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Women in Worship: How Female Singer-Songwriters Are Taking Over the Worship Scene

Women in Worship: How Female Singer-Songwriters Are Taking Over the Worship Scene

  • Looking at Sacred Scripture, there is one woman in the Bible that deserves noting as a leading “Woman of Worship” from the New Testament: Anna the prophetess, daughter of Phanuel.  
Female Worship Leader

It all started with one woman—Darlene Zschech — and one song — “Shout to the Lord.”

For me, it all started with Kim Walker-Smith — and one song — “How He Loves.”

It was my freshman year of college, and I was attending Florida State University in 2010—my good friend Scott visited me in my dorm room one day and insisted that I watch and listen to this performance of this one newer worship leader, Kim Walker-Smith. She was singing the song “How He Loves” with such passion, openness, and abandonment to the Holy Spirit that the event of watching her on YouTube will forever be ingrained in my mind and heart. It was in that very moment that I knew what I wanted to do—lead people closer to Christ through music.

Strong Female Worship Leadership

She was not just anyone—she was a strong and confident female lead, and this was so different from the usual male-dominated field of worship leading at the time. For the first time, I was able to see my potential and I am still striving for that same authenticity in my worship every single day because of that moment of worship.

The worship leader community since its beginning has been predominantly male-driven and male-written, however, the climate in praise and worship songwriting and producing is most definitely coming up female. This is clearly seen in so many talented Christian female singer-songwriters of the 21st Century, with names that include Brooke Ligertwood, Hannah Dobbs, Christy Nockels, Sarah Kroger, and Abbie Gamboa, just to name a few. These “powerhouse” women worship leaders are making a name for themselves in the Christian music industry, but more importantly than that, they are spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world through their music.

Back to the Beginning

Going back to Darlene Zschech*, it’s critical to note that her presence in the early 90s with Hillsong Church started a revolution of women taking leading roles within the praise and worship bands, and effectively leading other women to feel confident enough to take “center stage” when it comes to leading worship. Darlene paved the way for so many women to lead their congregations closer to Christ through song and I know I am forever grateful to myself for her boldness and courage.

The Female Songwriters of the Church

Women in worship are not only leading the vocals, but they are writing and producing their own amazing music as well. The woman that stands out to me in this category is Brooke (Fraser) Ligertwood, from Hillsong Church as well. New Zealand-native, this woman is leading the charts with her newest album “Eight”, which followed her first solo Christian album “Seven”, being all originals written and produced herself. Personally, Brooke’s presence in the worship leader realm has made a huge impact on my self-worth as a woman and given me so much to strive for in my future as a worship leader. She not only plays guitar and piano, but she also sings, writes, and produces every song on her albums. There are so many songs that we Christians know and love that have been written by Brooke, including “Hosanna”, “King of Kings”, and “New Wine” just to name a few.

We as women are thankful for her bright light in the worship scene over the past 15 years.

Because of these amazing women in worship, and I could go on and on about their accolades and accomplishments, but the message I am trying to prove remains the same—women are powerful tools in leading worship and can foster more women to take up this role in the Church. Women have so many strengths and characteristics that can be the very thing that this world needs in this day and age to convert souls to Christ and foster peace among our worldly brothers and sisters.

Anna the Prophetess

Looking at Sacred Scripture, there is one woman in the Bible that deserves noting as a leading “Woman of Worship” from the New Testament: Anna the prophetess, daughter of Phanuel.  She is the first Christian prophet and the first woman to praise God in the New Testament. Mary and Joseph bring newborn Baby Jesus to Jerusalem to be presented at the Temple, which was Jewish custom at the time. A prophet named Simeon is noted in this scripture scene to give words of praise for this long-awaited Messiah. However, Anna, an elder prophetess who lived and worshiped in the Temple, was the first woman (besides Mary) to praise the Name of the Lord in their place of worship.

Luke 2:37 clearly states that Anna “worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer” in preparation for the long awaited Messiah. And indeed He did come to her and reveal Himself to her as a child.

Another leading lady in the Bible is Miriam who is considered the “Founder of Contemporary Worship”, noted by WL Contributor, Gerard Kelly, and is the first female prophet in the Old Testament. As women, we can look to these ancient examples of faith and adoration of God and see that women hold an important place when worship is considered.

On February 25th, 2024, Brooke Ligertwood was interviewed about her album “Seven” and asked the question:

“What is your greatest hope for these songs as they start finding new life in churches around the world?”

Her answer is beautiful and humble: “I hope that these songs help build the local church in the most practical way. There are many songs on this album which are very practically useful! And then I hope these songs help nourish and nurture people’s individual walks with the Lord. That people are able to see Jesus more clearly, more vividly, because of the way He reveals Himself to them as they worship Him with these songs.” Her beautiful and pure desire for her music is just one amazing quality that Brooke brings to the Worship “Table”.

If it wasn’t for Brooke, Kim, Christy, Sarah and countless others, I would not have the faith to believe in myself as a leading lady as much as I do now because of their examples. God the Father sees them and is pleased with how they are using their time and talents to build up His Kingdom and I for one am grateful for each of these women, plus the generations of women to come after them and after me.

We are forever grateful for their presence in the Church. Darlene may be the forerunner for so many women worship leaders, but there are endless possibilities for future women to take the lead as well. This is only the beginning for women in worship, and I cannot wait to see what God has planned for His leading ladies.

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