the shape of leadership

Help! I Can’t Find a Worship Leader!

Questions to guide your search

Kristi Northup on March 8, 2024

Worshipping God through music is an important part of Pentecostal services.

Through singing and praising God, participants focus on His presence before turning their attention to His Word.

During this time together, the Holy Spirit speaks to hearts, ministers to people in the room, and prepares them for the message.

Music also helps define the church’s style and reinforce the congregation’s theology.

However, this segment of the service presents a major challenge for some churches. When pastors get together, they often commiserate about how difficult it is to find a qualified person to lead worship. Many have little or no budget for music ministry.

For smaller churches, developing a team from a few dozen people may seem like an impossible task. If the church meets in a community building or similar space, someone needs to set up the room before musicians can even rehearse.

These challenges hit close to home a few years ago when my sister’s church plant was without a worship leader. At the time, the congregation was meeting in a school and had fewer than 80 regular attenders.

My sister stepped in as worship leader for several months, but the learning curve for a non-musician was steep. Meanwhile, she and her husband determined what they needed and what they could offer, and then took steps to recruit help.

In time, they found a young couple with a passion for music and heart for God. This couple is still leading the church’s worship ministry.

If your church is without a worship leader (or could be at any time), don’t panic. Instead, work through the following five questions.


1. What Do We Need?

Some leaders lack clarity about what they actually need in a worship leader.

They may be looking for someone who will recruit a team, train musicians, rehearse a band and singers weekly, pastor the team, schedule volunteers, create song lists, find new music, prep charts, play different styles and multiple instruments, lead with anointing, and be there every weekend. Pastors want all these things — and often, there’s no money to pay anyone.

That’s a full-time job description. No wonder volunteers don’t want to take this on.

When looking for someone to lead worship, there are three things that matter most: faithfulness, some musical ability, and a willingness to learn.

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “Earnestly desire the most helpful gifts” (NLT). Paul was talking about spiritual gifts, of course, but prioritizing the most helpful qualities is a good idea when filling church positions.

Worship is always evolving, so willingness to improve and learn is important. You need someone who can sing and play either guitar or keys.

What you don’t need is someone with extraordinary talent who will skip out at the last minute for a better gig. Faithfulness means you can count on the person to be there, so you’re not finding out at the last minute you need to lead worship.


2. Who Is Available?

Sometimes the best option is hiding in plain sight.

When Samuel came to anoint a king, Jesse brought out seven sons ahead of David because the young shepherd was not the obvious choice (1 Samuel 16).

After mentioning to Jesus there was a boy in the crowd with five loaves and two fish, Andrew asked, “But how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9).

It’s possible God has already sent the people and resources you need, but you’re overlooking or discounting them.

Do you know a student who plays guitar and has a nice voice? Is there someone who once led worship at another church but hasn’t been involved in years?

Perhaps there is an older congregant who loves music and has a heart for service.

Three things matter most: faithfulness, some musical ability, and a willingness to learn.

Maybe your teenager can do more than you realize with his or her musical skills.

The answer may be right in front of you.


3. What Can We Spend?

There are low-cost technologies that can make a worship leader’s job easier. Websites like Planning Center, Worship Online, and Music 360 Method are useful for scheduling, providing chord charts, and assisting with training.

Lighten your worship leader’s load by subscribing to some of these resources.

Multitracks, digital recordings of individual instruments and vocals, can fill in the gaps for a small worship team. These tools require some skill to operate, but if you have someone who is knowledgeable in this area, multitracks might be worth the investment.

Don’t expect a volunteer to recruit musicians and singers. That is usually the task of a paid staff member.

If you are able to pay a worship leader, consider providing a stipend for each week he or she is present instead of a monthly lump sum — at least for the first several months. This will encourage faithfulness.


4. How Can We Plan?

Pastors tend to think of worship music as a problem one person will resolve. When the right person is in place, there are no worries. When the person leaves, it’s anxiety inducing.

If you don’t plan for the future, though, you will be wringing your hands again within a few years — or maybe even a few months. Start building a pipeline that will create a culture of worship music in your church.

In the Assemblies of God, we have something no other denomination has: Fine Arts Festival. This AG Youth Ministries discipleship program helps students develop their gifts for use in schools, churches, and the community.

You might be surprised how many students in your church play an instrument, participate in drama, or even have a heart to preach. Fine Arts offers a starting point for helping students get involved in ministry.

In 2021, we took a group of six students to our district Fine Arts event for the first time.

The following year, we started a youth worship team to lead the musical worship segment of our youth gatherings on Wednesday nights. In the beginning, the music these students produced was rougher than I expected. But within just a few months, there was significant improvement.

When we launched a second campus last summer, the drummer for our regular services left with that team. So, I told my 14-year-old son, “This is your drum kit now.”

Our son became the main Sunday morning drummer. If not for several years of lessons and a year of live playing during Wednesday night youth services, he would have been unprepared to step into that role.

Now several singers from our youth group help lead worship regularly during our main services, and several adult players are helping mentor students on Sundays and Wednesdays.

By creating a training path, we are making a long-term commitment to our church’s worship music. We will reap the benefits for years to come if we keep investing time and resources into discipleship and training.


5. What Is God Saying?

We have often prayed, “Lord, please send us an electric guitar player. Please send us more singers.”

Perhaps we should instead pray, “Lord, what do you want to say about worship in our church?” When we seek His guidance, God will answer.

The Lord may bring to mind a person you had not considered to fill the role of worship leader. Or He may direct you to teach the congregation something about worship you didn’t realize they needed to hear.

Hebrews 13:21 says God is able to “equip you with everything good for doing his will.”

Trust the Lord to equip your ministry with everything you need for worshipping Him through music.

Worship is the most natural thing we can do, and it is God’s desire for His church. Ask Him to help you understand what you need, notice qualified people you may have overlooked, and equip worship team members to serve.

The Lord will make a way!


This article appears in the Winter 2024 issue of Influence magazine.

Don't miss an issue, subscribe today!

Trending Articles

Advertise   Privacy Policy   Terms   About Us   Submission Guidelines  

Influence Magazine & The Healthy Church Network
© 2024 Assemblies of God