Leading Worship in a Smaller Context by Matt Redman
Originally Published in Worship Leader Magazine Vol 28 No 3
By Matt Redman
Hi Matt. Just seeking your advice about leading worship in a smaller context. When leading worship with a group of 50-100, how would you encourage a greater sense of passion and engagement? It’s an ongoing consideration for us, and something we often find challenging in a smaller setting. Thank you!
It seems to be that sometimes leading in a smaller group like that can be the most challenging place—but when it goes right, it can be the most profound and beautiful of all. There’s something so fantastic about the intensity of that kind of group when everything is flowing well, and people fully engage—but that, of course, is the challenge.
I don’t think there are any simple formulas for this, but of course, the most fundamental thing is the songs themselves. When the songs are truth-filled, life-giving, prayerful, and easy and enjoyable to sing, you’re probably halfway there. There are other things you can also do to help.
For example, I’d identify some wholehearted, expressive worshippers and ask them to sit in the front rows each week. It helps set a spiritual temperature, and lead all the others sitting behind them. But the advice I’d give above all is that you’ve got to keep helping people realize the wonder of the experience.
This isn’t just a musical moment; nor is it just about what is seen and obvious. We are joining in the anthem of heaven – joining our few voices to the multitudes who voice their praise around the throne room of God, this very moment. We are caught up in the eternal activity of heaven, and before this is ever a musical happening, it’s a spiritual one. If week after week, you can exhort, teach, and pray along those lines, you’ll hopefully start to see the realization of that set in with your congregation. I hope that helps a little!
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Matt Redman is a GRAMMY®-Award winning worship leader and songwriter who has been a leading contributor to the global Church’s songbook over the last twenty years. His journey as a worship leader and songwriter has taken him to countries such as South Africa, Japan, India, Australia and the Czech Republic. Along the way he has sung in venues such as Madison Square Garden, Wembley stadium, and the Royal Albert Hall - as well as recording in iconic studios such as Abbey Road in London and Capitol Records in LA. Matt Redman’s best songs include The Heart of Worship, Blessed Be Your Name, Our God - and the double-Grammy winning 10,000 Reasons. More recent co-writes include Do It Again and Build my Life. Beyond music, he is an author and also launched a successful podcast in 2021, ‘Redman & Riddle’, which he co-hosts with worship artist Jeremy Riddle. He recently announced his fourteenth full-length album, set to release in mid-2023, which is introduced by debut single ‘Son of Suffering’. Originally from England, Matt Redman now resides in California with his wife Beth and their five children.
If your ‘small’ group is in a ‘big’ space, just getting them sitting/standing closer together can make a difference. Our main auditorium seats 400 but at our mid-week service we’ll have about 60 people. When I can get them to scoot together the singing is better. I also try to remind them that we’re not just singing. We are offering expressions of love, adoration, dependence, etc., to the God who is present in the room. Sometimes that reminder helps.
Great advice Matt! Our church currently runs two worship gatherings with less than a hundred adults at each. I have found that one of the easiest ways to get more engagement, especially singing, is to make sure that as many people in the congregation can be comfortable in the key that the song is in as humanly possible. Many times that means sacrificing the preferred key for the vocalists, but it is so much more powerful to get the congregation singing. I also nearly 100% of the time have a guy and a girl singing the melody line at the same time so that guys and girls can follow a leader.