A Salute to the Average Worship Leader

Worship-Leader_FotorToday I want to salute the average worship leader.

Why? If YouTube videos and conference worship bands are any indicator, we’re unintentionally (I trust) cultivating an understanding of musical worship and its leaders that draws more from rock concerts and Entertainment Tonight than biblical principles.

We can start thinking that the “best” corporate worship context is characterized by bright stage lights, a dimly lit congregation, Intellibeams, fog, high end musical gear, multiple screens, moving graphics, and loud volumes. We can start to think the ideal leader is good-looking, sings tenor, plays a cool instrument (usually guitar), sports hip hair, and writes songs. And by the way, the band members and vocalists should be near studio quality, if not actual studio musicians, and look pretty good themselves.

To be clear, I thank God for godly, good-looking, musically gifted, well known leaders who are simply seeking to be faithful and bring glory to Jesus. I know a number of them. And God is all for skill and excellence when we bring our musical offerings to him (Ps. 33:3; 1 Chron. 15:22). Technology isn’t evil (although it inherently affects the message we’re communicating).

A Concern
Overemphasizing or consistently focusing on technology, skill, and excellence can leave most us with a nagging feeling that our musicians, our leaders, our equipment, and our songs are never quite good enough. We resign ourselves to the thought that we’ll never be as successful, used, or important as the people we see on YouTube and at conferences. Or we breathlessly pursue the trappings and externals of “modern worship,” attaching biblical authority to very cultural practices.

That’s why today I want to salute the average worship leader.

Are You an Average Leader?
By average I don’t mean mediocre or lazy. Just normal. Because that’s what most of those leading in churches today are. Normal. Maybe you can relate to some of these “average worship leader” characteristics:

  • Your musical training, if any, was years ago.
  • No one wants you to sing lead on an album, but you get the melody pretty much in tune.
  • Your vocal range is a little over an octave, but almost always lower than the recorded key.
  • You prepare and rehearse in the midst of a full time job and responsibilities at home.
  • You and some of the other musicians could do better with your dieting.
  • Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the chords or strum pattern on a song.
  • Your sound system has been pieced together over the years and still works. Most of the time.
  • Your choices for lighting are ON or OFF.
  • Twice a year you lead surrounded by a set for “Phantom of the Opera” or some other school play.
  • You have good folks on your team who don’t have a ton of time to practice or rehearse during the week.
  • The ages of your team members range from 14 to 56.
  • Some people in the church love what you do, some aren’t crazy about what you do, and some aren’t sure what you do.
  • You don’t even try to keep up with the gazillion worship albums released every month.

Here’s why I want to honor you. God sees your labors. And he says they’re not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). “For  God is not unjust so as to overlook  your work and the love that you have shown for his name in  serving the saints, as you still do” (Heb. 6:10).

God seems to favor doing his work through the weak and the few (1 Cor. 1:26-28; Judg. 7:2-8; Dt. 20:1-8; Mt. 15:32-28). That’s why I think average worship leaders play a significant part in God’s purposes to exalt his Son throughout the world.

Don’t Forget
While there’s never anything “average” about leading people to exalt the glories of Christ through music and the Word, we can always grow. So to encourage you and spur you on, here are a few thoughts:

  • It can’t be said too frequently that while God can use technology, skill, and excellence, he doesn’t require them
  • What every leader has to offer people is the gospel, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit, working through redeemed sinners, i.e., us.
  • The same God who seems so present in a crowd of 10,000, is just as present in your church of 113.
  • The Holy Spirit doesn’t need a dark room or dramatic lighting to reveal Christ to people. He’s been using natural light quite effectively for thousands of years.
  • We’re responsible for the resources we have, not the ones we don’t have (2 Cor. 8:12).
  • Being average doesn’t mean we can’t get better through practice, evaluation, and hard work.
  • Being average doesn’t give us freedom to uncharitably judge or fail to learn from those who have greater gifts and opportunities than we do. 
  • Average musicians can be as self-sufficient as gifted ones, which should motivate us to pray consistently. 
  • The goal of our labors is not success or popularity, but faithfulness.

So if you fall into the category of the average worship leader, I want to thank you for your labors and encourage you to keep growing. God is using you in more ways than you can imagine to build his church and bring glory to his Son.

And because Jesus is the perfect worship leader who paid for all our sins and failings through his substitutionary death on the cross, we can look forward to the day when every faithful leader, average or not, will stand before the Father and hear him say, “Well done.”


86 Responses to A Salute to the Average Worship Leader

  1. Jim Porterfield December 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM #

    Just one more very encouraged “average” worship leader here. Thank you very much.

  2. Lorna Mathilda December 29, 2012 at 2:04 PM #

    Thank you for your encouragement regarding the’average’ worship leader! Especially those who work full time and still find the time to voluntary honour God in a church worship band! It is so seldom that they are appreciated by the Pastor of the church and the church leaders!
    God bless you.

  3. Alice Marchesani January 4, 2013 at 8:02 PM #

    Bob — Thank you so much for taking the time to express so clearly and effectively your heart (and God’s!) about the average worship leader. So timely, so encouraging and everyone’s comments have been incredibly comforting as well. I’m a part-time music director on staff for four years at our church of about 1,000. I’m a 47 year old wife and mother of three children, and the dictionary definition of an “average worship leader”. I’ve been seeking God about a word and some direction for 2013. This article, along with David Santistevan’s article entitled “Have We Idolized Excellence” (he mentions you in the article), I know God is speaking so powerfully. Someone on our team suggested we listen to the song, “Clear The Stage” by Jimmy Needham. What a perfect and timely song for all of us involved in music ministry. Thank you again! I think your words quite possibly helped me to avoid some unnecessary pain, crisis and conflict in our ministry.

  4. Ricardo January 5, 2013 at 10:09 PM #

    My name is Ricardo, and I am an average worship leader. Thank you for writing this article. I must admit, I am not a huge fan of the intellibeams and fog machines which we have at our church. The worship I lead is on a smaller scale, for the Spanish ministry, and I have found myself often coveting the better gear, the never ending supply of musicians, etc. And then my drummer may “call in” and I’ll have to scale down and do an acoustic set with different songs on the fly, and I think to myself, “I don’t need all that stuff, and thankfully, God doesn’t either.” Btw, reading your book, Worship Matters– it’s a great book.

  5. Austin January 8, 2013 at 10:29 AM #

    One day I dream of leading worship somewhere that has a lighting option on–off! You leaders that have both on and off, do not take this for granted!

  6. Celeste January 15, 2013 at 6:15 AM #

    I just got back from a worship event that left me feeling both motivated to do better with my worship team yet also totally inadequate. I sensed the Lord telling me to read your blog even though I haven’t been here for about a year. My eye caught this article and it was exactly what I needed to hear. I am sitting here weeping because I am hearing the voice of the Lord through your words. The statement, “there’s never anything ‘average’ about leading people to exalt the glories of Christ through music and the Word” is straight from the heart of God. Thank you, Bob, for also listening to the voice of the Lord and being faithful to write what He puts on your heart.

  7. Michael Tollett February 13, 2013 at 11:25 AM #

    Bro. Bob,

    Thank you so much for this post. All through reading it I was constantly chuckling (the diet thing) and blessed by your words of encouragement for us averages.

    Through God’s leading and some articles and books I’ve found, one being your “Worship Matters” book, I am learning more and more about my personal and ministerial responsibilities in our local church. While we’re not the biggest, the best, the brightest church in the state or even our community, I believe we are blessed as a congregation who gathers together to praise our great God!

    Thank you for your words, your ministry, and personally thank you for writing books and articles that at times seem to be talking just to me.


  8. Jason Soto March 9, 2013 at 1:41 AM #

    I’ve just finished reading your book Worship Matters. It has been a deeply encouraging book for me. I am the worship leader at a small new church plant, and am having our worship team read through your book. I am the average worship leader in your post (: Your writing has given me a better understanding of what leading worship means. Thank you for your work and ministry.

