CONNECTING WITH YOUR CONGREGATION

Ever feel like there's a disconnect between you and your congregation?

Maybe you've noticed that it seems like you and the band are doing a fine job on the songs but people in the crowd don't seem interested. It's a pretty lousy feeling, driving home after church and not knowing how to connect with your people.

But don't get discouraged! There are some things that you can do to be more intuitive when it comes to leading worship.

BE INTENTIONAL (ABOUT EVERYTHING)

It's so easy to get into a rut when we're leading worship. (We stand up here, we say this, the preacher walks up at this time, etc.) That doesn't mean we shouldn't have a liturgy in what we're doing (we should) but it does mean that it's easy for us to do many of these things without thinking. Everything we do in that worship time should have a reason.

Song choice, prayer time, sound mix, video cues, announcements - all that stuff should be planned and led by people who are thinking "How does this contribute to the corporate worship of God in this time?" Some of those are easy to answer, but you might be surprised how many other things get done just because.

LOOKING IS BETTER THAN LISTENING

I love in-ear monitoring, but even with crowd mics, it's hard to accurately know if your people are singing. Even if you don't use in-ear monitors, it's likely your house mix (and/or wedges) are too loud for you to sufficiently hear if people are singing along. Look, don't listen.

I'm a big proponent of keeping music volume mixed low enough so that I can hear the congregation (and they can hear themselves) but that's tricky and we don't always have it figured out. But I can see. If I'll open my eyes and look at my people, I'll know immediately if they're singing or not. Yes, it's awkward for a lot of us, but it's worth it. You wanna' know how they feel about you, LOOK.

MUSIC IS YOUR TOOL, NOT YOUR PRODUCT

This is actually the premise of the most recent episode of the podcast and I encourage to listen for some practical tips on the subject, but let's talk about big picture for a second. One of the reasons we feel disconnected from our people is that we believe that music is the center point of the the worship set. Many of us think that we're supposed to build great product - songs that are compelling and singable and emotional and well-played and professionally mixed - so that the product will motivate and illicit response from our people, ideally worship. But I think that's wrong.

The focal point of your song set is the people. They're the ones we're trying to get to sing and focus their attention on the Father. The music we play should be the response to that. We should be leading in a way that responds to what our people are feeling, needing to say, etc. We get it backwards and when we do, people notice. People can tell the difference between giving them a product and responding to where they are in their lives.

_______

If you want to lead in a more connected, intuitive way, ask God to help you reshape some of these bad worship-leading habits. He'll do it! He wants you to be good at worship leading, too!

TOP 10 SCARIEST THINGS TO SAY TO A WORSHIP LEADER

  1. "All-day staff meeting on Monday. Starts at 8."
  2. "There's a conference this week. We need you to make sure all the tech is setup."
  3. "What do you know about these 'electronic drums'? They seem nice."
  4. "I can't be at rehearsal and I'm not going to be able to listen to the music ahead of time. See you on Sunday!"
  5. "Can I send you a song and maybe you do it this Sunday?"
  6. "Your budget is due tomorrow."
  7. "Could my nephew play guitar with y'all on stage? He's got a nice electric guitar. Like, NICE."
  8. "Would you come lead worship for our 8-month old class? We need about forty minutes of music."
  9. "I'd like you to plan a patriotic service."
  10. "Would you be on this committee?"

WHAT DID I MISS?

WORSHIP CHALLENGE OF THE WEEK: BOREDOM

I'm convinced that what most worship leaders call "burnout" is very often "boredom" instead. That's not to say that burnout isn't real. It's very real and very difficult to overcome. But I often find when I talk to struggling worship leaders that they're not empty or overly exhausted, they're just bored with what they're doing. If you find that you've been bored with worship leading lately, let me offer three tips to deal with that.

BOREDOM ISN'T SIN

A lot of us think that ministry should always be exciting and/or challenging. But that's not true. Some weeks are normal. Some sets go just fine but don't give you a chill. And some weeks that plain-jain, boring, non-exciting worship service provides God-honoring and Biblically based worship. If you're bored with leading worship, just admit it. Don't try to fix it. Don't try to find some huge challenge that will get you fired up. Show up and serve. Because sometimes when you're bored, you're finally able to pay attention to what's happening in your church. Don't feel guilty.

