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3 Ways Worship Leaders Can Treat The Congregation Like Humans

3 Ways Worship Leaders Can Treat The Congregation Like Humans

By Elias Dummer on June 12, 2014

There’s this great story arc in the 2nd and 3rd seasons of Arrested Development where the slippery Maeybe Fünke finds herself working as a teenage film executive. Attempting to keep her age a secret so she doesn't get fired, she repeatedly weasels her way out of awkward scenarios by grinningly smiling and suggestively saying: "Marry me." It’s funny and disarming on TV. But not so much in the real-life version... our Church services.

Imagine this:
You're a 35-year-old mother of three who has just breathlessly rushed your “little angels” into different nursery programs on opposite sides of the building. On the way to church you've had to explain to one kid why McDonald’s can't be a substitute for every meal of the day.

To another you’ve explained why they can't wear their Spiderman costume complete with plastic mask in lieu of everyday clothing for the third day in a row. On top of it all—and when you're already running late—you don an oversized scarf you hadn't planned on wearing just to cover up baby's latest surprise wardrobe contribution. All of this before you walk through the doors to church.

Finally kid-free for the first time in days you collect your coffee, take your seat and finally (finally) breathe... and before you have time to collect your thoughts a bearded man in skinny jeans who doesn’t seem to talk much otherwise takes the podium to strum his guitar and shouts over the drummer's count-in: "HELLO! CLAP YOUR HANDS! EVERYBODY STAND UP! PARTY TIME FOR JESUS!”

In other words, it's "Hello, marry me!" on the first date. But instead of escaping an awkward situation in Fünke fashion, in many church settings we’re creating one instead. I'm not saying we should necessarily curb our enthusiasm (another great show), but I *AM* saying that we song leaders need to remind ourselves every day that congregants are human beings, not just voice boxes and clapping machines. And they haven't always had time or energy to *prepare* themselves for the worship service that we spent all week mulling over.

So, here are just 3 ways (there are many more!) you can treat congregants like human beings:

1. Be A Human On Stage: If your church has a stage, a sound system, some kind of lighting rig and musical instruments, your church LOOKS LIKE a concert experience. There is lots to say about this and the topic of performance in worship has its share of mis-information, but for now let it be said that a few things are necessary here to understand and break down some expectations given the environment of worship.

Frankly, even if your service is really low-key, this is still important. Make eye contact. Be inviting. Be kind. Be a part of the congregation yourself: break down the invisible fifth wall by communicating what's going on on-stage as best you can. Oh, and feel free to say 'hello', or offer a 'grateful' nod when appropriate. Which brings me to number 2:

2. Give People Time and Respect: One of my favourite go-to songs as I was growing up as a leader was 'Better is One Day' by Matt Redman, based on Psalm 84. You know, “better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” In other words, one meaningful moment with God—a moment of intimacy, joy, passion, whatever—can have a far greater impact than 5 songs all aiming to accomplish the same thing.

Instead of "Hi - Marry Me" - work your way from 'hello, it's OK, settle in' to increased engagement. Songs might not be the only tool in your toolbox here. Read Scripture, encourage people to take a moment’s quiet. Say ‘hi’. Earn people's trust before you're asking them to follow you into the promised land. If you come out 'guns blazing' and making demands, there's nowhere to go but down and the whole thing can feel anticlimactic. And lastly…

3. Design Your Worship Set To Function Like A Great Story: Have you ever watched a movie where the best scene plays under the opening credits? I sure have, and those films are always a disappointment. Be sure your worship service feels as much as possible like a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Besides, we've got the best story ever told to draw from!

Build trust, include planned but seemingly surprising twists, make sure everybody's along for the ride, and given that we're gathering to celebrate the best news of all time, you can almost always include a happy ending. Tell God’s story from the moment of invitation to benediction!  

These are just three but there are probably dozens more. Whatever you do, remember that Christianity, like Christ, is incarnational. It’s the beautiful story of God becoming one of us and redeeming what it means to be human—even humans as dastardly as the Bluth family.


Originally posted at orthodoxical.org. Used by permission.

Image courtesy of ShiftWorship.com
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Elias Dummer

Elias Dummer

As 1/4th of the Juno and Covenant Award winning band The City Harmonic, Elias has traveled the world to worship with churches and Christians of almost every tradition. He is passionate about theology, culture, and the Church, as well as songwriting, worship leading, and all the ways these things collide. As a writer, Elias has contributed to Huffington Post, Worship Leader Magazine, AllAboutWorship.com, and more - in addition to regularly posting at his own blog, eliasdummer.com. Though originally from Hamilton (Ontario, Canada) Elias now lives in Nashville, TN with his wife Meaghan, and their four kids.