The first time I led worship was in a small group.
I was terrified 😓
There were about 15 of us all packed into someone’s living room.
Once everyone arrived, our small group leader opened in prayer and gave me the nod…
My trembling hands clutched the neck of my little acoustic guitar so hard I thought it was going to break.
I somehow managed to strum my first G chord and kept my eyes closed while struggling through the first verse.
I got to the chorus and felt brave enough to open my eyes.
I couldn’t believe it! Everybody was worshipping! 🤯
Since that first experience of leading worship in a small group, I’ve had the privilege of leading worship in many different venues – some big and some small.
I’ve led hundreds in worship at huge outdoor concerts in Bangkok, I’ve led worship at a children’s home in Rwanda and I’ve led worship in churches and small groups in the UK.
And I have to say, leading worship in small groups is my favourite – nothing beats the intimacy of a small group setting of people hungry for God all worshipping together.
I would like to think that over the years I have learned that leading people in praise and worship is much more than just playing a few chords and hoping for the best.
In this post, we will look at how to lead worship in small groups, including some practical pointers and further worship leader resources from Worship Ministry Training that will develop you further as a worship leader.
“The goal of worshiping in a small group is connection: connecting with God and with one another.”
Before we get into the practical tips on how to lead worship in a small group, I should point out the obvious – worship is more than singing a couple of praise songs.
Biblical worship is more than music, it’s an expression of our love and faith in our Creator God, our good, good Father and it’s not limited to any soundtrack.
Of course, there are many ways to worship God, including living a life of love to God, reading His Word, serving in our local church and demonstrating the love of Christ to everyone we meet.
However, one of the most common, most beautiful and most effective ways to worship together in a small group is through music.
“Music is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.”
Thanks for letting me say that 😊
Now let’s get to it! Here are 8 practical tips on how to lead worship (with music) in a small church home group:
1. Be Caring Without Staring
Some people can sing beautifully and love to sing in worship, whilst others can feel awkward worshiping in a small home group.
It might be a challenge getting people who sing ‘less melodiously’ or who are more introvert-orientated engaged in worship.
Most people like to sing in the privacy of their own bathrooms where nobody will hear them.
Your role as a small group worship leader is to try and engage as many people as possible.
You can help people feel more at ease to sing by being friendly, relaxed and likable.
Avoid direct eye contact during worship – instead direct your gaze to God.
There’s nothing more awkward than a man singing “I love you more than words can say” whilst staring at another man standing just a few feet away.
Please use direct eye contact when you’re speaking to the group, just try not to make others feel awkward while singing during worship.
2. Use Familiar Songs & Friendly Keys
One of the most common questions I get asked about leading worship in small groups is:
“Should I use a set list when leading or should I just go with the flow?”
My answer is, prepare a song list!
Sometimes as worship leaders we use “going with the flow” as an excuse to be disorganised.
God is well-able to help you ahead of time to get your song list sorted.
A good worship leader doesn’t just ‘wing it’, he or she prepares in advance and leads with confidence knowing where he or she is going next.
If the aim is to engage people in worship so that they connect with God – choose songs that are easy to learn and easy to sing.
Sometimes there are worship songs I love to listen to on loop for a month but that doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for your small church group.
Use songs that are group friendly: well liked and in singable keys…
Jesus’ love is so high and so low, but that doesn’t mean our songs have to be!
Choose keys that are appropriate for the majority of people in your church (men and women).
It’s easy to pick keys that best fit my vocal range but think about the people you’re trying to lead in worship.
Don’t let too high a key be a barrier. The rule here is to remove all obstacles.
Fight to keep praise and worship sweet and simple. Less is more.
Elevate Your Worship Ministry Today 🙌
3. Sing Brighter & Strum Lighter
As simple as this sounds, I still forget this sometimes…
There are times when I get so into worship that I can strum a guitar so ferociously in someone front living room that the guitar (or whichever instrument you happen to be playing) can drown out your voice and make it difficult in the group to follow.
People follow voices!
So be careful not to drown out the voices with your guitar.
Instead, let the vocals lead and the instruments complement.
There’s a difference between loud and energetic.
The trick here is to get the balance right between being loud enough to help people feel, but not to loud that you lose them.
“The aim isn’t to be worship leaders. The aim is to be worshippers.”
4. Plan Your Speaking & Be Brief
If you follow this point then you’ll be ahead of the game than over 90% of worship leaders.
What tends to happen most of the time, especially whilst leading worship in a small group is that we try to ad-lib between songs.
We might say a prayer, share a Bible verse on worship or encourage the people in the group with some insight into what the song means – but most of the time we’re just making it up as we go along.
Speaking in between worship songs can really help people focus their faith and engage on a higher level but please plan what you’re going to say.
You could share interesting facts about the song. Maybe talk about what the song means to you personally, read a verse from Psalms or pray, just know ahead of time what you’re going to say and please don’t talk for too long.
5. Focus On Connecting, Not Performing
Remember that the goal of leading worship in your small group is to help people connect with God; to help people to worship Him with all of their heart and encounter Him so they’ll be changed.
To be effective at leading others into God’s presence requires you not to just be a worship leader – but to be a worshiper leading other worshipers.
“When I worship, I would rather my heart be without words than my words be without heart.”
Your life must be consistent with the words you’re singing.
When you lead from a real place of heart-felt, life-given worship – people see it, notice it and will follow it.
Our very lives are dependent on the Lord, and enough of Him is never enough!
We were made to know Him and love Him. One of the ways we do that is through worship.
Our mission as great worship leaders is to assist others in this experience and to fulfill that assignment and calling with excellence.
Let us never forget this.
“When you can sing something that you believe with all your heart, people will feel that – it’s contagious.”
6. Pray & Play
Treat the songs that you’re singing to God as a form of prayer.
Don’t just play through your verse, chorus and bridge – pray them.
While we focus on our set list, God is focusing on our hearts. So help people break out of routine and respond to God in their singing.
The songs that you lead are tools you can use to help people talk to God so help people stay in that conversation with God during worship.
Approach worship leading as more of a prayer time than “special music” or a mini-concert and I’ve said it already but it’s worth mentioning again:
Start from your secret place and lead worship from a heart of worship.
“Worship isn’t a feeling you wait for; it’s a choice you make.”
7. Develop Your Worship Leading Gifts
The Bible encourages us to “stir up the giftings that are hidden within you“ (2 Tim 1:6).
This is why, whether you’re leading worship in a small group or in front of the whole church, it’s vital you invest in yourself as a worship leader.
Think of it as a win-win-win:
You win because you can lead worship with confidence and competence, your team wins because they’ll get better too and your church wins because they experience life-changing God encounters.
Here at GrowChurch, we’ve spent 100s of hours uncovering the best worship leader training out there.
And the best one we found?
You get personalised coaching, unlock a treasure trove of in-depth courses covering topics like team building, increasing engagement, running rehearsals and vocal technique and join a thriving community of fellow worship leaders.