BOREDOM GOES AWAY

You're not going to be bored forever. In fact, if you still feel bored six months from now, that's probably not boredom. That could be something more substantial that might need some investigation. But if you'll be okay with being bored and wait it out, you'll see that it eventually leaves, either naturally or because of life circumstance. Remember, your job is not to be perpetually excited on the platform every Sunday. Your job is way more than that. Do the stuff you're supposed to do and don't worry about the stuff that will distract you from doing the stuff you're supposed to do.

BOREDOM HAS A SILVER LINING

Wanna' know why you get bored? Because you're good at it. You're bored because the mechanics of worship leading aren't new to you anymore. You know how to do it. You're not worried that you'll be unable to lead on Sunday. You're bored because you can do the job without a lot of stress. And the silver lining is that you're freed up to do other stuff - try songwriting, lead a life group, spend more time with your family. Boredom might be the best thing to happen to you.

WHAT PRO BANDS DO

In a recent episode of the podcast (8/5/16) we discussed this question, from a listener:

"Why does it seem that worship led by professional players is better?"

I encourage you to listen to the episode to find out just exactly what I mean by "better," but I will say this - musicians and singers who are professionals (skilled, experienced, paid to play) very often make worship "better" by eliminating distractions and operating with efficiency. But the beauty is that even the most humble of musicians can attain many pro-level skills.

So, what do pro musicians do?

1. PROS KNOW THEIR STUFF

They've listened to the music. They've learned their parts. They've rehearsed it ahead of time or, if extremely talented, they've listened through songs and made notes BEFORE coming to practice. Pros understand the truth that rehearsal is not the time to learn the music. In fact, every time you show up to a rehearsal not knowing your stuff, you're making it harder for everybody. Ever been to a rehearsal where have the team knew the material and half didn't? Kinda' disastrous, right? Pro players know their stuff.

If you love your worship leader and you want to be a blessing to him or her, you'll know your stuff. When the band can't get it together, guess who catches the blame? Not the band, usually. Most of the time, people think the worship leader can't lead the team. If you want worship to be God-honoring and inspiring and you want to honor your leader, you'll show up knowing your stuff. Most worship sets are 25-30 minutes in length. If you don't have a spare 30 minutes in the week to at least listen through the songs, maybe playing/singing isn't what you're supposed to be doing in this season of your life?

2. PROS ARE SKILLED

They've not only learned the part - they've put time into their craft. Their musicianship isn't in question because they've trained their ears and hands and voices to show up with consistency. Pro bands are musically fit - they've put the work in so they won't be caught off guard when it's time for worship.

Yes, some people are born with amazing musical skill from the very start. Some people. A tiny few. The rest of us have to work at it. Sew into your God-given ability to grow it and make it stronger. And just for kicks, go Google what the Bible says about "skillful playing." And you know what's awesome about skilled players? They can go anywhere. A worship leader can take the songs anywhere he or she wants and skilled players can go there. Even if they don't know the song, their skill takes over. Their understanding of song structure and tasteful music making allow them to never miss a step.

3. PROS AREN'T SCARED

A pro band won't be thrown by changes. If they know their parts and can play and sing skillfully, they're free to worship. Imagine that. Imagine what it would be like to have musicians who aren't glued to their charts the whole time or who aren't able to think on God as they play? Pros aren't scared - they're free in worship. And your congregation will respond to this.

You know that old performance thing where someone says, "At least one person out in that crowd is watching YOU!" It's true. Somebody in that congregation is locked onto you during the worship set. You think they want to participate if you look scared to death? Your confidence not only allows you to serve with joy but it's an encouragement to your people.

_____________________

So let's talk about what you can do to improve your PRO STATUS. Here are some simple tips.

  • Listen to worship music. I don't just mean the songs for the upcoming Sunday. I mean listen to all kinds of worship music. You'll find lots of fresh ideas in these songs and you'll become more versatile with song structure. Knowing how songs actually work will immediately make you a better player.
  • Practice every week. If you don't have time to run the whole set right now, start off small. Try to run at least one song during the week. (Ideally the song you're the least familiar with.) You'll find that practicing makes you better. And that's pretty fun to hear.
  • Be honest. If you didn't have time to work on the songs during the week, let your worship leader know before you get to practice so he or she can know what they're facing during the runthrough. It'll help your WL out a ton!