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Welcomed or unWelcomed Worship Leader?

By Chris Kuti on May 02, 2011

written by Chris Kuti (formerly of Chris and Conrad)

Have you ever had a person over to your house who seemed to forget that they were a guest? Did it seem like everything they did got on your nerves? They didn’t take their shoes off, left things a mess, and forgot the coaster. We’ve all been there, and more than likely the person isn’t intentionally getting on your nerves, they just don’t know.

The same is true of many worship leaders who’ve been given the opportunity to be a guest in other churches. If you’re at the point where other churches are asking you to be a guest worship leader, be thankful. The idea of handing over the spiritual direction of a particular worship service to a “stranger” is scary for a Pastor and his staff.

Whether you’re a guest worship leader at other churches regularly or periodically, don’t allow yourself to become the unwelcomed guest. In these situations, first impressions are everything and that’s why I’m here to help. So here are a few practical ways to make sure you don’t leave the per viable water ring on the coffee table of any church you visit.

BE KIND - I know what you’re thinking, “is this guy serious?” Yes! You wouldn’t believe how many musicians I’ve come across who somehow forget simple manners when communicating with the people who are hosting them as a guest. Take it from a guy who’s had a bad day and allowed that to effect his mood in a few guest situations. It’s not worth sacrificing your credibility because things aren’t going as planned. Whether you’re taking a call regarding the planning of the service, or communicating with the band and tech crew, pay extra attention to your mood. Go the extra mile to be kind to everyone you meet, and remember, you’re a guest in their church.

CONNECT - All too often worship leaders make it their agenda to do the songs they want to do. As a one time guest in a new place, you already have the disadvantage of people wondering “who’s the new guy?” It needs to be your focus to cancel out any other hindrances that you could be in a service that is not at all about you. A great way to lose people in this context is to do a bunch of songs that you love, but they’ve never heard before. Can you be yourself? Absolutely, but not at the expense of losing people. A great rule of thumb is to ask the church worship leader or production staff for the set-lists of the past two months worth of services. With this list of songs, you’ll be able to get a great understanding of what the worshipers there are familiar with.

GET ALL THE DETAILS - We musicians can be a weird breed sometimes. We tend to fly by the seat of our pants, and this can be destructive for a guest worship leader. In your preparation for an upcoming guest date, make sure that you have all the details about the church and what their services look like each week. What’s their desired set length, do they want you to bring your own band, are you playing with their band, leading acoustically? How is the service starting, when are the announcements, how should you transition into the message? These are all valid questions that you should commit to memory because the flow and details of every service that you’re a part of are an important piece in the leading of God’s people. Another great rule of thumb is to try and keep communication detailed, yet limited. Try not to be the guy who calls every day with a million questions. Instead, schedule a few scattered conversations that cover all the details at once. These conversations should be far out from the date, after the set list is put together, and a few days before the date.

PROVIDE A TECHNICAL RIDER - To some, the word “rider” is considered a cuss word. Let me ease your mind, it’s not! Without communicating what you’ll need and what you’re providing, you can quickly become an unwelcomed guest. This rider needs to be simple and detailed according to multiple configurations (leading alone, leading with your band, or with their band). A technical rider only works correctly when you communicate with the technical volunteers or staff directly. This will give you a clear idea of what they have so you’ll be able to work with their equipment. Without communicating openly, your rider will seem like demands instead of a clear, effective communication of details. If it helps to ease your mind, you could call it a “technical stress reliever sheet.”

Here are a few things to include in this technical rider:

  • # of DI boxes & XLR cables needed

  • # of microphones and mic stands needed

  • if you’ll need to use any of their backline (drums, keyboard, amps)

  • how many channels you’ll need on their console & the name of the instrument on every channel

  • how many (monitors) needed and their position (if you travel with your own, communicate how many aux’s you’ll need on their console)

KNOW YOUR MUSIC - This is important whether you’re a guest or not. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re having to lead with the band that normally plays at the church, it’s even more important. You need to be rehearsed long before you run rehearsals with their band. This will allow you to feel comfortable and be able to work through any problem areas or limitations with the church's band. Do your research about the band that is playing along with you, and try to pick songs and arrangements that match the skill set of the players present.

PROVIDE A DETAILED FLOW - When working through the arrangements of each song and elements of the service, type out a detailed text file of the lyrics and flow. This will be important for whoever is running the presentation lyrics. You can’t expect a stranger to know your leading style. So in order to skip this potential train wreck, provide the flow of lyrics in the exact order that you’ll be doing the songs. This way, whoever is running the presentation software will only have to press the down arrow after every slide.

GIVE YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME - Show up early to the rehearsal, get comfortable with the gear, stage, and sound before the congregation starts showing up. The more time you give yourself in preparation before the service, the more you’ll be able to be focused and comfortable in an unfamiliar place.

CONNECT WITH THE PASTOR - If at all possible, schedule a few minutes before the service begins to connect with the pastor. Thank him for trusting you and be sensitive to any desires that he has for the segue into his message or during the invitation.

We’d love to hear of any more tips that have helped you become a better guest worship leader. Join the conversation below!

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Chris Kuti

Chris Kuti (Guest Writer)

Chris Kuti is a Worship Pastor at LifeChurch.tv. With 17 physical locations across the country and services at church online, it's LifeChurch.tv's mission to lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ. Before serving as worship pastor, Chris traveled the country for 8 years leading worship at conferences, camps, and most recently as 1/2 of CCM pop/rock duo Chris and Conrad. Chris has numerous songwriting credits on billboard charting songs and albums in today's Christian music.  Chris and his wife Mary live in the Oklahoma City, OK area and are about to have their first child, Liam Christopher, this Christmas.

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