I can’t tell you how many times I’ve planned, prayed over and rehearsed the most amazing worship songs on planet earth with my team only to take the stage with an under my breath comment because I’d forgotten to think about those moments in between. Those moments between songs… before songs, and sometimes even during songs. They are the moments (when handled well) that can take a few good worship songs with awkward moments of silence between, guitar switching and the glances back and forth of what’s happening next to a complete story that we get to tell as we lead the worship experience.
It’s not an easy task to worship with one eye open. You have to be immersed in worship enough to really connect with the heart of God and feel like you are genuinely doing what you’re asking them to do. But, you also have to be aware of what’s happening in the room. Corporate worship is not meant to be a group of people showing up to watch your personal, intimate time with God, as you close your eyes every chance you get so you don’t have to make eye contact or think of something to say. It is meant for them to see you exemplifying worship and confidently leading them into the spiritual battle that worship is. It’s our time to worship as one voice. Congregants get unnerved when they can’t tell who’s leading that moment. They feel like they’re on a ship and no one is steering.
So how do we do it well? We do it well by maintaining a good balance of leaving space and adding thoughtful comments in those moments. We have to put the people’s comfort before our own. All the while listening for the still small voice that might just say, “sing it again.” I like to have a few related scriptures either memorized or pulled up on my phone (in my back pocket) in case I feel that part of the story could use a scripture.
The danger for an amateur worship leader is saying too much. They want so desperately to be seen as the one steering the ship that they talk every chance they can get. Or take every opportunity to pray in a voice that is altogether different than their normal speaking voice. Chill everyone! Find a way to lead from your unique personality without putting on something that is not you. While I’m on it… gone are the days of saying the start of each and every line the congregation is about to sing before they sing it. In fact it roughly reminds me of the overhead projectors they used to contend with. Many times it shows me that there has likely not been enough preparation by the worship leaders or band. Or that they spent so much time working out the 16m instrumental that they simply forgot to talk through the song order. The funniest times to me, though, are the times you’ve heard the band do the song a million times before…the play order never changes… and yet they bark out first lines like they’re going out of style.
Am I suggesting that song orders should never change on the fly? Or that we shouldn’t allow the Holy Spirit to guide and direct each moment of your service? Um no. That’s not all what I’m saying. I’m just suggesting that you lead from a place of genuineness, of excellence and of sensitivity. That’s all. Just basically encompassing all of that.
If you shout out a first line here and there that’s ok. But it had better be because the Spirit is moving you to redirect the song or you’re using it sparingly to gear the congregation up for a climactic moment in the song. If something must be said during an instrumental time (like if your electric guitar player can’t quite pull off his solo) choose something thoughtful to share. It could be a verse or two or something you want them to ponder. Even a short prayer.
I do want to do this: I hereby give you permission to have space in your worship. To not have not talk during every single instrumental and between each song. To allow your heart to connect with God in a moment. By that very act, you lead. Not from an uncomfortable “what do I do with my hands” sort of posture. But from one of genuine, expressive worship. If you don’t look uncomfortable they won’t be uncomfortable. You are leading by the look on your face!
Take time to think through those moments. What if we gave as much thought to them as we did our music? What if our worship sets were more than great songs before the message. What if we actually take people somewhere? And when they leave their hearts have literally been taken from hard and unresponsive to soft and pliable? What if we could set up our pastor’s so well that their message would fall on those soft hearts and then when he hands them back to us for a response time they are ready for true life change and surrender? What if because we were prepared and ready ourselves-we could relax enough to really listen for the Holy Spirit and what he may be whispering to us throughout the service?
Craft these moments. Think through them. Pray through them.
Pin down your pastor and make them talk about where they’re going with their message and understand the overall vision for that service. And make it your art form to craft an experience. Picture your congregations faces and how you’ll guide them. Care less about how cool your songs will sound and more about the journey the hearts you have been entrusted with will be on.
Ask God to be involved throughout the entire process. From the beginning stages of planning to the moment you take stage. And finally, communicate with your team. Sell the vision of the service to them at practice. Tell them how you want people to feel at each different stage of the service. This will help them be sensitive to each moment as well.
You’ve got to care about the overall experience. Think of yourself as a pastor of moments, and it’s your job to create an atmosphere where people can worship. Do it well.