Growing up, I had a real challenge figuring out my definition of “success” in a Sunday morning worship time.

I used to judge it 100% by the externals. Somehow, I got the idea that a “successful” worship time meant that everyone was lifting their hands or showing some kind of external expression of worship. I love when these things happen. But for me, I had made them the goal.

As a worship leader, what makes a corporate worship set successful? Click To Tweet

As worship leaders, we spend a lot of time preparing. We pick out songs, plan transitions, practice with our teams, and more. It’s time consuming. After investing so much of our time, money, and energy into something, it’s perfectly normal to ask the question, “Was I successful?” Let’s take a moment to consider that question. What makes a worship time successful? You might find yourself evaluating the success of a worship session with questions like these:

– Did we hit the arrangement of the song we practiced?

– Did the congregation seem to respond well?

– Did people seem to like the new song we introduced?

– Did the pastor seem happy with the way I led?

– Did people come up to me after and encourage me that I did a good job?

– Did I feel like I connected with God during the worship time?

In my early years of leading, this was basically the checklist I went through every Sunday afternoon to figure out if I had been successful. Any given Sunday, I’d usually hit one or two of these when leading worship.

When I moved to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City and began leading ten to twelve times a week, I got really confused.

When I was leading once a week at my local church, all of my focus was on that one worship time. Going through my checklist of success was a little easier. What happens when you’ve done the same song arrangement five days in a row because you don’t know enough new songs to keep up with how many times you lead? What happens when there’s no one in the room during your worship set to encourage you that you did a good job? What if after you lead worship, you actually feel depressed and upset with yourself and the job you did?

I can’t base a successful worship time on whether or not I felt God. Whether or not I feel His tangible presence is up to Him. All I can do is set my heart to sincerely and wholeheartedly pursue Him whenever I lead. Click To Tweet

The points in the above list are not bad. You want to hit arrangements, you want encouragement, you want your leaders happy with your leading, and you definitely want to connect with God during the worship time. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting any or all of these to happen when you’re leading worship, but they cannot be your definition of success.

True success as a worship leader

We are at the mercy of the Lord when it comes to experiencing His presence. His manifest presence shows up when He chooses. But there is a simple road map that I think helps usher in His presence during a worship time. Basically, the way to be successful when leading worship is to come hungrily, humbly, and consistently.

Hunger means not leading worship passively, but rather setting it as your goal to encounter God during that worship time like you never have before. Instead of just going through the motions, choose to believe that He wants to use you to touch the congregation.

Humility refers to using whatever means necessary to serve and go low. Serve your leadership, serve the congregation, and serve your team. This could mean not singing for ten minutes straight while letting your singers prophesy. Or it could mean singing the same song for the five-hundredth time because you know the congregation will join in and engage even though you’re sick of the song. The primary thing to remember is that the magnet that attracts the Lord’s presence is humility. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that servanthood, humility, and meekness are essential when leading others. The place of leadership I was given by my elders was a place of privilege and I did not serve the way I should have during that season. More than anything, God wants us to serve humbly.

To be consistent, do both of the above without stopping, for years. Don’t have a limited vision or view about your leading, but let God work in you and through you for the long haul. If your vision is serving the ones God has placed in front of you, then you will be sustained as a worship leader for a long time.

Your focus every time you lead needs to be on this threefold goal of coming hungrily, humbly, and consistently. The rest is up to the Lord. You’re at the mercy of the Lord with how much you feel during a worship set.

I can’t base a successful worship time on whether or not I felt God. Whether or not I feel His tangible presence is up to Him. All I can do is set my heart to sincerely and wholeheartedly pursue Him whenever I lead. One of the greatest challenges I’ve found with worship leading is leading with hunger, expectation, and desire EVERY TIME. When you lead between 8 and 10 two-hour sets a week, it’s so easy to just go through motions and let your heart get disconnected from what you’re doing. It takes a tenacity in your spirit to come hungry.

I have to constantly remind myself that I’m leading before an audience of one. It’s the story you may have heard of the young pianist who plays his first concert before hundreds of people. He performs and all the people stand to applaud him, but that young man’s eyes look past all the people cheering and applauding, directly to his instructor sitting in the last row at the very top of the auditorium. His instructor simply stands up and nods at him, but that is all he needs. He knows he has been successful.

As a friend of the bridegroom, it’s my job to get out of the way and help facilitate people’s connection with God. Click To Tweet

As a worship leader, this has been one of the hardest things to keep at the center of my heart and mind. It’s so easy to slip into trying to move the congregation to do something or please your leaders or worship team. It’s a hard line to walk because though we are seeking to serve all of these people, our ultimate goal isn’t to please them; it is to please Him. The core reason why believers all over the world gather together on Sunday mornings is to glorify God. As a friend of the bridegroom, it’s my job to get out of the way and help facilitate people’s connection with God. If that means serving them by doing worship songs that I’ve done hundreds of times because that is what they know and respond to, I do them. Our desire on Sunday mornings needs to be inviting and encouraging the guy who has worked 50 hours that week at his job and has barely even made it into church. My desire is that through the music and songs I am leading, he would feel a desire to sing to Jesus.

Huge thanks to my friend Jordan Vanderplate for letting me use this photo of Dunnottar Castle, Scotland. Check out more of his work here.

I’m Justin Rizzo. I enable worship leaders who feel isolated, overworked, and unfocused to experience peace, confidence and create thriving worship communities.

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Light of the World (Acoustic)


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