Many churches in our movement have worship leaders and teams who are responsible, in partnership with pastors and other church leaders, for facilitating gathered worship. These worship leaders and teams have a significant role to play in creating a welcoming and participative worship environment as they facilitate accessible ways for believers to collectively engage with God through music. Considering the impact that worship leaders and teams can have on the spiritual engagement and environment of worship in our local church communities, what can we do to help cultivate leaders and teams that are healthy? After all, the spiritual health of our leaders tends to have a direct influence on the spiritual health of our faith communities.
I believe that what we need for healthy worship ministries in our churches is not primarily better musicians, but better leaders. Better worship leaders will build stronger worship teams and will help cultivate deeper levels of engagement in gathered worship, as they serve alongside their pastoral leaders. But what does a healthy worship leader look like? For worship leaders and teams to be healthy and effective, I believe that they need to be intentionally growing in each of these four areas:
- Head – They are able to think theologically and purposefully about worship and apply that understanding in planning and facilitating corporate worship.
- Heart – They have a clear personal calling to serve the church in worship and they are intentionally cultivating godly character and intimacy with God through spiritual practices.
- Hands – They are developing the quality of their craftsmanship, team skills, musicianship and creativity through practice, experience, feedback and mentoring.
- Home – They are growing in their ability to connect authentically with the culture and demographics of their particular church community, and they are developing in their leadership and communication skills.
These four areas – Head, Heart, Hands and Home – are the elements that I believe help to make up a fruitful and effective life in worship ministry. Each element is essential for maturity, longevity and fruitfulness – in short, healthy leadership. So what kinds of things can we do in our local churches to help cultivate healthy and strong worship leaders and teams in these four areas? Here are four questions to consider:
1. Environment (Head)
Are we creating an environment that is conducive to thoughtful, biblically faithful and culturally appropriate forms of worship leadership? Is there thoughtful reflection and discussion on the role, purpose and goals of worship, both broadly speaking as well as within the unique context of your particular church community? This is essential in order for worship leaders to be clear on the framework within which they are serving. Thoughtful conversations about worship and the role of the worship team, based on biblical foundations rather than personal opinions and cultural trends, are essential for worship leaders to understand how they can faithfully fulfil their leadership role.
2. Encouragement (Heart)
Are we a community of faith that actively encourages our worship leaders and team members? There is a lot of cultural baggage that accompanies the simple act playing music in front of other people. Worship leaders and team members are often volunteering their time and energy in order to serve the people of God. Yet, in our consumer-driven society, it is easy for us to critique and criticise those who lead from the front, rather than take an attitude of intentional encouragement. We can encourage worship leaders by praying for them, speaking kindly to them and engaging with God in worship when they lead us, even (especially) when the style is not to our particular taste. Very few worship leaders and team members are involved in worship ministry in the hope of receiving accolades. Most are humble, ordinary people looking for ways to serve their God and their church family. Given the challenges associated with music ministry today, a little encouragement can go a long way.
3. Equipment (Hands)
Are we seeking to provide our worship leaders and teams with the practical resources they require in order that they might lead us well in worship? This doesn’t necessarily mean having to have the latest and greatest equipment, and it doesn’t mean having to spend a fortune on expensive, but unnecessary, gear. However, is your church committed to resourcing worship leaders and their teams in a way that is reflective of the value and influence they bring to the life of the church community? If so, work with your worship leaders and teams to figure out what is essential and do what you can to make sure they have at least the basic elements they require in order to serve your community with enthusiasm, love and joy.
4. Empowerment (Home)
Are we providing opportunities for those who are called to worship ministry to be trained and developed in order to truly lead well? The majority of worship leaders and musicians that I interact with in our movement are genuine, humble, servant-hearted individuals who do their best to be intentional, thoughtful and faithful in ministry. Ultimately, they need more than just the opportunity or encouragement to sing and play well… they need to be empowered to lead and to develop into the kinds of leaders that God has designed them to be. They need access to leadership training, mentoring and good leadership examples to follow.
The healthier our worship leaders and teams become, the healthier our churches will be in their gathered experiences and expressions of worship. This is something worth investing in if we are seeking to become communities of faith who are being formed and sent in the likeness of Jesus Christ as we worship together.