Leading Worship For Small Groups 


By Rick Muchow

Over the years I have led worship for many small groups. I love it!  Almost every small group I have led worship for has been grateful for the music as if they had a deep hunger to worship together in their intimate setting.  One thing I have found in common with vibrant Small Groups is that they worship together.  These groups find a way to sit together during most weekend worship services, attend Nights Of Worship, talk about worship, include worship in their group time and more. However many groups, sadly, have yet to discover or incorporate this missing jewel.

The two most significant barriers to having meaningful worship in the small group are musical leadership and the misconception that worship is synonymous with music.  Biblical Worship is, of coarse, more than music and is not synonymous with it (see Romans 12). The essence of worship is faith not the soundtrack!  Biblical Worship is Faith Expressed!  There are many ways to worship God without music.  However, one of the most common, most beautiful, most effective ways to express faith corporately involves music. 

Music is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.
Martin Luther

Here are some practical tips for leading worship with music in the small group gathering. 

If public speaking is the number one fear of most adults then public singing was overlooked in the survey!   Most people like to sing but prefer to vocalize privately or in a setting where their individual voice will not be noticed.  Getting people to sing in a small group can be a challenge. An affable worship leader encourages participation by intentionally gaining the group’s trust.

Being friendly, relaxed and likable will help calm fears about the “singing” part of the worship time. 

Worship leaders should avoid making direct eye contact with the group members while singing words directed to God.  Staring in general makes people nervous but during singing it can be particularly weird.  Picture singing the words “I love you, Lord” while staring directly at someone just five feet away from you.  Direct eye contact is important when you are speaking to the group but will feel awkward to others while singing in a small setting.  

Simple Rule:  be caring without staring

Use songs that are group friendly: familiar, well liked and in sing-able keys.  Singing gets better with confidence.  Confidence grows with familiarity. Avoid using songs that are unfamiliar, hard to learn and difficult tosing.  Another way to be friendly is to put the song in the right key.  Most groups stop singing when the key is too high.  This is because many people have to sing louder when they sing higher.  Some can’t reach the high notes and most people become self-conscious if they hear their voices above the rest and will stop singing.  Simple Rule: Use familiar songs and friendly keys.

People follow voices! Be careful not to drown out the voices with your guitar or other accompaniment.  There’s a difference between louder and energy.

Simple rule: Sing brighter and strum lighter.  Your guitar can be louder than you realize.  

Participation will increase when the group relates to the song.  The worship leader can share interesting facts about the song: what the song means to them personally, it’s scriptural reference or how it relates to the group study.

Simple Rule: Plan your speaking and be brief.

The goal of group singing is connection: connection with God and each other.  Music is a language that speaks directly to the soul.  The worship leader’s job is to make the introduction and then stay out of the way.

Simple Rule: Focus on connecting not performing.  

Know your music and sing from the overflow.  The bible says, “If we are leaders we should do our best.” (Rom 12:8) The Worship Leader should know their music and words well enough that their leading is easy for the group to follow.  Effective worship leaders are more than just skilled troubadours. The Worship Leader must have an authentic relationship with the Father, faithfully living a life of worship.

Simple Rule: Leading worship with music requires Spiritual and Musical preparation. 

Think of singing to God as a form of prayer.  Don’t just play your songs. Pray them. People respond to sincere prayers especially in an intimate group setting.  Be aware of those you are leading while staying focused on the conversation with God while singing.  Approach worship leading as more of a prayer time than “Special Music” or a mini concert.

Simple Rule: Pray and Play. 

Rick Muchow was Saddleback’s Founding Worship Pastor and served with Pastor Rick Warren for 25 years. He has helped train over 150,000 church leaders. Rick continues to equip and encourage local church worship teams, Pastors and Worship leaders around the world. Please visit www.rickmuchow.com for more worship resources from Rick.

Contact Rick at Info@encouragingmusic.com

Instagram, Twitter, Facebook: @rickmuchow

Introducing 3 New Rush of Fools Songs

rush of fools

The recent Rush of Fools release, Carry Us Now, is their most congregational offering to date. Yesterday at NWLC 14 Kansas, Rush of Fools taught a couple of new songs that had the entire congregation praising God with a powerful new song. They shared a few of them with us, and we are happy to pass them along to you.

