Both of these roles play a major part in the exchange of ‘language’ between what is presented on the platform and then delivered to the congregation.
However, to fully understand the roles that each of these play on the platform it is necessary to examine what each brings, and how the combination of these gifts creates a vehicle to declare the goodness and love of God to His people.
The Music Director
•The MD plays a pivotal role in performances, whether it be for choirs, orchestras, ensemble bands, worship bands etc. With simple hand movements, he sets the pace and keeps various sections on task to produce pleasing sounds. However, the MDs duties extend well beyond stage performance. He can also be a creative influence for both the musicians he directs, and the community at large.
•To work in this position, the MD must have creative, management and public relations abilities. In the area of weekend church services, many of the musicians and singers will generally be volunteers, so a great deal of patience is required in order to build and strengthen the team, always building into them that it is not perfection that is required, but excellence!
•In general terms, the success of a musical presentation / performance is determined by the direction given by the MD. In most cases for specific presentations, an MD will select musicians or singers to fill the required positions, and then works with the team to create a cohesive sound. The MD has to have a keen ear to isolate and correct performance issues, and the ability to provide first-hand instruction by playing an instrument or singing a note is particularly important. Since many different personalities will be part of the group the MD also must understand how to communicate effectively and to give constructive criticism.
•The MD assists in the musical selections for the team to execute. Generally, this requires meeting with the Worship Leader, and sometimes gauging songs based on sermons or messages that may be presented to the church. An experience MD also can expand on a personal resume by crafting original compositions or researching particular songs for fresh interpretations of older works.
The Worship Leader
Churches have taken a wide variety of approaches to the role of the worship leader. Choir directors, accompanists, rock bands, soloists, and organists have all been included in that category. Regardless of the title, those who lead the singing and the worship of God play a prominent role in most Christian gatherings. At every meeting they have significant opportunities to teach, train, and encourage Christians in giving God the glory we were created to give him.
The New Testament gives us little to go on to establish the specific job description of a worship leader. However, it’s apparent throughout Scripture that singing is important to God, and that it is usually led.
Ephesians 4:11–13 tells us that God has given gifts to certain leaders in the church for the maturing and building up of his people. Some of those gifts are pastoring, teaching, prophesying, and evangelising. In a corporate worship leader, we have a leadership role which combines aspects of these and other New Testament gifts in the context of music.
More specifically, the role and goals of a worship leader can be described in this way:
•An effective worship leader, aided and led by the Holy Spirit, skillfully combines biblical truth with music
to magnify the worth of God and the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, thereby motivating the gathered church
to join in proclaiming and cherishing the truth about God
and seeking to live all of life for the glory of God.
It’s not just “worship leading.” It’s leading people. The question is, in what direction?
What does it mean to be a leader? When someone takes a position in front of a group of people, they will, to one degree or another, be leading, whether intentionally or not.
Romans 12:6 says leaders must lead with zeal, or govern diligently. Both phrases speak of faithfully seeking to direct a meeting. The first duty of a worship leader is to take on that responsibility cheerfully.
Congregational worship in spirit and truth doesn’t just “happen”. God can at any moment choose to manifest His presence in our midst, but He has identified specific activities and attitudes to which He generally responds. Critical words, for example, quench the Spirit, while praise invites His activity and involvement. Thus, there must be intentionality and purpose behind what a worship leader does.
Everything ultimately glorifies God (for example, all sin and rebellion is eventually judged by God, thus magnifying His holiness)…but not everything worships God. Worship is all I know of me responding to all God has shown me of Himself. This response involves a choice, and the use of my mind, will, and emotions. Thus, everything a worship leader does should encourage that response in the people they are leading.
Since we’re leading people (and not just “leading worship”), we need to be clear on what direction we’re taking them in. It’s easy to overuse vague phrases that sound good but don’t necessarily define where we’re going or what we’re doing. For example, in recent years “entering in” has become synonymous with the corporate worship experience. But what do we mean by that phrase? Are we entering in to some mindless, automatic-pilot state of ecstasy? Are we perhaps passing through the outer courts of worship to enter in to the holy of holies?
First, worship is neither automatic nor mindless—it’s intentional, purposeful, and very much involves the mind. And second, Jesus has already entered the holy of holies for us (Heb. 10:19–22). The purpose of worship is to enter in to a fresh awareness of who God is, what he has done, and how that affects our past, present, and future.
Finally, a worship leader’s task involves leading people effectively. We should expect good fruit from our labours. Worship leading is not a hit-or-miss proposition. God desires to bless us with his manifest presence when we gather to worship Him.
