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5 Crucial Lessons I’ve Learned in the Last 10 Years of Worship Leading

  • Written By 
  • Michael Waring
  • Jul 20th, 2022

There have been many hills and valleys over the years and each one brought some lesson for me to learn from.

After coming to a saving faith in college, I quickly started serving on worship teams. First as a guitar player and soon as a worship leader. I have had the chance to serve with so many incredible people that I am so thankful to call friends. Throughout these different environments and roles I have learned a lot. Today, I want to share some of those lessons I learned; some the easy way, some the hard way. (Cough) Okay…usually the hard way.

1. Stay Submitted to Your Senior Leaders

You can sacrifice your time, your money, your relationships at the service of your ministry but it is truly all for nothing if you are not obedient to the Lord and your leaders. Making the decision to be obedient will do tremendous things for your relationships. It shows the people around you how to serve well and shows the people you serve how much you honor them.

So much of our role as worship leaders is based in close relationships.

Your relationship with your pastor, your co-workers or co-volunteers, and your team to name a few. The more you can buy into the vision your pastor has for your church the more that vision can come to fruition & the stronger those relationships become.

Submission is easy if you agree with everything, but it really matters most when you don’t agree.

Every ministry within your church should all be running after the same overarching mission. God’s heart for your church is that your team affirms the overall mission He’s laid in the heart of your senior leaders. All throughout the Bible there are great examples of honoring and serving your leaders well, seeking to serve and honor your leaders as people like Daniel and Joseph did. I truly believe that there is significant blessing that’s poured out when we are committed to doing this well.

2. We are All One Little Justification Away from a Massive Moral Failure

We need to always be conscious of how to approach things like faithfulness, honesty, integrity, purity, diligence, dedication, and kindness in all moments. A little bit of rudeness here, a little deception there builds on itself and will seep into your ministry.

So many of the major moral failures we’ve seen from prominent leaders throughout the years began with little compromises they made early on.

As leaders we can not get into the habit of justification. That’s something we really have to protect! Justifying using the church card for an extra coffee you might even technically deserve quickly turns into justifying embezzling way more in the future. Don’t believe me? I have a friend who watched that exact thing go down. The worst part, the person who did it was and is a phenomenal pastor; it was justification in the small things that lead to justification in the unthinkable things.

On a positive note, the good habits built everyday will also become pillars of your ministry.

None of us is perfect, but we serve a perfect God that imparts grace that empowers us to do beyond willpower. Willpower is fragile compared to grace, where you are weak he is strong.

3. Quality Gear Does Help, But it’s Not Everything

Much of what I have written about for Worship Online has been about gear. Gear is cool, fun, and so easy to waste a night shopping for the dream rig only to change it three months later when the next thing comes out. There will always be new gear coming out that feels like a need, but trust me, there has been plenty of incredible music made without Strymon, Nord, or Gretsch.

Quality gear does help and really does make things better, but only to a point.

That point is for you to have an honest conversation with yourself regarding your personal situation. Touring the world, playing large venues every night as part of a very high level production team? The spaceship pedalboard makes a lot of sense… but only to an extent.

(sidenote: I know touring acts playing arenas every night with pedalboards that would make the worship guitar Facebook groups laugh, but the tone they get from their board is better than 90% of the people in those Facebook groups.)

Church plant, one person worship team, in a hotel conference room? Just make sure you are in tune and people can hear you. Those are obviously two extremes, but find your place along that spectrum. 

The most important thing here is, learn to maximize what you have.

You don’t have to have expensive gear to sound great. We are in the middle of a series with Chad Carouthers proving this very point 8 guitar pedals that are almost all under $50.

4. Anticipating the Unexpected is the Best Kind of Preparation

I grew up playing football. As I got older, the more serious the preparation became. Two-a-day summer practices, film study, weightlifting, and game-planing. Game-planing of all of those was the most complicated. You would spend hours of study and repetition to prepare for the best approach to a very specific situation in hopes of success.

Things would get really interesting when the other team would do something we hadn’t prepared for. What separated the good coaches from the not-so-good coaches was their ability to adjust and succeed despite the change.

Many of us prepare for a service with an approach of everything going according to plan, but how often do things not go according to plan? Often.

Pastor asks for the band to come up when initially that wasn’t the plan. The tracks computer shuts down unexpectedly. The drummer doesn’t show up! You feel strongly on your heart to take the worship service an entirely different direction.

These are just a few things that are very common. How you prepare for the unexpected by teaching your team how to flow spontaneously, having a back-up click metronome next to the tracks computer, and things like this helps you be ready for anything unexpected that comes your way; whether it be the leading of the Holy Spirit or the leading of the worship fail monster.

5. Minute By Minute, Breath By Breath I Need Him

Over the years I have had so many conversations with other worship leaders that were from a place of stress and being worn down. We wear the effect of our situations differently than so many people, because we see so many different stressors. The most constant thing about what we do and who we are is the faithful Father we love and serve.

It is amazing to me how easy it is to get caught up in all the day to day things and somehow take our eyes off the Father; despite that we spend so much time saturated in songs about Him, teachings about Him, serving His people, and having meetings about how we can better serve His people.

All this shows me is that I need him minute by minute, breath by breath. No time spent focusing on God is wasted time. He is the only true source of peace we have and he eagerly waits for us to go to him seeking that peace. 

I hope the things that I’ve learned, often through doing things wrong, will help you avoid the same mistakes that I’ve made.

But in the same breath, you can’t be a perfect leader, so don’t hold yourself to that standard. The success of your life is determined by who you are in the Lord as a child of God. That status doesn’t waver, so remain in Him and obedient to the call. Outside of that, be the best you can be and give yourself grace as you become better and better.


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