My I” into it and that will about cover it.

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        Completely agree. My two main beefs are:

        1. Theology
        Not every song needs to be a summation of Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica”, but it is extremely beneficial for a congregation if the songs help develop well-formed Christians.

        2. He must increase, I must decrease
        The songs should primarily focus on God…not ourselves.

        One random remembrance… I was once at a worship leaders’ conference and the presenter made a very good point about modern songs. He asked “If someone read the lyrics to the songs we sing on Sunday, would it be obvious that we worship a triune God?”. The obvious answer is “No!”. Here’s what we sing every Sunday at my Church:

        Priest: Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess:

        People: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and inseparable.

        People: “We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.”

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  2. Totally agreed. Glorify God! Through and through! And attach the theme of the service, to help the congregation prepare to hear from God during the scripture and sermon.

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