5 Worship Leader Nightmares

The number one fear in the world is public speaking. But singing in front of people is even scarier than that. So it makes sense that worship leaders have real fears. And those fears frequently come true.

So in an attempt at a bit of catharsis, I thought it would be helpful to identify those fears, and maybe poke fun at them a bit. We’ve all had things like this happen to us. After they happen, move on. It’s not the end of the world.


We do our best to learn the words. We’re responsible enough to not rely on confidence monitors or lyric sheets. But sometimes the worst happens and we blank. It’s happened to the best of worship leaders.


This translates to digital pianos perfectly too. Ever started a song and realized your whole keyboard was transposed one half step up?


We’ve been waiting all week, maybe even all month, to introduce this one amazing song. The band knocks it out of the park. But all you get in return is blank stares or even your pastor saying something like, “Well that song didn’t work out so well.”


This is the single best moment in leading worship. The song builds to a crescendo, you back away from the mic, and the congregation explodes in singing. But what if they don’t sing?


Maybe this is my personal fear from having led church at a smaller church with horrible acoustics. One unauthorized tambourine in the hands of rhythmless charismatic can seriously kill your buzz.

Bonus nightmare…this:

Have you had any of these happen to you? What are your worst nightmares as a worship leader?

63 responses to 5 Worship Leader Nightmares

  1. Great post. Nice pictures to illustrate too. In our failure to accomplish things appropriately, sometimes we have to make a big decision like Martin did.

    I once had the capo wrong and remembered thinking, “Do I go with it and hope that my band figures it out all the while they look like they are getting it wrong, or do I stop and fix my mistake?” Luckily for my band, I decided to stop and admit my mistake. I think I made the right choice because 6 years later my VOLUNTEER band is still with me. Not sure they would have stuck around too long had I chosen the other.

  2. Stephen Canfield October 2, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Great thoughts…here is another one: trying to talk or give cues and completely losing your place.

  3. These are great. My worst experience, as a leader of a small <100 member church, was I got to church, had the music ready, we walked out into the sanctuary and prayed over everything, and when I went to grab my guitar… it wasn't there. I completely forgot I had taken it home to fix the strap peg that had worked it's way loose and clean it up a little. I was horrified! We scrambled to find some cd's to sing from. I have learned, since then, to keep a spare guitar at the church, just in case.

  4. haha these are great! Funny thing happened to me recently, I was singing and standing still playing the guitar. I was the only one playing in a quiet moment during the song Oceans. All of the sudden, my quarter-inch that goes into my guitar just snaps and breaks. I wasn’t moving…I didn’t yank the cord,but BAM it just rips out. Of course, in this silent moment all I could do was laugh and say…” So….my cord broke! hahah”. It turned out to be a great continuation of worship though.

  5. Was hired to play music for a wedding ceremony at the church where I lead. The pre-arranged signal song for the wedding party to walk in was “The Wedding Song (There Is Love)” by Noel Paul Stookey. I started to play it and nothing happened. Everyone was staring at me as I did every possible improvisation on the melody and sang the chorus about 5 times. Finally in desperation played about 4 bars of Wagners Wedding March (Here Comes The Bride) and they walked in.

  6. Here’s one more – journalists writing about musicians and misusing the word ‘crescendo’ πŸ˜‰

  7. Thomas Loy Bumgarner August 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    was playing keyboard 1 Sunday and played Ruben Morgan’s Still and suddenly realised it should be Marty Haugen’s Gather us in.oops, lol

  8. Nightmare #6 no musicians at all! :p

    • Or you are the only muaician or singer to show up. And the only tone deaf person in the crowd who is very enthusiastic runs to the stage to “help u out”!!!!!?

  9. This one might be a little tough to beat, although as a worship leader, I’ve had my share of unwelcomed tambourines in the middle of worship…. Anyway, one beautiful Sunday morning, as the band began to play, one of our worship leaders guitar strings snapped… Without thinking about what he was saying, he apologized to the congregation and asked them to give him a moment because his g-string broke…. Needless to say, the church erupted into laughter!

    • Either you are the Sarah from my church who plays the violin, or the same thing happened at my church with one of our lead guitarists. Hilarious. He then turned beat red, but laughed at himself anyway.

    • It is always the g string…. always. LOL

    • And, that, ladies and gentlemen is why I refer to THAT string in reverse as the “string G”! E-string; A-string; D-string; String-G; B-string; E-string. LOL!

