"You don't lead worship; you lead people into worship" - A friend of mine reminded me of this a few years ago. Gosh, that stuck with me. It might just seem like semantics, but I believe this thought really does put into focus the sometimes blurry role of a "worship leader."
Our souls were created with a longing to connect with a real Jesus at a heart level. If we believe that, then it has to be more about shepherding people. Pastoring the hearts in the room. It's less about how well you execute a set of songs as it is how well you lead people into the worship of God. Darlene Zschech said "if all we do is play and sing songs then we rob people of the Holy awareness of His presence and our spiritual inheritance."
There's been times that I've experienced an unhealthy thread in worship leaders. There can be a sense that it's more important to rely on talent. Keeping your charisma up. Leading a set of songs well. Don't get me wrong - become excellent at your craft and don't stand there looking stiff either. But remember; a great voice isn't enough. A solid five song set isn't enough. It's about meeting people where they are and shifting thier focus to something bigger. It's about becoming more than song leaders.
So, how do we practically start to move away from just leading songs well to leading people well? I would say that it's in the small things. We don't have to ditch the excellence and creativity. Hold it in balance. It's things like speaking out a call to worship to start the service. Speaking out scripture in between transitions. Share a story about the song. It's about guiding people.
Yes, the church needs you to be skillful. To pursue excellence. To be creative. But most importantly the church needs you to maintain a spiritual sensitivity towards God and what's happening in the room. Take them beyond a set of songs. Speak out, read scripture, encourage. Pursue meaningful moments and prepare with people in mind because at the end of the day you don't lead worship; you lead people into worship.
- Scripture: Prepare a scripture to read during the set.
- Story: Pick a song that you can share the back story of. This can help draw people further in (worshiptogether.com is a great place to find the back stories of popular worship songs)
- Talking Points: Whether it's opening service, song transitions or a prayer - take a few minutes to prepare your "talking points". A great resource is just by searching "Calls To Worship" online. When I first started leading I would ramble. Don't make the same mistake I did. Make those moments count and give your people substance.
- One-Liners: This might sound lame but another way to make the little moments count is by preparing declarative one-liners. Instead of always saying "Come on, with everything you've got!" or "Do you believe it?!", Think through other one-liners like; "Let's sing out in faith", "Make this your song", "Let's declare His truth" - Again, it may sound strange but don't take those little moments for granted. The reality is, people notice when you say the same line over and over.
- Try starting service slower. Listen, just because it's "time" to start worship doesn't mean people are always ready to dive in. Many people are coming in from a stressful morning. Kids are crying, unresolved issues are lingering, a bill just came in, an argument on the way to church, etc...The reality is people don't turn a switch that easy. Don't get stuck to a formula. Create sets with this in mind. Start with a slower or mid-tempo song or even a simple chorus that builds into celebration. When we meet people where they are the time of celebration will be that much richer and authentic.
- Lastly, take people where you have already been. Spend time worshiping through the set before you lead it. Pray through it. Find and meet God through it.
Hope this helps!
Preaching to my own heart,