You don't lead worshiP
Thougths Before You Lead:
"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 peopleinto 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 scripture in between transitions, sharing a story about the song, creating meaningful moments.
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 with the people 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 closing; take a few minutes to prepare a call to worship or prayer. One way is just by searching Calls To Worship online. Use that as a starting point to help put richer words to whats in your heart. When I first started leading I would ramble trying to find the words in my own heart or just trying to sound wise... Hopefully my prayer life has grown since then but as we are all still growing in our personal prayer life - Go after resources that help give you richer language to what your heart is wanting to say. Make those moments count. People are listening and want to go deeper with you.
- One-Liners: This might sound lame but another way to make the little moments count is also by thinking through declarative statements. 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", "Declare this truth" - On the surface this may not sound like a big deal but don't take those little moments for granted. The reality is, people notice when you say the same thing over and over.
- Meet people where they are: Many people are rushing into worship from a crazy morning: Kids are crying, unresolved issues are still lingering, an argument on the way to church, etc...The reality is just because it's "time" to start worship doesn't mean hearts are ready. Don't get stuck to a formula by starting with a fast song. Start slower. Pray at the beginning, have the pads under you. Start with a slower song that builds into celebration. Meet people where they are. Guide people. Set the congregation up to "win" in their worship experience.