  9. Even If Ministries April 30, 2013 at 10:23 AM #

    Good article.

    That being said, I would challenge my fellow brothers and sisters in Messiah leading worship to think beyond the title “Worship Leader.”

    We are more than that – we proclaim the Gospel in song. We are worship “Preachers.”

    Imagine if psalmist Kind David had taken the same approach that many in the church take today . . .

    Matt Redman said it best: “I’m sorry for the thing I’ve made it, when its all about YOU . . .”

    I wrote a post not long ago that deals with this from a different perspective that you may be interested in:


  10. baggeeboy July 11, 2013 at 5:10 AM #

    Interesting article, albeit perhaps a little patronising?

    I agree with some things, not others.

    Average, defined correctly doesn’t mean normal. No worship, when genuine, should ever be defined as ‘normal’. It’s accepting the invite to God’s throne room! What’s normal (average) about that? If by average, this refers purely to equipment, then this is perhaps more about budget and intention and audience than scales of average.

    CONTENTIOUS THOUGHT HERE > In the western world you can’t charge a ticket price or sell albums when all you offer is ‘normal’. When worship music becomes a commodity, you need to sell it. It has to be different to have stand out. So, you add lights, set, video, branding, themes etc.

    I agree that these things are not part of the typical musical worship at churches across the UK.
    Because there are perhaps two very different things being created in the modern church. Instead of them being variants of the same thing, I feel that they are so different now that they are almost separate.

    One is an event.
    The other is a gathering.
    (I realise my terms need defining a bit better.)
    I worry about this trend, but it is happening.

    I’m sure the plan for the next WC tour is not just to turn up and play. No set. No lights. No screen. No dress code.
    Just, average? Because it isn’t ever going to be like a church service. It’s different.


    • Bob Kauflin July 11, 2013 at 8:11 AM #

      Baggeeboy, thanks for commenting. I think you just restated what I wrote in my post. By “average” I’m referring to what most of us who lead congregational song are: not uber-talented or gifted, not possessing the latest cutting edge equipment and technology, with people who are often unresponsive. I agree that the rock culture has had an unhelpful influence on the church. A concert and a church gathering are two completely different activities with two different sets of people that have two different goals.

  11. baggeeboy July 11, 2013 at 9:05 AM #

    Thanks Bob.

    I agree. It’s the subconscious rating system of good, bad or average worship that is the problem. Worship with an old upright and croaky singers is placed in low regard compared to the flawless performance of a well rehearsed band with waxed hair and fashion glasses. We judge with our senses too much. The worship ‘gig’ and church gatherings are separate categories, never to be compared.

    Thanks for your article and response.

  12. Bethany July 11, 2013 at 9:27 AM #


    Thank you so much!! I have been struggling the last few months. We have been blessed with some really amazing technology. But it can be a curse at the same time. We are ever pushing and pushing to be and do more. I have to constantly remind myself and my team that we are here to be in the presence of God. We are not performing for God. Your words were a great encouragement, reminder and inspiration to remain at the feet of Jesus!

  13. Mattson July 11, 2013 at 2:08 PM #


    I am an average worship leader :) Thanks Bro. Will keep this in minc :)

  14. Steve Fisher January 31, 2015 at 6:01 PM #

    Bob, very encouraging article. I am 62 years old and started leading worship 5 years ago out of necessity. It has been a struggle at times but also very refining, Overcoming the fear of man has been a huge challenge and a sin that has been difficult to overcome. As you remind us at the end of the article, the goal of our labors is faithfulness, not success or popularity.

  15. David Stewart June 15, 2015 at 5:45 AM #

    I do agree with the intended message of the article; I wonder however if the issue is less about skill levels and technical resources and more about the heart motivations of the musicians and churches who measure “success” by comparing themselves to other (usually bigger and better-known) churches.