  10. For my case there’s always someone playing that extra bar of instrumental when I wanted to end the song then and there, causing me to having to improvise and end it at the next bar. Worst case, the guy keeps going. Buzz killer sometimes :/

  11. This reminds me of a concert many years ago. The lead singer/pianist had just said some very fragile and personal words between two songs. For the next song, the whole band had to begin unisono. So the drummer counted and everybody played at the right moment, but… the hands of the pianist we’re just a few key away from where they should be. So there was a full chord, just a bit too high… The atmosphere broke and everybody, including the band was laughing. In fact, it was fun!

    • Either you are the Sarah from my church who plays the violin, or the same thing happened at my church with one of our lead guitarists. Hilarious. He then turned beat red, but laughed at himself anyway.

    • Sorry. Wrong person.

  12. Or the famous…you hit the button for the stems to start and the sound guy has the channel muted. He realizes it, un-mutes the channel and everyone gets to hear the song play out loud without the LIVE musicians because they didn’t hear the count-in. Thus giving away our secret that we actually play to tracks and further solving the mystery to the entire church where the horn section has been secretly coming from. πŸ™‚

  13. Appreciate the conversation! Something we need to be careful about it, “making it all about us”. It’s a trap where we start asking questions like “Why aren’t they singing? Why aren’t they raising their hands?” Simple. It could be a lot of reasons – but you are asking the wrong questions.

    Worship is a verb, not a noun. Never was meant to be some we attend, it’s something should be doing with our lives DAILY. You know, that whole Sacrifice of praise thing? Yeah, that’s us using our lives as a response to what Jesus has done to us on the cross. Showing up and singing 3 songs and listening to a sermon just isn’t a good enough response. However, living our lives as Jesus, is. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we win.
    The questions we should be asking our selves are…

    1. Am I committed to excellence?
    2. Am I properly serving others and their needs?
    3. Am I modeling what I am speaking?

    We can easily make worship about us (which is ironic in itself) and worry about people not singing or someone playing a tambourine. It’s not about us – it’s about being Jesus to others. Which is very freeing and very sobering at the same time.

    • Brian Eggleston August 7, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      True we should never make it about us. I always start off our rehearal asking the Lord to make it perfect in the way that He would see fit. And that we appreciate and thank
      Him for using the talent that He placed in us because it’s not about us it’s all about
      Him. Yes something happens every week whether it’s the sound board not acting correctly battery’s dying and microphones monitors not turned up correctly music’s too loud I just look at it like this we must be doing something right because the enemy is trying to stop it and no matter what God works through it all.

    • So glad to see your posting, Hope that every person who posted gets an opportunity to read it.

      Praising and Worshiping our Lord Jesus at


      24/7 in Orlando and World Wide

  14. Perfect love cast out fears. Not one that were mention above will put real worshipper in awkward position or feeling if he or she is worshipping and not performing.

  15. Once when we were closing the service with Amazing Grace (my chains are gone) I suffered from a nice little tongue twister.
    As we were playing the turn around before the last verse, I tried to prepare the congregation by telling them the first few words of the verse. The lyric being “the earth shall soon” except I said “the earth shall shoon” then tried to correct myself because I still had a second before it was time to sing but it still came out “the earth shall shoon”. Then when it was time to sing….yep you guessed it….I sang “shall shoon” again.
    Shall shoon has now become a popular phrase my team. – for years
    : ) : /

  16. Lynette Farrand August 3, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Pastor was praying at the end of his sermon and I was preparing to play quietly during prayer time at the end of the service. Meant to hit the mellow elec piano button, but it was a little dark and I was one row off – hit the metronome button instead. And then couldn’t find the button again to shut it off (for only a few seconds, but felt like 5 minutes). To his credit, Pastor just kept praying and we had a good laugh about it at staff meeting.

  17. Standing on stage, bass in hand. Pianist plays the intro to the closing song. I hit my first note… woah… that was terrible!!!!!! Mute quick, check tuning… in tune, check finger placement… correct fret. Try to drop in again… same problem. Stand there for the remainder of the song wondering what in the world happened to my guitar!!!!!! Afterwards determined that the specialist that played offeratory had hit the transpose button on the keyboard! Now I and the keys player both look for the blinking transpose light before playing!

  18. The leader of a worship team I ran sound for was leading “I am Free” and was wanting to lead into the part that goes from “I am Free” to “Through you the blind will see”, so right after he sings “I am Free” he shouts “Through You!!!” which sounded more like “Screw You” in the recording from the night. More than 7 years later he is the worship pastor at our church and it still gives the members of the team that remember it the giggles.

