Some churches emphasize having one primary worship leader for their church. Other churches work hard to have many different worship leaders, rarely having the same person up front from one week to the next.
Is there a “best way” when it comes to the number of worship leaders you have up front?
I think there is, but the answer is not as obvious as you may expect.
(My 7 year old son just looked at my title and said, “About 10.” Let’s take his comment under advisement.)
In my first church job the senior pastor and I pursued an environment with one primary worship leader who was on staff, adding other leaders every 4-6 weeks. Up until that time we had four worship leaders who led once a month, one of them being on staff.
Needless to say, moving to one primary worship leader was a radical change. Here were some of the reasons for our decision:
- We wanted a strong bond between the worship leader and the senior pastor. To do this the senior pastor needed to work with the same person every week.
- We wanted to improve the service flow and production. By having a staff member be the primary worship leader the senior pastor could also work one-on-one with the worship leader during the week to intentionally craft the service experience. While you can do this with multiple volunteer leaders, having the leader on staff cuts out a lot of potential miscommunication.
- We wanted to communicate a unified vision. The senior pastor was new and the church had been without a senior pastor for three and a half years. By working closely with one primary worship leader the senior pastor could be more effective in communicating the vision of the church at a critical time.
In 2010 I began working for a different church. This church strongly emphasized multiple worship leaders. I eventually became the Music Pastor, but I only led worship once every 4-6 weeks.
We pursued multiple leaders there for some of these reasons:
- We placed a high emphasis on serving. Our goal was for every person to use the gifts God had given them. We found out about every person with gifting in music and worship and sought them out. We also held regular church-wide auditions. Our standards were high, but we found some excellent leaders and were able to live out a culture of service in the way we led worship.
- We measured successful leadership by how well we trained leaders. Every leader was expected to replicate themselves as much as possible. If we were not delegating we heard about it. The view was that by not delegating we taking away someone’s opportunity to use their God given gifts.
- We had a highly effective communication structure. We could have multiple leaders because over the years this church had built a strong and effective way of communicating with the leaders, and the leaders knew what to expect.
- The pastor wanted primarily guitarists to front the band and I am a keyboardist. I accomplished this goal by staging the guitarists forward and acting as Music Director on the weeks I was not leading worship.
How many worship leaders should you have? By now you have probably guessed my answer.
Every church is different. They are all in different seasons at different times, have different leaders and expectations, and have different challenges to overcome.
Here are some questions you can ask to decide how many worship leaders your church should have:
- Do your worship pastor and senior pastor have a highly effective communication structure in place? Effective communication is always important, but becomes even more paramount with multiple worship leaders.
- Are your worship leaders all 110% supportive of the vision of the church? Better to have one good worship leader sold out on the vision than 5 stellar worship leaders who don’t really get it.
- Does your church actually have more than one excellent worship leader? If they’re not available your decision has been made for you. Start praying.
- Do you have a primary worship leader who is burning out? Some leaders do not have the bandwidth to lead well every week. In that case, definitely find some excellent alternate worship leaders to protect your primary leader’s health, and pray that your leader is humble enough to accept it.
- Is the church struggling to deal with transition? Sometimes, not always, it is helpful to have just one worship leader during a time of transition. Other times having multiple leaders during transition helps the congregation see that they are not being cut out of whatever change is happening.
- What kind of look does the church want up front? If you have a guitarist as a worship leader but the senior pastor would prefer to have vocalists without instruments as worship leaders, then make the necessary adjustments.
How have you decided how many worship leaders to utilize? What other questions did you ask?