I’ve always struggled to see worship as servanthood.
It’s a cute phrase your hear, but I never thought there was much to it. You’re doing music, which is fun, and up in front of people — not feeding the homeless or vacuuming up the foyer after a church gathering.
Nope, worship leading is not servanthood.
But then, as a worship team, we created a contract for all team members to sign.
It talked about having a servant’s heart. Since I was having people sign this piece of paper, and was doing so myself, I felt I should understand better what being a “servant” in worship was all about.
What’s A Servant?
When you think of servanthood, an image of an unrecognized worker, in the background. This person manages a vital role, but no one realizes they are there.
I found this paradoxical with worship leading. A lot of people see you, and even tell you “nice job” and so forth.
When I looked at worship leading under a microscope, though, I found that it really is a servant’s position.
Once you start participating in worship you quickly realize that “stage time” is a very small part of a worship leader’s or team member’s job.
Most of your job is — or at least should be — behind the scenes. Not unlike a servant’s.
Worship Leading Mimics Most High-Profile Positions
Worship leading is very much like many visible positions or roles. Untold hours go into the fraction of “product” people actually see.
Parallels are found in many other disciplines:
NFL (American football) teams spend most of the year recruiting and training, yet are only guaranteed 16 hours of playing time per year.
The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is 557 minutes in length but took eight years to complete.
The Gettysburg Address took under two minutes to deliver, and was just 272 words long. Abraham Lincoln penned it over a span of two days, according to historians.
Great end products take time to develop, and worship sets are no exception.
So much prep work goes into a service, sometimes, that the actual “leading worship” part almost seems like an afterthought.
Here’s the time it takes to prepare for a worship service:
- Sermon review and song selection: 1.5 hours
- Communicating set to the team: 30 minutes
- Pre-rehearsal “at home” practice: 1-2 hours
- Rehearsal: 2 hours
- Post-rehearsal “at home” practice: 1 hour
- Sound check Sunday morning: 1 hour
And that’s just the immediate, practical stuff. There’s also:
- Praying about the set
- Team building
- Casting vision for the worship team
- The years and years of work improving your voice and/or instrument
By my totally unscientific calculation, about a billion hours goes into each minute you’re actually on stage.
That’s not a bad thing, though. In fact, it means you are doing a great job. You are working tirelessly behind the scenes.
As far as the church congregation knows, you just got up there and started singing. Heck, they probably do anyway.
But that’s want service is all about. You provide a clean, crisp experience to others at the cost of hours of your time prior to the event.
It’s this off-stage work that makes being a worship leader truly a servant’s position.
The “Test” For Non-Servant Worship Leaders
A lot of worship leaders start because they see someone doing it and think it’s cool.
I know I did.
The draw of the stage / limelight — whatever you want to call it — is real. And honestly, I think God gives a natural desire to some people to be on stage.
But the litmus test that reveals non-servant worship leaders are the following:
- Showing up late to rehearsal (or not at all)
- Does not practice outside of rehearsal
- Did not look at the set list you sent out
But, magically, they have no trouble showing up when it’s time to be on stage.
Such a person is not a worship servant. He or she is a limelight-loving show pony.
These types won’t go far, though. Someone else will come along, put in the unseen work, and surpass them in skill and heart. Not unlike this tiny dog.
Still, it’s worth having a conversation with stage-focused team members. They might not “get it” yet and need coaching.
They might turn out to be a servant after all.
Don’t Be A Pharisaical Worship Leader Or Team Member
Jesus talked against Pharisees who liked to make a show of their faith. It seemed everything they did was for show.
(Sorry for this gif, but I’m sure this is what Jesus would look like if he played guitar, but not so scary. You know he would be all about the servant portion of worship leading. Keep scrolling for the rest of the post.)
But Jesus said to go lock yourself in a closet to pray.
That’s not really an option when leading worship. By definition you are up in front. But that should be only a reflection of the servant duties you performed before you got up there.
Don’t be a Pharisee. Be faithful with the unseen.
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Featured Image: Ben White
Thanks for writing this. The litmus test of whether you’re actually “serving” in your role on the worship team or not was a good reminder. I know I’ve been guilty of not doing my part a few times. Your post highlights the importance of the heart behind the actions. We can’t control other people’s perceptions of us, but we can take control of our motives. Nice!
Wow Tim! Thank you for addressing this very important issue.
I was reminded of how sometimes it breaks my heart when my husband and I are leading worship and people just don’t seem to engage, they are so distracted by stuff happening around them… and it can demoralize you, if you let it.
But then at times, like when I read your post, I am encouraged and reminded that we are just the “messengers”. We are the servants, sharing His heart, inviting people to connect with Him. It’s not up to us what the reaction or response is. We are to serve, love and be obedient and faithful. Holy Spirit does the rest.
Thank you for your obedience and faithfulness and most of all: your heart.
Yolandé von Wielligh
Pretoria, South Africa
Worship leader should be filled up by Holy Spirit and through him peoples Holy Spirit should manifest.