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Gina-McClainAfter the past few years of observing the worship element of our kids’ experiences, I’ve discovered three key skills that distinguish a worship leader from a worship singer. The former leads kids to engage in a worship song while the latter holds a microphone and sings. There’s a big difference between the two.

Skill No. 1: The Art of Prompting

Storytelling and worship leading share this tool in common. Yet it’s assumed in storytelling and taken for granted in worship leading. Providing prompts seems intuitive when teaching kids.

Whether it’s in the form of storytelling or simply expository teaching, when we want kids to engage with the message, we prompt them to respond to us.

We ask them a question. Have them repeat a word. Lead them to create a sound effect.

These are intentional prompts used to keep kids focused on what you’re doing. It’s active listening.

Worship leading really isn’t different. Even though kids are singing (and maybe dancing), we still want to take advantage of active listening. Prompting kids to respond to keeps them focused on what you’re doing.

It’s talking to the kids in between verses, prompting them to clap, put their hands in the air or shout out loud.

It’s making eye contact with kids individually and giving them simple encouragement.

It’s working both sides of the stage, boys vs. girls, grade vs. grade. It’s appealing to their desire to out-dance, out-sing and out-shout anyone else in the room.

Skill No. 2: Filling the Gap

Every song has gaps. Fast-paced or slow, every song has a bridge where you can lose momentum or build it. I prefer to build. Great worship leading is knowing the song well enough to know what to say in those gaps to elevate the momentum.

Filling the gap is bridging one song to the next so kids are prepared for the song they’re about to sing and why it’s relevant to their lives. It’s taking time to review a dance move used in that song or to prepare them for an expected response. This is not stopping all songs and talking to the crowd in an unenergetic way in order to review dance moves. That’s not a skill. That’s a break.

Filling the gap is knowing you have 10 seconds as one song fades out and the next song fades in. It’s using that 10 seconds to let the crowd know:

  • They’ll hear a question in the song and you want to hear them loud and clear.
  • When they see this image (pic on the screen), it’s time to shout or raise your hands and jump up and down.
  • This next song is their chance to release something unto the Lord: “Think about one thing in your life that hurts right now. The one thing you wish you could change about your life right now. Watch yourself placing that at the feet of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is your answer … sing this with me … ”

A skill like this makes the difference between a worship song that rocks and a worship song that falls flat. It’s not rocket-science. But it’s definitely advanced preparation.

Skill No. 3: Go Big or Go Home

So cliché, I know. But it’s a classic stage skill. Whatever you want the crowd to do, you’ve got to do it twice as big. So, consider the energy level you want the kids to have, and your energy level should be twice that.

There’s nothing worse than having great momentum leading into worship only to have the worship leader tank it because they had little to no energy. Treat energy levels like a baton in a relay race. Pass the baton well, and it builds momentum. Drop the baton, and the momentum is lost. It takes more energy to recover from momentum loss. Don’t put yourself through that.

These are the worship-leading skills I will use over the next year to multiply the number of worship leaders I have in my ministry. As we continue to build up and mentor leaders, clearly defined victories like this will make the worship element of our kids’ ministry experiences something worth talking about.

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children’s ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn. For the original article, visit

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