Of course, we know a worship leader should be a true Christian and have all of the spiritual qualities that the Bible lays out for leadership within the church. But beyond that, what MUSICAL requirements do you feel should be present for a worship leader? And maybe not required, but at least extremely valuable.
Ok, MUSICAL requirements........to have the ability to lead solidly and with conviction so that the congregation and fellow musicians are able to follow you. That is a skill in itself, but it doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with a technically competent musician. I feel a worship leader should be able to arrange songs, chords etc. to suit fellow band members as well as a congregation and be able to adapt a song for different situations, even on the spur of the moment. I think what is important is to put bags of energy into the music so as to bring it alive. I don't get that you need to sound like the CD at all, but to have the ability to recognise your musical talents and strengths and put them to their best use.
It depends on the context. Assuming we're talking about 'worship leader' as 'person who makes the music happen in services' , you could theoretically have a brilliant worship leader who isn't a musician at all and can't even sing for toffee but knows how to bring the best out of those who do have those skills. However, that requires other musicians to be available so I think it really helps for a worship leader to have enough musical ability to lead solo in a variety of settings - being able to play enough to support songs, sing enough to lead the congregation through them and not to get so nervous in front of a crowd that they lock up.
Ideally, they will also have enough technical skills to think and communicate about the gubbins of how music works. That should cover their own instruments and ideally those being used by the rest of the band. For example, if you have a relatively novice trumpeter to include, it helps to understand why Eb is going to be a more comfortable key for them than E, and how the guitarists (who typically love E on a guitar in standard tuning) can adapt to work with that. In other words, we're back to bring the best out of the band (and congregation) but now supported with some practical musical knowledge. If they can do everything Lorraine suggests and more, that's brilliant, but they certainly need enough to understand, protect and nurture the worship team.
Final thought for now - it definitely isn't necessary for the worship leader to be a virtuosic performer. If they are exceedingly brilliant, they need to know how to rein it back. I am heading back to the realm of overall character rather than specific musical skills but, certainly in a context where the team consists of amateurs and volunteers, it is essential to take the whole team forward rather than striding off and leave the rest in the dust.
Thanks for the comments! I don't think the main worship leader has to be the best musician in town, but some thoughts...
- Good musicians attract other good musicians. If the worship leader has a higher level of musical ability, it is more appealing for good musicians in the congregation to participate. The reverse also applies. If you're a great guitarist sitting in the congregation and you see the worship leader (and likely the team) is barely holding it together, you will have zero motivation to be a part of that. So the leader should have enough ability to attract other musicians but also to motivate those on the team to grow in their own abilities. One way to get better at anything is to get around other people that can do what you are aspiring to do... as it motivates you to rise to that level.
- If you don't have the know-how, then it makes it near impossible to lead a team. Even someone that is a great vocalist and worship leader, but doesn't have instrumental experience, has struggles in leading a team. It's not a requirement of course to play an instrument to be a good worship leader, but man it's a huge help! When you play an instrument (or instruments plural), you have the ability to demonstrate what needs to be done which goes a long way. However, I've learned that you can develop the ability to communicate with other musicians that play instruments that you do NOT and still get across to the what you need them to do. For example, I'm not a drummer, but I've had drummers over the years tell me that I do a good job at explaining what I want them to do... although I get made fun of for the sounds and motions I make when doing so. :) I think having a solid knowledge of music theory and such gives a great foundation for being able to teach, explain and lead your team. That in combo with instrumental background is great!
Now the trick in this line of discussion is that while the worship leader should be learning and striving to be their very best at their craft, they MUST remain humble!! If they're very gifted and always put that it everyone's faces, pointing attention to themselves all the time, that will come crashing down. You CAN be talented AND humble at the same time. Not many seem to be, but we all have to keep ourselves in check. Always striving to be better and grow in our giftings, but not letting our head grow and get in the way in the process. :)
Just a few thoughts... anyone else?
Wulf and Nathan, thank you for great responses.
We should also be willing to learn and improve, not only upon our musical skills but also in our worship leading skills as we go along and take something, no matter how small, from each experience. If you really think about worship leading and had to make a list of what it entails there is an awful lot in there - multi tasking at its best!
Being humble, I fully agree and to be honest that's part of my nature anyway (and that's not me being humble or pious) but recently I've been told to 'flaunt' what I've got by God's grace. It's sometimes difficult as in one sense you can say to yourself 'Right, I've got the musical capability to do this' then in the same breath you could be thinking 'It is purely by depending on the Lord that I am able to do this'. So, in that sense I'm never quite sure how or what to pray for? Is it for greater musical talent to give glory to Him, have the faith to be totally dependent on God's grace or both. Afterall, music is a God given talent too and we are musicians as well as worship leaders. So yes, we need to keep ourselves in check and strive to be continually very honest with ourselves before God.
I would say (having been a worship leader in different congregations over the decades) that the answer to that depends a LOT on the character of the congregation. Is the "Worship Leader" also a "Minister of Music?" If so, then song writing and arrangement skills are important.
I do not think the song leader needs to be an instrumentalist, but having a decent singing voice should be important. And should be able to follow the directions of the congregational leadership (pastor, elder board, etc) That person should have enough of an engaging personality to draw the congregation in and get them focused on God and not them.
Just my opinion.