The Head, The Heart, And The Worship Leader

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ThinkingHow do you communicate with your church? On what level do you connect with them?

Generally, there are two camps and I’m guessing you probably fall into one of them.

Camp Number 1 connects with their congregations on an intellectual level. They speak to the mind. They explain their exegesis, refer to studies and appeal to logic. And why wouldn’t this be a good approach? Aren’t we supposed to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s]”?

Camp Number 2 connects with their congregations on an emotional level. They speak to the heart. This way of connecting is more art than scientific. Logic might be replaced with emotional appeals and studies are switched out for anecdotes. And why not? People tend to be more compelled by personal experience than logic.

It’s easy to think these two camps are on opposite ends of the same spectrum. As worship leaders we feel like we need to plan our worship sets to have the right balance between the two. It needs to be in just the right spot on the spectrum.

Lots of bloggers have made the argument that worship should be on a particular spot of the Heart and Head spectrum. We want our services to be balanced. We don’t want to have our services idolizing emotions; at the same time, we don’t want to simply collect knowledge about a heady cosmic figure we call God.

Although it’s a good topic for you to think about, I’m not going to tell you where your services should land on the spectrum or how to be balanced. Why? Here’s three reasons:

  1. With the exception of a small percentage of you, I’ve never been to your worship services, so I have no idea if your service is too anything.
  2. Even if I were to visit your church and see your service and make a judgement, it just proves that I can have an opinion. It doesn’t mean it’s right. Maybe you’re the one who has it right and I should learn from you. I’m a random worship leader who goes to Starbucks too often and figures he’ll type things into WordPress.
  3. We probably need different churches on different parts of the spectrum. The Body of Christ is diverse.  We’re not all supposed to be on the same place of the Heart And Head Spectrum. Different congregations need different approaches. Since you serve at your church and I don’t, I’d be willing to bet that you know what’s best for it.

There’s another reason why I won’t tell you where your songs and services should be on the Heart and Head Spectrum. Because I’m not sure it even exists. What if this paradigm of a Heart and Head Spectrum is the wrong way to look at our services and songs.


There is an idea among retailers and sales people. You have to speak to people’s emotions to get them to buy a product. You have to speak to people’s minds to get them to keep a product and avoid returns.

I had this experience not too long ago. It was Maundy Thursday and I was at my favorite local guitar shop, relaxing and trying out some pedals. I plugged in the Stargazer by Hungry Robot. I almost bought it on the spot. I was really close. The heart was screaming at me to buy the pedal. But I was in the middle of a busy week so I decided to give it back to the sales associate (his name is Andrew; he’s a good friend and a good guitar player) and I would reconsider it on What Just Happened Monday.

When What Just Happened Monday came around, I gave it a lot of thought. I looked at what I could sell my current reverb pedal for. Reminded myself of my own financial goals and examined how I was doing. I didn’t even go back to the guitar shop. Using intellect and logic, I decided I would hold off buying the Stargazer.

If you’re a guitar player, you think I’m crazy. I won’t argue with you. Of course, I should buy the sweet reverb pedal.

If you’re not a guitar player, you might be saying, “Good job, Jed. Your mind won the day. Way to use your head. You proved that your brain is in control and ultimately logic and facts and reason win.”

I’m not sure that’s what happened.


Here’s what I think my little story with the reverb pedal teaches us and what retailers everywhere already know: You have to first speak to a person’s heart before they will let you speak to the head. In my case, my emotions had to be triggered by the sound of a really cool reverb pedal before my head even considered buying it. There are a lot of pedals at that guitar shop. The only one I considered buying was the one that captured my emotions.

When we are planning our services and preparing to lead our congregations in worship, we have to realize that people engage with both their emotions and their intellect. They engage with both the head and the heart. But there is a little more going on. The heart is the path to the head. Before people will allow us access to their intellects we have to prove we can be trusted with their emotions.

God created us with both a head and a heart. He gave us intellect and emotions. Are we really supposed to act as if one doesn’t exist or is lesser than the other?

It’s a lie to think we have to be a certain percentage in the Head Camp and a certain percentage in the Heart Camp. That is a false paradigm. We should be 100% in both so we can connect with a 100% of a person.

It’s not about balance, it’s about sequence. Connect with the heart so you can connect with the head.


There are some people who have left the church because they have intellectual objections, but most of the time, people leave because of emotional reasons. They heard a message about love but experienced the opposite. It’s biblical for us to fellowship with believers when we have intellectual differences, but it’s really hard to keep fellowshipping with another Christian when we can’t trust them to handle our hearts.

It’s fascinating how little facts affect our beliefs. Look at the U.S. Presidential race. Is anyone persuaded by facts, reason, or intellectual knowledge?

The Great Commission has us reaching out to all people. No matter their language, education, geography, or background, in most cases, we will have to prove we can be trusted with their hearts before they will change their minds.


You might not like some of the things I’ve written in the post. You may like the idea of a world ruled by reason, facts, and well-researched theology. You don’t want to believe in a world where you first have to speak to people’s emotions before their intellect. As you’re working through this, ask yourself if you are experiencing an intellectual objection or an emotional reaction.


As a worship leader or volunteer, you don’t have the luxury of speaking to a person’s heart for the sake of their head and vice versa. You have to speak to both the heart and the head at once. Here’s what this might look like for your situation.

  1. Make sure the band can play the songs well. It’s hard to reach the head when the music is an obstacle for the heart.
  2. Take a good look at your lyrics. Different denominations and congregations will have an issue with lyrical phrasing. Did you find Jesus or did Jesus find you? Be a good student of your church’s theology, know your leadership, and scrutinize songs accordingly.
  3. Transitions, transitions, transitions. A lot of times they make or break part of a worship set. It isn’t the songs but what happens between the songs.
  4. Practice talking. Some worship leaders talk a lot and some not so much. Either way, you probably won’t be able to get by with just singing. Get good at speaking to both the heart and the head. Study your sermons. I’m sure your pastor will appreciate the attention.
  5. Understand different world views. Do you really want your church to be filled with people who all vote the same way? If so, you’re doing church wrong. With different world views comes different emotional triggers. Know them and be sensitive to them even if you don’t share them. That’s called love.


The head and the heart have their own languages. Don’t think one is better than the other. Be fluent in both languages. Become aware of how your stage presentation, lights, and the dynamics of your music speaks to people’s hearts. Be aware of how people will think about lyrics and the words you say.

Don’t settle for speaking to half of a person. God didn’t create us that way. He created us to exercise our intellects and experience emotions. Seek to connect with everything God has created us to be.


One Response to "The Head, The Heart, And The Worship Leader"
  1. Karen Armel-Towne says:


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