You Want To Be A Worship Leader?
Wise words for young worship leaders – Don’t be sheepish, be a Shepherd
When we read the Bible, there aren’t that many references to worship leaders – at least not in the way that we use the term today. In the Old Testament there are those who serve in the temple – they are in charge of music and singing, so that’s pretty close, but these days we have a much greater expectation that our worship leaders will not just sort the music, but that they will actually LEAD us in WORSHIP. So what does that mean for us who find ourselves at the front of church armed with a guitar and half a dozen well-known worship songs?
I find the list of jobs in Ephesians 4:11-13 really helpful. It says that God has appointed ‘apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people’.
As we gather together with other believers in worship, that is one of the things that we are doing – we are preparing each other so that when we leave the building and return to our ‘normal’ lives, we are better equipped to live on fire for God, wherever He has placed us. And that, in my mind, is the work of a Pastor.
It’s one of the reasons why I am glad that my job title is Worship Pastor, not Musical Director or Song chooser. Don’t get me wrong, as the passage suggests, God appoints people and gives them gifts in the way that He chooses – not all worship leaders will necessarily be pastors, but I do believe that there should always be a pastoral element to worship leading, whether that comes from another person working with the worship leader or from the WL themselves.
I love the way Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. That is what pastors do – they Shepherd. And that is what we are called to be like – Worship Shepherds! Here are some things that we can learn from shepherds:
- Shepherds make sure their flock is fed sufficiently. Make sure you are always feeding people with the life sustaining, nourishing Word of God – who He has revealed Himself to be in scripture, what His great promises are, what He is like, etc. You can do this by singing songs that contain scripture, but also keep your Bible open in front of you as you lead and speak word from the Bible over people in between songs.
- Shepherds gently but firmly guide their flock. Have an idea of where you are going when you lead worship and don’t expect everyone to immediately be there with you – you sometimes need to lead from out front and say ‘hey, come over here and see this view!’ Again, Bible verses and passages can be a great help in this. Whether it is a journey of knowing you are forgiven, to going out to serve in the power of the Holy Spirit. Ask God before the meeting and choose songs that flow well, that give a helpful sense of narrative – think about what you would like to say and then find a song that articulates that, rather than just singing songs that seem to go down well.
- Shepherds know when to let the flock rest. Look at the pace of your overall set of songs – is there celebration and praise? Is there room for meditation and reflection? Confession and thoughtfulness? Maybe choose a song that doesn’t have many words, or even an instrumental during which you invite people to just consider a particular portion of scripture, or attribute of God’s. Meditation or ‘space to think and chew things over’ is a key part of worship. Keep the tempo and the content varied so that it is easily digestible.
- Lastly, Shepherds just care. They look after the flock and if they can’t meet their needs themselves, they take them to where someone else can. As you lead worship, there will inevitably be some people who are really struggling in life, who will really benefit from you pointing them towards a greater hope – a day when all tears will be wiped away. Reminding them that Jesus gave His all on the cross to give us His perfect peace, hope and joy. This is when worship really does prepare people for living fully on fire for God, 24-7.