Being a "fill-in" worship leader is tough.

Whether you're actually traveling to a church far off or even just subbing for the worship leader in your own church, it's sometimes hard to know just exactly how much (or little) you should do when you're in charge.

It's made even harder by the fact that worship leaders sometimes aren't the most relational people on the planet. In my experience, some of the most creative leaders I've ever seen are downright awkward in one-on-one situations.

So, how do you do it? How do you lead well in a way that's also a blessing to the rest of the team?


(I hate the word, "cheese," in this context, but I can't think of a better one.)

Worship leaders will often over-compensate to get past the awkwardness of being a fill-in and this can manifest itself in a hyper-active, "lounge" singer vibe. Cheesing it up like this might be coming up with nicknames for the band on the fly, making fun of somebody that you don't know or assuming a much closer relationship with the team than you actually have. On rare occasions, the cheesy worship leader is actually just that gung-ho  and joyous, but either dial it back a notch. Musicians and technicians who don't know you will very often pull back from your forwardness and exhilaration. You want the team to perform at their absolute best and they may not be able to do that if they're distracted by how weird you seem.


Worship leaders who are a insecure will commonly reverse this. He or she will often justify the changes before asking for the changes. The worship leader might think that bass line is too busy. That leader could most likely turn to the bass player and say, "hey, can bass go a little more simple in this section?" and the bass player would oblige, no problem. But if the worship leader is worried, he or she might talk about the why first, which would sound something like, "gosh, that pre-chorus section...the low end is just killing the groove there," and then give the direction for the bass player. There's a big difference between the two. In the second example, bass the leader has unintentionally leveled an accusation instead of just asking for a change.


There's an episode of The West Wing where Charlie, the President's assistant, is on the outs with Zoey, his girlfriend (who also happens to be the President's daughter, btw.) Charlie seeks the wisdom of White House reporter, Danny Concannon, who tells Charlie,

"If it was me, just for now, I'd make sure I was the one guy in her life who was totally hassle-free. That's just me."

Believe it or not, that's excellent advice for fill-in worship leaders. I am astounded at how often I ask someone to fill-in and they show up with a bunch of new stuff to try. In over 20 years of worship leading, I can count on one hand the number of times a fill-in worship leader ever ask me what they need to do when they fill-in. If you're filling in, don't show up with new songs or new stage design. Don't reconfigure the whole band setup for your one time thirty minute set. Instead, ask the worship leader what things you need to keep in the service - new songs we're learning, techniques the band needs to focus on, etc. Hassle-free. Be like Charlie.

Volunteering your gifts to bless your worship leader with a day off is an amazing thing to do. Believe me, your worship leader LOVES having folks to call on. Show up confident, humble and without a personal agenda and you'll find that the set ends up being pretty great.