Message from Wes Willis from NWLC:

“Lay Me Down”

“Nailed to the Cross”

“Take Me Over”

Don’t Play The Comparison Game

2-comparison game

By Brendan Prout

Q. How many guitarists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. Five.  … One to screw in the light bulb, and four to watch him and say, “I could do that better.”

As this old joke goes, comparing ourselves to others is often a part of being a musician – but if we’re not careful, we can tread into dangerous ground of unseemly pride.

When I first started playing guitar, I wanted to be able to do everything my guitar hero at the time was doing. I couldn’t afford the same gear, but I bought gear that would let me approximate his sound and style as closely as possible. Later, as I found my own feet and matured as a guitarist (don’t laugh at the use of ‘mature’ and ‘guitarist’ in the same sentence!), I became less concerned about mimicking others or comparing myself to others, and more concerned about being able to do what I needed to do in the context of my own band, my own writing, my own church.

And yet, today we see and hear all around us the comparison game going on. We hear folks putting others down because of style, perception of poorly executed musicianship, or simply because their delivery of a song was different than the original recording or performance. That’s definitely off base from where we ought to be. There’s plenty of room for appropriate musical and technical critique – in fact, it’s necessary, in order to hone our craft as musicians – but there’s a line that gets crossed when we start to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to. This puts us in direct violation of God’s command to us in Romans 12:3, and it can lead nowhere good.

The temptation is to try to make your church be that other church, to make your band be that other band, and that may be fighting the wrong fight. There’s nothing wrong with insisting on excellence in musicianship, or establishing a particular style of music that fits the corporate expression of your body. Where we get off kilter is when we try to make our church body fit the mold of a unique work that God has done elsewhere, without seeking first what His unique vision for your church body is. It may sound simplistic, but we need to recognize that God will be uniquely working in our local church, and that it will look different from that church down the street or across the country.

When you make that other church the measuring stick, you often are using an inappropriate benchmark. That can call on either side of the pride equation: “our church is better than that church,” or “our church is not as good as that other church.” Both are different expressions of inappropriate levels of pride. Let your church be your church, and let God be as uniquely creative with your church as He is with others.

Within your church, however, there is still some comparison stuff going on that can be detrimental, and it all falls soundly around that poor exercise of inappropriate pride. It can manifest itself in an individual saying something along the lines of, “I don’t get why so-and-so gets to play so much, when I’m a much better musician.” Ring-ring! Cluephone. It’s for you. And the answer probably has to do with your swollen ego making you a poor choice to serve.

If you ever find yourself saying to others, “our worship team is the best one at the church” or “when we led worship, it was the best our church has had in years,” then can be sure you are 100% in prideful sin. It may be factually true, but you have absolutely no business expressing that thought. It does not serve to build up or encourage others, and only makes you look bad, tarnishing your reputation in the eyes of others, which will make you less effective as a leader.

If you find yourself wanting to form a worship band around yourself for the purpose of ‘showing up’ the other bands, you are in sin. The Lord will never bless that effort.

The Lord hates the one who causes division or dissension in His church (Proverbs 6:19). Pay close attention here: He doesn’t just hate the sin, He hates the one who stirs dissension. He makes it personal, because you’re making it personal in causing problems in His Bride. He defends His Bride and treats her with honor, and being part of the Bride yourself, you need to be aware of that and be especially careful about your heart’s motives.

Don’t cause division. Don’t compare yourself with others, or others to you. You are never the benchmark. Period.

God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). Ever notice God repeats in His Word the things that are important for us to learn about him and how He works? This warning is in Scripture three times. Pay heed. You have the ability to choose the path of humility, or another road that leads to destruction. Choose wisely.
Brendan Prout is a pastor at Community Bible Church in San Diego, CA, where he oversees worship and outreach. He has served in worship ministry leadership for over 20 years and focuses on training and raising others to do the work of ministry they are called to.

