A Letter to My Worship Leaders

Ed Stetzer says there must be good continual open communication between the pastor and the worship leader.

Dear worship leader,

You are one of the most important people in the life of our church.

You are entrusted with the task of standing before our people weekly and leading them into the very presence of God. Your role is to point people to Jesus, not yourself; yet, you do so through an art that is incredibly personal and that you’ve worked tirelessly to perfect. Your role requires you to be a gifted artist continually honing your craft, a theologian, and a leader. All of those things combined make yours an arduous task.

The Bible references the predecessors of the modern worship leader in several places, such as the list of people in 1 Chronicles 25 whose job it was to “to prophesy accompanied by lyres, harps, and cymbals” in the temple (25:1). The Scriptures are also filled with admonitions to worship, very often including song. “Praise the Lord in his sanctuary” (Psalm 150:1). “Let us offer up the sacrifice of praise” (Heb 13:15). “Sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col 3:16). So yours is, in my view, a clearly articulated biblical role.

Even so, your responsibility brings with it some pretty big challenges. Music can easily become one of the more controversial things within the life of the church. Everyone in our church has an opinion, often in direct opposition to another, and each will expect you to satisfy both somehow.

You will need to be more contemporary and less so, louder and softer, and create a “better mix” in the house sound, whatever that means, and you will need raise the ratio of one style to another and vice versa—all simultaneously.

As your pastor, I want to encourage you to feel free to to listen to people’s suggestions, but focus on pleasing the Lord in the manner that we, as a church and elders, have chosen to affirm, stylistically and culturally. Refer any concerns to me or the elders. We trust you, and we have your back.

That said, we as leadership in the church do have a few things we’d like for you to know that we believe to be best for the manner of worship leadership for our church.

This doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best or only way to lead, period. It is simply what makes the most sense for our people, that bears our particular emphases, and relates to both our theology and history.

Here they are:

1. As a church family, we’d like to collectively “own” only a certain number of songs from which we regularly draw.

We’d like for these to be “our” songs—songs that we love, that resonate with who we are, and that we enthusiastically engage as a church body. Worship leaders almost always know far more songs than the churches they serve and are tempted to constantly introduce new ones. We need to throttle that down. We currently have an active list of 100 songs that we’d like to keep in rotation. You are welcome to add new songs at the pace of about one a month and rotate songs off the list, if needed.

It is important that the church has that list, not just each worship leader. So, when you come in, you come into our songs and, as you add another, you take one out—but the list does not start over with you when you come to our church. 😉

Maybe that feels like we always sing the same songs. However, remember, you constantly think about music. You listen to and write new music regularly, both of which are great things. The rest of the church, however, is not like you in that way.

By the time you get to worship on Sunday, you’ve practiced at home, sung the songs as you prepared charts for the band, practiced with the band, and made changes in your head throughout the week. You know these songs well. The congregation, on the other hand, may sing them two or three times a year. Thus, it is important that we focus on our list of songs and shape it slowly and thoughtfully from there.

Continue reading.


Essential reading for worship leaders since 2002.


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