Your Worship Leader Can’t Sing. What do you do? —  October 27, 2014


On my very first worship service at my new church I noticed it. The praise team was terrible. They were good people that had good intentions, but they were flat, out of rhythm and all over the place. Especially one of them. He was great at computers but a terrible singer. What would you do? How would you do it? In all honesty, it wasn’t one of my easiest periods as a pastor. It was difficult to transition them to ministries that were a better fit. There were some hurt feelings. There were some grumblings. There were also lots of new people that came and almost to a person said they had been inspired and touched by the excellence in music.

I have two points to make today:

*I’m not trying to advocate for one style over another. I am trying to encourage you to excellence no matter what style your church uses.

*I agree that every church has its unique challenges and my suggestions might not work in every church. It can, however start important conversations in your congregation to make sure we encourage people to minister in their area of giftedness, not preference.

So, you have a mismatch. What do you do?

  1. 100 vs 1. When we have a mismatch, and assuming we have better options sitting in the pews (which we did) we often are hesitant to make a move because of the fear of hurting the 1. What about the other 100? Who cares for them? What about the guests? It seems unfair to save the one, but sacrifice the 100.
  2. Lead. True leadership is about taking everyone forward not keeping everyone happy. Someone has said that the “secret for success I do not know, but the secret for failure is trying to keep everyone happy”. I know confrontation is difficult, especially for some pastors, who entered the ministry because they wanted to help people. One of the most dangerous things you can do as a pastor is take away power from someone. It must be done prayerfully, respectfully and intentionally. (Remember the 100!)
  3. Teach about worship. Many pastors, because of the hot potato that worship is, stay away from the topic. That would be a mistake. Teach about worship with balance, consistently. Bring experts in. By experts I mean people that actually know what they are talking about, not people that make up stuff and use pseudo-science to prove the improvable.

Here is an example of a lesson I taught my worship team and my church:

There are 4 C’s that make an effective worship team:

Character- anyone can sing. Not everyone can lead worship. Its imperative that the people that lead others to Jesus have a connection with Jesus. Perfect, no. Connected, yes.

Competency- can they sing? Can they hold a note? Do children cry and cats miau when they take the mic? Do people cringe when they see them lead?

Chemistry- I don’t know why it is, but worship teams/choirs are fertile ground for drama. Unresolved issues within the worship team will spill over and become a distraction rather than a blessing.

Commitment- do they show up to practice? Do they take it seriously? Are they willing to make the effort necessary to improve in all areas? Are they divas?

Consider this quote:

“A minister should not give out hymns to be sung until it has first been ascertained that they are familiar to those who sing…Singing is a part of the worship of God, but in the bungling manner in which it is often conducted, it is no credit to the truth, and no honor to God. There should be system and order in this as well as every other part of the Lord’s work. Organize a company of the best singers, whose voices can lead the congregation, and then let all who will, unite with them. Those who sing should make an effort to sing in harmony; they should devote some time to practice, that they may employ this talent to the glory of God.

Evangelism p. 506

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2 responses to Your Worship Leader Can’t Sing. What do you do?

  1. well, I think it is very interesting that even those in the congregation should make it their studied aim to learn how to sing as beautiful as they can! But, the very best should be the company of worship leaders.

  2. Our church’s Saturday night service worship team is having the same problem. We had an excellent worship leader with an excellent voice who left to take a full-time worship pastor role. While I have been wanting to get back into actually leading worship teams, I put that on hold for a couple years due to raising two young kids.

    After our excellent worship leader left, our pastor promoted Brent, our electric guitarist, who sings poorly, though he is a very good musician. Now he sings lead vocals for all the songs, and many times he’s out of tune especially on higher notes. I approached our main worship pastor about Brent’s singing issues, and I also asked for the opportunity to lead occasionally, having lead worship for 7 years at 2 different churches and having been on worship teams for close to 20 years. I can sing well, and have been at this church for 4 years and on the worship team for about 3 years. So, the point is, I’m well qualified both in experience and in attitude to lead worship. I’m not difficult to get along with, and I’m a mellow, gentle personality, and my leadership reflects that.

    His response was they wanted to stay with Brent as worship leader, since they felt only one person should lead at a time. They said they were working on helping his singing. Also said the main pastor was comfortable with him.

    Now, I believe that is all true, at least to a certain extent. However, the elephant in the room is that you shouldn’t have anyone leading singing if they haven’t first “perfected” their voice. In other words, until you can sing competently, you should not be the lead singer. You don’t have to be great, but you should be at least decent. I took 3 years of vocal lessons before I began to lead worship singing, and I found it took almost all that time till I was polished enough to lead in churches with any significant congregations, and I have led congregations in the 100 to 300 range.

    You would think that a worship pastor would be happy to have more competent worship leaders, so that when you need someone to substitute, you have them. But the attitude I’ve always perceived at this church is that only certain “selected” are ever allowed to lead singing. It saddens me unfortunately. And it’s not about sour grapes, and at least not too much.

    When Brent was selected as worship leader, I felt it was a political decision, since he’s good friends with the main pastor. I felt my initial thought was confirmed by what the worship pastor said. The thing is, the worship pastor knows that I am a good singer, and have good worship leading experience. It’s unfortunate, since we do like the preaching there, but the Saturday night worship has gone downhill, and I’m embarrassed to be on the team these days. I see no other option but to resign from Saturday night worship, and find another church because of such political and close minded attitudes regarding worship leading. I was on the worship team for two years at a very large church a few years back. The people were nice, but my wife and I felt that the worship service was more of a worship concert than actual worship to God. Too much light smoke, too much emphasis on perfection, much too loud, to be very uplifting. And the band leader/worship leader was the a 23 year old son of the executive pastor. He was a fairly mediocre singer also, but a good musician. Once again, I felt it was a political app’t, and no one else would have a chance against the son of one of the pastors. But yet the preaching was pretty good. What is it with churches and their unfortunately mediocre worship services due to promoting people who shouldn’t be in those positions. This guy should’ve been the band leader, but not a lead singer. Luckily they had more people who lead singing, but the attitudes about the worship services come from the top.