Ten Commandments for Worship Leaders and Worship Team Members
Church Worker Handbook--
What You Didn't Learn in
Why do we even need a Ten Commandments for Worship Leaders? Here’s why…
· There are thousands of tithe-paying worshippers in evangelical congregations across the country whose taste and preferences in Christian music style are not being represented or even given serious consideration. These under-represented worshippers are the ones who ask merely for a music mix that includes an occasional song in the Gospel style instead of a steady diet of praise and worship and contemporary music.
1. You shall remember the primary purpose for your being up in front of the congregation during praise and worship.
As the worship leader, you are responsible to set the pace for the rest of the team in assuring that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. 1 Cor. 14:40. Every team member should be a role model of how to participate enthusiastically yet reverently in the worship experience.
2. You shall covenant with your self and the others in your group to do everything from behind the cross of Christ.
Everything you do, say, and wear should be designed to render yourselves invisible with Christ and His cross plainly visible.
3. You shall consult with the senior pastor regarding how he/she would like the worship block to fit into the flow of the rest of the service.
Worship services will change from Sunday to Sunday as a result of various activities and events such as: Communion, baby dedications, special presentations, and special speakers. Make sure you know the senior pastor’s thinking regarding how the worship block is to fit into the total service. All thinking senior pastors will have preferences; make sure you know what they are. Of course, I am assuming that no thinking senior pastor would expect the worship to go for a fixed period of time, regardless of what else is happening in the service.
Learn to back time: You may like to begin the worship block with a six-minute slow and rather heavy worship chorus with several repeats and key changes culminating in the congregation standing with hands raised. Let’s say you have two morning services. After the first service, the senior pastor may say the worship block ran about six minutes long and crowded the special speaker’s close with prayer around the altar. He/she may ask you point blank to cut the worship block short by six minutes.
If you don’t get a direct order to shorten your block, volunteer to do so and do it by cutting off the opening six minutes. The easiest way to shorten the worship block may be to cut down on the multitudinous repetitions of the same worship song.
4. You shall use a mix of music styles that approximates the preferences of the congregation.
If you are called a worship leader and you
have a group assisting you called a worship team, the chances are very strong
that the style of music is very heavy on the praise and worship side. Just a few
minutes ago, I did an Advanced Google search
on the phrase “praise and worship” and here is the data from that search: About 10,200,000
results (0.12 seconds
About 10,200,000 results (0.12 seconds
I did a second Advanced Google search on the phrase “southern Gospel music” and here is the data from that search: About 6,560,000 results (0.17 seconds.
I did a third and final Advanced Google search on the phrase “contemporary Christian music” and here is the data from that search: About 14,100,000 results (0.26 seconds
These three Google searches only prove one thing: the Christian music audience is comprised of persons with a range of musical preferences ranging from Gospel songs to Christian rock. There is no right and wrong regarding styles of Christian music; just differences.
However, these differences can be very important
to members of your congregation. Several years ago, I had a conversation with
a Minister of Music about 75 miles north of the
“Why don’t you use more Gospel music with the choir selections and special music?”
“I don’t think Southern Gospel would go over too well in this area.”
I said, “Gospel music has nothing to do with
geography. Bill and Gloria Gaither [the king and queen of Gospel music] are from
When the Gaithers held one of their Homecoming concerts in a major nearby arena, the response was so strong they had to add a second night to the program. Nancy and I were a little lax in buying our tickets and our seats were up in the nosebleed section, close to the rafters. The concert was done in the round with plenty of large-screen monitors so we enjoyed it immensely in spite of the height. [This was one of the last times Vestal Goodman sang in public before her death.]
In a separate conversation, I asked this same Minister of Music a similar question. He said, “Any music that gives glory to God is Gospel music.” This man chose to ignore the fact that the Gaither Homecoming videos are selling like hotcakes across the country, and that people drive for hours to attend one of the regional Gaither Homecoming Concerts.
In radio jargon, a music mix means a play list that consists of a variety of music styles so your sound will appeal to the widest possible audience. A member of a radio audience has a powerful tool at his/her fingertips. It’s called a tuning knob or a preset button. However, a worshipper sitting in the pews of your church has no such luxury and is limited to one of the following options:
· Sing when told to sing, clap when told to clap, stand when told to stand, smile when told to smile; be good sheep.
· Time their arrival at the house of worship to coincide with the end of the praise and worship block.
· Find another church with a music mix that includes some Gospel music.
Here’s a novel idea. Why not conduct a church-wide survey of music tastes and preferences. Let the people speak through a form. You may be amazed at the results.
If the people don’t get a chance to vote with their pencil, they may vote with their wallet or their feet!
5. You shall not rehearse the worship block to the extent that spontaneity and flexibility are lost because you are following a rehearsed worship routine.
This is a touchy one. Above, I say everything should be done decently and in order. Now, I’m saying don’t rehearse. You are thinking, how can the worship block can be done decently and in order if we don’t rehearse. In You Can Be a Teacher, Too I talk about Lesson Plans. Teachers should always do lesson plans but that is not to say they should rehearse. I’ll copy this section here for your convenience:
a lesson plan.
The plan should be in outline format so it can be used for quick reference during the lesson. During your preparation time, learn the lesson so well that while you are teaching, a quick glance at your lesson plan can trigger the next sequence of thoughts or events. Your lesson plan shouldn't be a script that is read word for word. In fact, you already know you should seldom read anything to students unless it has lasting literary value. Lesson plans seldom do.
All good teachers rehearse their lessons. Beginners may need to do this with an audience (from within the family or friends). Or, teach to a tape recorder and then play it back as you listen critically. As you get more experienced, you may do your rehearsing mentally. When I know I am going to speak before a group, I always do a mental rehearsal. Some of this activity involves actual mental word-for-word dialogue between the group and me.
Let me extrapolate from the Lesson Plan segment above and apply it to the worship plan:
· Select the songs, their keys, and any key modulations [changing to another key, usually higher.]
· Do a dry run by yourself to get an idea of the time to be consumed. Replicate the tempo and repeats that will be used in live worship.
· Make sure the instrumentalists know the worship plan and are well prepared to musically support the singing, smoothly and effortlessly.
6. You shall not use strange arrangements of well-know hymns with unusual chord progressions and rhythm patterns.
Many churches with worship teams and leaders project the words to the songs onto a screen. When such churches do mix in a number found in the hymnal, they sometimes use a strange arrangement with unfamiliar chords and tempos. If your worshippers are looking at the words only [no notes] and the chords are unfamiliar, you are forcing them to sing in unison. One of the most beautiful segments of evangelical worship is thereby lost: singing in harmony.
My wife, Nancy, is a lifelong alto. She has both read and harmonized alto as long as she has been able to carry a tune. When a worship team presents her with a familiar hymn, nothing but words, and unfamiliar chords, she is forced to give up and drop out of active participation in the praise and worship block. The melody [soprano] of most humans are out of her vocal range, there are no notes to read, and she can’t harmonize because the chords are unfamiliar. This is an especially bitter pill because the occasional hymn is usually one of the few songs in the praise and worship block that she recognizes.
7. You shall not ask the congregation to remain standing for more than two successive music selections.
Prayerfully seek the mind of the Holy Spirit regarding why you are asking the people to stand in the first place, and for how long.
· Out of reverence for God?
· To make it easier for them to sing?
· To make it easier for them to move into the aisles and dance in the spirit or come forward for prayer?
· To measure the limits of their physical endurance?
· To demonstrate your authority over them?
8. You shall not permit the amplified voices of the worship team nor the drums and brass of the worship band to drown out the vocal participation of the congregation.
If you want the congregation to sing with you, don’t overpower them with amplification and drums.
9. You shall covenant to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in terms of the songs that are sung and especially the number of times each song is repeated.
While I was in college, I learned that teachers should always stop a physical activity while the students were still enjoying it.
This summer, Nancy and I make our annual visit to the camp meeting where we met back in 1952. After a year of praise and worship music, we were looking forward with great anticipation to some of the old-time camp meeting music on which we were raised.
Guess what? The worship leader had us stand to sing [you guessed it] praise and worship songs! I sadly placed the Spirit-Filled Songs paperback hymnal [©1956 John T. Benson] back down on the wooden bench. Maybe next year.