How Worship Leaders Can Think Like a Professional Music Director

At a recent Churchfront Conference, Will Johnson, an accomplished worship leader and music director, shared his insights on leading worship music effectively. His keynote addressed the importance of preparation, understanding one’s team, and the power of simplicity in worship music.

Key Takeaways

  1. Expecting and Preparing for Jesus’ Presence: Johnson emphasized the necessity of expecting and preparing for Jesus’ presence in worship settings. He advocated for preparation as a form of worship, noting that the Holy Spirit is involved in both planning and execution.

  2. Knowing Your Team and Context: He advised knowing one’s team and their strengths, stressing that arrangements should be simple, confident, and accurate, rather than complex and uncertain.

  3. Role of a Music Director: Johnson’s talk focused on the role of a music director, not just in live music direction but in the broader context of worship preparation. He noted the rarity of staff music director positions in churches, highlighting the need for effective musical arrangement and team coordination.

  4. Story of Mary and Martha: Reflecting on the biblical story of Mary and Martha, Johnson pointed out the importance of choosing to be present with Jesus. He drew parallels to worship leaders’ roles, emphasizing preparation to facilitate an atmosphere of worship.

  5. Practical Tips for Music Directors:

    • Clear Expectations: Establishing clear expectations and understanding the distinction between practice (personal) and rehearsal (communal).
    • Preparation is Worship: Viewing preparation not just as a means to worship but as an act of worship itself.
    • Role of Pastor and Musician: Balancing the roles of a pastor and a musician in leading worship.
    • Arrangement Decisions: Making informed and contextually appropriate arrangement decisions.
    • Transition Planning: Planning transitions and song sequences thoughtfully.
  6. Encouraging Team Confidence: Johnson highlighted the need for team members to feel confident in their roles, thereby reducing anxiety and enhancing their ability to lead worship effectively.

  7. Personal Insights: Sharing personal anecdotes, including his experience at 2 42 Community Church in Michigan and his academic background, Johnson provided a relatable and human aspect to his talk.


Will Johnson’s keynote offered a blend of practical advice and spiritual insight for worship leaders and music directors. His emphasis on preparation, team knowledge, and the spiritual aspect of music direction provided valuable guidance for creating a meaningful worship experience.

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