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Excellence In Worship

Sing to Him a new song. Play skillfully and shout for joy.

– Psalm 33:3.

As worship leaders and musicians, we are instructed to do everything we do with excellence and skill. The question we should as ourselves at the end of a weekend service is this: did I do my absolute best? If not, then what steps can I take so that the next time I ask that question, the answer can be ‘yes’.

When I approach a Sunday, I focus on three things in regards to excellence:

The songs

I try to learn (meaning memorize) the songs so well that I don’t really even have to think about the mechanics of playing and singing them. This allows me to do a couple things that are important. First of all, I can confidently play the parts to the best of my skill level with accuracy and consistency. In other words, fewer mistakes. I can sing the words without reading a monitor or wondering what the next line is. This allows me to free up mental energy which can then be directed toward more important things like reading the room, engaging with people, engaging with our Heavenly Father in worship.

Learning the songs like the back of your hand is very important as a worship leader or musician. We’ve talked about this a lot before here at Worship Tutorials, and I’m often surprised and saddened by the response. I’d like to encourage you in two ways: 1) You can memorize and learn songs, and 2) Try it for just one song and see how it feels. I think you’ll be surprised how much it frees you to worship.

The time between the songs

The next thing I approach when I think about a service is the times between the songs. What am I going to say to encourage people to engage in worship? Am I going to say anything?

I believe that we as worship leaders have a couple key moments in every service where the Holy Spirit moves, and it is our job to capitalize on that and speak into peoples’ lives and encourage them to worship. I like to look over the service order for the weekend and try to anticipate where some of those moments might be. When I have identified them, I like to think of a passage of scripture or a story, or even just a few words that I can say to lead people. It doesn’t have to be (and shouldn’t be) a mini sermon, but preparing yourself for these moments will equip you to lead with excellence.

My team

Finally I try to make sure I’ve done everything I can to allow my team to execute with excellence. This includes things like making sure they have songs lists and song resources weeks in advance. Making sure they are scheduled weeks (and months) in advance. Making sure I take time to provide and point toward resources for volunteers so they can improve their level of skill and leadership. This may be the most important piece – great leaders build great teams.

The bottom line is this: once we understand what it is we are actually doing when we lead worship – and who we are actually doing it for – doing anything less than our absolute best is really unacceptable. God demands the best we have to offer to Him. He is worthy of it, so I would encourage you to give it everything you have in every opportunity you are given.

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

33 Responses to Excellence In Worship

  1. Bill Kole Jul 7, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    This was hugely helpful, but in the name of excellence, can I just make a friendly plea that next time you skip the pad stuff behind your talk? It is hugely distracting. I just want to focus on what you’ve got to say. Thanks again for the thoughts that went into this — and thanks for all you guys do!

    • Brian W Jul 7, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

      I actually enjoyed the music. I find it very dry if someone is just rattling with no music behind. ZZZ

      • Brian Jul 7, 2016 at 3:37 pm #

        Thanks – there’s a balance with background music. It has to be the right kind of feel, and the volume is crucial – it’s easy for it to be a bit distracting.

        • Devorah Hannibal Jul 8, 2016 at 4:45 am #

          In an act of ungodlinesd i became quite angry at God. I watched my 18 month old daughter die in my arms and her twin brother 15 years later die of qun shot wound to to his head. It was worst night of my life. The next morning i found out God had honoredmy request. No longer could i play: the piano, harp or guitar play the hamonica. Nor couuld i read nor teach. Its hard for me now to not be distracted by papers rustling, to close my eyes when I am trying to block out people in general so i agree we must memorize the words they must become a part of us. Anyway that is my reason for memorizing the songs. It’s impossible to read words,stay in tune while readinre

    • Brian Jul 7, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

      Thanks Bill – and noted about the music. Might have left the underscore a bit loud on this one.

    • Gary Jul 7, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

      So funny, cause I thought the same exact thing….the music became very distracting to me. BUT EXCELLENT CONTENT! WOW

      • Brian Jul 7, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

        Thanks Gary! Also appreciate the feedback on the background music.

        • Chad Jul 15, 2016 at 4:41 pm #

          I got sucked in by the guitar solos! haha

          • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

            Ha – you mean in the backing track? That guy can play!

  2. Douglas Stegeman Jul 7, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    Brian, thank you very much for this video and thoughts on the subject of excellence. Well presented and thought out. I certianly will not claim to always give my BEST, but do try more often than not. After all, God gave his best in His Son, so we should respond in kind.

    I have really come to appreciate your web pages, your insights, your tutorials, your thoughts. I consider your heart for worship to be a great find for me. Keep it up.

    • Brian Jul 7, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks so much, Douglas. I can’t claim to always give my best either, but I can sure try 🙂

  3. Brian W Jul 7, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    Very good message. I think all very well said. As a musician in a worship band it’s frustrating at times to show up after practicing a song in a certain key or arrangement to find out the morning of the service that the key is changing. I struggled for a long time with anxiety (and still do at times) of being on stage and often easy songs are difficult for me. Knowing this, it’s an internal battle knowing I can do better if I could just get past the nerves. Still praying about that and asking for help.

