Podcast: Listen Here
Where should you start leading worship?
Many worship leaders assume the best place to start leading worship is Sunday morning for the main church service.
This actually isn’t a very good place to start.
The expectations are high, especially in established churches with existing leaders and teams. Starting in your main service doesn’t give you a chance to make mistakes on a smaller platform and learn as you go.
Plus it will take a lot of coordination with the existing team and a lot of the current leader’s time to make sure you’re ready for the experience.
If you’re too pushy about leading worship for a main service, you may not be invited back.
I’m reminded of Luke chapter 14 which talks about seeking a high position. Back in Jesus’ time, when someone threw a banquet, guests would try to sit in the places of honor, which I think were the places closest to the host.
Here’s what Luke 14 says (NIV):
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he (Jesus) told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Now, I’m not saying that you’re trying to exalt yourself by wanting to lead worship on a Sunday. But the key idea here is to find a “lower” place to lead worship. Eventually, you will be invited up to a higher place with more responsibility, more people, and more skill required.
So we’re going to talk about some easier places to start so that you can get noticed and be brought up to a place of honor.
But the situation I just described might not describe you.
You might be thinking “I’m not good enough to lead on a Sunday morning, so there’s no use trying to be a worship leader.” But God wants you to start small and work your way up. That’s just how he set up our lives. We need to go from glory to glory. It’s the way that God makes sure we develop character along with our skill. Just giving us instant skill would not be good for us.
Remember that King David had to fight a lion and a bear before taking on Goliath
Zechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”
For whatever reason, God made it so that we build up skill and experience over time. God will rarely put you in a super complex, stressful position unless he’s given you opportunities to work up to it.
So whether you are trying to lead worship in the biggest venue available to you, or you think you’re not good enough to lead on a Sunday, there’s a simple solution. Find another place to lead worship if you’re just starting out.
So let’s dive into some places you can start
1. Youth Group
Jr. high or high school youth groups are a great place to start. Sadly, many youth groups don’t have a worship team. Often, there’s talent in the youth group but no one to kickstart the team.
You can take it upon yourself to start a youth worship band. Since you’re taking the initiative to start the program, you choose who will be the worship leader. Go ahead and choose yourself!
This gives you the full experience of leading worship in the main service, and more. You can:
- Schedule teams
- Choose songs
- Figure out transitions and arrangements
- Dealing with sound issues
- Learning about equipment
A bonus to starting a new thing is that there’s nothing to compare it to. Unlike Sunday, there’s no existing worship team. So you can grow in your skill without worrying that you’re doing a worse job than the regular leader or group.
If you’re in junior high or high school (or the equivalent outside the U.S.), here’s another observation: Most accomplished worship musicians started in youth group. I started when I was 15. We had no youth worship team but a youth leader organized us and got us going. I’m the one who benefitted. Even though the music was pretty bad, we got better over time. That experience gave me the foundation I needed for the decades of worship leading ahead of me.
And that brings up another point. You might think that, if you’re not a student, youth group isn’t an option.
That’s not true. I led worship in youth groups for years after high school because whatever church I was in needed help with their youth worship team. If you create a band from the youth group, you can be the worship leader and probably fit right in.
You can be a great asset as a young adult or older adult if you volunteer to head up a worship team for your church’s youth group
2. Kid’s church
This is a place most people don’t think about.
Children are incredible worshipers, but they are terribly underserved in their Sunday and mid-week programs.
Your children’s pastor would be thrilled if you came in with guitar each Sunday and led 2-3 songs. Have fun with it. Don’t lead a 6-minute Elevation song with tons of words. Start with a dorky kids song that they can start singing easily.
Believe me, if you humble yourself to do something silly or embarrasing to teach worship to the next generation, God will promote you in your worship leading endeavors.
If you want to learn everything you need to know about starting to lead worship, check out my book, “How to Lead Worship in 14 Days.” It will guide you through the process of working up to your first worship session even if you’ve never led worship before. And the best part is that it’s going to take you 14 days to do it.
Or, if you lead a worship ministry and you’re looking for a how-to guide to hand every new worship leader, this book is for you.
3. Retirement homes
This sounds like a strange one, but senior citizens, like young children, are an underserved group when it comes to worship.
You’ll be an incredible blessing. I’ve played music in a couple retirement homes and believe me you’ll be the highlight of their week. Some of these folks don’t get many visitors. Just showing up and playing live music is something they will look forward to
So how do you get your foot in the door?
Get a hold of the events coordinator. They are always looking for activities for the residents. And the fact that you will come to them is even better.
Frame it to the coordinator that you’d like to come in and sing some old hymns once a week. You don’t need to say it’s a worship time. Call it live music consisting of classic spiritual songs.
Sing the hymns. Invite everyone to sing. Some will worship, some will listen. Some will enjoy hearing songs they heard as a kid in church.
Start learning hymns like Amazing Grace, Be Thou My Vision, and Old Rugged Cross. These are actually a lot of fun to learn and sing.
Show up and play these songs on guitar or piano. A lot of retirement homes have a piano, so you’re set. And you don’t need a sound system. Just show up and play!
4. Home groups and small groups
Many churches have small groups that meet throughout the week in people’s homes or at the church. Most of these groups don’t have a worship leader.
If you’re involved in a small group already, there you go. You have a built-in audience.
If not, ask someone at your church for a list of small group leaders. Talk to the leaders and ask if they’d like you to lead worship one time or on an ongoing basis.
You probably don’t need a sound system and can lead worship on your own or with just one or two instrumentalists.
Don’t ask to be the group’s worship leader forever. Just ask if you can come once. If it goes well, you’ll be invited back. Set a date, then show up on time.
The Bottom Line
We looked at the best places to start leading worship.
- Youth groups
- Kid’s church
- Retirement homes
- Small groups
Learn To Lead Worship Better
Are you looking for a resource that will help you get started leading worship or improving your skills?
Check out the book “Learn To Lead Worship In 14 Days.” It’s a step-by-step, day-by-day handbook that can launch your worship leading journey in as little as two weeks.