Advice for Churches on Hiring a Worship Leader

Why you might look at part rather than full time

In a former life, when I was in traveling music ministry full time, the church’s music pastor was often the one who would pick me up, take me to dinner, etc. Because I was an out-of-towner, they often felt comfortable sharing their discouragements with me. These were people who had what I considered a dream worship leader job. More than half of them were dissatisfied with their position. When I asked why, the answer was that they really enjoyed leading practice and leading worship, but that was only about 20% of their workweek.

On the other hand, I would say that nearly 100% of those who were ministering part time were happy with what they were doing. They had other jobs, sometimes in music, but got to spend all their time at church doing what they love. You can often get a really high quality part-time person for $1,000-$1200 a month. You can also get a music student or someone just starting out for just a couple of hundred a month.

Is a worship video really a good determination of how well someone will do

I see ads all the time in my local area for churches looking for a worship leader. Many of the ads request a video of the applicant leading worship. That may not be the best thing to ask of an applicant.

You probably have many musically qualified people near you. Almost any music teacher would be qualified to lead worship, but if they have never done it, they may not have a good video. In my opinion, having a teacher’s heart and the ability to lead is more important than how well one can play an instrument. As a band teacher, I could lead a worship team really well. If you saw a video of me leading worship, you might think I was an untrained person. Look at the whole picture and not just the video.

How important is it for a worship leader to be able to play an instrument

That depends. What other talent do you have in the church? A good leader can draw out the best from that talent. A good worship leader may be able to use their voice well, but can’t play a lick on guitar. There are also alternatives that churches – especially small ones – might use. For 99 cents, you can download a background track of most worship songs. Some pianos have a feature where the leader only needs to play the chord changes; the piano/synthesizer adds a drum, bass and guitar.

Don’t compare yourself to other churches

This is a danger that many churches face – and many musicians too. Seek to do the best you can. Seek improvement. But don’t worry if you are not where the church across town is at. Keep striving and improving.

***James has been in the music business since 1985. Using music and story-telling, he shares his story of being molested and his journey to forgiveness and redemption. See video and hear music at