Does The Worship Leader Have To Sing?

For someone out there, this is going to be a mind blowing, revolutionary thought. So by all means, feel free to sit down for a moment and catch your breath.

For the rest of you, who hopefully get the playful spirit in which I wrote the above sentence, this is a valid conversation for us to have.

In some church traditions, this is a pointless conversation with an obvious answer: of course not. But for many evangelical churches, the question I posed would mean a complete paradigm shift. The worship leader is ALWAYS the person singing. Whether they sing on their own, or if they are also the piano player, guitarist, or even bass player, the worship leader always sings. I’m going to propose that maybe this thinking is why your church’s music ministry is struggling.


I think it’s just as important to find the role that fits the person as it is to find the person to fit the role. Several years ago, I was the worship leader at a church and I was looking for a lead guitar player. We had a guy who had done the job for a while, but he was a bad fit. He didn’t get the music we were playing and didn’t want to learn. What do you do? The Holy Spirit was gracious and gave me wisdom beyond my years. I had a thought to have him play bass, and it turns out that when it came to modern music, he really had a feel for it. He played at the right places, didn’t play at the right times. He became my go to bass player. I had found a role that fit his gifts.

Now, I still needed a lead guitarist. Well, first off, I still had our new bass player do lead guitar every so often. When I intentionally did an “older set” (see my post on that subject here) I’d ask him to play guitar instead of bass, and it worked out ok. But that still didn’t solve my main problem. So what did I do? I looked outside the box. I found a gal in the youth group who I thought was pretty good on acoustic guitar at doing something different than what the worship leader was doing to compliment the song. She didn’t really do solos but I saw some potential. So one Wednesday night I gave here my electric guitar running into my reverb pedal that I had preset up, and that was it. She didn’t do anything different than when she played her acoustic, but now I had an electric guitar player. Over time, she practiced, I gave her more options and opportunities and she got better. Eventually she bought her own guitar and amp, and I gave her an overdrive pedal. I now had my lead guitarist. She wasn’t as talented as the other guy, but she was a much better fit with the band overall, and she had grown, and continues to grow in the giftings God has given her. New bass player, new lead guitarist, all from the people God had already given me, I just had had them in the wrong spots before.


So when you’re looking for a worship leader, be flexible. Just because the last worship leader sang or played guitar doesn’t mean the next one will.

Maybe you have a drummer who would do very well in his giftings to put the set list together, schedule practice, etc. Then you have a singer/instrumentalist who is great at fronting the band, but horrible at leading the band. It’s not that they need to grow in their gifts (a common false assumption) it’s that it’s not their gift to begin with.

Imagine a bass player with a microphone. He never sings but he welcomes the church, prays at the start or end of song worship, and is the guy who says “let’s sing that again”. All the while, there is another person who handles lead vocal duties. They act functionally as the “front man”, while the bass player leads the band, and is functionally the worship leader, even if a casual observer didn’t see it. Sammy or David may have sang, but everyone knows that Eddie lead Vanhallen.

Being flexible allows you to make the most of what God has given you and to free people to operate in the gifts they are given and not the ones expected of them.


What a great joy it is to set people free. When we expect someone to have the gifts and abilities of someone else, we trap them. But when we seek out and recognize the talents that God has given them, and then empower them to use those abilities, we set them free to serve. We won’t last long shoving square pegs in round holes, so let’s take burdens off of peoples shoulders that were never meant for them. As leaders, let’s find out what peoples gifts are, recognize them, and empower them to be free in those gifts. As musicians, let’s free ourselves to be who God made and gifted us to be, and not feel pressure to be someone we aren’t.

We will be better off as individuals, as worship bands, and as churches if we foster this culture of freedom in Christ instead of looking to put people in roles never meant for them.

Agree? Disagree? Not sure? Feel free to leave a comment and let’s talk about it.

2 thoughts on “Does The Worship Leader Have To Sing?

  1. Pingback: Fall Q&A. Effects Pedals. Acoustic Worship, and Three Headed Delays. | Real World Worship Leading

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