Leading Worship in the Contemporary Church | Stefanie Potter | Skillshare

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Leading Worship in the Contemporary Church

teacher avatar Stefanie Potter, Music Artistry Channel

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Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Background: Definition and Goals


    • 3.

      Important Perspectives


    • 4.

      Song Choices


    • 5.

      Song Order


    • 6.

      Other Methods and Expressions


    • 7.



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About This Class

If you are an aspiring or current contemporary worship leader (or team member) in a Christian church or para-church ministry, this class is for you.  Through discussions on the goals of worship, important perspectives to maintain, and the methods (including songs, etc.) you choose for worship, this class will help you increase in excellence and intentionality in your worship leading.  

As a worship leader or team member, you may also want to enroll in my course called "Play in a Band... better!" where I discuss musical elements and skills for playing as a unit that every worship team member should understand.

Along with my college education in Christian ministries, I have attended numerous courses and workshops specifically in worship leading. I have been involved in worship teams for about 20 years, and have lead worship for about half of those years.  My contemporary worship contexts include Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, non-denominational, from conservative to charismatic, and several para-church ministries.  I've seen God move through worship in each of those contexts!

Meet Your Teacher

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Stefanie Potter

Music Artistry Channel


Stefanie Potter is a folk/soul singer-songwriter in Charleston, SC, with a background in social work and ministry. She's an "artist of the heart," writing inspirational story-filled songs from her heart to yours, about things that matter most in life.  She's been writing music and playing live music for over 15 years, developing her craft and learning from some of the best.

