We are glad that you are with us as a Journey Church Worship Leader! We don’t take worship lightly, and we know that you don’t either. So, we’ve written down some of our “culture” surrounding worship leading, to help you. Please read these guidelines carefully and ask any questions!
Pastor of Worship
“Some who publicly lead the corporate meetings of the people of God merely perform; others are engrossed in the worship of God. Some merely sing; some put on a great show of being involved; but others transparently worship God.”
–D. A. Carson
The “DNA” of Journey Church Worship Services
Just like every church, Journey has a culture all of its own. And within our church, our worship culture is unique to us.
- Musical Worship that is Authentically Passionate and Engaging and Jesus focused.
- Emphasis on Congregational Worship Songs. Our efforts are primarily focused on congregational songs, rather than solos, or “special music”.
- Creative Services that Make Sense and Change Lives. Every minute of every service is important.
- Special Attention to Our Worship Environment. Our environment helps us enter into worship (attention to stage design, lighting, sound).
- Appropriately Gifted People, Trained and Serving in the Right Roles (both tech and music).
- Doing our Best with What We Have (talent resources, equipment resources).
Pick songs early. Worship Leaders will pick songs for the Sundays they are leading. The sooner you have your song ideas in place, the sooner others can get on board to support you. We ask that your set be in Planning Centre Online (PCO) at least one week before the Thursday rehearsal day. Please pick songs that are part of our church’s normal repertoire. Put prayer and thought into the service. You can also contact the Teaching Pastor, especially to find out how he is ending his sermon. Remember that you don’t need to lead every song – you can “give songs away” to others on the Vocal Team for that Sunday. Just make sure you have the key right for that person!
Arrive before everyone else. Leaders arrive early and solve problems before they happen. Worship Leaders should be at rehearsal at least 15 minutes before the time stated. So for example, if the rehearsal is at 7:00pm, you should be there at least by 6:45pm to talk to God on your own, meet and greet others, and build relationships with those you are serving with. If Sunday morning rehearsal is at 9:00am, be available at 8:45am. This will build the team and build a culture of honouring each other’s time.
Know the music. This means personal practice. Spend time with the charts before rehearsal. Know the road map, know the number of measures on the intro and musical interludes. If you are not sticking exactly to the arrangement as written, make sure that is clear with the Musical Director (MD) and worked out in advance of rehearsal, not during rehearsal. If need be, call or meet with the Musical Director before the rehearsal.
Be a positive participant. As a leader within our church, we expect you to be a positive participant in the rehearsal, and on Sunday mornings. Please be willing to serve with anyone else on the team, regardless of skill level. When challenges arise, work alongside the Musical Director and the Worship Pastor to overcome them. Exhibit a spirit of cooperation with the entire team (music and tech).
Pray together with the team. Show leadership in prayer. Either the MD or the WL should start and end the weeknight rehearsal with prayer. Ask for prayer requests within the team and show genuine concern. Meet together with your team before you lead on Sundays.
Be open to input, receiving words of encouragement and also suggestions for change, knowing that you are loved and appreciated as a leader.
Lead with confidence, knowing that our church and its leaders are fully behind you, cheering for you to succeed. Our confidence is in Christ, who strengthens us.
Choosing the Right Songs
What songs should we start the worship time with? What songs are so important that we must sing them? What songs does our church need to sing right now? Here are a few tips on choosing the right songs… (hint: it is not about choosing your favourite songs!)
Consider the theme of the service. We don’t theme every song in every service at Journey. BUT, a particular topic may cry out for a certain song to be sung. Especially the song after the teaching, or the last song sung – it is meaningful if it connects to the teaching. Communion and Baptism services also need special songs, so make sure you know if you’re leading on one of those Sundays.
Consider the flow of the service. Sensitivity and thinking through the mood of the service beforehand is key.
