Gospel Centered Worship

Last week was Part 1 of 10 Tips for Leading Worship in a Church Plant. If you haven’t already, make sure to go back and read that post first before you go any further.

As I said in my previous post, leading worship in a church plant setting is unique in that you have the opportunity to develop a ministry from scratch. In many ways, you are laying a foundation that will impact your church for years to come – so it’s crucial that you start well.

While there are lots of resources aimed at worship leaders in established churches, I have found a lack of materials for equipping worship leaders in church plant contexts – hence the reason for these posts. So, without further adieu, here is Part 2.

6. Sing fewer but better songs.

We live in a day and age where there are more worship songs available to us than ever before. CCLI boasts over 300,000 songs, and hundreds more are being released on new albums each year. There can be a great deal of pressure, either spoken or unspoken, to constantly rotate new songs in and out.

Instead of succumbing to that pressure, work with your lead pastor to craft a small collection of songs that can function as a core songbook for your congregation. Choose songs that are theologically rich, timeless in nature, and easy for your people to sing. This will bring a sense of rootedness and stability to your services and, once established, will free you to introduce other songs on occasion without overwhelming or distracting the congregation.

7. Move slowly in adding new musicians.

Chances are that you are not going to have many musicians early on in the church plant. When I started, it was often just me with my acoustic guitar and sometimes my wife helping sing harmony. It will be tempting to add any new musicians who walk in the door as quickly as possible – but don’t.

Instead, create a process for how new musicians can join. Take them to coffee, listen to their story, and ask why they want to get involved. These extra steps help filter out people with hidden agendas or those looking for the limelight.

Remember, it’s always easier to add people to your team than it is to have to ask someone to step down later.

8. Work with the musicians you do have.

When you listen to new worship albums, you may think that you have to have a certain lineup of musicians or a certain sound in order to be “successful” – but nothing could be further from the truth. I am not saying that sound and style do not matter, they do, but God hasn’t called us all to sound like “insert-your-favorite-band-name-here”.

There is nothing worse than a worship leader or worship team trying to be something that they are not. So, trusting in God’s sovereignty, work with the musicians that God has brought you. Find their strengths, help them to flourish, and allow them to serve the church.

9. Pursue musical excellence, but don't be enslaved to it.

Musical excellence is a wonderful servant, but a wretched master. When done right, it frees, invites, and supports congregational singing. When it becomes centered on performance, musical excellence can bind, discourage, and alienate your people - it asks them to become passive observers.

Pursuing high standards of excellence should not distract from the message of the gospel or become an idol of your heart. Instead, as John Piper says, “Natural, undistracting excellence will let the truth and beauty of God shine through.”

10. Pray that God would build his church.

Finally, pray without ceasing. Pray as you plan and pray as you lead. You may have all the gifting and skills for leading worship, but apart from the Holy Spirit working they are worthless. As the Psalmist says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

Only God can build his church, and he has said that the gates of hell will not prevail against it – so take heart. Humble yourself, be faithful, and rest in God’s power to transform and change people’s lives.

Thanks for taking the time to read! I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this topic.

  • What tips would you add to this list?
  • What have you found helpful while leading worship in a church plant context?
  • Is there anything listed above that you'd like me to address in more detail?

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by Calvin Hemphill

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