And I Totally Get That It's Not an Easy Gig...
Okay, first a disclaimer: Many of the churches we work with use a current worship style/approach. That is, they open (or close) the service with a 15-25 minute set of worship songs. Some longer, some shorter. Second disclaimer: Before being a senior pastor, I was a worship leader and prior to that a traveling professional musician. That doesn't make me an expert; it's just given me a lot of experiences on both sides of the worship/senior pastor divide.
Here are the Top 4 Things worship leaders should stop doing. Seriously. 1. Quit talking between songs. Yes, I know you’re more than a singer, but let’s talk worship ministry philosophy. The music/worship segment is designed to help people connect with God in a visceral way. That’s why you choose songs sung to God, not about God. You’re trying to build a vertical communication pathway to God. But when you talk, you’ve shifted into horizontal communication, talking to the people in the seats. Then you go back to a vertical route. When you go back and forth like that, you’re discombobulating people focus-wise. It’s like driving a stick shift in city traffic: start, stop, start, stop, start, stop. It’s a drag for you and your riders. Or to use a risqué metaphor, suppose you’re having an intimate time with your spouse…except that every few minutes, you stop to tell them why or how you learned to do this. Yeah, that will work. People need focused, intimate, undistracted time to worship God. Stop interrupting them...and think more about flow. 2. Stop singing songs that are outside of the average person’s range. When so many songs today jump an octave for the big anthemic chorus when it’s already pitched fairly high, I’ve watched many a room full of people shut down. The average guy can’t sing much higher than D4. Yes, I know a song can feel more powerful when it’s pitched higher, but let’s get real: it loses all that power when the majority of people drop out. Do you want to feature your vocal range or experience a room full of worshipers? 3. Stop killing people with volume and overdriven subs. If the main idea is to lead people into corporate worship, then you need to be aware if people are actually worshipping. If the ministry philosophy is more about providing a concert-like performance for the sake of presenting the Good News to not-yet-Christians, that’s a different thing. In that case, quit doing worship songs—do some great songs about God or the human condition and its needs. Back in the day, I traveled in a Christian rock band blowing out serious decibels through a way-too-heavy Klipsch system. The louder the better for me. But that’s not conducive to corporate worship. If you can’t hear the people you’re leading and know if they’re with you or not, you’re not really leading. You’re performing. 4. Don’t stretch it out. I know it’s fun to sing a great chorus several times, and then repeat it again, and then go back to it quietly, and then build it up again, and then go out on it after you’ve built it back up again. Stop it—you’re more creative than that. What’s more, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a solid worship set, and then when it’s peaked and you sense the church has made a tender connection with God and you could stop right there, the leader kicks back in with more songs. They could have ended on a lingering moment with people sensing the presence. But when more choruses and songs get jammed in, the church quickly forgets the beauty and poignancy of that previous thin place. Please start practicing sensitivity; more doesn’t always equal better. And never try to manipulate or hype up the presence of God. Just like preaching, it's best to leave people wanting a little more rather than exhausted or worse: bored. One last thing, worship leaders: Thank you. It’s a tough and tricky job you have…and the Church vitally needs you. As I often said when getting up to speak after a worship set, “You’ve already experienced the best part of the celebration today! We could go home now!” Thank you for offering your gifts—and who you are—to the beautiful Body of Christ.
Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES