10 Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started Leading Worship
1. PASSION IS LEARNED, NOT TAUGHT
I didn't figure this one out until I began raising up worship leaders. I teach girls who have amazing voices and no emotion. Nada. Yet I also teach girls with intermediate voices and amazing passion. Wanna know the common denominator between the passion girls? Life. Life experiences that drove them to a place where they were broken before God. That's it.
And that brokenness is either the preliminary to or aftermath of spending quality time at the feet of the Lord. So if you feel as though your passion is lacking, study the Bible and be patient. Or look over your life and see where God has brought you from and how He has shaped and fashioned your life. Where were you 5 years ago?
2. INTERACT WITH YOUR PEOPLE
There is nothing more discouraging than executing a worship service and it ending up feeling like a rock concert; for both the church-goer and worship leader. For the congregation, there is some weird automatic pedestal that goes up when people step foot on a stage. I don't know why, or where it started but it is just a sad sorry fact because in reality, no one is worthy of a pedestal. (click to tweet)
Worship leaders, worship teams, and pastors are real live people with the same issues and struggles as the congregation. We are made from the same fiber. We are no better than anyone else. So there has to be some sort of glass shattering, pedestal colliding action that creates a legitimate community worship experience. I'll give you a hint: it's authenticity.
3. GET YOUR WHOLE BAND ON A CLICK TRACK
There is something to be said for quality music in worship. There is not enough time or space to debate this here. I'm on the heart over talent side, but why choose when you can cultivate a culture of both. If you have the ability to raise or place into action, quality musicians, do it. If you just don't have those resources yet, obviously you can still have a very well executed worship time.
Holy Spirit does not work under the conditions of quality music. (click to tweet) Thank you Jesus. But playing with a click track definitely glues a band together; professional and mediocre.
4. IT'S OKAY TO GO OLD SCHOOL
Hymns are some of the most powerful songs of worship ever written. Let me repeat. Hymns are some of the most powerful songs of worship ever written. I absolutely love them. Usually teams don't play them because they fear bringing their church back into the old school world of music, but there are plenty of newer versions with the post-mod melodies and arrangements.
This isn't a requirement thing, it a preference. But for me its so easy to get caught up in the new of worship that we forget how powerful the things of old are. They minister to people in absurd ways and sometimes the newer generations don't even know the song is 100 years old! My favorites right now are Come Thou Fount, It is Well, and The Lord's Prayer.
5. DON'T ASSUME ANYTHING
When teaching or talking through a song with your congregation, the worst thing you could do is assume that everyone there knows what you are doing, singing, or talking about. A lot of churches have revolving doors with unbelievers just feeling things out. The worst thing that could happen is that they walk into a church and leave feeling like they were in a foreign country. We have a tendency to speak "Christian-ese" and not even realize that the average person has absolutely no idea what the holy spirit or sovereign or fellowship is.
Now some of you have the words "dumb down" flashing through your heads right now. Let me clarify that that is not what I'm saying. I'm saying let's be real. Teach your congregation. This should also be done in collaboration with your pastor. You are a team.
6. MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH YOUR PEOPLE
They want to know you see them. I understand being wrapped up in the spirit and closing your eyes when leading. I do it too. But I try to make sure that I connect with the people I am leading. I want them to know I like them. And I like hearing them.
I even choose a couple chairs in rehearsal and pray for the people who will be sitting in those specific chairs. Then during the service I make eye contact and smile at them. It may be all made up in my head, but I feel like it communicates something.
7. PLAN EVERYTHING
From the songs to the speaking to the verses to your prayers. Not because all those things have to be executed exactly as planned, but because planning gives more leeway for organized spontaneity. I have a hard time when I have to say a prayer or a short share time between songs and the only content I have is a topic sentence or key scripture.
So lately, I've been scripting my speaking and even my prayer, not so that I can read it, but because it forces me to think through everything and try out words and concepts behind the scenes instead of on the spot. Planning for such a fluid thing, like a worship service, sometimes seem oxymoronic. But it works.
8. RECORD AND WATCH BACK
Oh snap. This is one of the hardest but best things I've learned to do in worship leading. In every performance actually. It's awkward and weird to see all the quirky things I do when singing. I make some crazy funny faces. But it makes me more aware of my stage presence: Am I distracting? Do I look fake? Do I look stiff? Etc, etc, etc.
It is also good to hear yourself: Am I on key? Do I ad lib too much? Is there too much blank space between songs? You can make this an exercise for your entire team, as well.
9. PRIORITIZE "TEAM" PLAYERS
Being a team player is crucial to productivity as a worship leader. I learned this lesson by watching other people. I saw how non-team players became the unaddressable, unavoidable elephant in the room. I also saw my tendencies towards that kind of leadership and vowed to keep myself in check by surrounding myself with people who could frankly speak into my life.
10. DON'T TAKE THINGS TOO SERIOUSLY; IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU ANYWAY
As a creative, I am married to my art. I am self-conscious of my music, guitar playing, singing, and writing because it is a part of me. It's not just an occupation or a hobby. So when ideas get shut down, I use to (and sometimes still do) get totally offended because I couldn't separate me from the work. But over the years, God's patience has slowly convicted me and I now take everything with a grain of salt.
Let the little things be little things because worship leading isn't about us anyway, right? It is about shepherding people to the place where God's face is revealed.
Got any personal leading lessons to add? Jot them down in the comments below!
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