Ten Ways to Grow as a Young Worship Leader
by Justin Rizzo
Training and Events
You’re living in a unique time in history. Today, more than ever before, we’re seeing an increased emphasis on worship.
From worship leaders in local churches to songwriters, singers, and musicians serving in various ministries and prayer rooms across the globe, people are being marked with the call to worship.
Specifically young people.
This modern-day phenomenon we’re seeing isn’t without its challenges, so here are ten ways to grow as a young worship leader, singer, or musician.
1. Develop Your Heart of Worship
Spending time when it’s just you and the Lord is crucial to developing a heart of worship. Worshiping, praying, and reading your Bible when no one else is looking is key to your life in God. If you give yourself to this in your youth, it will set the trajectory of your life. It’s also a prerequisite to any kind of platform ministry. You can’t lead people into a place where you haven’t been.
Can you take ten minutes today to worship alone in your room on the guitar or at the piano? Can you sit in silence for five minutes and just talk to God and then listen for Him to talk back?
2. Open up Your Bible and Read It
The best place to start is by praying this prayer: God, help me to love Your Word. Be honest with Him about where you are. Sometimes I don’t feel motivated to read my Bible or have my quiet time. But I have made it a habit that I choose to do regardless of the way I feel that day. I continue to choose it because I can see the effects when I do or don’t spend time reading God’s Word. It is not important only for your personal growth and edification, but as someone in worship ministry, knowing the Word is critical to developing a history in singing the Bible over others, prophesying, and songwriting.
If you have struggled to spend time reading your Bible daily, try starting small. Even five minutes a day will begin to change things. Make it a habit by choosing to follow through on this, whether you feel inspired that day or not. Consider finding a friend to join you so you can encourage each other to stick with it. You’ll never regret time spent reading the Word and getting it in your heart.
3. Fight for Purity
Guard your speech because your words have the power to create, either for good or bad. Your own words are the most powerful words that will speak into your life. Guard your eyes because the pure in heart will see God. Don’t just resist evil, but fill your eyes with the beauty of God through meditation on His words. Guard your ears because what you allow yourself to hear will fill the precious space of your mind. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by His word. Break off the power of accusation and shame that the enemy tries to put on you when you stumble in the fight for purity. The beauty of the cross and the mercy of God is that we can repent and get back up and immediately run like a first-class citizen again.
Take a moment and declare over yourself, “I am not a second-class citizen in God’s kingdom. I’m not dirty. I don’t need to wait on the sidelines until I pay for my sins. I’m a first-class citizen in God’s kingdom, and I’m pursuing Him with abandon.”
4. Don’t Let Your Weakness Keep You Down
You’re going to have times when you feel weak. That’s all part of the journey. There are going to be times when your sin and lack of follow-through and commitment get to you. Don’t let that keep you down. Be like David; get up right away, repent, and keep pursuing Him. Don’t let your weakness scare you. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
What is the one area in your life where you feel the weakest? Where do you fail most often? Stop what you’re doing right now. Close your eyes and ask God to help you in that area. Ask Him to give you specific insight and wisdom about how to overcome.
5. Find and Attend a Thriving Youth Group
This was one of the most important things for me when I was a teenager. The youth group that I was a part of valued the gift of worship in young people and made a place for it to be developed. You don’t want to only hear teaching on worship, you want to actually get your feet wet and do it. Find a place where that can happen.
If you’re not already part of a community like this, stop and ask God to bring people around you or show you the group to start running with.
6. Get a Group of Friends and Worship Together
Find a group of friends that is looking to grow in worship leading or musicianship, and hold one another accountable. It is important to have friends that will hold you to a high standard not only spiritually but musically as well. You need friends that will push you to grow in your musical abilities. This can be a small group that meets regularly or something less formal. The point is to make sure that you’re connecting with others about your craft. We are influenced by the people we hang out with. Enthusiasm and passion for the Lord are contagious, so be intentional about the friends you have. Spur one another on. You are a cup of water; are the people you’re hanging around with filling you with clean water, or are they polluting your water?
Think of your closest friends. Are you motivated to pursue God with greater abandon after you spend time with them? Or do they bring you down, make you feel lethargic or passive about your relationship with Him? How would they answer these same questions about your effect on them?
7. Never Stop Growing in Your Craft
Growing in skills takes practice. Once you land on a worship team, the temptation to just coast will come. Don’t. I highly recommend taking ongoing lessons for your instrument and/or voice. Seek out a professional instructor and always keep learning your craft. Often, there are amazing instructors at your local music store or in your community. If you don’t have one or can’t afford one, there are tons of free resources online that you can benefit from.
What’s one action step you can take this week to begin growing in your craft? Have you considered signing up for a course? A class? Lessons?
8. Be Humble and Go Low
None of us have it all figured out. If we want to grow, we have to be willing to receive input and correction in our lives. This goes for the general aspects of our character as well as our ability on a worship team. Jesus’ life shows us that there is no greater honor or calling we have in life than to lay our lives down in serving and loving others.
Do you respond with humility to constructive criticism? Is there any area of pride in your heart that you need to confess to the Lord, a trusted friend, or a leader? Lastly, what’s one practical way you can serve your worship leader, pastor, or church today?
9. Seek out a Mentor
It is helpful, at any stage of life, to have someone who has gone before you speaking into your life. Seeking out a mentor doesn’t have to be awkward. Look for someone older than you, but remember that can mean one year, ten years, or even thirty years older; don’t box people in. The goal is to find someone you look up to, who you feel that you can glean from—someone who can teach you about a life of worship and a right heart before the Lord.
If you don’t have a mentor yet, stop and ask God to bring someone who will speak into your life. Maybe one or two people who you can approach will come to mind. Maybe no one comes to mind. Ask Him to bring someone.
10. Enjoy the Process
Finally, in all of this, enjoy the process. Take yourself seriously but learn to enjoy the moment. Don’t get down on yourself when you make mistakes. Mistakes will come, but the important thing is how you rebound from them. Get back up, repent when you need to, and get right back to running hard after God. Remember that He is not just waiting for you to arrive at perfect wholeheartedness and maturity. He is crazy about you already, and He enjoys going with you on your journey with all its ups and downs. What He has prepared for you is far beyond what you can think or imagine, and it’s going to be worth it.
You could have been born in any time in human history, but God chose for you to be born now. He has a beautiful journey for you, and being a worshiper is a key part of it.
Keep playing. Keep singing. Keep leading.
God, I ask that You would continue to raise up young men and women who have a passion for You and who would give themselves to the furtherance of Your kingdom until the day of Your return.
What step is most important to your growth?
Visit justinrizzo.com for more worship team resources, including Justin’s free e-book 10 Keys to Being a Successful Worship Leader.
Teens ages 14–18, including singers, musicians, and worship leaders, are invited to Awakening Teen Camps’ High School Worship and Impact Camp, July 26–August 1 in Kansas City. Campers will get to focus on an instrument while participating on a worship team or choose our new missions track with training on outreach and discipleship. Learn more about our teens camps this summer at ihopkc.org/atc.
Justin was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, where he developed a passion and love for music at an early age. He began playing a variety of instruments and started leading worship at age 12. He has released five albums and been featured on multiple compilation projects along with writing and producing two full-length musicals. In addition, he travels extensively to lead worship and speak at conferences and events around the world. Justin is currently a full-time staff member at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, Missouri, where he serves as a worship leader, songwriter, composer, and blogger.