My eight-year-old son, Judah, started playing baseball a few months ago. At the end of his first practice, he was pretty frustrated. He thought because he had thrown the ball around a few times outside our house, he knew everything he needed to know. In his mind, he was ready for the World Series! That practice gave him a hard dose of reality. He had to put in some time if he was going to help reality catch up to his dream.

I wonder how often we as worship leaders approach our weekends the same way? We’ve thrown around some ideas and we’ve got a little experience under our belt, so we can just show up and win, right? The truth is, being effective takes hard work – no matter how gifted you are. Your success on Sunday morning starts well before you make it to soundcheck. 

At our church, one of our core values is that “we live to give.” We believe that we are called to steward our lives for eternity. Stewardship isn’t limited to finances. We steward every area of our lives. As leaders, we get to steward the influence of the platform that we’ve been given, the time of the team members we are serving alongside and the hearts of people we have the privilege of leading.

Today, I want to share five practical things I would encourage you to build into your weekly routines to help you do that:

  1. Internalize scripture. This is probably one of the most important things you can do. Note there is a difference between memorizing and internalizing. If you want anything of value to come out of you, you have to put things of value into you. What goes in is what comes out. Don’t study God’s Word solely for the purpose of preparing for Sunday. Get into it so that it can get into you! When the time comes, you will be full and ready.
  2. Prepare your transitions. Move your set planning beyond just the selection of songs. Transitions are the moments that make or break a worship set. Think of how the songs are going to start and end. Think about how you are going to navigate different sections. Is there a theme that needs to be set up or explained? Is there an opportunity for the congregation to take a moment for personal expression? Is there a place where you might pray or share a Scripture? And preparation does not mean you cannot be spontaneous. I have actually found that I am most free to be spontaneous when I am the most prepared.
  3. Communicate early and often with your team. Let your team know where you are going! Sunday should not be a surprise. What’s the setlist and who is leading which songs? Are there any special arrangements or transitions you would like them to lean into? Let them know what you are thinking and how they can be at their best. Share a Scripture and what God is speaking to your heart as you’re preparing. Encourage them in their service. Help them walk into rehearsal confidently.
  4. Welcome direct feedback. You can learn from anyone and everyone! You can mine gold out of even the harshest critique. Seeking out feedback is crucial to your ability to grow as a worship leader. Do not wait for people to come to you, seek trusted voices out. Watch your services back and be brutally honest with yourself. Ask your campus pastor or senior pastor, other worship leaders on your team and even members of your church. We see things through the lens of our intentions, they will see things through the lens of their experience.
  5. Serve your production team well. I want to let you in on a secret – without your production team, no one can hear you (sound), see you (lights & video) or sing with you (lyrics presentation). If there is any team you want to build an honoring, unified relationship with it is your production team. Make no mistake, they are worship leaders just as much as you are – we teach our team members that on their first day of training. Let them lead alongside you. Make it a joy for them to work with you.

If you put these five things into practice, I promise you will see week-over-week improvement in your team and your leadership. Pick one or two and add them to your routine this week!