The Music Director & Worship Leader
(All of these things will be discussed prior to the meeting.)
The things that the Worship Leader and Music Director liaise with include:
Choosing songs is a vital step in preparing for the Sunday Service – some songs are geared for different moments, and although it isn’t generally discussed, there are some songs that work better at evening meetings than in the morning meetings. The songlist will comprise of songs that the church are currently ‘breathing’ or ‘living in’, and can be dependent on the sermon or series that is being teached to the gathered church. The Worship Leader has an idea of the songs that will encourage the congregation to connect with the message from the speaker, and in discussing the list with the MD, the list can be strengthened in ways that the WL may have not thought of. Two are better than one, and this includes song choice.
Order of songs
The flow of the songs from one to another help to take the congregation on a journey. MDs can help with the order, in terms of the dynamics of each of the chosen songs, and how the WL can connect the songs from one message to the next. If you are planning a 20-25 music segment for your meeting, then starting with songs of great proclamation and affirmation (a lot of the time these songs will be stronger in their delivery and faster tempos), followed by declarations of His goodness, love, joy etc. in a more intimate setting (these songs will have a slower tempo, and also have a larger dynamic range) will give a balanced set of songs.
It is worth noting that every meeting is different, and it is important to be flexible in choosing songs. Please remember to have a care when teaching new songs, or having a number of new songs in a setlist – the aim is to get the congregation connected to Christ and not worrying about all the things they have to remember in just singing the song.
Keys and Arrangements
Keys of songs are important – firstly, be certain that the songs being sung are in keys that the congregation can actively take part in. It doesn’t really work if the WL is leading the song in a key that nobody can effectively join in with – it goes from corporate worship to performance.
How we get from one song to the next a lot of the time has to do with the keys of the songs. Although you don’t have to be ‘military’ about modulating keys, you do have to be aware of the move from one song to the next. A lot of the time, this has already been discussed between the MD and WL at the time of choosing the songlist and refining it.
Healthy arranging of the song is equally important – a song has what I like to call ‘weather’ – it has a sunrise, a sunset, moments of clear sky, sometimes it’s windy, or clouded over, and sometimes it can be downright stormy! So in preparing the flow of the song, try to make it so that the congregation can quickly attach to the moment – intricate arrangements, although musically ‘clever’, can be quite a distraction, and put eyes on the team, instead of God. Healthy arrangements also helps with the singers and musicians on the platform so that everybody is on the same page.
Flow and Transitions
How the songs flow from one to another once again connect to the service in general. Healthy flow incorporates getting from one song to the next with a defined starting and finishing of the piece. It’s like reading a book where the chapters are all interconnected. Turn the pages well!
Transitions of songs tend to be the more difficult part of executing a good songset for the team. Much of the time, a ‘leading’ chord or note for the next song rises above the end of the previous song, almost providing a bridge between the two moments. There are other occasions where you can put two songs together in a ‘butt-end’ fashion, mostly in the faster songs. Once again, there are no rules for this, but in whatever you do, always make it a confident moment, so that there are no awkward ‘hang’ moments, and the congregation look at you in a bewildered way….
Starting and Ending the set
Starting and ending the songset with strength helps to connect the various moments of the service together, so start the set with sure intention, and finish the set with a strong welcoming for the emcee. This is what I like to call ‘book-ending’, like placing a ‘brace’ around the entire songlist so that it is firm, well packaged and everything is all together.
Moments of free worship
Always have these prepared, mostly when there will be moments of prayer and praise. Much of the time, you can use segments of the song you are currently in, and at the end of the set when the emcee is onstage, you can use a segment of the last song played, to maintain connection. Alternatively, you can have some chord progressions ready for the team to play. Be certain to discuss this before the service, so that everyone is on the same page.
Altar Call / Appeal moments
This is an intimate and tender moment of the meeting, so be certain to be strategic with a song that can welcome people. Much of the time, the message being presented will lend itself to a song that will connect with the moment.
Closing the service
Have a song of great praise that encourages the congregation to leave church with vitality and enthusiasm. Sometimes this will be an up tempo song that may have been in the list from the start of service, or it may be a song that encapsulates the meeting as a whole.
So here is my checklist for what I talk over with the Worship Leader:
•Order of Songs
•Keys and Arrangements
•Flow and Transitions
•Starting / Ending The Set
•Altar Call / Appeal
•Closing The Service
Be blessed, all . . . .
- •On an additional front, the MD serves as the face of the team. The distinction comes with the ability to speak publicly about various issues facing the music community, and encouraging youth participation and assisting in the development of the next generation of performers and Music Directors.