Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tim's Worship Leader's guide to Leading Worship

By Tim Dolbear -

My Background…

I started playing on worship teams in about 2000 at a small church in So Cal.  I really had no idea what I was doing in the beginning other than just playing music as I always have. Leading worship/playing on a worship team was a completely new thing for me as I had grown up performing is clubs and bigger venues in hard rock bands, even backing up famous performers such as Sammy Hagar. Now suddenly I found myself surrounded by volunteers and most musicians were beginners.  Looking back, I approached everything wrong. After a while my wife Angela and I started leading worship or performing original Christian music at various churches as special guest. Over the next 6 years we played all over the place.

When we moved to Austin we started leading worship at Northwest Fellowship, our home church ever since, even when we were out serving at other churches and church plants. For 8 years, Angela and I lead worship on Sundays and Wednesday nights at just about every denomination of Christian church.  Every church we served at seemed to always have drama surrounding the worship team and crazy issues going on. These served as wonderful learning experiences for me. Through much prayer, attending worship leader conferences and of course following the Holy Spirit, I have learned so, so much about leading worship.

While teaching at RBC Ministries a few years ago, they asked me to share my experiences. After which they encourage me to share it with any and all who would listen and my blog seems as good a place to share as any. 

So brace yourself and take a deep breath, as I am sure some of this cause you to want to curse my name. But pray through it and really remember that it’s all about worshiping Him, not feeding our own egos and flesh.


Leading worship: (After point 1, there is no particular order of importance)

1.       If you are on a Worship team or are a Worship leader, you must be in God’s Word.
2.       You are leading worship, leading God’s people into Worship of Him, you are not performing, you are leading God’s people into a time of Worship of the living God!  If you want to perform, that’s perfectly fine, just not at church. It’s not about you. If you want to perform, go book a gig and play a show.  Do not play on a worship team because it’s your only avenue to get to play in front of people.
3.       A worship leaders worships, and is in a state of worship. When you are worshiping God, then those attending will see you worshiping God and hopefully will start to worship Him too. If you are not engaged, they will not be either.
4.       If you do not know the music, and are staring at a music stand, you are not worshiping, so learn and memorize your parts. This will free you to worship and be ready to follow the Spirit when He makes a move.
5.       Worship is the only part of a Sunday service that is for God, and God Alone.  He does not need the announcements, tithes, teaching…
6.       Someone must be in charge and lead. Our God is not a God of chaos. We must be rehearsed and be ready. The worship community needs checks and balances riddled with mentoring and exchanging of Prayers for one another.
7.       Congregational singing is where everyone sings the melody, no harmonies. I truly believe that is how worship should be lead. When you bring in harmonies, one of two things happens, they are done well and the congregation starts to listen to the performance and stops worshiping, or they are done badly and are a distraction.  …And together they sang with one voice “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty”.
8.       Everything you do leading worship, you will stand accountable for before Jesus.


Make sure you do not do anything that distracts worshipers from their time with God. This includes ANYTHING that attracts their attention away from their time with Him.  Everything has the potential to be distracting, so be on guard, the Devil loves to draw worshiper’s attention away from worshiping.

(in random order)

1.       No guitar solos or vocal runs to show off your “abilities”. I am not talking about nice melody parts, I am talking full blown "look at me" Eddie Van Halen guitar solo time. You know when the congregation stop worship and turns and watches the guitar player. We have all seen this happen.  Do you really want to stand in front of Jesus and answer His question “Why where you trying to steal my spotlight and the attention of those worshiping me?”
2.       Talking and preaching. I have seen the Spirit just leave the room because the leader wants to give a mini-sermon. Even a short few words can completely stop the flow. And on that subject, do not start the reflective song after the sermon by re-preaching, or worse, go another direction and disrupt what the pastor has left the body to pray and reflect on. 
3.       Make sure the lyrics are correct on the screen, and available. Even some missing lyrics not showing up is a big distracting.
4.       Do not introduce 4 new songs in a service. Unknown songs are distracting.
5.       Do not endlessly vamp. There seems to be a trend right now to ad lib and vamp lyrics over and over again. This is lost on the congregation and really is just a narcissistic and chaotic style of worship.  Watch the congregation, they all stop worshiping and the only person into it is the person doing it…
6.       Bad sound is a distraction.  Have your sound system dialed in and your staff trained.  Do not use a rotation of 4 inexperienced people to run the sound as they never have enough time behind the board to become fluent and stay fluent as they only serve once a month.  Find one or two people that can take “ownership” of this area.

Musicians and songs

1.       I say no harmonies at all, but if you insist for your own ego to do them… then do not sing harmonies if you have no idea about music theory. Example; the lead vocal sings the melody, a 2nd vocalist singing a 3rd above; normal church harmony. But then I have heard a 3rd vocalist putting a 3rd on top of the 3rd harmony, making is an Aug 5th above the root. Not good. If you do not understand what I just said, you should not be singing harmonies.
2.       Be conscious of the key of the song, make it so both men and women can sing along in an easy range.
3.       If you are the lead vocalist, sing the melody and do not stray.  It’s amazing how many lead vocalist worship leaders will jump up and sing the harmony part. When the lead vocalist switches to the harmony, the music is no longer in key. The congregation will also chase the vocals up to the harmony part too, but since they are used to the way the song goes normally they will gets stuck, and they stop singing and are distracted.
4.       Strive for excellence. so you are ready for a move of the Spirit.
5.       “iSongs” That is what we call a song that has the wrong perspective for Worship.  Example; “I will worship. I will do this, I will do that…” how is talking about how awesome we are for worshiping God, worshiping God?  …And together they sang with one voice “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty”.   Praise Him, not boost about what we are doing for Him.  Think of the song “Grace Like Rain”.  Run through the lyrics of the chorus in your head. Great song, but now a worship song.  How is singing those lyrics to God, worshiping Him?
6.       If you are an electric guitar player, stop messing with your pedal board. You are supposed to be worshiping, not playing with your toys.  
7.       You can’t worship if you are trying to find your way, starring at a music stand. The songs have 4 chords, just learn the songs.  And if you have to read the lyrics, you did not practice the songs enough. Worship, don’t read.

I hope this helps you and motivates you and that you seriously consider all of this and pray on it. 

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