I’ve been leading worship for over 20 years. Most of you don’t realize this. You’ve come to know me exclusively as “The Bow Tie Bible Guy.” But music has been a part of my life from the very beginning.
And I’ve got a bit of advice that I’d like to pass on to this current generation of worship leaders.
When I was 19 years old, and first beginning to lead worship, a pastor in New Mexico sat me down after a Sunday evening church service, and gave me a bit of advice:
If you look out at the congregation, and they’re not worshiping, you’re not leading worship.
As an overconfident 19 year old who was convinced that he had this worship leading thing figure out already, this stung. A lot.
Sometimes the thing we need to hear the most, is the thing that is the hardest to hear.
I’m concerned about a growing trend I’m seeing among worship leaders. It’s as if they’ve swallowed a lie that Sunday morning is their own, personal mini-concert. Please understand, this isn’t about excellence. You’ll never find me falling into the camp that says that the music portion of a worship service can be conducted without practice, while using the excuse of that “Jesus knows our heart.”
But worship isn’t about the individual leading from the platform; it’s about the One being worshipped.
So, even though I’m not leading worship “professionally” any more, here’s the three most effective “tips” that I believe will help worship leaders actually lead the people in worship.
1. Sing songs people have heard before
I get it. There are hundreds of extremely powerful worship songs that are being written each year. They are anointed, and we need to “sing a new song” to the Lord. But “the people in the pews” aren’t as familiar with all of the new stuff out there. Singing too many new songs in a worship service doesn’t allow for those who aren’t professional musicians and already feel uncomfortable singing in a public forum to build a level of comfort and drop the walls.
It’s ok, and even necessary, to teach new songs. But my experience is that these should be limited, and they should never open the service. Find a way to teach these songs after the congregation has already “warmed up” so to speak.
2. Sing in keys that the average person can sing in
The modern Christian worship culture is driven by men who sing higher than the average man, and women who sing lower than the average woman. Both of these can be devastating to the worship environment. If a song isn’t played in a key that the untrained congregation can comfortably sing in, they won’t sing. Other than singing songs that nobody knows, this is the most common reason people don’t sing in worship services.
3. Be flexible
As worship leaders, we have to be aware of what the Spirit is doing in a service. Listen to the Spirit. See what’s happening in the congregation. And then, respond to it. If people are engaging in a specific song, don’t cut it off because you had only planned to sing it through twice (or whatever you’re plan was). Conversely, if a song isn’t working, be willing to move on. It’s not about simply following your plan for the service. It’s about allowing “the people in the pews” to enter in before the throne of the Almighty and give Him the reverence and praise He deserves.
Leading worship isn’t a job. It isn’t a talent. It’s an honor and privilege. Worship is the one thing we do on Earth that will continue for all eternity. And we have the opportunity to bring a little bit of “heaven” to earth each time we lead it.
Share this with your favorite worship leader. And thank them for what they do each week.