If you are active in your church and want to turn that interest into a career, you may be thinking about how to become a worship leader or a worship pastor. You may already be leading the congregation as a lay person, but becoming an official worship leader at your church can be a meaningful career that touches the lives of the people who are most important to you.
What Is a Worship Leader?
Worship leaders are formative leaders within Christian churches who guide their congregation in responding to the Lord’s goodness and grace. They create and organize programs within the church, disciple others, and coordinate worship services. They may also lead people as well as other staff members. They are important to the life of the congregation and are seen as teachers who offer spiritual guidance, especially during corporate gatherings when the church comes together in celebration and praise.
A church leader may be a different role in some churches, focusing on music ministry rather than all the responsibilities of pastors or other clergy. If you are passionate about music in worship, then learning how to become a worship leader may help you meet your career goals.
Many worship leaders use music to guide the congregation and to uplift spirits. The worship lead usually coordinates worship teams, works with other ministers to plan worship services, and provides vital leadership and support for those involved in the ministry of music during weekly services. They may also direct a worship team, a choir, and instrumentalists during church services and programs.
Many worship leaders minister through music in guiding their congregation toward unity in Christ. The worship leader usually coordinates the worship team and plans weekly corporate worship services. In more traditional congregations, they may also direct the choir and instrumentalists during services and special programming.
Why Become a Worship Leader?
Becoming a worship pastor or worship leader is a calling. If you are looking to lead people toward a more fulfilling relationship with God, then you should consider a career as a worship leader. Being a worship leader is about helping the people in your congregation grow closer to God through music, worship and community.
If you believe that music can be an instrument of teaching, then becoming a worship leader or pastor can lead you to a career that is in line with your deepest values and passions. In this way, as a worship leader, you can form your congregation in ways that strengthen them and bring them closer to God. You give them the gift of God-honoring worship that stays with them for their entire lives.
Qualities of a Great Worship Leader
There are many skills that a strong worship leader should possess in order to lead their congregation:
Act With Maturity
A worship leader must be able to shepherd their congregation. They lead and live by example. Maturity and a vibrant relationship with the Lord is paramount when becoming a worship leader, so that you can lead with a grace that strengthens and encourages the people in your congregation.
Be Privately Devoted
An effective worship leader has a deep private practice of worship. They are able to lead a congregation in worship because it is something they do for themselves. You should develop personal worship habits and practices so that you may guide others in developing their own.
Church leaders in worship may receive a lot of attention because of the engagement and devotion they bring to church services and their congregation through music. However, they do not feel the need to be the center of attention. Instead, a strong worship leader celebrates all of the members of the worship team and seeks to exalt God above all else.
Lead People Through Scripture
Subjective experience is not enough to make you a strong worship leader. Your congregation needs to be led to God in spirit and in truth. Integrating Psalms and hymns into worship services ensures that a worship leader feeds the spirit of others. By using Jesus’ words and the teachings of his prophets and apostles, a worship leader moves their teaching beyond their own subjective experience and into the realm of truth.
Demonstrate Strong Character
A worship leader has incredible talent. They sing and play instruments, as well as plan, produce and lead. A strong leader does not build their life around just their talents. Instead, they develop others by building character that reflects the heart of God.
Aim To Serve God With all Deeds
Church leaders in worship and production are often paid for their services to the church so that they are able to devote time and energy to ministry. However, they are not driven by the salary that they make. Instead, a godly worship leader will be motivated to serve primarily because of their love for God and others, using their God-given talents they have been anointed with. Monetary compensation should not the focus of their work. They do their work in service of God.
Recognize the Presence of the Holy Spirit
Worship leaders spend a lot of time preparing for worship services. A great worship leader understands that the Spirit of God may move people during the service. They are flexible with how they proceed with programming as they are led by the Holy Spirit and leave space for God to speak.
Spend Time to Build Relationships
As an important leader in the church, it is crucial for worship leaders to know how to build and foster relationships. Whether it is with other members on the worship team or people in the congregation, the ability to form these connections can benefit those in the church.
Paths To Become a Worship Leader
You may be able to take several paths in becoming a worship leader at a church. Different churches will require different levels of education depending on the theological tradition and the denomination. Some people work their way up into the role of worship leader through their own participation, volunteering and leadership at the church.
Some people who want to know how to become a worship pastor look for official theological education. Many churches require worship arts degrees or bachelor’s degrees in theological studies.
Worship Arts Degree Programs
Worship arts degree programs allow worship leaders to train at the college-level in both worship leadership and musical development.
Worship arts degree programs are often multidisciplinary. They prepare students to become worship leaders in a church or to go to seminary. Students in a worship arts degree program might study topics such as:
A worship ministry degree program includes many practical experiences for future worship leaders. Students grow their confidence to lead worship in congregational settings. Students also build on their own spiritual foundation to understand how to lead others to worship God.
Related Worship Arts Roles
Future worship leaders often earn worship arts degrees. Contemporary worship arts careers can encompass a broad range of roles. Some common areas of employment within this field include:
- Vocal coaching
- Leading worship
- Music direction
- Event planning
- Digital media creation
A contemporary worship arts calling can involve the visual media, production, performance and business aspects of the contemporary Christian music industry. Developing technical and visual communication skills along with competencies in worship leadership are essential.
Working in contemporary worship arts demands a thorough knowledge of both worship arts and digital media. Having an interest and education in the following topics can prove essential in meeting your career goals:
- Media lighting and design
- Media sound recording and mixing
- Motion graphics
- Camera techniques for video
Life as a Worship Pastor
If you are wondering how to become a worship pastor, you may be curious about what life will look like once you achieve your goal. You know that worship leaders work on Sunday mornings. You also know that they are busy around the holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, putting together programs for the congregation.
Worship pastors are employed full-time because they provide other offerings to a church. Life as a worship pastor also includes:
- Discipleship: A worship pastor’s most important job is discipling to others. Worship leaders think about their congregation and work to invest their time in people who need their spiritual and musical guidance as they grow in their relationship with the Lord.
- Communication: Worship programming does not happen without strong planning and leadership. You’ll need to coordinate schedules, share song lists and provide chord charts and sheet music for the band. Worship pastors also use communication to teach and lead practices and performances.
- Music: A worship leader arranges and plans the music used in Sunday services, often in conversation with other leaders in the church. A worship leader seeks to create a musical and spiritual journey in each service. This means worship leaders must be listening to and researching music whenever they have time. They must know about songs that can add to their programming or write original music for the congregation.
- Coordination: Worship leaders must be coordinated when it comes to planning out worship services. They may have to plan their songs or order of service around the message for a sermon. Coordination also comes into play when assigning responsibilities to other musicians or giving tasks to certain members of the team.
- Recruiting: Worship leaders must find musicians and singers and recruit sound technicians and other technical advisors. A worship leader spends a significant amount of time finding the right people within a congregation and reaching out to people beyond the church when needed.
If becoming a worship leader is a goal that aligns with your personal and spiritual direction, consider earning your Bachelor of Arts in Worship Arts with an Emphasis in Worship Ministry degree at Grand Canyon University.
Approved by the Dean for the College of Theology on Dec. 19, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.