Worship Leader Communication Tips

My great friend and co-worker Sarah is working hard this summer to redo our outdated youth rooms.  New paint, new furniture, up-to-date technology…it’s all coming together to create a clean, sleek look so the rooms are a warm and inviting space for youth, but are also welcoming for adult bible studies, small groups, or even a business meeting.  It’s really good stuff…especially for a community that struggles to find good spaces to meet within our building.

Sarah was fortunate enough to have some really capable building staff help here with portions of the renovation.  These folks have years of experience in building maintenance and are pros, but every once in a while, they did things that just didn’t seem to ‘make sense’ according to Sarah.  A flatscreen TV was mounted a few feet lower than seemed to ‘make sense’.  A mirror was mounted in an akward place that went against the natural break of the material on the wall behind it…against what seemed to ‘make sense.’

As Sarah and I talked about the differences between her vision for the project and the actual outcome, we began to realize that what just seems to ‘make sense’ to her, was not intuitively obvious to everyone involved in the project.  The building staff didn’t share her vision, and were making educated guesses based on the information that was available to them.  Their decisions must have ‘made sense’ to them, because, after all, those were the decisions they chose to make.

As a worship leader this happens to me all the time.

A member of the band will make a musical choice that just doesn’t ‘make sense’ to me.  It is intuitively obvious to me because I have a vision for what the send result should sound like (and reasons behind why I believe it should sound like that)…but if I haven’t communicated that vision to my team, how can I expect them to share in that vision?  They’re just doing the best they have with the information they have available to them.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with 3 Communication Tips for myself as a worship leader that I’d like to share:

1. Communicate Sooner rather than Later

Just like a mirror mounted on a wall in the wrong spot, it takes less time and creates less relational tension to communicate effectively Sooner or Before the song, than it does to go back later, tell people their ideas are not headed in the direction that ‘makes sense’ and rework parts.  It’s up to the worship leader to give people an overall vision for a set, a song, or a section as soon as possible to grab a hold of.  Communicate it sooner rather than later.

2. Know How to Effectively Communicate What You Want

This is big for me.  Especially when there are new members on the team.  After being at The Open Door for five years, the band members who have been there that whole time, for the most part, are all really on the same page.  We’ve spent enough time making music together that we have really gelled on a common understanding of what our music will sound and feel like.  But for new members joining this team, they don’t have five years of making music together to draw upon, they only have their past experiences from other bands.  Sometimes I’ll say something like ‘that section needs to be bigger’ only to get blank stares.  Words like ‘bigger’, ‘more energetic’, ‘freer’…even words like ‘louder’ all demand a level of interpretation on the part of the musician.  If I want something specific, it’s up to me to be able to help communicate that effectively.  “As we build into the chorus, can we get a steady 4-on-the-floor kick drum, eighth note cymbal crashes on the crash and ride?” “Lets just play the chord changes with some reverb and maybe a bit of delay in the verse”.  There might still be a need for more dialogue, but, in my experience the more effectively and clearly I can communicate the better.

3. Know Where to Give Freedom

Sarah knows where she wants the mirror mounted.  Sharing that vision clearly and communicating it effectively is a big help to the building staff.  But telling them what size screws to use, how to plug in a drill, and what brand of mounting brackets to buy is too much.  The other side of the coin in all of this is that as worship leaders we need to learn when to share our vision, and when to give people freedom within that vision to bring their own expertise and make creative and unique musical choices…they just have to fit within the larger confines of the vision.

I’m sure there are other communication tips out there for working with a worship team…or maybe with musicians or singers in general.  I’d love to hear them.


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