What’s Hard About Being a Worship Leader

I’ve been leading worship at my church since 2007, and let me tell you something: I’m still not quite used to it.

I know it looks pretty easy—from the congregation, I’m just singing through a few songs with the help of some instrumentalists.  But from where I’m standing, it’s a challenge, and here are three reasons why:

  1. Worship leaders can hear their voices pretty loudly.  Most worship leaders have monitors right in front of them (or via earpieces) that amplify the leaders’ voices on the stage. The monitors are necessary, because without them, you’re more likely to get off pitch or over-sing.  But hearing your voice in the monitor is the vocal equivalent of talking to yourself in the mirror.  It’s weird; it can make you feel self-conscious; and as a result, it takes constant vigilance to remain focused on God.
  2. Something funky may be going on with the sound or with other members of the team. A few Sundays ago, we were singing this new song, and for the life of me, I couldn’t remember how to sing the first line of the verses.  So I had to get the guitarist to stand close to me and repeatedly sing the first line of the verses during the worship set.  As you can imagine, needing someone to sing cues to you during a song is frustrating and distracting.  And that kind of funky stuff happens all the time—whether it’s an instrument that’s pulling away from the rhythm, a bug in the sound system, or a misunderstanding between the leader and the musicians.  In those moments, the last thing you’re thinking about is adoring God; you’re just trying to keep the worship music train from jumping the tracks.
  3. There may be a lot of things going on in my head that have nothing to do with worship.  You know how sometimes you sit down to pray and your brain feels like a busy intersection?  That often happens to me when I’m leading worship.  I may notice my daughter out in the congregation having a meltdown; or I might have sinus drainage that’s stuck in my throat; or maybe I’m watching my guest, who’s looking for a place to sit.  That kind of thing can go on for five minutes before I realize, “Oh yeah, I’m supposed to be worshiping too.  What’s going on up here?”

Leading music in front of a congregation takes a special grace from God, and it also requires grace from the people in the congregation.  So the next time you want to judge the sub-par performance of your worship leader, please remember this: it’s not a performance anyway.  And if your worship leader is going to realize that as well, he will probably need your prayers a lot more than he needs your judgment.

Note: my church is incredibly supportive of its music volunteers, so my request that people show grace to their music ministers is not at all a reflection of my experience; however, I know it reflects the experiences of plenty of worship leaders at other churches.

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One Comment

  1. Graeme Phillips

    My church does things the easy way: – it doesn’t have worship leaders. The words are in the hymn book, the organist is partially shielded from view by a screen and the organ’s pipes are hidden behind the wall at the front of the sanctuary. The church is deliberately designed so that the pulpit is highly visible and the organ isn’t (the idea being that the message takes precedence over the music).


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