I have been an official worship leader for 4 years now.
And I say “official” because I have been worshiping God through the gift of my voice for a very long time. Even though I did not have a stage or platform to worship from, my worship was just as powerful to my audience of one: the Holy One. All of our voices are a gift from God, and He LOVES to hear us worship Him!
I want to start off by saying, being on worship team is not for the faint of heart.
It is a constant battle of the flesh. We are literally in the spot light, in all of the photos. It is a constant battle to not elevate ourselves and to elevate God. It is a battle between performance and worship. It is a battle of resisting comparison among other worship leaders. And because we are serving God by using a gift He has given us, we can take all feedback, the good and bad, very personally. I have found the best way to practically overcome any ego associated with worship leading is to constantly thank God for the incredible honor it is to worship Him. Especially now, with Christians around the world literally being killed for worshiping God, I am constantly praising God for the privilege and honor it is to worship Him freely! I take a step back and am always in awe that God has given someone like me the opportunity to lead others into His presence. Humility is key! But do not mistake ego with confidence- God gives us the confidence we need to use the gifts He has given us!
For more practicality, learning the set list for each week is a great place to start. For me, I listen to each song on the set several times a day. My life might look different than yours as I am a stay at home mom, but I often practice in my car as I’m running errands, during my walks, and in my home as I’m doing housework. I love to find YouTube videos of live performances of the songs to learn from other worship leaders! I also always have the lyrics of the songs saved on my phone or computer so I am able to get the lyrics memorized. Some people print them off or even write them down. We are all unique with how we best memorize songs, so it is important to do whatever works best for you! This is the first step. This step also enables worship leaders to fully and whole-heartedly worship rather than perform. The words of worship songs are always based upon or directly pulled from the Word of God. Because of that, the words of worship songs are extremely powerful.
But, if we “kind of” know the lyrics, and we mess the words because of that, the new person in the crowd may miss what they needed to hear to experience freedom. And most importantly, if we aren’t prepared, we are “kind of” praising God and elevating Him since we will be more focused on what the words are than Jesus. So, once I’ve got the song memorized, I practice with the “loop track” which is basically the instrumental of the song with a click of the beat. I practice as if I am on stage on a Sunday! My audience (my 10 month old) always hypes me up. Once I feel confident in my practical preparation, the spiritual prep begins.
Now, I invite God into the entire process of practicing, but once I am 100% confident in every song on the set, I am able to begin “attaching” to the song. What I mean by this is, say we are leading a fun praise song like “The Name of Jesus” by Highlands Worship. Some of the lyrics are: “I will not be shaken, when troubles come you’re the one I call. You are my foundation, a solid rock I will stand on.” I begin attaching my personal praise to God! I begin dwelling on how faithful God has been to me. I begin declaring that I am planted firmly in Him so I will NOT be shaken no matter what I face! As for worship songs, take “Here Again” by Elevation Worship for example.The chorus is: “I’m not enough, unless you come, can you meet me here again” and part of the bridge is “Not for a minute was I forsaken, the Lord is in this place”. I begin unraveling myself before God and humbling myself before Him- Lifting him high as I know I will never be whole or “enough” without Him. I recall all the times God showed up in my darkest moments. I was truly never forsaken! And I worship Him from the depths of my heart and soul. I do this with every single song on the set so that by the time Sunday comes, it is not a performance- it is true worship.
More practically speaking, taking care of our health is extremely important. Making sure we get enough rest, nutrient-dense food and water is essential for fueling our bodies. Leading worship is quite the exercise for our bodies and our minds! Taking mental breaks, limiting my time in front of screens, and getting out in nature has been extremely helpful for my mental health when it comes to worship leading as well. All the times I have had massive brain farts on stage is when I neglected my physical or mental health the week leading up to Sunday! Also, be prepared to sweat. It gets hot on stage with all of the lights and movement- dress accordingly and make sure you put on deodorant that day (it's funny, but seriously).
Worship is for us, but it’s not about us.
Worship is for the veteran leading from the stage as much as it is for the new person in the crowd. Worship connects us to God and it also elevates God. Yes, we worship God to usher in His presence that breaks off chains, sets captives free, brings peace and restoration, but ultimately, our worship is to magnify WHO God is. How do we know who He is? By getting into His word and connecting with Him DAILY. This is another essential element of being a worship leader.
All in all, worship leaders practically prepare so that we can be spiritually equipped.
We need both practical and spiritual preparation in order to worship rather than perform. If we ever feel stuck on learning a part, want to improve our vocals, or want to really take a song to the next level, we have incredible leaders we can lean on as resources for this within our church! We are ALL worship leaders, and even if you don’t believe your voice is “good enough”, God thinks it’s the most beautiful in the world and He wants to hear you. I am so honored to lead worship for My City Church and am excited to worship with you all every Sunday!
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