Use “gathering songs”. Gathering songs bring people together. The gathering songs says – “leave your week behind, now its time to worship God together”. There are lots of these songs and people need them, because it is difficult to enter into worship without some time to ‘deprogram’ from a busy morning and workweek.
Know your instrumentation. What instruments do you have programmed this week? This makes a big difference in what songs you choose! If you have a great lead guitar player, do that song with the lead guitar solo. If you have strong vocalists, do something vocal heavy. If you’re unplugged, do something acoustic, or an acoustic version of the song. It is fun to give musicians songs that were tailor made for them and watch them run with it. On the other hand, if you program arrangements that are impossible for the players you have, it will be frustrating for all.
Program song variety (style, key, tempo). If your set has all the same type of song, it will feel like one long, very boring medley. Add to that, “all in the same key” and it’s utter boredom. Change it up with different textures and sounds and even surprises!
Weaving Your List of Songs into a Worship Set
The set begins with you and your heart. Remember the big picture of what you are doing – putting together songs to lead the people of God toward Him. What you choose will change the perspective and outlook of many people. People remember songs (longer than the teaching). Find a weekly time that you dedicate to creating song sets and make it your own time of worship. If you do this, I promise that your sets will soar and people will worship. Here are a few practical helps:
Choose the right keys for both you and the congregation. Lower is almost always better for the congregation, so please don’t push your voice. Keys for male and female worship leaders are often quite different. Be aware of this when fitting your songs together. It may be that you ask another Vocal Team member to lead a song in your set – this adds variety and helps to resolve problems with keys. If you are asking another vocalist to lead a song, ensure that the key is right for them and put it in Planning Center.
Keep it flowing. This is an artistic concept that is difficult to explain in writing. Sometimes words at the end of one song will lend themselves to words of a second song. Sometimes a certain key sets up a next song. Sometimes space is appropriate. There are no rules, other than being creative and giving attention to this. Otherwise, anyone could just stick a bunch of songs together!
Don’t get stuck in “The formula” rut. The formula that a lot of modern churches use goes like this: one “peppy” gathering song, followed by a even more peppy song, followed by a medium tempo song, followed by an introspective song. It’s ok to do this now and then, but be more creative in your approach. For example, try starting with small acoustic songs and building it up like a 747 taking off – this works!
Start at different places in the song. This works very well in transition! Start at the chorus. Sing a line over and over. Change the arrangement. Just make it clear to your musicians or you will spend a lot of time getting it right at rehearsal. Have a clear picture in your mind what you want to accomplish. Give clear direction to the congregation and make sure the Media Team has the right words projected! This will take some communication through the week. Ensure that the road map in Planning Center is updated, if you change from the standard arrangement.
Know when and how to be spontaneous. It is possible to be inspired when planning! But as the band progresses, you may want to try some “alternate endings” to songs and give signals as to where you are going. Even repeating a chorus a few times at the end can be a great example of this. Read the congregation – you will know if they are loving it, or getting weary of it.
Creating Meaningful Transitions
(from “Amplify” Blog, by Andrew Stanley)
Their main set was over. Any one of the over 50,000 people in the Rogers Center would have said they got their money’s worth. But the show went on … 1st encore, expected … 2nd encore, wow! … 3rd encore, only U2!
The band walks out for one of the encores to the voice of Desmond Tutu preaching about love and unity and Bono begins to belt out Amazing Grace. Just him and a guitar. Sure enough, in a matter of seconds the entire stadium has joined in. Who knew this many people knew the words to Amazing Grace!? Who knew people could sing this loud!? (no reference to Sunday mornings intended …)
As the song rang on and people continued to “sing” out this classic, out of nowhere, a thick but subtle pad begins to add even more to the already booming sound encouraging people to sing out even more. Then it came … that world famous, massively delayed, “The Edge” phenomenon — the intro of Where the Streets Have No Name. I get goose bumps just remembering that feeling of “WOW! That was seamless, purposeful, thematic, and powerful! Powerful because it brought us from one moment into the next without even realizing it!
