In our church family, we’ve typically used a female vocalist each week to help lead our people in worship through song. We recently stopped using the term “vocalist” for these female singers, and have instead begun to call them “worship leaders.”
There’s a few reasons for this change. I hope in this post to lay out a few of the reasons why, ultimately, we feel this change is the best way to help our people to know and love God more through music.
To start, here’s what I don’t mean by the term worship leader.
I don’t mean that these people are exercising the position of an elder in the church, or exercising spiritual oversight over the church body. Instead, they are exercising their role under the authority of our church’s governing body. Our worship leaders are not exercising a pastoral role.
Our worship leaders are free to direct a welcome to our people at the beginning of our gatherings, as well as to direct them to stand or sit at different points in the gathering as we prepare to sing. Our worship leaders are also free to give our Call to Worship (a small time of exhortation and scripture reading between our first and second song), and to lead the vocal melody of any number of songs we sing during the gathering. They also have the freedom to plan for, prepare, and lead our musicians through practice for Sunday gatherings.
Since these individuals are called to lead our church family in these elements of the gathering, it’s extremely important that they seek to live and walk in a way consistent with the truth of the Gospel. Their lives, like any other leadership role in our church, should be marked by spiritual, relational, and emotional maturity. They must be leaders on and off the platform – in their pursuit of holiness, in their accountability and involvement in our church family, and in their doctrinal faithfulness and knowledge of the scriptures. This isn’t to say that our worship leaders live lives of perfection. Rather, their lives are marked by a consistent, faithful pursuit of Jesus and of repentance over sin.
Our worship leaders must affirm and seek to uphold our five Citylight Lincoln Worship Values.
Practically speaking, this means that we will have less individuals leading worship. There are a few reasons for this:
- The qualifications and expectations for worship leaders naturally limit the amount of people qualified for the role.
- We want to offer an opportunity for qualified men and women to consistently lead. By leading consistently, these people are given an opportunity to better develop and grow in their role, and better develop their skills.
- We want women and men in our church to be able to look at the lives and example of our worship leaders and seek to emulate them. We are able to maintain a higher level of accountability with fewer leaders. Because there are fewer leaders, our pastoral team can better invest in our worship leaders to help ensure that they are living lives in step with the Gospel.
- We want to ensure that our worship leaders are not only qualified to lead spiritually, but are also qualified in their skill as vocalists. We need our worship leaders to embody the marriage between character and competency. We want them to exemplify faithfulness to Jesus and giftedness from Jesus as a singer.
Why does it matter?
Ultimately, our vocalists are leading our people in worship. Why not call them what they are?
People in our church are looking to our vocalists as examples of what it means to follow Jesus. Each Sunday, our vocalists are delivering content through song. They are consistently teaching our church family who they are, who God is, and how to properly respond to God. Because of these things, we must set the bar high. We must attach the proper weight to the position – and this starts by calling the people in this role to do more than just sing. They are called to lead. They are worship leaders.
We want to empower people in our church to use their gifts – in whatever capacity that may be.
Most of the people who serve our church family as vocalists are female. My hope in creating a platform for more consistent female leadership in worship is that we will empower women in our church to want to serve in the ways God has gifted them – whether that be in the realm of music or not! Each one of us is specially and uniquely gifted by God to serve His body. When we begin to live this out and allow individual members of the body to use their gifts, it spurs other members on to better thrive and serve as well.