Top 20 Worship Songs of 2014, So Far


Each year in July, Worship Leader likes to offer our lay of the land so far as far as worship releases are concerned. So far this year has seen some wonderful offerings. There certainly are more to come throughout the year, but at this point, here are our favorite songs. Our criteria are biblical faithfulness, singability, and congregational use. The trend we are seeing so far? Well it’s a bit early, but we have found more meditational songs than we have ever before. Certainly the anthems are abundant, but it is refreshing to hear a bit of quiet and contemplation making waves in the worship realms.

These were combined in a combination of editorial selections and suggestions on Facebook and Twitter. To be a part of those kinds of conversations join here:
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20. “My God Is Stronger”
The Fading Veil
Classic City Collective
Writers: Josh Bayne, Paul Reeves

19. “Defender”
Kings Kaleidoscope
Live In Color EP
Writers: Kings Kaleidoscope

18. “Love Comes Down”
Various Artists
All The Saints: Live from the CentricWorship Retreat, No. 1
Writers: Lauren Daigle, Michael Farren, Seth Mosley

17. “Psalm 118”
Robbie Seay Band
Psalms, Vol. 2 (independent)
Writers: Robbie Seay

16. “Unstoppable Love”
Jesus Culture
Unstoppable Love
Writers: Christa Black, Kim Walker-Smith, Skyler Smith

15. “I Shall Not Want”
Audrey Assad
O Happy Fault EP
Writers: Audrey Assad, Bryan Brown

14. “It Is Well”
Bethel Music
You Make Me Brave
Writers: Horatio Gates Spafford, Kristene DiMarco, Philip Paul Bliss

13. “All Arise”
Michael W. Smith
Jason Ingram, Michael W. Smith

12. “Made for Worship”
Endless Praise
Writers: Andy Harrison, Joth Hunt

11. “Nearness of You”
Loud Harp
Writers: Asher Seevinck, Dave Wilton

10. “Future/Past”
John Mark McMillan
Writers: John Mark McMillan

9. “I Am”
Neon Steeple
Writers: David Crowder, Ed Cash

8. “You Lift Us Up”
Paul Baloche
Paul Baloche Live
Writers: Matt Maher, Paul Baloche

7. “At the Cross (Love Ran Red)”
Passion, feat. Chris Tomlin
Take It All
Writers: Chris Tomlin, Ed Cash, Jonas Myrin, Matt Armstrong, Matt Redman

6. “Vapor”
The Liturgists
Writers: Lisa Gungor, Michael Gungor

5. “Only King Forever”
Elevation Worship
Only King Forever
Writers: Chris Brown, Mack Brock, Steven Furtick, Wade Joye

4. “Joy”
Rend Collective
The Art of Celebration
Writers: Rend Collective

3. “Christ Be All Around Me”
All Sons & Daughters
All Sons & Daughters
Writers: David Leonard, Jack Mooring, Leeland Mooring, Leslie Jordan

2. “This I Believe (The Creed)”
Hillsong Worship
No Other Name
Ben Fielding, Matt Crocker


1. “Forever (We Sing Hallelujah)”
Kari Jobe, Majestic (Live)
Writers: Brian Johnson, Christa Black Gifford, Gabriel Wilson, Jenn Johnson, Joel Taylor, Kari Jobe

All and in All

1-all and in all

By Ron Man

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,
with all wisdom
teaching and admonishing one another
with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs;
with grace
singing to God
in your hearts.

And whatever you do, in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.[1]

Colossians 3:16 of course shows marked similarities to Ephesians 5:19 (especially the mention of “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”), but also provides some unique perspectives on our corporate life and worship.

Paul calls on the Colossian believers (and us) to live with a heavenly perspective, in line with their position in Christ (3:1-3); to reject worldly ways of living (3:5-9); and to reflect the newness of life that is theirs in Christ (3:10). Their new identity in Christ gives them a unity in Christ that supersedes human categories (Greek/Jew; circumcised/ uncircumcised; barbarian/Scythian; slave/ free; 3:11). All those distinctions are now meaningless because they are in Christ, and are Christ’s: He is their “all,” the ground of their being and the fullness of their new existence.

Though being “chosen,” “holy, and “beloved” (3:13), living out this reality as a unified church (the “one body” into which they have been called in Christ, 3:15b) will call for a number of different qualities (which, if they came naturally, Paul would have no need to command!): compassion, kindliness, humility, meekness, patience; mutual forbearance, forgiveness and love; gratitude (3:13- 15). The peace to be found only in and through Christ must rule in their midst if a motley assortment of redeemed sinners is going to be able to live and function in unity as God intends (3:15a).

