Dear Worship Leader, what parts of leading worship do you really like?
Is it playing your instrument? Experiencing the presence of God? Do you enjoy running rehearsals? Maybe you really enjoy the people you lead worship with.
If you lead worship there are probably parts about leading worship you really like, but there are probably parts you don’t.
For me and for many worship leaders (perhaps you too), talking on stage in front of our churches has never been something we look forward to. It’s probably what we dread the most.
We’ve all seen the worship leader that talks for too long. You know, that worship leader you wish would just shut up and start the next song?
We don’t want to become that person, so we adopt a motto: Only speak when you have something to say.
99% of the time this is great advice. We’ve probably stayed out of a lot of trouble because we followed this rule. We probably got into trouble when we didn’t.
But there is a side effect for worship leaders who only speak when they have something to say. They don’t think they need to have something to say.
Yes, we’ve all seen the worship leader that talks too much, but the worship leader who talks too little can be just as bad. Sometimes this makes a church feel neglected. There are two benefits to talking to our congregations. Here they are.
2 REASONS TO TALK TO YOUR CHURCH
1. Local Meaning.
Most of our worship songs were written in Nashville or Sydney. Talking can take a song that was written elsewhere and give it a special meaning for your local congregation. Your church is unique. Joel Houston, Chris Tomlin, and Jason Ingram don’t understand your local body the way you do. By talking to your church about a song, you can give a song significant meaning to your local church. No other worship leader can do that for you.
Talking allows your congregation to know you better.
I had a friend who went to a night of worship Chris Tomlin had in my city a while back. Of course, I was eager to ask him about it.
My friend had an interesting thing to say. For the most part the actual worship itself wasn’t that much different from anything he had experienced in his local church. Sure the lights were more involved, the music was louder, the mix was probably better, and the musicians were professionals, not volunteers.
What impressed my friend surprised me. There was a moment when the band left the stage and Chris Tomlin sat on a stool with his acoustic guitar, pulled out his phone, and started to answer questions people in the audience asked him via Twitter. That was the part of the night my friend found so powerful. When Chris Tomlin did that, he stopped being a well-known worship leader and started to become a trusted friend.
The special effects aren’t special. People are. Surprise, you’re a person. If you don’t talk, you don’t give your church a chance to know you and feel connected with you. People tend to follow people they feel they know. If you want to inspire worship in your church, your church needs to know you. You’re going to have to talk.
A NEW MOTTO
So the motto, only speak when you have something to say, might be good advice, but it also might turn us into passive worship leaders, which isn’t really leading worship.
Might I suggest a new motto to repeat to ourselves: Say what needs to be said, when something needs to be said.
This puts you in a proactive posture. All of a sudden you aren’t a worshipper simply worshipping in front of your church trying to block out your brothers and sisters so you can focus on God. Instead, it gives you the mindset of a caring shepherd. You are glorifying God while tending to his flock. You are mindful of your brothers and sisters and looking for ways to help them worship God.
So how do you talk to your church and not completely ruin the worship experience? In my experience the worship leaders that are best at talking to their congregations do it often. They didn’t start being the most eloquent person in the room, but they felt the need of their church and tried to meet that need. They risked their comfort zone to meet the need of their congregation. After a while, they got really good at it.
GUIDE TO TALKING TO YOUR CHURCH
1. Start With Your Experience
It could be a specific event that happened in the last seven days. It could be a feeling you have or a lie you believe. Whatever it is, start with your experience.
This does a couple of things. First, it creates an emotional connection between you and your congregation. It’s easier for people to worship when they feel connected to the people leading them in worship.
Second, by being vulnerable, you have created a safe environment for others to be vulnerable. Worship doesn’t work when people put up facades. By being vulnerable you have allowed others to be vulnerable.
Third, by being vulnerable you have created trust. If your church can’t trust you, they can’t follow you.
Let me give you a warning about this one. Notice I wrote “Start With Your Experience” and not “Keep Talking About Your Experience.” You don’t need to talk for very long about your experience. The worship leaders who do are probably the worship leaders we wish would “just start the next song.”
2. Bring Your Church Into The Story
Bring your church into the story by acknowledging their context and their experience. Maybe there was an event that happened in the church that effected everyone. Maybe there is a significant population of your church that works in tech or finance or factory work. Know you church enough to know their experience and bring it into the story.
It’s powerful when your church feels like they know you. It’s even more powerful when they feel like you know them.
When you prove that you aren’t just vulnerable but you also have empathy, you become a leader people want to follow.
3. Bring Everyone Into God’s Story
Take the collective experience of you and your church and bring it into God’s story. What does God have to say about how you feel?
This might mean you refer to a well known story in the Bible. You might reference a specific passage in the Bible. You can put a scripture on the projector and have the whole church recite it together.
So many times, we can get caught up in our own perception that we forget there is anything else. When we give God’s story attention we realize our fear, anxiety, sin, and mortality doesn’t have the final word. God’s story overrides the story of evil and death. No matter how hopeless our own story might be, we are invited to be grafted into God’s story.
4. Encourage Worship
Let’s look where we are. Your church knows you can be trusted because you have been transparent with your own experience and feelings. You have shown that you know your church. You have brought everyone into God’s story. Now it’s time to encourage your church to worship God.
PLAY AROUND WITH THE ORDER
At first you might want to start with the order written above, but think of these ideas more as ingredients than steps. Play around with the order. You can still be effective even if the order changes.
ONE MORE THING
I’m pretty practically minded. There is a part of me that really likes distilling musicianship, worship, and leadership into formulas and steps.
Formulas and steps have their place. They can help us start a journey, but they aren’t the destination. Hopefully this helps you get started, but you’ll need something else if you want to be a long term effective communicator.
If you really want to be able to communicate to your church effectively, you must be communing with God. Your relationship with God must be a real one. To edify your church, God must first be edifying you.
WHAT KIND OF LEADER WILL YOU BE?
So what kind of worship leader are you going to be? Are you going to be the worship leader that looks down on other worship leaders for talking too much while you refuse to say what needs to be said? Or, are you going to commit to growing in this area even if that means looking foolish once in a while.
Might I suggest you choose the latter because it will be better for you, your church, and the kingdom in the long run.
PS. If you made it all the way to the end than you probably enjoyed reading this article. Which means you would probably enjoy THIS ARTICLE because it’s on the relationship between leading and serving.