    Bottom line, this is a great video and excellent advice for anyone involved in a worship team.

    • Brian Jul 7, 2016 at 3:36 pm #

      Thanks Brian (another Brian W, by the way!).

  4. Christopher Schafehen Jul 7, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Perfectly presented! Nice to hear this information. Thanks

  5. Dalend Jul 7, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

    Hey Brian:
    I so much appreciate your insights in worship. Keep it coming. It gives me time to just STOP and spend time with God.

    Thanks again !!

  6. Rich Jul 7, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    Excellent insight, excellent encouragement, excellent exhortation; this is a struggle that many have, particularly in worship ministry. Perhaps it’s because the vast majority of people in worship ministry are not “professional” musicians and instead are volunteers. I’ve heard on more than one occasion that worship ministry is not what they do for a living or that it’s not a paid “gig” so the necessary preparation and effort isn’t a requirement. I firmly believe what you stated: God gave us a gift and to not use that gift to the best of our ability is failing Him. It doesn’t mean that we are the best musicians or vocalists or technologists out there, instead it means that we pursue Him with passion and excellence. It’s no different than the pursuit of Christ and His calling spiritually.

    I could write for hours on the topic but I think I’ll leave it there. Thanks again for your willingness to tackle a difficult subject with grace and a biblical foundation.

    • Brian Jul 7, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

      Thank you so much Rich! And yes – I 100% agree with your thoughts on the whole ‘paid vs volunteer’ worship leader idea. I’ve heard the same things a lot in the past as well. The compensation or title we receive has nothing to do with what God calls us to do with the gifts He has given us.

  7. Roger Poindexter Jul 7, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

    I have been playing guitar for 5 years with no prior musical knowledge. I play in a small worship band . 2 guitars a piano ,and we just got a young drummer .we have 2 to 4 singers. I was a luke warm Christian when I started playing. my goal was to just play in my living room. 2 weeks later I played a simple melody at a nursing home in front of 4 little old ladies, at my wifes request. I was shaking like a leaf but managed to play ok. no turning back I love playing and singing and I try to do my best . God used music to reach me ,and I am thankful . I love the lord today, and try every week to bring my best . your tutorials are very helpful , thank you .

    • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

      Thank you Roger – that’s very encouraging!

  8. Mike Jul 7, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

    Hey Brian,

    Thanks so much for your encouragement. I really appreciate your heart and desire to see the body worship the Lord with all it’s heart. I believe that we are called, whether professional, or amateur, paid or volunteer, to give worship our everything. When you really think of what we’re doing, and that is worshiping the Great I AM, how can we ever think that it shouldn’t require everything we have in preparation and during our worship service. If we don’t have a desire to give Him everything, then we shouldn’t be leading or part of the team leading worship. That may sound harsh, but you can’t do everything with excellence and skill, if your partly committed. Fully committed worshippers, will be fully committed to the whole process.


    • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

      Well said, Mike

  9. Edwin Jul 9, 2016 at 4:02 pm #

    Great video and very helpful for me in bringing across a message which is not always appreciated.

    • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

      Thank you Edwin

  10. Paul S Jul 10, 2016 at 5:30 am #

    Thanks Brian, found this helpful as with a lot on Worship Tutorials materials. Keep up the good work and God bless you. Paul in the UK 🙂

  11. Bee Jul 14, 2016 at 5:54 am #

    Brian thank you so much for your message. I play guitar and struggle to memorise the songs. I find that I sort of memorise one but will forget it when it is used again. I am an amateur player in a small church band that is very conscious of being up front in a service. Practice always seems to go better when no one is around, as I am more relaxed. During the service for some reason my brain panics, thinking ‘where do I go from here’. Once again thank you so much for your thoughts.

    • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 1:02 pm #

      Thanks Bee – I find that the more prepared I am, the less prone I am I feel that panic sensation you describe. It’s funny, though – even still, about 5 minutes before a service starts I get really nervous and start to worry about every possible little thing that could go wrong.

  12. gregsphoto Jul 29, 2016 at 3:25 am #

    Hey Brian. Thanks for all you do. I’ve been taking guitar lessons for 2 years. Thanks to your and others YouTube posts, I have gotten much better in the last year. I would like to audition for a local church music ministry, but am a little nervous. I believe in giving my best and will memorize several songs. Any tips to do the best job during an audition? My walk with Christ is strong and prayer is always at the center of what I do. I have also worked on my character the last 2 years. In other words I am going from music for my enjoyment to music that glorifies the Lord. Thanks.

    • Brian Aug 2, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

      Hi Greg – just prep for the audition as well as you can and do your best. Good luck!

  13. Anne Oct 18, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    Unpreparedness is also very distracting for the congregants and may take away from their ability to worship wholly..

    I would rather have recorded worship, or none at all, than be lead by lukewarm worship team. We owe it to God to do it well and with purpose and faith.

    • Brian Oct 20, 2017 at 7:30 pm #

      Amen – totally true.

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