This corporate unity will only come about as the “word of Christ” is allowed to “dwell in [them] richly.” Paul is not willing to settle for a half-hearted communal gathering: his commands are filled with superlatives, which in turn are grounded in the primary superlative already seen, that of Christ being “all and in all” as the foundation of their unity. These exhortations to excellence include: that the Colossians display love as the perfect bond of unity (14); the need for Christ’s absolute rule in their midst (15); that the word of Christ dwell richly (16a) among them; that they bring all wisdom to bear on their mutual edification (16b); and that indeed all that they do, verbally or actively, be done all (Paul himself repeats the term) in the name of the Lord Jesus (17)—that is, in His way, according to His power, and acknowledging that rule of Christ of which Paul has already spoken.

It is surely no accident that in this context, where Paul calls for this kind of unity in the church, he highlights singing. For corporate song that is ideally suited to illustrating and expressing the unity in diversity that is to characterize the body of Christ: many distinct voices (different ranges, tone qualities, etc.), yet joined together in a harmonious chorus of praise to God that is certainly more than the sum of the parts.

It is also deeply significant that Paul identifies this singing as a worthy conduit and reflection of the “word of Christ” dwelling in the congregation’s midst. The “word of Christ” should be understood as something far more dynamic than just a word about Christ (a so-called “objective genitive” in Greek grammar); rather, it is suggests that Christ Himself (a “subjective genitive”) continues to speak to us through His Word and by means of human preachers, teachers, readers—and musicians. (See Worship Notes 1.8 on this rich theme of Christ’s continuing ministry in the midst of His gathered people.) It is Christ who should be heard through the readings, through the preaching, and through songs that accurately convey biblical truth. Christ’s word is to “dwell” among them, and “richly” at that: it is not just to show up once or twice during the service (during the sermon and perhaps through an “obligatory” Scripture reading); rather the entire context and content of worship should be Word-centered and Word-filled.[2] It is this rich Word-centeredness that will make even our singing be a rich source of teaching and admonishment and wisdom.

And as diverse as the body of Christ is in its makeup, so should the songs sung together should be varied—hence, Paul says, our musical diet in the church should include what he refers to as “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Much energy and ink have been expended in trying to conclusively delineate these categories of song, with no true consensus having been reached; but one sure conclusion may confidently be drawn, that Paul intends for there to be different types of songs. Dare we imagine that in the Colossian church Paul encouraged the inclusion of musical expressions indigenous to the various groups he refers to in verse 11??

Above all, Paul insists, all the actions and words of worship (in the immediate context, though perhaps Paul is looking beyond that to all of life as well) should be done “in the name our Lord Jesus” (17). Again, this is a perspective that is far more active and dynamic than we sometimes acknowledge—it goes far deeper than merely tacking on the name of Jesus in the hope of thereby achieving extra spiritual impact or efficacy. Rather doing what we do in Jesus’ name means proceeding with the realization and acknowledgment of His ongoing mediatorial work as our only means of access to (and only hope of pleasing) the Father; we give “thanks to God the Father through Him.” Our activities of worship, with all their imperfections and mixed motives, are subsumed and perfected by Christ and offered to the Father, clothed in His righteousness and as part of His perfect offering of worship. And to the extent that we allow our words to be shaped and infused by the “Word of Christ,” they will be fitting instruments of praise—as the Son speaks in and through us, to the glory of the Father.

Christ our all, Christ our worship, Christ our mediator and High Priest, Christ our Peace, Christ our sure Word spoken into our worship.

How reminiscent of the familiar words attributed to Patrick of Ireland:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

(Saint Patrick’s Breastplate)


Find out more about Ron Man at Worship Notes.



[1] layout of v. 16 from grammatical and exegetical study of David F. Detwiler, “Church Music and Colossians 3:16,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158:631 (July-September 2001): 347-69.

[2] For more on this subject, please see my treatment on “Worship and the Word” in my online newsletter Worship Notes 1.6 (alturl.com/dqqi9).