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1. Introduction: welcome to leading worship in the contemporary church. My name is Stephanie Potter. I'm an inspirational folk soul singer songwriter, but I'm also worship leader. I grew up in a full group in church with my dad, and then as I went to college, I studied theological and ministerial work. I also took specific workshops throughout college regarding leading worship, and I started to implement that knowledge and skills within the fellowships that I was a part of. Since then, I've lead worship in nondenominational loot friend, Methodist, Presbyterian Baptist, all sorts of churches and para church ministries. I've also done youth ministry and dance ministry and all sorts of additional ministries, so I have lots of experiences and creative insights to share with you. So the overview off her class is that I will give some background on leading worship in the Christian Church and then share some important perspectives that we need to keep in mind as a worship leader. From there, I'll go into choosing methods of worship, leading regarding the songs and the transitions and other creative methods to help lead congregational worship. Your project for this class would be to create an actual worship set list. So this would include any songs, any transitions, any Scripture and creative ideas that you have based on the information that I give you today. And you can go ahead and upload that when you're done for some feedback and just the community time of sharing our ideas. 2. Background: Definition and Goals: When we look at the word worship, we see the word worth in there. Basically, we're declaring that goddess worthy. As we worship, we express, and we feel that reverence and the adoration for God, all of life should be worship. Everything we should do should be an expression off reverence and adoration for God. However, we often use singing in church as its mandated in Scripture and its for our own good. It helps to encourage each other, and it helps us to remember truth that we might not otherwise remember just from reading a long passage of Scripture or hearing a sermon. There's something so memorable about a sculptural song that will stick in our head and come up in just the right time. Some goals in worship include to bring Glory to God, of course, making him famous in the world and famous. Tow us as we humble ourselves and lift his name. Others are brought to him. Another goal is to realign our hearts, Teoh, a appropriate relationship with God. We want deeper love and intimacy. We want deeper knowledge of our need for God, independence on him, and we want deeper understanding of how great he is and how small and insufficient we are without him. Another goal is to recognize and experience the presence of God. We want to enter into that present so that we can hear him more clearly as we worship, it says. If the atmosphere around us changes, we welcome the full presence of this holy spirit among us. And there may even be some spiritual warfare going on because of our worse. Worse it as we lead worship in the Congregational study, we're assisting the congregation and recognizing God's presence and what he's saying. Now we're going to the thrown together as a group through Jesus. We're also theologian as a worship leader. The theology and the songs will be remembered, so it's important that we express accurate and scriptural theology as we lead worship. 3. Important Perspectives: has learned a lot over the years about leading worship, and some perspectives are really essential to keep in mind as a worship leader. So first off, there should be vision. That vision should also serve the pastor's vision. It's your job as a worship leader to communicate that vision, discuss it with your team and keep developing it. As a team, you also want to work as a team. So it's kind of like a dance if one person is doing something creative than support them. If you feel the spirit leading you to do something musically, wait until the whole team is ready so that they can support you. It's important to take turns and not to compete, but to communicate. You want to work on listening to each other in the team and watching each other to know the queues of when a person is moving towards something new. As a leader, you should be there to serve the team. The team should submit to the leader, but again that IHS servant leadership, it's important to know when not to play, you're saying is well. Some should have a dynamic flow and pulling out instruments and voices helps with that. Another perspective to keep in mind is excellence. Some things that I've considered her. Why should non believers have the best music as music belongs to the Lord? So we want to strive for excellence, not perfection, because we know we're dependent upon God, but excellence, which displays the creative glory of God. So that means that instrumentalists, vocalists, we should all be skilled, and we should practice and continue to develop on our instruments. We don't want any lack of skills or mistakes to distract the congregation from focusing on Christ. And if you've ever been in a church where somebody's kind of off pitch or not consistently on the B, you'll realize what I'm talking about. Support in practice, the songs as an individual and as a team. That way, as you're leading, you can focus on God instead of what you're playing. It makes a huge difference when you're able to look up and engage with the community around you as you're going to the thrown together. Rather than focusing on, everyone on the team should have servants hearts, so you need to be an example of that as the leader. But you also need to choose team members who displayed those servants hearts. So as you're considering team members you want to consider, are they just feeding their ego? Or are they serving the congregation? Are they on the team to glorify God or glorify themselves? Remember that whoever wants to lead should serve. This includes us, the leader and the people on your team. The team members should be willing to work on being so transparent that the congregation on Lee sees God. They don't see who did what awesome solo instrumentalists should think of communicating musically what God is saying right now. It's not a rock show, but just think of creating that heavenly atmosphere through your instruments, whether that be some powerful course to show God's power. Some light Aaron music to show that's beauty. All of that should be considered. There shouldn't be any long, crazy guitar solos that just distracts the congregation from Christ and moves their focus on how awesome you are and with vocalists. Think about whether how your singing is showing off your awesome skills or if it's actually serving the church. It's important to sing straight forward, especially as you're teaching a song or leading a song. You can get a little bit of creativity in there after a while, but you want to make sure that people can actually follow how you're singing this song. Make sure that you're not gonna lose the congregation, and nothing you do should distract from glorifying God. Another thing to keep in mind, this spiritual growth is is essential. Personally, as a team, you should all be growing. It's hard to spiritually lead people farther deeper than you have gone yourself. So you need to keep that in mind as a leader. And as you're selecting in your team, it is essential to continually seek the Holy Spirit. Ask God to lead you to the right songs and listen to his voice. Spend some time in prayer before this service as an individual and as a team. Make sure you are connected to God and that your heart is right. Even if you're feeling distant, there's still a way to connect with God. Recognize his grace for you in those times, and when you're practicing, it's okay. Toe workout music parts, like I said, for excellence forming a plan. But leave room for the Holy Spirit to move practice, trusting the leader and following the leader of each bomb toe. Follow