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Criticism and the Worship Leader

By February 17, 2014April 29th, 2022Ministry & Leadership4 min read

Criticism can be hard to swallow. Regarding criticism, it has been said, “Your friends have everything to lose, and your enemies have nothing to lose”. In other words, listening to criticism can be a helpful thing, if the criticism is true and accurate. Your friends take the risk of you getting angry at them, so they take a chance in sharing a criticism with you. Your enemies don’t care if you like what they say or not, so they can be blunt. In either scenario, there may be things to learn.

But I think I have a better idea than listening to critics, and it is this: Critique yourself. Examine yourself. There is Biblical precedent for it.

The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged”. (1 Corinthians 11:31)

The church at Corinth was mishandling the Lord’s Supper, and God had judged some of them. That was the immediate context of the passage, but there is an application that can be extracted from that verse. We ought to judge ourselves in regards to how well we are doing as worship leaders.

I’d rather be an honest critic of myself, than be surprised by the words of another. It just makes sense to me that worship leaders ought to examine how they are doing regarding the ministry that God has given them.

Here is what I suggest:

Listen to yourself. I regularly listen to the recorded worship sessions from our church. I am often disappointed in my playing and singing, but I am able to identify mistakes that I regularly make, and have an awareness of what needs to be worked on. There might be a certain note that is consistently off pitch. Maybe a phrase could be sung better. Sometimes during the worship leading, I am ‘really feeling it”, and it seems to be “right”, until listen back to the recording, and discovering that I rushed the song, or played it too slowly. Listening to myself has helped me identify problematic areas of my playing, singing, and leading.

Sometimes the recording off the soundboard may not be a good representation of what the church is hearing. I suggest that the serious worship leader use some kind of recording device to record the sound of the room. The Zoom H1 digital recorder can be purchased for about $125, and gives the worship leader a clear representation of what the worship experience sounds like. It is a great investment for the serious worship leader. Older models can be found for $60-75 on Craigslist or eBay.

Better than listening to yourself, is watching yourself. The congregation watches us for at least part of the time. What they see can affect them positively or negatively. We all have funny idiosyncrasies. We might have poor posture, and that makes us look lazy. Some people have distracting facial expressions when they play or sing. I regularly watch myself both play and preach. We are fortunate to have a good video system, so I see “every little thing”.

Have a friend video record you with their iPhone. Set up an inexpensive video camera, and have the band examine itself. I would rather discover visual distractions and correct them, than to force the congregation to endure them until I figure them out.

Worship leading is a platform ministry. We are in front of people. How you stand, sing, play makes a difference. Some clothes may not be flattering to you, and might be a distraction. Certainly, modesty in dress should be practiced. We look in the mirror before we leave the house. I think it is a good idea to “look in the mirror” regarding our worship leading.

So Mr./Mrs./Miss Worship Leader….critique yourself. Listen, watch, and make adjustments as needed. Your church will appreciate it, and the worship experience will be enhanced.

Bill Walden is the senior pastor at Cornerstone Ministries of Napa Valley located in Napa, CA.​