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.

Continue reading “Does The Worship Leader Have To Sing?”

The Problem With Modern Church Music

The Following was twittered by @brentonbrown and is meant to show how lame/stupid/ill thought/etc criticism to modern worship music is.

The problem was that found I agreed, at least in part, with many of the objections.

So I’ve included the original posting along with some of my thoughts.

From an American newspaper in an article objecting to new trends in church music.
There are several reasons for opposing it.

1. It’s too new.
-This is actually a problem to be dealt with. How does someone who listens to mainstream top 40 connect with a worship team doing experimental music. Or a church that has done hymns for its entire church life make the jump to Top 40. Its not a reason not to do new songs or styles, but a issue that needs to be dealt with in love, service and humility.

2. It’s often worldly, even blasphemous.
-This charge makes the assumption that some styles of music are good and some styles of music are evil. This is not true but still something held in churches today.

3. The new Christian music is not as pleasant as the more established style.

-This is true. Rock music is most likely not pleasant to an 80 year old. Twang country is probably not pleasant to someone from the Urban Centers, and Metal is unpleasant to everyone accept folks like me who enjoy it. Worship leaders should know their audience.

4. Because there are so many new songs you can’t learn them all.

-You’ll never learn all the new songs. I don’ t know all the old songs. This objection smacks of the fear of change.

5. It put’s too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than Godly lyrics.

-I go both ways on this one.

A while back I was in a worship service of very hip and modern music and I realized that it had been minutes since I had sang, and I found that repeated in many of the songs. There is a difference between a performance concert where the band plays to the audience and a corporate time of worship in music when the band serves the people by leading them in song. Sadly too many talented musicians fail to make good worship leaders because they don’t see the difference.

On the flip side, there is far too much bad music in the church and a band playing well, being well practiced and sounding professional is far from a bad thing.

6. The new music creates disturbances making people act indecently and disorderly.

-if that’s happening then read I Corinthians.

7. The preceding generation got along perfectly without it.

-They also got along fine w/o flu shots and iphones… that being said, there is some wisdom in that statement that gets overlooked because of the shortsightedness/stupidity in that statement. Not everything the preceding generation did was dumb, and not every new idea is good.

8. It’s a money making scam.

-Boy it sure can be… (cough…CCLI… cough…)
9. And some of these new music upstarts are lewd and loose.

-To be fair it might seem that way to an older generation and in truth the artsy types seem to be more open to instability morally. But you know… so are the not artsy types so…

You might think this was written recently. But it was written by an American preacher, a church leader attacking Isaac Watts, the hymn writer who wrote the hymn ‘When I Survey The Wondrous Cross’ published in 1707.

Adam’s Final Thoughts:

Overall, I feel like it’s the same problem all over again.

-People confuse style with substance
-People put personal preferences over service and the needs of the many (both old and young are guilty of this)
-And they try to condense a nuanced subject like music in the church with cookie cutter charges and predictable answers.

Who is Your Church Geared To?

Every church is geared towards someone, either intentionally or unintentionally. The Music of the Church is often the biggest indicator of a church’s primary demographic. Is the music of your church contemporary? You are geared towards a 40 year old Soccer Mom. Does your church music sound like a Gaither Homecoming? Then you’re probably geared towards the 60 and over crowd. Does your church hand out ear plugs? Then you probably don’t know who Bill Gaither is and you’re demographic is the young and the restless. Some churches are very intentional about this. Some churches have no idea why they are doing what they are doing, its just the way its always been done.

I prefer to be intentional about things and the music and expression of the church is no exception. Who are we geared towards? Why are we geared towards them? How can we achieve this goal?


Often this can be answered by who shows up. Things like your church’s median age, marrieds or singles, kids or no kids. You can also be aware of the area you live in: Urban, Suburban, Rural, etc.


This is something that will probably be set by the Pastors, elders, and leadership of your church. Some churches focus on the unsaved. Some churches focus on who they have now. Some churches focus on the youth, while other churches give great deference to the older members.

Being aware of this as a worship leader will help you in song selection, arrangements, band selection, etc.


If you know who your church is geared to, and you know why, then you have to ask HOW. How do I serve the people God has given us and connect with the people we feel called to reach?

For me, my church has a wide demographic. A fairly even balance of old and young, married and single, and kids a plenty. We want to be geared towards everyone. The vision I’ve taken from my pastor is that we want to minister to everyone. We want to respect and honor the older saints and we want to reach the next generation.

As a worship leader, this can be a bit of tight rope, you can’t make everyone happy so what do you do? The answer I came up with was a ratio and a rotation.

The Ratio: If there are 4 Sundays in a month, 2 are as middle of the road as possible. 1 skews older, and 1 skews younger. This way we minister to the most people and groups of people possible. Middle of the Road will change over time, but currently I would define it as worship leaders like Chris Tomlin, Brett Williams, Brenton Brown and bands like Jars of Clay, Phil Wickham and the music you would hear on your secular top 40 station. Older Tends to lean towards the old Maranatha praise songs, hymns, and a gentler sound with a little bit of Bill Gaither thrown in. Younger would be worship bands like John Mark MacMillan, the worship bands out of Mars Hill Church, the Reality Churches, Sojourn Church Network, and Calvary Fellowship in Seattle, and the music you would hear on your local rock or indie rock station (KEXP in Seattle for me). In addition, the #1 style of music in North Snohomish County (according to radio station ratings) is country music so I try to have 1 Sunday a month lean a bit country/folk (this can fall under Older, Middle, or Younger depending on arrangement) because country music is a very natural expression for the people in this area. In more Urban or Suburban areas the style of expression might well be different but the concept is the same.

The Rotation: I lead 70% of the time, but we have other worship leaders who lead 1-2 Sunday’s a month, plus they often co-lead with me on my Sunday’s. I have a certain style that connects with certain people, these other leaders have different styles that better connect with a different group of people. Variety is the spice of life and when you are trying to serve as wide a demographic as we are, it’s not just important, it’s essential.

The point is that one group isn’t served to the exclusion of another group. We don’t ignore our youth and we don’t put the old people out on the Iceberg. Here’s how a month of Sunday’s might work at Calvary:Arlington

Example 1:

Week-1 (Middle Ground Set, pop/rock. CCM, Modern Hymns)

Week-2 (Older, Country set:Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, He touched Me, Glory, glory, etc)

Week-3 (Middle Ground. Other worship leader. CCM. Chris Tomlin, Phil Wickham, etc)

Week-4 (Younger. Modern Hymns, pop/rock. a little more overdrive on the guitar)

Example 2:

Week-1 (Younger. Folky, Modern Hymns. Channeling bands like Head and the Heart, Noah and the Whale and Damien Jurado)

Week-2 (Middle Ground. CCM, pop/rock)

Week-3 (Older, other worship leader. Maranatha Praise songs. Traditonally arranged Hymns)

Week-4 (Middle Ground. Other leader co-leading with me. Acoustic CCM songs.)’

Week-5 (Fifth Sunday Month, something different, lead by myself with no band, keep it simple and straight forward)

That’s how I do it. How do you identify who you are gearing towards and how to best serve them?