the spirit, and then the rest of the team should be following that leader wherever the spirit takes them. In My help folded developed some non distracting, visible or verbal thinking cues to help the whole team in congregation know exactly where you're going at the time. Also, keep in mind it's OK to improvise. This is part of following the spirit. Make sure it's from from God, though not from, uh, desire to show off. So vocal improvisations, especially, can kind of add to almost like a heavenly feel of the room. If you dwell on a specific attributes of God. Like His Holiness, His grace has love. You can sing something out regarding his attributes or since something out that God might be telling you, or emphasizing to you that he wants you to share with the congregation. You can also sing a prayer to God, and then guitarist can improvise as well, but again, out of a ah heart of worship and actually worshipping through your instrument rather than showing off. So I hope those are some things that are helpful to you. to keep in mind as a leader and in developing your team. This is so essential for your team to be unified in all these perspectives, the deeper your team can go is the deeper that your congregation can go. 4. Song Choices: when you're thinking about some choices you want to think. Are they theologically sound? Are the congregational friendly? There's three types of songs, according to Ephesians. Five, it says be filled with the spirit speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord always giving things to God, the father or everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, sums artifically about God hims, which they don't have to just be. Traditional hymns are songs that air to God in spiritual songs are like God speaking over us. So hymns, I find, are most helpful in a worship setting as it gives people into a prayerful communication and communion with God. Now the spiritual songs are really good for those special songs, like an offertory special where people maybe are just watching or listening and hearing it as if God is speaking over them or to them, it can be very ministerial when you're evaluating your some choices, there's some things that usually keep in mind, some do's and dont's So Like I said, you should definitely make sure that your songs are theologically sound and in line with Scripture and your denomination, and then they should be thematically purposeful. If there's a theme of the service, then make sure you find that out. That typically helps to support the message of the third sermon and just makes the whole service unified. But if there's not, you know, a certain themes that the pastor wants to emphasize, that's okay to just be praying about, Like what the messages are that the congregation sit here at this time, so you want to be in communication with the preacher or whoever is over the worship service . So another few things to think about our some domes. First off, make sure you're not just choosing your favorite. Seek the Lord and served the congregation. Also, make sure you're not just choosing the favorites of the congregation. You don't want them. Teoh. Get sick of songs. Um, watch, though, how people respond to songs. Take no when a song connects well with the congregation and what is it that connects with them? Whether it be a theme, a lyric, a music style, you can repeat that song in similar ones. Just don't overdo them. And then another question to ask is. Are you introducing too many new songs in a service? So while the sun's occurs, encourage us to seeing a new song to the Lord. We want to keep in mind that new songs can distract people as they're trying to learn it. I recommend only doing one new song per week, then repeating that song the next week or the following week so that they learning. And when you're introducing new songs, make sure you're repeating, you know, the first verse and the chorus so that they're able to catch on and actually worship through it being so focused on learning it. Also, I found it's helpful to introduce new songs in specific spots, whether it be offertory special or earlier in this, that especially if it the harder one that way people can refocus on God was a song that they know well by the time we're paying for this sermon, and finally I want to ask yourself, heard the songs that I'm choosing very complicated. So, um, there's some songs that are on the radio that are great radio songs, but they are not meant for congregational worship, and you need to get a feel for the difference and then think about the lyrics. So are there any weird analogies or metaphors that people just don't get automatically unless they're super poetic personality? Are there any difficult word your concepts? If it's just one or two response in the songs, you can still use them. But I would recommend that you just take some time to explain the meeting. But if you if it's most of the song, then I would say Don't use it and then think about vocally. Is it super complicated? Hopefully, if it is, you probably only want to use that as a special, not ask a congregational worship song. You want the melody to be very straightforward. Easy toe learn. You also want to make sure that the key is good now. This will vary from male to female, but that's when it helps to have, like multiple people, singing, um, different carbon ease so that people can learn the harmony if they can't reach the melody and then think about the range of Islam. If it starts super low and then go super high and only your best trained singers can actually sing it, then it's probably not the best song for our congregational worship 5. Song Order: so ordering the songs there is one model called the Axe model. Sometimes I use it sometimes I don't. It's just kind of a good starting point. So you're thinking of aberration. You're coming in praising God. Then you're confessing. So you're green with God, you're lining with him. Maybe confessing sins. Thanksgiving. You're expressing your gratefulness for who got ISS? His mercy in this supplication. Your humbly asking for change in yourself or this situation? The first bomb should really be welcoming people. Keep in mind that people are just starting to focus on God when they get there, unless they're actually, you know, living life filled with worship. Which that would be great if everybody did. But you think of some of the chaos off first Sunday mornings with people get in the church . You want to give them a little bit of grace and helped them make that transition into focusing on God. So chooses simple, maybe up the song. But if it's super early, you might do like a medium pace, some that starts to online their hearts to God and is not super deeper, super theologically complicated. Teoh think through but just thinking of focusing praising God. This set overall should prepare our hearts to receive the word of God. You can get into deeper and more intimate concepts as you move through the set and help the hearts focused. More and more in preparation don't necessarily go from fastest low in years that I know that's kind of typical, but you want makes the tempos to keep that variation and attention and focus. Um, unless you have a pastor that you know, likes to start super upbeat, maybe likes to tell jokes and stuff like that to start. It may not be a good idea. Teoh start with a crazy fun song right before the sermon. So Hi typically will do some kind of focusing song that allows for the pastor to transition either in a serious manner or in a more light hearted manner. So basically, get to know your pastor and how those transitions go because I can get really awkward is if you're not matching between the last song and the sermon start. It's a good idea to kind of end with prayer to transition to the sermon. It could be really offered to go from intense worship to just ending the song and being commanded to sit. I've been in situations where that's happened, and it's just, like, just cuts you off. Um, and it is not a good transition toe. Help us stay