  19. The bigger issue here, in my opinion, is a spiritual one. A Spirit-led worship leader will set a cadence and the rhythm section of the band (the foundation on which the rest of the band sits) should follow that lead. Because of the physical distance between platform and congregation, even an experienced percussionist will be “off” a bit and not with the band (even if it’s just a couple hundred nano-seconds).

    My homegrown definition of worship leading is, “Providing an atmosphere where people can connect with God and sustain that connection with as few distractions as possible.” Unless led by the Spirit of God, a tambourine in the congregation will conflict with the worship team and create a competing cadence…which, in turn, will cause a distraction and – ultimately- pull people out of connection with God. I think we can all agree that’s not what God wants to happen.

    The other issue here is a presumption that one that is not a part of the worship team can spontaneously become part of the worship team. True lead-worshippers are practiced, prepared and confident…both spiritually and musically. Most have paid a steep price to be on their worship team and they are anointed to be there. In my experience, the congregant spontaneously playing the tambourine is often times either caught up in emotionalism or looking for attention (one of the biggest killers of the anointing out there). The Spirit-led player will get permission from the worship leader to play and, thereby, be under the covering of his/her leadership.

    May all your worship services be blessed with the absence of rogue tambourinists! πŸ™‚

  20. I once had a lovely introduction prepared on the piano and, as I was counting myself in, one of the guitarists just started to strum a completely different rhythm.
    I had a another experience where we forgot to tell one of the singers that we were doing an instrumental and she started singing the next hymn after we started playing.

  21. Jerilyn Beauregard August 5, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    In 46 yeats of leading music worship so many things have happened from soloists not showing up to organs dying to pages of music missing in the middle of a performance. Once I even had a bride walk down the aisle before anyone else and stand there and laugh while everyone else came in to Pachelbel’s canon. Then there was the groom who fainted at the altar breaking his leg as he fell. Personally I am always afraid of getting the service start time wrong and forgetting my organ shoes.

  22. I was running late getting to the church I was leading for. While stepping out of my car, I ripped my pants. Badly. I didn’t have time to go back home and change, so I found a table cloth and wrapped it around my waist like a skirt. I tried to explain my situation to the congregation before we started, but I was so nervous that what I actually said was “I’m wearing a skirt. Let’s worship!”

  23. I have sung in several weddings over the years, usually for friends and for free. My one “paid” time, for a bridal couple I didn’t know personally and the sound man missed the cue. I was supposed to sing for the unity candle time. I stood there (in the background kind of behind the plants) holding the mic and staring/glaring at him. Nothing. Finally the couple just finished the candle, came back to the alter, and then he started the song. Luckily the bride was very gracious.

  24. I am a worship leader, and also a collegiate voice teacher. This happened in a recital setting. I often accompany my own students in weekly recitals, and have several to play for in a row, so will (temporarily) photocopy their songs so I don’t have to haul a million books to the recital hall. Once, I calmly played the whole piano introduction in the first page, turned it and discovered I had copied the back side upside down! I used every ounce of brain power I had to read from the bottom right to upper left of the page, then go back to reading right-side up for the next page. But then I turned the page, and there was the same problem again! I must have missed a lot of notes. My poor soloist glanced at me, and wondered what he was doing wrong to elicit such a horrified look on my face. Wouldn’t you know? 5 pages- 3 of them upside down, and then a da capo! Longest. Song. Ever! Needless to say, I always check now!

  25. To me the biggest nightmare besides the Capo is when everyone in the band has music in different keys. Most of the time it gets caught in rehearsal fortunately.

  26. I am not a worship leader. Nor am I a musician. I do however have an opinion regarding the topic. Worship leaders should be careful to not become a “performance” band instead of a worship group! Too many times it seems like the “worship team” is not so much interested in bringing people into the presence of God as much as they are interested in showing off their abilities or their new song they have written. It’s hard to really connect when you are having to read the words of a song you dont have memorized off of a projection screen.
    Thanks. Just my two cents.

    • I really have no problem with new songs, except for the fact that I am hearing impaired , and cannot learn the words or even attempt to know what is being sung without the aid of a projection screen ! Without knowing the words , one cannot easily unified as one with the congregation . .. that’said why I try to be prayed up before leaving home…

  27. The tambourine nightmare is real and it happened! Also, the “no response”. It’s heartbreaking.

  28. How about this one….
    Singing O Holy Night, Mariah Carey style, at Carols in the Park. Close my eyes to build up to hitting the high notes, and suddenly hear the audience (of approx 1500 people) burst out laughing. Open my eyes and see a 3yr old boy WEEING ON THE GRASS AT THE FRONT IF THE STAGE. Totally threw me.
    Somehow managed to regain my spot, and make a joke of it, saying ‘Well, THAT’s never happened to me before! Put your hands together everyone!’ as his embarrassed dad dragged him off.
    Soooooo glad it wasn’t my own child!!!!

  29. I have been a worship leader since I was a youth. My father was a worship leader for a long time, two of my little sisters are worship leaders, and my mother is a worship songwriter. There are times that I have completely nailed a worship set and gotten negative feedback from the congregation. There are times that I have blown it, and equipment failed, and I had a bad attitude, and people came to me afterward, telling me how much the worship touched their hearts that time. Here is a trick to not being phased or worried or embarrassed ever again. Just worship God sincerely. Stop thinking about yourself and just worship God. At the end of the day, He has myriads of angels singing in heaven who blow our greatest worship music out of the water. His spirit choosing to connect with people, and people choosing to connect with His spirit is the only thing that will make the worship “good” or not. If you want to fear something, fear Him. My first mentor when I began to lead worship as a child once told me, “Your heart needs to be so focused on Him as you worship that if the curtains fell and everyone walked out, you’d continue worshiping anyway.” One time, the no lyric sheets thing happened to me. I told the team to follow me in a G box (that’s your standard G D Em C) and let some words come from the Holy Spirit and sang them. It was a few simple lines. After I repeated it twice, the people started singing it as well. I saw that it was touching peoples hearts deeply. One person began to cry. The Lord did it. He always does, and it has less to do with us than we think. Praise His name!

  30. From the FOH: the band is nailing the intro, dynamics are great and I get caught “listening” to how good it sounds. Then, completely forget that I had the vocal mute group still engaged..oops, remains as one of the “fears” I still have.

    • I have had this happen to me. The thing I remember most is the one tambourine that was WAY off in timing AND volume…..so much so the band including drummer was getting thrown off. I am up in sound booth trying to find this loud off time “cachink” metallic symbal noise, only to find out I have no control of it as it is in the house.

  31. We had a small church, and sometimes this really nice guy would get up there and say a few heartfelt words, and then he would “lead us in a song”. He would just start singing, and it would be a song we knew and we could all join in, BUT, he was not a musical guy, so he would just LAUNCH into whatever key he happened to hit. My husband, the bass player, would figure out the key and then tell the rest of the band. It would usually be something like B-Flat.

  32. How about when you finish a song in 6/8 and the next song is in 4, but the drummer is locked into 6 and can’t get out. Nothing like trying to sing your 4/4 vocal in 6 on the fly.

    • This reminds me of the time we we’re supposed to be playing “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” which is in 4. After the piano intro the singers came in singing in traditional 6/8 and the keyboard player followed. Needless to say there was a train wreck when we got to the chorus. .

      • This exact thing happened to us! Along with everything on the original post and many others in the comments…lol. Thankfully, they’ve been spread out over many years.

        • And this Sunday we were getting ready to do a song that has three pages and I’m looking at only two, wondering where on earth the 2nd page went….my husband kept playing the intro, waiting for me to start singing/strumming guitar, but I was fumbling around looking for the missing music that I was SURE I had put in my notebook…..I finally joined him and we muddled through….you have to πŸ˜‚…Great post πŸ™‚

    • I play drums at church and can relate. That is why I write down the time signature and when I plan to come in on every song and how I’m going to play it. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  33. Nothing worse than good ol’ forgetting the words. When I graduated from high school, my entire class attended the service at our church. There were only about 16 of us. But the week before, I had asked if I could do the song service, which I regularly did, and was approved. But I forgot that this was the special service with all my class mates. So I was nervous. There we were, all in these bright orange caps and gowns. I was going to sing “How Great Thou Art”, but I only really knew the first verse. I had to cram right before the service to learn the second verse (actually the fourth verse). When I got to the second/fourth verse, I totally spaced out. Looking out at all that orange just evaporated my freshly-crammed second verse away. I had to stop the song, get the hymnal, and start the second verse over again. I apologized as I was getting the hymnal and getting to the right page, but it worked out. I finished, sat back down, and thankfully nobody said anything.