How often do we intentionally try to craft our transitions as creatively as this one? I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately with leaders who are terrified at the thought of having to say anything between songs. I’m with you all on that one. I sleep better on Saturday night when I know I have a set that requires nothing more than a “Hey, let’s stand up and worship our God through music together!” Yes, there are times when saying things are very important, which is why I don’t avoid them, but sometimes our only purpose of saying something is to bridge the gap between songs. This should never be the case (if that’s the sole purpose of saying something)!
In fact, a transition like that of Amazing Grace into Streets is probably more powerful than anything I could say in that moment.
How do we avoid that awkward silence between songs? More importantly than anything, we need to understand that our set lists do not need to contain a certain number of songs in their entirety. If you feel the pressure or the need to take 4 songs and just butt them up to each other and hope for flow, you might be missing an opportunity to bridge intentional thematic and musical themes between the songs you’re leading.
Sometimes the best transition isn’t from the outro of one song into the intro of the next, but instead, maybe it’s from the chorus of one into the bridge of the next. Or maybe verse 1 of the first into the chorus of the next. No one is stopping you from chopping up the songs like this — especially if it’s creating a thematic flow that might be lost if you expect people to remember what you sang in the previous song as you play through an intro.
That sounds good, right? But, it’s MUCH easier said than done. Creating a transition that makes people think, “Whoa, wait, when did we start singing THIS song?” takes a LOT of sweat and tears (maybe not tears … or sweat … but you get the point).
Here are some things to think about when trying to bridge the gaps between songs:
- Be intentional with the keys that you’re choosing the songs in. Sometimes I’ll throw a completely different key at a band that has played one song in one key 100 times just because it flows better into the song that we’re heading into.
- Hopefully you’re choosing songs to communicate an overall message. When you’re sitting at home playing through the set, what does your heart want to sing when you’re finishing up one song — is there a line in the next song that lines up with this? If so, start there!
- Understand that there will be songs that will never seamlessly flow together -sometimes a stop and start is your best and only option.
The pieces that will make or break your transitions are the keys of the songs and the chords that are contained within the song. Here’s a list of practical things to watch out for to make your transitions seamless:
- Same key and same tempo: Easy! Don’t stop, keep flowing through from one song to the next. It’s just like you’re singing another verse of the same song.
- Same key, different tempo: This transition between Amazing Grace and Where the Streets Have No Name is this. It’s not hard to pull this one off — sometimes it just takes someone to hang on the root chord (key of the song) and someone else to jump into the new tempo — or the leader to just start singing and skipping the intro altogether.
- Relative Major/Minor, any tempo: Here is where an understanding of theory comes in handy. In any key, if you’re playing the root (eg. in the key of G, the root chord is G), the relative minor is easy to go to and sounds smooth (the relative minor is the minor 6 of the scale — in the case of G, it’s Em. Or just count down 3 semitones from the root and make it a minor). Same thing in reverse, if you’re on the minor 6 (Em, for example), it’s easy to jump to the root (G).
- Key of the Next Song is Up a 4th or 5th: Another transition that sounds smooth. If you’re hanging out on the root of the last song (let’s continue to call it G), going to the 4th not of the scale (C) or the 5th (D) is easy and sounds seamless
- Key of the Next Song is Up a 2nd: It’s not as smooth as the other ones, but still works. 1st song, playing the root (G), moving into the next song that is a 2nd on the scale higher (A) — Important to note, even though the 2nd in the major scale is typically a minor chord (Am), because you’re moving into a new key, it’s not bad to jump into the Major 2nd.
