Music Ministry Benchmarks: The Worship Leader

by vernsanders on March 22, 2011

This is number seven in a sequence of eight about benchmarks that started here, and continued here. We’ve specifically talked about benchmarks for a church’s chief accompanist for congregational singing here, for a worship team member here, and a choir member here. Last time, we talked about benchmarks for a choir director here.

Remember that what follows is my opinion, and not the result of a scientific study. It is, however, based upon years of practical experience.

Defining what a worship leader does can be tricky. In some churches a worship leader is defined as somebody who owns a guitar. In others, it means somebody who is a “songleader” (which means standing in front of the congregation and waving their arms during congregational singing). In some churches it is the band who is always out of town doing concerts.

So I called my friend Doug Lawrence, and asked: “What does a worship leader do, these days?”

Doug’s response? “A worship leader is an usher: someone who ushers the congregation into the presence of God.”

Perfect. So let’s get right to my list of characteristics of a worship leader:


  • Can play/lead/sing more than two songs
  • Understands enough about worship to know that it isn’t about what they do, but rather about what the congregation experiences


  • Has a plan for worship
  • Can lead a team of musicians well enough to prepare them to deliver the worship plan
  • Is organized enough to plan ahead, and flexible enough to make changes when needed
  • Contributes to the church staff team in the manner which is expected of that position at that particular church


  • Has a plan, but listens to the Spirit (and the congregation) and can adapt (including getting out of the way) on the fly during worship
  • Doesn’t need to tell the congregation what they are going to do before every segment of a worship service (i.e. “now let’s pray”)
  • Senses when there is a need for a transition, and when there is a need for silence
  • Lives in Scripture enough to pray/comment “in the moment” during worship from a strong sense of what is “right for the moment”
  • Adds value to the church’s staff team, and is able to contribute in a manner that move’s the staff’s common agenda forward
  • Interacts with the congregation in a way that invites people to encounter God
  • Cares about the entire spiritual life of the congregation, and not just the latest worship hit tune

What do you think? Does that cover it? My idea is to start conversations, so tell me what you think by leaving a comment below.

Next time? Benchmarks for the worship planner. Stay tuned…

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