10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Leading Worship
1. Passion can’t be taught; it is learned.
I didn’t figure this one out until I began raising up worship leaders. I teach girls with amazing voices and no emotion. Yet I also teach girls with intermediate voices and amazing passion. Want to know the common denominator between the passionate girls? Life. Life experiences that drove them to a place where they were broken before God. That’s it. And that brokenness is either the preliminary to or aftermath of spending quality time at the feet of the Lord. Studying the Bible, knowing God through it and prayer, and applying it. So if you feel as though your passion is lacking, be patient. Or look over your life and see where God has brought you from and how He is shaping your life. Where were you 5 years ago?
2. Break the Glass: Interact with your congregation.
There is nothing more discouraging than executing a worship service and it ending up feeling like a rock concert; for the congregation and worship leader. For the congregation, there is some weird automatic pedestal that goes up when people step foot on a stage. I don’t know why, or where it started but it’s fact. The reality is, we are not worthy of a pedestal. Worship leaders, worship teams, and pastors are real live people with the same issues and struggles as the congregation. We are made from the same fiber. We are no better than anyone else. So there has to be some sort of glass shattering, pedestal colliding action that creates a legitimate community worship experience. I’ll give you a hint: authenticity.
3. Play with a Click Track.
There is something to be said for quality music in worship. There is not enough time or space to debate this here, however, I am on the side of “quality is always good but never required”. Playing with a click track took me to the next level in musicianship. It gives your band a framework through which ever song must funnel. The click track glues a band together; professional and mediocre.
4. It’s ok to do some old school tunes.
Hymns are some of the most powerful songs of worship ever written. Let me repeat. Hymns are some of the most powerful songs of worship ever written. Usually teams don’t play them because they fear bringing their church back into the old school world of music, but there are plenty of newer versions with the post-mod melodies and arrangements. It’s so easy to get caught up in the new of worship that we forget the powerful the things of old. They minister to people and sometimes newer generation doesn’t even know the song is 100 years old!
5. Don’t assume anything.
When teaching or talking through a song with your congregation, the worst thing we can do is assume that everyone there knows what we are doing, singing, or talking about. A lot of churches have revolving doors with unbelievers just feeling things out. We don’t want them leaving our churches feeling they were in a foreign country. We have a tendency to speak “Christian-ese” and not even realize that the average person has absolutely no idea what the holy spirit or sovereign or fellowship is. Teach your congregation.
6. Make eye contact with the people you are leading.
They want to know you see them. I understand being wrapped up in the spirit and closing your eyes when leading. I do it too. But we should try to connect with the people we are leading. We want them to know we like them and we like hearing them. I usually choose a couple chairs in rehearsal and pray for the people who will be sitting in those specific chairs. Then during the service I make eye contact and smile at them. It may be all made up in my head, but I feel like it communicates something.
7. Plan everything.
From the songs to the speaking to the verses to your prayers. Not because all those things have to be executed exactly as planned, but because planning gives more leeway for organized spontaneity. I have a hard time when I have to say a prayer or a short share time between songs and the only content I have is a topic sentence or key scripture. So lately, at the request of my pastor, I’ve been scripting my speaking and even my prayer, not so that I can read it, but because it forces me to think through everything and try out words and concepts behind the scenes instead of in front of 1200 people. Planning for such a fluid thing, like a worship service, sometimes seem oxymoronic. But it works.
8. Video record yourself and watch it.
Oh snap. This is one of the hardest but best things I’ve learned to do in worship leading. It’s awkward and weird to see all the quirky things we do when singing. I make some crazy funny faces. But it makes me more aware of my stage presence: Am I distracting? Do I look fake? Do I look stiff? It is also good to hear yourself: Am I on key? Do I ad lib too much? Is there too much blank space between songs?
9. Be apart of the team.
Being a team player is crucial to our productivity as worship leaders. No one likes a non-team player. They are like big elephants in the room that no one wants to address and mostly avoid. I’ve seen my tendencies towards this kind of leadership and have learned to keep myself in check by surrounding myself with people who could frankly speak into my life. Teams accomplish more than one person. The lack of a teamwork is a guaranteed prescription for burnout.
10. Don’t take things too seriously, it’s not about you anyway.
As a creative type, we can tend to be married to our art. We are self-conscience of our music, guitar playing, singing and writing because it is apart of us. It’s not just an occupation or a hobby. So when ideas get shut down, we can be offended because we don’t separate our identity from the work. Let the little things be little things because worship leading isn’t about us anyways right? It is about how we can be serve God through best leading His people in musical worship. The important thing is that that translates to the congregation.
Julianna Morlet is a 20-something homemade singer, speaker, writer. She currently leads worship across Southern California and is on staff at her home church, Antioch Church in Los Angeles, California. She is the writer behind, The Girl That Sings, where she talks about being a woman in worship.