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 pastor or a worship leader. 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 Pastor?
Worship pastors are service leaders in Christian churches. They create and organize programs within the church and lead worship services. Worship pastors also lead other staff members. They are important to the congregation and are seen as teachers who offer spiritual guidance.
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 the homilies and the music portions of weekly services. They may also direct the choir and instrument players during church services and programs.
Many worship leaders use music to guide the congregation and to cultivate unity. The worship lead 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 a congregation toward a more fulfilling relationship with God, then you should consider a career as a worship pastor. Being a worship pastor is more than aligning your musical talents and your leadership skills. It is about helping the people in your congregation get closer to God through music, worship and spiritual community.
If you believe that music can be an instrument of teaching, then becoming a worship pastor can lead you to a career that is deeply in line with your values. Not only do children of the church listen to Bible stories and engage with their faith through music—but so do adults. The songs people learn in church make an indelible mark in their memories. In this way, as a worship leader, you touch the souls of your congregation and bring them closer to God. You give them the gift of worship music that stays with them for their entire lives.
Becoming a worship pastor can be a full-time job and lead to new opportunities. With their musical talents and skills, a worship leader could earn additional money as a music teacher or tutor. Worship leaders may also use their skills to play music outside of the church in bands or choruses.
Qualities of a Strong 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. A worship pastor is a disciple and is leading others toward becoming disciples as well. Maturity and connection to God 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 build your own worship skills 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 put others in the spotlight to showcase their God-given gifts.
Lead 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 God’s words and the words of His disciples, 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 worship leader does not build their life around just their talents. Instead, they build their character around God's image. The way you live your life will make you a strong leader.
Aim to Serve God With all Deeds
Church leaders in worship and production are paid for their services to the church. However, they are not driven by the salary that they make. Instead, a strong worship leader seeks to serve God using the talents they have been anointed with. Monetary compensation is 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 mature worship leader understands that God may move people during the service. So, instead of simply performing music that has been planned, a strong worship leader leaves space for God to speak to the congregation. They are flexible with how they proceed with programming as they are led by the Holy Spirit.
Paths to Become a Worship Pastor
You may be able to take several paths in becoming a worship pastor at a church. Different churches will require different levels of education depending on the sanctuary and the denomination. Some people work their way up into the role of worship pastor through their own participation, volunteering and leadership at the church.
Many churches invite members of youth groups and religious education classes to join in the programming during worship services. Young people in church may learn to play instruments and perform in services during holiday programs. If you followed this path and discovered worship leadership at a young age, you may have spent many years building your skills toward becoming a worship leader.
Worship Arts Degree Programs
Worship arts degree programs allow worship leaders to train at the college-level in both worship leadership and musical development. Every worship arts degree program is different, though most of them have some similar qualities.
Worship arts degree majors are multidisciplinary programs. 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. Worship arts degree programs also develop students’ musical abilities, especially around musical planning and performance.
Related Worship Arts Roles
Future worship leaders often earn worship arts degrees. However, church leadership is not the only career path open to students who earn a Bachelor of Arts in Worship Arts. 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, songwriting and recording.
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. Because of this, having interest and education in topics like media lighting and design, media sound recording and mixing, motion graphics and camera techniques for video can prove essential in meeting your career goals.
Life as 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 worship leaders are busy around the holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, putting together programs for the congregation.
Worship pastors are employed full-time because they bring other things to a church. Life as a worship pastor also includes:
A worship pastor’s most important job after musical programming may be discipling to others. This includes not only directly working with others to provide leadership and guidance but also planning for how to do so. Worship leaders think about their congregation and work to invest their time in people who need their spiritual and musical guidance.
Worship programming does not happen without strong planning and leadership. A worship pastor must create schedules that work around other people's lives. You’ll need to share those schedules, song lists and text sheets with the band. Worship pastors also use communication to teach and lead practices and performances.
A worship leader arranges and plans the music used in Sunday services. They are not simply picking out random songs to use. Instead, a worship leader seeks to create a musical and spiritual journey in each and every 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. They may also write original music for the congregation.
Worship bands and programs are made of people. Worship leaders must find musicians and singers. They must be able to recruit sound technicians and other technical advisors. A worship leader spends a significant amount of time finding the right people within a congregation and also reaching out to people beyond the church when needed.
If becoming a worship pastor 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. Our graduates have gone on to hold roles such as worship arts director, choir director and music director.
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.