focused on God. If you do a song or two after the sermon, then think about how you want to transition. So there might be an invitation song. Time to reflect. Some think something really powerful. Sometimes it it would be a slower song, just allowing for space to search our hearts and then, typically, your Monta end on a high note, as when the church services over people, our fellow shipping, so help them transition into that friendliness again by having a beat song at the very end . And this can be either find a worship song or ask they're leaving or both, as long as it's done in a way that it doesn't step seem like it's a performance at all. 6. Other Methods and Expressions: we kind of get into this box where we sing song after song, sometimes without any actual transitions, and that makes it feel almost like you're at a concert and it can be really choppy. And there's just so many other things that we could be doing to help people learn to integrate worship into their entire life, practice thes spiritual disciplines, using creativity, toe worship, God in the service and outside of the service. That way, when they do come in to worship, they're actually ready to worship. So thinking of other expressions, of course, the first thing we think of this Scripture so you can choose from Scripture to read between the songs, maybe read a over an introduction or over an instrumental part of Assam, and that helps people to focus on God more so than just going into a song, not really having anything to think about. And then testimonies can be another helpful thing. Make sure their brief on that they don't take over this service. But if there's something that you or someone you know has to share with the congregation regarding something that God is done recently, your showed you, then that could be a good thing to integrate into worship set. Then, of course, there's prayer, which you can say over the mic, or the congregation can say together maybe certain written prayers. Or you can leave time for the congregation, praised violently. Four. Turn to a neighbor or form a group and pray. There's been times where we've just skipped one song all together and allow that time for prayer that could be really meaningful part of the worship experience. And then, of course, leaving time for confession, as in the axe model. So confessing your sins to God, agreeing with God about who he is and who you are seeing or inadequacy need for God seeing his grace for us confessing those things. And another thing that could be really helpful. That I feel like we don't use enough is meditation and just waiting on God. We kind of live in a very noisy society where we're always doing speaking even our prayer. Life is just telling God what we want and what we need and talking at him. But we need to leave space for silence and waiting upon the Lord and waiting to hear his voice and what he wants to speak to us today, refocusing on him now Meditation can be done. Maybe you give the congregation something to focus on during that time, or you just allow a time of waiting upon the Lord. This can either be done in silence or with some gentle, simple music behind it. Make sure it's not really recognizable. Same with during the prayer. When you're playing behind either meditation or prayer, make sure the courts are just generic and slow and doesn't detract from what's going on by them. Figuring out the song and singing along then another aspect that I feel like we way under use is creativity way see all sorts of creativity in the world, and all creativity belongs to our creative God. So why not bring it into the church, just as it's always been done back to biblical times as well? So here you see a time where we brought in skilled artists to draw during worshipful set, and it brought forth this really neat image that's just brought that worshipful concepto life. And then a dancer, a skilled dancer that was brought in who dances before the Lord with all her might, um and just ministers over the people again, not as a performance but worshipping and releasing her total self to God, along with being ministered to the congregation can participate in these creative arts. So you see, to the left a couple of examples of where people were asked to participate in acts of worship visually and then to the right was an example of a time where the space was set up for the congregation to be ministered to through those separations and symbolism. And all of these things just helped to bring that concepts toe life and really help it to hit home. You can also use all sorts of symbolism. There's so many options available to bring scriptural choose to life, even just looking in to Scripture. At the symbolism there is a good place to start and then having the congregation participate in acts of worship. So getting up out of their seat, maybe dancing, maybe going before the Lord and kneeling, maybe doing one of these are projects or participating in some act off, bringing themselves before the Lord something symbolic, like holding on to a rock and then letting it go at the cross. You know thinking of that heart of stone, letting that, um, giving that to Jesus and receiving that heart of flesh or something that symbolizes casting down our crowns before before the throne. So there's just so many things that the congregation can physically participate in. Teoh, help us focus better and bring those truths to life and make them be memorable when we leave this service. And that could help us bring worship into all of life as well, which is the ultimate goal. 7. Evaluation: I hope this class help to grow tremendously as a worse of leader. It's all about glorifying God. Keep in mind that we want to submit to God and everything that we're doing, and also we want to submit to the leadership off your local ministry. So the pastor, whoever's in charge of the worship service, if there's ahead worship leader. So all of the creative expressions things I was talking about definitely get permission before going ahead and changing up the order of the service they're bringing and paint into a traditional venue. Just make sure that it's serving the congregation and submitting to the church authority that exists. You want to make sure that you are evaluating after each worships that by yourself, baby as a team, what you did well that time, what you need to improve on. But then leaving room for grace, knowing that no matter how much you do, it's always up to God, actually move on the people's hearts. You can also consider feedback from other people. But remember that you not gonna please everybody come at it with a heart to serve Jesus the pastor's vision and served the congregation and again don't do it for praise from the congregation. If that's what you're depending on, then it might be time to take a break and re prioritize your life a bit. You also most importantly, want to evaluate WAAS This worship Were you lifting him up? Was the whole team lifting got up? Was the whole congregation lifting? Got? Was the reverence and adoration going on? Are you all gathered in his name? Did it feel like the Holy Spirit was presence? Would Jesus feel at home? Was his presence so strong and undeniable that everyone recognized it? Are you allowing his presence to come more fully? If not, then it was just a concert or another religious program, and we don't need religion. We need Jesus. So that is what worship is all about. And that's what I want to leave you with for your project. Don't forget, I love to see your creative worship sets that you come up with if it's a sample or something that you actually do. Either way is fine include songs and interludes or transitions and maybe other creative ideas. But playing it according to your context, what would actually work within your congregation And then you can upload that for feedback from me and your fellow classmates so that we can really build each other up and encourage each other as worship leaders and strive for excellence and everything that we do lifting his name up.