It’s also important to note that when you’re trying to match two songs together, don’t just look at the key the 1st song is in. Sometimes, your transition chord is another chord within the song. You don’t have to land on the root of the song to get to the next song. If there’s a song that has a chord progression (key of G) of C G Am D — hang out on the D without resolving to the G. The longer you’re hanging on the D, the more people’s ears will be tuned into that chord and soon enough, they’ll feel like D is the key the song is in. Pretty handy if you’re going into a song in D, hey? Or, maybe now that you’re in D, that 2nd step up will get you easily into E — not bad, as the Major 6th is not an easy transition.
There are lots of different approaches and lots of chords that work together, so really, the best rule: Think outside the box and DO WHAT SOUNDS GOOD! Hopefully these tips help you find what sounds best.
Other than the Music – What to Say and Do
Don’t say too much. Speak from your heart, but be prepared enough that you don’t ramble. Error on the short side. Make sure that what you say is actually theologically correct. Don’t use Christian filler words to take up time. Examples of Christian filler “let’s continue in worship”, or “lets just stand and worship the Lord together”. Try to get out of your own personal rut, and let go of those words you always use. Think about the words of the song you’re about to sing, and you will come up with something better.
Plan what to say and pray. Preparation does not make you less spiritual. Most people are not “good on their feet” when talking in front of large groups. So plan what you want to say, but deliver it passionately and from your heart. Just a few “right” words from you can really make a set of songs impact a person to connect with God. Make it your goal to say something significant – something that will help people. Otherwise, say nothing and just sing the song.
Connect WITH the congregation rather than talking AT them. Smile, look people in the eye when you talk, and speak slowly to them as though speaking to friends and family (which, of course, they are). Maybe your grandma or your dad is out there? The danger in planning everything too tightly and delivering it like a robot, is that you can talk right over people’s heads – and no matter how much work you did, it will not connect with people’s souls.
Remember to STAND and SEAT the congregation. It’s ok to give people the choice of wether to sit or stand. But groups of people usually feel more comfortable when they are given these cues. Think how awkward you feel when you open your eyes and find you are the only one standing! Practice standing and seating people so that it feels natural to you. NOTE; If you leave a congregation standing and leave the stage, it will feel like you are insensitive and uncaring.
The Dual Roles of “Worship Leader” and “Musical Director”
There are two key roles at rehearsal and Sunday morning. The reason we split these roles is that it is a lot for one person to handle! They are quite different roles, but they are both leadership roles.
- Musical Director – leads the band. Knows the arrangement inside out, knows what instrumental solos are coming up, get’s the tempo right with the drummer, listens for the groove, finds rough spots and fixes them, rehearses transitions, works directly with the Worship Leader to implement the arrangements that the Worship Leader has chosen.
- Worship Leader – leads the congregation. Communicates warmly with the congregation, asks people to be seated and rise, sets the tone of the service, is a spiritual leader, leads people in prayer and scripture. The Worship Leader chooses the song set, the arrangements, and works directly with the Musical Director to implement them.
In order for these two roles to work seamlessly together, there must be good communication between the Musical Director and the Worship Leader – they must be on the same page about song arrangements before the rehearsal begins (this is made easy with Praise Charts), and there must be friendly interaction between them during rehearsal, to bring it all together. Generally speaking, the MD runs the rehearsal, not the WL. In some cases, one person must do both roles.
Adding New Songs to our Journey Repertoire
- Journey has a good repertoire of songs – some very new, others older, and some classic hymns (but arranged for band) mixed in. We’ve purchased Charts for all of the songs we sing and they are on PCO.
- We normally do not program songs into services that are not in our repertoire list.
- We are open to new songs. Our approach is to gather our worship leaders together a few times a year and bring new songs to the table, and vote on them together. If you have been asked to be a worship leader, you get a say on what songs we sing.
- All new songs must be:
- theologically sound
- melodically easy to sing for the average person
- easily performed by a volunteer band
Thank you for serving as a Worship Leader! We are part of a tribe of people all over the world, who lead God’s people in His praise. Let’s do it to the best of our ability, and give God the glory.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
-Paul, from Romans 15:5-6