How to find a worship leader

By Bob Bickford

Most replants are resource hungry. In many cases the interior of the building is long overdue for a remodel, the HVAC systems need replacing and the church’s technology could be mid 90s at best. Replanting is an uphill climb.

One of the most critical needs is in staffing. Aside from a children’s ministry coordinator, you will most likely need a competent and capable worship leader. While there is great opportunity here, there is also great danger. You need someone who can faithfully lead the congregation and navigate change in ways that bring people together.

Here are some practical suggestions to help you address your worship needs as a Replanter:

Look inside first.

Even though the church may be small, you may have one or two musicians hidden away somewhere in the congregation. In the early days of our replant, I discovered a couple who led worship together in college. He played the guitar, she sang and after a few weeks of practice they were ready to go. Discovering someone from inside the church is a great advantage; they know the congregation, the congregation knows them and they are less likely to be the recipients of negative comments. It’s much more likely for a worship leader who comes from outside the church to be subjected to pointed criticisms.

Who can you afford/attract?

Our Replant is in a large metro area where there are many larger established churches and new large church plants. Churches like these have corporate worship experiences that are inspiring and amazing; this allows them to attract top-level musicians and vocalists who volunteer on their teams. Some of those musicians and vocalists, while talented, are not chosen to serve in those larger churches. In a church like ours, their leadership and skills could be of great use to God’s kingdom and our body. As a replant we know and we accept who we are and what we can do. Connecting with leaders who may not be ready to lead in one setting but are ready for a setting like ours has been great for them and for us.

Define requirements, role and responsibilities.

As you engage in your search, it will be important to know what you are looking for in a worship leader. It is important to guard against emphasizing skills before character. Having a great vocalists and musicians is awesome, but a talented person who lacks godly character will be a setback. Determine the hours required, and list out the responsibilities as you would for any staff position. Decide what the compensation will be. Use this as a guide for your search process and for the candidates you will interview.


Throughout much of my replanting journey I’ve continually been reminded of my insufficiency and what we lack in terms of resources. I’m tempted to exhaust myself through searching and worrying about finding all that we need. When I stop and ask our people and key leaders to pray while praying myself God has never failed to move. His answers and provision often look different than what I’m expecting but he always answers and he always provides. Pray for God to direct your calls to the right people and for the right leader to surface at the right time.

Network widely.

In almost every meeting of planters and replanters I’ve ever attended, everyone is networking and asking resource questions. I’ve recommended and found accountants, lawyers, graphics and web design guys and worship leaders through networking at meetings. Everyone knows a guy who knows someone who does what you are looking for. When you attend gatherings, go with a purpose to encourage, connect and network.

Agree to “test drive.”

When someone is recommended and they agree to lead at your church, I’ve found it extremely helpful to agree to have them lead a couple of services before committing for the long haul. We hosted one potential worship leader who sang every song in falsetto, which I guess is good if you like Bon Iver, but I don’t and neither does Dottie a 94 year old member. It’s better for you to both test things out before committing. Remember to pay them for leading, and be clear about whether or not it was a fit for both you and them.

Finding the right worship leader will take time, in one season we were without a leader for six months or so until God answered our prayers and brought us the right leader. Looking back, I see that God was shaping our congregation, me and the leader he brought to our church.

Published September 14, 2017

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick