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"Worship Leader" is often a respected position of leadership at the local church. But what is their main job? 

Worship Leaders do a lot at the local church to lead others in worship. But when we stop to think about it, what does this really mean? What are the functions and roles a Worship Leader fulfills and how does this relate to the work that God does?

Be Like A Tour Guide

In an audio teaching on worship leading, Worship Leader Johnathan David Helser made some profound statements. He said that Worship Leaders should act more like tour guides than anything else during a worship service. What he meant is that sometimes we can be tempted to be recognized for our musical excellence or artistic uniqueness and benefit personally from a worship service primarily when in reality, as worship leaders, we are first here to serve. The best way we can serve is by pointing people to the majestically beautiful and holy God we serve. A tour guide doesn’t lead a group of people to the Grand Canyon and then say, “Look at me! Aren’t I great?” but rather, “Look at the Grand Canyon! Isn’t it awesome?!” In this way, we are called to take people on a journey and point them to the person of who God is and how amazing He truly is! We can then step out of “view” because we’ve done our job. Even though we help people encounter God’s goodness and see and experience who He is through a time of corporate worship, we don’t ultimately hold the responsibility for leading people into God’s presence, for Jesus has already done that once and for all through the work of the cross (Hebrews 10:19-22). Our job is to point to this amazing work of the cross and the character of God as seen through the Bible by magnifying who He is and what He has done. Then we get to step back and watch God work in powerful ways as He reveals his presence!

Psalm 34:3 (NKJV) Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.

Be Present To God

Different than being a song leader who leads the congregation vocally in singing a song, a worship leader is constantly present to what God is doing in the moment and always asking God expectantly with a child-like dependence, “What’s next, Father?” This doesn’t mean that you don’t have a plan, but rather, that you submit your plan to the working of the Holy Spirit in the moment and that in it all, you are honoring the vision of your church leadership and not using “following the Holy Spirit” as an excuse for simply doing whatever you want. Develop your worship sets and plans prayerfully and thoughtfully, inviting the Holy Spirit into the planning process, and then be ready for what he wants to do in the moment if He wants to change things up. As Helser says, “Spontaneity is the reward of preparation.”

John 5:19-20 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.”

Cultivate Your Relationship With God

The reality is, you can’t accomplish either of the above points without this crucial point: cultivating time in worship with God is key to everything we do in life, especially worship leading. Helser said that if more worship leaders were concerned with spending time worshipping God on their own rather than worrying about getting others to worship Him, then people would naturally want to worship God. It is much more inspiring to others (and spiritually powerful) to have a leader who has actually been somewhere who is now inviting others on that journey rather than someone who is trying to lead another person to a place they have never been. Cultivating your relationship with God is not a means to becoming a better worship leader but instead, the purpose of why we exist: to have relationship with God. When we get our priorities straight and start with our relationship with God, we get to know the Father’s heart and see more aspects/ angles of who He really is. This is essential if we, as leaders, are going to lead others to a place where they can see God’s greatness and respond in worship.

Genesis 5:23-24 Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.


Article for this topic by Ashton Abbott.

Key Points:

  • The best way we can serve our congregation is by pointing people to the majestically beautiful and holy God we serve. Take the pressure off yourself to lead other people into God’s presence; Jesus has already done that through the work of the cross.
  • Develop your worship sets and plans prayerfully and thoughtfully, inviting the Holy Spirit into the planning process, and then be ready for what he wants to do in the moment if He wants to change things up. Double check that this is ok with your leadership team first.
  • By spending time with God, we get to know who God is and only then can we introduce people to who He is and get out of the way. Our relationship with God shouldn’t be used as a means to this end, though, but rather as the end in itself.

Quote This:

John 5:19-20 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.”

Talk About It
  1. What is your initial reaction to this topic? What jumped out at you?
  2. What was your idea of worship leader before reading this article? Has it changed since reading this article?
  3. Which of these three points do you think you’ll have the easiest time with? Why?
  4. Which of these three points will you have the hardest time with? Why?
  5. Do you ever feel the pressure to lead others into God’s presence? How does realizing that Jesus has already done that through the work of the cross change how you feel about this responsibility? 
  6. On a scale of 1-10, how well would you say you know the God you sing about when leading worship? What can help you to know God more?
  7. In your life, are you usually a planner or more spontaneous? What is the balance between this in life when following and serving God?
  8. How well do you hear the voice of God in your life? What do you think you can do to help hear Him and His leading more clearly?
  9. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

This is part of the Worship Leader Training 101 series.