    I think we should all be the best we can be as musicians. If one is capable only of being average and that is one’s best, then he/she has served God and the church well. If I am capable of becoming better than “average” then I should be exploring my full potential with the desire of glorifying God with my gift. Likewise with equipment: get the best you can afford and be content with that. (We have all experienced great worship that was spoiled by gremlins in the system – often issues that could be easily sorted by taking a bit of tech advice; with so much great gear available nowadays there is little excuse for being sloppy in this area – but neither is it sensible to assume that great gear is what makes great worship.. it’s still only as good as what you put through it!)

    However… God does not look at the outward appearance but at the heart. More worrying for me is the trend for musicians to emulate successful worship brands instead of being who they are uniquely. The result is that everyone sounds and looks the same (average?) but are often walking in Saul’s armour; by the same token, so many unique voices are never heard – the authentic expression that is indigenous to the worshipper(s) but is sadly missing from the heavenly offering when it is exchanged for copycat or sausage-machine worship. Language, style, instrumentation, incorporation of dance/movement, – these are wildly different across world cultures but the variety is not always refected in church due to the misguided belief that English worship in 4/4 on guitar/bass/drums is the “best” worship.

    I join you in saluting the average worship leader. But let’s not be average. Let’s be unique. Let’s be authentic. Let’s be ourselves before God, the church and the world. Let’s offer God what only we oursleves can offer – a sound that Hillsong and Bethel wouldn’t be able to reproduce! And let’s do it with a full, satisfied heart, regardless of where we’re at with skill and resources.

  16. x February 18, 2016 at 4:59 AM #

    I’m an average worship leader and this article is encouraging and true. I have one tiny disagreement…I fall outside the age range you mention..as I am nearly 60…but nowhere ready to retire. The song says ” I will praise Your name forever” (not only until there is a convenient time to hang my boots up” and take it easy) after all – eternity is only just beginning… Thanks for this article.

    • Bob Kauflin February 18, 2016 at 11:13 AM #

      x, totally agree! I just turned 61.

  17. Becky February 18, 2016 at 5:06 AM #

    It’s as though you’ve been to my church and seen me leading worship! Thank you for this. I trained as a music teacher more than 20 years ago now and have been leading worship for about the same length of time, but not using my first instrument. No, God had other ideas, and although I could claim excellence in some areas, on the keyboard, I am definitely a hard-working average. I thank God for it as, week on week, I know that I am leading in his strength and not my own. This is not to say that we can’t all practice, learn and improve, but in most churches what you describe here is the reality. I get frustrated by great songs that are so hard to translate to an ordinary setting and long fervently for more writers to remember that the song that works so well in an auditorium with a massive band and a raft of backing singers can sometimes be hard to use effectively when your band consists of an average keyboard player and a motley collection of others, usually no drums, and absolutely no spàre hours in the week for extensive practice. I love excellent music and talented performers, but the line between worship and performance can be a fuzzy grey one sometimes.


  1. Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud - January 2, 2013

    […] Bob Kauflin salutes the average worship leader, working with the average team at the average church. Which despite what you see online is mostly people like us. […]

  2. Recommended Reading - January 2, 2013

    […] A Salute to the Average Worship Leader – Bob Kauflin […]

  3. Worship Leaders, Have We Idolized Excellence? | David Santistevan - January 3, 2013

    […] Bob Kauflin wrote about this recently, and I think it stirs up some good questions. […]

  4. WorshipGod 2013 Registration is Now OPEN via Worship Matters « Church Music Today - February 18, 2013

    […] of past WorshipGod attendees have come from churches of 500 or less. In addition, when I posted A Salute to the Average Worship Leader a few months ago, it seemed to resonate with a lot of folks. That’s why I wanted to focus this […]

  5. A salute to the average worship leader - May 31, 2013

    […] published at WorshipMatters.com. Thanks to Bob for permission to […]

  6. A Call for Musically Gifted Pastors – My Solutions Magazine - April 14, 2016

    […] Most people I talk to fall into the last category. They faithfully serve their church week after week for free or for a small stipend, and are being used by God to lift up the name and glory of Jesus in song. If you’re among that group, I thank God for you. […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes