Being a Female Worship Leader is Hard

worship-leader-idolThis post is specifically for my female worship leader friends, or anyone who works with other female worship leaders. A little background…

I am the only female worship leader on staff at my church. On my church campus, I work with one other male worship leader, and all the other campuses have male worship leaders. Over the years, I have come to understand the difficulty of trying to lead the same set as my male worship leader counterpart. It has been a challenge! For one, I naturally don’t have the same type of “energy” as he does. Most of our congregation, when I first got hired, was not used to seeing a female take the reigns. It was a different type of leadership that they were not used to. Also, the guys didn’t know how to sing in a female key. Eek… what is harmony?! Females are so used to singing harmony to male worship leaders, but males have not grown up with that ear training. So, it was very difficult for them… and still is. Over time, I have learned to place my songs in keys that work best for male and female both, but that still doesn’t solve every problem. (If you are wondering, C-C works as the best range for everyone).

In addition, when we introduce songs, my male worship counterpart and I are supposed to find a song that works for both of us. Yeah right! This is so hard. We found a couple songs that worked, but it usually resulted in both of us struggling with the song. Compromise led to… not the best for our congregation. We recently worked out a rotation where we can introduce 2 different songs simultaneously to different services. I won’t go into the details, but this has been an amazing process because we have been able to introduce songs that fit our own style and heart, yet still minister to our congregation. Co-leading has also helped this.

Another struggle that I have run into lately has been the availability of female-led worship songs for the corporate church. There is not much out there, especially upbeat songs! In the top 30 worship songs right now, there are only 2 female led songs and they are more like ballads. Typical, right? So how do I survive as a female worship leader!? Below are some resources that I hope will help:

  • ORIGINAL MUSIC
    • My heart is to write songs, specifically for females to use in the corporate worship setting. These songs are meant to be singable, catchy, and in a female key.
    • To look through my catalogue, go to my website. Charts are also provided on my site for FREE!
  • YOUTUBE CHANNEL
    • I have recently been posting more live videos from my worship sets on the weekend. Most of the songs that I am posting are male-led songs that I have transposed and arranged specifically for me. Feel free to rip off the arrangements and use them for your own worship sets!
    • Check out the videos on my YOUTUBE channel.
  • LIST OF MALE SONGS TRANSPOSED
    • Here is a list of some of the top worship songs that are male-led, and the keys that I would do them in (Just a few to get you started!):
      • 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord), Matt Redman- Key of D
      • One Thing Remains, Bethel- Key of E (without the octave jump)
      • Christ Is Enough, Hillsong Live- Key of D
      • The Rock Won’t Move, Vertical Church Band- Key of D
      • This Is Amazing Grace, Phil Wickham- Key of C
      • God Is Able, Hillsong Live- Key of E
      • Stronger, Hillsong Live- Key of A
      • Our God, Chris Tomlin- Key of E
      • Everlasting God, Brenton Brown- Key of A
      • Not To Us, Chris Tomlin- Key of E
      • Glory To God Forever, Fee- Key of F#
      • We Are The Free, Matt Redman- Key of D

Hope this helps! Please message me if you have any questions. My heart is for other female worship leaders and I want to continue to be of resource to you. More posts and resources to come.

 

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34 thoughts on “Being a Female Worship Leader is Hard

  1. Great post for female worship leaders, Ashley. I guess this issue has been from ages past. If you look at Exodus 15, the children of Israel sang a song together, then Miriam (first recorded worship leader) picked up an instrument and sang. Since this was a victory, I am sure that this singing and celebration went on for a while. So I can could say that Miriam probably led this song for a couple hours. My point being that leading worship as a lady can be tough but with the right tools, and God’s Spirit you can bring people together into worship, like Miriam did.

  2. Can I just say that I absolutely love worshipping with you Ashely. Adella is five now and she comes to “big church” with us once a month. Last time she came you were leading worship and she was so excited to be with us and singing to Jesus with you too. She said something like “Miss Ashely sings for the whole church?!” and we told her that God’s special work for you is to help us worship. Your heart for Jesus shines and I completely believe what we told her.

    • Mindy, Thanks so much for sharing that! I am so blessed to be used by God in leading worship at CCV. And I am glad to hear that Jesus is shinning through me, because that is my goal every week! Love you and your cute family! 🙂

  3. Loved your heart and insight. The mix is truly hard with a strong female vocal. Being a worship leader for many years, I’ve had to struggle to find the right fit. Fortunately, I’ve had the counsel and sound advice of many professionals who have helped find the fit for female leaders. Seek them out! Worldly or not, they have great insights into how we can make our worship better (musically).

  4. Oh wow. I am so glad to know that I am not the only one struggling with this– haha! For me, I still hear comments from guys saying telling me that they find it hard to sing with me during worship, while the rest of the girls would say that they love singing with me. Haha.

    And yeah, it’s so true! Most guys are not trained to harmonize while in my circle, it’s the girls who would know how to differentiate between the 1, 3 and 5.

  5. I just started leading and the hardest part is, as you say, trying to find female keys and also to try and envision them with myself leading, as we have a male in our head for that song. Please post the keys if you have a video on you tube so that I don’t have to get out a guitar and figure it out! You may already do that, but I will subscribe to your channel and hopefully save some work that has already been done!

  6. Can I message you? I’m leading worship temporarily, and I’m a full-time “fill-in” worship leader at my church. I’m just very discouraged and I’m dealing with a lot on my plate right now, worship leader-wise. Thank you for being a voice for us girls!

    • Hi red headed step child 🙂

      I’m planting a church in Houston’s River Oaks area now, and we are intentionally searching for a Full-Time female worship leader. If you know of anyone who might be interested, please send them my way! Thanks 🙂

      Eric Huffman
      The Story Houston
      http://www.thestory.church
      facebook.com/thestoryhouston
      713.385.9458

      • Eric, My husband and I live in Katy. We relocated from Edmond, OK last fall due to my husbands job at Koch. I have led worship for years and currently fill in as needed at our church here in Katy. I checked out your churches website and see that you have a great team! If you are ever in need of someone to fill in in an emergency I would be honored to do just that for your worship leader! Love to see God working in this new place we call home!!

  7. Thanks for these suggestions. I have been one of the leaders out of a team of worship leaders at my church regularly for a little over three years now. We were doing a lot of Jamie Smith when I first started, however we needed more modern worship. We have also used Jesus Culture quite a bit. In the past year, I have been noticing that we are using less and less female-led songs and more and more male-led songs.
    There are still a lot of beautiful female-led songs out there that I have found, however our Worship Director keeps asking me to seek out upbeat female-led songs. Those are a lot harder to find than the ballads.
    There is also apprehension toward using one of the male-led songs and putting it in a key suitable for a female leader. The thought is that it might confuse the band if we have done the song for a male leader and someone might practice the wrong version.
    I will check these out and appreciate you posting this.
    I really believe that God called me to this role and I will persevere through this because, after all, He shines through our weaknesses.
    Ephesians 5:19 is a verse that I read today and wanted to share with you. God put the music in us so that we could praise Him. I am glad that I get a chance to do that every day of my life. Worshipping Him is my absolute favorite thing to do. It is all for Him and I am so thankful that He is able to shine through the gifts that He has given me.
    Have a wonderful day!!

    • Michal, thank you so much for sharing your heart. If you ever need anything please don’t hesitate to contact me! I love to connect with and encourage other female worship leaders any way that I can. God has chosen you for a specific purpose and a specific time so keep on using your gifts to honor Him!
      Blessings to you and your ministry. 🙂

  8. Hi Ashley, I’m new here. I’ve been in worship ministry for 30 years. I started singing and playing with another female worship leader, so that’s all I’ve ever known (except for 2 years with a male worship leader during a transitional time) But the majority of my time has been singing and playing with females. Most of all our singers have also been females, so the blend was beautiful. Recently I had a male singers who sang the 5th. That was a nice addition and I had hopes for him leading some of the songs that were rockier, but unfortunately he didn’t last. I noticed on your videos Ashley, that there isn’t any other female singers up there with you! I’m surprised. It would make for a much better vocal blend if you had some girls up there supporting your vocal with harmonies. Plus it looks good to see an assortment of genders and ages serving together.
    Anyway, I wanted to make a point about choosing songs. For me it has never made a difference if the song was a male or female led song. Yes, I do understand the fuller voice thing a male can have on upbeat songs, but I do my best and let the challenge stretch me. Plus sometimes if we bring our own flavor to the song and not try to be like the male original, it can be a nice change (I am still learning this!) I always transpose keys to suit my range. So finding songs are not a problem as far as that goes. What I am the most particular about is the content of the songs. Today’s worship songs are “fluff”. So I’m always on the hunt for solid theological songs that minister to the congregation. I’m not the old fashioned type but more and more my heart is turning back to re-worked hymns.

    What I find hard as a female worship leader is working with “some” men who may find it hard to take directions from a woman. It’s the weirdest thing. Because we all have expectations of behavior because we know what the Word of God says, but still…………..
    As worship leaders, we have to work with men in the Sound Ministry and I’ve worked with male musicians. Most of my trouble has been with men. Not all but most of the men I’ve worked with in music, have a pride issue that makes it impossible to lead and work with them. I desperately want men for our worship team but it’s hard to find a man who is teachable and humble and respectful of a woman leader. Does anyone else have that problem?

    • Hi Lou,

      Thanks so much for your insight. It is great hearing other points of view! I would have to say that yes, others have dealt with that problem as well. Unfortunately, some men have a hard time taking direction from a woman. I think that is why it has been such an upward journey for me in leading the my congregation. Men are so used to men leading that it takes them a bit longer to get buy-in from a female. Even if they say they are pro-women, I think there is something in all of us that screams the tradition we grew up with (I have found this even in myself). But over time, I have seen this change ever so slightly in people.

      I have learned to pray for God’s will in my journey and life. He has put me and you in a position of leadership for such a time as this. And I always say… if I can make the journey easier for the next woman behind me, then I have done my job!
      I also think that if we as women keep growing and being the best we can be in our areas of influence, we will gain respect from the men around us simply because we are good at what we do. So I am always striving to grow and learn as much as possible!

      Blessings to you and your ministry!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing this. I too co – lead worship at my church and have many of the same struggles you shared. I just found your blog so I am going to figure out how to save it and check back often.
    Check out Bethel ‘ s music if you have not yet discovered it. Jen Johnson, Stephanie Frizzell, and Amanda Cook all have great stuff. Jesus Culture is another great source for songs.
    God Bless!
    Meaghan

    • Meaghan,

      Thank you for responding to the blog! Always love meeting and connecting with other women in worship! Keep in touch. I have been working on some great things that will be a resource for all of us. Blessings to you and your ministry! Be encouraged and keep doing what God has called you to do.

      -Ashley

  10. Yup, yup, yup. This has been the problem for years, and the issue I’ve had in providing an “upbeat” worship experience when the body needs it at times when I lead…and one reason I stopped. I have trouble pulling that off. I was asked to lead this Sunday morning and googled this very question. Thanks for making me not feel alone!

    • Hi Maggie! Glad to help vocalize some of these things for you! Keep pressing on and following the calling God has on your life.

      I am working on a new project for women in worship that will launch next year. I just wrote a blog about it if you want to know more. Blessings to you!

  11. It’s not just women who struggle to sing with male leaders. My husband, who does not have a low voice also struggles and has to sing harmony.

  12. Good article. I am a male worship leader that has mostly female singers on my team. I am all about empowering people to take leadership, but in doing so noticed the total lack of female led worship songs to choose from. I’ve tried to figure certain keys and ranges to transpose songs to, but each singer has different abilities, so me trying to figure it out for them is difficult. I LOVE the song + key suggestions at the end of this article. I don’t know if this is helpful, but I noticed some male singers who sing way to high (Tomlin, Leeland, etc.) can sometimes work well for females in their original key, but you don’t know till you try 🙂

    • Hi John!

      Thanks for the response! I am glad that the article proved to be helpful to you in your context, especially coming from a male perspective. And thank you for empowering women in worship. That is what we need! I am working on a website right now that will be a great resource for women in worship and will hopefully be helpful to you as well in your setting of leading up women. It will include resources, including song arrangements and keys for the ladies. projectwow.org launching around June. Keep an eye out on my social media accounts and here on my blog for more info! Blessings to you and your ministry.

      -Ashley

  13. Honey, amen!
    I’m a female worship leader in training and I’ve been placed over the youth band at my church. Lets just say…it’s a great learning experience, emphasis on learning! I was in the process of making a list of songs I want to do because before I took control they just rotated about 10 well known songs (can you say snooze?). Any way, I started looking through my spotify playlists because I was having such a hard time coming up with songs, and I realized the issue is that there are many songs that I want to do, but there aren’t many songs that I can do. You might say, just change the key, but it’s not that simple when you’re introducing a new song to band members who play by listening. They can follow chord charts, but they’re also kids who don’t have much ear training. If I change the key of a song that they learn one way, it is very hard for them to adjust. So, it looks like I’m in between a rock and a hard place. This article did help me, and venting is a release, so thank you.

    Back to work, I go!

    • Hi Kayla!

      So glad to hear from you. I am encouraged every time I hear from another female who is facing some of the same things. Praying for endurance for you! Just a heads up… Myself and a team of other women in worship are launching a new project in June that is specifically for you!! It is called ProjectWOW. Keep an eye out on my blog or social media sites to stay updated!! 🙂

  14. Hi Ashley,

    I’ve been a worship leader in my church for nearly 30 years and fill other rolls, such as backup singer (or harmonist, if you’d rather that title). I’ve also play guitar when I lead the congregation in worship, and because of my ability I assist another female worship leader-singer and some of the male leads. The two of us have been at this for nearly three decades. From the church’s very beginning, our worship ministry has always been male-dominated, but for the most part, we have good working relationships with the guys. But as someone has mentioned somewhere earlier, once in a while there are times when the male-female thing can be present (sigh). This dynamic may never go away, until Kingdom come (oy!), and there are times I wish I was a man and not a woman. Still, God’s truth marches on. Christ has liberated us, amen.

    In my lengthy tenure, my challenge has been on a number of fronts (I won’t list them all, just the common ones):

    -finding female-friendly songs or key frames
    -finding upbeat praise-oriented music styles
    -freedom of musical expressions is lessening with time
    -we’re aging and everything begins to hurt and we’re slowing down (fact of life, you will not do this job until you die)
    -faced with the very real prospect of having to say “time to move off the platform”, step aside, step down, whatever you wanna call it.

    I do have some suggestions:

    1. Don’t get stuck on finding song keys. Find the melody and see if you can sing (a song you like to do) at its highest point (usually the chorus), then find that key and work it into your song lineup
    2.Write your own faster upbeat praise-oriented songs. The congregation will love it, own it. Explore some of the Psalms, get a feel for the mood of what the psalmist is expressing. Make sure the music and words go, so the theme and message is clearly conveyed.
    3. Always make sure the Congregation can easily sing selections. Sunday worship is for them. Good test: if it’s easy for you and the team to learn in one practice, it should be easy for them also. Your pastor will confirm.
    4 Do a ‘special’ song to break things up, once in a while. Minister to the body a truth that will comfort and direct their thoughts God-ward. This should be part of any music ministry. We are also ‘minstrels’, as a worship team and ministry. Sometimes, just play some music and allow people to settle and leave God room. This has gotten lost over time. Remember how David ministered on his instrument to King Saul to help calm his nerves and chase away his demons?
    5.Make sure your ministry is always raising up others to be musicians, assistants – especially new worship leaders, who have a heart for God and who love the church. Always be prepared to fill gaps. Life happens.
    6.Love one another, bear with each other – the highest calling among teammates.

    Worship leaders put in a lot of time and effort into what they do, and I can so appreciate what you do and where you’re coming from! You are called, appointed, and anointed for this incredible task and ministry that is so near and dear to God’s heart.
    The Lord’s power, grace, and peace to you.

    • Carol,

      Thank you so much for the advice and encouragement. These are great suggestions! About a year ago, I founded a ministry called ProjectWOW (Project Women of Worship) that exists to promote conversation, community, and resource for female worship leaders. You should for sure check it out and be a part of the community there! We would love to have your voice! http://www.projectwow.org

      Blessings to you!

      -Ashley

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