Here are seven things worship leaders can start doing in the New Year, to create a positive worship experience.
1. Lead where people can follow
Improvisation, altering melodies or raising the melody up an octave mid-song, does more to showcase a song leaders abilities than lead worshipers. Most worshipers thrive when led down a very specific, predictable musical path. If you are going to improvise off the melody, make sure another singer is hitting the melody hard so people can still follow. And keep in mind, the average person has about an octave and a half vocal range. Taking the melody up an octave sounds great, but often leaves worshipers left out.
2. Embrace solid theology
Worship songs are just as responsible for imparting solid theology as the sermon. Worship is foremost a prayerful expression of our love and adoration for God, but as you look at the hymns throughout history, you see the authors and composers embracing foundational truths in song. Our worship must be authentic, prayerful, and grounded in God’s truth. So it is imperative worship leaders know their theology and know the content of the songs they are choosing.
3. Dive into the deep end
Besides embracing solid theology, worship leaders need to go deep. As mentioned above, if we look at the old hymns, they are deep, meaningful, and biblically centered. They are a template for what modern worship songs should be. The deeper your worship songs dive into biblical theology, grace, love, and forgiveness, the deeper your congregation will become, and the stronger your church will become. Dive into the deep end.
4. Resist too much repetition
I’m just going to say it, excessive repetition does not make a lyric more powerful or more significant. Not to say that any repetition is bad; some’s fine, even expected. The Bible is replete with examples of triplet repetition, the angels singing holy, holy, holy in Isaiah 6:3 is an example. It’s when repetition becomes excessive or vain that it becomes and issue. Because worship is at its core prayer, I believe Mathew 6:7 applies, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” A seven-minute worship song with only a handful of loosely related christaneze phrases sung over and over, well, let’s just say we can do better.
5. Embrace the past
The worship industry puts out tons of new music every year; some good, some bad. But there are also tons of past worship choruses, and hymns that people love and want to sing. People like to worship with songs they know. New songs are fine, but so are the old. Don’t be afraid to reach back to solid worship songs from five, ten, fifteen years ago, and embrace the old hymns. There is some real gold there.
6. Let worship unfold for each person
In a moment of great emotion, the worship leader calls out, “If you love God, stand up, raise your hands, and shout to the Lord.” But what if I’m not comfortable doing that? What if I’m having a quiet, contemplative moment with the Lord? If I don’t do shout, does that mean I don’t love the Lord? What will others think?
In a church setting worship is both corporate and personal so, don’t manufacture or coerce a spiritual experience or moment. If you as a leader want to raise your hands and shout to the Lord, great, do it, lead the way and let others follow as they will. Stay away from worship mandates, if-then situations or worship requirements and let people worship as they feel led.
On behalf of introverts everywhere, consider not doing the mid-service meet-and-greet, or at least limiting the time to a minute or two. The meet-and-greet is an extrovert’s dream but an introvert’s nightmare. There’s plenty of time before and after the service for extroverts to get their fellowship fix. But for introverts, the meet and greet is really uncomfortable, even scary for some. In fact, I know some introverts who don’t want to go to church just because of that awkward four or five minute segment. I know that to many extroverts this makes little sense, just trust me on this.
7. Teach Worship
One of the most important things a worship leader can do is teach others why we worship and how to worship. Many folks are uninformed on the basic elements of worship, like why we sing, why we raise our hands, why we kneel, or any number of things. Take the time to talk about what worship is and why we do some of the things we do. It might be beneficial to project scriptures and facts about worship during pre-service on the screens, or write them in the bulletin so people can learn what it’s all about. This is especially helpful for new worshipers, or seekers who are trying to wrap their heads around what this whole church but are afraid to ask.
There you go. Seven things to start the New Year that will make an immediate difference for your worshipers. Worshipleader.com also has an institute that addresses all these things and more. If you want to grow your faith, stretch your skills and expand as a worship leader, consider Worship Leader Institute. It could make all the difference for you and those you lead.
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Christopher Watson is an author of six books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a musician and composer with a B.A. in Music from Azusa Pacific University. For several years Christopher led worship at The Springs Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas Texas. He's been involved with worship in a number of churches in California and the Pacific Northwest both as a musician and in production and technology. Now he lives and writes in Washington State with his amazing wife, wonderful daughters, and highly intelligent dog, Ellie Mae.