Worship Leaders Toolkit

A crucial part of working your craft well is having the proper tools to do the job well. Over the years, I’ve amassed an kit of worship leading tools that I keep packed in a bag that I grab every time I lead worship, presented in no particular order.

For Everyone:

Fisherman’s Friend Lozenges

These throat lozenges taste horrible but if you’re ill, they’ll get your voice through a set.

Bottle of Water

Surprisingly, not always provided, readily available, and bad water can be worse than having none at all.

Vocal Microphone

Owning your own mic isn’t typically a necessity, but my reasons for bringing my own microphone are threefold: hygiene, quality, and consistency. Hygiene speaks for itself, but additionally I’m guaranteed the mic that I bring is not of suspect quality (who knew they sold mics in 10 for $100 packs?). I also know the tonal and proximity characteristics of the mic that I bring, and won’t be caught off guard. Here’s my mic buying guide.

DI Box, 2 Instrument Cables, 2 Microphone Cables, and Adaptors

99% of the time these items stay in the bag, but you don’t want to be caught without them. I’ve lead worship at some churches where you had to sort through a rats nest of ten cables before you found a working one.

I also keep a small tin of various adaptors with me. RCA to ¼”, Gender Changers, and a ⅛” to RCA cable.

iPad Mini

I don’t use an iPad on stage. I have really strong opinions about iPad music stands which I’ll share in the future. That said, the iPad Mini is a great item to have off stage as a reference tool.

Backup Paper Copy of Your Set

Unlike an iPad, paper doesn’t have low batteries, install software updates in the middle of a set, or break when you drop it.

For Guitarists:

2 9V Batteries

Don’t be the guy who needs to borrow batteries when your guitar or tuner dies. Just don’t. Keep two spares and be the hero who has batteries when someone else needs them.

2 Extra Sets of Strings

…especially when you’re leading worship at a retreat, hundreds of miles away from music store…

…not that I would know.

Extra Guitar Strap

I also know nothing about forgetting my guitar strap… for a retreat… hundreds of miles away from a music store.

Extra Picks

Bring enough to share.

Boss Pedal Tuner With Power Supply

Almost as important as being in tune, is the ability to quickly mute your instrument to tune or unplug your guitar.

I’m fond of the TU-2. I hear they make a TU-3 now. That’s one whole number better! It features great advances in tuning technology, I’m sure…

Kaiser Standard and Short-Cut Capo

Key changes happen, and they happen quickly with a standard capo.

The cut capo is the real hero, though. I once sliced my hand open the night before a set and lost the use of one of my fingers on my fretting hand. I was able get through the set with just a cut capo and two fingers.

For Pianists:

It’s rare for me to lead from piano, but when I do I’ll do some recon first to at least try to figure out what model of instrument they have. I’ve been running a laptop-based keyboard rig for over 10 years, so as long as what is provided has enough keys and a USB or MIDI out I don’t need to drag a keyboard with me.

Audio Interface

I don’t like fussing with the headphone jack on my laptop for output. I keep a small audio interface with my kit just to get the audio out of my laptop. The interface I have also has a MIDI input. Most keyboards have USB connections now, but drivers can be an issue and there’s still a lot of old keyboards out there that don’t have USB. I used the discontinued M-Audio Fast Track Pro, but the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 is great replacement (the 2i2 doesn’t have MIDI).

MIDI Cable

Proof that a well designed protocol can still be relevant after 40 years; MIDI just won’t go away.

MIDI to USB Converter

This little guy has gotten me out of some scrapes. My audio interface died, and I was able to limp along with this and rigging my headphone jack to a ⅛” to RCA cable with RCA to ¼” adaptors.

Sustain Pedal

I’m not a strong pianist; if the sustain pedal is broken or missing, I’m in bad place. I bring a spare.

Quiklok Adjustable Bench

If the provided bench is adequate, I use it as a laptop stand.

On Working Your Craft

After I left my full-time ministry job, I unintentionally took a five-year break from leading worship. I had some stuff to sort out, and I’m still sorting, but recently that break ended when my pastor reminded me that we don’t need to attain unattainable perfection before allowing God to use us.

So I picked a set, printed a cue sheet, and searched the basement for my DI box; the familiar ritual of it came flooding back to me and, honestly, it didn’t sit well. I had literally done this hundreds upon hundreds of times before, and despite all the changes in my own heart in the last five years, the physical act of leading worship hadn’t changed.

I fired off an email to a former music teacher/now friend. Summarized: I’ve been been strumming the same 16th note pattern on an acoustic guitar for 15 years. It was still perfectly acceptable, perfectly safe, and would be appreciated.

…but there had to be be something more.

But “more” can be a dangerous. “More” can be tasteless. “More” can be self-indulgent. “More” can be a distraction. In the past, I had thrown a lot of trends and gimmicks at the “more” wall and not a lot had stuck.

My friend replied:

Work your craft, come prepared, be sincere, work your craft, stay honest, work your craft, practice, plan, coordinate, and work your craft… make the songs yours… keep the melody singable, keep it true… and work your craft…

The rest is anointing… The breath of God… The unquantifiable thing called talent…

Work. Your. Craft.

And it will all find its way.

Well, shoot.

I got hung up on wanting “more”, but the “more” that is tasteful, selfless, and enhancing doesn’t come in a stomp box or with the latest loop pack, it’s the side effect of working your craft. And working your craft isn’t just the actual act of leading a set of worship. It’s preparing, practice, planning, coordination, learning, experimenting, building up others.

Some of these things come easily to me. Others, not.

So when nobody is complaining, what’s the motivation?

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…  Colossians 3:23

The work isn’t for your benefit and it’s not for your congregation’s benefit. It’s not for men; it’s for the Lord. If that’s not motivation enough, it’s time to reconsider your calling.

So let’s do hearty work.