Leading Worship: What’s Your Preference?

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As a worship leader one of the tensions that we will consistently manage is the notion of preference.

I’ve noticed over the years that even my own preferences are shaped and changed by circumstances. I’ve never, ever been in a church where preference wasn’t present. Whether it’s talked about, or not, preference is something that is a part of every individual’s experience, and every community’s make-up.

People have certain individual preferences when it comes to the music that we use offer as worship.

  • volume preferences
  • style and genre preferences
  • historical and legacy preferences
  • length of set preferences
  • look and style of band preferences
  • look and style of stage/platform preferences
  • choir, orchestra or band preferences
  • and many more I’m sure

It’s not bad that folks have preferences because, well, people are people. If we were all the same, we’d sure be a boring, lifeless group wouldn’t we?

I’ve been in place after place where preference showed up in a very negative way and caused division. People leave churches over preference. People start churches to cater to preference. Churches are segregated and compartmentalized due to preference. Preference isn’t a bad thing. But if it becomes the sole focus of any individual or group it can lead to ugly outcomes.

It’s a pretty common thread in the discussions of worship leaders and ministry team members: It’s hard to please everybody.

Some people say that we should become all things to all men and mix in a little bit of everything. Others say that we should pick one target group and minister well to them. Still others say we should do it the way Peter and Paul did it. Everyone’s got a preference for style and methodology.

Well, believe it or not, I’m actually writing this post as a challenge (and as a reminder) to us who lead in worship to make one preference more important than all the rest. Whether it’s a staff position or a volunteer role. Whether you are in the band or in the tech team. Whether you sing soprano or run the lighting rig…

There’s only one preference that rules them all.

As a leader of people (and as a follower of Christ) my preference is to prefer others above myself.

That starts by putting Jesus first.

God hasn’t called you to the place you are for your own glory. He hasn’t promoted you to your individual place so that you could find eternal fulfillment in being you. Don’t get me wrong, God loves the wonderfully-made and beautiful creation that you are, but as we follow Christ’s lead, it’s clear that we are who we are to bring GOD glory and to do HIS work.

One of the most beautiful and wonderful attributes a Christ-follower can have is that of preferring others.

I’d go as far as saying that if you’re not manifesting that attribute your eyes might not be on Christ and His purpose for your life at the moment.

That being said, how do we as worship leaders prefer others above our own selves?

Do we put out a request box?

Do we cater to and coddle people who only want things their way?

Do we take a poll and lead and sing only songs that the most vocal majority want to hear?

I’m not suggesting that there is only one way to approach this subject. I believe that ultimately many approaches can work as long as the heart of the matter is settled: it’s not about us. It’s about Christ and His Kingdom (which includes serving His people). In fact, I write this today, not to provide an end-all answer, but more to stimulate a bit of discussion.

Please share your thoughts on this matter. Join the discussion in the comments!