Dear Young Worship Leader

2 comments Written on March 6th, 2015     
Filed under: Leadership, Local Church, Vocation and Call
We recently had a worship intern from a local Christian college. Here are some things I told him, and a few things I wish I had told him.

  1. Whatever you do up front must be informed by relationships with these people. This church will put up with a lot if they know you love them. But don’t act like you love them; do the hard work of actually loving them.
  2. Lead these people in worship. It’s easy to close your eyes and think you’re leading the students back at college, or the crowd in that youtube video you love so much. But God has given you this unique people to lead.
  3. Don’t try to be anybody but yourself, the unique person God created for this moment. If you’re not comfortable in your own skin, then nobody else will be comfortable with you.
  4. Broaden your horizons. You may think you know what real worship sounds and looks like, but most of these people have been walking with the Spirit since before you were born. Learn the songs they like and honor that. Read old books by dead men and women who walked with the Lord centuries ago. Dig your roots deep into the church’s musical history.
  5. Push us. We need your youthful energy, we need the new songs you know, and some people here may just need your loud guitar. We may not always appreciate it, but if you have patience and thick skin, you can help us grow and learn and experience a fresh movement of the Spirit.
  6. Learn to work a team. You need to know how to talk to drummers and pianists and vocalists and the sound crew. This gig involves leadership, which demands communication of your vision, values, and expectations to everybody on the team.
  7. Work with me, not against me. I want to see you shine, and I want to see this church worship the Lord; I’m going to do my best to make sure those two things happen. So talk to me, and share your heart with me, but give serious consideration to what I’m saying, as well.
  8. It’s imperative that you learn to get out of the way and let Jesus shine. Leading people in worship can go to your head quickly, especially if you’re good at it. If people walk away Sunday impressed with your amazing chops and your skinny jeans and your ability to work a room, then you’ve failed. If they walk away having been blessed by the Spirit, and you can in all honesty leave all the glory behind, then it’s been a good morning.
  9. Have fun.


What other advice would you offer a person just beginning the journey of worship leadership?


Dan Whitmarsh is pastor at Lakebay Community Church in Lakebay, Washington. He’s the father of two lovely daughters who keep him very busy. When he does have a free moment, he loves to test the local waters with a fly rod or explore trails in the nearby mountains. He finds his musical expression in leading worship, playing mandolin in a bluegrass band, and playing trumpet in the town brass band. Most of his favorite worship music has a fiddle and a banjo.

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2 comments “Dear Young Worship Leader”

Dan, this is really good stuff – I’m sharing it with my current intern, too!

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Wonderful points Dan, your comments really resonated with me. I recently had a discussion with a young worship leader in which I touched on your number 4 – but from a slightly different perspective. I wanted to communicate that when going into a new congregation, it can be easy for a skilled musician to dismiss the current music environment as antiquated or lacking in modern technique. While it is often a part of the calling to challenge and expand the style – it is vitally important to recognize that in some cases, this simplistic arrangement or style could be a cherished and vital part of this congregations worship. Discarding or dismissing it immediately in favor of your more modern style can accidentally convey the message that “you folks are worshipping wrong, let me show you how it’s done”. The hard part is finding how to come alongside your congregation to begin building a new style together.

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