  34. Derek the Cleric has the tambourine scenario sorted… http://on.fb.me/1OV8sfp

  35. We have to move in and out of our temporary building. Once we thought everything was wired and qued and set. Only it wasn’t. I’m leading worship and playing keyboard with zero monitor… We try to continue to “following the Spirit” while asking for my monitor to be turned up only to get weird looks from the sound guy as if to say, “Are you crazy? It IS up!” At this point I start to notice people in the congregation acting as if the sound is too loud…somehow we muddle through. I find out later that the sound guy kept turning what he thought was the monitor up but in actuality was turning the mains up and the monitors were completely unplugged! Poor people on the congregation. Needless to say we triple check now!

  36. Not a “worship leader” and a so-so bassist, I’ve just had to let it go after realizing that my bass playing was way too much about me, and not nearly enough about Him. I felt that playing the bass was the only thing I could do half right, so it became the center of my sense of self-worth. I’m stuck on Jesus’ words; “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Turns out my “worship music” is literally worshipping music, and must be discarded. Nightmare #7?

  37. Flags and Banners! Which are awesome when appropriate but a nightmare and hilarious when giant and choreographed in the front row .

    • Once a lady in my church was waving a flag near the piano I was playing and the wind it created blew my sheet music right off the piano. Thankfully, it was not the song we were playing right then, and I was able to get it picked up before I needed it, but I always get a little nervous when I see a flag coming near!

  38. Forgetting to mute your wireless headset mic after leaving the platform and saying something embarrassing! https://youtu.be/Utn_vB95KBE

  39. As a singer on a worship team I can recall a couple of times when the music was one song and the words projected for all to sing was another. You kinda get the piano player attention and try again πŸ˜‰

  40. How about stepping back to the mic to sing after an interlude with your eyes closed, and chipping a tooth on the mic.

  41. Rubina D’souza February 26, 2016 at 1:43 pm

    Hi! I am from Mumbai. India. So encouraged to read your comments. I’ve have had some embarrassing moments in earliar days when once I lead worship in English to a Hindi speaking congregation and the response from the crowd was a blank stare.. In my earliar days once I remembered that singing a special song during worship I forgot the second verse and that day the OHP was not working. I just kept adding my own words and was glad to end the song. I thank God for the opportunity given to me in Worship ministry and other church functioning been more than 30years. Praise God!❀

  42. Thanks for the laughs! Makes me feel better about doing a lot of the same things.
    And I’m sorry for those of you who feel the need to remind us it’s not all about us when we’re laughing at ourselves for the mistakes we make.

  43. Once, in seminary chapel service, the worship band finished an amazing set, and left the stage. The speaker be an to speak, but he was interrupted by laughter, muffled men’s voices, water sounds, and an ominous flush. The worship leader had forgotten to turn off his mic before going to the bathroom!

  44. A choir I was in once reproduced the chord a passing fire truck siren made, rather than the chord we were supposed to be singing!

  45. I love to play drums at church and one time the congregation started to clap on the bass line and not on the back beat. That was interesting to play along with (smile). All for God’s glory though!

  46. This is a current issue. I was born in a Christian singing family, I naturally harmonize without being taught the notes. I listened to a team for months in a church I joined & couldn’t figure out why there was no harmony between the girls & they both always sounded flat. I figured, well, we’re in a foreign country & that’s just what we’ve got & its the heart of service that counts. Well, I joined the team as the 3rd female & discovered it was 1 girl that was following the other girls part & flatting her sound out. Then I come along, singing lower in harmony & since this gal had to sing falsetto to follow the previous part, she’s now picking up my part & flatting my sound out! HORROR! WHAT TO DO?!! That’s not how I want to sound worshiping my Lord! I certainly don’t want to go backwards in my song praise abilities but don’t want to cause her to stumble either. I think she was in a choir previously & her ability is to sing what the person next to her sings. I finally spoke up to the worship leader with my concerns & requested she sing the melody line an octave lower, but he doesn’t seem to have the ability to make a firm resolution. I then explained to her that in a choir you sing what the person next to you sings, but in a worship team, it is different dynamics & you never sing what the person next to you sings unless its the melody line. Didn’t help, she said she’s not singing my part. (?!!) Never had this happen in all my experience, we always ‘played well with others’. What to do! This is about Jesus but what a horrible distraction! Do I just keep singing to my Lord sounding flat because she’s following my notes? Any wisdom here?

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