The Structure of a Worship Team

Luke Barry

April 1, 2021
5 min read

When you think of a church worship team, you may not immediately get a picture of something clean, neat, and organized. I’m not sure what your experience has been but I have found that the worship department doesn’t always attract the most structured individuals. Of course, some people are both spontaneous and structured, both creative and logistical. But often musicians can be unpredictable. That’s part of what we love about them. Their spontaneity and creativity bring so much to a moment. They add life to our teams and to our churches. But unpredictable can be difficult to manage.

How do we keep our worship teams organized without stifling creativity? How do we generate consistent results while still leaving room for the unexpected? These are not easy waters to navigate. A good starting point is for you to be organized. Look ahead to what’s coming next and get ahead of your planning. Don’t let expected events take you by surprise. Be proactive. Communicate clearly. Schedule consistently. Resource your team. Set them up to win.

One of the best ways you can manage the unpredictability of a worship department is by creating a strong, clear leadership structure. At VOUS, we have three key roles that anchor our worship team for all of our services. These are the Worship Leader, the Vocal Director, and the Music Director. On any given Sunday, someone is scheduled to serve in each of these capacities. This structure has helped us to create consistency across different locations, events, and teams. Here’s a simple breakdown of what each role is and how they work together.

1. Worship Leader

The Worship Leader oversees the whole worship experience. Traditionally, this term has been used to refer to the person on a church staff who leads worship. For us, it refers to a role that staff or servant leaders can be scheduled to serve in for any given service or event. If we have three teams serving on a Sunday, each will have a different person assigned to play this role. The Worship Leader is in charge of the team for the day. They work with the Music and Vocal Directors to ensure that people are in the right places doing the right things at the right times. They keep the team together. They run rehearsals. Others will lead songs throughout the service, but ultimately the Worship Leader is responsible for the overall worship experience.

Here are the expectations we share with our Worship Leaders:

  • Review Planning Center carefully before Sunday. Stay up to date with adjustments as the week goes on.
  • Listen through the set list. Memorize lyrics and melodies. Familiarize yourself with arrangements and dynamics.
  • Review Rehearsal Plan, Vocal Map, Mic & Pack Assignments, and Stage Plots before Sunday.
  • Run Sunday morning Leaders Huddle with Scheduled Music Director (sMD) and Scheduled Vocal Director (sVD). Come in prepared to review notes together, communicate details, and highlight specific items as necessary.
  • Oversee Worship Team for Call Time, Vocal Huddle, Sound Check, Rehearsal, Run Through, Team Rally, Platform Huddle, Pre-Service Huddle, Service, and Post-Service Huddle. Work closely with sMD, sVD, production leaders, MCs, speakers, and Location Directors.
  • Run rehearsal. Work closely with sMD and sVD.
  • Lead the Worship Team through songs, transitions, and extended worship as necessary.
  • Guard team culture.
  • Give feedback to sMD, sVD, instrumentalists, and vocalists as necessary.

2. Vocal Director

The Vocal Director oversees the vocalists. They come into Sunday knowing the team they’re working with and the parts each person is assigned to sing. They are there to support our vocalists for every part of the process of serving, from arriving and getting settled to reviewing parts and sound checking. They serve as the bridge between the vocalists and the Worship Leader, helping to convey needs and questions from the team and direction from their oversight. As we rehearse, they listen carefully to each vocalist to ensure they are singing the right parts at the right times, making little adjustments as we go. When the service is over, they follow up with vocalists as necessary, providing constructive feedback for the future.

Here are the expectations we share with our Vocal Directors:

  • Review Planning Center carefully before Sunday. Stay up to date with adjustments as the week goes on.
  • Listen through the set list. Memorize lyrics, melodies, and harmonies. Familiarize yourself with all vocal parts.
  • Review vocal resources, Rehearsal Plan, Vocal Map, Mic & Pack Assignments, and Stage Plots before Sunday.
  • Participate in Sunday morning Leaders Huddle with Scheduled Worship Leader (sWL) and Scheduled Music Director (sMD).
  • Lead Sunday morning Vocal Huddle. Come in prepared to lead vocal warm-ups, review PCO details, and highlight specific items as necessary.
  • Oversee vocalists for Call Time, Band Huddle, Sound Check, Rehearsal, Run Through, Team Rally, Platform Huddle, Pre-Service Huddle, Service, and Post-Service Huddle.
  • Work closely with sWL during rehearsal. Offer support and insight on vocal parts.
  • Guard team culture with vocalists.
  • Give feedback to vocalists as necessary.

3. Music Director

The Music Director oversees the band. They pay careful attention to the overall structure and dynamics of the service, understanding the vision for each moment. They come into Sunday knowing the key parts of each song and ready to give direction to each instrumentalist on parts, chords, and dynamics. The MD position is unique because the MD is the only person who is able to verbally communicate with our team during a service. Each MD has a mic that goes directly into the ears of the band and vocalists. So, once service starts, the MD is really the one calling the shots. Worship Leaders provide direction through hand signals and body language, but the MD is the person responsible for interpreting and relaying those calls to our team. If the MD doesn’t receive specific direction, it is his job to make a call. If the team gets lost or off time, it is the MD who gets us back on track.

Here are the expectations we share with our Music Directors:

  • Review Planning Center carefully before Sunday. Stay up to date with adjustments as the week goes on.
  • Listen through the set list. Memorize arrangements, dynamics, and your instrument parts. Familiarize yourself with all other instrument parts.
  • Review music resources and Rehearsal Plan on PCO before Sunday.
  • Participate in Sunday morning Leaders Huddle with Scheduled Worship Leader (sWL) and Scheduled Vocal Director (sVD).
  • Lead Sunday morning Band Huddle. Come in prepared to review notes together, communicate details, and highlight specific items as necessary.
  • Oversee instrumentalists for Call Time, Band Huddle, Sound Check, Rehearsal, Run Through, Team Rally, Platform Huddle, Pre-Service Huddle, Service, and Post-Service Huddle.
  • Work closely with sWL during rehearsal. Offer support and insight on arrangements, dynamics, transitions, and instrument parts.
  • Translate sWL calls throughout pre-service and service. Keep the team on the same page.
  • Anticipate transitions and adjustments. Make strong calls.
  • Guard team culture with instrumentalists.
  • Give feedback to instrumentalists as necessary.

You don’t have to adopt our team structure or terminology, but I would encourage you to create a clear leadership structure for your team. This simple breakdown has proven to be effective for us. We are constantly reworking and rethinking our approach as seasons change and we learn new things. A year from now, things won’t be quite the same as they are now. But we are firm believers in the necessity of strong leadership in every area of our church. The last thing we want to do is stifle the creativity and spontaneity of our team. On the contrary, we strive to create an environment where each individual personality and gift mix can flourish and thrive. Organization and structure won’t hold your team back, we believe it will create the conditions needed to keep it moving forward.

Get help with the hard-to-answer questions.

Our team is here to answer your questions and provide advice and insight when you need it most.